The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

Before we begin our routine proceedings, the Chair would like to welcome to the galleries today twenty-two Grade XII students from Fitzgerald Academy in English Harbour West, from the District of Fortune Bay - Cape La Hune, accompanied by their teachers, Allan Spencer and Carl Langdon.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: As well, we have visiting today from the Town of Botwood, Mr. Melvin Torville, Deputy Mayor, and councillors Ed Evans, Scott Seviour, Barry Jewer and Jerry Dean.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


Statements by Ministers


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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. A. REID: Mr. Speaker, it was with much sadness and regret that we learned on Friday night of the death of Mr. Jerome Kieley of Holyrood. Mr. Kieley, who was forty-nine years of age, died from injuries he received as a result of a fire and explosion at the Come By Chance Oil Refinery. This unfortunate incident earlier claimed the life of Mr. James Mercer of Bay Roberts.

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of hon. members on both sides of the House of Assembly, I wish to express our sincere condolences to Jerome Kieley's wife Joan, his two children Michelle and Kenneth, and to all members of the Kieley family.

This is indeed a most difficult time for the Kieley and Mercer families, and our thoughts and prayers are with them in their time of great sorrow. I ask, on behalf of all hon. members, that letters of condolence be forwarded to the Kieley and Mercer families. Funeral services for Mr. Kieley will take place tomorrow, Tuesday afternoon.

As is known, Mr. Rick Connors of Conception Bay was also injured as a result of this fire and explosion. He was discharged from hospital and is reported to be recuperating from his injuries.

An investigation by the Fire Commissioner into the cause of the fire is still under way. Life Safety audits are also under way. These are been led by the Fire Commissioner in cooperation with officials from Environment and Labour and Government Services and Lands. It would not be appropriate to comment further on the accident and what led to it until the Fire Commissioner's investigation is complete and he submits his report.

Mr. Speaker, government will take all necessary steps to ensure that when the refinery reopens it is a safe workplace.

Thank you.

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to thank the minister for providing me with a copy of his statement, and say to the minister and to this House that I knew the Kieley family personally and I visited with some members of the Kieley family last night. To say that it is a very sad place for his wife Joan and the Kieley children, and the rest of the Kieley family, would be - I do not know, Mr. Speaker, if I could really put it into words.

We would certainly agree with you, Minister, in forwarding our condolences on to both the Kieley and the Mercer families. We are, on this side of the House, still willing to wait on the report of the Fire Commissioner and all those others who are investigating exactly what went wrong at the Come By Chance Refinery. Hopefully that report won't be too long more in the making and will soon be forthcoming, and you yourself, Sir, could probably make some kind of announcement in this House. But we wholeheartedly agree with certainly sending the House's condolences to the Kieley and the Mercer families.

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

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to join with the minister and the Member for Conception Bay South in asking Your Honour to send the condolences of the House to the Kieley and Mercer families. It is a terrific loss of life, and loss to the families involved, and it underscores the crucial importance of Occupational Health and Safety in all the industries of our Province.

I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that no stone should be left unturned to determine the cause of the accident and to ensure that the safety at the refinery is of the very highest standard for the future.

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

MS BETTNEY: Mr. Speaker, today I would like to address the House to clarify the purpose of the National Child Benefit program. I would also like to recognize that in the House today are members of a number of advocacy organizations, The Provincial Advisory Council on The Status of Women, The Early Childhood Education Association, and The Community Services Council, to support this program as well.

On April 2, 1998, during a current affairs show entitled, `Community Matters', incorrect statements were made regarding the National Child Benefit program. I believe I must correct the public record for members of this House, for the people who participated in the show, and for the public at large.

First and most importantly, Mr. Speaker, is the statement that some of our Province's population are losing out with the implementation of the National Child Benefit. I assure you and all present today, that there are no losers with this new program. Social assistance families will not experience any reduction in total combined income from provincial social assistance and the Canada Child Tax Benefit as a consequence of introducing the National Child Benefit. Along with a number of budgetary measures, including the additional programs and services introduced under the National Child Benefit Provincial Reinvestment Plan, social assistance families actually benefit.

I think it is important to note, Mr. Speaker, that social assistance families will receive a 7 per cent increase over the next three years. Specific measures will also be introduced under the social assistance program to significantly increase the child care exemption, increase the earned income exemption, and extend the drug card benefits for families leaving social assistance and moving to employment.

These measures, Mr. Speaker, together with other new programs and services introduced under the National Child Benefit Reinvestment Plan will significantly add to the support provided to low-income families with children.

Mr. Speaker, the National Child Benefit was never intended to increase provincial social assistance rates. Instead, the National Child Benefit will work to prevent and reduce child poverty by focusing on early intervention with needy children and their families while supporting an attachment to the workforce. This will in the long term help to break the cycle of poverty by providing much needed programs for children, youth and families as well as helping to ensure that families are be better off as a result of working. The National Child Benefit Provincial Reinvestment Fund allows the Province to establish new programs and services which support this goal.

On March 26, 1998 the Department of Human Resources and Employment, along with Health and Community Services, announced that $10.15 million annually, would be reinvested in new programs and services for our Province's children and families.

To quote the 1998 Budget Speech, Mr. Speaker, this Province "will reinvest every last penny in programs and services for low-income families" under the National Child Benefit Reinvestment Plan.

This will greatly enhance our ability to meet the needs of families and children in this Province, as well as begin a strategic shift in programming towards early intervention. Research is mounting to support the benefits of early intervention services such as child care, and this Province has been significantly hampered in the resources that we have had available to dedicate to these programs.

The National Child Benefit has made it possible for Newfoundland and Labrador to have $10.15 million annually to improve and expand licensed child care, provide additional family resource centre project sites, develop a co-ordinated regional youth service network and provide initiatives under the social assistance program to assist families in making the transition to work. Mr. Speaker, these initiatives reflect the findings of a number of recent public consultation processes with key social groups and advocates.

All these additional or improved services will ensure that our children will have a strong start in life. To say that this program causes people of the Province to `lose out' is extremely short-sighted.

Mr. Speaker, the National Child Benefit will be introduced in July 1998. Between now and then, our department will make every effort to ensure that our clients have accurate information on the NCB. A series of cheque inserts will be included with social assistance cheques, a 1-800 information line will be established, and brochures and print material will also be made available to our clients and to the public.

Mr. Speaker, today, however, the general information which needs to be corrected and confirmed is as follows: (1) No social assistance client will have less combined income from social assistance and the Canada Child Tax Benefit following the July implementation date. (2) All social assistance clients will receive a 7 per cent rate increase over three years beginning with a 2 per cent increase in May of this year. (3) Children in low-income families, including social assistance families, will have access to additional programs and services that support the goals of the National Child Benefit.

Lastly, Mr. Speaker, I want to emphasize the long-term goal of the National Child Benefit which is over time to have the Canada Child Tax Benefit Program become the primary source of income support for children in this country. This will mean that children in low-income families, regardless of where they reside in Canada, will have a secure, uniform and dependable level of income support that does not fluctuate with changes to family earnings and circumstances. The federal government, Mr. Speaker, has announced additional commitments to the National Child Benefit totalling another $850 million beginning in July 1999. This brings the total federal commitment to $1.7 billion.

Mr. Speaker, in conclusion, I would like to say that reinvesting our money in children and families is something we should be doing both as a government and as members of our community. I am very proud to be a part of this initiative.

