November 19, 1997         HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS          Vol. XLIII  No. 33

The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

The Chair would like to welcome on behalf of all members today to the galleries of the House, 30 business students from the Keyin Technical College, Renews Campus, in the district of Ferryland. They are accompanied by their instructors Mr. Loyola Hearn, who is a former MHA for the district of Ferryland, Mr. Ian Abbott and Ms Lynn Tucker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


Statements by Ministers


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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, on Monday, November 17, 1997, the hon. Member for St. John's Centre raised the matter of contracts awarded to Metal World Incorporated by government since I became Minister of Works, Services and Transportation. When originally discussed, I was in Toronto representing government at a public, private partnering conference and was therefore unable to respond. The matter was again raised yesterday in the House with respect to the operation of blind trusts and the extent to which they, in fact, protect the public interest.

The hon. member referred to the public record regarding registration of companies indicating what my corporate involvement and interests were with Metal World Incorporated. He said, and I quote, "If an individual is a director of a company and that company does business with government and if that individual is a minister of the government of this Province, there's a conflict."

Mr. Speaker, as per a minute of company directors' meetings held on August 26, 1994, I am no longer president and director of Metal World Incorporated. On July 11, 1997, the Registry of Companies acknowledged receipt of advice in the prescribed form of these facts. It is clear I am no longer, and have not been since 1994, been involved in the company's operations. I wish to table all documentation related to that change at this time.

I wish to advise Members that immediately upon my appointment to Cabinet on August 26, 1994, I sought, under the direction of the Commissioner for Government Members' Interests, to arrange my business and personal affairs in such a manner as to be in full compliance with the act. In addition to providing full disclosure, I took the added step of placing all of my business affairs in the hands of approved trustees Jeffrey Matthews and Stephen Matthews. I want to reiterate, as well, that I have also had no involvement in the management of these companies in which I am 100 per cent owner, since becoming a member of Cabinet.

Mr. Speaker, I have endeavoured to respect both the legal intent and spirit of my blind trust arrangements and as a result I must again affirm that business decisions taken by my trustees and other business partners subsequent to my appointment have been, without my knowledge and without my involvement. I have satisfied, I believe, all requirements within the context of my blind trust arrangements.

I wish to inform the House, that I have today given direction, also to my solicitor, to ensure that I am no longer either an officer or a director of any company or companies in which I have controlling interests.

Mr. Speaker, the allegations of my being in a conflict of interest are both false and malicious. While, I accept full responsibility as one who has chosen to be in public life in the Province, I cannot accept the aspersions that have been case upon my family.

I would ask the hon. member to apologize, not to me, but to my family.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, in the last few days we have heard in this House, groundless and unsubstantiated acquisitions of conflict of interest. The acquisitions which have been made are in my view, politically motivated. They constitute an unfair attack on a member of this House and that member's family.

Mr. Speaker, the conflict of interests provisions in place are designed to protect the public interests and of course this is fundamental. However, conflict of interest provisions must also act in a way which shelter those who serve from baseless acquisitions.

With this in mind, today I am pleased to inform the House that I have put in place additional conflict of interest guidelines for Cabinet ministers. These guidelines are in addition to the legislative requirements concerning conflict of interest set out in part 2 of the House of Assembly Act. The Act, as administered by the Commissioner of Members' Interest, Mr. Bob Jenkins, sets out a good framework to protect the public interest and avoid conflicts of interest. These additional guidelines go further than the Act to ensure there is not only, no conflict of interest but also that there is no appearance of any such conflict. The guidelines will take effect immediately. Ministers will have thirty days in which to fully comply with them. The guidelines, the new additional measures, will be administered by the Commissioner of Members' Interest to whom I have already spoken.

The additional guidelines are as follows: Ministers shall place in a blind trust all assets, financial interest or other source of income within the definition of private interest in section 20 of the Act, except for those that are an excluded private interest within the definition of section 20 (a) of the Act. (2), trustees for these blind trust shall be other than members of the minister's immediate family and (3), ministers shall cease to serve as directors or officers in a company or association as referred to in section 20 of the Act.

For the purpose of these guidelines, blind trust shall mean: one in which the trustee is empowered to exercise all of the rights and privileges associated with the trust assets and make all investment decisions concerning their management, with no direction from or controlled by the minister who placed the assets in trust, and immediate family who shall be excluded from acting as trustees shall include: parents, child, sibling or spouse. I repeat, Mr. Speaker, these new guidelines shall be administered by the Commissioner of Members' Interest. Ministers shall comply with these guidelines promptly, certainly not later than within thirty days.

I have spoken today again to the Commissioner for Members' Interest, Mr. Bob Jenkins, and I want to inform the House once again, today, that all members of the Cabinet are now in full compliance with the Conflict of Interest Code. I want to specifically say that the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation is now, has been, and remains, in full compliance with the code and is an honourable member of this House.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I have taken these additional measures to provide further assurance that the public interest is not only protected but is seen to be protected. That is important. It is also important to ensure that those who have had success in business and private life are not discouraged from offering themselves for elected office. To create such a circumstance would be unfair and unwise, and I believe that these additional Conflict of Interest Guidelines make clear that the public interest is being protected, without discouraging those who may wish to participate in public life.

Mr. Speaker, the current Conflict of Interest Code has been in place now since 1994, since it was introduced by Premier Clyde Wells. It has served the Province well. Mr. Speaker, I have been assured repeatedly by the Commissioner that all members of the Cabinet are in full compliance with that code, but the reality is that without the additional measures that I have put in place today, members of the Cabinet remain open to unsubstantiated allegations.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask the member who has made those allegations exactly what I have asked in the past. If there is any substantial, any real evidence of any wrongdoing, or any benefit, lay a charge before the floor of the House, and in the absence of such a charge I would ask the member to do the honourable thing, to cease this kind of attack on a member's character, and an attack on the character of the member's family. They are not here to defend themselves.

I would ask the House to welcome these additional measures today.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will, perhaps, adopt the unusual role and respond in part to both statements as given this afternoon.

I feel, Mr. Speaker, that we, as an Opposition, have been vindicated on this issue.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: I say that, Mr. Speaker, because ultimately what we were seeking were the kinds of changes and amendments, and I would say improvements, which are being suggested by the hon. the Premier here this afternoon.

Obviously, Mr. Speaker, we need time to review particularly the details as they relate to the blind trust and the involvement of ministers as directors. I have just received this release, and we will need some time to review the details as they have been disclosed; but I say to the Premier that this is a move in the right direction.

I say to the hon. minister, this is tough stuff. You are an honourable man. I am sure that you and your family... These are very important matters and issues to you, and they affect you and your family deeply. I, too, am a family man, and this issue is very difficult - difficult for you, but I can assure you, Minister, difficult for me to raise, but we have a job to do. We are entrusted with the public trust. We have to raise issues if we feel and if we suspect that the guidelines which have been put in place are not adequate to protect the public interest.

You have been unfortunately involved in a system where the whole regime of blind trust, Mr. Minister, was not clear, and that unfortunately, by necessity, brought your family into it because your family were named as the trustees. That is unfortunate, but it is hoped that the amendments, the improvements, the changes, which are being envisaged by the hon. the Premier will deal with this issue once and for all. It is difficult, Mr. Minister. I share the difficulty with you, but let us hope we now have a resolution to this issue.

I look forward to more details, Mr. Premier, to the amendments which you have provided to this House today and, in fact, I will go a step further. I would be obliged to work with you in making the changes which are essential and necessary for the protection of the public interest. That is what it is all about. That is why you are here, that is why I am here, that is why we are all here, and I thank you for the opportunity.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


Oral Questions


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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions today are for the Premier.

Premier, your government announced on Monday a significant new find of iron ore in Labrador. Now this government, unable to bring any good news of its own, has consistently been out in the public acting as press secretaries for companies throughout this Province. In this instance, the government has been negligent in announcing news that is not news. In fact, the Iron Ore Company of Canada, in an emergency news release late yesterday evening, said: The company has known about this deposit since the 1960s, and it was part of their twenty-five year mining plan.

I ask the Premier: How can you justify your government's actions on Monday?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, I was asked by the media outside the House, was there a billion tonnes at the mineral deposit known as the Luce Deposit. I responded as best I knew, that yes, in fact, the delineation work that was done over the last number of years did prove up, that there was indeed a billion tonnes of ore at this particular deposit.

I should have, Mr. Speaker, said also that this is part of the 5.5 billion tonnes which was in the forecasted reserves and estimates of the mining company for the last number of years. I failed to do that; that is regrettable. I explained that publicly this morning on the radio airwaves.

But, Mr. Speaker, having said that, you will note that the Vice-President of the company also went on to say that this is big news, this is good news, we are going to grow this company, we are going to grow this economy, and it does auger very well for the people of Labrador City well into the future.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

So the minister says now that the media brought on the question. You and the Member for Labrador West - and I am sure with the Premier's knowledge, it was an orchestrated move, I say to the minister. I have in my hands a copy of a news release that was released by IOC, in which the company says: IOC has made no such announcement.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Since IOC has said that no such announcement has been made on new iron ore deposits - nor does it intend to make one - I want to ask the Premier again: Will you tell the people of this Province why your government is regurgitating forty-year-old news? What are your motivations for stating falsehoods and making announcements that are simply not true?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, I just explained to the House that this is not an announcement by the company. It is a response by me in my capacity as Minister of Mines and Energy.

The hon. member does not go on to say that the vice-president of operations this morning confirmed that there is a billion tonnes of ore, and also confirmed that they are depleting the current Humphrey reserve, and again confirmed that there would be jobs well into the future. Let me quote what he said: "In terms of better jobs and longer term opportunities for people, certainly this will happen because of these reserves. That is an important part about this. We are looking forward to a newer, bigger organization that is doing bigger in terms of sales, that is a world player, on the world stage, and this is good for everybody in Newfoundland and Labrador."

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

What nonsense the minister gets on with! The release said, the announcements in the media were part of a 5.5 billion tonnes of reserve that were known in the early 1960s. The minister is almost forty years behind in announcements, forty years behind the times, I say to the minister. It is all part of the act by the Premier to announce an agreement in principal with LIA, when there was no such agreement. It is all a sham, I say, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: I say again to the Premier, who does not like to answer any bad news questions, it is my understanding that any new discoveries must be reported to the National Securities Commission. Now, I ask the Premier: Why is his government blatantly interfering in the operations of a private company? I ask him: Does he realize the repercussions that such an announcement can have on the trading of the company shares, on shareholders, on the integrity of that company and on the hundreds of employees that are working in Labrador City and elsewhere?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, of course, we are cognizant of what can happen in stock exchanges and security commissions. That is why I just clarified, as I did earlier this morning, that this 1 billion is contained in the larger reserves of 5.5 billion, but let me quote again from the Vice-President of the Iron Ore Company of Canada. He said: `The good news in this story is that we are considering mining that ore body, moving that into development.' That is the good news, that is what takes us into the future. And the reason we are doing that, and I quote him, is that `we are going to grow this company.'

Mr. Speaker, the company sees this as good news, the Steel Workers Union sees this as good news, the Town of Labrador City sees this as good news; our government sees this as good news. Why do you not make it unanimous and the Leader of the Opposition say it is good news as well.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I guess it is a part of that mainland firm they brought in to teach the Premier and Cabinet ministers how to manufacture news earlier this year. I guess that is a part of the scheme, that is what it is all about.

The Premier yesterday was throwing the word `integrity' around the House. Now, I ask the Premier, does he knows what integrity is? Now, a Premier with integrity would not jeopardize the reputation of a well-established and well-respected company, and I ask him, what is his motivation or reason for doing it?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, the Premier only answers the difficult questions. He allows his ministers to handle the simple questions.

Mr. Speaker, let me quote again from the vice-president this morning. Here is what he said: `The good news is the long-term security for the people. The good news is the opportunity for growth and the good news is that we have owners who are going to support us to do that and we believe we have the customers for the part. Why this coalition of antis? Why this collection of negatives? So against all the good news for Labrador.

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions today, Mr. Speaker, are for the Minister of Health. My question today, Mr. Speaker, concerns Lohmes Ltd. on the West Coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, the blatant, blatant, blatant patronage of $500,000 that has been given to this Home to the two people who own the home, Eileen Johnson and Judy Henderson and of course, Mr. Don Johnson.

This is one of the most blatant I guess, uses of public funds probably in the history of the Federal Government of Canada, Mr. Speaker, and I guess it has to stop -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: Don't you worry about it, I will ask the question when I am ready. - and what has transpired, Mr. Speaker, since this half-a-million dollars was announced, an application to the federal government that can leave Newfoundland, go to Ottawa and be back in forty-one days when it takes six weeks to get your Unemployment Insurance in this Province, forty-one days, Mr. Speaker. So my question today for the minister is: Can the minister confirm that, as of today's date, there has still not been an application made to the Western Health Care Board for an application to operate such a home on the West Coast of this Province?

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

MR. MATTHEWS: You will be the next one apologizing.

MR. FRENCH: I won't be apologizing to you (inaudible) before I do that.

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

The hon. member has asked his question, I now ask him to give the hon. minister an opportunity to reply.

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

I think the first thing that is in order to say is that we should compliment our federal government for their expediency in responding to the needs of the Province of Newfoundland.

