December 8, 1997           HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS          Vol. XLIII  No. 46

The House met at 2:00 p.m.

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


Statements by Ministers


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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the health and safety of our children, teachers and other workers in the schools of Newfoundland and Labrador is my highest priority as Minister of Education.

In light of concerns regarding air quality issues in our Province's schools, last spring, $2.5 million was committed in the Budget to address air quality problems. All school boards were advised that this funding was available and were asked to identify schools which required immediate attention. As a result, a number of improvements have already been taken and others are currently in progress.

Mr. Speaker, funding has been approved for a new school for Buchans and planning for the construction is under way. Since the new school will not be ready for occupancy for some time, the board conducted air quality testing in the existing Buchans school last spring. Over the course of the summer, Mr. Speaker, remedial action recommended from testing, was carried out to ensure that air quality was at acceptable levels and posed no health threat. The board has further advised that in September, tests were carried out again and they showed that levels of fungi and CO2 readings were within normal limits.

However, Mr. Speaker, the board then conducted further testing in November and was advised that the fungal contamination was at levels deemed unacceptable and had to be removed from the school. In discussion with the parents, the board decided to close the school last Thursday, December 4 until the problem was rectified.

At no time, Mr. Speaker, did the Occupational Hygiene Technologists recommend that the school be closed, however, I am satisfied that the board acted responsibly in closing the school, given the level of parental concern in the community.

Mr. Speaker, I have been advised that the Director of Education for District Five, along with an Occupational Hygiene Technologist, is meeting with the school council and the parents of Buchans today. I understand the concern of parents and, as Minister of Education, want to assure parents that the school will not be reopened until all health and safety concerns have been adequately addressed. My officials were in contact with the board today and will continue to work closely in an effort to resolve the problem.

Mr. Speaker, in conclusion, let me assure Members of the House of Assembly and the people of the Province that the safety of our students, teachers and other school-based workers will not be compromised and that funding is available to address air quality problems in our schools. Boards have been advised to submit applications to the School Construction Board, funds have been approved and action has been taken.

To provide further assurances, Mr. Speaker, I am providing a copy of an Indoor Air Quality Study undertaken during the Spring of 1995. As previously indicated, Mr. Speaker, school boards were provided with this information so they could initiate appropriate action and they are doing so.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The lesson that we all learn here, Mr. Speaker, is the absolute requirement to publicly disclose information which so directly affects the public, in particular the parents and the children of this Province. Not to disclose, Mr. Speaker, breeds suspicion and uncertainty and that was really many of the problems. The parents of this Province did not know what the situation was in their particular community and in their particular school.

I say to the minister, that our parents and our children deserve much better. I also say to the minister that it is inexcusable that a study which was carried out almost two years ago and recommendations which were forwarded to some of the superintendents and directors exactly one year ago - according to one director, Minister, he did not receive it. On exactly one year ago, to the very day, Mr. Speaker, correspondence was sent to directors with respect to the recommendations.

Here we are, one year later, and it is now only being provided to the parents and the children of this Province, and I say to the minister, I am glad he has released this information today, because on Friday afternoon, late Friday, I received the recommendations and had he not disclosed it publicly this afternoon, I would have.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


Oral Questions


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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions today are for the Minister of Health.

In July of this year, a woman with a history of heart problems was taken by ambulance to the Health Sciences Centre, Emergency Department. She was experiencing severe chest pains and pains in the arm. Two hours later the woman was sent home, and later that night the family took that person back to the Health Sciences Centre because the severe pain had persisted.

That lady was admitted to the Coronary Care Unit and unfortunately, she died in that unit five days later. A time of twenty hours had elapsed from the time the lady arrived at the hospital until she was admitted after her second trip.

I ask the minister, is the system failing our people because government's Budget cutbacks have forced hospitals to put restrictions on admissions?

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

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

I am not at liberty to comment, nor do I know the details of the particular case to which the member opposite refers, but I will say again as I have said before, that people who require admission, albeit not nearly as quickly as they would like, are put either in an Emergency Department or are admitted as soon as possible. In this particular case, I think the hon. member is talking about a situation where a physician obviously made the decision that admitting that particular person was not required at that time.

I am not in a position to contradict the views or the assessment that physician made with that particular patient at that particular time; however, if the member feels there has been some misdiagnosis or other forms of neglect or negligence, I suspect he would make the information known to me, I would make it known to the appropriate officials, and we will follow through from there.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Hansard will indicate what my question was, I say to the minister. She is trying to step around it.

This woman's sister also, seven months earlier, went to a hospital with a similar problem and was sent home. Unfortunately, she died at her home that day.

If the minister remembers, back in 1994, a constituent of mine was sent home from hospital and a judicial inquiry was conducted into that death. Justice David Orr recommended, in his report released in 1995, and he stated: Steps should be taken to ensure that patients who are identified as having cardiac problems -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member is on a supplementary. He ought not to be reading extracts from letters or other papers or other documents.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I make reference, in light of the fact that Justice David Orr recommended -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: This is the question.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. SULLIVAN: In light of the fact that he recommended that people with heart problems who come to emergency be seen by a cardiologist at the first possible time, preferably at the time of arrival at hospital, I ask the minister: Why is this judicial inquiry's recommendation not being followed by your department?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

In response to the preamble, I would say to the member opposite that physicians make the diagnosis. They will do what they see as fit. We do not intervene in the day-to-day operation of a hospital, and I am sure that in a publicly-funded system we all have had experiences whereby we would have liked to have gotten in sooner, but I will say it again in this House as I have said publicly, we have a publicly funded system. We take turns. We follow the appropriate assessment in diagnosis, and follow what the physician prescribes; and, Mr. Speaker, as long as we have a publicly-funded system, that is how it will operate. If we wanted to have service as you want it and have to pay for it, God help us all, we are in a private funded system and Newfoundland would clearly be at the end of the line at that point in time.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This inquiry - and a prominent cardiologist here in the city indicated that that person in 1994 could be alive today had they seen a cardiologist. I say to the minister, the recommendation to your department and to the people was, when someone has a history of heart problems and they come to an emergency department they should see a cardiologist. I ask you, minister, has your department incorporated that recommendation into its emergency room policy?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to say for the record that I have every confidence in the nurses that do the assessments in the emergency departments and every confidence in the nurses that do the triage, in other words, the priority assessment. In fact, Mr. Speaker, it is important that every patient sees the appropriate physician and/or specialist. I have confidence, Mr. Speaker, in the nurses and the doctors that they make the appropriate assessment. Albeit, they are human beings and I am sure from time to time they make a mistake but I do have confidence in the doctors and nurses and in the system that we have. We will always be able to find a case where something happened that is extremely unfortunate and one that we would like to correct. We are open to that, Mr. Speaker, but I am not going to come and say that doctors are misdiagnosing everyday or that people -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS J.M. AYLWARD: - who need to see the appropriate physician see the appropriate physician and I stand by my confidence in the doctors and nurses and in our health care system, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

A recommendation that hopefully would save lives in the future was that a person with a history of cardiac problems should be seen by a cardiologist. I ask the minister simply, has her department incorporated this policy into emergency rooms so that these future deaths could be avoided? Has the minister done that and is that being carried out?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I don't need to tell the doctors and nurses in any emergency department, when a person -

AN HON. MEMBER: You should.

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Should I? The member is saying that I don't have confidence. He is the one, Mr. Speaker, that does not have confidence in the doctors and nurses. I don't need to tell the doctors and nurses in the emergency department to do an EKG, an assessment on anybody coming in with chest pains. I have more confidence in their skill and expertise, Mr. Speaker, and maybe he should try to develop some as well.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have a lot more confidence in them than I have in the minister, I can say. A lot more confidence.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: It is the minister's job to dictate policy to people in our health care system. That is the job you were appointed to do and you should do it, I say to the minister. Minister, will you act? If you haven't done it up to now, would you now act to ensure that this recommendation of the Lynch Inquiry is put into place so we can prevent unnecessary deaths in the future?

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

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Perhaps the minister doesn't have much confidence in me, and I can say I don't have much confidence in him either. Because I have a lot of confidence in our front-line staff -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: - and I don't need, Mr. Speaker, as Minister of Health to set protocols for the nurses and doctors in emergency rooms to do EKGs and assessments. I think the physician to which he refers knows that as well, because I also have confidence in his abilities. In addition, it is true, this department is responsible for setting policies. Every single department, in the hospital particularly, in the critical care units, have their own protocols for assessment.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Mr. Speaker, it is possible that this lady could be alive today if a cardiologist was consulted. The family wrote you three months ago, minister, and you said it would be reviewed by Sister Elizabeth Davis and she would respond to the family and to you as minister. Now, why is this family waiting three months for an explanation, minister, of what went wrong?

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

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, I will say it again, because I think it is important to restate that there are policies and protocols in place, not only for cardiac patients, but for all other patients. I really think it is irresponsible to make a connection between a protocol and this particular person's death. I think I do not know the full details of what happened at that particular time. I'm sure the doctors and nurses are very familiar with it.

I will say again that Sister Elizabeth Davis is in the process of reviewing, through program-based management, the whole program, not only of cardiology, but of cancer treatment, of paediatric care, of elderly care, the whole protocol is in place, and it is happening as we speak.

I will stand by my statement that there are protocols in place in ICU, in emergency rooms, whereby if someone comes in and presents with chest pain there is a protocol, an assessment, that is followed. I continue to say, I have confidence in the doctors and nurses there.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The inquiry report is not worth the piece of paper it is written on if we are not going to do something about the recommendations.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: Minister, you can talk about policy, you can talk about protocol, you can talk about what you like. This lady with a history of heart problems and chest pain was not seen or referred to a cardiologist, but was sent home, and died within a matter of days - and her life could have been saved.

I am asking you, as minister, will you do what you should do as minister to ensure that, in the future, every single person in this predicament, in line with this recommendation, follows the proper procedure, and we might save another life.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I will give the same answer to the same question that has been asked the last five times. I have confidence in both the physicians and the nurses as they do their assessments and deliver their services in all the areas of health. I know, Mr. Speaker, we always have room for improvement in our health care system and where it is needed it will be done, but I can also say that when a person presents in a emergency room with chest pain, there is a protocol that is followed, and I do believe, Mr. Speaker, that the nurses in there that do the initial assessment on any patient that comes in with chest pain, knows that it is most appropriate to do a full assessment, part of which - and which they do themselves in the emergency rooms - is an EKG. Based on the outcome of that EKG, a physician will read that result and, Mr. Speaker, the appropriate referral is made from there.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have just a couple of questions to the Minister of Education with respect to the summary of interim measures which were provided as a result of the study conducted in the spring of 1995.

It was found, Mr. Minister, that not even one school tested had adequate ventilation and the report recommended installing new ventilation systems in all of the schools, but in the meantime, it recommended several interim measures such as opening windows at regular intervals.

A year later, can the minister tell us how many of these fifty schools have had adequate ventilation systems installed since the report was released, or is the minister's best advise to open the windows throughout the winter?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I appreciate the question again and I am saddened again to see the approach taken by the Opposition critic for Education.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. GRIMES: It is clear, Mr. Speaker, I think, to anybody listening that the hon. member opposite is not particularly interested in dealing with the issue, but would rather score some political points with respect to this very serious topic.

In fact, even with respect to information that I forwarded to him following his questions on Friday - because I thought he was sincere about the issue. When I did clarify for him, I gave him a copy of the memo that went out to all ten directors indicating that they had been given the results for the schools in their district, that there had been a meeting convened of all twenty-seven superintendents a year before that, Mr. Speaker, and that this report has been in the hands of the people who are actually dealing day-to-day with the running of the schools. The same member, Mr. Speaker, would stand in the House today and suggest that he knows of a superintendent or a director who does not have the information.

