The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

Admit their Lordships, the Justices of the Supreme Court.

SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: Mr. Speaker, His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor has arrived.

MR. SPEAKER: Admit His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor.


Mr. Speaker leaves the Chair.

His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor takes the Chair.

SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: Ladies and gentlemen, it is the wish of His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor that all be seated.

Thank you.


Mr. Speaker and Members of the Honourable House of Assembly:

I take great pleasure in welcoming you to this Third Session of the Forty-Third General Assembly.

Newfoundland and Labrador is now an oil-producing Province. We are moving toward further development of the hydroelectric potential of the Churchill River system. And, we are also moving toward developing the richest nickel deposit in the world at Voisey's Bay.

The value of our fishery, while still held back by the collapse of groundfish stocks, is going up because of increasing shellfish landings. Our forest industries are doing well. Tourism is expanding. Aquaculture is developing. Information and bio-technology industries are advancing. Manufacturing and small enterprises in our rural and urban areas are growing.

A Time for Optimism

We have good reason to be optimistic. As a society, we can look ahead with greater confidence. This is a time to welcome new ideas, accept new challenges and approach old problems with renewed vigour. Managing our resources well and our finances prudently will give us the means to achieve a better life for all our people.

Only when we create wealth and manage the public's finances responsibly do we have the means to care for our fellow citizens: their health, their welfare, their education. A sound financial foundation is the means to our greater social ends. With it, we can create a society second to none in how we meet the needs of our fellow citizens.

MR. Speaker and Members of the Honourable House of Assembly:

Creating a Better Society

Large-scale projects like Hibernia, Terra Nova, Voisey's Bay and those on the Churchill River, are not ends in themselves. They are the means to create employment and economic growth. And they are the means to generate government revenues that we can use to create better opportunities for every individual in our society.

Public attention is captivated by the promise of these megaprojects. It is precisely at this moment when government must show leadership and direct the public agenda to what truly matters. It is precisely at this time when government must turn its attention to our social priorities. Megaprojects will always have powerful people to push them forward, and the voices of the powerful will always be heard. The doors of government, and the doors of this House, must always be open to those less powerful, to listen to the voices of those in need.

That is why My Government will dedicate this Session not to large-scale development projects, but to important social priorities. We must not be swept away by the momentum of megaprojects. We must balance them with progress in education, health care, and social services. The proposals of My Ministers will achieve that balance.

For the moral test of a society is not found in the books of accountants, but in the care of the sick, respect for the elderly, the education of children and the flourishing of the arts. Over these two years, My Government has saved where it could so it could spend where it must. My Ministers will not falter from their duty to protect the taxpayer's dollar, nor will they fail those in our society most in need.

Mr. Speaker and Members of the Honourable House of Assembly:

Education Reform

My Government has taken swift and decisive action to reform the education system of this Province. On September 2, 1997, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador gave a clear, strong mandate in a referendum result almost without precedent in our country's history. It was a mandate to end the separation of our children, end the system of denominational education, and eliminate the old Term 17. It was a mandate to create a single school system where all of our children, regardless of their religious affiliation, can attend the same schools.

The confusion and chaos that plagued our education system for years has ended. For too long, we have focused on the issues of governance, power and control. Now, it is time to concentrate our energies on our children, and their education.

The objective of education reform is to put in place the best school system for our children that we can afford. We will fulfil that commitment. In this Session, My Government will take measures to support our new vision for education. Our children must have the tools with which to learn. They need clean air, good schools, and the right number of teachers to meet their needs.

Social Policy

The energy, commitment and vigour dedicated to education reform must now be directed to reform of our social programs. New ideas and innovative measures are needed to bring meaningful change.

My Government has listened carefully to the people of our Province. During the past two years, the Social Policy Advisory Committee held over 100 meetings with 1,500 individuals from 130 communities. These consultations will underlie a new Strategic Social Plan that is moving toward completion. Some measures, consistent with the results of these consultations, are being given effect now.

A key recommendation of the Social Policy Advisory Committee was to adopt an integrated, client-focused approach. To achieve this, My Government is changing the mandates of two departments, effective April 1st. The Department of Health and Community Services will integrate children and family health services through existing regional community health boards. These Boards will undertake new responsibilities, such as Child Welfare, Youth Corrections, and Family and Rehabilitative Services. The Department of Human Resources and Employment will extend its efforts beyond providing needed income support to assisting clients return to the workforce.

In December, 1997, when the federal government cut funding for the seven Women's Centres around the Province, My Government announced it would provide core funding. This made it possible for the centres to continue to give daily support and advice to victims of violence in a safe and supportive environment.

Good jobs in our changing economy demand a high level of literacy. My Government's Literacy Strategic Planning Unit will investigate the means to increase literacy in our Province, consult publicly, and make recommendations.

It has always been difficult for young people to get their first job. It is especially so today. My Government's Linkages Program assists young people through career-related opportunities with local employers, career planning, and bonuses towards the cost of post-secondary tuition and books.

The Government of Canada is to be commended for its Millennium Scholarship Endowment Fund, which will provide scholarships each year to thousands of low- and moderate-income Canadians attending universities and colleges. These federal scholarships will begin in the year 2000, yet the needs of post-secondary students are pressing today. My Government will address this problem during the course of this Session.

The Select Committee on Children's Interests has provided the impetus for a more integrated and effective approach to dealing with child poverty. Governments, communities, volunteers, and parents must work together. If children of low-income families have first-rate schools and school attendance is properly enforced; if children are well nourished at school; if the community has sound health services, and the physical well-being of children is protected; if there is an opportunity for advanced education for those who qualify regardless of means - then there is the prospect that children of low-income families will break the cruel cycle of dependence and poverty.

The National Child Benefit is an important means toward this end. My Government will work closely with the Government of Canada to reinvest this Benefit in new initiatives, as it has with new Community Action Program for Children projects, and the Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program. Our focus must be the best interest of the child, supporting families, and shifting from crisis intervention to the prevention of child neglect and the alleviation of child poverty.

Parents must be given the opportunity to provide for their families. Barriers to employment must be removed. The Department of Human Resources and Employment will help people gain skills and find meaningful work. Toward this end, a benefits schedule that is more equitable and effective in reducing poverty will be developed. Service delivery will promote dignity and self-reliance.

Health Care

In May of 1997, My Government hosted the first Provincial Health Forum to identify short-term needs and develop long-term plans to improve the Province's health system. The advice of nurses, doctors, other health care professionals, and members of the public helped guide the initiatives which the Department of Health has taken over the past eight months. My Government will continue to have the benefit of such advice through a permanent Provincial Advisory Committee to the Minister of Health.

My Government demonstrated its commitment to our health system by allocating an additional $20 million to strength the financial position of the Regional Health Boards.

My Government has further demonstrated its commitment to our health system by improving physician and medical services in all areas of our Province. Within the past eight months, a concerted effort has been made to address the shortage of physicians in this Province, providing $2.7 million for emergency room physicians and a further $2.6 million for the recruitment and retention of rural physicians. A Clinical Assessment and Enhancement Program is now being offered at Memorial University's School of Medicine to enhance the skills of family practitioners. To ensure that the Province has a balance of appropriate health professionals - such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and speech language pathologists - a Seat Purchase Program for Newfoundland and Labrador students has been arranged with Dalhousie University.

Strategic investments have been made in community health and health service delivery. Multi-Disciplinary Service and Teaching Unit pilot projects have been established in Port Aux Basques, Twillingate and Goose Bay. A Nurse Practitioner Program was launched in the Fall of 1997, with $5000.00 bursaries made a available to those nurses taking part. My Government will continue to offer services to patients closer to their homes through such initiatives as the Renal Dialysis Unit at the Central Newfoundland Regional Health Centre in Grand Falls.