The other comments, Mr. Speaker, as my colleague would know, the role of the Department of Health, in the processing of these applications is strictly at the application of standards in making sure that their standards are in place. Their issues I do believe are very much related to the federal government and I think it would be quite easy to call the Western Board to find out if they have received an application. I, as Minister of Health, am not involved in the application. My role as Minister of Health is to ensure that when these buildings, when these processes are put in place, that the appropriate standards of care are followed.

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have in my possession today letters from a personal care home on the West Coast of the Province. The Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador has copies of this correspondence in his office from a lady, whom Mr. Byrne stood during the federal election, in this lady's home, Mr. Speaker, -

AN HON. MEMBER: Which Mr. Byrne?

MR. FRENCH: Mr. Byrne, from Ottawa, with Mr. Don Johnson in tow by the way, with Mr. Johnson in tow and this lady distinctly said -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. FRENCH: - and this lady asked him if there was any federal money available for homes and the answer was very clear, Mr. Speaker -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. FRENCH: - the answer was `no, there is no money -

MR. TULK: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader on a point of order.

MR. TULK: I think there is a Standing Order in this Legislation which says that if you read from a letter - in any case you are not supposed to read from letters asking questions and indeed if you do make reference to them and indeed if you do newspapers and the like, and indeed if you do, you are supposed to table them.

MR. SPEAKER: To that point of order, I -


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

To that point of order, Private Members have neither the obligation nor the right to table documents when cited, however, I want to remind the hon. member that Oral Questions must not be prefaced by the reading of letters, telegrams, newspapers, extracts or preambles of any kind. In putting an oral question, no argument or opinion is to be offered, nor any facts stated, except so far as may be necessary to explain the same. In answering such a question, the minister is not to debate the matter to which it is referred. Supplementary questions should need no preamble.

The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I don't think I was reading it, but anyway I will carry on. I can give this to the press afterwards.

MR. J. BYRNE: (Inaudible) Minister of Education.

MR. FRENCH: That is right. That is the want-to-be leader.

I now ask the minister: Can she assure the people of the Province that when and if Don Johnson, Eileen Johnson, Judy Henderson or Lohmes Ltd. apply or submit an application to the Western Health Board to construct such a home, which nobody, by the way, has proven a need for yet, will these people have to go through the same process as every home-owner in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador are going through today, the people who have spent their own money and are paying every single month? Will they have to go through the same process as every other home-owner in this Province? Because they have not gone through it yet.

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

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

I can assure the member that this group of people, whose names I will not refer to, would have to go through the same process as has been set down quite clearly in the manual where the changes were made. They will have to go through exactly the same process.

For all I know, Mr. Speaker, there could be any number of people in the same region who currently have applications in the system. I think many of the ones who have either built homes in the past or are planning to build homes will oftentimes avail, and have availed, of federal government monies, whether it is through the Fisheries Alternative Program or any other program. This is not a new issue, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. FRENCH: Mr. Speaker, I trust that the minister will eventually have that information for the House.

It is very interesting to note again, that all these things can transpire with no information, no plan submitted, nothing submitted, Mr. Speaker, no needs assessment done.

I will now ask the minister: Will there have to be a needs assessment done on this particular application before it receives final approval? Will there have to be a needs assessment done on this particular application by these people?

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

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

The guidelines for constructing any sort of building are clearly outlined in the regulations that are put forward by government services and lands. When a market plan is submitted, which was submitted, I would imagine, to the federal government in order for them to approve it, those same guidelines are put in place. That won't be any different in this case than it will be for future cases.

The process, that I am sure my colleague has a copy of, is clearly outlined. He has spoken to my department a number of times about the issues, and we have said exactly the same thing as I am saying here: Our role in the process, Mr. Speaker, is to ensure that the standards of care are maintained. The other processes are clearly outlined through the various other departments of government with respect to building codes, accessibility, etc. Thank you.

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

MR. T. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation's rental rate increase was put in place without proper planning or research. As a result, the minister has now retracted and is going to do what should have been done in the first place; he is going to review the increase before implementing it.

I remind the minister that the gross debt service ratio that is used by most banks in this Province is 30 per cent, the same as he has increased the rental rate. However, in an example that I faxed to the minister, Mr. Speaker, it shows very clearly that this 30 per cent will put this family below the level as if they were receiving social service benefits. The 30 per cent that is used by the banks includes utilities, heat, light and so on.

Will the minister tell the House today what his intentions are regarding the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing rental rate increase? I ask the minister: What is he going to do for these people who have had increases in their rate already if the decision is reversed?

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

MR. A. REID: Mr. Speaker, when an hon. member does up an accounting - like the hon. gentleman did with a particular family -and does not take into consideration things like the $115 heating subsidy that Newfoundland and Labrador Housing provides to that family; when they don't take into consideration in excess of $100 per child for the child tax allowance or credit, does not take that into consideration; does not take into consideration the makings and operation that is going on in that unit in regards to not only electricity but maintenance, like I said, then I have no other choice but to look at this - and I did look at it - and when I saw the discrepancies I told the gentleman almost immediately in writing that he was wrong with his figures. But then he was the one who released those figures to the media and the media soon found out, by asking the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing if this was correct. When they found out it was not correct, what the gentleman submitted, they would not publish it. To be quite honest about it, Mr. Speaker, the gentleman is so ill informed about the rent-geared to income program that I don't even know if I should even answer his question.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. A. REID: I will say quite honestly to you that I have reviewed it. I am going to review it over the next couple of weeks. I don't know, at this particular point in time. I am not sure if there is going to be any changes to it, Mr. Speaker. I will let the House know after I consult with my Cabinet colleagues and my Caucus, those people, Mr. Speaker, who expressed concern to me, not one concern was expressed from the other side of the House, with the exception of one letter that I had two months ago and not one concern. I will discuss it with those people who illustrated to the people of Newfoundland that they were concerned about it. I will discuss it with them and at that particular point in time I will make a public announcement on what I am going to do in regards to the rent-geared to income.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. T. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I suggest to the minister it is not I that is ill informed. He did not respond to this letter. He responded to a letter. He told the media he did not respond to any letter. It was not that letter he responded to. I still have not received a response to that particular letter. That particular example that I faxed the minister, Mr. Speaker, they are well over the 30 per cent and the banks would consider these people a high risk.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. T. OSBORNE: Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister if he is aware of the fact that as a result of the rental rate increase that some families, families that are considered by government as the working poor, even taking into consideration child tax allowances, will actually have less money after paying their rent than if they were on social assistance? What is the minister going to do to help these families?

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

MR. A. REID: Mr. Speaker, pay particular attention please to what I am saying. There will be no family affected to the extent where their incomes will be lower than if they were on social services. Now I don't need to say that again but what the hon. gentleman just said is incorrect.

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

MR. T. OSBORNE: Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister if he is telling us today that in fact he will ensure that any changes in the policy will correct the injustice to the families who are paying more and eating less than if they were fully subsidized by the government?

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

MR. A. REID: Mr. Speaker, one of the problems that I found in addressing the rent-geared to income problem in the Province was we found that there were a lot of senior citizens. Now, Mr. Speaker, there is no one in Newfoundland who thinks any more about senior citizens than I do but I will just give you an example -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. A. REID: - and I will be honest and say to you, Mr. Speaker, that we found senior citizens living in social housing accommodations with incomes in excess of $30,000 a year combined and we were subsidizing those people with heat subsidies of $100 and $115 a month, plus all -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. A. REID: No, we didn't kick them out.

- plus all the other things we were doing for them. At the same time the hon. member talks about the poor, the working class poor. When we sat down and looked at -

AN HON. MEMBER: Someone has to talk about it.

MR. A. REID: Can you protect me from that (inaudible) over there, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. A. REID: He is bigger than I am, but I am (inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. A. REID: I sat down and looked at it, and there were a number of senior citizens... There are a lot of poor senior citizens as well, and we looked at the number of senior citizens who were availing of our properties, and at the same time trying to accommodate what this gentleman has been talking about in his district in St. John's in trying to accommodate the poor in social housing. We had no other choice but to look at the possibility - and there was a possibility - that some of those people, some of those seniors who were in those properties would possibly have to move out.

Mr. Speaker, those are the types of people who may have to move out, but I say categorically to you, a family of two seniors making $20,000 to $30,000 a year have a much better opportunity of paying in the private market than some poor family who clears $8,000 a year for a husband and a wife and two kids. That is the reason why we did what we did.

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

MR. T. OSBORNE: Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister to answer my question. I did not ask about seniors. I asked the minister to ensure that any changes that were to take place in the policy would correct the injustice and make sure that families would not be worse off by working than they would be fully subsidized by government. Can you answer that?

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

MR. A. REID: Yes, I will guarantee that, Mr. Speaker.

MR. T. OSBORNE: Thank you.

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

MS S. OSBORNE: Mr. Speaker, my questions today are for the Minister of Human Resources and Employment.

The Minister of Health, a couple of weeks ago, challenged women to start thinking more about preventative medicine and ways to keep people from having to fall back on the health care system. My question is for the Minister of Human Resources and Employment. Has she taken to heart her colleague's advice and taken a good look lately at the link between poverty, hunger, malnutrition and disease, especially in our most vulnerable citizens, children and seniors?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Human Resources and Employment.

MS BETTNEY: Yes, Mr. Speaker, the simple and the quickest answer to the question is, yes, most definitely, as a minister, as a department, and as a government, we are looking very, very closely at links between poverty and health. And in that regard this government has initiated major reform, major structural changes, both to the departments of the former social services, which is now the Department of Human Resources and Employment, and the Department of Health.

These plans are being arrived at in consultation with all of the stakeholders, with community groups, with the anti-poverty groups, with members of both departments in order to ensure that as we move forward with the changes we are better able to address prevention, early intervention, and to improve the quality of life and the health of our citizens.

This is an important subject for this government. It is one that all members of government have taken into a high degree of consideration, and we will be able to inform members of the House and the public, as these plans are finalized, on the degree to which this will be implemented, and the results that can be achieved with this in the future.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MS S. OSBORNE: I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that this problem has probably been studied to death. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to see that they don't have enough money to buy food.

The Williams Royal Commission Report and the Patricia Canning Report turned the spotlight on the shocking fact that 40,000 children in this Province live below the poverty line, and many more live very close to the poverty line. It was studied with the Williams Royal Commission; it was studied with Patricia Canning. Are these people not to be taken seriously? The facts were laid on the table. Is the minister pressing her colleagues in education about the importance of taking the lead in developing a comprehensive school lunch program for all students, in all schools, so our children are not going to learn while they are hungry and are not at such great risk of disease?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Human Resources and Employment.

MS BETTNEY: Mr. Speaker, perhaps I should say first of all, that there is absolutely no need for me to pressure my colleague, the Minister of Education, in this regard. The Minster of Education is as equally aware and concerned and involved in resolving the issues of poverty and the issues associated with it that we see evidence when we see hunger throughout this Province that was spoken to and we are addressing that. In fact, this government has entered into and has been instrumental in helping to foster a public/private partnership with the school lunch foundation and with the private sector to help address the issues of providing nutritious food for children in schools who would not otherwise have access to that.

This is only one aspect of the action this government has taken. We are instrumental in working as a Province throughout the country in partnership with the federal government on the National Child Benefit Program and through the National Child Benefit Program we will also be able to invest back into programs for children in this Province and deal with some of the issues that we have the highest concern of. We will be looking at the issues that are of the highest priority and addressing our resources accordingly.

So, when the hon. member suggests that these issues are studied to death, I would have to say to the member, that what we have to do is develop our plans well and that is what we are doing. We have to ensure that when -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to conclude her answer quickly please.

MS BETTNEY: - we address these issues, we do them in a manner that will achieve the outcomes that all of us wish to see for children of this Province.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John's West, supplementary.

MS S. OSBORNE: As I said before, you do not need to be a rocket scientist to figure out hunger. I do not know what else we can do. On behalf of those children, I say, `God grant me patience, but hurry'.

The Provinces food banks are reporting that they are unable to keep up with the demand. Use of the MUN campus food bank proves that post-secondary students are joining the swelling ranks of the hungry and impoverished in this Province.

In the absence of an economic development strategy by her boss the Premier, what is the Minister of Human Resources and Employment planning to do to address the issue of hunger and malnutrition in Newfoundland and Labrador and what will she do for people in the smaller rural centres about to be cut off TAGS, ineligible for EI and with no local food banks to depend on?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Human Resources and Employment.

MS BETTNEY: Mr. Speaker, over the past year, there has been a significant amount of attention paid to the fact that the Province and the government is developing a Strategic Social Plan for this Province. This government has initiated a major consultation process, which it is now acting on the advice that has been provided to us, and we are developing a plan which will integrate socio-economic development and provide us with a framework for how we as a government will be able to address issues for this Province. The issues that are of the highest priority to us.

So, when the member suggests that this government is not acting on these issues, it is simply not correct. We know that there are issues that are associated with poverty in this Province and we are working on those issues and will continue to do so.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Question Period has ended.




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

MR. T. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have a petition, Mr. Speaker. We are expecting many of these petitions to be returned to us to be presented in the House. The prayer of the petition reads:

We, the residents of Newfoundland and Labrador, wish to petition the House of Assembly regarding the rate increase at the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation on a sliding scale from 25 per cent to 30 per cent. We are opposed to this increase because of the hardships that may be endured by tenants, and we therefore ask that this decision be reconsidered.