So, he is not interested at all, Mr. Speaker, in dealing with an issue - this is a very serious issue, the school boards having been taking it very seriously, and in fact, in circumstances where even last year, when we did not have a fiscal budgetary allocation for the major corrections that are needed in the school, some mechanical ventilation systems were installed in the most needy circumstances as a matter of priority. In this fiscal year, for the first time ever, the government budgeted $2.5 million, there are requests before the Provincial School Construction Board for the installation of mechanical ventilating systems in schools like Bishop's Falls where some students are still out of school today; they are being designed, Mr. Speaker, it is a work that is in progress.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. GRIMES: The school boards at least are taking it very seriously and trying to do what is -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. GRIMES: - in the best interest of the students, the teachers and the workers in the school.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Mr. Speaker, I regret the slant that the minister puts on this.

I agree with him, it is a very serious issue. We as a Party, will not abdicate our responsibility to ask the important questions as it relates to the health of our children. I, as critic, will not abdicate my responsibility, but I suggest, Mr. Minister, in your refusal - in your refusal to share with the people of this Province the particulars and the details of this report, you, Sir, have abdicated your responsibility.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Mr. Speaker, the minister is aware that the report recommends that as an interim measure, while new ventilation systems are installed, class sizes be decreased to under thirty students and if possible -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. member to get to his question - he is on a supplementary.

MR. OTTENHEIMER: - eleven to twenty students. I ask the minister: Has he taken measures to decrease class size to those levels for the health of our students until new ventilation systems can be installed?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Again, in the rhetoric that is associated with the matter by the hon. Education critic, again he talks about a refusal to share which is the slant that he tries to put on the issue publicly.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. GRIMES: How, Mr. Speaker, anybody can suggest that testing that was done - and if I can put this in context, Mr. Speaker, because it is important - testing that was done and initiated by the Department of Education, not because parents had come forward and said: We think we have a problem.

The Department of Education in May and June of 1995, asked that testing be done on a random basis; fifty-five schools were tested. Immediately upon receiving the results, recognizing that where carbon dioxide levels - because that is all that was tested, Mr. Speaker, carbon dioxide levels - immediately upon receiving the report that suggested that the schools were deficient, the information was provided immediately to the twenty-seven superintendents so that they could deal with the students -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. GRIMES: - the teachers, and the workers in their schools.

MR. H. HODDER: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, Section 408 of Beauchesne requires ministers, in responding, to deal with the matter raised. In this particular case, the minister was asked, based on his recommendation, what is he doing about class size, is he going to reduce it, is that the strategy he uses? So I draw the attention of the Speaker to the requirement of Section 408 to deal with the question that has been asked.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Again, I remind hon. members that our own Standing Orders and the Parliamentary authority that we use, Beauchesne, are quite clear on how questions should be asked, how answers should be given and the reason, of course, is that, in presenting questions there should be no preambles, there should be no statements made before questions. That tends to lend to debate in Oral Questions and answers usually to try to deal with preambles.

From now on, I ask hon. members again, to remember that when they are presenting questions, there should be no preambles particularly on the supplementary questions. Ministers, in answering those questions, should be brief.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Ministers should be brief and deal with the matter raised.

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I was pointing out in the preamble that did not occur because it is not allowed under the rules, the point of the member opposite is that he continues to talk about a refusal to share. The information was shared. It contained a whole list of interim measures, one of which was to reduce some class sizes; and, to the credit of the school boards who have been treating this very seriously, because it is serious -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. GRIMES: - they have implemented a number of the interim measures, as many as they possible could in each of the circumstances -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. GRIMES: - where testing occurred.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will ask the question again and I will include the very first recommendation, of which there are twelve - the very first recommendation: Has this minister done anything to decrease class size to under thirty students and, if possible, eleven to twenty students, especially for older students (high school students).

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Maybe the hon. member is showing his ignorance as to how the system operates. The Minister of Education does not run a single school in this Province other than the School for the Deaf. That is one that is completely and totally under the jurisdiction of the Department of Education.

What we did was provide those twelve interim measures, as was acknowledged by the member opposite, to each of the twenty-seven superintendents in the first instance, and then we re-sent the recommendations to the ten new directors. I gave him a copy of the memo, and he still suggests there are people who did not get them. We sent the information out so that those who are charged with the responsibility under the Schools Act to run the schools would know what the recommendations are, and that of the twelve recommendations, one of which was to try to have some smaller class sizes, that the combination of those twelve that they could manage would assist in making sure that air quality in the schools was as good as it could possibly be so that there would not be any health risks to the students, the teachers, and other school-based workers in the schools of the Province.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question is for the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

Minister, the Fisheries Loan Board, as we knew it, has all but disappeared. Loans are now very difficult to access, and government has been putting the heavy hand on fishermen in their efforts to collect outstanding loans. No one will argue the fact that the particular loan board needed fine tuning, and if anybody had the financial ability to pay then they should.

Would the minister inform the House if fishermen are still using the Fisheries Loan Board and, if not, where are they obtaining financing for major purchases today?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, I apologize to the hon. member that I did not hear the first part of the question because one of my colleagues was talking to me. What was the first part of the question?

MR. FITZGERALD: The question was, Minister: In view of the fact that the fishermen now are not accessing the Fisheries Loan Board as they once did, because it is very difficult for them to receive funding there for major purchases, where are the fishermen receiving funding now for the purchase of gear and replacement of boats, etcetera?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, my experience with the fishermen is, there are several different ways they are getting financing. A lot of the fishermen, those fishermen who are doing probably very well in the industry today, the larger boat fishermen, most of them have their own ability to arrange financing, either their personal money or they arrange financing through an appropriate bank which they have been dealing with over the years.

Fishermen who are in the fishing industry and who need to upgrade their boats, or buy new engines, or get new gear, if they do not have their own means to do it, are going through the processes which they deal with to arrange financing either directly from the processor or by assistance through a bank, whereby they probably would have to sign a loan guarantee.

Another manner in which they are doing it is that some of the fishermen can go to a bank themselves, having a good credit standing with the banks. Apart from that, some of them are going through the loan board. There are still some loans given out through the Fisheries Loan Board.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Minister, what you are saying, you just alluded to it I guess in admitting it, is that processors today, fish merchants, are the people who are providing loans to fishermen. What we are reverting to is right back to the old fish merchant days again -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. FITZGERALD: - where fishermen -

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. member is on a supplementary.

MR. FITZGERALD: - have to go sign over their catch in order to access loans in order to make purchases. Does the minister agree with this particular situation?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

MR. EFFORD: Yes, I was just going to say, Mr. Speaker, that would be a matter of personal preference. If I was in the fishing industry today I may or may not do it. It would depend on the type of deal I could make with a particular processor, if I didn't have the means of arranging the money myself, either personally or through a bank. But I would certainly not draw a conclusion today whether they should or should not do it. It depends on the circumstances surrounding each individual deal. I know there are many companies here in this Province which I would recommend that fishermen seek assistance through a particular company, there are others I probably wouldn't.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Minister, what we see happening here is a vicious circle whereby fishermen have to go to fish merchants to access funding to make major purchases. The fishermen have to sign agreements to sell their catch -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. FITZGERALD: - to this particular merchant -

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. member is on a supplementary. He ought to get to his question.

MR. FITZGERALD: - and as a result we are seeing the old fish merchant days whereby the buyers control the fishermen and their enterprises all over again. I ask the minister if this is his idea of how the fishery of the future should unfold?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, how the fisheries of the future should unfold would take me at least several hours to tell the hon. member. If sometime you would like to hear that, come over to my office starting at 7:00 in the morning and I will take all day and tell you how the fisheries of the future should unfold. I would not be able to answer today here in the two or three minutes remaining in Question Period. How the fisheries of the future should unfold as far as the financing of the fisheries is concerned is something that we will wait until January 15 when the task force comes back with its report.

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

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. My questions today are to the Minister of Forest Resources and Agrifoods. Of course there are a lot of concerns being raised in the forest industry throughout this Province. One person referred to it as it is dying a slow quiet death. Just this weekend past there was another meeting in McKay's on the West Coast that the minister knows about. The same concerns are being raised over and over.

It is just almost a year ago now that our twenty-year forestry plan was released by the government, and also of course the wood supply analysis. I would like to ask the minister now if he still feels comfortable today if there is a sustainable cut in our forest industry.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Forest Resources and Agrifoods.

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, first off I want to thank the member for the question. Yes, we have confidence in our department that there is a sustainable yield for the future and an annual allowable harvest that will allow for a continuation of our industry. There are some stresses in the system in the next few years but we all acknowledge that.

One of the things that we are doing in a major way, and the previous minister was involved in this activity, was to get the sawmill industry to move forward. It has done this very much in a major way in the last couple of years. We are going to be focusing on jobs in rural Newfoundland and Labrador in the next number of months in a major way, and the forest sector is contributing greatly to that. We are very much working with the industry, working with the companies, working with communities, to plan the proper harvest of our forest so we do it in a sustainable way.

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

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'm glad to say to the minister that yes, sawmills and so on in rural Newfoundland and those (inaudible) will hopefully be good in the next few years. There is a still a big concern out there about how sustainable it is. One concern that was raised this week and is continuously raised is the use of mechanical harvesters in this Province.

You can take all the statistics from this book or anywhere across this Province, the simple statistic is this. There is more being harvested in this Province and there are less people being used to harvest. That is the simple statistic that is straightforward. I would like to ask the minister: With respect to mechanical harvesters in the Province, is there a new policy being developed with the state of these harvesters? What is the minister going to do about it?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Forest Resources and Agrifoods.

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, I remember about five years ago when pulp and paper mills across Canada, three or four, were offered for a dollar to the communities because there was too much newsprint in the marketplace.

Mr. Speaker, technology is in the forestry sector like it is in a lot of other sectors. What we are doing is sitting down with the forest industry and the pulp and paper companies and saying to them: if you have to have application of technology then let's work together on that application but we are also saying to them at the same time that we want jobs created in rural Newfoundland in the forest sector. In the next few months you will receive some new announcements coming forth about some new initiatives where we are going to see a lot more jobs created in this Province, in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. We need to use our wood supply better than we have in the past. The department here, in the last three or four years, has done a very good job in moving forward with a new policy of utilizing our trees in a much more better way and getting much more value added out of those trees, Mr. Speaker, and that's how we are going to deal with it. We cannot ignore technology, Mr. Speaker, but we also have to work with technology and work in other sectors of the forest industry to create new jobs.

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

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt about it that any company who wants to progress technology has to go forward also at the same time but, Mr. Speaker, many people in this Province - it is the same analogy that we saw across the Province with the fishery. The fishermen were telling us for years but we didn't listen. Well I am telling the minister today that the loggers are telling us every single day and the minister knows also - the bottom line, Mr. Speaker, is mechanical harvesters are being increased every day. Now I would like to ask the minister, can he confirm that Abitibi and Kruger, both major companies, and some private contractors are considering increasing mechanical harvesters in the Province again this year and therefore taking away more jobs from the logging industry?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Forest Resources and Agrifoods.

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, I can confirm that the companies are planning to do harvesting. I have not sat down with them and talked about the exact details of what equipment they are going to buy this year but I can say to you, Mr. Speaker, that what we are sitting down and talking with them about - and we have in the last few weeks, in the last few months - is to make sure that there is a focus on creating employment in the forest sector and we are going to keep doing that. Mr. Speaker, Abitibi Price and Consolidated Stone came together just recently. The forest industry around the world is consolidating down to seven or eight major players. We are going to be sitting down with them shortly to talk about the future in our forest industry and how we maximize jobs. So we are going to be working to ensure that we have more jobs in the forest industry. In one sector there may be less but in other sectors there is going to be more.