Mr. Speaker, there are no losers when it comes to investing in children and their families.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS S. OSBORNE: I would like to thank the minister for providing me with a copy of her statement. Methinks the minister doth protest too much. We all remember the National Child Benefit being announced to great hoopla as the government's response to the needs of children in this country and the Province that are being neglected. There are thousands of children in this Province going to school hungry and without proper nutrition, and we have known that for years. Some are from low-income families, others are from families trying to scrape by on social assistance. We know food banks are stretched to the limit. This is not a Third World country, it is Canada. Our children are going to school hungry.

The Patricia Canning report says 40,000 children live in poverty. The National Child Benefit was supposed to address that. It was supposed to be for children. The government reaped much political capital saying it was responding to children, but now you are clawing the money back from children. Do not get me wrong, the resource programs are great, the $10.15 million is greatly needed, and I do applaud the expenditure, but it is wrong to help poor children on the backs of poorer children.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS S. OSBORNE: Your cousins in Ottawa have for years been cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from the transfers we need to run things here in Newfoundland and Labrador. They have cut social assistance and funding. This NCB is just a drop in the bucket compared to what they have taken away. They want to give the money to children and get applause for that, and then take the money back and spend it again.

The minister made a few points. I know that there are supposed to be, and there are, incentive programs for employment. That is wonderful. I had a call this morning from a widow. Her son graduated from one of the post-secondary institutes. He owes $15,000 in his student loan. He has worn out his shoes going from employment agency to employment agency, and to various businesses, looking for a job. All he has is a student loan, and he has contributed to a lot of dead trees with his resumes. This woman said, and I will quote her: Please ask Julie Bettney to send out or publish a list of jobs that are available.

She has also addressed the 7 per cent increase over three years, 2 per cent per year. The only people to take advantage of the HST are people in high-income brackets. The people who are getting the 2 per cent increase have been dinged with HST on their fuel, on their light, and on their children's clothing. You tell me where the savings are coming from.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS S. OSBORNE: Children in low-income families, including social

assistance families, will have access to additional programs and services that support the goals of the NCB.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.


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


MR. SPEAKER: No leave.

MS S. OSBORNE: No, because the truth hurts.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister's statement about the Child Tax Benefit is really just defending the indefensible. The minister knows that there are fifty-seven food banks in this Province, Mr. Speaker. The minister knows that between 1989 and 1998, the welfare rolls have gone from 44,000 individuals to 72,000 individuals. The minister knows that inflation has eaten away the value of social assistance payments since the last increase was granted, and that this 7 per cent over the next three years will not allow them to catch up. The minister knows that the additional Child Tax Benefit that would be given to social assistance recipients for their children, if they were allowed to keep it, would allow them to feed their families, Mr. Speaker. The minister knows, from the report of Dr. Patricia Canning, that in excess of 30,000 children go to school hungry in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, to take that money back from social assistance recipients, from the mouths of children, and use it for other programs is an abomination. I do not care, the minister can talk all she wants about the design of the program, but the reality does not change as a result of that, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HARRIS: The unfortunate reality for hungry children in this Province is that they are not going to benefit from the Child Tax Credit; unless, for example, Mr. Speaker, the built-in assumption of this program is that people on social assistance are there because they do not want to work and we have to create incentives for working people, and not go out and provide jobs for them.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. K. AYLWARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The sawmill industry is an area that has shown massive growth and realization of efficiencies in the last few years. Their production levels have increased from 40 million board feet per year to a point where they are expected to top 90 million board feet this year. This represents the highest single production year for the sawmill industry. The industry is expected to further grow in the future.

This past Saturday, I had the pleasure to address the Newfoundland and Labrador Lumber Producers Association in Gander. In our address, we discussed the importance of a sustainable forest. The NLLPA are fully aware of the importance to maintain and enhance forest growth. Mr. Speaker, as we have outlined in our twenty-year plan, insular Newfoundland is facing a wood supply deficit situation estimated for the next fifteen to twenty years. We are working very hard to overcome this situation. Methods such as maximization of the forest resource use through a fuller utilization of the trees; exchanges between the sawmills and the pulp and paper mills which are going extremely well; using the waste products to generate electricity; importation of wood supplies from outside sources - both recycled paper and wood chips; and silviculture initiatives.

Mr. Speaker, while all of these initiatives are important, we must, however, recognize the massive amount of silviculture work that has taken place. Only in the last fifteen years has a real push been placed on silviculture in our Province. Over $150 million has been invested by government and industry in an effort to replace what we consume.

We have been successful in our efforts. Last year alone, over $16 million was spent in planting, pre-commercial thinning and land reclamation. As a result, 1997 saw over 16,480 hectares of forest land treated and over 7.5 million seedlings planted. Over 23,000 person weeks of employment in silviculture-related activities were created last year; 1998 also promises to be a good year for silviculture.

Silviculture is an effective tool for reforestation. We must, however, realize that it cannot solve all the problems in the forest. Despite our best efforts for reforestation, insect infestation continues to plague our Province's forests. This year all indicators show that we will see over 24,000 hectares of forest either moderately or severely defoliated by the Balsam Fir Sawfly alone. Over half of this area will be in stands that have been treated with silviculture. This represents almost all the silviculture work that was carried out last year.

Mr. Speaker, we must address this situation. We cannot spend large amounts of public money and expect the industry to also contribute, if there is no net gain in the wood supply. There is presently no biological alternative that will combat the Balsam Fir Sawfly. We are, however, working with the Canadian Forest Service to develop one. Government has three options for this year: We can use a spray called fenitrothion, which is registered for use against the Balsam Fir Sawfly but may have potential environmental effects. We can do nothing and let the infestation continue and ultimately set back the correction of the wood supply deficit for many more years, or we can seek approval to use Dylox. This is a milder alternative that has been used on agricultural crops and closely-related sawflies in other jurisdictions. While it has not been approved for use against the Balsam Fir Sawfly, we believe that it is a safe alternative that will be effective in combatting the negative effects of this infestation. Any use of Dylox would be proposed on a trial basis to evaluate its effectiveness against the Balsam Fir Sawfly.

Mr. Speaker, we are still evaluating all environmental, social and economic considerations but time is also running out for this year. Government will decide in the very near future how it intends to address the problem.

Thank you.

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

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The first thing I want to do today is something a little bit different and that is, to thank the minister for a copy of his statement, because currently, I have not had copies of statements from ministers for some reason.

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to acknowledge the first part of the statement which was the sawmill industry. The minister and I, know that there is some very good potential in that and even in my own district, as of right now, we are looking at enhancing the sawmill industry. I know that it has great potential for the entire Province.

Secondly, the deficit of the wood supply is a known fact and we know that that is a problem in this Province. As far as silviculture goes, Mr. Speaker, I said it just a few days ago that, if there is one thing that the Premier and the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal and so on, can talk about and can employ people in this Province, there will not be any complaints from this side of the House, Mr. Speaker, we will take anybody who needs work and send them into the forest to plant and to thin trees. It is something for an investment in the future and something that should be looked on as favourable, Mr. Speaker.

As to the situation that faces us today, with the infestation, it is something that has to be addressed. Of the three options the minister outlined, number two, I certainly do not agree with, and that is, ignoring the problem. We cannot ignore it, it is a reality and we must face up to that and do something about it. As far as fenitrothion is concerned, Mr. Speaker, that is something that has a lot of concerns environmentally, and the last one, the Dylox, I will be quite honest with the minister and say that I do not know very much about this particular chemical, but of course, the minister and his department have the resources to look into that.

