The House met at 9:00 a.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!


Statements by Ministers


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


MR. A. REID: If I thought Ed would publicly say he was a friend of mine again, I would apologize to him.

Mr. Speaker, as minister responsible for the Office of the Fire Commissioner, I wish to provide the House of Assembly with a status report relating to Wednesday's fire at the Come By Chance oil refinery. I have been assured that the appropriate actions to secure the site were immediately taken.

I wish to advise the House that a team of experts have now been assembled and are in the process of conducting a thorough investigation into the cause of Wednesday's fire at the Come By Chance oil refinery.

It is believed the fire started in the refinery's naphtha process heater. It is suspected that a tube inside the heater failed, releasing naphtha into the fire, causing an explosion. While the fire emitted a cloud of black smoke, it was brought under control by refinery forces within thirty minutes and it is not believed to have caused any damage to the environment. A community liaison committee is in place and will keep area residents advised with respect to environmental issues.

As hon. members are aware, three employees were injured. All three are male workers. They were taken to the Clarenville Hospital and later airlifted to the Health Sciences Centre where they are being treated at the burn unit. All three workers sustained varying degrees of burns to their bodies as a result of the serious accident. The latest report this morning, and it is not in the press release, is that one gentleman is still in very serious condition.

As well, I wish to express, on behalf of hon. members on both sides of the House, our deep concern to the families of these three gentlemen. We can only imagine what they must be going through. We would like the families to know that our thoughts and prayers are with you, and we understand and appreciate this difficult time you are going through.

It is my understanding the refinery management is doing everything possible to assist and accommodate the needs of the immediate families of the fire victims.

I wish to inform the House that Mr. Alison Tupper, a forensic engineer from Nova Scotia, arrived at the North Atlantic Refinery Company site yesterday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. Mr. Tupper, who has considerable experience in these matters, will assist in this investigation which is being conducted under the authority of the Fire Commissioner's Office in cooperation with the RCMP.

While this is a fire investigation, it is also very much a work safety related issue.

The Department of Environment and Labour has responsibility for workplace health and safety and the Department of Government Services and Lands is responsible for boiler vessel pressure inspections, and both departments will assist these other agencies in this investigation.

Environment and Labour will undertake a comprehensive investigation of this accident from an occupational health and safety perspective. The department will specifically look at safety policies, procedures, training and equipment, and the objective will be to determine if all efforts were made to ensure the safety and protection of workers at the refinery.

I do wish it to be known that regular inspections are conducted at this facility. In fact, a workplace health and safety inspector was in the process of conducting a safety inspection at the refinery at the time of the fire and explosion.

Government is confident that these agencies will conduct a thorough investigation. Their findings will provide relevant information relating to the cause of the fire and will, Mr. Speaker, address matters relating to safety practices and the environment.

Upon completion of this report, it will be government's intention to review all relevant findings with the refinery owners with a view to initiating whatever actions are deemed necessary to prevent any such future occurrences.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to thank the minister this morning for a copy of his statement.

We, too, Sir, as well as yourself - I know you mentioned it - and are very concerned about the health of the three workers who were injured.

I believe that over the last several years there have been other incidents at this particular refinery, and maybe it is time now that we sent in our own fire commissioner and our own people from the Department of Environment and Labour. Maybe it is time to go in there now and really do a first-rate analysis of that particular facility. I believe that time is here.

It is very unfortunate, I guess, that none of us on either side of this House realize that there is a problem, or that there could be a problem, until something goes wrong.

I think it is time now that we sent in our inspectors, a fire commissioner, and that we just not leave it to somebody coming in from Nova Scotia or wherever. I think that we should now go in ourselves and do a very thorough inspection on this particular facility, because I do believe that over the last few years there have been other incidents as well.

We can only hope and pray that the three people who were injured are certainly able to survive this and come back to good health.

Hopefully all of the proper safety guidelines are being followed, and I would ask not only the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs for the fire commissioner, but also the Minister of Environment and Labour, to make sure that these people go in there. They were getting ready to go in there, but now let's go in and really turn her upside down.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, last year, government, through the efforts of the former Minister of ITT, who is now the Minister of Mines and Energy, and the former Minister of Rural Development, who is now the Minister of ITT, targeted the telefilm industry as a new opportunity for economic growth with the establishment of the Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation. This is a relatively new sector of the provincial economy that offers potential to diversify our economic base, attract new investment and generate significant new jobs within the private sector. I will also note that the telefilm industry is highly labour intensive and that increased activity in this industry can benefit all areas of the Province.

Mr. Speaker, the telefilm industry is a very competitive business, both nationally and internationally, but it is also growing exponentially throughout the world. Other jurisdictions have effectively used their tax systems to stimulate economic and employment growth in this sector, and capture a share of the growing market for new entertainment products. For example, following the introduction of a tax credit program in Nova Scotia in 1996, film production activity increased dramatically in that province from approximately $15 million to $50 million in two short years.

It is for this reason that Government has decided to introduce a film tax credit program and is seeking the advice of the Film Development Corporation and industry on the most effective approach. I might say, that I believe Mr. Danny Williams, a well known Conservative in the Province, was in the newspaper this morning praising our efforts in this regard.

Mr. Speaker, It seems we have a real problem with leadership in the PC party.... The objective is to structure a program that will encourage additional private sector investment in this industry, strengthen the financial capability of local film production companies, and stimulate and sustain new activity and jobs in the industry. To ensure the benefits of any new tax incentive program directly accrued to the people of this Province, government favours an approach that will link any tax incentive received to the actual level of local employment achieved by any individual film production company. In other words, greater tax benefits would be earned by a company as they employ more Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and as they increase their local payroll generally.

Mr. Speaker, I have asked the Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation and my own officials to give this initiative top priority attention and through appropriate consultations with industry, advise government of the most effective program possible so that we can bring forward legislation on this initiative as soon as possible this year, hopefully before the spring is out, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

There is no doubt that this is good news; I mean, this is something that we are heading into, but I say to the minister that the film industry is nothing new to this Province. We can remember such films as `The Rowdy Man' on the West Coast some years ago and it became sort of famous and `Orca', that was done in Petty Harbour - I think it was done there.

MR. J. BYRNE: And Middle Cove - Outer Cove.

MR. SHELLEY: (Inaudible) done where?

MR. FITZGERALD: In Tickle Cove.

MR. SHELLEY: In Tickle Cove? So, Mr. Speaker, it is not new, it is something that should be encouraged in this Province; there is no doubt about that, Mr. Speaker. Also, I have talked to the minister a few times about it and it is, of course, increasing business for the film industry and it employs people. It can be very labour-intensive when it comes into a community and God knows we have lots of places around Newfoundland for good scenes, especially when it comes to movies like `Orca' and others like that.

But, Mr. Speaker, there is no problem, I would say, in this particular industry to find actors in this Province and we could probably use some of our own also. I do encourage this. I know that Nova Scotia has taken that lead and we are following them. It is something that holds great potential for this Province and we look forward to some great movies being done here in this Province in the near future.

Thank you.

Oral Questions


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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions today are for the Minister of Health.

The Auditor General's Report has indicated many areas of poor management where control of the public purse seems to be in jeopardy. In questions to the minister on Tuesday, I made reference to the Western Memorial Board where they are not even in a position to be able to do an accreditation survey because it is in shambles; no records since 1995 and so on and financial statements.

Now, further examples of this mismanagement seem to be emerging and I want to ask the minister: Would she explain, why, in the transfer of the Child Welfare Program to the community health board that this program will not be transferred to the Western and Labrador Boards at the same time as it will be transferred to other health boards here in the Province?

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

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

Well, I think the member has outlined some of the very reasons. Obviously, as a government we are very concerned and we want to make sure that things are working very well. We have concern about the financial management, we are looking to put good, financial management controls in place in these particular boards and that is the very reason, Mr. Speaker, because we are concerned and as a government, we want to ensure when we create this new department, that we have all the balances and checks that we need, in place, to make sure that it runs very smoothly.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I take it, from what the minister is saying, that the reason you are not transferring it now is because the management is not in place and they are not capable of taking on that responsibility now. Could the minister clarify that?

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

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

No, that is your assumption. I would say to the member across the House, that is your assumption, that is not what I said. What I said was that we are putting in place - it has been made quite clear, Mr. Speaker, from the Auditor General's statement that the financial audited statements for Western in particular, are still not completed. We have one in draft for last year and we have this year's coming within the next couple of weeks.

Mr. Speaker, we see the creation of the new Department of Health and Community Services as one that is extremely important and we want to make sure that we have all the checks and balances in place to do what we need to do. That is why, Mr. Speaker, it is no reflection on the management that is there currently. What we are doing is ensuring that they have good, sound, financial management systems in place, as do some of the other boards, through very strong computerized systems. In fact, Mr. Speaker, some of our other boards are working very closely in the spirit of assistance to make sure that this is possible. That is the reason, Mr. Speaker, because we care and we want to make sure that it is done properly.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister, you are transferring child welfare to all boards in the Province except the Western and Labrador. Why are not Western and the Labrador board receiving it? Is it because they do not have that efficient management now and you are working on it? Could you tell us why some are receiving child welfare and others are not?

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

MS J. M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, it is the same question and the answer is the same. We have put in place the ability to, this time - just so that the member understands what is happening and I think it is important because I really do not think he does understand what is happening on April 1. On April 1, Mr. Speaker, this year is the beginning of the new Department of Health and Community Services. Employees will continue to work in their same areas. There will be no shifting of offices. This year is really an administrative change. The employees previously of the Department of Human Resources and Employment, now, as of April 1, Mr. Speaker, will become the employees of the Department of Health and Community Services. They will report to the boards, but administratively in these two boards, until we have the good financial management systems in place that we feel are necessary to make sure this particular department needs to get a good start, we are taking every precaution. Quite frankly, Mr. Speaker, I would think the member across the way would applaud us for making sure these checks and balances are in place.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS J. M. AYLWARD: I am quite concerned, Mr. Speaker, that he would think we would do anything less.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We are planning for a year for child welfare to be taken over by community health boards, and as of April 1, boards in this Province are not ready to take on that task. The minister stated that in her fact sheet, accompanying the Budget on yesterday.

Now, after this year of planning, I ask the minister: Why is it not happening? Is it due to poor planning, is it due to an execution of those plans, or the inability of boards to take on these new duties? There is chaos in the system, I say to the minister. Now tell us why it is not happening.

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

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, I think it is important today for the people of the Province to hear what the member across the way is saying about our volunteer boards which are working very hard to deliver the services in our Province. I will not admit they are in chaos, Mr. Speaker, because I value the work they are doing and I appreciate the commitment they have to their communities.

Mr. Speaker, I do not believe, for one minute, that he thinks that transferring services over to create a new department is as simple as a year's process. It shows his lack of understanding of the depth, Mr. Speaker, of what we are trying to do. I would happy to brief him at any time.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I think it is an excellent time to brief the entire public who will be hearing answers to my questions in Question Period, I say to the minister. That would be where we would like to hear it.