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

Before we call Notices of Motion, I would like to welcome to the House of Assembly today, in the public Galleries, three councillors from the Town of Fogo, Mr. John Greene, Mr. Everett Payne and Mr. Lloyd Hart accompanied by the town clerk, Bruce Pomeroy.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear.




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

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

I again rise today in my place to present a petition on behalf of a number of people who have a problem with the proposed unfair, unjust, morally wrong tax that has been proposed by the Minister of Finance on used vehicles.

Now, I have brought this up a number of times in this House of Assembly and in the media and what have you, Mr. Speaker, and the opposition now in the public is starting to mount. I have asked the minister a number of times would he back-off on this and go with a different system which would be fairer to the people in the Province which would honour the people with respect to having integrity and what have you.

The minister has stood in his place and said that there are people out there - the public - that present false bills of sale. They come in with a bill of sale and they buy the car for more than what is actually in the bill of sale, but the problem is, that if that is happening - and it could very well be happening - but you cannot rationalize bringing in an unfair system by that statement alone, Mr. Speaker, but if that is happening, people in this Province are trying to survive. With the down loading and the increased taxes that this administration has brought in over the past few years, there are people who are trying to survive, to eke out a meagre existence and if they can get away with certain things they are going to do it, but if they bring in possibly a proposed affidavit system, even with the seller and the purchaser having to sign the affidavit, it may alleviate some of the problems that the government is having with respect to this issue.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I was in my district this weekend and attended a number of functions. I attended nine different functions all over the place and I do not know how many people came up to me - numbers and numbers of people -


MR. J. BYRNE: Nine. Were you there? Nine, Mr. Speaker, and there were two I could not make. Many people came up to me and said what the government is proposing here is unjust, they cannot have it, they will not - and I said it before in this House of Assembly, that if they bring in this tax it is going to be the straw that broke the camels back.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to see people being treated with integrity, the people out there are not all crooks. That is what I would like to see and if there is a problem out there be proactive and deal with the problem, don't make the innocent pay for the guilty, don't make the innocent pay for the sins of the guilty, Mr. Speaker, that is what I am saying. If there is a problem out there go after those individuals, don't go after other people. There are lots of reasons why a person may sell a car for less than the assessed value, there could be any number of reasons. It could be the condition of the car, it could be the mileage of the car, it could be a car sold to someone leaving the Province and that is not strange these day in this Province, Mr. Speaker, someone leaving the Province - being forced to leave and they had to sell their car or truck in a hurry. So, there could be any number of reasons, any number of reasons why a person would sell a care for less than the assessed value.

The assessed value of a vehicle - the Minister of Finance presents a study of three months, January 1, 1996 to March 31, 1997 - three months and all they looked at was the assessed value, they did not look at condition, mileage or the age of the car, anything like that, Mr. Speaker. So, there are many reasons why a car can be sold - and I again ask the Minister of Finance on behalf of the people of this Province, the hard working - especially the working poor, Mr. Speaker, that he back-off with this proposed tax and look at something a bit more reasonable where the people could possibly afford to pay a tax. As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, maybe he should look at the new vehicles. Some of the ministers on that side driving the big Land Rovers and what have you, maybe they should be paying more in taxes - and the Jags and the Lincoln Contentional and what have you. That is what they should be looking at, not looking at the poor, breaking the back of the poor in this Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I stand to support the petition as put forward by my colleague from Cape St. Francis. This member is continually getting up and speaking on behalf of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, the common people out there in the trenches, bringing forward a petition whereby those people are echoing their concerns about the possibility of a piece of legislation being introduced in this House by the Minister of Finance whereby people have to pay taxes over and above the purchase price of items that are bought here in this Province today.

Mr. Speaker, I wonder sometimes, when I hear the ministers get up and take part in the program that VOCM has on the radio station, `I believe in Newfoundland and Labrador', I sometimes wonder where they are coming from. You hear the Minister of Finance, and you hear the Government House Leader, get up and repeat, `I believe in Newfoundland and Labrador'. How can you believe in Newfoundland and Labrador if you don't believe in the people? How can you go out on one hand and say, I believe in Newfoundland and Labrador but I don't believe the people. I think the people are lying. They are not to be trusted. We can't trust the people of this Province to bring forward a statement -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: That is what you are saying. You are saying we cannot trust the people in this Province to bring forward a statement saying that this is what they paid for a certain item. Instead, we are going to go out and say: No, we don't believe you. We will tell you what this item is worth. We will tell you what taxes you are going to pay on it because we don't believe the people. We don't believe the people. They are not to be trusted.

Mr. Speaker, it is time that we started believing the people. It is time we started trusting people.

The Minister of Finance came forward the other day and brought forward an example where there was some vehicle sold with a cash value of, I think, something like $100 or $200, and the red book showed a value of $3,000 or $4,000, probably even higher than that. Mr. Speaker, the first place that somebody has to go today when they purchase a vehicle is into Motor Registration in order to get that particular vehicle registered. They can also pay their taxes there. Somebody has to handle the transaction. That is one place that is not completely computerized yet. You have to go and you have to deal with people. If somebody sees a situation whereby there is a 1996 Chevy pick-up sold for $200, then the flag should go up. The flag should go up immediately, and they should be asked to bring the vehicle in to have it inspected. Ask them to show the reason why it was sold for $200. There might be a very good reason. The vehicle could be damaged.

AN HON. MEMBER: The engine could be gone.

MR. FITZGERALD: The engine could be gone. Anything could happen. Maybe that is all the value it has, but a quick inspection would certainly clarify that very quickly.

Here again we would be paying taxes on the purchase price of that particular item, but this government -

AN HON. MEMBER: Send it to an independent appraiser.

MR. FITZGERALD: An independent appraiser is what should be done. The other part of it is that most people who go to Motor Registration today, if they buy a vehicle then they go with an affidavit anyway, signed by a Commissioner of Oaths or a Justice of the Peace. It is an oath. It is an undertaking of an oath. It shows what that person paid for that particular vehicle.

It is another example of putting the heavy hand on the poorest in this Province in order to solve the economy. We are not dealing with the people who drive the big Jaguars. We are not dealing with the people who drive the big Cadillacs.

AN HON. MEMBER: The big, white one.

MR. FITZGERALD: The big, white Cadillacs. We are not dealing with the people who drive Land Rovers or the big Chevy Blazers. We are going out and saying to the people in this Province, because you cannot afford to buy a new car then we don't trust what you are going to pay for the second-hand car, so we are going to charge you what we feel is right because you are ripping off the government. We can access more taxes and we can solve the problems.

Mr. Speaker, I buy second-hand vehicles. I have not bought a new vehicle for the last fifteen years; but I will tell you one thing, when I buy it I pay the taxes on what I pay for it, and I feel most Newfoundlanders out there do exactly the same thing.

AN HON. MEMBER: Roger, tell us the truth (inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: That is the truth, I say to the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs. That is the truth. When I buy something it is around the $10,000 mark, and I pay taxes on exactly that, and I think most people out there today do that. They are honest people. The people I talk with are honest people. The reason they buy second-hand vehicles is because they cannot afford to buy a new vehicle. They cannot go out and put themselves in hock for $20,000 or $30,000.

Where we can be making money, and I will repeat this again, is we should be charging a higher percentage of taxes on vehicles that are over a certain price, on clothes that are over a certain price.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. FITZGERALD: By leave for a second?

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

No leave.

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, that is where we can be making our money, not dealing with the poor and downtrodden -

MR. SPEAKER: No leave.

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will stand again.


Orders of the Day


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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I would move Motion 1 - I want to do some first readings - 2, 3 and 4.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Justice to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The Public Utilities Act," carried. (Bill No. 44)

On motion, Bill No. 44 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Environment and Labour to introduce bills, "An Act To Amend The Shops' Closing Act (No. 2)," carried. (Bill No. 48)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Environmental Assessment Act," carried. (Bill No. 49)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Workers' Compensation Act," carried. (Bill No. 50)

On motion, Bill Nos. 48, 49 and 50 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I am going to ask leave to do this and I understand I have it. The Member for Conception Bay South was originally to serve on the House of Assembly Select Committee on, `Arming the RNC' but because of personal circumstances I understand he wishes to be replaced by the Member for St. John's West and, Mr. Speaker, I would so move that that occur.

Mr. Speaker, Order No. 20, Bill No. 26 and I understand that in the absence of the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Education is going to introduce this bill, "An Act To Amend The Public Service Pensions Act, 1991."

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Public Service Pensions Act, 1991." (Bill No. 26)

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Just a few comments with respect to Bill 26, "An Act To Amend The Public Service Pensions Act, 1991," on behalf of my colleague the Minister of Finance. Members of the House of Assembly, Mr. Speaker, would recall that last spring, during the Budget process, there was an opportunity made available to workers with many years of experience who were close to retirement but not eligible for full retirement, to exercise an early retirement option under the Public Service Pension Plan. One of the things that was incorporated to try and make it as attractive as possible to potential early retirees, Mr. Speaker, was the fact that, rather than take an actuarially reduced pension, which they would have to do under the plan as it is written today, that they would be given an option to pay a lump sum into the pension plan, so that their pension would not be actuarially reduced, therefore more of them might choose the early retirement option.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, somewhere around 300 or so long-serving employees of the government chose to exercise that particular option and what Bill 26 does, Mr. Speaker, is bring forward the necessary legislation to give legal status to the payments that these people have made so that their pensions into the future can proceed without actuary reduction and can be paid in an unreduced fashion for the length of their retirement. So this is retroactive in effect, Mr. Speaker, and covers the group of employees who retired under the early retirement option between the end of February and the end of March in 1997. So that was the issue that was addressed and this is the bill that gives a legal standing to that option exercised by those workers.

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

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

We on this side of the House have no great objections to the intent of this particular piece of legislation, it certainly is self-explanatory however, we want to just draw the minister's attention to the consequences when you set out to force 300 or so people out of the public service.

Many of them have been forced out long before they would otherwise have left, and we know what happened in the last numbers of years starting with the administration that the minister just spoke, the Minister of Education was part of, when there was this December syndrome when, come around December, the Wells Administration says: Now, what can we present to the civil servants, and what can we give them for Christmas? and so they said: We will present them with an opportunity to be booted out the door and so, every year, 200 and 300 people were told: we do not need you anymore because you are redundant and if you do not leave now, you are in danger of losing your severance, losing your benefit package and this whole policy that we had over numbers of years is exactly some of the things that I want to bring to the minister's attention, and so last year, we know that 300 or so people were told that we are going to downsize the civil service, we want to make it somewhat attractive to you and we want you to know that if you pay into your pension plan and pay up the premiums that you would have paid if you had worked over those next two years or twelve months or whatever the numbers of weeks, months or years that were involved, if you pay those premiums then you will be able to go and leave and in the long run, you will not be compromising your long-term benefits.

Many of these people looked at what was happening, they knew that there was some pressure being put on them; they were told that the government was downsizing, they had internal pressure in some cases being put on by their fellow-workers because that is a reality. That is a reality when you get to be after numbers of years and we know that the government set aside - I think the total amount of money was around $10 million - was set aside at that time as an enticement to say to them: we want you to take the early retirement package and so we say to the minister, that in the first round or so, there were hardly any takers whatsoever. There was hardly anybody at all who said: I want to be part of that kind of an option, because those people who were let go last year, most of them would have preferred to stay on, to continue their employment with the government and to retire at a time and at an age when they chose, however, that was not they case and while the minister might stand here today and present this piece of legislation, retroactive legislation to make law, which is something that already existed and we tend to say: yes, we agree with doing this retroactively because it is a person, it is a people issue. It is giving some sense of compassion, some sense of understanding, it is ratifying that which should have been done in the first place and we say: that is reasonable, that is fair and that is logical; however because it is a people issue. It is giving some sense of compassion, some sense of understanding.