All I will say is, Mr. Speaker, that it has to be addressed. Whichever one they come up with, I hope we do the proper research and make the proper moves to make sure that we handle the problem for the future.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


Oral Questions


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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, every year since I have been elected to the House of Assembly, we receive, at some point during the year, tabled documents from a variety of departments. Certainly one, which is the post-secondary indicators, gives us an independent insight into what is happening with post-secondary education in the Province. The last time that a document was tabled, was by the former Minister of Education, now the Minister of Justice, in 1995.

It is my understanding that post-secondary indicators '96 is ready and has been ready since the fall of 1997 and I would like to ask the minister today: when can Members of this House expect that document to be tabled?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am delighted to have the question asked as well.

For the record, the document that the Leader of the Opposition refers to, Postsecondary Indicators '95, is not an annual. It is the first time ever in the history of this Province that it has been produced - produced by the Department of Education under the direction of my predecessor. As a matter of fact, the government in Newfoundland and Labrador and the Department of Education are leaders in the country in terms of putting forward information that accounts for the system and for the money spent and how it is spent in the post-secondary system.

There was no expectation whatsoever that people should expect that report to be done annually. However, the information is important. It is important to all the stakeholders in education. It has been followed up on. We have a report about to be released soon. I will gladly provide a statement in the House, a briefing opportunity for the others, prior to the release of the document.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, the Department of Education, and the officials who work in it, may be leaders in the country when it comes to producing documents like that. It is just unfortunate the Minister of Education is not a leader in the country when it comes to making documents public like this, I say to the minister.

Let me ask the minister this. It is a fact, from my understanding and my sources, that the contents of this document, what is contained between the covers of this document, was presented in late September-early October to the Newfoundland and Labrador Council on Higher Learning. Why is it that that Council can receive this document and the contents therein, but the members of this House are not able to receive this document and the contents therein?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Again, I am delighted to see a consistent pattern with the members opposite wanting to play politics with a very serious issue.

The Council on Higher Education in Newfoundland and Labrador has been in existence for a number of years, and it is the key stakeholder with respect to Memorial University, the College of the North Atlantic - it used to be five colleges before, now one College of the North Atlantic - and occasionally they even have discussions with representatives of the private training institutions in the Province, although they are not officially members of the Council on Higher Education.

The Council on Higher Education was given a briefing last fall with respect to some of the preliminary information that had been gathered through some surveys. The group opposite, as usual, can try to suggest otherwise, and suggest they might know something different. I will tell the facts as I know them. The Council on Higher Education, because they are interested, unlike some people in this particular Legislature, in making sure that the information is gathered from the institutions, from the students themselves, and that accurate information is then made available to the people of the Province so that they understand exactly what is happening in our post-secondary training institutions.

That group was given a briefing in the fall with respect to the information that was gathered, the types of things that might make up a report. Because I can tell all members in the particular House, and anyone who is listening and interested in the issue, that I was not given any briefing with respect to the issue myself until after Christmas, when they looked at putting it into a draft form that they would then consider sending to the printers to be published so that it could be released.

We are getting close to that, and would gladly provide for those who are legitimately interested a full briefing from the officials, not from any politicians, as to the information that was gathered, how it was gathered, who participated, what the results are, what the additional information is, what is contained in the report. It will then be released publicly, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, let me provide the minister with some information that may be of use to him. I contacted the Department of Education mid-September, the fall of 1997. I was told it would be ready and made public through the minister's office by the end of September. I phoned the end of September. I was told it would be made public by the end of October. I phoned the end of October, I was told it would be made public by the end of November.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. E. BYRNE: The reality is, Minister, you know full well what is in the document. It has been presented to the minister. It is not in draft form, and what is happening is a rewrite. Let me ask the minister this. Can he confirm that part of that program, that part of what is in `Indicators '96,' is that it demonstrates clearly a couple of things? Let me ask him to confirm this first thing. Can he confirm that the rate of student loan defaults is significantly higher in private training colleges as opposed to the public college system. Can he confirm that is in the report, in Postsecondary Indicators '96?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

What is in the report will be public when it is released in its entirety, and at that point in time any and all of the questions will be answered.

Mr. Speaker, what I find disappointing from the Leader of the Opposition is that he is willing to suggest... I don't really care what he suggests about me, but the fact of the matter is that some people have worked very hard on this, some dedicated officials and the students who participated in the questionnaires, the surveys, and if he is suggesting - and this is his only interest, the politics of it - that the officials in any department of the government would, at direction of a politician or someone else, try to rewrite a document to present factual information that was gathered and which is going to be presented publicly, to suggest that those long-serving, dedicated officials would try in some way to rewrite information, to present it other than what it actually showed and demonstrated in the surveys and information, I think, Mr. Speaker, he has done a good job of insulting the people.

I don't mind him insulting me - that is a normal procedure - but the document. There is no rewriting, there has been no rewriting, and the information will be released in short order.

Mr. Speaker, if the hon. members, the Leader of the Opposition and his critic and so on, are truly interested, they should take advantage of the briefings that will be offered. Then they will have the full information as to where it came from, the fact that it is in the original form and it is available to the public.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: This is the minister whose approach to controversial issues in his department is called: Move and deflect away the issue on somebody else.

I would like to ask him the question again. For the record, can he confirm what is in that report, that the rate of student loan defaults is significantly higher in the private college system as opposed to the public college system? That was the question; can he confirm that, yes or no?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The issues that are addressed in the report, and there are a full range of them because it is the most comprehensive document available anywhere in this country with respect to issues relating to post-secondary education -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. GRIMES: It is the second one ever produced. Mr. Speaker, it stands and speaks for the accountability. It presents the information exactly as it exists in the post-secondary system. It is a new initiative of this government. For seventeen years, Mr. Speaker, members opposite were in the government and would not think of publishing a document that showed the people of the Province - the students, those who are involved in operating the facilities at the post-secondary level - exactly what is happening, Mr. Speaker.

He can ask all the questions he likes. Every single question, if he is interested in the answer, will be obvious and evident when he receives the report which will be tabled here in this House at the appropriate time. The offer stands to have a full briefing with respect to it prior to its release in the House and publicly in the Province.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, let me assure the minister that we are legitimately interested and whatever briefing comes along, whether it be six months from now or eight months from now, whenever the minister gets off his collective derriere to release the report that he already has, we are willing to have a look at it.

Let me ask the minister another question, if he cannot confirm the last question that I asked. Can he confirm that his own department did a survey of people within the post-secondary system, and that the survey concluded there was a very low level of satisfaction from graduates from the private training institutions in the Province as compared to graduates from equal programs in the public college system? Can he confirm that his department's own survey has found that?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will mention again that the offer for a full briefing on the issues that are in that report stands, and we will do that in due course, because I hope that we will get a clearer position from the Opposition as to where they really stand on the issues. I do understand that a full briefing with respect to the Churchill Falls development, for example, was made available, and he still cannot make up his mind whether he is for or against that.