Minister, there are numerous instances of inefficiencies in the Auditor General's Report - ineffective management, poor accountability in spending - and we do not have health boards ready to take over child welfare. There is chaos in the system, I say to the minister. She knows it, even though she will not admit it.

Now, I ask her: What does this say - the minister tries to talk about volunteer boards. Volunteer people appointed by the minister may be doing their best. That is not what we are complaining about. Why is the system not ready to take on these new responsibilities, I ask the minister? Is she aware of this display of weak management at the board level here, and what is she doing, what plans does she have, at the operational level to do something about it? Has she put forth a certain strategy and plans at that level?

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

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

I do think it is important to take a minute in Question Period to give some information so that the member has a better understanding of what is happening. Because you know, Mr. Speaker, this was something that was made very clear as a direction we should follow, in a Select Committee that the previous House Leader sat on, and actually urged us to move in this direction.

In addition to that, the Select Committee on Children's Interests, the classroom issues report, and more recently our own staff and managers, advised us that this was the proper way to proceed, and we are proceeding. We are proceeding carefully and slowly. We spent a full year in the administrative planning which we have completed. We, this year, just for your information, are not putting our legislative responsibility for child welfare to the boards. We, as a government, will maintain legislative responsibility and accountability for that department.

There will be legislation coming into this House on our child and youth services' piece where he will be able to express these concerns and any others. I think it is important for me to say that I will not in any way say that our boards are in chaos. I will not downgrade what the management have done, and I will support the staff and the boards in the very important work, because it was their decision to promote change. While change might be difficult for this member, for our staff in the system, for this government, we embrace change, and we are working with the people to do it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: I can tell the minister, I am a lot more accustomed to change than she is!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: The St. John's regional health board, the Eastern, the Central, are all ready to take on the responsibility, and Western and Labrador are not, I say to the minister. Minister, re-organization was supposed to achieve efficiencies in management and administration and an improved quality of health care. That is what was supposed to happen.

I ask the minister, in light of the inefficiencies in management at the institution - and I might add, at the board level by members appointed by the minister - has the minister looked at any other structures for management of our health care system, and if so, what are they?

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

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

I think it is important to say, first of all, so that we all understand, I believe from what I am hearing from the member across the way is that we should put child welfare and family rehabilitation services with the boards even though they are experiencing some financial difficulty with respect to administration. I think that is really shameful, if that is what we are hearing.

We have identified, and I have spoken to this issue before, we will be putting in place - you are talking about new management? No, we are not looking at new management structures. You know the management structure we are looking at for the Western region. We are looking at a team of three people: a chief executive officer, a chief operating officer, and a chief financial officer. That is what we are looking at there. One of the things we will be doing is that we will be putting in much tighter monitoring systems, and we have discussed this with many of our boards already, when we meet with them to go over their budgets now that our Budget has been released.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Finally the minister answered what I asked. She said that we are not going to push child welfare on health boards that are having financial problems, that are not capable of taking it on. That is what she said. You can read Hansard on Monday to see that.

In light of the inability, I say to the minister, of those boards to take on those responsibilities, I ask the minister: What active measures are you now taking, and what particular management structure are you looking at now, to correct those inefficiencies or inabilities in the boards you have appointed, Minister?

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

MS J. M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, the member is trying to put words in my mouth. I have said that I will not put down our management. What I said was that we need to firm up our financial administration, and that is not reflective of the managers. I am not going to go on record and tear down the managers in the system. In fact, Mr. Speaker, I give them every credit for working in our system and doing this type of service they do on our behalf.

What I will say, Mr. Speaker, is that as a government we will act responsibly, we will not put the additional responsibilities in place until we have secured the ability to do sound financial management of these boards, in particular.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions today are for the Minister of Education.

Mr. Speaker, forgetting the pomp and pageantry of yesterday's Budget speech, some two years ago now, the Minister of Finance stood in the House during Budget debate and talked about the three-year commitment to Memorial University. We thought that was a good idea. We had three years consistency, something that would be stable for Memorial University as it went through this process. The intent was good, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to ask the minister today about that three-year commitment. Does he think that that is adequate with the reports coming from Memorial on their budget crunch? Is he addressing the problems that are facing Memorial today?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I appreciate the question, particularly a first question from my new critic for post-secondary, and understanding that they have split it on that side, because I guess there are a lot of issues that are important in education. I do understand, as well, that the former critic for Education, who used to handle primary, elementary, secondary and post-secondary still wants the job back.

Mr. Speaker, I understand as well that the critic has some extra time to spend in his office, because he is getting part of the salary that used to be paid to the education critic, when he was the Opposition House Leader. Now, the two of them are splitting the money so that they have more time to spend in the office straightening things out.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the minister to get to his answer.

MR. GRIMES: Mr. Speaker, if we follow the order, I would fully expect that the next question will come from the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, because those are the only three people over there getting paid.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. GRIMES: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

We have had regular and repeated meetings with the representatives of Memorial University, both the Chair of the Board of Regents and the President of the University. Mr. Speaker, there is no question that the university itself very much appreciated the fact that three years ago, even, Mr. Speaker, before the current Minister of Finance last year in the Budget came up, the first time in the history of the Province, with a three-year fiscal framework for the Province - prior to that, Memorial University was the only and first institution whereby we had given them an opportunity to have three-year firm budgets, so they could plan what would happen in our only university in Newfoundland and Labrador, over that particular planning cycle.

They praised the government for it at the time. As a matter of fact, the one constant request that they would make of us is that, if it is at all possible we enter into another two, three, four or longer period planning cycle with them, so that they would make plans into the future. They fully expect to be able to handle everything that they need to do in the university, because they have had a full three years to put in place the kinds of changes and adjustments that would have been needed over that time. The final phase of that will play itself out in this next fiscal year.

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

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I understand why the announcement on the film industries this morning, because the minister just did his first acting job.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, it is true and the minister knows full well, and that is why I asked the question here today. We do - and I said in the beginning - agree with the concept and the whole idea and rationale behind a three-year commitment, so that Memorial can get on year-by-year and make their plans and so on.

Is it not true, Mr. Speaker - and the minister knows - that for 1996-1997 the government fell $1 million short on their commitment, in 1997-1998 they fell at least $2 million short, and for 1998-1999 they are going to fall another $1.5 million behind?

We know, as the reports come out of the university - I was talking to them as late as this morning, Mr. Speaker - that there could be a $7 million deficit down there this year.

Isn't it true that you are $4 million short on that commitment? Will the minister admit that the truth is, the commitment by government has fallen short by $4 million and put Memorial in a budget crisis for this year?

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

MR. GRIMES: No, Mr. Speaker. The answer is absolutely, positively, unequivocally, no. The fact of the matter is, every cent that was promised to the university with respect to its operating budgets over the three-year cycle has been provided to the university.

Not only that, Mr. Speaker, the other thing that the university has done, in a very bold and creative initiative that the government supports fully, to deal with some of its capital needs as well as some of its needs for students on the scholarship, bursaries, fellowship side, was to work at getting private monies invested into the university through the Opportunity Fund. The government, Mr. Speaker, agreed to match the university dollar for dollar up to a $50 million fund.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. GRIMES: Now, Mr. Speaker, maybe the hon. member opposite does not know or does not understand that the Opportunity Fund has absolutely nothing to do with annual operations of the university. It is a special fund, Mr. Speaker, designed to build new facilities at the university that they otherwise could not build; because they are going to attract, over a five- or six-year period, some $25 million from private investment sources. They have had great success to date.

In the last year, Mr. Speaker, they attracted another $3 million, which is why the Minister of Finance announced yesterday that the government will pay another $3 million to the university for the Opportunity Fund because they have had that level of success from the private sector.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to take his seat.

The hon. the Member for Baie Verte.

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

You did the right thing by calling him to order because he is rambling on, and he is walking right into exactly what my third question is, Mr. Speaker. I do know all about the Opportunity Fund, I say to the minister. The truth is, for every dollar, that was a commitment by your government.

Mr. Speaker, what they really did: they have not only broken their commitment on budgetary by some $4 million; they have also broken their commitment to the Opportunity Fund. That is exactly what you have done, because what you dragged back on the budgetary - and the minister should admit this today - the truth is, what they put into the Opportunity Fund they have dragged back on their budgetary.

Will the minister admit today that they have broken actually two commitments: your three-year commitment on budgetary, and you have broken your commitment to the Opportunity Fund. That is the real truth of this; you robbed Peter to pay Paul. That is the truth of it, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Again, Mr. Speaker, the only thing I can do is to invite the hon. member to check again with the president of the university, the chair of the Board of Regents, the vice-president of finance at the university. The university understands, and to my knowledge will completely and totally confirm, that what the government committed in a three-year planning cycle in operational funds to the university has been paid in full every year exactly as committed.

Secondly, Mr. Speaker, the arrangements with respect to the Opportunity Fund, which initially started as a five-year cycle, we have had discussions with the university and they have agreed to the payment schedule that is currently in place. The government has not robbed anybody to pay anybody. They have paid the university, agreed to bargain for, suggested, budgeted for, amounts both for normal annual operations and also for the Opportunity Fund. I have no idea, Mr. Speaker, why the hon. member is trying to suggest anything different than that.

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

MR. SHELLEY: I am not suggesting anything, Mr. Speaker. I am just stating the fact to the minister that they have broken two commitments: one on budgetary, of some $4 million over the last three years, and the Opportunity Fund. They slid money into the Opportunity Fund and they took it from the budgetary commitment.

Mr. Speaker, Memorial University has already stated - and they are having more meetings on Monday, as the minister knows. I have just spoken to people at Memorial this morning. Mr. William Davidson, Memorial's Acting Dean of Science, said that the budget has been sliced by some $42 million in recent years. How many years, I am not sure. Maybe the minister can tell us when he stands this time. He also says: The question is, how did we get into this mess? The question is really for the Province to answer.

Mr. Speaker, can the minister tell us how far back they have gone? Why is Memorial in the mess they find themselves in today, some $42 million short?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The only thing I can clearly suggest, Mr. Speaker, it is obvious on the other side of the House, with their new arrangement with respect to payments for the members who are now asking questions, that they have robbed Harvey to pay Loyola and Paul. Mr. Speaker, I do not know about the rest of it -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. minister knows the proper way to address members of the House. I want to bring his attention to that.

MR. GRIMES: I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. My apologies, Mr. Speaker, and I hope that Hansard would not only show that I apologized but might even delete from Hansard altogether the previous sentence that I used, because I know it should not be there. Mr. Speaker, I apologize.

With respect to that, Mr. Speaker, again there are matters that are being discussed internally, within the university, with respect to meeting their budget targets for next year. However, the amount of money that the government committed to Memorial University for the fiscal year beginning on April 1 is exactly what they were told three years ago.