In order to further improvements in the site relocation and renovation plans for St. John's hospitals, approval was given to the St. John's Health Care Corporation to borrow an extra $30 million. This is in addition to the previously announced $100 million, for a total of $130 million. This will provide for underground parking facilities for patients and families of the new Janeway Children's Health and Rehabilitation Centre, improvements to the mechanical, electrical, and ventilation systems at the St. Clare's and General Hospitals, and renovations to the General Hospital for the expansion of the Cardiac Surgery Ward.

While St. John's is an important centre for health care delivery, good quality facilities in other areas of the Province are no less important. These, too, need to be addressed. Construction is already underway to provide for new hospital facilities in Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Harbour Breton. My Government will take additional steps this year to improve health care facilities in the Province.

Mr. Speaker and Members of the Honourable House of Assembly:

Economic Outlook

None of these goals - in education, health or other social programs - can be accomplished without the financial ability to do so. Reversing economic decline and creating new growth has been the foremost task of My Government.

Two years ago, at the Opening of the First Session of this House, the Throne Speech stated: "1996 and 1997 will be difficult years for our Province's economy. They will be difficult years for the provincial government's finances. The outlook for the years that follow is for a much improved economic and fiscal situation."

This forecast proved correct. After several years of decline in GDP, there is good reason for optimism in 1998 and beyond. This optimism is supported by private sector forecasters. In October, the Toronto Dominion Bank forecast that Newfoundland and Labrador would lead all other provinces in both 1998 and 1999. These forecasts are encouraging, but more important are concrete signs that this turnaround has begun.

Employment rose in all but three months of 1997, rising sharply toward year end. Gains in December marked the fifth consecutive month of increasingly stronger employment growth. The level of employment achieved in the last month of the year was higher than in any December since the groundfish moratorium began in 1992. It was also the strongest growth in employment we've seen in the 1990s - nearly double the national level.

At the beginning of 1997, there were 177,100 people employed in Newfoundland and Labrador. At the end of 1997, there were 182,200 people employed. At the beginning of 1997, there were 48,100 people unemployed in Newfoundland and Labrador. At the end of 1997, there were 42,300 people unemployed. This reflected a drop in our unemployment rate of 2.5 per cent. The rate is still far too high, but this is a notable improvement.

Our Fiscal Plan

A return to growth will slowly translate into an increase in government revenues. But, that has not been the case for several years. The cost of government was simply greater than our ability to pay for it. That is why My Government had to make such difficult choices in its first two years, to get government down to the size that we can afford.

My Government did not believe that we should tax more or borrow more. It holds that view today. Indeed, My Government places a high priority on holding down taxes, mindful that taxpayers of the Province are already heavily burdened. The introduction of the Harmonized Sales Tax on April 1, 1997 saw a reduction in the combined federal-provincial sales taxes from 19.84 per cent to 15 per cent. This tax reduction of about $100 million was the first major tax cut since our Province entered Confederation. It increased consumer confidence and resulted last year in the strongest retail sales growth in eight years.

Our people are making new purchases, creating jobs and further stimulating the economy. We should be optimistic, but cautious. These are modest gains. Larger gains in revenues and employment are still a few years away.

While the Province will see new jobs and improved economic activity in the next two or three years, the words of the 1996 Throne Speech remain true: "The provincial government's overall revenues will grow more slowly than the economy, in part because equalization payments go down as receipts from taxes and royalties go up."

Therefore, it is vital that we stay the course. We must resist demands for major new expenditures at a time when we cannot afford them. We must put behind us the old cycle of deficit and debt.

Collective Bargaining

My Government has recently negotiated a 7 per cent pay increase over three years with the Newfoundland Association of Public Employees. This is the maximum that the public's finances can afford at this time. To pay anything beyond this would require either raising taxes or making further cuts to services and public service employees. My Government is unwilling to do either of these.

Public Service Reform

The years of restraint have been difficult for the public service. There were several rounds of major lay-offs. But, effective financial management has led to stability for the future. And, through its Public Service Reform initiative, My Government looks now to the revitalisation of the public service.

This Province is fortunate to have professional, competent and non-partisan public servants. They provide essential services that the people of the Province need, expect, and rely upon. A career in the public service is an opportunity to make a contribution to the life of our Province.

Public servants can look forward to greater stability in their employment. Any required reduction in staff will be managed, to the greatest extent possible, through attrition, and other labour force adjustment strategies. This is the promise My Government made to its employees in the Budget of last year. That promise will be kept.

Mr. Speaker and Members of the Honourable House of Assembly:

Major Resource Projects


Developments in three major resource areas - petroleum, mining and hydroelectricity - can lead the way in the transformation of our Province's economy. We must use these natural resources wisely to provide for the long-term needs of our people.


Our Province's oil and gas industry turned an important corner on November 17, 1997, when Hibernia First Oil transformed Newfoundland and Labrador into an oil-producing province in Canada, and an emerging player in the world market. On January 30, 1998, the Province received its first royalty payment from Hibernia - a single project which has given our Province the skills, the knowledge and the infrastructure to create a thriving industry.

But it is the Terra Nova project, funded entirely by private capital, that demonstrates a new level of confidence in the Province's oil and gas industry. In December, 1997, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board approved the Terra Nova Project. On February 17, 1998, the project owners announced "project sanction".

On March 5, 1998, Bull Arm was declared the site for at least 70 per cent of the topsides work for the Terra Nova Floating Production Storage and Offloading Vessel (FPSO). This includes fabrication of two major modules, the flare tower and other topsides components. Bull Arm and its employees competed for this work against similar sites from around the world, and they won.

In 1996, the Throne Speech read: "My Government will ensure that any transshipment facility for offshore oil is built in Newfoundland to serve Hibernia, Terra Nova and other offshore developments (such as Hebron, Whiterose and Ben Nevis) that will follow." My Government is pleased to report that construction of the Whiffen Head transshipment facility is proceeding on schedule and is expected to be completed in the fall of 1998.

The Generic Royalty Regime for offshore petroleum resources was put in place last year to maximise our share of the revenues from petroleum resources while being sensitive to the costs and risks associated with offshore petroleum activities.

Industry responded with record levels of exploration commitments on the Grand Banks. In December, Mobil, Chevron, Norsk Hydro and Petro-Canada bid $97.8 million on four parcels in the Jeanne d'Arc Basin, in response to the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board's 1997 Call for Bids. The semi-submersible drilling unit Vinlander will be here for up to five years. Further exploration or seismic testing are underway at the Hebron, Whiterose and Riverhead prospects. Hydrocarbon exploration continues on the West Coast. One well was spudded by Inglewood Resources on November 20, 1997, and several more are in the planning stages for 1998. My Government will continue to work in close cooperation with the petroleum industry to promote further exploration of both our onshore and offshore resources.

Investor confidence in Newfoundland and Labrador's oil and gas industry is further increased by last year's announcement of a new Labour Relations Regime for Offshore Oil Production Platforms. This innovative labour-management framework will guarantee labour stability on offshore production platforms operating within our jurisdiction by providing a mechanism for parties to reach agreements without the threat of a strike or lockout.

Voisey's Bay

Voisey's Bay remains the richest nickel deposit in the world. Its development will contribute greatly to our economy and create high-skill, high-paying jobs for our people.

The position of My Government on the proposed Voisey's Bay development is straightforward and consistent. As was stated in the Throne Speech two years ago: "My Government will gain full benefits from the Voisey's Bay mine, including the construction of a smelter and refinery in our province." My Government remains firmly of this view.