I hope, when they are given an opportunity for a full briefing on a whole range of issues - because remember this, this is what is important to remember: this whole notion of post-secondary indicators is an initiative of this government. This is not something that was raised by the Opposition.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The whole notion, the whole idea, Mr. Speaker, which I assume the Opposition thinks is a great idea - not only good but probably a great idea - of actually surveying students to find out what their satisfaction level is with the course and work they did, to find out what is going on with student debt and student indebtedness, to actually find out from the consumers in post-secondary education, it was an idea of this government that we survey the students, find out what is happening, Mr. Speaker, and report on it.

The report is due in a matter of a very few days. They are offered a full opportunity to be briefed on how it was done, what it contains. Mr. Speaker, I certainly hope they take advantage of that opportunity and we will move on from there.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure how you could characterize the Minister of Education. On every question he is either behaving like a spin top, going round and round and round the issue, never answering a question; or, on other questions in the House, he behaves like a yo-yo: up, down, in between, around the world, whatever tricks, whatever sort of tactics he can take to avoid the question.

I will ask him another direct question: Can the minister confirm in the Postsecondary Indicators '96 report that it clearly shows that graduates from private training colleges earn significantly less than those who have taken equivalent programs in the public college system? Can he confirm that is in the report for the people of the Province?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Again I appreciate the questions because, as I have indicated, all of these topics are topics of importance for all of us in understanding what is happening in the post-secondary institutions and whether or not adjustments should be made in programming, courses, planning and so on, from time to time.

Mr. Speaker, what I have said, in case the hon. member did not hear it before, is that he can ask today all the questions he wants about what is in the report. Those answers will be evident when the report is tabled in this House and given to the public of the Province.

If he thinks that by asking five, six, seven or ten different questions - Is this in the report, is that in the report, is something else in the report? - it is clear, if he does not understand and suggests that he can characterize that we have been going around and around, up and down, beating around the bush...

What I have said clearly is this: He can ask all the questions he wants today about what is in the report. The report is not yet available to the public. When it is available in this House and to the public, after a full opportunity for a briefing is given, he will have the answers to every one of those questions. Not only will he have the answers, Mr. Speaker, but his critic will have the answers; the NDP, who want to scuttle part of the training system, will have the answers; the students will have the answers; and all of us will be called to task and asked to answer whether or not there is a good training opportunity, a good mix of training opportunities, available to post-secondary students of Newfoundland and Labrador.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Let me say for the record that our critic has never suggested the scuttling of private training colleges.


MR. E. BYRNE: What he has suggested, Mr. Speaker, is the scuttling of a minister who is not enforcing the policies of this Province. That is what he is suggesting.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. E. BYRNE: Let's be clear what this critic, on behalf of this Party, has suggested.

In view of the fact that you answered no questions today, Minister, I would like to ask you one final one. Now that you have had at least six months to deal with the draft report, it has been about six to eight months since you presented the preliminary recommendations or the draft recommendations to the Council on Higher Learning, can you tell us, Sir, when you will present or table the report for the people of the Province and the Members of the House of Assembly?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will gladly answer the question; but, with respect to the commentary, they must be feeling a little bit defensive or something. I never ever suggested that the Opposition critic suggested that part of our system should be done away with. I attributed that to the Leader of the New Democratic Party. Check Hansard. The Leader of the New Democratic Party is shaking his head because he acknowledges that he heard it, because at least he takes a stand and defends it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. GRIMES: He is against it and he tells the world.

Before I answer the question, if I may, the one thing that the Opposition critic has done in this whole affair is totally disown and totally distance himself from a potential candidate for the Conservatives in the next election - a Mr. Fifield, I believe - who organized an affair with him and has now been absolutely disowned by old `Coppertop' himself because he figures that is the best way to do it. They are over there now, Mr. Speaker, and cannot decide all of a sudden if Mr. Fifield is a Conservative or not.


MR. GRIMES: Mr. Speaker, all of a sudden - he was a candidate in the last election, going to be a candidate in the next election, and now all he can do is make sure... I don't know the man. I don't know anything about it, Mr. Speaker.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the minister to finish his answer quickly, please.

MR. GRIMES: Yes, Mr. Speaker. Thank you.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the issue is this: Because it has become blatantly obvious that they want to play politics again, when we are in a position to do the full briefing and we are available to answer the questions, we will make the report available to the House and to the public.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions today are for the Minister of Health and Community Services.

MR. E. BYRNE: You disgraced yourself. You should resign. You are after going down low, and you will never come back up out of it. You are that low, you will never come back out of it. You are low.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: What is John Woodrow doing?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. E. BYRNE: What is your buddy doing?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. J. BYRNE: Give him a few new parks lately?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. SULLIVAN: A decision to compensate people infected with Hepatitis C from tainted blood came after Quebec took the initiative and forced the issue. The result was compensation to approximately 22,000 people and their families infected between 1986 and 1990. However, another approximately 20,000 people infected outside that five-year period have not received anything.

I ask the minister: Will she tell this House now if there is currently reconsideration under way to provide compensation to those 20,000 people whose health and even lives are at risk?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

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

On such a very serious topic as this, I think it is important to give some background and also to inform my colleague, that as Minister of Health for Newfoundland I was one of the first ministers to pull together a meeting of all the other ministers to discuss the Krever Enquiry Report and to get moving on the process.

I also would like to say that to date there has been a negotiated amount of $1.1 billion, which is a combination of money from both the federal government and the provinces, which is exclusive of all the other services that will be provided by the provinces.

As probably he saw in the paper this weekend, we are beginning the process with the federal government to begin the negotiated settlements with the courts to include the people infected between the years 1986 to 1990.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I ask the minister: Was there anything under way to reconsider outside the 1986-1990 period? I am quite familiar with what is included, and I might say to the minister it was not this Province which initiated it. The day it was raised, November 27, I asked the minister in Question Period and she did not even put forth an apology from this government at that time. It was Saskatchewan and Quebec that pushed the issue.

I say to the minister today -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the member to get to his question.

MR. SULLIVAN: In light of the fact that Premier Glen Clark is now apparently unhappy with the failure to address the concerns of all people who have been affected with Hepatitis C - and I say, Nova Scotia took a lead in compensating people affected with HIV back in 1993 - I want to ask the minister: Will she ensure that this Province does the appropriate thing and show leadership, to ensure that these very sick people do not have to spend the rest of their lives fighting a very long, drawn out court battle?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

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

Right now, the process is ongoing whereby those persons who were infected between the years 1986 to 1990 have a negotiated court settlement. That is the boundary of years which will be negotiated through the courts. There is no compensation package, although there is a lot of concern and sympathy for those people who have been infected with Hepatitis C. As the member opposite knows, there are many reasons for the infection of Hepatitis C, one of which, of course, is the blood, but there are many. The symptoms are a lot different from those of HIV. Some people go thirty years without any symptoms. Others have symptoms identified very early on in the disease process.

So, Mr. Speaker, we, on behalf of the people of the country, with both the federal minister, Allan Rock, and all the other Health Ministers, with Clay Serby, who is the Chair of the Health Ministers from Saskatchewan, who generally takes the lead - whichever province is chairing the meeting will take the lead; in this case it is Saskatchewan - we will be continuing to work through the process with respect to a negotiated court settlement.

At this point in time, as has been, I guess, answered in the House of Commons for the last three weeks up there during their Question Period, that situation, that position, has not changed to date. With respect to Premier Glen Clark, he certainly did express his concern, as has been confirmed by his Minister of Health, if you were to check some of the records. The position given on behalf of British Columbia, by that minister is the position that was made at the negotiating process with all of the other Ministers of Health from across the country. Mr. Speaker, that has not changed.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: You never checked it.