The amount of money, Mr. Speaker, that the government committed to the university for this fiscal year, which ends next Tuesday, is exactly what we committed. The amount of money that the university received the year before for operations, from the government, is exactly and precisely what was pronounced and announced in the Budget on Budget Day. So, Mr. Speaker, I have no idea what the hon. member opposite is talking about.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question this morning is to the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal.

Minister, in yesterday's Budget I was surprised and shocked not to hear any reference to the people who are coming off the TAGS program, especially the thousands of people who have already been removed from this program. All it stated was that government hopes Ottawa will step in with a replacement initiative.

Mr. Speaker, we are hearing all kinds of signals from Ottawa. Some ministers are saying we are going to have a post-TAGS program; some ministers are not too sure; some ministers are sure that we are not going to have one.

Minister, in view of the fact that if we do not have a post-TAGS program it will bestow, I suppose, a problem on this Province that will turn this whole Budget upside down. I ask the minister if he has some sort of commitment from Ottawa that there will be a post-TAGS program?

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, let me just say to the hon. gentleman that as soon as Ottawa lives up to its responsibility, as we have been saying to them that they should, and as soon as they decide that they cannot handle this in a regular program way, let me say to the hon. gentleman that he will be one of the first to know. He will not be the first to know, but he will be one of the first.

Now, Mr. Speaker, let me say to the hon. gentleman that we on this side of the Legislature will take off our hat to nobody or we will bow to nobody when it comes to -

MR. J. BYRNE: (Inaudible).

MR. TULK: Get some air and go look for a leadership.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, if the hon. gentleman will quieten down, I will try to answer a very sincere question on the other side of the House. Can you keep them quiet down there, Rog?

Mr. Speaker, let me say to the hon. gentleman that we will continue to impress upon Ottawa that it is their responsibility for the thousands of people; that the national governments, including federal Liberal and PC governments, have destroyed a resource; that we will continue to impress upon them that we will not bow to anybody when it comes to representing the fisherpersons and the fish-plant workers in this Province. We will bow to nobody, and we will continue to keep the pressure on Ottawa to see that an appropriate program is put in place.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister, the recently released Harrigan Report estimates the end of TAGS will throw 4,000 people on to social assistance immediately if there is no post-TAGS. TAGS mean a quarter-of-a-billion dollars a year for our economy.

I ask the minister: How will we replace that quarter-of-a-billion dollars? And how will we pay to support our people if Ottawa washes its hands of its responsibility?

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, let me say to the hon. gentleman that Ottawa, the federal government, the national government, has constitutional jurisdiction for fisheries management in this country, and successive national governments have mismanaged that fishery.

Mr. Speaker, yes, we realise full well, as the Minister of Finance said in his Budget yesterday, that there will be a loss of some $200 million to the provincial economy. We realize full well that it will be the same as shutting down three paper mills. Outside of TAGS it will mean the loss of some 1,600 jobs in this Province.

We realize all those things, Mr. Speaker, and that is the reason we have said to Ottawa: You have to put a program in place here that shows you are accepting the responsibility for destroying what should be a sustainable year-round resource. That is the reason why we will continue to impress upon them that it has to be done sooner rather than later, that we cannot go on much longer in this Province without letting our people know.

We realize the tremendous stress our people are under in this Province. We will continue to impress upon all federal ministers, all federal parties, and everybody -

AN HON. MEMBER: You have had meetings.

MR. TULK: We have had some meetings in Ottawa in which we have pointed out to people the necessity of doing this, and we will continue to have those. We will continue to work with the unions and, I say to the hon. gentleman, we will continue to work him, if he so desires, to see indeed that our people are taken care of.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Minister, on page 31 of The Economy 1998 document tabled yesterday with the Budget, the government projects further out-migration from rural communities to urban centres, and from this Province to the mainland, producing a further population decline in excess of 9,000, on top of the record out-migration we have seen to date. Minister, is this part of your plan, to have more people leave this Province? Is that what Ottawa and this government's plan is, to have people leave this Province in answer to a post-TAGS program?

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I do not want to use - no, I will not use - the word stupid. What a question for the hon. gentleman to put forward. I don't believe there is one Newfoundlander, I don't believe there is one member of this House, including the hon. gentleman or anybody else, who wants to see one Newfoundlander and Labradorian leave this Province. That is the reason we have put in place some of the things that we have put in place. I will list them off for him. I gave the hon. gentleman on the other side I think it was some three or four pages, which he didn't read, last spring, I tabled for him, initiatives that we are trying to undertake in this Province to create some employment.

Mr. Speaker, am I allowed to use the word asinine? What an asinine question, to stand in this House and ask if the government of this Province wishes to see people leave this Province. Does the hon. gentleman not know that for every person who stays in this Province we collect some $7,000 from Ottawa in equalization payments? Where would be the sense? What a stupid, asinine question to ask.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The time for Oral Questions has elapsed.


Notices of Motion


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

MR. G. REID: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that on tomorrow I shall ask leave to introduce the following resolution:

WHEREAS the recovery of the fishery is slower than expected and foreign quota reallocations are not the solution; and

WHEREAS families and communities in Newfoundland and Labrador are in crisis, and independent, objective reviews of the impact of the groundfish closures, including the Harrigan Report and the Baker Report, clearly appreciate the enormous impact on rural areas of the Province; and

WHEREAS a continuation of TAGS in its current form is not a solution, and regular programming is unable to address the problem;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that this House of Assembly calls upon the federal government to accept its responsibility and put in place a well structured and substantive response program to replace TAGS, which includes: income replacement, economic diversification, employment adjustment and training linked to job opportunities, early retirement options for older workers, and a licence buy-back program.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!




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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to present a petition on behalf of residents in my district pertaining to the Goulds bypass road. I will just highlight some of the reasons why it is important to have the Goulds bypass road done as expeditiously as possible. The area in our district is increasing in tourism potential. Some people are spending in the millions of dollars in investment in the district, and the transportation network in the Province, to drive through a main street through the Goulds area, is hindering and hampering the normal transportation of goods and services through that area.

Mr. Speaker, a few `Whereases' here highlight some of the concerns of people in the area. It says:

WHEREAS significant opportunities for the development of the region are contingent on completion of the Goulds bypass road; and

WHEREAS the viability of our communities and the businesses is depended upon adequate transportation infrastructure that allows our region access to the opportunities and markets of the capital region; and

WHEREAS the growth of our communities is closely related to the ability of our citizens to commute and to work within a reasonable time each day over highways that are in good condition; and

WHEREAS the financial resources to begin the Goulds bypass road are identified under the Canada-Newfoundland Transportation Initiative...

I might add, Mr. Speaker, a commitment by the department has already by made that it will be done within the time frame set down. A letter from the minister, writing to that effect, indicated that it will be done, and the people feel it should be done sooner rather than later.

There is a tremendous increase in tourism in that area, a tremendous increase, and one of the complaints we get is that when they drive from St. John's to a Goulds area in traffic, it takes about forty minutes just to drive from that part of the City of St. John's in traffic hours. You leave Confederation Building and get to the south end of the Goulds, you are looking at a forty-minute drive in heavy traffic through street lights and so on here through the city. The Goulds portion takes up about fifteen minutes of that time, from Kilbride to the Goulds area. A Goulds bypass road would enable that to be done in a matter of a couple of minutes.

Also, one area that really has not come up in discussion: I guess, overall, if you look at the Avalon region here, the bottleneck, in terms of a disaster in the area in planning, it has been said that the only southern route out of this particular area here, in case of some major disaster - there is offshore oil, there are numerous areas - is a southern access to the district through the Witless Bay Line area, and that would further... In fact, the plan in the future, I would say, would be a bypass road to take it right up to the Witless Bay Line. That would really improve the flow of traffic here into the City of St. John's and out of the City of St. John's, and would open up a whole new opportunity for business activity in Bay Bulls area, Witless Bay, that are communities in spite of the downturn in fishery.

These communities are maintaining growth, small marginal increase in growth, in those areas there. They are close enough to the city not to be hampered by the downturn in the fishery. I might add, these communities have had slight increases in population, but getting to the City of St. John's from Bay Bulls, to have to drive and take fifty minutes to get to work from Bay Bulls, is not acceptable when it is right on our doorstep.

Other parts of the Province have had an opportunity to be able to have better access. It entices business into the area. There are people who commute and work in the area there, here in the City of St. John's. There are businesses that traverse those highways on an ongoing basis.

Not only is it a bottleneck from a traffic congestion. The condition, really, of the entire road itself is in bad need over all of basically a resurfacing of the area.

It is important that measures be taken to expedite the Goulds bypass road. It is a process that has been identified from day one. Under the Roads for Rail Agreement it has been identified. The amount to do it has been adjusted over the course for the last several years, I think, from $6 million up to $10 million.

We realize the commitment is there to do it, but the question is: When? We do not really want to see it put off any longer. The year 2000 or 2003 - we are looking at five years' time before we can really reap the benefits of a transportation system. Why should people living outside the city have to drive through what is really a Water Street, from Bay Bulls Big Pond, right in here to the Confederation Building?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. H. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise today to support the petition put forward by the hon. Member for Ferryland.

Mr. Speaker, I am somewhat familiar with the situation. Many years ago when the planning began for this particular bypass road, it used to be called the Goulds bifurcation road. The word `bifurcation' is not a common word, but it does mean a road that is essentially an access, or a road almost like an arterial road. That road, in the literature, was intended of course to go to the eastern extreme of the City of Mount Pearl, go across the agricultural lands, and then go down to the Southern Shore.

The planning for this particular road began in the mid-seventies, so this concept is indeed not very new. It is been planned now for well over twenty years, and it can be identified in the literature for that length of time.

Mr. Speaker, it has been deemed appropriate by the regional planning offices, including those of the Department of Works, Services and Transportation and the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, that this road is an integral part of the transportation system in the St. John's - Mount Pearl region.

Mr. Speaker, we know that there have been some opportunities lost in development in the Southern Shore because this road is not there, and we know that if there is an area of this Province where we need to be encouraging development, it is along the Southern Shore where the economy as been devastated by the decline in the fishery.

Mr. Speaker, when we commit to this road we are talking about the viability of the communities. Any of us who have had occasion to drive down to the Southern Shore, and from time to time I do drive down there - nearly every week, in fact, because I have friends in the Tors Cove Area -, and I can tell you that from the time you leave the Mount Pearl area to get down there, a very short distance, you will find yourself consuming an awful lot of time. When I am driving it is generally in the evenings or on weekends; however, if you are doing this every morning you will soon learn that this road, this bypass road, is an essential feature of the future transportation networks in this region.

As the member who presented the petition said, funding has been allocated under the Canada-Newfoundland Transportation Initiative. We need to start moving ahead so that the people who have to travel the existing routes every day will have better access to the capital city, and better access to what essentially are the commercial marketplaces, better access to their places of employment, and that we will be able to decrease some of the traffic problems, and also for the sake of the pedestrians who have to walk on the Goulds road now. We know it is narrow. It has not been upgraded in the sense of having curbs and gutters, and extended to four lanes, and that kind of thing.