Mr. Speaker, we have signatures on this from Foxtrap, Mount Pearl, St. John's, Pouch Cove, Airport Heights, Fermeuse, Paradise, and so on. This is a petition to address an issue that affects people not only in St. John's but throughout the entire Province; and it does affect seniors, and it does affect the working poor. It does affect single parents. This is another example to add to the long list provided to us by government, such as the Lakeshore Homes in Gander, such as the $3 increase on prescription drugs for social benefit recipients, such as the claw-back of the Child Tax Credit and so on.

Mr. Speaker, this government is abusing the people of our Province, the people most especially in the classes that are least able to defend themselves, least able to afford the increases, and least able to fight government because of these increases.

Mr. Speaker, we will have plenty more of these petitions to present to the House of Assembly, and I support this petition and the people who have signed it.

Thank you.

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

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

I rise to support the petition put forward by my colleague from St. John's South, and to say to the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs that what we are asking for her is for the minister to treat everybody with the same kindness and compassion with which he himself would wish to be treated.

I noticed a few days ago when he was on the public airwaves, he made mention of the fact that there had not been any representation from our caucus on this particular matter. I draw to the minister's attention the fact that he said he never heard a word from us. Well, I would say to the minister that back in October when this matter became public knowledge, my colleague from St. John's South and I had several discussions. As a matter of fact, the Member for St. John's South wrote a letter to the minister on this particular issue. It was dated 22 October.

AN HON. MEMBER: Several telephone conversations.

MR. H. HODDER: And had several telephone conversations. I should point out that the member's letter was dated before 22 October. The reply from the minister was dated on that particular date. Then to hear the minister say the other day there was no representation. Here were letters signed by the minister himself, dated in October, addressing this very issue.

I was pleased to hear the minister say that he is going to review it. I thought it was great news. But he stands in his place today and says, I cannot tell you if there will be any changes.

What is the point of reviewing something if you are going to say beforehand, I am going to review it but I am going to tell you in advance that I have no intention of changing my mind, or I may not change my mind?

Mr. Speaker, what kind of a game is being played here with the people who are senior citizens, the people who have very low income, the people for whom this world has not been very kind.

I say to the minister, I have a letter here from a constituent in this area, and she is talking about the fact that she had a job in which she was getting thirty hours a week. She got it raised up over the last while to forty hours a week. It is a very low-paying job. Her basic question is, `What is the benefit to me?' In fact, in the last year her rent has gone up by $104. How can she expect to care for her family, expect to be able to put food on their table, when she gets extra hours and then finds out, after working diligently to try to keep body and soul together for herself and her two children, a single mom, trying to make things better for her family and then to find out that she now has to pay more than that, more than what the increase in her income is away out in rent increases imposed by this government in a very callous and a very shall we say, in a manner that is not reflective, I do not believe, of the general trust of what Newfoundlanders and Labradorians would expect from their government.

So I say to the hon. minister whom I just saw walk out of the House, that tells all of Newfoundland and Labrador how serious he is about this issue, therefore we say to the minister who is now absent from the House that, we read into his comments the fact that his plan to re-address this issue is not taken seriously by us on this side, and we will stand in our places and the questions that we will ask of the minister to look for very direct responses so that we can be assured that when he does a review, it will be done with some compassion and some understanding for the poorest of the people in this Province who need assistance in order that they can provide a comfortable living for themselves and for their families.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.


Orders of the Day


MR. SPEAKER: It is Wednesday, and the Order of the Day I believe is Motion, 7.

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

I rise today to introduce a Private Members resolution to which I gave notice on Monday past as required by the rules of the House and, Mr. Speaker, the resolution deals with the situation that faces municipalities in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Now, Mr. Speaker, we understand the municipalities are an integral part of this Province; we know that we want to acknowledge the tremendous contributions made in Newfoundland and Labrador by all of the Mayors, by all of the councillors, by all the municipalities because they keep the fabric of communities together and that is so important to this Province. I want to offer congratulations to all of those elected in the September 30, election. We are pleased that we can say that we still have people in this Province in spite of the hardships that have been imposed on them by this government; in spite of all the cutbacks, in spite of all of the downloading, in spite of all the stresses that they must endure when they try to collect taxes. In spite of the fact that they are required to increase their taxes at a time when there is no increase in employment in their communities, we say to the minister that he should be grateful and should be so congratulatory to all of those men and women who are out there today who are saying we want to keep our community together to make it vibrant, to make it strong.

But then, when you see these people who are out there volunteering and you see the actions of the provincial government and what they are doing to municipalities, no wonder that we have this kind of situation that we have here today and I say to the minister, I want to quote from the presentation made to the provincial Cabinet on the 17 December, 1996 just about a year ago, and is under the category here in the presentation to Cabinet, it says: Protection of the Financial Integrity of Municipalities, and I want to read what it says in that particular document.

It says: As more and more services formerly provided by government to municipalities are off-loaded on to the municipality itself and causing serious erosion of the Municipal Operating Grants and other sources of government funding, there is an increasing need to ensure that those financial resources available to the municipalities are maximized.

Mr. Speaker, what we are saying here is that municipalities, in their brief to government a year ago, are pleading with the government: Would you please recognize the circumstances in which we find ourselves. They are saying to the government: We cannot cope with the kinds of stresses that you are putting upon us. We cannot cope with the downloading. We cannot cope with the fact that we are required to increase the assessed value on our properties, at the same time, when we increase the assessed value we are doing it at a time when we know that people cannot afford to pay the taxes.

We are hearing from municipalities who have been told: Increase your tax rate. Well, that is wonderful if there were any increase in income for the people who have to pay the taxes, but there are no increases in income.

So we know, Mr. Speaker, all that is happening is that the government is saying to the municipalities: Would you please increase your assessed value, would you increase your tax rate; but all we are doing is we are increasing the taxes payable. All we are doing is adding to the accounts receivable for the municipality. We are not solving any problems at all. When you go into a community and see houses that are boarded up, you know that someone will tell you that family has moved away. We know, therefore, the kinds of situations that are being faced out there.

I want to go again to the annual brief to Cabinet of last year. I want to read from page 5. It is about municipal infrastructure. I want to read what municipalities said to the provincial Cabinet in December, almost a year ago, and I quote from the report: `Municipal infrastructure continues to decline in quality and state of repair. The problem may soon reach epidemic proportions such that lack of investment in repair and replacement today will result in enormous costs tomorrow.' It says, `... the direct relationship between infrastructure and the quality of life enjoyed by the citizens of our Province which, in turn, affects the ability of our Province to attract and retain economic development initiatives required for long-term economic survival is ignored at our peril.' So, Mr. Speaker, we say to the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, read what municipalities said in their presentation to Cabinet almost a year ago. They have identified some of the issues that are confronting them on a daily basis.

When we look at the problems that are represented by out-migration - Mr. Speaker, last night on CBC television I saw a presentation, the series is on this particular week, about what that means for municipalities. It is what they called the U-haul parade. In fact, it was said there that perhaps the Premier should invest in the U-haul business as an industry because they are all going out of the Province. We should make some U-hauls here probably because that is one of the industries that would be very prosperous in this Province. What a commentary! What an indictment to a government that is supposed to be looking after Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

One person in the report last evening referred to those people leaving Newfoundland and Labrador as economic refugees. These are Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. A gentleman who worked with Marine Atlantic was commenting and said one night this past summer there were thirty-eight families leaving on the ferry between Port aux Basques and North Sydney. We had some names mentioned there, we had some communities mentioned. They are focusing on Westport, Pacquet and communities on the Baie Verte Peninsula.

Mr. Speaker, those of us who have driven across Newfoundland and Labrador this summer probably have not been able to make a single journey without seeing people hauling their goods westward and that is what we are doing to Newfoundland and Labrador. People there were saying that they have to leave, and they say leaving is not easy. One person said: There is nothing left in Newfoundland and Labrador for me.

So, Mr. Speaker, where is their better tomorrow? Where is the better tomorrow for Eugene Jesso from Cape St. George? Where is the better tomorrow for the Slaney family of St. Lawrence? Where is the better tomorrow for Don Decker in Baie Verte? Where is the better tomorrow for the Gillinghams, for the Bowers from Westport and Pacquet? These are the people that have real faces and they have real emotions. They care for their families just as much as you and I do; but, unfortunately, what we see here today, we have Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who are being forced to move out of this Province because their communities, where they live, have no resources.

Then we see the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs saying that things are going to get worse, they are not going to get better, and he is looking at new ways to be able to put additional responsibility on the backs of municipalities. We say to the minister: The time has come for you to reconsider the whole issue of municipal financing, work out a better relationship and recognize the reality of what is happening in rural Newfoundland; because we on this side of the House, I can assure you, have a responsibility to bring this issue forward. I can assure the minister that we will continue to do so, and we will continue to do so very aggressively and very consistently.

Mr. Speaker, we on this side of the House want to have an opportunity this afternoon to have as many people participate in this debate as possible. With that in mind, I will yield, I guess, to my colleague, the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

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

MR. A. REID: Mr. Speaker, how much time do I have?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. member has fifteen minutes.

MR. A. REID: Is that all?

Mr. Speaker, I want to stand and take exception, not to all the rigmarole that was in the - what do you call it? - private member's resolution, but I want to take exception to the fact that the hon. member would accuse me of having no sympathy and having no feelings for rural Newfoundland. I would say the hon. member himself has not been outside the overpass in the last ten years. So, I don't know where he is getting all the sympathy for rural Newfoundland. The fact that there are only two or three members on the other side representing rural Newfoundland out of ten of you, and he is standing talking about rural Newfoundland - I would have thought that maybe the hon. Member for Bonavista South would have been the right one to get up and make this one. He should have been there. To stand here as a representative of the City of Mount Pearl talking about what is going on in rural Newfoundland and Labrador is almost as bad has having representatives of the City of St. John's talking about it; almost.

We are talking about what we are trying to do to resettle rural Newfoundland. Where are these places, Mr. Speaker? Bay Bulls, Birchy Bay, Bonavista, Botwood, Burin, Burnt Islands, Campbellton, Cape St. George, Carbonear, Centreville, Wareham, Trinity, Port aux Basques, Clarenville, Cox's Cove, Gaultois, Garnish, Greenspond, Grand Le Pierre, Harbour Breton, Heart's Content and Hermitage: Where are these places? Sandyville, Lewisporte, L'Anse-au-Loup, Leading Tickles West, Irishtown, Summerford, Long Harbour, Mount Arlington Heights, Main Brook, Marystown, Meadows, Norman's Cove, Placentia, Old Perlican, Hant's Harbour, Salmon Cove, Springdale, Summerford, Trepassey, Twillingate, Whiteway, Winterton, Winterland: Where are these places?

We put $75 million into capital works and infrastructure in these places this year; $75 million from my department.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. A. REID: From the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs. I think, if I am not mistaken - I am sure I heard in the last month or so that we are building four or five new schools in rural Newfoundland this year.

AN HON. MEMBER: And hospitals.

MR. A. REID: What? We are building hospitals, too? We cannot be building hospitals and schools and spending $75 million, $100 million, $200 million and $1 billion on rural Newfoundland, if this crowd over here are going to resettle them all. Have a grain of sense. I wish somebody in this House would have a grain of sense.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. A. REID: We are going to resettle them all! Yes, we are going to move them all into Mount Pearl, if they get Southlands!

Mr. Speaker, I am poisoned with the hon. Member for Waterford Valley standing in this House representing rural Newfoundland. Mr. Speaker, he does not represent rural Newfoundland. He does not, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: He took Donovans Industrial Park away from rural Newfoundland.

MR. A. REID: Donovan's Industrial Park! We make more money than Donovan's Industrial Park when the people of Carbonear collect their taxes. There is more money.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. A. REID: Now, Mr. Speaker, I will say this to you, I am saying that to the hon. member, but I am not saying it to the people who live in Mount Pearl because I was always told that Mount Pearl was the biggest outport community in Newfoundland.

AN HON. MEMBER: Right on.

MR. A. REID: Sure, because all my cousins from Monroe and down around Trinity Bay lived there. There are hundreds and hundreds living there from Port de Grave, out around Bay Roberts and that area. They are in from all over Bonavista, they are everywhere. I do not know where he comes from, he comes from the Burin Peninsula, I think he was probably born in St. Pierre somewhere and moved ashore. I am not sure where he comes from, but I am certainly sure that he will not admit where he comes from.

AN HON. MEMBER: Burnt Island where the buffalo is.

MR. A. REID: Burnt Island where the buffalo is, that is probably where it is.

I think he is from down around Marystown somewhere, but I do not think he has admitted the fact that he is a bayman and will not admit the fact that he is a bayman in this House.

Mr. Speaker, I want to just tell you what this government has been doing for rural municipalities and the things that we have been doing that are extraordinary in comparison with what the previous government did and what we are doing and going to keep doing.

Mr. Speaker, this year past, $30.9 million was spent in infrastructure money, $25 million was spent on capital works and $2 million was spent on a special job creation program. I whispered that to some of you rural members yesterday, but I also told you not to tell the crowd from St. John's or Mount Pearl, am I correct?

AN HON. MEMBER: That is right.

MR. A. REID: Yes, okay.