MR. SULLIVAN: I have checked the records of every province, and which ones that have been the leader, and there is no notice whatsoever that Newfoundland has ever been a leader in pushing this issue.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: We have jumped on stream when other Provinces, an agreement has been reached, and the evidence is there, I might say to the minister, for that.

Now, I ask the minister: Is she concerned that the current $3.8 billion class action suit for those infected outside that period, might in the long term, not only cost this Province more money but also show a lack of compassion and a great disservice to the people who have being infected by this particular virus?

AN HON. MEMBER: A good question.

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

MS J. M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, whenever anything goes to the courts there is always the risk of a long, drawn-out process and that in fact is why, Mr. Speaker, we, as Ministers of Health from across the country, with the federal government, met to put forward a package that would go forward on behalf of those people infected between the years 1986 to 1990 to actually prevent the very case to which he just referred, so that it would not be drawn out through the courts, Mr. Speaker. And that is why we are working together, and that is in the courts, to try to work out a negotiated settlement, so people can get on with their lives and that they will not be tied up in the courts for years.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have just one question, Mr. Speaker. It is for the Minister of Justice and Attorney General and it has to do with the very tragic incident which occurred several days ago at Her Majesty's Penitentiary.

I understand that as a result of the death, there are preliminary investigations being taken place by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. He is being assisted by the members of The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, and I understand as well, Minister, that officials in your department are also actively investigating. Could you please give members of this House and the public at large, I guess, some indication as to where we are in the investigation process?

I realize that it is a very sensitive and personal issue for the family, but I am sure the minister will agree that there are public issues that also must be addressed.

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, I am quite sure the hon. member is aware that there is a police investigation going on and it would be totally inappropriate -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DECKER: - for me to make any comments on the investigation which would any way interfere with the investigation. But, in due course, when the time comes and the investigation is done, all things that are necessary to be made public, will be made public at that time. I would not want to have any political interference, either by the Opposition or by this side of the house, into what is a very serious case. I can assure the people of the Province that it is being dealt with in the appropriate fashion.

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions today are for the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

Minister, in two recent court cases, two different judges have ruled that due to the Legislation now on the books, Councillors who attend 51 per cent of their meetings in a given year are entitled to full remuneration.

In these circumstances, the Legislation being queer, unequivocally must be interpreted as expressed. The courts should not fill in gaps or impute the intent of Legislation. Minister, that is a quote from the ruling of Provincial Court Judge, D.E. Power, two weeks ago.

Have the Minister and his officials read these rulings and determined what action they will take to comply with the decisions of these two judges of the court?

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

MR. A. REID: Mr. Speaker, The Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, with the help of The Minister of Justice, will be appealing that recent decision.

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

MR. FRENCH: Minister, according to the ruling of the judges in these cases the councillors involved are entitled to remuneration, one of $450 in one case, and in the other case, $2,606.

Will the minister do the honourable thing and abide by the decision of these two judges by ensuring the councillors are paid the money they should have been paid in the first place without further delay? In other words, is the department going to pick up the tab for the appeals, or are the municipalities going to pick it up?

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

MR. A. REID: It seems like I am picking up the tab for a lot here lately, Mr. Speaker. I am not in a position to advise this House exactly how much this will amount to. I know that in some areas - and I am only guessing, we are trying to get some figures put together now. I know, on the West Coast in particular, it would be a sizeable chunk of change for me or the government to have to pick up for municipal affairs.

As far as I know right now, the last thing I was told on Friday is that we would be appealing. I think the hon. House would rather for me to appeal this decision, I think most communities would rather for me to appeal, and then if we lose the appeal I guess we are going to have to be faced with the question of who is going to make the payments. For me to make that commitment to the hon. member in this House today, I cannot do it, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question is for the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. Some time ago we saw a task force put together in this Province - Mr. David Vardy, I think, headed up that particular task force - where we would look at bringing some kind of regularity to our crab fishery. We would settle on a price long before the crab fishery would start, and we would get away from the lock-outs, strikes and the confusion we have seen in the past. Now that this is done, and now that the price is brought forward, I would like to ask the minister when we can expect to see this particular fishery begin.

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

MR. EFFORD: Last week, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, I say to the minister that the crab fishery did not begin last week. He is talking about the prices and not the fishery, I would assume. Minister, you are not listening, you are too quick to try to get a smart answer.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FITZGERALD: I say to the minister, there is a double price offered. It is 80 cents a pound for crab four inches and longer, and 50 cents a pound for crab less than four inches. Looking at the problems this has caused, the speculated problems that it has caused in the Gulf from fishermen in Quebec and New Brunswick who have taken part in high-grading at sea, I ask the minister what his thoughts are; and if this is going to happen in this fishery in this Province now where we have two prices, a 20 per cent tolerance, and in most cases, you will see fishermen with a small quota and will be allowed to have lots of time to high-grade at sea and thus cause dumping at sea.

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

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, I was not trying to be smart, in that they opened the fishery. The price for crab was settled last week, and as soon as the price of crab was settled, fishermen were permitted to go fishing. They were permitted the next day after the price was settled. So it was not being smart, it was last week!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. EFFORD: As far as the high-grading at sea goes, the science community, DFO, and everybody involved in the fishery have concerns over the high-grading of crab at sea. There is no doubt about that. It presents a problem. The market conditions also present a problem. There is a certain size crab needed in the marketplace, and unfortunately, even the largest crab we have in Newfoundland is somewhat smaller than the Alaskan or the Atlantic crab, or the crab the Russians are supplying to the Japanese market.

Yes, it is a problem. Education and further work with the individual fishermen at sea to handle that species of fish, that snow crab, and get it over the side of the boat without killing it, it can be done. It is only going to be done with the proper training and the proper discussions with the individual fishermen. It is a legitimate concern all of the industry has.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Question period has ended.

MR. A. REID: (Inaudible), Mr. Speaker, if I may?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs on a point of privilege.

MR. A. REID: I have to apologize to the House. I suppose, in a way, I spoke a mis-truth here. I was just advised no more than a couple of minutes ago by the Department of Justice that we will not be appealing that decision. You asked me a question and I said we would. John Moore happened to be in the audience and he took off out through the door as soon as I made the comment. He just told me that we will not be appealing the decision of the judge as it relates to - and we are going to look at the possibility of having to pay some of those claims that you are talking about. Mr. Speaker, if that is okay -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. A. REID: It was only a couple of minutes ago that Justice gave us the ruling on it, and I apologize.


Notices of Motion


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Government Services and Lands.

MR. McLEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, "An Act To Amend The Credit Union Act."

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Environment and Labour.

MR LANGDON: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, "An Act To Amend The Environment Act."

Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, "An Act To Amend The Shops' Closing Act."

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

MR. GRIMES: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, "An Act To Revise The Law Respecting Apprenticeship And Occupational Certification."




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

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

I have a petition. To the hon. House of Assembly: We, the residents of St. John's, wish to petition the hon. House of Assembly giving particular attention to the department's of Health and Community Services, and Environment and Labour, regarding emissions at the Grace Hospital from the stack. We request that the House of Assembly look into burning cleaner fuel or upgrading emission standards at the stack. There is considerable damage being done to cars, personal property, clothes on clotheslines, as well as possible health risks due to emissions from the stack.