We, on this side of the House, want to support the petition and ask the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation if he will cause new initiatives to be taken to have the Goulds bypass road work, shall we say, speeded up so that people can see concrete action and know something more definite in terms of the guidelines as to when construction will actually start.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I really cannot disagree with much of the commentary that was put forward by the hon. Member for Ferryland or the Member for Waterford Valley in support of the petition.

The Goulds bypass project was identified in the Roads for Rail Agreement. It is still in the program, as I shared with the member on a number of occasions and also with a group of mayors and councillors from that area last fall. I can only say to him that it needs to be done, and we will start it at the earliest possible moment.

To put it in some context, I suppose, we have a number of pieces of road in the Province that are being funded and cash-flowed over a number of years under that Roads for Rail Agreement. As a result of starting projects in Conception Bay North, Conception Bay South, the Pasadena area, and the Outer Ring Road, four major pieces of road I could refer to, as a result of starting these many years ago and doing them in a piecemeal fashion, which to some extent they have to be done because of engineering requirements and that sort of thing, we still have not completed any of these projects and gotten any value in terms of using them.

This year we are concentrating heavily, as I have indicated, on the Outer Ring Road bed that has been done from Kenmount Road to Allandale, and possibly onto the Cove Road. We expect we will be able to use that this year so that people from the Southern Shore, people from the Goulds, people from Mount Pearl, people coming in over the Trans-Canada Highway from out of town, will be able to get on that road and have much easier and quicker access to this end of the city.

Once we have completed that project this year, then we can turn our attention to the rest of the Outer Ring Road, of course, and also to some of the other projects that are not started. So in saying all that, I am simply re-affirming for the member what I have already told him. The fact we may be starting it a year or two later than he would like to see the bypass road in the Goulds started does not mean it will be finished any later. The truth in fact is this, that the Goulds bypass road will be available for people to travel on and use just as quickly as if we had started it two or three years ago and strung it out over a longer construction time frame.

There is also another piece of road coming from the east end of the Southern Shore and the Goulds area coming this way, and that is the east-west arterial, the bifurcation road. That is not even yet funded, or we have not identified funding for that, and that is another integral artery in terms of linking and making transportation simpler going from west to east, north to south, in the city.

I simply want to assure the people of the Southern Shore and the people of the Goulds and the members who have spoken that we will be commencing the Goulds bypass portion of the Roads for Rail Agreement project as soon as we can get moving on it, and once we have completed, to the point of being able to use some of the other major projects that are still, for want of a better word, sort of in slings in terms of not being up to a point of being able to be trafficked.

We understand his concern and we give him a commitment, we give a reassurance, that the project is on. Hopefully next year this time we may be able to say something more positive or more affirmative regarding that project. It is not in this year's project, and that is disappointing for the people, I know, but the good news is that it is a prioritized project in terms of Roads for Rail Agreement and it will be done very soon.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Before I recognize the hon. the Member for St. John's West I want to take the opportunity to welcome thirty Levels II and III democracy students from Bishop O'Neill Collegiate in Brigus, in the District of Harbour Main-Whitbourne, accompanied by teachers, Mr. Steve Hurley and Mr. Mike Flynn.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS S. OSBORNE: Mr. Speaker, I have a petition today on behalf of retired public service people.

The petition of the undersigned residents of Newfoundland:

WHEREAS many public service pensioners who spent a lifetime contributing to their society are now slipping deeper and deeper into poverty;

WHEREFORE your petitioners urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to ensure public service pensioners receive a raise in their pensions whenever public servants receive a raise in pay, and to reverse the policy of clawing back Canada Pension Plan benefits from public service pensioners.

Represented in this petition, Mr. Speaker, are people who have worked all their lives depending on their pension to be there for them when they retired. They have been reduced to an average of $11,000 a year - that is an average of $11,000 a year. Many of our retired pensioners receive much less than that. They are living below the poverty line. The Minister of Finance and Treasury Board the other day said that the amount that pensioners received was directly related to their years of service.

I have a letter from a seventy-year-old widow who worked for thirty years for the civil service and she is now receiving $1,000 a month. This is after thirty years of service and if the amount of pension they receive is directly related to the years of service than how much less are some of our pensioners receiving?

We have other people who worked for this government and who have been phased out. They anticipated working until retirement and like many of us who anticipate that you will be working until your retirement year, you assume financial responsibilities but then you come into work some morning and you are called in and told: I am sorry, your services are no longer required. But when their services are no longer required this does not reduce their financial responsibility. So we have people who are middle-aged. It is not that easy for them to get another job and now they are living on a fixed income of a pension which is well below what they were receiving, and this pension is not indexed to the cost of living.

Unfortunately, back in 1997, this government bought into or sold out when they took on the HST. The Minister of Finance said yesterday it was the largest tax cut in many years. You ask the retired person whose light bill or heat bill has gone up by thirty or forty dollars a month, if they consider that to be a tax cut. This government continues to turn a deaf ear to these people and leaves them out there living at or below the poverty line.

So it is on their behalf today that I present this petition in the hope that the government will have another look at what we are doing with our retired pensioners.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I am happy to stand in the House today and support this petition. Many of the public service pensioners, Mr. Speaker, are seniors and some of these people are single seniors living on their own with less than $11,000 pension coming in. Many of these people, who are on public pension, are well below the poverty line. With the implementation of the HST last year, not only are they below the poverty line but they are also forced to pay a higher percentage of tax on their home heating fuel, on their electricity and what have you. Mr. Speaker, these public service pensioners deserve a raise, as do the public service workers. The public service pensioners have not had a raise since 1989. The cost of living, however, since 1989, has increased substantially.

Mr. Speaker, if we continue in this House, to treat our seniors and our pensioners the way we have been treating them, maybe they will take the example of the young people in our Province and leave the Province. Out-migration in this Province is bad enough as it is with the young people. At least we have our seniors sticking around for the time-being. We cannot afford to lose our seniors through out-migration as well because the cost of living in Newfoundland is perhaps higher than it is in many other provinces and other cities throughout the country.

Mr. Speaker, the other thing that is disturbing about this is the fact that we were hoping, in the Budget announcement yesterday, that there would be some hope, some glimmer of hope for seniors in this Province. If there were a tax break or a rebate on HST or some sort of hope for our seniors through the Budget announcement yesterday maybe we could have lived with and eased up on the issue of the public service pensions but that was not delivered in yesterday's Budget. This government not only blatantly disregard the youth, but now they are blatantly disregarding the seniors and the public service pensioners in our Province. Therefore, I am proud and happy to support our public service pensioners, and we will continue to fight for our public service pensioners and the seniors in our Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


Orders of the Day


On motion, that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole on Supply. Mr. Speaker left the Chair.


Committee of the Whole


CHAIR (Mr. Oldford): Order, please!

We are resuming the debate on Bill 2.

The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I would just like to take a few minutes today to talk about the bill on Interim Supply, to talk about some of the things that are certainly not in it.

I am, first of all, going to mention again the pensioners from the Civil Service. As late as yesterday afternoon I had somebody visit my home who was having a very difficult time surviving on the amount of pension that the lady receives. Yet, we have chosen not to really do anything for these particular people in this Province. Mr. Chairman, I think that is wrong. I think we should have assisted these people. As we see from yesterday's Budget, there is absolutely nothing to assist them.

As well, Mr. Chairman, the Auditor General's Report, on the Newfoundland Liquor Corporation. A year ago, in committee in this very House one night, I asked some questions concerning the Chairman of the Newfoundland Liquor Corporation. I asked what his contract was, I asked how he was hired, and I asked how many days he had worked in the first six months of his employment with the Newfoundland Liquor Corporation. I was told by the Minister of Finance at that particular point in time that I would receive an answer from him in writing. It is now a year later, Mr. Chairman, and I am still waiting for that reply.

There are very interesting stories circulating concerning the Chairman of the Newfoundland Liquor Corporation, and how many days he actually worked in the first six months of his employment. It is very interesting, with the salary that I understand he is being paid and for the amount of time and energy that he has put in. I would think that being paid such a massive amount of money, he should spend more time in his job and less time on the golf course. Now, I realize, of course, he was a political appointment.

I asked those questions and I never, ever got an answer. Pretty soon I will ask them in the House, because I have not forgotten it. I would say to my colleague, the Member for Humber East, every once in a while he comes awake. Something twigs his interest over there and he wakes up. He has been sitting here for two years and it is only into this session that we realize he could actually speak. Mr. Chairman, that he actually speaks once in a while.

AN HON. MEMBER: It is just like the (inaudible) every once in a while he lets out a squeal.

MR. FRENCH: That is right. Every once in a while he has something to say and that is great, and he will certainly have opportunity in this debate and every other debate to get up and talk and say whatever he wishes. But for right now I do not play golf, I have no interest. In my sporting world, I am strictly a softball fellow but I have lots of friends who play golf and love the game, by the way. I am a softball builder. Golf is a great sport for those who play it; I am certainly not knocking it. I have family and friends who play quite a bit and love it. They get out every chance they get but, they get out when they are not working, I say to the member, they get out when they are not working.

Another thing, Mr. Chairman, I would like to touch on today is Memorial University. Why, why in the name of goodness the Auditor General is not permitted to go in to Memorial University, for one member in this House, myself, I cannot understand. Because, if ever there was an institution in this Province where the Auditor General should go and should investigate and should look into interest-free loans, given to people who earn the highest kind of salaries, interest-free loans, cars, bonuses -

We have students who are coming out of Memorial University owing $40,000, $50,000 and $60,000 and yet, the Auditor General of this Province cannot go into Memorial University to do an audit, and that to me, Mr. Chairman, is nothing short of ridiculous. It is the people's money, it is the money of the taxpayers of this Province, it is our money as taxpayers, and the Auditor General of this Province, if there is one institution where she should have the right to go, it is Memorial University.

When you hear the stories of things that have been imported, the lay of the ground in there, you hear stories of the bonuses - I do not know if they are true or if they are not, but I would love for the Auditor General of this Province to be given the opportunity to go into Memorial University and really go through, as the Auditor General has the right to go through, the books of that particular institution.

In education in this Province, we spend one of the largest amounts of money and yet, we have an institution that receives millions and millions of dollars from this government to run its affairs and the Auditor General who is our watch dog, all of us in this House, cannot go in there and do an audit on that particular institution and I for one, Mr. Chairman, wonder why. What is there to hide? Maybe, there is nothing but let us give the Auditor General the right to go in there.

We have parents in this Province who are helping their sons and daughters go to university, and we have people going to university who are going through on student loans and so on. They will come out at the end of the day owing a fortune and yet, the Auditor General in this Province cannot go in there and I think we, as the law-makers in this Province should be ashamed of the fact that we do not allow the Auditor General to go into Memorial University. It is nothing short, Mr. Chairman, of ridiculous that we cannot go in there.