So, I want to say here, that represents $75 million in capital works. Do you know how much out of that $75 million - this is the first time ever, `Harvey', pay attention: this is the first year ever, this is the lowest amount that it has ever been, - out of $75 million that has to be financed including the infrastructure by the Federal Government and the Provincial Government, only $18 million of the total $75 million is going to have to be paid back by the municipalities, $18 million of the $75 million. That is the highest amount of money that municipalities got in this Province since 1949, on a ratio basis.


MR. A. REID: Good, I suppose it is good! Let me tell you what the Mayor of Mount Pearl and the Mayor of St. John's said to me recently. It is the first time in the history of this Province, that the City of St. John's and the City of Mount Pearl could come in to a Minister of Municipal Affairs and say: `For every dollar, Mr. Minister, that we spend, will you match it, fifty, fifty?'. I said `yes', and do you know what they said? `Well, that is the first time, because up to this year we used to have to pay 100 per cent. We had to pay 100 per cent of it and now you telling us you are going to give us fifty.' Wonderful stuff, no problem whatsoever. This government is doing nothing for municipalities in the Province? Nothing!

Last year, I was accused in this House and the government was accused in this House, of reneging on their promises to fire- fighters around the Province. Mr. Speaker, last year we put in excess of $600,000 into fire-fighting equipment in the Province to fire-fighters.

We were also accused of reneging on providing Local Service Districts with funds. I think just about everybody that sits in this House that has Local Service Districts secured a fair dollar last year in Local Service District money, including the people over on the other side. Help them? First time in a long time. Great situation, $2 million of extra money.

We announced in the Budget last year that we were going to have to cut, like everybody - every department had to cut, we had to cut so much money from the Municipal Operating Grants - and, Mr. Speaker, this group on the other side have been going around preaching this and even the Federation of Municipalities have been preaching that we are cutting. Well, Mr. Speaker, we are not even going to start to cut until January 1st. There is no cutting this year. It is not going to come into effect until January 1, 1998 and listen to this -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. A. REID: No, no and listen to this: and we are not even going to succeed in getting all of that money back for three years. It going to take us three years to do it.

Now, at the Federation of Municipalities the other day, I was asked, not only by the members of the Federation of Municipalities, but I was asked by the media.

MR. H. HODDER: (Inaudible).

MR. A. REID: Let me tell you what a decrease is, Mr. Hodder. In 1988, your Progressive Conservative - oh, I am sorry, not your Progressive Conservative government in 1988, because you were a Liberal in 1988. The Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1988, under the hon. Brian Peckford, had a capital works program of $25 million for the whole Province. And you know something? He had $8 million of that $25 million spent before he even announced the $25 million.

Since 1989, on average, this government and the previous government has never gone under $50 million a year in capital works - $50 million. Now, Mr. Speaker, if you look at the $50 million and say: Well, how much of that $50 million did the municipalities have to pay back? -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) federal money (inaudible).

MR. A. REID: No federal money. I am not talking about federal money. I am talking about provincial money. How much did the municipalities have to pay back? You will find out that every year they had to pay back about 40 per cent of what they were getting.

Now, Mr. Speaker, 40 per cent of $50 million is a heck of a lot more than 40 per cent of $25 million. So don't tell me that we have downloaded on municipalities in the Province because, if anything, we have increased funding to municipalities over and over and over again.

Two million in special assistance for local service districts and fire departments, and all the other things that certain people asked me for, little things like the -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) outside the overpass?

MR. A. REID: I live outside the overpass, my friend.

AN HON. MEMBER: And you do not see anything downloaded.

MR. A. REID: I am not saying there is no downloading. Yes, we have taken money away from municipalities but we have given them back triple what we have taken away. Write it down.

Mr. Speaker, this year, in 1998, we will succeed in taking about $6 million out of the Municipal Operating Grant. Six million dollars will come out in 1998. Mr. Speaker, as of today - add this up - we have put $9 million into debt relief and, as the Premier has said, the $9 million -

AN HON. MEMBER: It is never enough.

MR. A. REID: No, it is not enough. Before the year is out, or before next year is out, I am going to be looking for another $9 million. Nine and nine is eighteen. If you multiply what we are going to take out, three times six is eighteen, you are right back to square one, aren't you? But, on top of that, not only are we going to put $9 million in this year; we have put $2 million into job creation - given to municipalities - we have put $2 million into special assistance, fire-fighting and into rural communities. Ask the gentleman sitting next to you how many favours he has asked me for this year. I have another one to go over now in a few minutes, to tell him again about it.

The few dollars that I am able to sneak under the table to him so that he can go out and tell his residents and his people living out in his district: I have a few dollars for you. And do you know how I manage to do that? Let me tell you how I manage to do it.

Corner Brook, Port aux Basques, Deer Lake, St. John's, Labrador City - Labrador City especially - Wabush, Goose Bay, Grand Falls, Gander, Clarenville, Carbonear, Conception Bay South, and St. John's - I said it again - came in last year and said to me: We know you are in a dilemma. We know, Reid, you are in a dilemma, and we know you have to find money.

Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you and everyone in this House that one of the first people, when we made the cuts to the MOG, who came up and said to me: Art, I know it is going to be hard on my community, but if it means the survival of rural Newfoundland, Sir, you go ahead and do what you are doing. And it will mean that Badger and Bay de Verde and Brent's Cove and Brigus and Campbellton and Catalina - I will not read them all - and Cook's Harbour and Cox's Cove and Englee and Fermeuse and Flat Rock - and Flat Rock - will have a sizeable amount of money put into their treasury this year to help them get along over the next two years.

Mr. Speaker, I have a whole list of communities here that got into trouble financially in the last two or three years, four or five years. They got into trouble, Mr. Speaker, not because of their greediness but for wanting to provide their people in their communities with the same basic services that are being provided from one end of the country to the other. You cannot condemn them for that. You cannot condemn an MHA for scratching and clawing when he is trying to get as much as he can for his district, like the hon. member who is sitting in the Chair right now did no more than ten minutes ago.

MR. J. BYRNE: Ten?

MR. A. REID: Ten minutes ago. I have no problems with that but, Mr. Speaker, in order to accommodate the debt that has built up because of the actions of MHAs over the years, because of the actions of municipal councillors, and because the people living in the communities themselves want good, basic services - because of such a debt, I have to put myself and this government, we have to put ourselves on this side of the House, in such a position where we can accommodate, at least at this particular point in time, some help for those communities.

MR. SPEAKER (M. Penney): Order, please! Order, please!

As intriguing as the debate is that the hon. minister is providing and as much as the Speaker is listening with all attentiveness, I must remind him that his time is up.


MR. A. REID: Give me thirty seconds.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. A. REID: I will provide my hon. colleague, the Member for Waterford Valley with this information if he wants to see it, and you cannot, even though you have been critical - and I appreciate the fact that you have been critical, because I have been critical, too; I have been critical of myself and my Cabinet with regard to what we have done over the past few years. I do not have any problems admitting, and I say it, and I have said it in the last five years, `Harvey', I am the only minister who has been at five conventions, as the minister. (Inaudible). Just imagine! And with that said, Mr. Speaker, I do not apologize to anyone because, Mr. Speaker, I do not think I would be here today, sitting in this place as Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, without the help of that man, right there, who got up a few minutes ago and introduced this. Because he was the one who stood in his place back ten, fifteen years ago and nominated me as President of the Federation of Municipalities. So, if anybody has to take the responsibility for us downloading on municipalities, it has to be Harvey Hodder.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to take part in this debate so capably put forward by my friend and colleague, the Member for Waterford Valley and responded to by the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

The minister got up and talked about all the wonderful things his department was doing and all the money he was spending, $75 million last year. But the minister did not say how much money was applied for last year. How much money, Mr. Speaker, was applied for through the 290 municipalities in this Province? The minister also talked about three or four schools his government was building and about to open, but he did not tell us how many schools his government closed this year, and that, is what is happening out there, in rural Newfoundland today.

I have a daughter who graduates in two weeks time from Memorial University. She has her reservations made for the 26th of December, to go to Alberta to find a job and, Mr. Speaker, that is just an indication of what is happening out there today. Here in St. John's and in the Mount Pearl area, when somebody decides that he is going to move, we see a: `For Rent or For Sale' sign on the house; out in my district, Mr. Speaker, the windows are boarded up. The windows are boarded up because there is no sale for the house, there is nobody looking to rent that dwelling. A lot of the people are moving away in search of jobs.

In fact, I was very surprised when I saw the number of people come out to offer themselves for municipal government, for town councils in the last election in September; I was very surprised, I say to the hon. minister, because I thought the cutbacks government was bringing about would discourage people from coming forward; but there was a good complement of people. They were very capable people and most places had an election. So it certainly says a lot for those people. We certainly should feel very confident that rural Newfoundland will survive, especially when people like councillors have the hope and the initiative and they take on the great challenge of serving their community by being town councillors.

Recently, there was a project, thanks to the minister - who was the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs before you, Minister? I just do not recall who it was but just two short years ago -

AN HON. MEMBER: Bill Hogan.

MR. FITZGERALD: - just two short years ago, Mr. Speaker, there was a little piece of road in my district in a town called Port Union, with .3 kilometres left to be paved. The asphalt crew came in and they paved the road and left .3 kilometres of road to be paved along by one of the main thoroughfares in the community. At that particular time -

MR. EFFORD: I did not do any (inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: No, you did not, and that is to your discredit, I say to the minister.

Mr. Speaker, at that particular time, the town council could have had that roadway completed, upgraded and paved for the sum of $8,000. Eight thousand dollars was what the contractor was willing to do the work for. The Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs said: No, that is it; we are not spending any more money. They went back this year and paved the same piece of roadway, .3 kilometres and do you know what it cost the municipality? $59,000 and the Member for Trinity North knows full well what I am talking about. It cost the taxpayers of Port Union $59,000 this year for an $8,000 job two years ago. Is that spending money wisely, I ask the members opposite? Is that spending money wisely, when you go and make communities incur such debt when it could have been done for one-quarter or one-fifth of the cost a few years before? That is what is happening here, Mr. Speaker.

Roads in municipalities today - a few short years ago government was giving out road component grants. You were getting $2,000 for every kilometre of road in your community. That looked after winter maintenance, upgrading, Mr. Speaker, and normal maintenance of those particular roadways. Today, Mr. Speaker, Municipal and Provincial Affairs are sending out bills to small cash-strapped communities, saying: If you want your road paved in your communities, if you want your local road paved, it is going to cost you in excess of $5,000 per kilometre - in excess of $5,000 a kilometre for the same roadway that they were getting $2,000 a kilometre for a few short years before. This is what is happening out in rural areas today.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: Down in my district, I say to the minister, I do not know what the unemployment rate is or what the number of people out of work is. I usually want to look at the number of people that are employed. A lot of people do not show up on the unemployment statistics, but if you could show the employment statistics, you would probably find out that it is less than 25 per cent of people working in many of our communities and towns in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

This is not the time for this government to be bringing hardship and downloading on those towns and communities. The money comes out of the same pockets, I say to members opposite, whether it is fees charged by this government, whether it is taxes that are transferred down to the municipalities by taking away the Municipal Operating Grants or whether it is some far-fetched scheme up in Ottawa. The money all comes from the same pockets.

Mr. Speaker, in Lethbridge in my district, there is an elementary school. It was built back in probably 1965 or 1966. Last year they had rats in the school, in the portable classrooms there. They put out rat bait, and the rats got up underneath the school and died. So now they had to remove them. The foundation of that school was so bad that nobody would crawl up underneath the school. You know what they had to do? They had to cut holes in the floor of the school in Lethbridge, I say to the hon. member. They had to cut holes in the floor to get down and take up the rats that they had poisoned with rat bait in the school in Lethbridge, because the foundation was so bad that nobody would take a chance to crawl up underneath the school. Now, are those the things we should be proud of? Are those the things that should change with the reform of education? Are those the things about which the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs gets up and sticks out his chest and says: `Here are all of the things we have done'? You should go out and look at the real world, I say to members opposite.

We are speaking of Lethbridge, the road through Lethbridge, a road paved about twenty-eight or twenty-nine years ago, now they are putting patches on top of the patches. School children are complaining, putting together petitions to have sent to this House of Assembly, to talk about how bad their roads are. Bus drivers are calling, complaining that they are breaking off springs in their buses. They cannot afford to keep the buses on the road because of the conditions of the roadway. They cannot afford to continue busing students with the amount of money that is being put out today by the Department of Education, to maintain the contract.

Mr. Speaker, people are leaving this Province today in droves. People who are leaving the Province are people who are not spending money at the local grocery store. They are not going out and buying gas, and they are not paying taxes. It is a vicious circle in rural Newfoundland and Labrador today. It is a vicious circle. One time when people got a job in this Province, or even if it was outside in another Province, if we could prove we had a job, then we would supply them with an amount of money to get from point `a' to point `b' so they could access employment. Because, whether government members believe it or not, Newfoundlanders want to work. Newfoundlanders do not want hand-outs - not the people I know, not the people I talk to. They want a job.

Many people today are accessing jobs in other provinces but find they cannot get to that job because there is no help to take them from here to the place where they have their job. It was all taken away, and where do we direct them but to the Department of Human Resources and Employment because they cannot access money anywhere else. For the most part, those people, if they could access money to get to their place of employment, they would be more than willing to pay it back.