Those who would put achieving some benefits now above full and fair benefits later need look no further than the original Upper Churchill power contract. Voisey's Bay, like the Churchill River, is such a rich resource that we must always have the patience to get it right the first time.

Churchill River Hydro Developments

When it is necessary to say "no" to resource proposals that do not fairly benefit our Province, we must never hesitate to do so. So, too, we must never fear to say "yes" when we have achieved a proposal for development that is fair and beneficial to Newfoundland and Labrador.

My Government believes that the proposals for further hydroelectric development on the Churchill River announced on March 9th are the right proposals for our Province. They include the protection of a floor price guarantee, unrestrained by a price ceiling, with two-thirds of the dividends going to our Province. For any windfall profits, there is a profit sensitive royalty regime, similar to the Generic Royalty Regime for offshore oil and gas.

The windfall comes to Newfoundland and Labrador. One thousand megawatts will be available for use in this Province. And, the development will be subject to the laws of Newfoundland and Labrador, not the laws of Quebec.

This vision for future hydro electric development heralds a new era in Newfoundland and Labrador's relationship with Quebec. It is the result of more than a year of discussions and the work of the best legal, financial and technical minds available. It offers our people significant revenues as the majority partners, long-term stable electricity rates, royalties from the development at Gull Island, greenhouse gas emission credits, and a significant number of jobs.

Rather than suffer cash deficiencies of $300 million, under these proposals Newfoundland and Labrador will gain $2.6 billion from the Upper Churchill River System, and a further $2.6 billion from Gull Island. This could never compensate us for what we have lost in past decades on the Upper Churchill deal. Successive governments have tried and none have been able to rewrite the past. But we can, and we must, rewrite our future. With the participation of the Innu Nation, and with responsible consideration for our environment, we will generate substantial new wealth from the Churchill River.

Mr. Speaker and Members of the Honourable House of Assembly:

Rural Revitalization

These major resource projects are important to our economy. No less important are the Strategic Economic Plans being developed in the twenty economic zones throughout our Province.

Eighteen of the Regional Economic Development Boards have developed their Plans, and the Cabinet Committee on Rural Revitalization has met with sixteen of them to determine the top five development priorities in each zone.

From Port-aux-Basques to Carbonear to North West River, My Ministers have listened to local people and supported real opportunities, such as: snowmobile trails on the Northern Peninsula to extend the tourism season; a rural information technology Centre of Excellence in Clarenville; eel aquaculture in Robinson's; pharmaceutical applications for seaweed in Isle-aux-Morts; small manufacturing in Bishop's Falls; technology applications for mining in Labrador West, and; trade opportunities at Gander International Airport.

With local direction through the Regional Economic Development Boards, My Government is moving from planning to action. These opportunities can provide a future for our young people in rural communities. My Government is acting on its commitment to rural revitalization.


The federal government has announced that The Atlantic Groundfish Strategy will end in August. The federal government undertook this program because it was responsible for the collapse of groundfish stocks. These stocks have not yet recovered. The need for a replacement program for TAGS is clear. My Government will continue to press the federal government, once again, to accept its responsibility and institute quickly an appropriate replacement program for TAGS.

Components of this replacement program should include: early retirement; license buy-outs to reduce capacity in the harvesting sector; income replacement support; labour market adjustment measures, and; economic diversification.

Mr. Speaker and Members of the Honourable House of Assembly:

Fisheries and Aquaculture

The traditional sectors of our economy - fishery, forestry, and farming - have sustained us for hundreds of years. We must manage them carefully, to ensure they are conserved for succeeding generations, while maximising the wealth they can generate for our people today.

My Government has placed special emphasis on fisheries diversification, value-added initiatives, aquaculture development and quality assurance. In 1997, the export value of fish products approximated $575 million, driven by a healthy shellfish sector. Ten thousand people were employed in processing; another 10,000 worked in harvesting.

In the year ahead, My Government will pursue an aggressive fisheries development and diversification program, and expand quality assurance measures in partnership with industry.

My Government will act on the recommendation of the Task Force on Crab/Fish Price Settlement Mechanisms. For the first time in Newfoundland and Labrador's history, and for the first time in Canada's, a new partnership model will be used to reach agreements on fish prices without the use of strikes or lockouts.

This past year has seen the opening of the inshore-based northern shrimp fishery, a resource which has helped many of our communities severely impacted by the groundfish collapse. My Government has been firm in discussions with the Government of Canada that priority access to any further quota increases of northern shrimp off our coasts must be allocated to adjacent inshore harvesters. This new inshore fishery has the potential to generate in excess of $100 million annually.

Revitalisation of the sealing industry is a major objective of My Government, based on sustainable harvest and full utilization of the animal. Sealing continues to attract private sector investment in new value-added initiatives including the establishment of a modern tannery at Catalina.

The aquaculture industry is positioned to expand significantly over the next several years. Production is projected to increase from 1600 metric tonnes in 1997 to approximately 4000 tonnes in 1998. By the year 2000, aquaculture's export value could reach $40 million and provide employment for 900 people in rural areas of our Province. My Government has placed strong emphasis on research and development requirements, working with the private sector on strategic development of the aquaculture industry, and with the banking sector on meeting the industry's working needs.

A more sustainable fishery driven by private investment is emerging. My Government remains firmly committed to the revitalisation of the fishing industry given the critical role it plays in the economy of our Province, especially in our rural communities.

Forest Industries

Our forestry sector is a major contributor to our economy, employing 10,000 people directly and indirectly. Last year, the three pulp and paper mills at Corner Brook, Stephenville and Grand Falls produced 741,000 tonnes of newsprint, with an estimated market value of $576 million. This year, production is projected at 750,000 tonnes.

The past 10 years have seen $750 million invested in these mills, with an additional $60 million planned over the next year. These capital investments will further increase their competitive position in the world marketplace.

The sawmill industry is hitting record levels of production and expanding into value-added activity. Only a few years ago there was no export outside this Province. Now, our lumber is shipped to mainland Canada, the United States and Europe.


The agrifoods industry has the potential to grow significantly over the next five years, with industry developing domestic and global market opportunities and increasing its value-added capability. Agrifood companies continue to market their product successfully both inside and outside the Province. Over this year, My Government will implement an Agriculture Awareness Program to raise the profile of our home-grown products, and the opportunities which agriculture offers to rural communities.

Mr. Speaker and Members of the Honourable House of Assembly:


The groundfish moratorium has taught us that reliance on a single, or even a few, sources of wealth can lead to hardship. We must invest in new areas of growth that can offer our people prosperity.

The Cabot 500 Year was a hallmark for our tourism industry. The Far East of the Western World was cast in the spotlight, as we shared our culture, heritage and hospitality with the world. We demonstrated our ability to host a year-long celebration on a grand scale. My Government is committed to working with operators and industry leaders to translate the large increases in convention and tour activity into permanent, sustained growth for our tourism industry.

My Government will build confidently on the success of the Cabot 500 celebrations. Already, we are planning new events for 1999 and 2000. Soiree '99 is an invitation to our fellow Canadians and the world to celebrate Newfoundland and Labrador's first 50 years in Confederation, and our deep and lasting loyalty to this great country. The Viking 2000 Celebrations will showcase these early settlers to our shores and their settlement at L'Anse Aux Meadows, the only authentic Norse site in North America. And, as the first place in North America to enter the new millennium, we will use this opportunity to promote our Province with great vigour.