I think, in this session of the House, either by private member's resolution, from the Minister of Education or from somebody on the government side, we should see a change in the Act which allows the Auditor General of Newfoundland and Labrador to go into Memorial University and do an audit as only that department can do on that particular institution.

The recipients, yesterday, of social assistance must be jumping up and down in this Province. I know, Mr. Chairman, you have them in your district, I have them in mine. They must be walking on water this morning with the dollar-and-sixty-two cent raise. Hardly a down payment, Mr. Chairman, on two packages of gum. Just imagine, what an insult! You would not buy two bottles of Pepsi Cola, unless you could find a place where it was on special. Just imagine, a big massive raise we gave social assistance recipients in this Province. What a raise! What a boost! How much more food it is going to put on their table! What a job we did yesterday. How proud we must be - a standing ovation. What an insult, Mr. Chairman! What an insult to a lot of these people who are below the poverty line. What an insult! So again, here is another area we should be looking at, another area we should certainly be doing something about, but we are doing nothing, absolutely nothing to assist these people.

Another area - I am going to have somebody check this - that I did not hear anything on in yesterday's Budget was the fact that there is no treatment centre in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador for young people who are addicted to drugs. There is no facility in this Province. There are facilities in Nova Scotia, there are facilities in Ontario and so on but there are no facilities in this Province where we can send people who are addicted, for treatment. There is a program at the Janeway and I guess if you really wanted to you could have your son or daughter arrested and detained or you could have them admitted to the Waterford Hospital but with regard to an institution in this Province -

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

Does the member have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. FRENCH: Just a minute to clue up, Mr. Chairman, thank you.

But again, I think that is an area that we should get into. Over the next several months, Mr. Chairman, as this House sits, I am going to have a lot more to say on that particular incidence because it is time that we again, as lawmakers and politicians, did something for some of the young people in this Province who so badly need this particular treatment. I have been involved with a case from my own district which is nothing short of a horror story, Mr. Chairman. But we have absolutely nothing in this Province to help those people.

I thank you very much, Sir, for your time.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. DECKER: Mr. Chairman, I am going to say a few words, probably as much for the benefit of the students from the Democracy class as for the members in the House. As all members in the House know, for the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador we are approaching the end of the year. The year ends on March 31, and of course we are not going out on that evening and celebrating a New Year's Eve but we are celebrating in a way. We are celebrating a brand new Budget which the Minister of Finance tabled in this House yesterday. One of the best Budgets that I have seen since I have been here from 1985.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DECKER: Among all the good things which the Budget put forward, it is significant that we have turned, we have turned a point. It is quite a difference from 1989, I can tell you, when we opened the books of this Province and saw the mess it was in. It was quite a difference yesterday, and we have turned around, Mr. Chairman.

We are approaching the end of the year. The new Budget has been tabled, but what is going to happen -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) you are not running again. And here we are, we might have the shoes on -

MR. DECKER: I might have to run again, there is so much pressure on me, Mr. Chairman.


MR. DECKER: Look, if those gentlemen do not have anything better to do, we could probably line up a leadership for one of the Liberal parties in Manitoba, Alberta or P.E.I. If they have nothing to do we could certainly arrange something like that. We have some vacancies and we could take them.

Mr. Chairman, the government is about to run out of money. March 31 we will not have any money. We have spent all the money this House voted to government last year, and until we get permission to spend our new Budget we are not going to have any money. The process we are going through now is that we are asking the House to give to the government enough money, to use a Newfoundland phrase, to tide us over until we get approval for the new Budget.

The new Budget is somewhere in the vicinity of $3 billion, I think it is $3.2 billion. We will be asking the House of Assembly to give it to the government so that we can run the affairs of the Province as we have been doing in a very prudent, very responsible manner, for the last number of years. As hon. members could probably help me, normally it would take us until well into June before we get the approval to spend from the new $3.2 billion. What do we do in the meantime?

March 31 we are out of money. We do not get the new Budget approved until sometime in June, so what do we do in the interim? We come to the House and we ask the elected members, who represent the people of the Province, to grant us Interim Supply. We are asking for $1,010,089,200. On the back of this sheet - I would say to students, they should get a copy of the Orders of the Day - there is a breakdown of what we are going to spend that money on.

For example, the Department of Finance and Treasury Board needs $11,985,200 to tide that department over until the new Budget is approved. Let us look at the Department of Education. They have to pay teachers' salaries. They need $212,674,600. If this House of Assembly by March 31 does not grant to the Department of Education that $212 million, the teachers who today are accompanying the students here will not get paid. There will be no money. The government will not have a cent to pay those teachers.

The teachers on April 1 - unless, as many of them will, many of them would turn up, I suppose, without pay, but they do not have to. So if the House does not grant this Interim Supply the teachers will not be paid on Wednesday, April 1.


MR. DECKER: I am not attributing fault or blame, I am just outlining the facts. If on March 31 that money is not granted, the school bus contractors will not get paid in the interim. There will be no money to pay the school bus contractors.

AN HON. MEMBER: Will you get paid?

MR. DECKER: No, Mr. Chairman, I will not get paid, and the former Leader of the Opposition will not get paid. These are the facts of life.

Sometimes Oppositions have been known to delay the Interim Supply bill. This Opposition is a very responsible Opposition and they would not do that. There have been times when I have seen, even in my mandate - I have been here until twelve o'clock in the night trying to beg the Opposition to stop using tactics, to stop using procedure, to delay the implementation of the Interim Supply Bill. That is not going to happen this year. We know the Opposition is very responsible. I think the teachers can be quite satisfied to know that this Interim Supply Bill will pass. I have no reason to think that it will not. I am reasonably certain that with our new Leader, and even with the former Leader of the Opposition, they were very responsible, very concerned, about the people of the Province, Mr. Chairman.

So, I just want to say these few words, to remind ourselves and to remind our visiting students of the process that we are going through. This Interim Supply Bill will pass through the Committee of the House, assuming the members vote for it, or the majority vote for it. After it goes to the House, then we go back into the full session of the House and put it through second and third readings, and finally it is signed by the Lieutenant-Governor. If all that happens, on March 31 -

MR. J. BYRNE: If! If!

MR. DECKER: I don't like the tone of my colleague across the way saying, `if, if', unless he knows something I do not know.

If all goes well by March 31, hopefully this afternoon, we could have the Interim Supply Bill passed and everything will continue as normal. The senior citizens will get their money they get from the Province; the social service recipients will get the money that they get from the government; teachers, MHAs, Ministers of the Crown, we all will continue to get our pay.

If, however, for some reason, somebody on this side of the House or that side of the House, were not to allow government to have this bit of money to tide us over, then it certainly would be very, very drastic for the Province. I do not think that will happen, I am certain that will not happen, but I just raise the flag in case someone did not want to grant that money to government to carry on their affairs.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

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

Well, what an opportunity to get up this morning to speak to the students in the gallery and give them a real lesson in reality here in the House of Assembly, I say to you, Mr. Chairman.

We had the Minister of Justice up talking about holding the Opposition accountable, I suppose, just in case this Interim Supply Bill does not go through this House by March 31. What a joke, Mr. Chairman! Here they are, looking for $ 1 billion dollars, 30 per cent of the Budget, to go ahead and spend willy-nilly, whatever way they want to spend, Mr. Chairman, and put it on our shoulders, that if the House says they don't approve it today, we are the bad guys.

Mr. Chairman, and to the students in the gallery, here is the reality: That this House of Assembly closed on December 18, after sitting for thirty-six hours straight, that we were here on this side of the House fighting for the people of this Province, when they were trying to rush legislation through the House of Assembly just before Christmas. And now, a couple of days before March 31 - it is only this past week that this House of Assembly really opened to get down to business.

We should have been here three weeks ago, a month ago, two months ago, Mr. Chairman. We could have had the Budget come down weeks ago and we could be discussing the Budget, not Interim Supply. Fifty-five days for the whole year last year, Mr. Chairman, fifty-five days this House of Assembly sat last year, the shortest sitting in years and years and years.

Now we have the Minister of Justice over there trying to put pressure on the Opposition, saying it is our fault if the teachers and the civil servants do not get paid. The reality is, Mr. Chairman, that it is the government, Cabinet really, not even the backbenchers over there, the Cabinet, all the people you see sitting in the front rows right there, or all the people you don't see sitting in the front rows today, Mr. Chairman - they are the ones who are responsible for bringing this Interim Supply Bill before the House merely days before the fiscal Budget year for the government ends. That is what is going on today. And the Minister of Justice has the audacity to get up and say it is our fault if this does not go through the House.

Now, Mr. Chairman, I was quite prepared, as a member representing the people of my district, to support the Interim Supply Bill and to make sure that it got through this House of Assembly by March 31. I was quite prepared, but now I am going to have a little chat with some of my caucus here, some of my colleagues on this side of the House, to see if we should let it go through the House of Assembly, and I will tell you why we have to reconsider. The reason we have to reconsider, Mr. Chairman, is, after looking at the Budget that came down in the House of Assembly yesterday, the trickery of this Budget, and this morning - it was not announced in the Budget yesterday by the Minister of Finance, that we are going to see another hundred civil servants go. That was already announced. We do not see them announcing the negative parts of anything that goes on in the Province.

PREMIER TOBIN: A point of order, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR: A point of order, the hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: I want to remind the hon. Member, that if indeed the Opposition does not grant Interim Supply that means that the government will stop functioning, it means that all of the government public services will be shut down, it means that we will be ground to a halt, and it will mean that the only way to break the dead lock, possibly, would be to go back to the people of the Province and seek a new mandate. I want the member opposite to realize that.

CHAIR: Order, please!

There is no point of order.

MR. J. BYRNE: Here we see the Premier of this Province standing in his place today and talking about: If we do not allow this Interim Supply to go through, the functioning of the government may come to a halt. Now, Mr. Chairman, what a statement to make. What way is the government functioning anyway? Only a few days before March 31, they come to the House and try to get us to force something through, as they do every year, try and get us to sit here all night long.

With respect to an election: The Premier is threatening that all the time. I am sure it is on his mind. These polls are ongoing all the time, and the Premier governors this Province by polls, not by what is right and what is wrong, but what he is told to do in the polls; not like the previous man who sat in that chair. He said whatever was on his mind, right or wrong. He went full steam ahead and did it anyway; not like this Premier.

With respect to an election, Mr. Premier: I have no worries, myself personally. You, yourself, have told me about the polls in my district. I never had a poll done in my district in five years and I am not planning on having one done, Mr. Chairman.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Well, there you go! So, don't be threatening me with an election. I have no problems, I say to you, Mr. Chairman.

Back to the Interim Supply Bill, Mr. Chairman: We had the Minister of Finance announce today that there will be another 100 civil servants let go, but I have to address that concern, Mr. Chairman. I was one of the first here five years ago to speak about the morale in the civil service, and it is all because of these types of threats and what have you, that you either take your seven percent or you get nothing, as the Minister of Finance has said negotiating in the media, which is not very right; it is morally wrong in my opinion, Mr. Chairman. We have those types of tactics going on in this administration.