I phoned the Department of Human Resources and Employment the other day and asked for some help for an individual who had gone the full route of looking for jobs, and went to legalized loan sharks and the world of banks, and nobody would look at him. I called them and they said: No, no, I am sorry; we are not a lending agency. We cannot supply him with any money to go anywhere. But tell him to come back again next Wednesday and we will give him his $89 a month that he is supposed to get through the Department of Human Resources and Employment.

We hear government talking about all the wonderful things that are there for them to go and get involved in new business ideas, new business ventures. We see the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture going across this Province; he is on a soapbox talking about all the opportunities involved in aquaculture, all of the opportunities involved in the fishery. `Come in to my office and see me.'

MR. EFFORD: What is wrong with that?

MR. FITZGERALD: There is nothing wrong with it if you are sincere about it.

I had a call yesterday from a young gentleman in the Government Leader's district, who had been talking with the minister's office. He had a good idea. In fact, he had arranged funding through ACOA, he thought it was such a good business plan, and he had access to funding from another source. Have not heard back. Disillusion with the whole process. A young fellow twenty-three years old and I said: I cannot believe this, I am hearing this because this is what we are trying to stop, the brain drain leaving this Province and if we have a twenty-three year old with a good idea and can secure funding and not having the minister's office stepping in to help him, then there is something wrong here.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who are you talking about?

MR. FITZGERALD: There is something wrong here. I will talk to the minister about it after in private, I say to him, because I never asked him if I could say his name in the House of Assembly and I will speak to him about it privately and maybe he might be able to give me a call because he has a good idea. Like I said he has some funding in place.

AN HON. MEMBER: Let's hear about it.

MR. FITZGERALD: No, I will talk to the minister about it, but there are good ideas out there, Mr. Speaker, but we are not taking them from point A to point B and if we are going to go out and train our people today, whether it is through government funding or the self-employment program or what have you, if we are going to go out and train them, then we have to take them a step further then we have been taking them. It is not enough to go out and train people to do a job if they need experience in order to access that job. We drop them off far too quickly. We have to take them the extra step. That extra step hopefully would encourage some employer to hire that individual and give him some experience and I would think that we would see a lot more people working in this Province today, Mr. Speaker.

Another uncaring act of government. A few days ago, we talked about a postal strike; there was a threat of a postal strike in this country. What did they do, Mr. Speaker, with all the thousands of people out there who are depending on a government cheque? They issued the cheques, they issued them up in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, a service that was being provided all along in this Province right here, in Newfoundland, but the government of the day, the cousins of the people on the other side up in Ottawa, decided they were going to move that cheque centre, that pay centre from Newfoundland up to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. So, they wrote the cheques up in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia and what did they do with them? They carried them and put them in the post office. Put them in packaged mail so they could be held and only released on a certain date. Now, Mr. Speaker, when pay day rolls around for me, then I want a pay cheque, I need a pay cheque and I know what those people are going through out there in rural Newfoundland today when they have to wait an extra week or sometimes in excess of that, in order to access money. Those people are families; those people are people with families like you and me. Those people are dealing with sickness. One particular person in my district had to go and access social services. Had to get money in order to bring her child in here to the Janeway Hospital because somebody decided that they were going to make their cheques a week late. They were entitled to them. They deserved them. They knew there was going to be a postal strike, Mr. Speaker. Very uncaringly they were all stacked in groups and put in post offices which said: do not release this until the 20th of the month.

Mr. Speaker, municipalities are probably facing the biggest challenge that they ever faced in this Province, they are facing it today. I had the local administrator, the regional administrator down in my district a few short weeks ago. We went down and we met with a Town Council down in Elliston. I think there was one new councillor re-elected, other than that it was a full slate of new councillors and they were all very eager, they were all hyped up about wanting to serve their community, about wanting to do something different, to do something good. They had already lost their street lights, they do not have sidewalks, they were fighting to try to maintain their water and their sewer. They were very eager to do something to help their people. So, they talked about refinancing their debt that they owed to government. I think they owed something like $168,000, debt. Somebody compared what Newfoundland and Labrador municipal financing was charging, compared to what they would be able to negotiate a loan from the local bank for and they found out that they could have a massive savings by going to the local bank, but, Mr. Speaker, what they did not take into account: yes, you were getting your municipal operating grant today but next year it is less 20 per cent and the next year it is less 20 per cent and the following year it is less 20 per cent, so do not count on your municipal operating grant that you are getting today because that is going to be reduced by 60 per cent again over the next three years I say to members opposite.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave, Mr. Speaker?

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

MR. FITZGERALD: So, Mr. Speaker, I say what we are doing is, we are going in a vicious circle in rural Newfoundland today; it is something that I am not so sure that government is paying attention to that they should. The Government House Leader is very much aware, I have been in his district, I have talked to people in his district. You yourself, Mr. Speaker represent a district in rural Newfoundland and at one time, a part of your district was a part that I represent today. You know full-well what is happening in rural Newfoundland and Labrador and something has to be done -

MR. EFFORD: Isn't his time up yet, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: He has had leave.

MR. FITZGERALD: - I say, Mr. Speaker, in order to create some hope and in order to bring about some prosperity.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. EFFORD: No leave.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up and leave has been withdrawn.

MR. FITZGERALD: We are living today in an age of electronics. We are living today, Mr. Speaker, in an age that we do not have to be where the work is; we can take the work to the people. We do not have to have the office building here in St. John's.

MR. EFFORD: I withdraw leave from the hon. member.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Leave has been withdrawn and the member's time is up.

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I am sure that the members over here on this side will continue to put forward some good, sensible argument.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Baie Verte.

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am glad to rise today. I was waiting for my colleagues across the House to stand and say a few words but obviously there is nobody so, Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to take some time today to speak to my colleague's motion here, Private Members and just read one line from the last part of his resolution: "BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the House of Assembly direct the Provincial Government to restore the integrity" - that should be in capital letters, Mr. Speaker - "of the municipal level of the government through a cancellation of all proposed cuts to the Municipal Operating Grants and that the Provincial Government aggressively negotiate a new municipal-provincial financial relationship that recognizes the grave and imminent threat to the integrity" again, " of municipal government in all parts of the Province but more particularly in rural Newfoundland."

Mr. Speaker, as of yesterday, I started to ask some questions on Rural Renewal and asked some questions of the minister who is now responsible for the committee that travelled the Province on revitalization of rural Newfoundland. There itself lies the question in this Province today that is most pressing on anybody's mind is what is happening in rural Newfoundland. Mr. Speaker, if you watched last night - cameras do not lie - As a matter of fact, that particular part of the program last night hit home to me of course, because it was in my district and, Mr. Speaker, to go a bit further, one of the gentlemen who was spoken to, Mr. Pleaman Starkes, was my next-door neighbour who, a month or so ago, when the shouting was done - I watched him pull out of his driveway and wished him luck and said goodbye to him; he lived next door to me in Baie Verte.

He was a tradesman, a well-qualified, experienced tradesman and very well respected in his trade around the Province and as a matter of fact, he has been all over the country, so it was not like a fellow who came out without experience or needed to do his apprenticeship, we are talking about an experienced journeyman tradesman in this Province at that age - I will not give his exact age but you could see from the cameras, forty-five, forty-six years old and with a trade and so on, a heavy-duty mechanic.

Now, Mr. Speaker, as you saw those people board that ferry last night, there was no drama, that was not produced in Hollywood, that was the real thing, that is what we are seeing in this Province and then, as I listened to the minister make his remarks today and talked about being a bayman, well, I am a bayman too, Mr. Speaker, but the way the minister went on, he was giving everything back and everything was going to rural Newfoundland, reminded me of the song: Thank God Santa is a Bayman like us, because he seems to be preparing to get ready for Christmas and he is going to be giving out all of this.

One of the things he said - and he can correct me if I am wrong - but he said: what they took away from municipalities over the last couple of years, they gave back in triplicate. They have actually tripled what they gave back so, really, if that is a fact, then there is no one in this Province who is hurting; all the municipalities are in great shape because what they took away he gave back tripled, so we are up two times, Mr. Speaker.

Now, Mr. Speaker, if you are going to try to tell me or tell any mayor or councillor who just got elected in this Province that they got back triple what the government took away you are going to have the biggest laugh and uproar in any council chambers in this Province. To say that what you took away you gave back triple. Mr. Speaker, I don't think that's the reality of it. The reality is this, Mr. Speaker, first and foremost. Now I am a firm, firm believer, always have been before entering this House and still am, more than ever, convinced with the saying that says, `... as goes rural Newfoundland and Labrador so goes this Province.' This Province was built on rural Newfoundland. That is what it was built on, Mr. Speaker, when the small inlets of our coasts were inhabited by people who made a living from a resource, be it forestry or fishing, and then of course in later days, mining and so on but that is what made Newfoundland. That is what makes Newfoundland today, in 1997, unique.

When people in Ottawa, Vancouver and Winnipeg talk about Newfoundland and Labrador they talk about our uniqueness, about small communities and how great a people we are. We should be all proud of that and I know we all are in this chamber, Mr. Speaker. We brag - I know I do everywhere I travel. I am sure all ministers and members in this House brag. You can be proud of the unique character of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. Well, Mr. Speaker, if we lose that through people leaving this Province then we lose the very essences of what this Province is all about, uniqueness of small rural Newfoundland. That is why I asked the minister responsible for the revitalization of rural Newfoundland - before I lost time yesterday in Question Period - why I asked a simple direct question to him. If his mandate is to revitalize rural Newfoundland and Labrador why isn't he going out into rural Newfoundland and Labrador? Why is he going to - in thirteen meetings on the West Coast, Mr. Speaker, eight of the thirteen meetings were in Corner Brook and Stephenville. Now, Mr. Speaker, nothing against Corner Brook or Stephenville, I have been there.

MR. TULK: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: On a point of order, the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, yesterday the hon. gentleman stood up here in the House and asked a question as to what the rural revitalization committee has been doing. Mr. Speaker, he got up and quoted from - and I want to correct him on his information - he stood up and quoted a listing of what we have done. Now, Mr. Speaker, I want to table - and give it to the hon. gentleman so he is educated - a list of the itinerary of the rural revitalization committee so he can see just how busy we have been. Mr. Speaker, does he want it? Here it is. Come over and get it.

MR. SHELLEY: You lay it on the table and I can get it.

MR. TULK: Okay, we will table it, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: No point of order.

The hon. the Member for Baie Verte.

MR. SHELLEY: Now, Mr. Speaker, what I seen there was exactly what I expected, that he would waste time again just like he has been wasting time. Out of those communities, Mr. Speaker, the West Coast always -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: Oh, Mr. Speaker, where is the list that he is going to table? He was going to table a big list of this great committee that is travelling around the Province and how he has been out in rural Newfoundland, Mr. Speaker. Here is the point; yesterday he had the gall to stand in the House of Assembly and of course -

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order.

MR. SHELLEY: Oh, Mr. Speaker, that is an abuse of the House.

MR. SPEAKER: On a point of order, the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

The hon. gentleman -

MR. SHELLEY: (Inaudible).

MR. TULK: I am up on a point of order. Yesterday, as I said to you, he got up here in the House and made those allegations and I have to tell him that last week we were down in Springdale, the development association and the Regional Economic Development Board would not even invite the hon. gentleman to his own district meetings.

MR. SPEAKER: No point of order.

The hon. the Member for Baie Verte.

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

I am glad the Speaker has control of the House, otherwise this abuse would be going on all day. Now, Mr. Speaker, I guess we can draw an analogy as to exactly what is happening. What the minister is doing here today is trying to abuse the time and waste it and not get to the crux of the matter. My point to the minister is, table it and I will pick it up, Mr. Speaker. I will tell the minister. He got up and tried to jump in front of the parade that the Member for Bonavista South has started by calling on George Baker to take his TAGS committee out to the real problem. He was the one who jumped behind the Member for Bonavista South. What he did, on a ministerial statement, is ask the Member for Bonavista South if he could borrow his press statement from two weeks ago, is what he did. The irony of all of this is, simply put, that what the minister has said about the TAGS committee travelling the Province, what the minister has said about the TAGS committee, I agree with. That is why I am asking the minister to do the honourable thing and for his rural revitalization -


MR. SHELLEY: Revitalization.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: Oh, I got it wrong? Every now and then I make a mistake, but not very often.

Mr. Speaker, for the rural revitalization committee not to go out -yes, I know there are some successful businesses they would like to speak with, but if you want to attack the problem, you go to the problem. You do not go jumping up and down and saying what great things are going on all the time. Every now and then you have to ask: Where are the problems? Let me get to the problems.

Mr. Speaker, on the top of a statement I read out yesterday there was a little note that these are private meetings; photo ops are available afterwards. What was it for? What was the whole purpose of revitalization? I asked the minister today in this House, with the problems that municipal governments are experiencing, these people are the ones that the minister should be meeting with. That is the whole point of this.

The new councils who took the time, the volunteers in this Province who, I am telling you, had to do a lot of soul searching and gut wrenching to say again this year that they were going to sit down and take on the duties of councils around this Province at probably the toughest time in our history, I commend them today and I salute them in front of the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal and the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, and say we should be thanking those people for having the guts and the integrity and the fortitude to say: I will run for council this year in these tough times.