However, the real problem here is when the government takes a deliberate policy of an early retirement and then puts the word option to it, and the word option is not the operative word here. Because many people in the civil service found themselves being forced out the door. They weren't told in direct language, but the government had various strategies to do indirectly that which it wanted to do directly but wasn't forthright and forward enough to do it.

We say to government there are several words here that are wrong. One is the word voluntary. That is a wrong word here, because this was not a voluntary retirement program. Neither was this an early retirement option, because many people felt pressure. What we are doing now today is we are ratifying the fact that those employees will be able to pay their pension benefits for the next two years, one year, six months, whatever it might be, so that in the long run they wouldn't be compromising their long-term benefits.

We say to government again, we are pleased this year, at least it seems to have woken up a little bit. It has told people: No, we aren't going to go and force you out this year, we are going to be merciful. It is time it took a strategy like that.

We say to the minister here that the reality is many of those people who left early are very concerned about their long-term retirement benefits. They are concerned because they are looking at their years, they are looking at their expectations. They know that government pensions have been frozen since 1989. The last time anybody in this Province who retired on a public service pension had an increase was in 1989. Now we are into the eighth year since there was any kind of an adjustment. There is no indexing in the provincial public pension funds, as the minister knows, and it has been talked about for some time.

Many people are very concerned. In some cases the only way some of these people could take this option was that they had to compromise their severance package. They didn't have the money to be able to go and put the extra money up front. We would like to be able to find out how many of those people who left compromised their severance package in order to achieve the long-term benefits here. Because as I said to the minister on Friday, many people in this Province, including teachers, including those people who are covered under the Public Service Pensions Act, 1991, many of them have great concerns about their ability to be able to provide for themselves and their families in their retirement years. While it might be an option to have people retiring at fifty-five years or sixty years old, the latest research shows that that might not be such a wise idea. Because when you have pensions that are frozen, and when you have a history of eight years and no increase, with no indexing, every single year that people are dependent on their retirement pension they have to buy more with fewer dollars.

In particular since 1989 this government, of which the minister was a member of the Wells government, has taken money from retirees. For example, when you increase the provincial portion of the income tax act to bring it up equal to, I think it was, 60 per cent to 68 per cent or 69 per cent. What that means is that the people who retired in 1989 are now paying more income tax because they are paying a higher proportion to the Province. So not only are the people who are retiring on pensions not getting an increase; in fact, they are getting a decrease, because the taxes have gone up, not to say any of the hidden taxes from registering a motor vehicle to enjoying a provincial park to, shall we say, buying goods and services. There have been a tremendous number of increases for these people. So, I say to the minister, he should be looking more carefully at what he is going to be saying to the retirees of the public services. It will not matter whether they are retirees in any aspect of the public service, because there is great anxiety.

I mentioned to him on Friday about teachers. When you have teachers coming to you - I just mention this because it is still connected with pensions - and saying, `I do not want to leave' - I know of one instance, in fact, the gentleman is in the member's district. I taught the gentleman in Grade XI in Botwood in 1961 or 1962, and he is now retired as a teacher. He went back in September for fifteen days, I think it was, or twenty days. He went back only because he had to fulfil his contract to be able to be eligible for the teacher's severance package, and to be eligible for his pension. That kind of uncertainty is all-pervasive in the civil service and many civil servants, when they are given a choice, they are told by the ministry and by the government: If you leave today, here are the options.

Last Thursday evening I went to a retirement party for one of the teachers who taught with me. In fact, when I was doing my student teaching at Booth Memorial back in 1961, he was in Grade X. This gentleman now has finished his career and finds himself, just a few days ago, having to make a choice.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. H. HODDER: Yes, I say to the Member for Port au Port, I did my student teaching at Booth Memorial in February of 1961, the same year, I do believe, that you began your teacher training as well. It is a long time ago. Some of the people I taught in the school system are now retiring. Why are they retiring? Not because Bob Elliott or Roy Anthony, or some of those people I have known for many, many years want to retire, but because, in these particular cases, they are not given any comfort by this government. If they knew that the packages they would like to have in place would be there at the end of the school year, they would stay, but there is no comfort from the minister, there is no guarantee that their severance would be there, and no guarantee that their pensions would be there in the way they are now.

They contact their Member in the House of Assembly, they contact the Department of Education, the NLTA, their public service sector union, NAPE or CUPE or whatever it might be, and they are not given any comfort, because the government will not give these agencies any leverage to say: We will give you a reasonable guarantee that your severance and your package will be there at the end of the school year or, in some cases with the civil servants, at the end of the, shall we say, time they reach the usual retirement age. So people are leaving, and we should not be surprised at that.

What we say to the minister is: Yes, this makes some sense here; however, it is regrettable that we have people out there having to make those decisions at a time when they do not really want to make them. These are the senior people in our professions, whether they be in teaching or whether they work in the Department of Finance, or wherever they are in the public service; they are all public servants. Forcing people out unreasonably is unfair, it is unjust, and in some cases, most people would say, it is also very unwise.

Mr. Speaker, we ask the minister for fairness, ask him to -

AN HON. MEMBER: Fairness.

MR. H. HODDER: Well, they were elected on the basis of `fairness and balance'. Those was the buzzwords when Clyde Wells was here. Now it is all: `better tomorrow'. The buzzwords now are `better tomorrow'. All of these people in the current Administration, they are the `better tomorrow' boys and girls. This is the theme over here, you see? This is the `better tomorrow' bunch. The ringleader of the `better tomorrow' group is the Minister of Education. He sits here today to justify, to try to pilot this amendment to the Public Service Pension Act, 1991, through the Legislature.

It comes about because last year his government, the `better tomorrow' bunch, said: We want to make your `better tomorrow' a little better. Not (inaudible) guaranteed, but we are going to tell you if you don't leave now, then we are going to force you out the door. To be nice to you we are going to let you - how kind they are - buy your future pension benefits. They are going to pass around the collection plate kind of thing, you know, and say: Here, we will take your money in advance so that you can get some future benefits. At least you will not be terribly disadvantaged by this early retirement option.

I say to the minister two things. They call this a voluntary retirement program. It was not voluntary. Workers were being forced out the door. They use words like `early retirement option'. For many people it was no option whatsoever. However, we support the retroactive legislative arrangement to let these people be able to pay their premiums over the balance of their time they would ordinarily have worked to reach the retirement years. Because, given the circumstances they have been faced with, that certainly is probably the very least we could do for them.

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

The hon. the Minister of Education.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I appreciate the comments made by the hon. the Member for Waterford Valley. He made a good speech, but unfortunately, he is dead wrong. Other than that, everything was fine. I appreciate the reminders in the history lesson. I had forgotten most of that stuff he talked about because I wanted to forget it, I guess, some of those things back in 1989 and 1990 and those kinds of things.

In fact, just so the record is clear, the option we are discussing here in Bill 26 as I move second reading, the voluntary retirement program, was exactly that, despite what the hon. member described it as. Because in fact the unions came to the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board and said: We understand there is going to be some downsizing in government, there are going to be some positions become redundant, and we would like for you to at least present an option so that some senior people who are close to retirement might exercise the option and leave, rather than you just lay off the younger workers. It was at the urging of the public service unions that this voluntary retirement option was put in place by the government. Of course, now this particular bill gives effect to it and legalizes, in fact, the option that was exercised by some 300 or so workers last year.

At another point, I look forward to engaging in a further discussion about the merits of the pension plan, the indexing issue, which is critically important, by the way. There is a history of that with the public service unions, with the teachers' pension plan, and others that I am sure we will get a chance to debate in this Legislature - a critically important point. What I think here, as well, is everybody recognizes the economic benefit of having 300 or so people who are now out on a pension, not reduced, and also 300 people still working in the public service who otherwise may have been laid off. I am delighted to hear of the support of the Opposition with respect to Bill 26, and pleased to move second reading of the bill.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Public Service Pensions Act, 1991," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 26)

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

MR. DECKER: Order No. 22, Mr. Speaker, "An Act To Amend The Judicature Act And The Unified Family Court Act."

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Judicature Act And The Unified Family Court Act". (Bill No. 45)

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, this bill would amend The Judicature Act and The Unified Family Court Act to reflect an increase in the judicial complement of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland from nineteen to twenty judges, with an additional judge to be assigned to the Unified Family Court. We have been advised by the Chief Justice that the workload of the Unified Family Court has doubled since 1985; therefore, we feel that it is important that we have another judge appointed.

The Federal Government, as hon. members know, pay the salary of Supreme Court judges, and alternately, the Federal Government will make that appointment. In order for us to accept an additional judge, Mr. Speaker, we had to change the legislation so that we can make provision for twenty instead of nineteen.

The bill would further create an expanded service area for the Unified Family Court and all matters commenced in the Supreme Court Trial Division, originated from this area, would be heard by the Unified Family Court in St. John's or on circuit. Now, the expanded service area of the court will comprise the Avalon and Bonavista Peninsulas but this bill would not detract from the jurisdiction of Provincial Court in the expanded service area. So people living out in Clarenville and Bonavista can still continue to use the services of the Provincial Court, Mr. Speaker.

Thank you.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Just a few words on Bill 45, which is relatively straightforward, in that it - as the Minister of Justice indicated - creates in fact an additional judge, a Supreme Court Judge, presumably a Unified Family Court Judge, to deal with the second feature of the bill, which is the expanded area.

The question that comes to my mind, though, and it is an area, I guess, that the minister will have to give some attention to, if in fact, Mr. Speaker, we have an enlarged area, there is more than just a judge that will be required. I am thinking, for example, of the variety of positions and jobs that are associated with the Unified Family Court. I am thinking, in particular, of the social arm of the Court with an expanded area and with the addition now of one judge, that will necessitate, in my view, Mr. Speaker, the requirement for a greater number of social workers, counsellors or mediators, for example, those types of individuals who play an integral part and a very important part in the day-to-day functions of Unified Family Court. So it is important, I think, to remember - and, as I have indicated, hopefully, the minister will address this fact - that with expansion in one area, namely, jurisdiction, and the fact that an extra judge will be available, we must also keep in mind the very essential roles of other individuals who play a very important part in the family law process, again, individuals such as counsellors and mediators.

It is interesting to note, Mr. Speaker, that the Unified Family Court has exclusive jurisdiction under a number of areas. I would just like to refer to them very briefly, and these are found under Section 6 of the legislation. It deals with formation of marriage; dissolution and annulment of marriage; judicial separation and separation orders; actions and causes concerning matrimonial property, including injunctions, partition and settlements; the restitution of conjugal rights; relief for family dependants on death; declarations of status, including the validity of marriage, legitimacy and legitimization; alimony and maintenance, including protection orders for deserted spouses; maintenance of children, including affiliation proceedings and aggrievance; enforcement of alimony and maintenance orders, including reciprocal enforcements of these orders; custody and access; adoption; charges or proceedings under the Criminal Code or a Statute of the Province relating to non-support or inter-spousal assaults, to school attendants and to neglected children; charges or proceedings under Section 810 of the Criminal Code, that are between spouses, inter-spousal and familial torts and those other matters that are provided by or under an Act to be within the jurisdiction of the Unified Family Court. So, we can see that the jurisdiction of this court is all-inclusive and there is very little, from a legal point of view, that is not part and parcel of the jurisdiction of the Unified Family Court, as is indicated under Section 6.