Information Technologies

Once extracted, our non-renewable resources, like minerals and petroleum, are gone. The talents of our people, however, are inexhaustible. Information technology provides an opportunity to create new wealth limited only by our imagination. Our I.T. industry now accounts for more than half a billion dollars in sales and 6,000 jobs in this Province. These companies reflect our spirit of entrepreneurship at its best and brightest. Newfoundland and Labrador companies are providing telecommunications to the Hibernia platform, digital marine charts to the Korean government, and health care technology to American hospitals, to name but a few.

Softworld 98 At the New World will host 750 senior executives and CEOs in St. John's at the information technology sector's premiere event of the year. Our local companies are working in concert to put our best foot forward this August, and My Government is working with them to maximise trade and partnering opportunities with participating companies from around the world.

Mr. Speaker and Members of the Honourable House of Assembly:

Aboriginal Issues

This past year, My Government has made significant progress in negotiating land claims settlements with the Innu and Inuit of Labrador. On November 5, 1997, an historic agreement was reached on major issues with the Labrador Inuit Association, and negotiators are proceeding well ahead of schedule on an Agreement-In-Principle. This agreement is as good as, if not better than, any other modern land claim agreement in Canada. My Government is also seeking to fast-track land claims negotiations with the Innu. These agreements will provide all parties with clear rules for future developments in Labrador, and give aboriginal communities the tools they need to progress.


In the coming Session, My Government will ask this House to consider significant reforms to strengthen our Province's environmental legislation. A new Environmental Protection Act will be presented to this Honourable House which will provide modern and flexible tools for effective management of our environment. My Government will seek the approval of this House for a Water Resources Act to protect and manage the waters of this Province. Finally, changes will be introduced to the Environmental Assessment Act to streamline the process and improve the protection it provides.

Mr. Speaker and Members of the Honourable House of Assembly:

Other Business

Our Province is well served by the volunteers of our Search and Rescue Units. In the coming Session, My Government will give them both the recognition they deserve and the resources they need to carry out their good work.

It is important to have a system of workers' compensation that is responsive, sustainable and provides an adequate level of benefits to injured workers. My Government has demonstrated its commitment to this by increasing benefits for the first thirty-nine weeks of an individual's workers' compensation claim from 75 per cent to 80 per cent, effective January 1, 1998. During the course of this Session, My Government will provide its overall response to the report of the Statutory Review Committee on the Workers' Compensation Act.

Consumer concerns over gasoline prices in this Province were heeded, and, in 1997, My Government appointed an independent consumer advocate to investigate. The resulting report, Gasoline Prices and the Public Interest, was released for public comment. My Government will take appropriate action during the course of this Session of the House.

The Select Committee to Review the Property and Casualty Insurance Industry in this province has conducted extensive consultations with industry groups and consumers and will be presenting its report. My Government will provide its response during this Session.

You will be asked in this Session to consider other legislation, with a view to their enactment. These will be tabled at the earliest possible opportunity so that members can properly prepare for the upcoming proceedings.

Mr. Speaker and Members of the Honourable House of Assembly:

We have been blessed with an abundance of resources. They must be used to secure a measure of decency and comfort to each and every one of our citizens. We must not falter from our duty. We must not be swept along by the momentum of megaprojects. We must catch the driving gale, and set our own course, a course that is fair and just.

The business of this House is the people's business. As Members of this House of Assembly, it is your responsibly to lead by example, and by deed. May you act with charity, mercy, benevolence, and wisdom in support of the common welfare. The people of Newfoundland and Labrador are owed the fruits of your industry and the benefit of your judgement. Let them look back on this Session as a time when both of these advanced our good society.

Mr. Speaker and Members of the Honourable House of Assembly:

Estimates of Expenditure will be laid before you in due course and you will be asked to grant supply to Her Majesty.

I invoke God's blessing upon you as you commence your labours in this Third Session of the Forty-Third General Assembly. May Divine Providence guide you in your deliberations.

His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor and the Vice-Regal party leave the Chamber.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, "An Act To Amend The Waste Material Disposal Act", Bill No. 1.

Motion, the hon. the Government House Leader to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The Waste Material Disposal Act", carried. ( Bill No. 1.)

On motion, Bill No. 1 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor has been pleased to make a speech to the members of this General Assembly, and for greater accuracy I have obtained a copy. Is it agreed that the speech be taken as read and that copies be distributed to members?


MR. SPEAKER: Agreed.

The hon. the Member for Port au Port.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, hon. Members of the House, I rise today to respond to the speech of His Honour welcoming members of this hon. House to begin the third session of the 43rd General Assembly.

Mr. Speaker, it will soon be some five years since the people of the District of Port au Port accorded me the distinct honour to represent them in this House of Assembly. It is an honour that I have tried to live up to, and tried to represent their wishes on a daily basis and to bring forward the issues that are of concern to them.

Mr. Speaker, as the Members of this Honourable House would know, the District of Port au Port is unique in the sense that it is the only bilingual district on the Island portion of the Province.

Je suis fière de Représenter le District de Port-Au-Port qui est un district bilingue. C'est une région de la Province où c'est possible d'entendre d'une facon regulière l'usage des deux langues officielles. Vu que la culture FranÇaise est une culture vivante à Terre Neuve, et du Labrador. Cela demontre l'importance pour chaque citoyen de Terre-Neuve et du Labrador de s'intéresser à l'unite de notre pays, le Canada.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I was recently concerned to read in a daily newspaper in this Province, a letter to the editor, that took exception to the fact that a new facility that is being constructed in Corner Brook, a city on the West Coast of this Province - someone had taken exception to the fact that French had in fact been used at a function in the new civic centre.

Mr. Speaker, I think all of us, as citizens of this great country and of this great Province, must always remember that French is an integral part of the history and reality of this country. It is an integral part also of the history and reality of this Province. In my district, Mr. Speaker, it's a part of living history and something in which all of us should take great pride.


MR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the Francophones of my district are grateful to this government for the support which it has shown to their cause; and I reference recent developments: the construction of the long awaited and lobbied for road link between the Francophone communities of Mainland and Cape St. George; also the construction of the French school and community centre at Mainland, which provides a centre for the promotion and preservation of the French language and culture in that unique part of our great Province.

Also, in the last session of the House the Legislation was passed which put in place the French School Board, a governing body to look after the French first language schools of this Province, to give the Francophones of the Province some authority and say in determining what would be taught to their children.

Mr. Speaker, the District of Port au Port, as historic as it is, is also well recognized for being an area that has been economically depressed for some time. Regrettably, we have not known prosperity since the close of the American Base in the mid-sixties. However, due to the resilience and persistence of the people of the area

the communities have continued to survive.

The workforce in that area are energetic and migratory and are travelling all over this great country to find work wherever they can; to our neighbouring provinces of P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and on to Ontario and out to Western Canada. But, Mr. Speaker, to a person, they long for the day when they will be able to live and work here in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, I see now, for the first time in many years, an air of optimism in my area of the Province. The people that I talk to feel there is a glimmer of hope.

The recent test fishery has shown that the cod stocks in that area of the Province are showing some promising signs of recovery. We are still working in that area, at the establishment of a plastics industry which can provide much needed employment for the people of that area. The aggregate operation at Lower Cove and the new interest in agri-tuna is certainly encouraging to all the people who live in that area of the Province.