Mr. Speaker, we are all aware of the questions that I have asked last week on two occasions in the House regarding this particular issue and we are aware of the answers from both the Minister of Environment and Labour, and the Minister of Health and Community Services. We can only hope, Mr. Speaker, for the people who are living in that area to put an end to the damage that is being done to their personal property and even more importantly, to put an end to the fear of potential health hazards, health problems in the future.

Mr. Speaker, we heard from the Minister of Health and Community Services that they have started burning cleaner fuel at St. Clare's and that they are looking at burning cleaner fuel at other hospitals. It is still unclear at this point, Mr. Speaker, if they are going to start burning cleaner fuel at the Grace Hospital. It is also unclear at this point what the future holds for that building and that property, what the government intend to do with that property, if they are going to continue to operate it, perhaps as a seniors' home, as offices, or what have you.

So, maybe, Mr. Speaker, if one of the ministers would be kind enough to give a response to this petition today, they can give us some indication as to what the future holds for that particular property, what government's intentions are for that property. As well, they hope that they will start burning cleaner fuel there.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I just want to support the petition as put forward by my colleague, the Member for St. John's South, with respect to the emissions from the Grace Hospital stack. Mr. Speaker, this is a concern which has been expressed now for some while by a particular neighbourhood and residents of the LeMarchant Road area, who obviously have been experiencing difficulties with their personal property and their homes as it relates to these emissions. It is an issue that was raised during Question Period one day last week, and my colleague, the Member for St. John's South was certainly given the impression that it was an issue that would be looked into by the environment department. Because we are talking about people's personal property, Mr. Speaker, we are talking about people who have invested significant dollars into their homes; we are talking about individuals who obviously take pride in where they live and when they have to get up morning after morning, and because of the type of fuel which is being burned in this facility, they look out their windows only to find that their verandas and their cars are covered with soot. So, obviously, Mr. Speaker, the whole sight is unsightly, the situation also sparks concerns with respect to health. Young children who are living and playing in the area obviously have expressed from what I can understand, in speaking with my colleague, concern to their parents and to adults in the area who feel that simply not enough attention is being given by the hospital as it relates to these emissions.

Now, clearly, this is very local, a situation and an issue which deal only with a very small section of the city; nevertheless, it ought to be given the attention which it rightfully deserves. It has been presented through questions here in the House; we have a number of petitions which have been presented by my colleague, and obviously, members opposite and in particular the Ministries of Environment and Labour, and Health and Community Services, ought to pay particular attention to these concerns. It is an issue which obviously requires attention; it is an issue which requires immediate attention in terms of rectifying this problem. A neighbouring hospital has been able to deal with the problem adequately and there is no reason, Mr. Speaker, why the Grace Hospital cannot follow suit to ensure that the residents of this particular area live in a safe and clean environment.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to present a petition on behalf of the residents of the community of Calvert, pertaining to the Goulds by-pass road.

MR. J. BYRNE: What! (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes. I might add, and say to my colleague from Cape St. Francis: no, it has not started yet. From the time I presented the first petition, (inaudible) hardly had time to start it and finish it and spend the $10 million in that time.

Once again, it is a petition in from another of the many communities that have been circulating petitions. The petition is calling upon this provincial government to move forward with the construction of the Goulds by-pass road because it is being identified as a priority for development under the Canada-Newfoundland Transportation Initiative and it goes on to say:

WHEREAS the construction of the Goulds by-pass road has not begun despite repeated promises from government; and

WHEREAS the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has indicated that construction of the Goulds by-pass road will not begin this year; and

WHEREAS significant opportunities for development in the region are contingent on the completion of the Goulds by-pass road; and

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

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

WHEREAS the financial resources to begin the Goulds by-pass road had been identified under the Canada-Newfoundland Transportation Initiative -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).


AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, he gave me a letter, but not this year.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).


AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: No, he has told me this year that it will be done within the terms of the agreement by 2002, 2003 and he told us in a meeting with all the mayors that it would be done, hopefully sooner rather than later. If it is going to take three years to do it, I would assume he should start pretty soon; next year is 1999 and that only leaves four construction seasons left and if it is going to take three years, he has to start next year if it will be done by 2002.

He has indicated that the money is earmarked and set aside. What I am indicating to him is, when tenders come out, even though he has not specified when tenders come out, and they come in under, he should allocate those extra dollars if we are under and in the tender calls this year over what was earmarked, he should apply to that. Because it has been identified and $10 million has been earmarked for that by-pass road.

The minister indicated that the department this year, is looking at trying to finish ongoing projects. Well, certainly, that is a noble effort to try to do the section of the Outer Ring Road from Portugal Cove Road into Kenmount Road, I certainly agree with trying to do that, but it should not jeopardize - a small amount of money is all that is needed this year; we are not talking about $10 million or $15 million out of the money under the transportation initiative of, I believe it is $56 million this year, $36 million being spent in Labrador, for a total of $92 million, and another $4 million being spent federally out of the remaining $16 million. So, we are spending $96 million federal money this year. The least you could find was $1 million, 1 per cent, to start on the Goulds bypass road, to give some hope to the businesses that have spent, I would assume, in the $1 million range now.

For instance, in the Bay Bulls area, a beautiful port there. It is laid out with acres of land there, hopefully to establish an offshore base. It would cause, certainly, an increase in employment in the area, an area that has been hit very hard by the downturn in the fishery. Hopefully, this will only be the first step in what would extend beyond Bay Bulls Big Pond into the Witless Bay Line.

As I drove out this morning, I took notice of the time when I left home - traffic was not as congested today, but to get to Bay Bulls Big Pond it took me fifty-three minutes, and I got to the Confederation Building in thirty-three minutes from Bay Bulls Big Pond. That is to get into the City of St. John's, thirty-three minutes not in the busiest time.

AN HON. MEMBER: You need a faster car.

MR. SULLIVAN: A faster car. I should, yes. Maybe if we get an approved speedway there, I will take on the sandbagger from Humber East, and I will demonstrate some driving skills under improved conditions. I have backed up more miles, I would say, than he has gone forward.

Another interesting point, as my colleague from Cape St. Francis mentioned, if you can drive through that area in twelve or fourteen minutes, and it takes you forty or forty-five during peak traffic time -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. SULLIVAN: By leave, to finish up?

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Just to finish this point I was making.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. SULLIVAN: If it takes forty-five minutes to drive through an area when you can normally drive it in twelve or fourteen minutes, can you imagine a half hour less of polluting the environment by an automobile? Multiple that by the amount of traffic that uses that highway and it makes a difference.

Look at the Outer Ring Road, as you drive from Portugal Cove Road out to Kenmount Road; cars operating a half hour less. It is less costly for the people operating the vehicles, less pollution in the environment, not to mention facilitating the movement of business and so on, that is very positive for the companies that are trying to do business in travelling around the city.

There are many positive points to finishing a highway there. It is much more than a mode of transportation; it is a reduction of pollution and it facilitates the economy and business of the area. One of the strongest aspects when operating a business today is time saved is money saved.

With that, I will give my colleague an opportunity to say some words in support of this petition.

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

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, I have a petition of my own here, but before presenting it, I want to respond to the petition of my colleague from the historic District of Ferryland, which is very interested in the completion of the Goulds bypass road.

Mr. Speaker, I know there was a fair bit of controversy about that road in the past, the building of it and what it might do to farmland. Well, the decision has been made, the highway is determined to proceed, and it is time to get on with it.