The Interim Bill is a bill, Mr. Chairman, that has to be approved by March 31. As I said, I have problems with the Budget and I am going to have some discussions with my colleagues on this side of the House to see if we should let this go through before March 31.

MR. DECKER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Chairman, we have the Minister of Justice in his place there saying that I am going to refuse to pay people, the civil servants. All I said was that I am going to have some discussions with my colleagues and see if we should or should not approve it. Now I am not saying we are and I am not saying we are not. Get that straight, I say to the Minister of Justice. You have to understand that we have to be very responsible, as you yourself said we are, and look at the Budget in terms of the Interim Supply.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. J. BYRNE: There you go. Mr. Chairman, that is a prime example. I am speaking to the government House members. Mr. Chairman, here is a prime example. Listen to this: Here is a prime example. We saw the Minister of Justice get up and the students could not understand a word he said; completely confused. When I got up and spoke four or five paragraphs, whatever the case may be, they understood everything that was going on in the House of Assembly, needed to know no more, and they decided to leave. I congratulate myself. Mr. Chairman, I did an excellent job in informing the students from Brigus, I believe, on how the House of Assembly operates, Mr. Chairman.

AN HON. MEMBER: Now, back to the main issue.

MR. J. BYRNE: Back to the main issue. Thank you, Member for Humber East. The Member for Humber East does speak, and sometimes - I will not give him a compliment. I refuse to give him a compliment.

I wanted to talk about the situation with the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board this morning - members on that side of the House are trying to distract me - with respect to the 100 people who will be laid off. I have a problem with that. I have mentioned this to a number of people in passing, and that is: We had hundreds and hundreds of people laid off from the civil service since this Administration took place. We could see in the corridors of Confederation Building that the numbers were getting fewer and fewer. But, within the past six months or so I see many new faces in Confederation Building. I am just curious where those people are coming from.

Are all these people who are being employed now within the civil service coming through the Public Service Commission? Are all these jobs being advertised, and the people going through the civil service commission, three recommendations to the minister, and they are hired? Is that the process being followed now? We normally now hear the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, every time he gets up to make an announcement, saying, with respect to any tenders that have gone through the system, the proper tendering procedures were followed. The minister makes a point of saying that, and I wonder why he always says that. I won't get into the reasons why I believe he says it, but there has to be a reason why he says that.

I want to know if all the people who are being hired in the civil service in this Province, all the new faces that are in this building and in other government offices throughout the Province, are all coming through the proper channels, I say to the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation. I don't know. It is just a curiosity that I have, and some people have mentioned it to me.

When we came into this House of Assembly this morning, we had someone playing a little joke, I suppose. They had a little picture on our desks over here of our former Leader of the PC Party nationally, and they made a little comment. It was taken in good fun, and all that type of stuff. Here is the question I have to ask.

We have a situation in this country today where we almost lost the country. I will give the Premier a compliment. I am not going to give him too many, I can tell you that. With respect to acting out the role as `Captain Canada' last year with respect to the referendum in Quebec, he played his part, he stood up for the country, and he does stand up for the country. I grant him that. We all do on this side of the House, I would say, Mr. Chairman.

We have a situation today in this country that is very serious. There are separatists in Quebec, we all know that, and now we have the Prime Minister of this country who put the pressure, as far as I am concerned, on the former Leader of the PC Party nationally, Mr. Jean Charest. We had people in Quebec putting the pressure on him. We had people all across this country putting pressure on him, and I would imagine the Premier had a chat with the Leader of the PC Party last week - I know he did - to ask him to leave the national scene and go to the provincial scene in Quebec.

Now, if I were on that side of the House I would be so embarrassed to say that the Prime Minister of the country, who is a Liberal by the way, could do nothing to help save the situation. We have Paul Martin who brings down his fancy Budget -

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. J. BYRNE: - almost as bad as the one that was brought down yesterday, provincially -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Paul Martin can do nothing about it. They had to beg the former Leader of the PC Party to lead the Liberals in Quebec. I, personally, can understand the situation. There are a lot of people out there who cannot fathom that in Quebec there is a separatist and a federalist population, Mr. Chairman. So they had -

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. J. BYRNE: By leave!

CHAIR: Does the member have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: There is a separatist and a federalist population in Quebec, and they are begging the former Leader of the PC Party to take over. Hopefully he can do what they are hoping he can do.

With respect, Mr. Chairman, to the situation in this Province here, we have a Leader here of whom we are quite proud. We will see this man sitting on that side of the House over there in the next election.

Mr. Chairman, to be sitting, thirty-six members on that side of the House, with a Liberal government in Ottawa, and to have to come to the PC Party of Canada to help save this country, says a lot about what is going on in this country today. We have no leaders in Ottawa, that is the problem. The only leader we had is now gone to Quebec to try and save the country.

PREMIER TOBIN: He was the leader of the fifth party.

MR. J. BYRNE: He was the leader of the fifth party, and why did you have to go to the leader of the fifth party, I say to the Premier? He is one of the ones who begged, begged him to go. His future is to save the country.

If you noticed, by the way, on television last night, on Channel 20, when they had the big sign up on the back - what did they have on the back? Jean Charest. In red, Jean, J-e-a-n. In big blue letters, Charest, to save the country. That is what is on the go. He is a PC at heart and he always will be. He will be the man -

MR. NOEL: (Inaudible) taking him out of Ottawa.

MR. J. BYRNE: Now, did you ever hear such a foolish statement in your life?

MR. SHELLEY: What did he say?

MR. J. BYRNE: The member over there for Virginia Waters saying that they are taking him out of Ottawa to save the country; not to have him in Ottawa to save the country. Now, the Premier, your leader, the man that you bow to, and the Prime Minister of the country, the man that the Premier bows to, begged him to go to Quebec.

So, are you now contradicting the Premier of the Province and the Prime Minister of the country?


MR. J. BYRNE: Well, for the Member for Virginia Waters to contradict the Premier, it is not the first time and it won't be the last time, I am sure.

The other point that needs to be made with respect to the PC Party, of course, Mr. Chairman, is: In this Province today we have, on that side of the House - I can start naming names, I suppose. Well, I can't name names. In the last election we had - and I am proud of this, let me tell you - the Premier of the Province and members on that side of the House contact every member who was sitting on this side of the House at the time and beg them to run for the Liberals. There was one person, Mr. Chairman, they didn't contact and ask to run for the Liberals. Who do you think it was? The Member for Cape St. Francis. They knew there was no point whatsoever to try. Mr. Chairman, two years ago they were trying to raid the PC Party, trying to rape the PC Party two years ago provincially. They couldn't do anything here on this side, so they went to Ottawa, Mr. Chairman.

PREMIER TOBIN: On a point of order, Mr. Chairman.

MR. J. BYRNE: No point of order!

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. the Premier, on a point of order.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Chairman, I want to make it clear, because I know the hon. member is on a roll and he is having a difficult day, accepting the fact that Mr. Charest's future is as a Liberal.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TULK: He has recognized that -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) point of order.

PREMIER TOBIN: Let me finish my point.

He has recognized that his past, as a Tory, Mr. Chairman, leading the fifth party in Ottawa, obviously is not worthy of the particular talents and skills that Mr. Charest has, and the great contribution he can make - I know my hon. friend opposite would agree with me - the great contribution that he can make for Canada, which is more important than any partisan or political consideration.

Mr. Chairman, I have to say, for the record - and members opposite, of course, can verify this - that I contacted nobody sitting on the other side of the House to ask them to run as a Liberal. For the record, Mr. Chairman, whenever the next election comes along, just in case there is anybody over there itching for a red pair of shoes, I will not contact them in the future either.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: Order, please!

There is no point of order.

The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

MR. J. BYRNE: Okay, Mr. Chairman, I stand corrected. I don't mind, I am a man, I can admit it. I stand corrected. The Premier did not contact them, but he had other people on that side contact them. That is what he did, Mr. Chairman.

Let's get back to the point.

AN HON. MEMBER: Did anybody contact you?





MR. J. BYRNE: Do you want me to name a few names for you? A former Minister of Finance maybe? A former Minister of Finance making a few calls here and there.

Mr. Chairman, let's look at that side of the House over there now. Let's look over there. Let's look at that side of the House. The Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, where was he? The Member for Humber East is coming in. The Minister of Environment and Labour, where was he?

MR. SHELLEY: One of the prerequisite to get into Cabinet is you have to be Tory first.

MR. J. BYRNE: Yes. Mr. Chairman, the Premier knows full well, and there are other members on that side of the House who know full well, that a prerequisite to get into Cabinet these days is to be a former PC. That is a prerequisite. Ask the minister over there, the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, ask the Minister of Human Resources and Employment, ask the Minister of Environment and Labour. What about -

MR. TULK: What about me?

AN HON. MEMBER: He is a former something.

MR. J. BYRNE: He is a former `something' is right. God knows what. He is a former `something'.

So, Mr. Chairman, that man we are proud of, a good, solid individual who, when he stands up to speak in this House of Assembly, knows what he is talking about; well researched. What he says you can count on; the Member for Waterford Valley.

MR. FUREY: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: What are you minister of now, Energy? The Minister of Mines and Energy: By looking at him in that chair, Mr. Chairman, it does not look like he has much energy, I can guarantee you. Mr. Chairman, there is not too much energy coming from that chair.

Anyway, Mr. Chairman, with respect, the Minister of Mines and no Energy sitting in the chair there, is interrupting me. So could you please ask him to be quiet. You don't see me interrupting people when they are up speaking.

Anyway, Mr. Chairman, it is 10:48 a.m. and I say to the Government House Leader: When would you like to get this Interim Supply bill?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Yes.

Mr. Chairman, I am now going to make a few comments on the Budget which is part and parcel of Interim Supply, of course, or Interim Supply is part and parcel of the Budget. The government is looking for funds here now, Mr. Chairman. Just on the Budget highlights, Mr. Chairman - and I have not had a chance to scrutinize the actual documents themselves, but there are so many questions to be asked with respect to this Budget that was presented here yesterday by the Minister of Finance, who was so proud to make the announcements.

I notice here too, Mr. Chairman, that in the Budget the government has another $30 million as a contingency fund. So they are saying that there is going to be a deficit of somewhere around $20 million but they have $30 million here as a contingency. So in actual fact there is a surplus of $10 million in the Budget this year. I say to the Minister of Mines and Energy: Does he know that, that there is a $10 million Budget surplus this year, if they were being forthright and honest with the people of the Province?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Well, they are saying there is a $20.1 million deficit and you have a $30 million contingency.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Yes, and for 1998-99, it is $10 million. That is the deficit. That is what they have planned. They have a $30 million contingency fund just set aside. So, if that was set aside there would be a surplus of $20 million. Right? So, in actual fact you are not being forthright and honest with the people of the Province.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Hypothesized, is it? So, you do not have $30 million there. So, are you confirming for me, the Minister of Mines and Energy, that statements the Auditor General has made in her report this year, with respect to mismanagement of the funds, and Newfoundland Hardwoods, Newfoundland Farm Products and the hospital corporations, that everything she said is correct? Because you said this is hypothesis. So, you really don't know.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Oh, no! I am reading here, right from this. This is it here, right in the Budget, in the government's highlights; the deficit target for 1998-1999 remains at $10 million.