Ski-Pine Tree, an effort by a young entrepreneur to establish a downhill ski facility in Port au Port, is really the sort of thing that I certainly like to see, to see young entrepreneurs who have the courage to take a chance to try to develop something that will not only benefit them but indeed will benefit the whole region. This and many other tourism initiatives I feel will certainly pay big dividends to the people of Port au Port and this Province down the road.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, the ongoing oil exploration which is a cause for such interest, not only in the district of Port au Port but indeed throughout the whole of this Province and this country. At the provincial level, the people in my district have cause to feel optimistic because they look at some of the major developments; they look at Hibernia and the other offshore activity. In fact, there are presently people from my district working offshore. They look at the potential of Voisey's Bay and they feel that there will be benefits there for them as well, and the recent announcement with regards to the Lower Churchill, a development, Mr. Speaker, which is being as well received in the district of Port au Port as indeed it is throughout the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. People in Port au Port, as elsewhere in the Province, have a strong feeling that things are looking up and that there are better days ahead for us all.

Mr. Speaker, in referring to the Speech from the Throne, there are a number of things that have been addressed there and there a number of things that are of particular interest to me. Education reform has been referenced in the Speech from the Throne which we have heard read here today. Reform will lead to an improved school system, not only for the children of my district of Port au Port but for all children throughout the Province. The objective of education reform is to put in place the best school system for all of our children. I too believe that the reform of our education system demonstrates that government is concentrating its energies on our children and their education. Mr. Speaker, our children, after all, is what educational reform is all about.

Mr. Speaker, it is widely recognized that there are many children in this Province who need assistance before they reach school age. In recent years I had the privilege of serving on a Select Committee of this House which travelled widely throughout the Province and looked at some of the difficulties that people were experiencing. In the report that this Committee produced, a number of child poverty issues were identified.

Mr. Speaker, not only is government committed to addressing child poverty through its own programs, it will also work closely with the federal government to reinvest the National Child Benefit in new initiatives which will help to alleviate child poverty and neglect. Education reform and the alleviation of child poverty are not the only concerns that I am pleased to hear addressed in today's Speech from the Throne.

The government's continued commitment to health care is good news for the people of this Province. It is important, Mr. Speaker, to improve physician and medical services in all areas of the Province and I am pleased that the government has acknowledged the value of physician services by providing additional funding for the recruitment and retention of rural physicians.

Mr. Speaker, I am especially happy to hear in the Speech from the Throne today that government will give Search and Rescue volunteers both the recognition they deserve and the resources they need to carry out their work. Such volunteers are essential in time of need. They are in the business of unselfishly saving lives, and I am pleased government will provide them with the tools they need to do so.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to acknowledge the presence in the gallery today of Mr. Harry Blackmore who is the provincial president of this body, and he is accompanied by a number of other representatives with him here today.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SMITH: I'm also pleased to hear, Mr. Speaker, of the government's commitment to rural revitalisation. The strategic plans of the regional economic development boards will help to identify development opportunities for the residents of the Province's twenty zones. Yes, these opportunities can provide a future for our young people in the rural communities of Port au Port and many other areas throughout the Province.

Residents in rural areas such as Piccadilly, Mainland, Cape St. George, and my home town of Lourdes, as well as residents in many other parts of this Province, will be glad to hear of government's commitment to revitalization of the fishing industry. Government must manage this resource carefully so that it is conserved for future generations.

I am pleased to hear that government will pursue an aggressive fisheries development and diversification program and act on the recommendations of the task force on crab fish price settlement mechanisms, in addition to committing to the revitalization of the sealing industry and aquaculture research and development.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, the Speech from the Throne that we have heard today addresses the concerns of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and demonstrates government's commitment to act on them. I, for one, agree with His Honour that we have good reason for optimism as we approach the new millennium.

Mr. Speaker, in conclusion, I would like to express gratitude to His Honour for his attendance here today, and I move that a Select Committee be appointed to draft an Address in Reply to the Gracious Speech from the Throne.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Torngat Mountains.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. ANDERSEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is certainly a privilege to stand before the House today to second the motion put forward by my colleague the Member for Port au Port.

Mr. Speaker, it is also a privilege to stand in the House of Assembly today to represent the riding of Torngat Mountains. Over the years, Torngat Mountains has come to be known as the riding that didn't fare too well when it came to a fair share. In 1996, I asked the people in the riding of Torngat Mountains for a mandate to work with a government which promised a better tomorrow. For just a few moments I would like to dwell on a better tomorrow that our government has given to the people in my riding.

Mr. Speaker, aboriginal parents, along with any other parents, agree that the first step to a good education is through a good and adequate school. For eighteen years the community of Rigolet has lobbied hard for a gymnasium. Our government responded by not just building a new gym in the community of Rigolet, but last spring a contract for $2.5 million was awarded to build an all-grade school complete with a gymnasium in the community of Rigolet.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. ANDERSEN: Mr. Speaker, concerned parents lobbied in Hopedale that the school was too old and it was a health hazard. Government responded by placing a tender for $4.7 million, and construction began last spring for an all-grade school in the community of Hopedale.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. ANDERSEN: Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, in the very near future a tender call will be made to construct an elementary school in the community of Nain. Our government is providing the aboriginal people in my riding with a good education and a better tomorrow.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. ANDERSEN: Mr. Speaker, our once proud fishery, the Labrador fishery, was lost, but yet, with the help of my colleague, the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, we began a new process of rebuilding the fishery. Mr. Speaker, I, along with the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, on a cold November night in the Town of Makkovik, went into the lunch room and seventy plant workers came and expressed their gratitude where we had opened a new crab plant, delighted at the employment and at the great outlook for a better tomorrow.

Mr. Speaker, the scallop fishery in Nain this past year, with help from the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture and with training programs from the Minister of Human Resources and Employment, increased its production in scallop 800-fold, providing employment for the people in my riding. A better tomorrow is in sight.

Mr. Speaker, the small community of Postville had often lobbied for a sawmill operation, and with the Government House Leader, the former Minister of Forest Resources at the time, and the present minister, we began a process. Mr. Speaker, last week, while I went through my riding, the community of Postville began a sawmill operation that will employ twenty to twenty-five (inaudible) jobs in that community.

Mr. Speaker, for years the Labrador Innuit Association was involved in land claims. Fast-track land claims were introduced by the hon. Premier of this Province. Fast-track negotiations were accepted by the Labrador Innuit Association. Last fall, an announcement outlining the basis for an agreement in principle was announced and, Mr. Speaker, today negotiators from both sides, the provincial government and LIA, agree that agreement in principle is in the very near future.

Mr. Speaker, we have seen development in communications. Working with NewTel, we have introduced a direct-dialling system into the communities of Rigolet and Nain and, for the first time, people are hooked up to the Internet, providing our schools with a better service than ever before.

Mr. Speaker, building our future: Since September, ten young people who have joined up or are joining the RCMP Aboriginal Cadet Development Program where they will do training in Regina Saskatchewan. Recently, Mr. Speaker, fourteen people have completed the Early Childhood Program that will be taught in the Inuktitut language along with their culture. Mr. Speaker, ten people in my riding are presently taking the two-year Social Work Diploma Program that will provide services to our communities that we never had before.

Mr. Speaker, this past Wednesday, I attended a youth symposium in the community of Postville where thirty young Aboriginal people had gathered. They gathered there, Mr. Speaker, to plan to develop their future and to provide a better tomorrow.

Mr. Speaker, I would be mistaken if I did not mention today that, within aboriginal communities there are social problems, severe social problems. But, Mr. Speaker, Aboriginal people today, working together with government and ourselves, realize that there are answers and Aboriginal people are playing a lead role.

Mr. Speaker, in the riding of Torngat Mountains, there lies Voisey's Bay, a major development for a have-not Province. Mr. Speaker, our government has addressed the people's issues in the riding of Torngat Mountains.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. ANDERSEN: Mr. Speaker, in February of 1996, 88 per cent of the community of Rigolet depended on social welfare and, Mr. Speaker, although the jobs that we have provided over the last year-and-a-half are not permanent and may not even be seasonal, we have dropped the social unemployment rate from 88 per cent to 3 per cent.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. ANDERSEN: Mr. Speaker, in the community of Postville, which most people had written off, we faced social services, welfare, of 73 per cent. Today, Mr. Speaker, we have brought it down to 2 per cent.