So, I say to the minister, in response to just a few comments on Bill No. 45, if in fact the Federal Government is going to fund the provision of an extra judge, and if in fact the jurisdiction of this court is going to be expanded so that many more Newfoundlanders can avail of the services which a Unified Family Court provides, it is essential that the Provincial Government ensure that the support services and the support staff are available. Because, not to do that, does very little in assisting the present circumstances. If we expand the jurisdiction, clearly, we are opening the doors to have more litigants in this court. Therefore, it is essential that the support staff and the personnel be put in place to assist a new judge in carrying out his or her responsibilities as a Justice of the Unified Family Court.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. DECKER: I thank the hon. member for his remarks, Mr. Speaker.

Of course, the support staff are the responsibility of the Province. We do have support staff now in the Unified Family Court and we certainly are cognizant of our responsibilities in that matter and we will find a way to make sure that support staff is there. As the member points out, I am sure he is aware that the Unified Family Court is really a part of the Supreme Court and matters like divorce and property rights can only be handled by the Supreme Court anyway - the Provincial Court is not able to do that and, of course, we recognize that.

We did look at the possibility of expanding the Unified Family Court to include the West Coast and Labrador. However, after discussions with the Chief Justice, the workload is just not there. It would not be very productive to put the additional judge for Corner Brook or for Central Newfoundland, the workload is just not there, Mr. Speaker. So, the Supreme Court on circuit - or in the case of Gander, Grand Falls, Corner Brook or whatever the case might be - will continue to deal with divorce and property matters and other matters that the Unified Family Court deal with.

Therefore Mr. Speaker, I move second reading.

On motion, a Bill, "An Act To Amend The Judicature Act And The Unified Family Court Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow.

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

MR. TULK: Bill No. 46, Order No. 23.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Judgement Enforcement Act" (Bill No. 46).

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure who it was who said that, `No person's property is safe while the Legislature is in session.' I think it - was it Jefferson who said it, `Nobody's property is safe while the Legislature is in session.' Anyway, I believe what we have here is an example of, when the Legislature is in session, doing something which the Legislature really did not intend to do.

Remember the Judgement Enforcement Act, Mr. Speaker, which we put through this House last year. The Judgement Enforcement Act is a very technical piece of legislation which was worked on right from the time when the half-brother of the critic for Justice was the Minister of Justice, so it has been around for a long, long time.

It was finally completed last year, bearing my signature - bearing the signature of one who probably knew less about it than anybody else since the time when Gerry Ottenheimer was minister. Anyway, it went through the House, and here is what we did. There was an error. The error was caused when Section 23 of that Act repealed Section 10 of the Registration of Deeds Act. Instead of simply amending it, they repealed it. It should have been amended to reflect the operation of the judgement enforcement system created under the Judgement Enforcement Act. This is a bit of housekeeping to correct something that we did, that we did not intend to do, Mr. Speaker. So maybe we should not be opening this House as much as we do anyway, because the Lord only knows what else we are going to spoil if we keep the House open too long.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am inclined, Mr. Speaker, to criticize however, unfortunately I was on the very committee that allowed that section to proceed.

On May 20, 1997, Mr. Speaker, the House passed an Act to amend the Judgement Enforcement Act, but the bill, as the minister has correctly indicated, had an error in it. It wrongly repealed Section 10 or the Registration of Deeds Act. This bill simply retroactively amends the previous bill to add a new Section 10 to the Registration of Deeds Act to replace the section that was repealed. It is, as the minister indicates, just a housekeeping change and no further comment is really necessary, Mr. Speaker.

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

The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. DECKER: With a red face, Mr. Speaker, I move second reading.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Judgement Enforcement Act", read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 46).

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, Bill 47, "An Act To Amend The Provincial Court Act, 1991".

Motion, second reading of bill, "An Act To Amend The Provincial Court Act, 1991" (Bill No. 47).

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, this bill would amend the Provincial Court Act, 1991 to provide for a Standing Tribunal to be appointed for a four-year term, to review and report on salaries and benefits of the judges of the court.

Honourable members will probably be aware that there was a recent decision of the Supreme Court of Canada dealing with action that was started in Manitoba, which dealt with the way that judges of the Provincial Court were paid, and as a result of that judgement by the Supreme Court, that ruling by the Supreme Court, we have come to the conclusion that we should have a Standing Tribunal, Mr. Speaker.

Right now, in order for us to deal with judges' salaries, we have to appoint a tribunal - I think it is every four or five years the House appoints a tribunal. After the tribunal makes its report, the House deals with it and then the tribunal is disbanded. According to the most recent ruling of the Supreme Court, it seems that it will be necessary for us to have a standing committee in place at all times, so this bill will change the Provincial Court Act, so that we could make provision for a tribunal which can be in session at all times, Mr. Speaker. The bill would also provide that the Minister of Justice may refer a matter respecting the salaries and benefits of judges to the tribunal at any time.

When this case was tried in the Supreme Court, the minister in Manitoba was severely criticized because it was said he was accused of negotiating with judges. This, in the opinion of the Supreme Court, was contrary to the independence of the Judiciary, therefore the Supreme Court said that it was completely improper for any Minister of Justice to negotiate with Judges of the Provincial Court, Mr. Speaker.

Now, we recognize that and this government, Mr. Speaker, has no intention whatsoever, of ever interfering with the independence of the Judiciary. If we were doing anything inadvertently, which would, in any way, give any suggestion that we were interfering with their independence, we want to make sure that, that would be corrected as fast and as quickly as possible.

Mr. Speaker, I should tell you that in some other provinces where this issue has come up, where especially it is around the independence of the judiciary but usually relates to the way judges are paid - and there have been examples across the country where defence lawyers acting for people accused under the Criminal Code have put forward the argument that their clients could not receive a fair judgement, a fair hearing, because the judge who was acting in the case was not really independent, since his salary was controlled by government, whoever the government happened to be at the time. Therefore, it was suggested that there had to be some process put in place whereby the whole thing could be arm's length, would be independent of government, and the judiciary should maintain its independence.

I should also point out that, from a layman's perspective, the ruling is somewhat - what is the word I should say - it is a funny kind of ruling. For example, Ministers of Justice are forbidden from negotiating with judges about their salary. Now that is the way it should be, and I have no problem with that. However, according to the ruling, there is nothing which would preclude judges from meeting with the minister to talk about their salary; but the minister cannot talk to judges about their salary. Judges can talk to ministers but ministers cannot talk to judges. That is technically what it is; so, therefore, I suppose what would happen if there was some matter or some concern that judges would have, they would come and sit down with the Minister of Justice. I don't know if we would probably arrange to have a zipper so that the minister could zipper up his mouth and say nothing, and just sit and listen. Maybe future Ministers of Justice will be equipped with a zipper for their mouth, and that might not be a bad idea either.

Judges can come in, meet with the minister, express their concerns about their salary, about their living conditions, about their extra expenses for their gowns and what have you; however, the minister is not allowed, in any way, to discuss the matter or negotiate with judges. And this minister and this government have no desire, no intention, no wish, to ever in any way interfere with the independence of the judiciary. Therefore, we are putting this Standing Tribunal in place so that - on a go-forward basis, from henceforth - whenever there is a desire to increase judges' salary, or to make sure that judges are being treated fairly, then this tribunal will be put in place. The minister will be able to refer matters to that tribunal at any time.

The bill also would repeal the current provision which provides that where the tribunal's report is not dealt with within a time limit set by the Act, the recommendations of the report come into force automatically.

Under the present Act, the tribunal is put in place; they go out and report back after a month or two months, or whatever it takes, and the report has to be tabled in the House. After it is tabled, the clock starts to run, and if, at the end of thirty days - I think it is thirty days; I stand to be corrected on that - no action is taken by the House, then all of the recommendations of the report become binding upon government. This bill would repeal that provision whereby if the report is not dealt with within a time limit, it does not automatically come into force.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, the bill would also permit the House of Assembly to reconsider the report that was previously dealt with on April 22, 1997.

Mr. Speaker, there has been some suggestion that the way this House chose to deal with the Roberts' report was not in keeping with the most recent ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada. Therefore, to make sure, to make absolutely certain, that there is no perception whatsoever that this House or this government in any way wants to interfere with the independence of the judiciary, this House is going to be asked to reconsider the report which was dealt with on April 22, 1997.

These are the amendments which I am bringing forward, and I would ask hon. members to deal with them in the appropriate manner so that we can get on to make sure that if there happens to be any perception that in any way, shape or form, the government of the day is interfering with the independence of the judiciary, then that would be corrected at once; because I cannot say too many times, and I cannot say too plainly, that it is not the intention or the desire of this Administration, and I would think also of this House of Assembly, to in any way interfere with the independence of our judiciary.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER (M. Penney): The hon. the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise to speak on the bill introduced by the minister for second reading, Bill 47, "An Act To Amend The Provincial Court Act, 1991."

It is a bill which I find quite astounding to have to deal with in this House, six months after we had a resolution in a speech from the minister where the concept of the independence of the judiciary seemed to be unknown to him. When two speakers on this side of the House, including myself, pointed out to him that that was the reason his resolution was being opposed, to amend the recommendations of the last tribunal, the Roberts Tribunal; when it was pointed out to him that his decision to refer the recommendations back to himself and the judges was in fact totally contradictory to the whole purpose and the provisions of the Provincial Court Act, 1991, he treated that with a flippant remark, and took the comments as nothing more than the suggestions of two lawyers who were looking towards their own future.

The minister has now discovered the independence of the judiciary. The question is why. The reason he has discovered the independence of the judiciary is because he is now being sued by the Provincial Court judges, who have detailed and outlined in their lawsuit -

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Big deal, says the Government House Leader. Big deal we are being sued. They do not mind being sued. We are sued all the time, they say. Right? Trans City, Frank Ryan, the Murray Premises, Holiday Inn. Did they win Holiday Inn? They lost Holiday Inn - Trans City, Murray Premises. Mr. Speaker, the track record is not good.

The Minister of Justice has now discovered - because he is being sued by the judges. The Provincial Court judges are now suing the minister on the basis that his actions in the House last spring were unconstitutional. Because they recognized that what was going on by this government with this legislation, not just last spring but going back to the first introduction of the Act, has all been unconstitutional.

This legislation itself that we are now being asked to pass at second reading, I would submit itself is going to receive the same fate as the resolution that was brought to the House last spring, that it, too, will not pass muster. What the government is trying to do is trying to defeat the court case by legislation in the House. It is trying to defeat the court case by this legislation, by taking away the legislation that in fact caused the tribunal to have its report in the first place.

All of this is a part of the failure by this government and the previous government to abide by its own recommendations, by its own legislation. This bill was passed in 1991. The purpose -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if I could have some order? It is distracting to hear him. Mr. Speaker, could I have some order?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, this is a serious matter because it involves questions as to whether or not this government and this Legislature is acting in an unconstitutional manner. Now, Mr. Speaker, that may be inconsequential to some people but I take the Constitution obligations of this Legislature and this government seriously and I - Mr. Speaker, could I have some order, please?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member has requested that he be heard in silence.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The legislation now before us is an amendment to the 1991 Provincial Court Act. An act which has never been followed by this government, from the day it was introduced, with respect to the establishment of a tribunal to ensure the independence of the Provincial Court Judiciary. Mr. Speaker, the idea behind the legislation - and the legislation itself is good - is that the remuneration of provincial court judges be established independently by a body independent of government, by a body independent of the Department of Justice, wherein some 90-plus per cent of the cases before that provincial court are brought by the government. The cases are brought by the government, brought by the minister's department, brought by the minister's employees before those judges for decisions. Over 90 per cent of them are brought by the government, by the minister's department and the idea is, very simply, that the salaries of those judges and the remuneration that they receive for their work should be decided by some process independent of the normal kind of bargaining that goes on with public servants.