Now, Mr. Speaker, what we have to do is say to these people: We are willing to deal with you directly; we are going to come out where the problems are, and we are going to sit and discuss with you, and you are going to help us solve the problems. That is what the government has to do, sit with them, and make the municipalities feel a part of the solution. That is my philosophy. In order to revive rural Newfoundland, we have to take these people in with us on these committees and make them part of the solution, because the solution does not lie with government. The solution lies with allowing the people who are living in these areas to be a big part of the decision-making process - make them a bigger part of the decision-making process so they can solve their problems with the help of government.

That is what I am asking for; because what happened, and I will give an example here today in the House - I have done some research on it, and I know the minister has already done some. I will give the example of Ireland - and the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal should know this; I think he does. The example in Ireland we can look at is that they are taking people from the urban centres of Ireland who are a drain on the social programs, living in slum housing, and the government are encouraging them to go out into the rural parts of Ireland and take up small business and so on.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: (Inaudible) a good job. The Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs just came through and took care of Burlington, and I am glad he did. I told the minister, any time he helps a community in this Province, be it Burlington or Flat Rock, or wherever, I am delighted about it.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: The groomer - I say to the minister, he does not know the story, because the truth is that I saved him from a lot of embarrassment.


MR. SHELLEY: I say to the minister, if he knew the whole story, I saved a lot of embarrassment.

Now, Mr. Speaker, getting back to Ireland - I know there are a lot of interruptions there today; I must be making sense.

When I talk about Ireland, that is, in fact, true. What they have done is give the municipalities a much stronger say in their national government, and what they did was include them in a solution process. They have taken people from the urban centres where they are a drain on the social programs and they have moved them into rural Ireland. As a matter of fact, you talk about small business here, what I believe, by the way, is that the best solution for rural Newfoundland is small business. The people who come to all of us every day with a great idea to employ three or four or five or six people, maybe ten people, too many people are being turned off. They are in rural Newfoundland today, and do you know where they end up? At the ferry in Port aux Basques, leaving with their ideas, because they are so tired of the red tape.

Mr. Speaker, one person in King's Point, I think, summed it up to me pretty well. He said, `I had the idea' - he was about to leave. He said: `What I believe they should start doing simply is this. Instead of rolling out some red tape, roll out the red carpet. Anybody who has an idea in this Province for small-scale business, who can put three and four and five people to work, we should get out of their way so they can go ahead and create those jobs.'

Getting back to Ireland again, I will give you an example, and I hope the minister is aware of this one. As far as buildings go, and so on, I have been told by one of the ministers that in parts of Ireland now if a person has a good, solid business idea, the government will actually build them the building.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: Well, one of your colleagues told me. A minister will actually -

MR. TULK: I tell you what they do.

MR. SHELLEY: Go ahead.

MR. TULK: They will go out and build (inaudible) the first two years rental (inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: Yes, that it right.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: Yes, well, they will actually construct a building, too, which I say is still a good idea. But the whole point, Mr. Speaker, is, it is easy to talk about these things in a wider sense, but the truth is that there are some good ideas. I just had a twenty-one-year-old in my office the other day, who had a great idea to create three jobs in a small community. And what I have asked -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: A twenty-one-year-old, three jobs. What is wrong with that?

MR. TULK: Why did you not (inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: I did, yes I did.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, the point is - the minister keeps interrupting today, something must be bothering him. I do not know what the problem is.

I believe, Mr. Speaker, my time is running out and I just want to make this comment. Rural renewal in this Province is probably to me and to everybody, the most important factor right now, and I still believe that if we are going to calm the waters in this Province right now - because it is unsettled; anyone who believes that is it smooth and everything is great, is only kidding himself. We would like to believe that, but it is a bad mood in this Province.

I just finished visiting, I think, twenty-six or twenty-seven of the thirty-three communities in my district and I hope to finish the next three or four in the next couple of weeks. Over the last couple of months you sit down and talk to people on a wharf or in a store somewhere, and the mood is not good. I think any rural member here will tell you the same thing.

I believe, Mr. Speaker, what they have to see in the next short term - and this cannot be a better tomorrow attitude, this has to be in the very near future - this Fall and next Spring, we have to see a commitment and some concrete evidence. And I will say this: nothing settles Newfoundland and Labrador down more, rural Newfoundland, besides the jobs part we just talked about, than the basic necessities, pavement, water and sewer; that is what it takes. All of us who have rural communities can tell you, if a community has dirt roads and is carrying water and -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: We are talking what? Rural community. I do not have a rural community?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: Yes, well, I am talking about - I do not care if I talk for everybody.

MR. TULK: Paved roads will not keep people here.

MR. SHELLEY: No, pavement on the roads will not keep people there, I agree with the minister, but I am going to tell you one thing, a gentleman said to me the other day: `Somebody use the line, I will be the one to turn off the lights.' `Well,' he said, `you can turn off the lights, I am still staying.' Those communities, depending on what happens to them, can even be, in the future - tourists drive into these places. As a matter of fact, I had tourist this year stop going to Westport because they thought it was all gravel road. There are still places that are going to be beautiful. I know places now with ten and twelve families, but they are still there and they are still beautiful. These people are not going to leave those places, Mr. Speaker. It is going to have to -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. SHELLEY: Time is up already, Mr. Speaker. May I have one minute to clue up, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: Does the member have leave?

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, just to clue up, I will say to the -

AN HON. MEMBER: No, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SHELLEY: He has interrupted me so often, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The member does not have leave.

MR. SHELLEY: I will just clue up, because I figured I have a minute owing me anyway.

Mr. Speaker, rural renewal needs immediate attention -

MR. TULK: No, leave. No, leave.

MR. SPEAKER: The member does not have leave.

MR. SHELLEY: - not down the road, not a better tomorrow and that is something that we have to address in this House.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Port au Port.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I welcome you to your new position and I will try not to make your life too difficult in your new capacity.

I am delighted to have an opportunity to speak in this debate. I have read, with interest, the resolution put forward by my good friend from Waterford Valley. Certainly, there are some aspects of the resolution that do catch my attention and I would have no difficulty in supporting, but in general, I feel the resolution is somewhat convoluted and I would have to wonder what the hon. member's motives are in making it as complex and as complicated as it is. I think he is trying to communicate on too many fronts and perhaps he might have been a little more effective had be kept the focus a little narrower.

Mr. Speaker, whenever we engage in debate in this hon. House, dealing with issues, particularly as they relate to rural Newfoundland, and in this instance again, we see here reference to the fact and charges being placed by the hon. members opposite, that somehow this government is engaged in an out-and-out assault or attack on rural Newfoundland, that, in fact, this government has given up on rural Newfoundland; in fact that this government somehow feels that the future of Newfoundland does not involve in it the rural areas of this Province. Mr. Speaker, nothing could be further from the truth. It really bothers me whenever I hear the hon. members opposite wrapping themselves in the flag and pronouncing that they are the champions and they are the spokespersons for the rural areas of this Province. It really intrigues me when I see my hon. colleague, the great champion for rural Newfoundland, the Member from Waterford Valley engaging in this initiative and speaking with such eloquence and passion with regards to the needs of the rural areas and the rural regions of this Province.

Mr. Speaker, all of us in this hon. House and the members opposite - and certainly the members who sit on this side of the House - are all too aware of the challenges that face the rural areas of the Province at this stage in our history. In my capacity, as a rural member and also as a person who has had a long career of involvement in dealing with rural issues and trying to promote economic development in the rural areas of the Province, I certainly feel that I have somewhat of an understanding as to the magnitude of the problem that is out there.

Mr. Speaker, the difficulties with which we are confronted in this Province today have not come about overnight. These issues or these challenges have not just developed over the last three or four years. They have been many years in the making. Mr. Speaker, we are also, all of us, very much aware that there are no easy answers. We would all like to believe that there are easy answers to the problems that are out there. It would certainly make all of our lives a lot easier and we could all sleep a lot easier and a lot better if we felt that today, we in this House, in this debate that we are engaging in could arrive at a resolution that would resolve forever the difficulties that confront the many thousands of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who are trying to continue to carry on the existence that has been known in rural Newfoundland for the last 500 years.

Mr. Speaker, we recognize that there are no easy answers but that does not mean that we should throw up our hands in despair, that does not mean that we should give up, that does not mean that we should decide that in fact what is being said and the negativity that abounds is a philosophy that we are prepared to subscribe to because certainly, Mr. Speaker, from my perspective - and I feel that I speak for all of the hon. members on this side of the House - we are committed to rural Newfoundland. We are committed to ensure that rural Newfoundland continues to survive and prosper but just wishing it, Mr. Speaker, is not sufficient. We have to go about trying to identify and develop opportunities that will guarantee a future for those rural areas of the Province.

Mr. Speaker, just speaking to some of the specifics of the resolution that is put forward here today, one could almost conclude from reading this resolution that we, on this side of the House, take great delight in having to reduce supports to municipalities but, Mr. Speaker, the reality is that there is a limited amount of money and there is a limited amount of resources that we have available to us in this Province. It is incumbent upon us, as the elected representatives of the people, to ensure that the resources, limited as they are, that are available to us are used so that we derive maximum benefits. We, all of the people of this Province, derive maximum benefits.

Governing and budgeting; really in government we are talking large budgets but really it is no different from running your household budget. You just can't spend money that you don't have and if you continue to do that on an ongoing basis the day is going to come when your banker is going to ring you up and say, `Your time is up. We are moving in. You can't look after your finances so we are going to do it for you'. Unfortunately in this Province this reality has become all too well known to all of us in recent years, that really the kinds of decisions that had to be made in this country and in this Province were decisions that were precipitated in large part and primarily by decisions that were made many, many years ago, initiatives that were put in place many years ago, long before most members of this House had occasion to sit in this Chamber. However, be that as it may, it would be very easy and very simple for us to stand in this House and just to blame people who sat here years ago for getting us in the financial mess that we are in now. That would be an easy thing to do, but it would not be the responsible thing to do, because we who now sit here as the elected representatives of the people of this Province, that is not what our constituents sent us here to do. They sent us here to represent them and to correct the situation as we find it, and that is what this government is endeavouring to do.

We all accept and recognize the medicine that we have all been served up with in recent years is not the sort of thing that we would have if we had a choice. I think, Mr. Speaker, to a person, if you talked to the people of this Province, they would recognize and understand that the actions that have been initiated are trying to deal in a responsible fashion with the fiscal reality which confronts this Province at this point in time.

Mr. Speaker, if we stand in this House, if I stand here as a representative for Port au Port, and argue for a greater cut of the pie for municipal affairs, if I argue for reinstatement of the full municipal operating grants, then it is only logical that this government and the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs should then say to me: Where, then, do you suggest that the money come from? Where, then, do you suggest that we make the cuts? Do we lay off more teachers? Do we close down more hospital beds? These are the types of hard decisions that have to be made, because the options are very limited. Either we reduce our spending or we engage in additional borrowing.

As I indicated earlier, we have already borrowed ourselves into a situation where we have placed the future of our children and future generations of this Province in grave jeopardy - and indeed in this country - but what we have been trying to do by bringing our financial situation under control is trying to ensure that we will not be inflicting on future generations a responsibility for borrowing for benefits that would, in fact, accrue to generations living today.

Mr. Speaker, how can anyone justify that we should be able to maintain a certain lifestyle, a certain level of service, living in the year 1997, with the realization that in order to do that and to sustain that, it will be my children and my grandchildren who will pay the price.

Mr. Speaker, I personally cannot accept that, and I don't feel the members of this House generally can subscribe to that sort of philosophy. What, then, is the alternative? The alternative is very simple, and this government has been trying to deal with this in a realistic fashion. This government has been aggressively pursuing, on all fronts, different economic opportunities, because what we have to do is to build the economy and grow the economy. What we have to do in the rural areas of the Province is to work with our people who live there, in helping them identify and develop new opportunities for economic growth. That way we can ensure that there will be a future for the rural areas of our Province.

Mr. Speaker, as we develop and grow our economy we will then generate the necessary finances so that we will be able to maintain for all of our citizens the level of service that they desire, and the level of service that they demand.

Mr. Speaker, we must also not lose sight of the fact that the hon. Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs has stated publicly that as soon as the situation, the fiscal situation of this Province shows improvement, that he will certainly be fighting hard to ensure that some of the additional monies that will then be available, will in fact be going back to the municipalities in the form of municipal operating grants to help them offset some of the difficulties that they are enduring.

Mr. Speaker, no one denies that in fact, in being able to try to get our fiscal house in order, that this is only possible through the co-operation of all of our citizens. This is only possible because the people who live in the various regions of the Province, and there is no doubt that the rural areas are probably more of a challenge than the urban areas, but if we are to make gains, if we are to see improvement, it requires the co-operation of all of our citizens.

Mr. Speaker, personally, I have great faith in the future of this Province. I have great faith in the future of the rural areas of the Province. As a person who was born in rural Newfoundland and has chosen to live in rural Newfoundland, I feel that we do have a bright future, but, Mr. Speaker, I think as well, what we have to ensure is what we are doing now for rural Newfoundland is providing for a whole new beginning. What we are having to do - I look at my own area of the Province - is trying to find a reason for people to remain. To simply say that rural Newfoundland must continue to survive, really does not make a lot of sense unless we are prepared to sit down and try to identify the opportunities that will allow our people to continue to work there.