Mr. Speaker, there is no one who cares more for Labrador and the aboriginal people, there is no one who has a greater pride or passion, than I do. I am touched by His Honour's speech of the many things that will be done, not done with government, with Labrador, but done to help Labrador and its people.

Mr. Speaker, there is one industry that we have in Torngat Mountains just the same as in any other riding. It is our youth. The youth in the riding of Torngat Mountains are more powerful than the Upper and Lower Churchill Falls and Muskrat Falls, combined. They have more potential than Voisey's Bay. Mr. Speaker, at every good or bad point there has to be a turning point, and for any politician, or any mom and dad in this Province, who have seen the out-migration of our young people, there is a turning point. That turning point is in the riding of Torngat Mountains. Not only are our young people taking a lead role and getting an education; our young people are coming home.

Mr. Speaker, in conclusion, I would say it gives me great pleasure to second the motion put forward by my colleague, the Member for Port au Port. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House of Assembly over the next session to provide a brighter tomorrow for all people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I appreciate the response, certainly not only from my own members but from at least half the members on the opposite side of the House. If it is any indication, it should be an interesting caucus meeting tomorrow morning. Either my numbers will have improved, or my caucus will be asking me why I had such a response on the other side of the House.

Mr. Speaker, the Throne Speech is an opportunity from two points of view. It is an opportunity for the government to outline where their agenda is, where their agenda will be for the upcoming session of the House of Assembly. To that extent we have seen it. It is also government's obligation to paint a picture in terms of the optimism they share amongst themselves, or the optimism they hope the rest of the Province shares with themselves.

It is also, equally, an opportunity for myself, as Leader of the Opposition, to perform a critical role, an important role, a fundamental role, in terms of how this Assembly operates. It is an opportunity for me, as the Leader of the Opposition, to deal with the issues raised in the Throne Speech; not necessarily today in a very partisan way, because I don't believe that is the approach that should be used this afternoon. It is an opportunity to demonstrate clearly where the Official Opposition sees this Province going, what point in time we are at, and what challenges we face, and what we see and put forward to government where they should be.

Before I move on, it would be remiss of me not to welcome our special guests to the Chamber, certainly those people in the upper part of the Chamber, in the public gallery, to this Throne Speech starting off this sitting for the House of Assembly. In particular, I see a past premier who I would like to pay a special welcome to who is in the House today.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. E. BYRNE: I think it is important, irrespective of what party we come from, that the yoke and the burden of leadership - those who have served certainly understand fully the responsibilities that sit at one's table.

Let me say this. In the past five weeks I have had the good fortune and privilege to be in in excess of 100 communities in this Province, representing some thirty-four electoral districts. People are, in many ways, hopeful about the opportunities that exist with respect to our resource developments. They have no other choice but to be.

I want to deal with the Lower Churchill first. Our party has taken the view, based upon what we have only seen, that has come from government in terms of this information package, that at this point in time we are neither prepared to condemn this potential deal, because of the seriousness that it represents in terms of what ability we have to generate revenue, to create employment, the ability to provide the types of services that we want, but we also have taken the view, because we do not have all of the information... The details associated with that agreement, according to the Premier's own statements, have yet to be finalized. As a result of the situation that government finds itself in, in the point in time with respect to that deal, that we are not going to run up the flagpole and support it wholeheartedly yet either. Because if we did, if that was the approach that we adopted today, then we would not be doing our job for the people of this Province.

So we look forward, over the coming weeks in this Legislature, to probing, to asking fundamental questions with respect to that development, and it must be done. I have said publicly and I will say again in this Chamber, that this debate surrounding the Lower Churchill must take place in a non-partisan environment. It must take place ultimately with what, at the end of the day, this Province and its people will realize.

Every Premier since Confederation has looked at the enormous resource of the entire Churchill River system: the Upper Churchill, the Lower Churchill, with respect to Gull Island, Muskrat Falls, Lobstick. This Premier has been very fortunate because fate has provided him with an opportunity that was not provided to past premiers. Because of pressures in the marketplace outside of our country, because of pressures that have been put to bear upon the Province of Quebec and the country with respect to (inaudible) rights, this Premier has been provided with the opportunity, possibly, to bring some redress to the Upper Churchill contract which is a sore point for all of us. Without going into much detail, we are all aware of it; but it has also provided him and his government with an opportunity to advance the further development of the Churchill River system for all of our benefit.

I will close on this issue by saying that we look forward to the coming weeks in probing, as a Province: what Newfoundland and Labrador's financial obligations will be; what, in the long run of this project, the benefits will be - not only from an employment perspective but also from a revenue generation perspective - and what it means to the people of Labrador and to the people on the Island portion of our Province.

One final point, and I think that it cannot be understated whatsoever: the key component of this potential agreement is a transmission line to the Island portion of this Province. It cannot be overstated how important that is.

I commit today to members in this Chamber, and through the members in this Chamber to the public, that whatever it takes to ensure that a transmission line from the Labrador portion of the Province to the Island portion, to strengthen the hand of this Assembly to ensure that happens, I commit to do it, because ultimately that is what it will take.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, we have undergone, in the past decade, fundamental changes to the nature of our society and the nature of our economy, largely due to the fact of the collapse of the Northern cod. We looked today at what the fishery is today, and there are some good examples of the approach that has been taken. Certainly the approach with respect to crab processors, and those who are involved in the industry that was announced in the Throne Speech, is an example, I think, I say to the minister, of where we have to head in many directions. That we have to lay down the adversarial sort of approach and come together solidly, both labour and management, both employer and employee, in determining what is in our interest for the future, together as a group, is but one example.

It is a sad fact today that while we sit in this Chamber the value of the fishery and its resources to this Province, while it has increased immensely in total dollars, the wealth of that has been concentrated in far fewer hands. It is a sad fact today that there are at least twenty factory-freezer trawlers fishing off our coast. Some of those agreements allowing them to do that have been done by the federal government and, using their own words, allowing a resource to be utilized by those interests outside of Canada, because it was the federal government, in their own words, that said: Because those were parts of species that were in excess of Canada's needs.

I am looking forward to what the federal fisheries committee will release next week to give us a greater understanding, provide some further insight into actually what is taking place, because the perception may be that foreign overfishing has been resolved, but the reality is that it has not. This Chamber in this Legislature, in this session, must move forward in a unified fashion to redress and address that issue in another front.

Mr. Speaker, when we see within the Throne Speech government outlining what lies ahead for the oil and gas industry, it is because of the collapse of the groundfish that we must be further vigilant in seizing every opportunity for people of this Province. Success does not begin, I say to government, with the discovery of an oil well. It does not begin with yet future developments down the road. That is only a small part of it. Success has to be measured in each and every day.

Have we been vigilant enough to ensure that the appropriate and that the amount of technology transfer from this industry is occurring at a rate in which it should, so that at the end of the day the type of technology transfer that we should become experts in is allowed to happen, is promoted to happen and, at the end of the day, does in fact happen so that we are able, as a Province and as a people, to sell our expertise twenty years from now?

With respect to employment opportunities, have we seen the type of commitment to the spirit and the intent of the Atlantic Accord that should have been there in the last four to five years? The Atlantic Accord was put in place to ensure that the benefits, first consideration, be provided to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. The minister knows full well because we have talked about it publicly in this Chamber, we have spoken about it privately, but in the public debate he knows that has not occurred at the rate and at a time that it should have taken place. We have seen employment opportunities lost as a result of it.