That's the basic purpose of it, Mr. Speaker, there is no magic about it. It's fairly fundamental but it is so fundamental as to be recognized as a constitutional principle, Mr. Speaker, by a number of cases that have gone before the courts and to the Supreme Court of Canada and is a very, very important part of our Constitution that the judges be considered to be independent of the government. That does not exist in many countries of the world, Mr. Speaker. The judges do the bidding of the government. The judges will hang the people that the government wants hanged. The judges will put in jail the people that the government wants in jail. The judges will carry out the wishes of the government. We have a system, Mr. Speaker, which does not believe that the judges ought to be in a situation where they can be regarded as being instruments of the state in the manner that the government has control over their salaries, control over their remuneration.

So the idea behind this legislation, the 1991 act which is now being amended, is a very positive one and an important constitutional principle. Since it has been passed, Mr. Speaker, it has yet to be followed. The first piece of work of the first tribunal, reported in 1992, by the time they had it reported, Mr. Speaker, the government had introduced legislation which purported to undo the consequences of the recommendation of this tribunal. The tribunal reported, Mr. Speaker, it's recommendations were not implemented, and the report was left to gather dust.

Four years later there was suppose to be another tribunal appointed. It was suppose to be appointed on December 1, 1995. The government failed to follow the legislation, failed to appoint a tribunal until, I believe, it was October 21, 1996. That tribunal, called the Robert's Tribunal, after the then Minister of Justices brother, I think, who was the chair of that tribunal, made it's report - it's independent tribunal report on April 22, 1996. That report was tabled in the House and was to become law, thirty days later by operation of the act, except that on the thirtieth day the minister came in and purported to bury the recommendations in a manner that is now being challenged as unconstitutional and at the time the Member for St. John's East and this hon. member, advised the minister that the legislation was flawed - the resolution was flawed and that he could expect that the judicial council or the judges themselves would seek legal advice and probably take action against it.

That is exactly what has happened because the whole purpose of the legislation has been thwarted on two occasions, at least, by the government because they did not wish to follow the recommendations of the committee. The other alternative to following the recommendations of a committee or making variations, which they are permitted to do in this House, is to engage in negotiations and it has been ruled that that type of requirement, by requiring the judges to engage in negotiations what you are doing is, in fact, putting the judges in a position where their independence can be questioned.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the legislation itself - I do not think the legislation is going to work, so it is very difficult to support the legislation in principle or even to criticize the particulars of it. What it does is try to undo what the minister did last spring in having a resolution passed in the House and it does it by creating a standing tribunal.

Now, a standing tribunal may not be a bad idea. It provides a little bit more flexibility on both sides because aside from the tribunal everything stays in place for four or five years and nothing can be changed in the meantime regardless of what other changes might be taking place in the rest of the public sector or in the judicial circles or in remunerations in general or in pension policies throughout the general public sector. So, a standing tribunal may not be a bad idea. What is does permit in the new legislation, is it permits the minister at any time to refer a matter to the tribunal, Section 28.1(1), 'The minister may at any time refer a matter respecting salaries or benefits of judges to the tribunal for it's review and recommendation' and they have six months to refer the matter back or make a report back to the minister which then must be tabled in the House. It is somewhat one sided in that is does not permit the provincial court judges, through their organization, to refer a matter to the same tribunal for a recommendation. If this is going to be a process that is going to stand as a standing tribunal to deal with matters that might come up from time to time, then surely, in order to be fair, the judges should also have the right to refer matters to this tribunal for recommendations.

Aside from the general problem with the legislation, in that it tries to undo a court case presently before the courts, wherein the minister's decisions and the House's decisions have been challenged on a constitutional basis, in a case that appears at first glance that the minister is sure to lose, aside from the fundamental problem with the legislation of that, there are individual unfairness aspects, even if it turns out that the legislation is ruled as being valid by the courts. Even if it turns out that today's legislation is ruled valid by the courts, there is unfairness in it that ought to be corrected and that both the minister and the judges' organization should be permitted to make references to the tribunal for review and recommendation of the committee.

The other section of the act which appears to try to set out some sort of a bargaining relationship at arm's length through this council provides for the appointment of three persons - one of whom is a nominee of the Chief Judge and other judges of the court, and the other two are appointed by the Cabinet - it appears that we have a sort of two to one: two people appointed by the Cabinet and one appointed by the Chief Judge and the other judges of the court.

It would be fairer if the Lieutenant-Governor in Council and the judges - the Chief Judge and other judges - appointed a member each, and the two of them selected a Chair, an independent, third-party Chair. That would be a fairer method of dealing with this matter.

The third difficulty with the legislation is that it gives an undue amount of time to deal with the report once it is made. They have fifteen days after a House is in session, or fifteen days after the report to submit it to the House. So they have fifteen days to consider it before they are even obliged to send it to the House. Then they are seeking another thirty days to deal with it. Plus, if the House happens to prorogue during that thirty days they want to start the process all over again some several months later perhaps, or potentially several months later, when the House resumes for the next session. So it is an undue period of time to deal with the report and recommendation.

The third difficulty, and I don't know why this is here, they are asking that the next report - the first report from this committee - must happen by April 22 in the year 2002. Is this intended, that the committee not deal expeditiously with the matters that were up in the air with respect to the salary and benefits of the judges? Why would the first report be submitted to the minister no later than April 22, 2002 - or 2001 rather? Does He not intend to refer the last report to this committee?

Does he not intend to refer the Roberts report to this committee? Looking at 28.3(2) it says: "Notwithstanding subsections 28.2(2), (3) and (4), the House of Assembly, on the motion of the minister, may reconsider the report previously submitted and dealt with by the House of Assembly on April 22, 1997 and may accept, reject or vary the report as if it had not been previously dealt with."

He is trying to undo, Mr. Speaker, what was done improperly last year. Is he going to do that on his own, or is he going to re-submit it to this new committee? What is the intention? How does he plan to deal with the fact that the Roberts committee report was made almost a year after it should have been made? That tribunal was supposed to have been struck on December 1, 1995 and would then have been required to report six months later, by June 1, 1996. How does he intend to make up for that lost year in having recommendations come before the House of Assembly? Is he now writing into this legislation the error that had been committed back in 1995 by his predecessor in failing to appoint a tribunal?

I suspect that like the resolution passed in April 1997, this legislation is not going to survive a challenge in the courts. Why doesn't the minister resolve this outstanding court case with the Provincial Court judges and put into place legislation? If he was putting in legislation such as this with some amendments, with some changes, after the court case had been resolved to the satisfaction of the parties, then I think it would receive the support of both sides of the House.

What he is doing here is trying to sidestep the court case. I believe the consequences of what he is doing are only going to be to compound the errors and leave the matter to be resolved by the court, instead of dealing with the problems he has caused and exacerbated by failing to recognize from the very beginning that the legislation itself, the 1991 act, embodies the correct principles of the independence of the judiciary. Instead of following his own legislation, he has embarked on a course of action which is going to see this government embarrassed once again by a ruling of the court that its actions are inconsistent with the Constitution of this country. Like it had happen last summer when it was brought to court by representatives of the school boards and denominations, when legislation passed in this House fails to meet the requirements of the Constitution.

I would suggest that before passing this legislation he consult very closely with legal counsel on behalf of the Provincial Court judges and resolve that case that is presently before the courts before passing this legislation for third reading. In principle, he is seeking to, in the course of legislation that is now before the courts, affect the outcome of the case by changing the legislation. I think that is an inappropriate use of the Legislature. It is something that ought not to be contemplated except in very exceptional circumstances where it is clear that the only way to achieve justice is to do so. This is not such a case, Mr. Speaker, this is a case where the government has clearly been acting in a way inconsistent with the legislation, inconsistent with the constitutional principles that are embodied in that. They should clean up their act, Mr. Speaker, before bringing in legislation in this House to have a long-term solution to the problem.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER (M. Penney): The hon. the Member for St. John's East.

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak for a few minutes on Bill 47, "An Act To Amend The Provincial Court Act, 1991" and many of the points that were expressed by the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi, I share.

He has indicated some of the concerns; perhaps the most important issue is not specific to this legislation but is specific to the reference which was alluded to by the previous speaker and that is, we have a somewhat unusual circumstance presently before our courts where, the Provincial Court Judges have seen fit to commence an action against the Attorney General, and I say, Mr. Speaker, that that is an unfortunate set of circumstances, it is disruptive, it is unsettling and it need not be.

I would think that, the minister in his department would work diligently to effect a resolution to this dispute as quickly as possible. Judges have a very important role in our society and it is, I am sure, a primary concern of the minister that, the judges who are under the jurisdiction of the Province and under his jurisdiction as minister and Attorney General, are in a position that they can carry out their work effectively without the aggravation - perhaps for want of a better word - of an outstanding civil action in which all parties are now embroiled.

This legislation, Mr. Speaker, attempts in some respects to circumvent I guess, previous attempts to reconcile outstanding issues between our judges and the ministry, and what was found to be, in my view at least, very reasonable recommendations in the report that was tabled in this House a number of months ago unfortunately, was not found to be reasonable by the government opposite and of course, we find ourselves in a situation today as I have just indicated, that the parties are at odds with one another.

The overall concern I had, Mr. Speaker, with respect to this specific bill, Bill 47, is, as quickly as government was not prepared to review and consider and take into account the recommendations of the past report, what guarantee do judges or indeed any party in our Province, where an independent tribunal is appointed? What guarantee will future parties have that even a recommendation out of this tribunal will be adhered to in the appropriate way? So it seems to me that we are just going on and on, we are repeating mistake after mistake, and the bill perhaps will do nothing to really remedy or conclude or bring closure to what has been an outstanding issue for a significant period of time.

In brief, Mr. Speaker, Bill 47 ensures that one member is a nominee of the judges, it allows the Cabinet to fill vacancies, it allows the minister to refer salary issues to the tribunal for recommendations; while the House has thirty days to take action on the report once it is tabled, failure to do so will no longer result in the recommendations being accepted by default. The remuneration is no longer necessarily effective for four years since the minister may now request an interim report, Mr. Speaker, on salary matters, and take a vote in the House on actions in view of that report, and specifically, the April 22, 1997 Report can be reconsidered as if it had never been dealt with. Although it is clear what the legislation attempts to do, Mr. Speaker, it does not give any security to our Provincial Court judges that this issue will be resolved once and for all.

I see this legislation as just a further attempt to delay the reality that this is an issue that the government must take seriously. The government must strive to conclude this matter, bring closure to this outstanding issue, as I've indicated earlier. There is no guarantee, there is no protection, to our Provincial Court judges that Bill 47, An Act To Amend The Provincial Court Act, 1991, does that.

I have to share many of the concerns that have been expressed by the previous speaker. There are too many questions which remain unanswered. There is no guarantee that can be given to this House that this matter will be concluded once and for all, once a tribunal makes a recommendation. We see that, Mr. Speaker, in the way the previous report was somewhat summarily dismissed. I do have some difficulty with the provisions that are being presented in Bill 47, and I will look forward to speaking again during third reading.

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

The hon. the Minister of Justice and Attorney General.

MR. DECKER: I thank hon. members, Mr. Speaker, for their input in the debate. However, the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi almost speaks as if Newfoundland somehow was the only part of Canada which had a problem with dealing with the way we pay our judges. The reality is every single province in Canada had a process which is similar to our process. This House - and I'm not saying government, I'm saying the House; the tribunal reported to the House - the House acted in good faith. The House was of the opinion that the House had the authority to deal with the tribunal report the way that it did deal with the tribunal report.

There is no way under the sun the hon. Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi could have known six months ago that this act, that our process, was wrong because there was no ruling from the Supreme Court of Canada. His opinion was just another opinion, a voice crying in the wilderness. I took it in the spirit that it was offered and didn't pay a whole lot of attention to it.