Mr. Speaker, it is a project that would provide a good bit of employment in the short term, although road building is not a great employer of people. It uses more equipment and materials that labour, Mr. Speaker, but that is not the important thing. The important thing is that the road will provide a better service to the people in the District of Ferryland, to have access to their homes and businesses, and also provide for the businesses in that area to have a greater access to their clientele and their clientele have access to them, then to be able to conduct their business in a more economical and competitive way.

It is a road, Mr. Speaker, that is very necessary. Anybody who wants to go from St. John's to Bay Bulls, for example, or beyond, has a difficult time because of the nature of the transportation routes through there. The condition of the road is abominable at times as well, Mr. Speaker, very narrow, winding and dangerous, I would suggest, depending obviously on the road conditions. It is a road on which one would be very nervous driving at night. There have been lots of accidents on that road, a lot of people injured and killed on that road, pedestrians walking on the road. It is a very narrow road. There is very little shoulder in many parts of it.

The Goulds bypass road is an important part of the arterial network for the Metropolitan St. John's area, so to finish that posthaste would be very advantageous to the citizens of not only the District of Ferryland, who would be direct beneficiaries, but also anybody who wants and needs to have access to that part of the Province. It is an area that, thanks in no small measure to the efforts of the member, is receiving a lot of attention in the Province. There are a lot of things going on in that district that people in the Province want to pay attention to.

A lot of mention has been made over the past year or so about the archaeological activities in the Town of Ferryland itself, going back some 350 years or 382 years, I suppose. The member will probably correct me if I say 382 years, and say: No, it's 383 years, but going back to the early days of Lord Baltimore, Mr. Calvert, the man who gave the name Calvert to Caplin Cove.


MR. HARRIS: Caplin Bay.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Yes, the very historic Town of Calvert that the member has long connections with. It is a place people where people want to go because it represents a very unique part of our Province. The Goulds bypass road will give access to that part of the Province in a far greater, more advantageous way to motorists, to tourists, to business people, to residents of that area, many of whom work in St. John's, on a daily basis commuting back and forth to be able to make a living and yet live in these communities. I support the petition, Mr. Speaker, and I would ask that the minister do everything in his power to improve the speed at which that road is completed.

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

MS S. OSBORNE: Mr. Speaker, I have a petition here on Sunday shopping.

We, the residents of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, being retail workers, families of retail workers, and citizens, do hereby petition the hon. House of Assembly to rescind the bill on the Shops' Closing Act that permits stores to remain open for business on Sunday.

This amendment will cause extreme difficulty - and I think it is starting to cause extreme difficulty now, little bits of problem with Easter Sunday - for the retail workers and their families, and we see no benefit that will come from Sunday shopping.

We sat here in this hon. House for a lot of hours, a lot of bell ringing, in December. The prime cause of that was Sunday shopping. We had people in the gallery, we had letters against Sunday shopping, e-mail, faxes against Sunday shopping, and this government did not listen. Since then I have been given in excess of 12,000 names from people against Sunday shopping.

When the petitions were brought in, the people asked me: Would you give them to the Premier? I called the Premier because this House wasn't open. I called the Premier's office and asked if he could take the petitions. He said: Bring them to the House of Assembly. Isn't that ironic, being as how in December we tried to get them into the House of Assembly and you invoked closure?

This bill is starting to cause problems already. We have had to go back on Easter Sunday.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS S. OSBORNE: Is it? You will find out where the problems are.

We had a church minister ask the Premier if he would make Easter Sunday a holiday, and he has had to make Easter Sunday a holiday. It is all very well for us on the May 24 weekend - isn't it funny how we move these Mondays to Sundays - we move the holidays to Monday, like May 24 can be May 18 - why did we do it? So the people could have a long weekend.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS S. OSBORNE: Yes, and they will get some long weekend now, won't they!

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

That is right. You go back to your seat if you want to sandbag me. Here we are after having moved holidays, whether they fell on a Wednesday or Thursday or Friday, moved them to Monday so that people could be off Sunday and Monday and then we opened the stores on Sunday. How counter-productive is this government, at all!

I suppose I am the voice crying in the wilderness but I am not alone. There are thousands and thousands of names on these petitions from all districts in this Province; there are letters coming in to the paper; there are children doing projects on it in school because their parents have to work on Sunday. We have a person here - no choice but to work on Sunday and the government said that we would have a choice - but if my employer comes and says to me, "Can you work on Sunday", and I say, "No, I can't", I know that somebody else will fill the job and then that somebody will be given my hours during the week. So where is the choice, Mr. Speaker, for these people who have been legislated to work on Sundays? They say it is supposed to be a choice but there is no choice.

Here is another worker, right here now - no choice but to work on Sundays. As I said, we have these long weekends coming up - we have May 24 which is May 18 - some of us are fortunate.

If this government did it as a convenience, than I suggest that, if you want to get a driver's licence, that office is open thirty-five hours a week, stores are open seventy-two, plus the five hours on Sunday. If you want to get anything else from a government agency, the offices are open thirty-five hours a week, so, come on, guys, if we are going to start doing things for the convenience of the residents of Newfoundland, let us make getting a driver's licence convenient, let us make getting other things from government agencies convenient, let us open the whole works on Sunday. Why just get retail workers back to work on Sunday?

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise to support petition by my colleague, the Member for St. John's West.

It is kind of ironic that he rammed through legislation here in the fall, closure-invoked, he could not get it off the agenda fast enough - on opening stores on Sunday and, before the ink is dry, they are out again now starting to retrace their steps, starting to back up again, and we are going to have in this House now legislation to close them on Easter Sunday - by the way, we support that, I say, to the sandbagger from the West Coast, I support that. No, we want to keep them closed on Easter Sunday - they are already open on Easter Sunday according to the legislation. I say that the Member for Humber East supported the legislation in this House that opened stores on Easter Sunday. The Member for Humber East stood up, he supported legislation in this House to open stores on Easter Sunday.

MS S. OSBORNE: And 24 May.

MR. SULLIVAN: That is right. We did not support opening stores on Easter Sunday. In fact, right now the Premier made his announcement, off the cuff, that on Easter Sunday - he stood in the House here - he made a Ministerial Statement, I believe, one day in the House - he landed down, he swooped down, he stepped out of the airplane for a few minutes; he rushed in, with the helicopter waiting outside, rushed in, made his Ministerial Statement, swooped out of here again and said, `We cannot have stores open on Easter Sunday - we have to close them'. That is not what he did last fall. He rammed it through, would not allow us to speak on it, invoked closure and prevented it. What happens now? Maybe we should close them on Palm Sunday, maybe we should close them when New Year's Day falls on Sunday, close them on any Sunday; they should be closed on Mother's Day that falls on Sunday, Father's Day falls on Sunday.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Now, you cannot have discrimination based on sex. If you close on Mother's Day you should close on Father's Day. Otherwise, the associate Minister of Finance is treating men and women differently in legislation and he should not do that.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: No, it is not silly. The Member for Conception Bay East & Bell Island indicates that they should be closed on Mother's Day when last year he voted to open them on Mother's Day. You supported legislation last year that said they should open. He made a mistake, good. I think you should tell the Premier you made a mistake and move an amendment - when it is introduced here move an amendment to have them closed on Mother's Day and I will support that amendment.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Good, and I might even move one for Palm Sunday. I might even move one when All Souls Day falls on Sunday and All Saints Day and if St. Patrick's Day falls on Sunday maybe. That is not getting silly. We are starting to see now - the Premier rushes off and makes those big announcements and then after the fact - without broadening the scope, I am saying, the pendulum will swing back and we will start closing them on Sundays and see that the impact is not positive overall on Sundays. We only spread the money out over seven days instead of six.