We have heard reference today about out-migration. We have heard reference today of the many thousands of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who are leaving to seek employment elsewhere and truly it is tragic. It is not the sort of thing that we want to see happen but the reality is, Mr. Speaker, that, until such time as we are able to develop and grow our economy, this trend will continue. However, Mr. Speaker, I feel that we are moving in the right direction. I feel that the policies that have been developed and have been embarked upon by this government will pay dividends down the road.

I think all of us in this honourable House, working together in terms of trying to assist the citizens of this Province in working with the opportunities that are out there, I feel confident that we can look forward to a bright future for everyone. In the meantime, Mr. Speaker, I have to say to my hon. member, I recognize where he is coming from in terms of the resolution that he has put forward but perhaps he could confine his remarks within the resolution, narrow his focus, I might have been able to support him, but in the light of what he has here right now, I feel it is just to convoluted and is a scatter-gun approach and really not the sort of resolution that he should be bringing forward. He does not do respect to himself as the Opposition House Leader and knowing his own abilities, I am surprised that he would, at this point in time, choose to bring this forward.

So with those remarks, Mr. Speaker, I conclude, and I do say in conclusion, Mr. Speaker, that, it bothers me whenever I feel that my own commitment to rural Newfoundland is brought into question.

MR. J. BYRNE: Yes, I hope you are. You will never get back (inaudible).

MR. SMITH: Just watch me. You obviously do not know much about my area of the Province.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, all I can say is that in terms of what we need to do out there, I feel we are making the right moves, we are putting in place the proper policies and I think in time that we will see that these will pay dividends.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand and support the resolution as put forward by my colleague from Waterford Valley, and while I was upstairs, I realized I have heard this speech from this member before. The member wraps himself into the flag that the opposition does not have a monopoly on championing the causes of rural Newfoundland or people in this Province and he is right. We do not have a monopoly, Mr. Speaker, but that monopoly should be designed for forty-eight members in this House. Any statements with respect to government initiatives and the realities that rural Newfoundland and indeed all of the Province and the people in the Province are facing as a result of the times we live in, he has described accurately, no doubt, I say to the member.

I support his view about the challenges that we all face, individually and that we face as elected members in this House in bringing forward the views from the people of the Province. But, Mr. Speaker, what burns me and what sets the fire and the devil in me is when I see opportunities, that this government has full control over, slip through their fingers. Many missed opportunities, many tradespeople in this Province have taken flight and many of those tradespeople should have had, could have had and would have had opportunities in the oil and gas industry had this government acted, had this government acted with respect to the Canadian Offshore Petroleum Boards lack of direction, lack of action with respect to enforcing the Atlantic Accord. Would you like to see the recommendations, I say to the member for Twillingate?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: But the lack of direction and initiative. Let's take a couple of examples, I say to the member for Port au Port and the member for Twillingate, too.

Last spring in the House, when in question, Kenonic Controls of Calgary, another company from outside the Province were doing work on the offshore, on the Hibernia platform, were bringing in excess of 150 instrumentation and journeymen electricians into the Province. Clearly, the union representing electricians, the IBEW, met with Cabinet representatives, clearly showed an outline to the fullest extent that was necessary, that the qualifications that that company were asking for existed in this Province. That there were journeymen and journeywomen in that field who were not only qualified, who not only had the technical expertise required, but were available for work. What action happened? None that could have been, should have been and would have been 150 extra people working in this Province had government taken action.

Now, the member knows and I am sure he could not disagree with the assertion that I am making today. Last spring in this House, I asked the Minister of Education on five separate occasion, `Is the minister preparing a list, a skills qualifications list for the upcoming offshore activity', for two purposes, (1) to identify what skills existed in this Province, so that those who had skills would get the jobs and (2) what skills that did not exist, that we needed to train people for, so that we could take advantage of upcoming offshore jobs and the opportunities that we would be presented. On five separate occasions the Minister of Education laughed it off. On one of those occasions the present Minister of Mines and Energy said, `You have asked that five times before' and I said to him then and I will say it here now, yes I did and I will keep asking the question until I find an answer. But what galled me the most in the assessment panels recommendations, they took an independent outside agency to recommend a body that has no control in terms of implementing decisions, but had the power to recommend to government only with respect to what should happen in that area. Let me read the recommendation to the member and maybe he can put pressure on that side of the House, where pressure needs to be put on because may be some of the people I am talking about are members in his area because you have, I am convinced and I know, a significant population in terms of skilled trades people that are ready, willing and able to go to work if the opportunity presented itself.

Just let me read the recommendation for the member. Recommendation No. 11 of the Terra Nova Assessment Panel states: "The panel recommends that as part of the benefits plan approval process, the proponents supply the following: a list of skills required for the various trades throughout the life of the project; an explanation of where shortfalls of skills are anticipated when compared with the local labour force; and a plan for cooperation with government agencies, training institutions and unions to develop and fund training programs for Newfoundland tradespeople to attain the level of skill required for the project. Such training programs should provide for periodic updating as the project proceeds.

Those recommendations, I say to this House and to the member, were made early this summer. To date no government action has taken place.

Now clearly you must understand, I say to the member, that within the confines and power of being government, within your regulatory bodies and agencies, that you have the power to act, that you have the power to put in place such a recommendation, that you have the power to move, to implement, to take action, to ensure that those people who are qualified, who should have and would have gotten work, in fact, at the end of the day get it, because not only do they deserve it but they have a right to it; and the reason they have a right to it is because the resource that we are talking about belongs to us.

The revitalization of Newfoundland and Labrador will not take place overnight, I say to the member, and I understand what he said because he has indicated that, that to these problems there are no quick-fix solutions. But surely one job at a time, where a group of jobs exist where we can identify, where we have identified, and where we can fix a problem, and where we have the power to fix the problem, surely we should move and move quickly. I am sure the member must agree with that.

Right now the independent recommendations by the independent assessment board which was chaired by Dr. Leslie Harris, indicated throughout this report dealing with the social and economic and employment benefits of this project - now this is just one project that is looming on the horizon, an exciting project - that not only are we lacking in that direction but the Canadian Offshore Petroleum Board itself has lacked backbone, has not taken the appropriate steps, has not taken the appropriate action, to enforce the spirit of the Atlantic Accord - the spirit, the intention, and the regulations associated with the Atlantic Accord - which does a number of things, which sets out and provides for a number of things: that first priority should be given where skills exist, where the labour force is qualified; that first priority must be given to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians because it is our resource.

When it comes to fabrication, when it comes to industrial development, when it comes to contracts that companies, organizations and corporations in this Province are qualified to attract, and where they can compete globally, that they must be given first consideration.

Mr. Speaker, what we have seen from the Atlantic Accord, or what we have seen from the Canadian Offshore Petroleum Board, is an action. We have seen little spine demonstrated by the people who are on it. As a matter of fact, right now there are two positions on that board that are left outstanding. And while we watch the Premier and while we watch government, and everybody in this House celebrates the first barrels of oil coming from Hibernia, there is nobody that doesn't celebrate that, but our celebrations, our view on the emerging oil and gas industry, must be put in check; and it must be put in check because if we do not put in place effective mechanisms and an effective regulatory regime that protects the interest of this Province, and protects the interest of its tradespeople, and does not allow for transfer in technology, that does not allow for transfer of skills, then more and more people will be leaving.

I say to the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, as an honourable man, if he knew today that by being part of the Cabinet, which he is, by bringing forward recommendations, by beefing up a regulatory body over which the Province has control, that he could save or create 150 jobs for people in this Province, I am convinced he would do it. I am convinced that he would do it. I am convinced that most of the members of Cabinet would do it but the question begs to be asked. The recommendations contained in this report have far more significance and far more importance than just the Terra Nova project. All of us must remember this: that this is just one of several other projects that are on the horizon.

Mr. Speaker, when we look at our resources, at the potential for the creation of wealth, not only in employment, for local companies, but the creation for a tax base that broadens, that brings in more money, that presents all the other resource developments, that presents the opportunity for an effective, sound, royalty regime that on the one hand attracts and maintains business to the Province, but on the other hand provides a fair return for the people of the Province and can put all of us and can put government in a better position to create opportunities for those who are coming into the workforce; for those who are leaving high school, for those who are moving on to technical institutions, to institutions of higher learning, whether they be in the private or public sector, whether it be at a Career Academy or Keyin Tech or at Memorial University or at the Marine Institute or at Cabot, wherever it may be, if we do not draw a line in the sand today and start demanding more from this, and more from these oil and gas projects, where will we be, where will they be? Where, will the people who are emerging into the workforce be? Graduating with debts in excess of $40,000 with no hope of a job in this Province, little hope of a job elsewhere?

This is the front we must fight on today. These are the initiatives that will create wealth, that will take care of social programs, that will put government and all of us in a better position to fund educational opportunities, to fund health care opportunities, to fund those people who find themselves in the unfortunate position, through no fault of their own, of being on social assistance because employment opportunities do not exist. This is the front we must fight on and this is the front we must win on.

I can only say to my colleague, the Member for Waterford Valley, I stand with you today, Sir, and support the resolution that you put forward. Not only is it a resolution that is timely, not only is it a resolution that deserves respect and deserves the support of all members in this House, but is a resolution that cuts to the heart and cuts to the chase of what each and everyone of us is doing here. It is a timely debate, it is an important debate and no member of this House has a monopoly on what he believes to be best for the interest of the people of this Province - nobody, whether he is on the Opposition side or on the government side.

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Pardon me?

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: You heard what Opposition had to say today, I say to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, but you are not going to detract from what I have to say here today.

What galls me, Mr. Speaker, in terms of debating a resolution like this, and what sets the fire in me is simply this. While the challenges exist equally, no matter what side of the House we sit on, what really upsets me is when opportunities are presented to us, because of government inaction or lack of action, those opportunities are missed; and once missed, Mr. Speaker, they are gone forever.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Twillingate and Fogo.

MR. G. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to speak to the private member's resolution put forward by the Member for Waterford Valley. I would like to continue with the train of thought that my colleague, the Member for Port au Port ended off with, and that is, he finds it a bit disturbing that the members opposite are always questioning our commitment to rural Newfoundland.

Well, I find it a bit ironic that this resolution was raised today by a member who does not represent rural Newfoundland, Mr. Speaker, and in fact, if you look at the Opposition across the floor, out of ten members, there are only three who represent rural districts in this Province, only three; the other seven represent what I consider to be St. John's or Mount Pearl, and Conception Bay South if you call that rural.

Mr. Speaker, let me tell you about rural Newfoundland. I represent one of the largest rural districts in this Province, located on the Northeast Coast of Newfoundland, four islands in Notre Dame Bay - Twillingate, New World Island, Change Islands and Fogo Island. Two of these islands are accessible by road, the other two by ferries. Ladies and gentlemen, thirty-eight communities -

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

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

MR. E. BYRNE: I would like to ask the member, is he saying that the Member for Waterford Valley because he represents - in his definition - a St. John's or Mount Pearl district, that he cannot speak for rural Newfoundland? Is that what the member is saying? That somebody who is from the Burin Peninsula, who has grown up in rural Newfoundland, who is steeped in the rural tradition, who knows what he is talking about, cannot speak for rural Newfoundland? Is that what the member is saying?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. E. BYRNE: If he is, Mr. Speaker, then I will ask him: Did the member grow up in the district that he represents? Because, by his logic, then he cannot speak for the district that he represents, Mr. Speaker, if he wants to use that logic. Is that what the member is saying?

MR. G. REID: I grew up in rural Newfoundland and I worked in rural Newfoundland and I represent a district in rural Newfoundland!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Twillingate & Fogo -

Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Twillingate & Fogo - is he speaking to the point of order?

MR. G. REID: No, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order.

The hon. the Member for Kilbride took advantage of the opportunity to question the Member for Twillingate & Fogo.

The hon. the Member for Twillingate & Fogo.

MR. G. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Let me continue about my district, thirty-eight communities, Mr. Speaker, on four islands in Notre Dame Bay, thirty of which are unincorporated. I have eight incorporated towns.

In 1982 I went to work on New World Island in Notre Dame Bay. I travelled over 15 kilometres of dirt road to get from Gander Bay over to Boyd's Cove. The only paved road through that district at the time was the main one going across the two islands of New World Island and Twillingate Island. Water and sewer that they talk about, there was sewer running in the ditches of every town, practically, on New World Island.

In 1985, I was elected to the council in Summerford, Mr. Speaker, and from 1985 until 1989 that district of Twillingate - Fogo or that town of Summerford received not one plugged nickel from the government of the day, which happened to be the Tory government of the day. Not one plugged nickel did we get, Mr. Speaker. We did not say at the time that the Tories were trying to resettle that area. We did not say that they were trying to resettle us because we did not receive any money from them. We knew the reason we did not receive any money from them. We were being penalized, Mr. Speaker, for not voting for that party. But since 1989, I tell you, we have not been penalized.

AN HON. MEMBER: One place got it.

MR. G. REID: One town, exactly, where the council supported the Tory Party publicly in the paper.

AN HON. MEMBER: Tell them what you got, tennis courts.

MR. G. REID: Exactly.