However, it turns out, I suppose if you say enough enough times, eventually you are going to be right. The hon. member was right. I think it was pure, sheer coincidence that he was right at that time. If it was not coincidence, then maybe we should ask the Prime Minister, when he fills the vacancy on the Supreme Court of Canada, that he should go no further than our friend for Quidi Vidi and appoint him to the Supreme Court of Canada. Because he is either clairvoyant or else he has wisdom which nobody in this Province has been giving him any credit for.

The reality is every province in the country is concerned about the independence of the judiciary. It is a difficult situation. The hon. member across the way I'm sure will admit that when the government of the day has to take action to freeze the salaries of civil servants, when the government has to freeze the income for social services people, when the government has to make cutbacks to health care, to education, when the government has to do all that, it is extremely difficult for one group of people whose payment comes from the public purse, even though they are independent, the money comes from the same money that pays the welfare recipient up in Raleigh. The same government, the same taxpayer, has to make the money available. Therefore, there has to be some process in place whereby the government of the day, which has to freeze payments to social services people, which has to freeze payments to the health care sector, enables the government of the day to do that.

Now, the process which we had in place, the process which Manitoba had in place, the process which Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and British Columbia, all these processes, all the governments thought we were acting in a way which was acceptable. However, the Supreme Court of Canada has pointed out that that is not the case. Therefore what we have to do is put a process in place to correct our process so that we will not in any way, either actually or in perception, be able to be accused of interfering with the independence of the judiciary.

As soon as it was brought to our attention that our process would not withstand a challenge in the Supreme Court of Canada very similar to the one which has just gone through from Manitoba, not exactly the same but very similar.

As soon as it came to our attention, Mr. Speaker, that this process would not survive a challenge we rushed this legislation to this House so that we could correct it, so that once this legislation goes through this House we will have put in place legislation which will survive an appeal through the Supreme Court because we have a precedent. From this day forward or the day that this legislation goes through third reading and receives royal assent, nobody in this country will ever again be able to say with any degree of confidence that this government and this House is doing anything which is in anyway interfering with the independence of the judiciary. That, Mr. Speaker, in a nutshell is where we are. We are not the only Province, we are not unique. Other provinces have had the same problem. Indeed, the test case to the Supreme Court was put there by Manitoba and Prince Edward Island, Mr. Speaker, had a similar case.

Every province had to deal with the issue of: How do you deal with the independence of a judiciary? How do you pay your judges? How do you give them increases in pay when you are cutting back on the civil servants, when you are cutting back on every other person who receives his or her pay from the public purse? That is all it is about. We thought the process we had there was a good one. We thought it was legitimate. We thought it did not interfere. However, as a result of this most recent ruling of the Supreme Court we have learned that our process would not withstand a challenge, therefore we are acting very quickly to make sure, Mr. Speaker, that in no way anybody can ever say again that Newfoundland and Labrador is doing anything which would interfere with the independence of the judiciary, Mr. Speaker.

I move second reading.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Provincial Court Act, 1991," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 47)

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I realize that this is not the place on the Order Paper but I have spoken to the real Opposition House Leader over there, the good fellow, and he has agreed to give me leave to give notice of motion here on behalf of the Minister of Health.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Government House Leader to introduce a motion, by leave.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, "An Act To Amend The Food and Drug Act." (Bill No. 7)

Mr. Speaker, Order No. 17, Bill No. 32. The Minister of Justice again, "An Act To Amend The Family Law Act." (Bill No. 32)

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Family Law Act". (Bill No. 32)

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, I wonder could I ask the hon. Government House Leader that when he calls my bills that he would give me thirty seconds notice instead of standing up and saying it. I have just gone through three and now he goes and -

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, the notes are self explanatory. Clause 1 of the bill would amend Section 2 of the Family Law Act by adding a definition of the word, `respondent.' Clause 2 of the bill would amend Section 35 of the act by adding a definition of the words, `child support guidelines,' and by adding a reference to Section 37 in paragraph 35(b). I will not read all of this, Mr. Speaker. Here it is in a nutshell what this act does, quite recently there were some changes made to the federal law and by changing our Family Law Act we are essentially bringing our act in line with the federal government. Now the hon. members can read the nine explanatory notes which explains what we are doing here, Mr. Speaker. So I would commend the bill to my colleagues and ask them to give a swift passage.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the legislation, I have had an opportunity to review it in the past few days and as the minister points out, it attempts to have some codification of the support payments to bring our situation here in this Province in accordance with the federal guidelines on the issue of support.

I suppose if there is an area in family law that has been the most inconsistent over the years it has to do with this issue of spousal support and child support, and the great discrepancy which exists on the awards that may be offered or awarded depending on the judge and depending on the court. You could have the same-fact situation in court `a' before judge `b', and in a different court with a different judge, the same-fact situation, the discrepancy could be as much as hundreds and hundreds of dollars. Of course, that sort of situation was really in nobody's interest. Everything was a guessing game.

I remember saying to people prior to court appearances that we could perhaps get anywhere from $200 or $250 a month for child support to maybe $500 or $600 a month in child support. There were no guidelines all judges could resort to at the time, and this was really the only system that was available, was the common-law precedent. What did other courts in other jurisdictions in other similar circumstances award? What were other spouses or other children being granted by courts by way of support orders?

The federal guidelines, which are essentially very new - it is my understanding they were brought in in the spring of 1997 - attempt to bring some organization and system to the whole issue of spousal and child support by taking into account primarily two factors: What is the income of the parents, in the case of child support, and how many children are we talking about? So instead of judges doing what they would have to do traditionally, review case law, try to review the various facts as they were given in evidence, whether that be documentary evidence or viva voce evidence, rather than trying to assess each case on its own individual merit, we now have a situation whereby we can use a formula of sorts. How much money is the parent making? How much money is the custodial parent making? How many children are, in fact, the subject matter of the dispute? Then a formula has been derived and a pretty accurate figure has been developed, or a schedule has been developed, by the federal government to assist judges in simply saying, if there is `x' number of dollars available and we have two or three children, whatever the case may be, here is the amount of monthly support.

What this legislation attempts to do - it is my understanding, at least - is that the Province may now adhere to this same procedure, and may now, in reaching decisions which are before either a Provincial Court Judge, a Supreme Court Judge, or a Unified Family Court Judge, which is also a Supreme Court Judge, may now adopt the same formula, the same mechanism which was available under federal legislation, and it may now be adopted under provincial legislation.

I see that as a positive step, Mr. Speaker. It will give some degree of certainty and expectation to litigants, that when they go into a court of law to deal with an issue of dispute with respect to support and maintenance, it can now be anticipated with some relative degree of accuracy as to what the amount of support or order will be.

Mr. Speaker, the legislation attempts to do that. I see it as timely. I see it as appropriate. I will again have perhaps other comments during third reading, but the spirit -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. OTTENHEIMER: We have done that. That was the previous act.

The spirit of the legislation, in my view, makes sense, and I have no difficulty in supporting it.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak on this bill which will give effect to the new federal guidelines for support, particularly for children.

Mr. Speaker, I think this is one of the most positive steps in the area of family law, on the practical side of family law, because much of what goes on in courts, whether they are Provincial or Unified Family Courts is determining the proper level of support for children who are the victims, in a manner of speaking, of marriage breakdown. They are the individuals who suffer often terribly because their parents are no longer able to live together and unfortunately what happens, Mr. Speaker, is that the emotional battles of the parents get taken out in a failure of one party to support the children and it is part of the battle between the parents that the children become unfortunate victims of that battle on far, far to many occasions. Often, as well, it is certainly a consequence of the parents having very little money and when they split up, that same amount of money has to go a lot further in supporting two households.

So, it has caused tremendous problems for judges and it has caused tremendous problems for litigants, Mr. Speaker, to have to pay the cost of arguing these matters before court. The results have not always been consistent and it has been very, very difficult on many occasions to advise people in this situation as to what their obligations truly ought to be.

So, these guidelines do that, they may not be perfect, they may have to be revised after experience in some ways, but they certainly establish a basis on which you can look up the guidelines, you can determine what it is very likely the judge will do in a particular case, based on the formulas that are contained therein. They are guidelines, they are not binding in the sense that they must be always followed in every occasion, but they serve as guidelines and it provides an opportunity for lawyers to give fairly good precise advice to clients as to what their obligations would be and, I think, they are going to lead to a much easier method of negotiating separation agreements and convincing clients who often do not want to pay anything, that they in fact will be required to pay and here is precisely how much they will likely be required to pay, written down in a book established by the Government of Canada and now adopted in our family courts.

I think it is an example of a very, very practical and sensible legislation, which I hope has the effects that are behind the promulgation of it, some of which I have mentioned here today. It will simplify the process of determining the obligations of parents to support their children and it will make it a lot easier for a settlement to be reached, a lot easier for people who need to be told what their obligations are and to be able to be told that without having to put the other party through a court process to find out exactly what the result might be. I hope it has that effect, Mr. Speaker. I support the legislation, I think it is one of the most progressive things to have occurred in family law in this country.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I want to rise to have a few comments on this particular issue because it follows somewhat from the report that I was part of, The Select Committee on Children's Interests and at that time we had meetings with the support enforcement agency in Corner Brook and we met with a number of lawyers and we met with a great number of parents. One of the things that they found very frustrating was the lack of legal direction in many cases under law. Mr. Speaker, one of the problems we have in this country - and the Minister of Justice should know something about this - is the way in which information is shared among the provinces on child support arrangements. It has been the practice for some time that there are mutual agreements among various provinces however, as the minister knows or should know, some provinces take these set of court orders from Newfoundland and they put them at the bottom of their agenda in some other provinces.

Now they would not admit to that but the reality is that, sometimes if you have a parent who moves from Newfoundland let us say to Alberta, and in Newfoundland there is a judgement, an enforceable policy in effect in most cases against the father let us say, for example. However, when that father moves to Alberta, unless he lets it be known where he is working and unless he contacts the support enforcement agency, sometimes it can cause great delays to a mother and to her two or three children who are expecting payments to come from the office in Corner Brook but they do not arrive because the office in Corner Brook does not send money that it does not receive from the parent who is responsible to transfer that money to the agency and the agency in turn transfers that money to the parent on behalf of the children.

However, we do find that some provinces have very good arrangements. Sometimes you can find various agreements that work better than others. I have been told that the arrangement with the Province of Quebec works better than it does in some provinces, for example, like the Province of Alberta. The former Minister of Justice, who was very much on top of this issue, the former Government House Leader, was very much in tune with the necessity to have some kind of consistency across the country when it comes to support enforcement data.

Now, we have been told by the former Minister of Justice, that he was working on a protocol among provinces, to make sure that if a father - in most cases it is the father, rarely is it the mother - but if a father moves to another province that, if that father happens to get any income, he is going to have to file it under his social insurance number however, we find that the federal government will not let that information be known immediately.

What we have here is, we have the ten provinces and the two territories somewhat being co-operative but according to the former Minister of Justice, the federal government was not always as co-operative as some of the provinces, particularly when it comes to sharing data on where people are working, and I am wondering if the Minster of Justice, when he gets up in a few moments, to comment on this particular matter, can try to address that issue again, because I know the former Minister of Justice was very much versed in this particular matter, and had meetings with his counterparts in the other provinces and he indeed had met with the federal Minister of Justice in order to try to work out some kind of arrangements. However, we have not heard much from the current minister on this matter. Either he does not understand it or he does not think it is a very important issue but when a father from Newfoundland who has a perhaps somewhat checkered history in terms of paying for the support of his children, moves to another province and he may work in three or four provinces in the one season. He could be working in Ontario, in Alberta, he could have a transitional kind of job in British Columbia and then back in Newfoundland. Until we get a way in which we can keep track of that particular father and his income, the people in Corner Brook who are trying to keep the money coming into them are very helpless. In other words, their job is not to try to act as a strong arm, their job is to try to do things in a reasonable manner.