AN HON. MEMBER: Thirty million dollars (inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: No, it is not. You have $30 million set aside in the contingency for emergencies; a part of the budget, $30 million. That only started last year. You never did it any other year. So this year, if that $30 million was not set aside as an emergency fund, you would have $20 million surplus. That is simple. Can't you figure that out? You went to Gonzaga. You did math, didn't you?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: You turned on him too. You turned on him.

Anyway, Mr. Chairman, that is just one point. Our former gentlemen - I don't want to get too specific.

MR. FRENCH: Jack, he never did that, did he?

MR. J. BYRNE: I do not want to get to specific. Can you figure it out?

Anyway, another point that needs to be made, Mr. Chairman: We see the Premier and ministers on that side of the House standing in this House of Assembly, day in and day out, whenever it is here, fifty-five days last year, making Ministerial Statements on good news. He gets up four or five times on the same thing, in the Media and what have you. We don't see him announcing the bad news two or three times, Mr. Chairman. Last year it was supposed to be a three-year Budget, and what happened? They announced all the cuts last year, but they were not announced this year. They will be implemented this year but they were not announced this year, Mr. Chairman.

So, once we sit back and scrutinize the Budget and the documents themselves, and we get in committee hearings, which will start probably next week, Mr. Chairman, then we will get to the details, we will get to the nitty-gritty, and we will find out exactly what is going on. All the smoke and mirrors and the fluff with respect to this Budget will be highlighted by us, as an Opposition.

Mr. Chairman, I think my time may be nearly up, so I will sit down now and see if someone else would like to say a few words. My throat is getting a bit dry, Mr. Chairman, so what I will do is take a break and maybe get up again this afternoon or tomorrow morning to say a few words on this.

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

MS S. OSBORNE: Yes, I would also like to speak about being asked to pass Interim Supply. I don't know whether we should or not. Like my colleague from Cape St. Francis, I am going to have a chat with the rest of my colleagues here, because we are not quite sure how they are managing the money that they have.

I have here a news release: Effective May 1, an additional $3 million will be provided to increase the rates for regular assistance, food, clothing, fuel and household maintenance, board and lodging for all clients by 2 per cent. Two per cent! So if you are getting a $130 a month for board, now you get $132.60. If you are getting $90 a month for board you will get an additional $1.80. I am wondering what the Minister of Finance thinks the social service recipients are going to do with $2.60 a month.

We have here a lady who does not want to be identified. She is calling herself Jane. A single mother raising two small children and a 2 per cent boost to her income will probably mean being able to buy fresh bread instead of stale, but she will not be able to buy fresh bread every day of the month because it only amounts to about 75 cents a week for each person living in the house, so that is 75 cents times three. She is furious. She said: It is not enough to offset the rise of inflation and the knock that low-income families took when the HST was implemented last year. How much will 75 cents offset the cost that was put on children's clothing by HST? How much difference will it make to her heating bill or her light bill?

These are things we have to have a very serious look at. How much difference will 2 per cent make to a social service recipient? If I were a social service recipient today I would be insulted. It looks so good, an additional $3 million, and it will amount to 75 cents a week or less.

Another $500,000 will go towards a pilot project to explore income support supplementation for single parents to help them secure employment. We have people coming out of Memorial University who cannot secure employment. We have people coming out of our trade schools who cannot secure employment. Where are these jobs? Yesterday the Minister of Finance said that unemployment had gone down by 2.8 per cent. Yes, I suppose it has, because those people are now residing in Alberta or British Columbia. It makes your figures look good, but then if you look at the numbers of people who have left the Province it certainly looks different, does it not?

We have our public service pensioners who are living on fixed incomes and are begging for a raise, and this government has turned a deaf ear to them. The average that a retired public service person is getting is $11,000 a year. Many of these people were forced out of their jobs when this government restructured in an effort to balance their budget. Balance their budget looks good on the backs of people who took on financial obligations because they thought they had a job, and then they came into work one day and there they were, gone, to go home and pay a mortgage and to take care of the rest of the financial obligations they have on the few paltry dollars they get in pension.

They also are suffering with light and fuel bills gone up by as much as $30 and $40 a month. One retired public servant called me and said he is getting $161 less a month now than he did when he retired, and everything else has gone up.

This government is asking us - they would not open the House of Assembly. All this caucus were around here for the entire month of March. We were waiting for this House to open, but no, they brought it to the eleventh hour, so that if we do not, in a hurry, pass Interim Supply - we have the payroll not covered, we have the social service recipients not getting their cheques, and then it will be blamed on the Opposition.

No one will take into consideration the fact that we were here for the entire month of March. How cute it is, knowing that the first day of April is a pay day, and knowing that you can bring us to the eleventh hour, and expect us to rubber-stamp what you are going to do and how you are going to spend the money. I do not think so. We have to give this long and serious consideration before we will pass this today.

Thank you very much.

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

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

I rise again today to speak on Interim Supply, and it is indeed a pleasure again to do so.

Before I get started, I would like to thank the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation. I am going to thank him now for his quick action. He took action yesterday and it was quick. After the Throne Speech, out in the lobby, and I brought it up in the House just after the Throne Speech, they used imported juice. Yesterday I walked into the reception and they had imported juice. I brought it to the attention of the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, and ten minutes later the imported juice was off the table and the local juice was there.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. T. OSBORNE: So I have to thank the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation.


CHAIR: Order, please! Order, please!

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

Again, I thank the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation for quick action. Now, with that, I have to say that when I walked in to that reception the local juice should have been on the table to start with, but at least he took quick action and he rectified the situation. I am not sure if he did it or not, but I will give him the credit for doing it, because the imported juice disappeared and the local juice appeared, and that is what it is all about.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. T. OSBORNE: That is a fact. Mr. Chairman, again I am going to speak about our public service pensioners. I spoke about it in speaking to a petition earlier today. Our public service pensioners have not had a raise since 1989, nor have our public service employees, but our public service employees are about to get a raise. The cost of living has gone up considerably since 1989, yet our public service pensioners have not had an increase in their pensions.

To make matters worse for our public service pensioners, with the exception of teachers now in this Province, our public service pensioners, when they get to the age that they are able to collect their Canada Pension, a large porion of the Canada Pension that they receive is clawed back from their provincial pension. While these public service pensioners, many of them, are living below the poverty line, especially the single pensioners, they are forced to live with a claw-back of their provincial pension for part of what they are receiving on their federal Canada Pension.

Not only are the government refusing to give an increase to the public service pensioners, but they are clawing back part of what they are getting on their Canada Pension. Our public service pensioners, the people who have made this Province, the people who have put in place much of the legislation we are still using today, the people who have worked the front lines, the people who have served the public of this Province, are having part of their Canada Pension clawed back from the provincial pension.

It is almost as bad as clawing back the child tax credit on the recipients of social services benefits. What the government are doing, it amounts to, Mr. Chairman - it is very obvious they are cash-starved, and what they are doing is they are going after the most vulnerable people in our society, the people who have to rely on social service benefits, our senior citizens, our pensioners, our public service pensioners. As I said earlier today, we will continue to fight here in the House on behalf of our public service pensioners. Our Public Service pensioners last year were hit with an increase in their home heating, their electricity, their gasoline expenditures, and yet without an increase in their Public Service pension.

Mr. Chairman, the cost of living has gone, for some of these people, beyond their means. Some of these people, unfortunately, especially the single pensioners, the seniors who have to maintain their homes, are living from cheque to cheque, and some of them are not eating properly. I spoke to a woman just a couple of days ago who is unable to afford her heating bill, and has confined herself to one room in her house, keeping the doors closed and the heat off in the rest of the rooms, confining herself to one room in her house because she is unable to afford to pay her heating bill.

Mr. Chairman, that is a sad state of affairs when the government of this Province can force pensioners, can force social service recipients, can force seniors, to live in that type of manner. It is shameful. It is shameful, and when we get to government, which will be very soon, it is something that we will look towards putting solutions in place to help these people, instead of just surviving from cheque to cheque, feel that they are valued members of our society, feel that they are valued members of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, valued citizens.

Mr. Chairman, we will continue to fight on behalf of the seniors, the social services recipients of this Province. We will continue to fight on behalf of the people of the Province when government puts in place such tax grabs as the fee that they are charging on containers; and we heard from the minister only a couple of days ago that the government made a profit on charging fees on containers this year. However, when they figure that the amount of containers goes up from 50 per cent to 60 per cent or 70 per cent or 80 per cent, he said that government will have to start putting more back into that - they will not have a profit there any longer - but right now they have a profit. They have a profit on fees that they are charging on licences to catch rabbit or to hunt moose.

Mr. Chairman, while there have not been tax increases in the past couple of years, direct tax increases, there have been increases in everything else, everything to which this government has put their hand.

We are still deciding at which point we will grant Interim Supply, but I can tell you that we will give very careful scrutiny to the Budget that was released yesterday and we will fight to right the wrongs that government has put in place.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Baie Verte.

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I am just going to get up and make a few concluding remarks on this debate as it draws to a close on Interim Supply, on Bill 2. I think we have made some very good points in the last few hours - today and in the last couple of days - in this debate.

Interim Supply, we are certainly not going to hold up this House or anybody on the Interim Supply. We are going to make sure that people can get paid and things can go on in the Province. We are going to make sure that the Minister of Justice gets paid. We are going to make sure that everything can run smoothly in the Province. We would not do anything that is not responsible, to make sure that the Province progresses and moves forward.

Mr. Chairman, there are a couple of points I would like make, especially on yesterday's Budget Speech. Yes, there is a dab of good news here and there, and some things for which we can commend the government, for making moves in the right direction, albeit small steps. It seems like every comment we have heard from anybody is that it is a move in the right direction but they are all small, baby steps.

The payroll tax, the dreaded payroll tax that is a hindrance to so many businesses in this Province, that was brought in by this Administration, should be taken out, wiped out.

Now, Mr. Chairman, what they have done is, they have just started in an attempt to show, in good faith, that they are going to move in that direction. It was not far enough and certainly not fast enough. We have been at them for years to eliminate that tax because it is a hinderance on jobs. That is one point.

When it comes to education, yes, there are small scholarships for some people in this Province, and that is certainly going to help us. Again, it is a move in the right direction, but the massive problem of post-secondary education in this Province is student debt. The magnificent debt that young people find themselves with after three, four or five years in post-secondary institutions, that is the main problem.