Mr. Speaker, since 1989, up until the present day, we have fared well under this government. That is why I get a bit irritated when someone questions my commitment to rural Newfoundland. Because, Mr. Speaker, since that day we have put in water and sewer. We have received from Municipal and Provincial Affairs close to $30 million in water and sewer projects alone. That is not to mention the number of kilometres of pavement we have received all through that district. That is not to mention, as well, Mr. Speaker, the senior citizens home, the hospitals, the paved roads, the ferries, the stadium and the town halls. So, Mr. Speaker, these individuals across the floor here do not - as far as I am concerned, again - speak for rural Newfoundland. They do not live there. They have never lived there.

In the past year alone, Mr. Speaker, I have received 23 kilometres of pavement in that area and I will not go on to list them because - anyway, Mr. Speaker, I am going to sit down because my West Coast colleague wants to have a few words. Thank you.

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

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

Mr. Speaker, I rise in my place today to say a few words on this resolution put forward by the Member for Waterford Valley.

I have listened to a number of speakers on the opposite side of the House, and in particular the last speaker who was up for some five or six minutes talking about rural Newfoundland, and how members on this side of the House cannot represent rural Newfoundland because they do not live there. Well, I live in rural Newfoundland. I was born in rural Newfoundland, and I think I can speak -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: That is irrelevant. It is still rural Newfoundland. If you represent a rural district, you represent a rural district. If it is one town, one community, fifteen communities, it is still a rural district. A person elected to this House of Assembly, by the way, represents his district first, then the people of the Province next, I suppose, and then the people of the country third. So, Mr. Speaker, what the Member for Twillingate and Fogo was saying was not quite logical. I suppose he was speaking from the heart. I would imagine he was. I think when most people in this House get up to speak they speak from their heart and look for the best interests of the people of the Province.

With respect to this resolution, I want to try and be as positive as I can with respect to rural Newfoundland, of course, although the `WHEREAS' clauses in this resolution can certainly lead one to believe that the situation in rural Newfoundland is pretty desperate. I think if you look at one of the clauses here which would basically confirm that, it is with respect to the out-migration, the unemployment, and the business closures in this Province.

The administration, the government of the day, say they are working to try to improve the situation in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, but to date we have not seen a lot of results, a lot of positive results.

The Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs made his comments with respect to the cut to the Municipal Operating Grants. Basically, I suppose, he feels the towns have not been hit that hard. With respect to the specific cuts to the Municipal Operating Grants in the past number of years, there have been upwards of some 60 per cent cuts.

Now some municipalities may be able to take these cuts. Others cannot, I suppose, because it depends on the situation the town is in. It depends upon the number of people employed within the town. It depends upon the tax base of the town. It depends on the mil rate of the town, and often times the government does want the municipalities to increase their mil rate. Mr. Speaker, the towns cannot increase their mil rate in certain cases because there is no point in trying to get blood out of a turnip. If you have a household or a residence in the town, and you have a family living in that, and they cannot pay $300 because of a mil rate of 7 per cent or 8 per cent, and they are going to increase it up to 10 mils, you cannot get more money out of a family than they can actually produce. That is a problem that the municipalities have.

As a matter of fact, at the last Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Municipalities meeting, I believe one of the towns put forward a resolution and it was adopted by the Federation of Municipalities. It said: BE IT RESOLVED that the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Municipalities lobby the Provincial Government to reverse cuts made to the Municipal Operating Grants during the past three years, and projected to be made over the coming three years.

The Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs has, in the past, talked about trying to put monies in place to help with the debt load of the municipalities in this Province, and hopefully in the near future we will see some results of the plans of the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs under the guidance of the minister from Carbonear. Hopefully this year we will see the debt load of a lot of the municipalities, or a certain percentage of the debt load of so many municipalities, being reduced significantly.

I know there are a number of municipalities that are in more trouble than others, and I am sure the minister would have a list of those municipalities, and hopefully those concerns will be addressed in the near future.

Mr. Speaker, it says: BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the House of Assembly direct the Provincial Government to restore the integrity of the municipal level of government through a cancellation of all proposed cuts to the Municipal Operating Grants.

The minister, I think, was up today, and I happened to be at a meeting, but he was speaking about the cuts to the Municipal Operating Grants, and how he is going to, in the future hopefully, and I think he spoke to this at the Federation of Municipalities meeting last weekend that he will try, in the future, when the funds become available, that the municipal operating grants will be looked at or there will be some sort of refinancing of the debt load of the municipalities and hopefully, we will see something along that line.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I want to say a few words with respect to rural Newfoundland. This administration has had a group go across this Province to look at the possibility of regionalization of the different areas of the Province. I think it was some time last year, this House of Assembly when this was first talked about, I mentioned what would probably come out of that study and this commission going across the Province will be, that there would be some sort of regional councils, basically in line with the regional economic boards. There are twenty of them, Mr. Speaker, and in actual fact when we got this report last week some time, basically the commission recommended twenty regional county service boards, basically in tune with the regional economic boards which is what I had predicted would happen, Mr. Speaker. As a matter of fact, I heard one of the authors of this report on the news this morning and he talked about the regional economic boards, the question was put to him, would the regional economic boards eventually come under the regional county service board? The answer was that it was quite possible that that may happen and so it remains to be seen what will happen in the future with respect to this proposal.

We have had so many studies done on amalgamation and regionalization in the past you have to wonder where this one is going. In mind, I think, I have read this report and there are some good things in this report. As a matter of fact, when I was the mayor of a small rural town, I proposed that the communities come together, the various towns in the area, and cost share services and basically, that is what this report is all about. That the communities would come together to cost share certain services, but I do have problems with it, I will not get into a lot of detail because it requires further study. I know that I will be addressing this with the municipalities in my district, some five municipalities in my district, to see how they feel about this issue and about the regionalization.

I know the last time around when we talked about amalgamation, particularly in the North East Avalon, I was strongly apposed to it. I personally was strongly apposed to amalgamation on the North East Avalon. I was a mayor of a local town at the time and I asked the government of the day to show me in dollars and cents the benefits, the pros and cons of amalgamation and they could not do it or they would not do it, one or the other, so I apposed it. But with respect to regionalization of services, if that is what it is going to be, possibly depending on the views of the town mayors and the town councils in my district, I may be persuaded to support some of the recommendations in this report.

They talked about starting out with the land use planning and zoning being one of the responsibilities of this new board, if and when it is put in place. But one of the things I like best about this report is the fact that there is nothing to be forced. The municipalities themselves will decide if they want to be involved with the board. That is a positive thing. One concern I do have though, I have to admit, is the report says that the make-up of the board would be one council member from each town to be appointed and that the voting authority or the weight of each person would have their vote weighed according to the population. Now, Mr. Speaker, that can lead to problems because we had that same situation with respect to the St. John's Regional Fire Department when it was first incorporated and we told the minister at the time and the government of the day that it would not work because the towns that would end up footing the bill never had the clout that they should have. It proved to be the case; and the St. John's Regional Fire Board never did work as it was first perceived and contemplated and put in place because it fell apart because certain municipalities within that board had all the clout and they certainly threw their clout around, Mr. Speaker. I personally remember attending a meeting and one of the members of the board said: basically what we will do is, we will listen to the smaller towns and then we will do what is best for our town, because they had the way to do it and if this flies there could be some problems arising that way so that could be a potential problem with respect to this proposal.

Now some of the services referred to in this report are snow clearing and road maintenance, financial assistance, what else? There could be engineering, I suppose, which could be a cost-shared service. Snow clearing could be. That is another point now, I just hit on it. The provincial government of the day is trying to encourage the communities and towns to take over connecting roads within their jurisdiction.

Now, if a regional board is put in place, some of the municipalities have already agreed to this in my district, to take over the connector roads. One town for example, Logy Bay-New Cove-Outer Cove is willing to take over sixteen kilometres of road, to have this downloaded from the provincial government to them, provided certain works are done and certain conditions are met and the major road, say the major trunk road going from St. John's to Pouch Cove to Torbay Road right on Pouch Cove Highway, if a regional committee is put in place, would the provincial government, the Department of Works, Services and Transportation, then download that major trunk road to this regional board. Then, the taxpayers in these municipalities would end up paying more taxes to service those roads with respect to maintenance, repaving, snow clearing what have you, Mr. Speaker, so that is going to be a concern because that is the train of thought of this administration to download to the municipalities. If they download to the municipalities, obviously they are going to download to a regional county service board, Mr. Speaker.

Now, Mr. Speaker, with respect to the garbage disposal and waste disposal in the northeast Avalon, which is the area that I am most familiar -

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Garbage disposal. We are talking about taking you, you will be number one, stack you in the back of a truck and back you out to Robin Hood Bay and cover you up with some of the land fill up there and we are going to get the gulls to fly over you as much as we possibly can when we throw you out on the dump out there.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, with respect to waste disposal, a number of years ago, the Robin Hood Bay, the people who are responsible for the disposal of the fill in Robin Hood Bay decided that they would not take any more septic-tank waste at Robin Hood Bay, and they required the neighbouring municipalities who had water wells in the septic fields, to take their septic sludge and transport it to Foxtrap when they have their septic tanks cleaned out, and the cost for that service went from Sixty dollars to dump it to over $600 in certain cases and had to be transported -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. J. BYRNE: - to Foxtrap where it was going to be recycled in some kind of a -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

It being fifteen minutes before the hour of five, the Chair is prepared now to recognize the mover of the resolution.

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

I want to thank the hon. members who have participated in the debate this afternoon and want to make a couple of comments. First of all to say that, the members who spoke about the representation on this side and how they reflect rural Newfoundland. I just want to remind them that the Member for Conception Bay South would take exception if you were to say that part of his district, which is in Holyrood, is less rural for example, than the town of Carbonear; or to say to the Member for Kilbride, that Kilbride does not have a rural dimension in that particular district; or to say to the district of Ferryland and the people of Tors Cove and the people down in that whole district that they are not representative of rural Newfoundland; or to say to the Member for Baie Verte or say to the Member for Bonavista - in fact, on this particular side of the House we have five members, half of our Caucus represent parts of rural Newfoundland. So therefore the comments by members opposite that this Caucus is not reflective of rural Newfoundland shows that these people have no idea about Newfoundland geography.

Then there were the comments made by some members that I might not understand rural Newfoundland. Members should know that I was born in a very small community on the Burin Peninsula. We did not even have electricity until after I finished high school. I graduated from a little one-room school. I know some of the effects of what it is like to grow up in a small town. I know what it is to grow up in a family where we did not have many of the services that we take for granted.

I also should tell members that when I first became involved in the town of Mount Pearl we were not very well off. In fact, I well remember my first week as the mayor of Mount Pearl in 1978, not having a vehicle to go around the community to collect the garbage. In fact, the muffler on the only garbage truck we had was held up by a coat hanger. I had to call the Mayor of St. John's, Mayor Dorothy Wyatt and say, `Will you please help me? I need a garbage truck to pick up the garbage in Mount Pearl.' For several weeks the garbage in Mount Pearl was picked up by a City of St. John's garbage truck where we supplied the workers on the end of the truck picking up the garbage and they supplied the driver. Now, Mr. Speaker, Mount Pearl was not a very big community then. A total of 3,400 people resident in Mount Pearl. So don't tell me that I have no idea of what it is like to be mayor of a small community. I grew up in one. I was part of Mount Pearl when it was very small and part of it when it got to be a lot bigger. I certainly remember the days when things were not as well for Mount Pearl as they might be in the last several years.

Mr. Speaker, this particular resolution comes from the report that was sent to Cabinet by the Federation of Municipalities in December of 1996, just about a year ago. In fact, the very language of this resolution, in the THEREFORE part of it, is right from that report. Therefore, what I am saying to members is that all members in this House, today when they vote, should consider what they are saying to the Federation of Municipalities, because this particular resolution is exactly their comments. It is their presentation to Cabinet. Not the WHEREASES; I wrote the WHEREASES. The THEREFORES, the resolution itself, is right from the federation document with which the minister is somewhat familiar, when they ask for several things. They ask for the government to stop the transfer of unfunded liabilities to municipalities. That is in the THEREFORE part. That is in the presentation made to Cabinet a year ago.

They also ask that the government would have a reconsideration, a cancellation, of the proposed cuts to the Municipal Operating Grants. That is exactly from the presentation made to Cabinet, and the hon. minister knows that was part of their presentation.

Also, when they call for the government to pursue a new municipal, provincial, financial relationship, that was part of their presentation. So this particular resolution that is here today, while the WHEREASES are mine, the THEREFORES, the resolution itself, is from the Federation of Municipalities' presentation to Cabinet last year.

So, I say to all members, what we want to see happen here is a reconsideration not of the - perhaps in some cases, you might say, reconsideration that is more specific to rural Newfoundland. That is what this resolution is asking for. It is saying to all members of the House: Please act upon the presentation made to the Cabinet in December of 1996.

Therefore, I call upon all members, when they vote here today, to vote with the Federation of Municipalities. Vote with your mayors, vote with your councils, and say to the government, say to the councils out there, that you, as elected representatives, want to show them that you are on their side when you cast your vote here today. To do otherwise would be a tremendous slight to all of Newfoundland and Labrador, and I ask members to vote in favour of the resolution, and I thank them for their consideration and for their participation in the debate today.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): All those in favour of the resolution, 'aye'.


MR. SPEAKER: Those against the resolution, 'nay'.


MR. SPEAKER: I declare the resolution defeated.

Order, please!

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