I should say to the Minister of Justice, the group in Corner Brook does a very commendable job. I have met with them on a couple of different occasions. Support enforcement is one of the things I have some interest in, and have had some dialogue both at the provincial level and, in a couple of cases, at the national level.

There is another situation here that I would like to comment on as well. When you have a divorce arrangement and you are in court, there are lawyers there who are representing the mother and representing the father, but there is very often no lawyer who represents the child. So you come from the premise that the child is somehow - it might be improper to say, but the child is treated like a piece of property between the two parents. Often we know that when you have the combative nature of the court system, and you have the father's lawyer arguing for the father and the mother's lawyer arguing for the mother, you have to ask yourself: Who represents the child?

Sometimes that is left to social workers, sometimes it is left to people who are not trained in the legal system. Very often the child is caught in the middle. Therefore I ask the Minister of Justice, when is he going to make sure that in this aggressive (inaudible) that happens in court, when will there be lawyers assigned - I am not saying social workers are not doing a good job - I am saying they are not trained in the law. Therefore, when will there somebody to represent the child?

Very often, children are victims of the court system, they are victims of the process. Because nobody is standing up for that child in court. The Minister of Justice has a responsibility to make sure there is a fair system, that the children have representation in court. If you talk to any social worker they will tell you they find it so frustrating. They are expected to be in court to represent the child, but that child is probably there because of things that happened within the family structure. Father and mother argue vociferously about this child that they both gave life to, and they see that somehow if I win or I lose, then you know, we have extreme measures being taken.

We know the case that is in the news in Newfoundland for the last year. We know how extreme things can get. Therefore, we are asking the Minister of Justice: Where is the legal representation for the children of Newfoundland and Labrador? Because while we have the structure in place, we do not have the system in place that looks after the children the way it should. We should not be putting legal responsibilities onto the shoulders of social workers or guidance counsellors in school systems or some other group that finds itself in court trying to argue against the high-priced lawyers. Sometimes when you get in court, the higher-priced the lawyer, hopefully that sometimes means you have better representation, probably more experience, at least. Here you have a father paying big bills because he wants to represent his interests and divide up the property, the mother doing the same thing, and the poor child is there caught.

I ask the Minister of Justice two things: When are we going to get uniformity in enforcement across Canada? When are we going to have a system and carry forward the work done by the very able former Minister of Justice, very well-versed on the issue of support enforcement, and a person who had an aggressive policy to have a national consensus-building arrangement on this particular issue? What is happening to that consensus? Where is it? What initiatives has this minister taken to look after children, to make sure that - we had an example of a father in British Columbia who happened to have been a dentist, and in that particular province, he did everything he could do not to pay child support. In fact, the story was told to us when we were doing our study that he even had his bills all sent to another name. In fact, since he was from Scotland, he actually had his salary sent to Scotland, just because he would not pay child support. We have had in this country and in this Province, various ways and devices tried by people to avoid paying child support.

With all due regard to the support enforcement agency we have in Corner Brook doing a very fine job, I would be anxious to find out if the minister has done anything to carry on the work of the former Minister of Justice, and also to remind him that in the adversarial court system the child's best interests are not always the operative thing.

Lawyers are trained to win, and in a structure where lawyers - with all due deference to my two colleagues who just spoke, they are in a court system in which their goal is to win for whomever they represent. My point to the Minister of Justice is that in that kind of adversarial system, the interest of the child is very often secondary. Winning is what counts for many people. It counts for many of the parents who find themselves in these kinds of situations. Also, it means that the child may not always be the first priority.

I like the provisions of this legislation in giving priority to child support. I think that is good. It follows from some of the recommendations that we have talked about when we were doing the study on children. It is a step in the right direction; however, one final thing I will say to the Minister of Justice: When we have children in court, when children are required to be in court, we have to be a lot more sensitive to the child. We have a long way to go in this Province, a long way to go in this country, before we can say that our courts are child-sensitive - they are not. In a custody battle, our courts are not child-sensitive.

There are some judges who do very, very well in making sure that their courts are more sensitive to the child's needs, particularly in some cases where there has been abuse, and that kind of thing; but you can imagine the trauma in a child's life when a child is told that their parents are going to be separating, they are going to be divorcing, and these young children are then told: Well, we are all going to go to court.

Often the judges do not have a system in place that recognizes the nature of the child, and the child's age. If you were to look at all of the work that has been done, and all of the reports that have been written, they will tell you that one of the things needed is sensitivity training for judges, sensitivity training for police officers, and sensitivity training for anybody who is going to be dealing with a child in that kind of traumatic situation.

So we say to the minister: Yes, this is a step in the right direction; however, there is still a lot of work to be done. Until we can say that every single police officer, every RCMP officer, every RNC officer, has received proper sensitivity training, knows what the issues are, knows how to focus on the interest of the child, then we will not have fulfilled our mandate. Until every single judge in all of the court systems, including the Supreme Court and all of the other courts in this Province and in this country, until we say that they have a policy in place which they can enunciate well and clearly state that they are child-sensitive, then children will still be treated or have the potential to be treated unfairly in the court system.

So I stand here today to argue for the children of Newfoundland and Labrador, to make sure that the Minister of Justice not only brings out this piece of legislation which is a step in the right direction, but I am afraid the Minister of Justice probably, probably does not understand all of the implications and all of the frustrations. He should, I hope he does, but I know that his former colleague was, by reputation at least, a country mile ahead of him when it comes to working on behalf of the children.

In fact, it was his initiative that established the Committee on Children's Interests, and had it not been for Ed Roberts, there would never have been a Committee of this House on the interests of children that was appointed, it did help to focus things; I am hoping that some of that philosophy is reflected in this particular change and I am hoping as well that when we come to visit the Strategic Social Plan, that we will have again more of these principles that have been talked about now in the literature and talked about among the lawyers and in their circles and in their focus groups have more of that kind of information reflected in legislation because we have no greater mandate than a mandate to our children.

The day is gone when we can sit here as Legislators and say that we are going to treat the children as somehow second class when it comes to a court structure because the whole issue here is not about whether the tables and chairs and knives and forks and the lawn furniture will be distributed properly, the whole focus here is to make sure that children are treated properly in the court system. This is a step in the right direction, it makes certain services available in Newfoundland and Labrador that were not previously available, however, this is not necessarily the end of the struggle by children for adequate representation in court to make sure they are represented and to make sure that their voices are heard and make sure they are full participants in the court system in accordance with their level of maturity.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Justice, if he speaks now he will close the debate.

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, I thank hon. members for the contribution they have made in this debate. Especially, I want to thank the hon. the Member for St. John's East, who certainly has a grasp of this legislation, he did an excellent job of outlining the legislation and I thank him for his support.

Of course, I notice a trend which I have seen all too often in this House, the Minister for St. John's East goes and does all the research in legislation, Mr. Speaker, and gets up, makes an excellent speech, makes an excellent contribution and when it is good legislation in his opinion, he supports it and I commend the hon. member, that is the job of the opposition critic, to do the research and to familiarize himself with the bill and to be able to explain the bill and any problem he has with it. That happens quite often however, I also notice, Mr. Speaker, quite often, the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi, who does not even have a clue that the bill is on the Order Paper, Mr. Speaker.

He sits in his place when the Member for St. John's East is speaking, he listens to every word that he says and then gets up and feeds back every word that the Member for St. John's East gave and tries to give the impression that he did some research on the bill, Mr. Speaker. The reality is, the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi did not even know it was on the Order Paper. The Member for St. John's East did all the research, Mr. Speaker, and the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi takes credit for it.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the Member for Waterford Valley was absolutely funny. He was totally irrelevant. Now he made some good points when he talked about the support enforcement, they are all good valid points, Mr. Speaker, but it has about as much relevance to this bill as if he got up and talked about the problem we have with seals or talked about the distance from here to the Moon or talked about acid rain, Mr. Speaker. All of these topics were just as relevant. Now the speech that the hon. member made was a good speech. He raised some good points. He made some good points, and there is a place that we will discuss these points that he made, and we will assure him that we will deal with them, but they are totally irrelevant to this bill!

The hon. Member for Waterford Valley somehow has convinced himself that no bill can go through this House unless he gets up and speaks about it. If that is the hon. member's philosophy, then he should at least familiarize himself with the bill. In those technical bills, maybe he should leave it to the lawyers. He shouldn't even be butting his nose in here. The two lawyers know a lot more about this than ever he will know about it. Certain things are better left to people who know what they are talking about. I would suggest to the hon. Member for Waterford Valley from henceforth to restrain himself a little bit, and don't feel that he has to speak on every issue, whether he knows anything about it or not.

The other issues which he raised are good issues, and they will be dealt with in the appropriate place, Mr. Speaker. I move second reading.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Family Law Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 32)

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I would like to call Order No. 19, Bill 34.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Public Service Pensions Act, 1991 And The Uniformed Services Pensions Act, 1991". (Bill No. 34)

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I commend the details of the bill to members' attention on behalf of my colleague the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board in whose name the bill stands. It points out that it allows for employees who are employees of government-owned companies to purchase service time at full actuarial cost. I'm sure that the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board would be delighted to answer any questions at the Committee stage.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. H. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This bill, again, is one of those little pieces of legislation that the government has brought forward. We are here today waiting for the real substantive piece of legislation. Maybe the Education Act might come tomorrow or the next day or the Mining Tax Act. We know that by law you are supposed to do this and it is only what you should do, it makes sense; however, it is a minor item for this House in the sense that we agree with it. It is a case where nobody would disagree that those employees, who were employees of government-owned companies to purchase pensionable service for full time service while these companies were government-owned - it simply says that - and that they were purchased at full actuarial value. The minister, in one of his shortest speeches ever in this House, a lot shorter than he gives answers to questions in Question Period - we know right away that this must be self-evident because there is nothing to hide here and -

MR. HARRIS: He is trying to slip it through.

MR. H. HODDER: Oh, no, no. The Minister of Education has given a full explanation. He was rather precise in what he said, rather concise in what he said. It is the case of where - I know he was brow-beaten by the Government House Leader to get up and get it done because he said we are on a roll here today now. We are getting lots of legislation through. This is, I think, the fifth piece of legislation since 2:55 p.m. that we have been dealing with and - I have not done the count here, in fact, it could be number six. I say to the Government House Leader that they were moving them so fast here that it was a case of where we had to put the brakes on here somewhere. So consequently, we just say to the minister who introduced this, in his rather short address to the House - I am sure at the conclusion of second reading - which will come probably on Thursday or Friday morning of this week, because we certainly have a lot to say on this bill. It is a very substantive issue for us that the government would bring this before the House now and bring those changes that the minister talks about.

One of the things that we want to say to the minister is, we want to get some idea as to how many people we are talking about here. When you say that you are talking about employees of government-owned companies to purchase pensionable service, and this is because the whole issue here, is the issue of privatization, I suppose. When you are dumping people out there, you are downsizing the civil service, when you are saying to all kinds of people that you are going to privatize the services they are providing, then obviously you have to give to them a little bit of protection. This is just the little teensy-weensy little bit of protection that the minister affords them, and his little bit of protection is that he is going to allow them to purchase pensionable service or full-time service which the companies were government-owned.

Now, we would like to have a little more detail as to how that is being done and be given a list of all of the companies and -

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. H. HODDER: The Government House Leader is indicating that perhaps we could agree to adjourn debate here today. We would like to have, when we debate this next, a list of the companies that are affected here.

So, with these few comments, Mr. Speaker, I am looking forward to the sharing of further information. I adjourn the debate for today.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House adjourn until tomorrow 2:00 p.m.

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