I am looking forward to seeing what initiatives government will be putting in place, how vigilant they will be in terms of ensuring that the principles and the spirit of the Atlantic Accord are ensured and are put forward in a manner that maximises benefits for the people of this Province.

On the social side of what we are experiencing in this Province today, there was mention of the federal Budget. We did not see good news in the federal Budget when it comes to the health care system. I, like many people, was watching it, and I heard the Minister of Finance, Mr. Martin, indicate there would be $7 billion new dollars provided to health care in this Budget. The reality was that there was no new money provided for health care, because the spin that was put on it was that the $7 billion that he announced would be new money was in fact just $7 billion that government had committed not to cut from the system.

There is no new money that I know of today that is coming into the health care system, no new money whatsoever, and that is an extremely serious issue. I will have an opportunity to question the Premier with respect to health care and ask him, at a future point in time: Will he join the Premier of P.E.I., who wrote the Premier of Saskatchewan recently, who will be chairing the next First Ministers' Conference, to put health care as an issue on the agenda as a priority for not only this Province but for the remainder of the country? We will be looking forward to seeing what the Premier's response will be with respect to that.

With respect to post-secondary education, there was mention in the Throne Speech of the federal government's new Millennium Fund. It is important to put in check exactly what that will mean for this Province. That Millennium Fund will probably help about 6 per cent or 7 per cent of the student population in this Province. University tuition, private college tuition, has risen to the extent of some 250 per cent in the last seven to eight years. We have seen Memorial University, which is producing some of the highest-quality graduates in the country, in recent years, in particular last year, 41 per cent of its graduates last year ended up leaving the Province.

There is a question that must be asked. What type of society produces top-quality, world-renowned graduates from its post-secondary institutions but yet lets them leave to produce, provide, and create the wealth in other parts of the economy that they should be creating here? Out-migration amongst our young people, while every government has had to deal with it, has never been so acute, has never been so real.

Changes will not occur overnight, I understand that, but our ability to deal with it, our ability to provide a more accessible education, our ability to provide opportunities for our young people will, in fact, at the end of the day, define what type of society Newfoundland and Labrador will be in the next fifteen to twenty years. I look forward to seeing in the Budget what measures the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board will be introducing, and what government will be introducing, with respect to this issue.

When we talk about the child tax benefit with respect to the federal Budget, it is a fact today that the Government of Canada continues to tax, to the tune of $220 million per year, those people who are earning incomes of less than $10,000. If we wanted to see some real progress with respect to families who are in need of our support, maybe that would be one area, I would suggest to the Premier and to government, to talk to their federal counterparts about. Remove that burden of taxation on those people who are making $10,000 and less a year. A child tax benefit means very little on the one hand if taxes are being clawed out on that significant group of people.

The Throne Speech began and talked about educational reform. The post-referendum era on reform has taken up a significant amount of debate in this House. Certainly it is an issue more than any other, as I have said publicly before and in this House, that has taken up the time of this Legislature and members in it for the past four-and-a-half years. What people, I suspect, are waiting for now is: What will reform mean? Will it mean that somebody in Springdale and in Little Bay Islands, somebody who has children in Levels I, II or III, will be receiving the same number of courses as people in St. John's, Corner Brook, or Port aux Basques? That kids in Level III will have access to chemistry, biology, physics, mathematics, literature?

Will the same quality of education be provided in rural Newfoundland as it is being provided in urban Newfoundland? Will the same level of resources, as a result of reform, be provided so people can move into post-secondary institutions, all of the children in the Province, and young adults who are coming out of our system? Will they be moving in on an equal footing? Those are the questions that are on people's minds in Newfoundland and Labrador today.

With respect to employment, in 1989 there were 209,000 people gainfully employed in this Province. Today, nine years later, there are 192,000. Those are not my statistics. Those are the labour force statistics released from Stats Canada. The types of initiatives that not only provincially are being brought forward, but the type of environment that government attempts to re-create, or to create the environment for business to excel and provide opportunities, are of paramount importance. The unemployment rate has gone down in this Province not as a result of increased economic activity so much, but as a result of out-migration.

The town of Trepassey, a vibrant community ten years ago, now has a population 50 per cent less than it did in 1991. At the same time, of that decrease by 50 per cent, we see initiatives coming out of the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs expecting, demanding, municipal tax increases from a community that can ill afford to do so. It is an example of many communities around this Province, and it is an example of the fundamental restructuring that this Province is experiencing and going through.

I am not going to tie up the Legislature's time too long this afternoon, but I will want to close with some comments. As I see it, the role of government in any province, but the role of our government in particular today, is not to continue to spin out press releases about how wonderful things are, how wonderful things will be tomorrow, or about how the future is in our hands. While that is probably a necessary function of what we are supposed to do, the role of government is to roll up its shirtsleeves, to sit down and attack, to declare war on the fundamental issues that are stopping people from advancing in their lives, becoming freer with respect to the economy, providing opportunities and an opportunity in employment. The best social safety net that we, as legislators, could provide to the people of this Province, is a job; not a dependence upon EI, not a dependence upon social services, but a job that creates independence, a job that provides dignity, a job that provides some sense of self-worth. That is where we must head as a Province, and that is where we, in this Legislature, must head.

We stand as legislators and members of the House of Assembly today; a very historic time, I sense, for this Province. We stand on the shoulders of a long tradition. We have inherited in this Assembly all of the triumphs, all of the successes and all of the failures of past governments. We will continue to make some ourselves, have triumphs, successes and failures, but we must be ever vigilant in understanding where our past mistakes have been made, not making them again, for the sake of the people of this Province.

Mr. Speaker, let me conclude by saying this: That the role of the Opposition is two-fold. The role of the Opposition is to hold government accountable, to ensure that where government says it will move in a certain direction that provides benefits, that it in fact does. This Opposition will aggressively ensure and will aggressively ask questions of government, will aggressively attack issues that are of importance to the people of this Province and perform the ultimate role that we should perform in this House of Assembly.

The other role of the Opposition, and as a Party, is to provide an alternative, so that when the election is called, whenever that may be from the Premier's point of view, that the people of this Province have a clear alternative from which to choose; and to that end, we will also perform that task.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I will try and keep my comments today short in recognition of the fact that we have had so many eloquent statements already, including that in particular of His Honour, the Lieutenant-Governor, in his Speech from the Throne we have heard today, and of course, the wonderful addresses, several of them, those which have been made by the Member for Port au Port and the Member for Torngat Mountains. I congratulate, as well, the Leader of the Opposition on his remarks today, his first remarks as Leader of the Opposition in this place.

Mr. Speaker, may I say to my colleagues on this side of the House, to the Member for Port au Port and to the Member for Torngat Mountains, I thought in listening to them today that there was something terribly appropriate for Newfoundland and Labrador in 1998, as we creep up in the shadow of the next millennium; to have a Member from Port au Port address in both official languages and to have a member as well address us, who represents a district that is overwhelmingly Aboriginal in its make up, and for both to speak so eloquently on behalf of those whose voice perhaps is not often enough heard in this place and in the council's decision in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. I assure them both, as Premier of this government and as Leader on this side of the House, that the kinds of concerns, the kinds of worries, but more importantly - and this is indeed more important - the kind of potential they spoke to will be recognized and will be addressed in the decision-making process in the weeks and months and years ahead; and I thank you both for your address today.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I want to welcome the Leader of the Opposition to this Chamber. He has been here in other capacities, he is here today in a new capacity, and I know that I speak for all the members of this place, members on all sides, when I offer him sincere congratulations on his election as Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland and Labrador. I wish him well and I wish him every personal success as he carries out the vital role and the vital duties - the House Leader is anticipating the next part of my line - I wish him every personal success. May he carry on for a long time as Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Speaker, in this place. Of course, I don't wish him too much political -

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible)

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I promise all members opposite, this is a commitment I make to each and every successive Leader of the Opposition as they are brought forward.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I've been heckled by the Member for Ferryland, let the record show, and provoked to these comments.