Really what this Budget did was dab at a lot of little things. It did not really attack and declare war on some of the major issues in the Province. For instance, nowhere in this Budget was it discussed or even mentioned the out-migration in this Province. More than 12,000 people last year, the population of a community like Grand Falls-Windsor, was wiped off the map in one year. Out-migration was not addressed at all.

Rural renewal, rural revitalization, whatever names you want to put on it, yes, there are some good samples around the Province of good things happening, no doubt about it.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: You should be listening. I said, there are some things happening with rural renewal, some have more to do with private individuals more than anything else.

There is one last point I would like to make here today. I have already addressed this before, and it came to me about a year ago as I spoke to students at the community college in Baie Verte. One of the instructors there at the time, Mr. Dave Ackerman, raised a question and we had quite a lively debate on it. As we discussed it, it was unanimous amongst students and instructors there of the desperate need in this Province for this government to address the problem and the link between training and jobs.

There is nothing more discouraging than to see a young person go through a training program, whether it is a one-year course, a three-year course or a five-year course, and then go to an employer who then says to him: I am sorry, but you do not have the experience.

Obviously, they do not have the experience until somebody gives them that experience. A major problem in this Province is that linkage between training and the job and the workforce. It is the most frustrating line any young person can get, when they go out to find a job and are told they cannot get hired because they have no experience.

What is needed in this Province, and I agreed with those students and that instructor that day - and this is fourth time I have mentioned this in the House of Assembly with the minister present - that an entrepreneurship program, a full-fledged apprenticeship program, should be put in place in this Province to help people go from training to jobs. This is something that should be looked upon. The minister has told me on two different occasions that it is been looked at. My only question now is: How long is it going to take? Is it just being discussed, or are some serious discussions going on?

I would serve notice here today, Mr. Chairman, that government should expedite that process and put something in place so that people know that when they train in this Province they can go into a workforce, that the government is going to give them that linkage, that connection, so that they can go into the workforce; not discourage them so we see them leave in droves. I talked a few minutes ago about the out-migration, and how many people are leaving this Province.

We want to be able to say to the young people in this Province: Train here and we will get you into the workforce here. We will help you do that. That is what is going to rebound this Province. No big mega-projects are going to rebound this Province. It is not the Hibernias and the Voisey's Bays; it is all those small projects where a small employers puts five and six people to work. That is what is going to rebound this Province, bit by bit.

The thing about doing it bit by bit and a small piece at a time, Mr. Chairman, if you build on a lot of little things then it is a strong basis for an economy. That is how we grow. And a person with five or ten people to employ is just as important and just as solid. Also, this boom and bust... I know, coming from a mining town, what it is like for a boom and bust: 600 people working in a mine in Baie Verte and all of a sudden the mine is closed down, and the whole town. They are hanging in there though, Mr. Chairman. Do you know why they are hanging in there? Because all around my district, which I am sure is similar to many parts of this Province, people themselves are getting involved, to be entrepreneurs and to come up with a business idea that is going to put three, four, five or twenty people to work.

There is a sawmill industry that is unfolding in front of us, and in my district the sawmill operators themselves have gotten together to come up with an idea of an integrated sawmill. That was initiated by them. That is an attitude in this Province, that we have to diversify and we have to change the way we look at things.

The government has to - I have said it here before - instead of rolling out the red tape, roll out the red carpet. Encourage these people, these young entrepreneurs, to follow through. Do not let them come into this building in here to look for permits and go through applications and regulations so that, at the end of the day, they give up on a good idea because they are smothered with red tape. That is what happens so often in this Province. I know every member here gets it, rolling out red tape instead of red carpet.

AN HON. MEMBER: Liberal red tape.

MR. SHELLEY: Liberal red tape, that is exactly what it is.

We have to encourage our young people to go into training, and we do that by telling them they are not going to have a mountain of debt when they finish; and secondly, that they are going to have some kind of apprenticeship program in this Province where you go from training into the workforce. Let's not turn them off at the doorstep. Let's encourage them to move on.

Those are the things that were not addressed in the Budget. It is good to talk about the little dabs of good news, because that is about what they were, little dabs of good news. What we need is some hard, solid policy that is going to create an environment in this Province where people are going to want to go back to work and they are going to be encouraged to do so. Because unless you have hope you have nothing, and people in this Province are desperately looking for that. They were looking for it in this Budget.

Yes, for a day or so people will jump up and down and say a couple of good little things.

MR. J. BYRNE: Was the last election all about hope?

MR. SHELLEY: It was all about a better tomorrow. Yes, the Premier said we had to wait for a couple of years, and we are rounding the corner. I hope we are rounding the corner, but I guess the proof will be in the pudding in the next six to twelve months if we are really rounding the corner. If it is this year, then we should see the numbers of out-migration slow down, we should see the unemployment rate fall, and some real numbers, not just arbitrary numbers made up for the sake of convenience. They have to be solid numbers where we see people staying home, we see young people stay in training, we see people going from training into the workforce, and happy to stay in Newfoundland and Labrador, because that is what is going to make this Province tick, that is what is going to turn this Province around.

If we are on a turnaround, rural Newfoundland has to see some solid evidence of that in the next short term, because it has been waiting too long. It is like the boy who cried wolf. Every day they say there is a better tomorrow around the corner and it is not there. After awhile, like anybody, they are going to be tired of being told this and they want to see something. That is what we have to look forward to.

We have to look forward to the young people in this Province saying they believe in where they live and they want to stay here. The analogy I have always used is the staff room. I have been involved in staff rooms where you have teachers who have been there for years, and then you have the new teachers coming in. If you get two or three new teachers on staff, what happens is they encourage, and their enthusiasm flows over into the rest of the staff, and you see new programs started, you see teams being coached, you see all those types of things happen.

The same analogy must be applied to the Province. If we see more young people stay around, come up with ideas, they exude enthusiasm. That is what we have to do. We have to keep the young people in this Province who are going to be looking up and saying: I want to stay here, I am going to be working here, I am going to be part of an economy that is going to evolve into the new technologies, the new computer systems and so on.

Until we stop that outflow from this Province of some of our best resource - it is not the nickel from Voisey's Bay, or the oil from Hibernia. The young people are our best resource in this Province, the people who are going to turn the economy around and exude the enthusiasm that we need so desperately in this Province.

That is why the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board in his Budget, when he is discussing his Budget with his Cabinet colleagues, every time he makes a decision he has to be thinking of the young people, the students with the debt. Those are the people we have to put enthusiasm back into. They are the people we have to turn on to say: You can make it here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

That is the challenge of this government or any government, because as we go into the new millennium there are new technologies, there is a world that is changing so fast that we have to keep up with. I tell you, it is not going to wait for us. The economy moves on, and either we jump into it now and get on the bandwagon with that movement or we are going to be lost for a long time. If we continue to lose people out of this Province at a rate of 12,000 a year...

Sooner or later it has to die down. Do you know why it has to die down? Because people cannot afford to go away. That is why it has slowed down lately. I am still talking to people who cannot get away. I talked to a man in my district the other day. He has a job lined up in Alberta with his son, but he cannot afford to get there yet. He is looking for some kind of assistance to get there.

I talked to a young lady this morning in my office. She is on her way to Halifax to do training. She cannot afford to go there. She was here today in meetings to try to see if she could get there. When you talk about the people in this Province who leave, Mr. Chairman, I mean, we have gone now from six years ago, when it was the big thing, we were going to bring them all back. We have gone from: we are going to bring them all back, and now we are back to: oh, let us slow it down. The reality is, we have to slow it down but you do not put a band-aid over that, it is not a band-aid solution you are looking for, it is a long-term solution with some concrete policy that is going to tell young people in this Province: stay here, get training and be a part of the growing economy and we have to do everything as a Legislature -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: Is it? Okay. We have to do everything we can, Mr. Chairman, all of us in this Assembly, to make sure that those young people feel like that, get that feeling again. So, Mr. Chairman, I look forward some interesting debate next week as we take a closer look at the Budget because, a Budget is a Budget. A Budget is, the lights, the cameras, the flare and all that wonderful stuff that the Premier loves so much, but at the end of the day we have to see what the reality is. It is like any federal budget or provincial budget or anything else but, Mr. Chairman, we are certainly not going to hold up this Interim Supply; I agree with the Minister of Justice, we are going to let the Province progress and, Mr. Chairman, I think, with those few comments, we will close debate on this Interim Supply.

Thank you.



That it is expedient to introduce a measure to provide for the granting to Her Majesty for defraying certain expenses of the public service for the financial year ending March 31, 1999, the sum of $1,010,089,200.

On motion, resolution carried.

On motion, clauses 1 through 3, carried.

A bill, "An Act For Granting To Her Majesty Certain Sums Of Money For Defraying Certain Expenses Of The Public Service For The Financial Year Ending March 31, 1999 And For Other Purposes Relating To The Public Service."

On motion, Bill 2, passed without amendment, carried.

MR. TULK: Mr. Chairman, I move that the Committee rise and report considerable progress.

On motion, that the Committee rise, report progress, and ask leave to sit again, Mr. Speaker returned to the Chair.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Trinity North.

MR. OLDFORD: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole have considered the matters to them referred, have directed me to report that they have adopted a certain resolution and recommend that Bill 2, be introduced to give effect to the same.

On motion, report received and adopted.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I move that Supply Bill 2 be introduced and read a first time.

On motion, a bill, "An Act For Granting To Her Majesty Certain Sums Of Money For Defraying Certain Expenses Of The Public Service For The Financial Year Ending March 31, 1999 And For Other Purposes Relating To The public Service," read a first, second and third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper. (Bill No. 2)

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I believe His Honour is due in about ten or fifteen minutes. I would move that we take a short recess and come back at about 11:45, by agreement.





SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: Admit His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor.

His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor takes the Chair.

MR. SPEAKER: Your Honour, it is my agreeable duty on behalf of Her Majesty's dutiful and loyal subjects, Her Faithful Commons of Newfoundland and Labrador, to present to Your Honour a bill for the appropriation of supply granted in the present session.

CLERK: A bill, "An Act For Granting To Her Majesty Certain Sums Of Money For Defraying Certain Expenses Of The Public Service For The Financial Year Ending March 31, 1999 And For Other Purposes Relating To The Public Service. (Bill No. 2)

SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: Please be seated.

HIS HONOUR LIEUTENANT-GOVERNOR A. M. HOUSE: In Her Majesty's Name, I thank Her Loyal Subjects, I accept their benevolence, and I assent to this Bill.

His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor leaves the Chamber.

Mr. Speaker returns to the Chair.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, before moving the adjournment of the House, I should inform hon. members that on Monday we will be doing motion No. 1, the Budget Speech. We look forward, Mr. Speaker, to hearing the positive statements that we know are going to emanate from the other side for an unlimited amount of time.

Mr. Speaker, I move that the House adjourn until Monday, March 30, at 2:00 p.m.

On motion, the House at its rising adjourned until tomorrow, Monday, March 30, at 2:00 p.m.