Mr. Speaker, the role of the Opposition is a vital one in a parliamentary democracy. It is as important as indeed the role which is played by members on this side of the House. It is no less important. It is a role I have found myself in for most - the vast majority of my parliamentary career has been spent in the Opposition benches. I know full well the serious manner in which the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues approach scrutiny of the policy plans and directions of the government, and will reflect upon, seriously and soberly, the pronouncements today of His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor about both past performance of this government and future proposals made by this government.

Mr. Speaker, just a few words in response to the Leader of the Opposition. I recognize that our special guests today are members of the clergy, former Lieutenant-Governors - and we have three amongst us - special and distinguished guests, representatives of other countries who are here with us today; and of course my immediate predecessor who has built the foundation from which the recent glimpse of prosperity has begun to emerge. The former premier Clyde Wells is here today as well.

I don't want to keep them waiting too long, but the Leader of the Opposition has raised one or two matters and says that government must be held accountable. I want to welcome his remarks with respect to the recent Churchill River developments. I find this response by the Leader of the Opposition is a responsible one, and I find it appropriate, and I find it quite adequately recognizes the seriousness of the situation and the historical importance of these Churchill River developments.

I say to the Leader of the Opposition, it is absolutely appropriate that he should ask questions, and it absolutely vital that government should respond to each and every question that is raised. We will do our best both to respond to the Leader, to members of his party, and to all members of the public who put questions to us regarding these important developments. I say to the Leader of the Opposition, that I welcome by contrast with that of other party leaders the responsible approach he has taken before casting judgement on these important developments, and I applaud him for that today. I think that is the right approach.

I assure him this government is absolutely committed to these agreements we have negotiated. We believe in them, Mr. Speaker, and we know them to be right. They represent our best effort, they represent our best judgement. We wouldn't bring them forward for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador to consider, and we wouldn't bring them forward for the people of this Legislature to consider, had we not made our absolute best effort.

Mr. Speaker, we are aware, standing and sitting in this place, of the historical shadow that has enveloped the Churchill River development going back to the original Upper Churchill River contract. We know only too well how this contract has stolen from generations of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians a fair share of the value of the Upper Churchill. We know it is imperative now that we bring forward proposals for new development that seek in some small measure to redress previous harm and to secure in future a fairer share of the benefits of the resource that at the end of the day, indeed as it has been at the beginning of the day, is our resource.

Mr. Speaker, we feel so strongly about this proposal that if it is necessary - if it is necessary - I vow here and now we will put these proposals to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador for final ratification before we proceed.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I say to the Leader of the Opposition, it is right and fair that questions be asked. It is right and it is fair that due consideration be given before final judgements are made. And, Mr. Speaker, I believe that the Leader of the Opposition, when he considers all of the facts, will support these developments. I believe that, but I assure him that should it prove to be necessary to secure the confidence of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, this administration will not hesitate to put this question directly to the people for final judgement. Mr. Speaker, we will not sign and we will not commit the people of Newfoundland and Labrador until the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, if it is necessary, have given us the signing authority. Only then will Newfoundland and Labrador sign on the bottom line when it comes to another Churchill River development.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition has raised questions about oil and gas, about health care, about education, and I have full confidence that in the days ahead ministers will respond to each and every one of these questions in succession. Let me mention but one: health care. Let me say that this government has not hesitated to point out that we are disappointed that the most recent federal Budget has not reinvested additional funds in health care. We, on this side of the House, have said from Budget day - indeed before Budget day I raised this issue, the Minister of Health has raised this issue in the Council of Health Ministers from across Canada - we have said that Canada's health care system, if it is not provided additional funding, cannot be sustained. We have said that the Canada Health Care Act cannot be sustained. We have said that we are in danger in this country of evolving into a two-tier health care system, and that increasingly those of our citizens who can afford to go beyond the country for private health care, and those who can seek it and pay for it within the country, are doing so.

There is no question in our mind that the policy which has been promoted by some - promoted in the past by the leader of the Province of Ontario, promoted in the past by the leader of the Province of Alberta - that the federal government should simply vacate entirely health care; that the federal government should withdraw entirely from health care; that the provinces and provinces alone should determine the needs and quality of health care; that this policy is wrong and that the federal government must maintain its involvement and must maintain its financial commitment to health care if the quality of our health care system in this country is to remain available equally to all citizens, regardless of income.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition talked for a moment and offered advice, and this I appreciate, and I am sure he will offer more - I am not always sure I will appreciate it - about the role of government. I appreciate the advice he has offered today. Let me offer a word about the role of Opposition. Let me say this to the Leader of the Opposition. You said a moment ago that the role of Opposition is two-fold, essentially to hold accountable, to oppose, to question, to probe, etcetera. Then the Leader of the Opposition went on to say that the role of Opposition is also to be ready, and this is true; it is the role of Opposition to be ready. It is the role of Opposition to be ready to offer an alternative to the people of the Province, and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador should always, always, have an alternative available to them. They should never feel that the choice is not there. I know the Leader of the Opposition will take up that challenge, and I acknowledge that is indeed the correct interpretation of the Opposition role, but I say this to him, too: There is a need for leadership in this Province on both sides of the House, and leadership in 1998, as we approach the next millennium in Newfoundland and Labrador, is not to be found merely in the capacity to reflect upon or discover or shout from the rooftops on the size of our problems, on the size of our challenge.

Leadership, too, is to be found in reaching out and inspiring people to fulfil the size of our potential. For even as we have travelled a great distance since the collapse of our fishery in 1992, and even as we have suffered greatly in those years, even as we have borne the difficult decisions that Premier Wells and his administration brought forth to deal with that collapse, a collapse which has had an economic impact which has never been replicated anywhere else at any other time in Canadian history, even as we have gone through profound and painful change, so too have we renewed ourselves. We have rediscovered our capacity to reach down and to build new strengths. We have diversified into manufacturing, we have added value in our forestry sector, we have built a new fishery in the shellfish industry, we built a new IT sector, we have unleashed the entrepreneurship again of our people. We have taught ourselves that security is not to be found in an unemployment insurance cheque or a social assistance cheque, but security is to be found through our own fingertips, through our own hard work, through our own imagination, and we are rebuilding the confidence of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

I say to the Leader of the Opposition that the role, yes, is to hold accountable, and the role, yes, is to question and to probe, but the role, too, is to reach out and to inspire the better instincts and the stronger capabilities and the full potential of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. I say today, on his first day in his new capacity, that I hope he will join me in that latter duty to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that an address of thanks be presented to His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor in reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne with which he has been pleased to open the present session of the House of Assembly.

The members of the Select Committee will be the Member for Port au Port, the Member for Torngat Mountains, and the Member for St. John's West.

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


MR. SPEAKER: Against.

I declare the motion carried.


Notices of Motion


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. DICKS: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will on tomorrow move that the House resolve itself into Committee of the Whole on Supply to consider certain resolutions for the granting of Interim Supply to Her Majesty.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House adjourn until Monday, March 23, 1998, at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Before I put the motion, I want to remind members and guests here today that following the adjournment there will be a reception out in the main lobby of the building, and all are welcome to join us.

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