I am looking forward to the Member for Conception Bay East & Bell Island proposing an amendment, and I hope you will speak to your Minister of Finance on this, that there are going to be amendments proposed and the Government House Leader, I am sure, will be eager to know. If there are amendments going to be put forth on this, they might be kind of lengthy, I say to the Minister of Finance. There is an amendment coming forth, from a government member, to amend the Shops' Closing Act other than the one that has been introduced. So we look forward to some debate on this issue. I know I would like an opportunity to debate this issue in its entirety. I am sure my colleagues here would want an opportunity to speak and to voice their concern with opening stores on Sunday. I am sure we will have a very good couple of weeks of discussion on this issue. I am quite sure we will. Yes, we might have that. We just might do that. We certainly did it before and we are prepared to do it again. How many want to send their mothers and their family members -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. SULLIVAN: By leave to finish up, Mr. Speaker.

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


MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. SULLIVAN: How many want to see mothers having to go to work on Sunday, on Mother's Day, and leave their young kids at home? How many want to see that happen? The Member for Conception Bay East & Bell Island does not and I do not want to see it either. I am sure my colleagues do not want to see it and I am sure people on that side do not want to see it. This is our chance to amend this now, to go a little bit further, while we are doing it for Easter Sunday, which we support - go a little bit further now and let us do a few other amendments. I am sure we will manage to prepare some amendments and I am sure the Member for Conception Bay East & Bell Island is going to move one and we will add in a few others there that I think are very appropriate.

MR. WHELAN: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, you are amending the Act. The Minister of Finance tells me you are, the Government House Leader says you are amending the Act, and a copy of the legislation I have here says you are amending the Act. A copy of the draft legislation that I have here says you are amending it, and I would ask the Member for Humber East to go look at the amendments. The legislation is going to be amending - it has not been introduced yet, I say to the Member for Humber East. I am speaking on a petition that does not support Sunday shopping and even shopping on Easter Sunday that you, as a member of this legislation, stood and supported the right to shop on Easter Sunday. I say that is wrong and we should change that. We should change it for Mother's Day and we should change it for other areas, too, on Sundays. Then we will have it down to a manageable number and you may as well say, close it on all Sundays. So let us deal with that now and we will see - when we have the legislation we will deal with the amendments in due course.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Due to the failure of the Acting, Acting House Leader to call Orders, I will go with another petition.


MR. SULLIVAN: I am recognized.

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Justice, on a point of order.

MR. DECKER: I would remind my hon. friend that it is You, Mr. Speaker, who calls Orders of the Day, not the House Leader.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I might remind the Acting, Acting Government House Leader that you usually rise to be recognized so that you can respond to that when it is called, I say to the minister.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member is on a petition, so I ask him to get to it.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is my pleasure to present a petition here dealing with a very important matter to the people in my district. This one is signed by the residents of the community of Aquaforte and I say to my colleague, the Member for Cape St. Francis, I am sure they are going to think he is from Ferryland district by the time he is finished supporting my petitions on the Goulds by-pass road, because communities have been sending them in, they are coming in fast and furious. Every time I go to my mail, there is another one being mailed in - in fact, I received two or three today and this is actually the second one that I have had an opportunity to present here today.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: No. I presented one from Calvert and that is being given to the Clerk of this House, who has it, signed by me. Here is another; I will give the minister an opportunity to look at it, the original, it is not photocopied like we see some, it is in pure, original, unadulterated form, unaltered in any way.

MR. J. BYRNE: Let me see; a different one altogether.

MR. SULLIVAN: A different one altogether. The residents of Aquaforte, a few from Ferryland, one or two from Calvert but primarily the residents of Aquaforte who are looking forward to having a Goulds by-pass road, business in Aquaforte -

AN HON. MEMBER: What are they (inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: You have not sent the right fellow up there yet or the right woman.

AN HON. MEMBER: No, (inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, that is what they are all saying; they are not going to vote Liberal anymore they said. We did get a few hundred thousand that were (inaudible) up in Port Kirwan. It is going to be done this year, I say to the minister; we had a nice bridge in Cape Broyle last year, I say to the minister, the year before, one in Calvert, the year before that, one in Bay Bulls; a beautiful archaeological dig up in Ferryland; a million-dollar facility went to the Colony of Avalon; East Coast Trail, we will soon hear a big announcement, another million dollars announced. We have money flying all over the place, prosperity up there, it is starting to turn things around from a tourism point of view, and we are starting to see increase in thousands and thousands of visitors per year coming to the District of Ferryland. That is one of the reasons we want to have an infrastructure, a road network that is going to be positive that they can go back - and one less thing at least I say to complain about, and when we try to get a proper network, the minister could not even put up a sign right.

He thought a shamrock had four leaves and he would not even put them up to the right height, and his department spent money on all these little decals they had to go around and put on the sign. That minister of Works, Services and Transportation could not even get the signs right, not to say getting the asphalt down right - he could not even get the signs right. He did not even know how many leaves a shamrock has and he tried to tell me, a four-leaf lucky shamrock. If he looked at the scientific name of it, tree, tri from the Latin word meaning tree and the symbolic, historical significance from a cultural, religious, the historical significance of the shamrock, the minister - totally inappropriate, it took almost a year to get him to change his mind.

We are going to need some new signs, I would say, for the Goulds by-pass road when it gets through; some big signs, with big, three-leaf shamrocks, Irish loop zone to identify that particular unique part of our Province - all parts of the Province are unique in their own ways.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: The minister thought he was putting out a work of art; how proud he was! I said, it will be down, it will be coming down. No, it will never be coming down, he said; and then we had a call from Michael Enright and As It Happens and other people from all over the place. The people in industry said: What an insult to have that up! Get it down! And after tremendous pressure, he reluctantly agreed that the shamrock has three leaves, not four.

MR. H. HODDER: (Inaudible) talking to Barbara Enright.

MR. SULLIVAN: Michael Enright.

MR. H. HODDER: Yes, Barbara Enright - Michael's wife.


Anyway, on a very serious note, this is important, very, very important to people in the area. Not only is it positive for the people in the Southern Shore area, beyond the Goulds area, it is important to the people in the Goulds area. Now, most people in the Goulds area will be very positively affected by a Goulds by-pass road. It would take tremendous traffic off the main road, reduce accidents there. There are some very dangerous turns, there have been a lot of people killed.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: If the road to Ferryland is paved only with good intentions, we want some black-top to go with those good intentions.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. SULLIVAN: Mr. Speaker, in closing, I just call on the minister to put some money into this road this year and get a start on it and I am sure the money will within the department.

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

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

Once again, Mr. Speaker, I rise in my place today to support the petition presented by the Member for Ferryland in trying to get the provincial government to put some money into the Goulds by-pass this year.

Mr. Speaker, the Member for Ferryland presented a petition for the people of St. Shotts the other day, he presented a petition for the people in Trepassey, another day; today he has presented a petition for the people in Calvert and now, Mr. Speaker, another petition presented for the people of Aquaforte and Fermeuse and that area.

Now, Mr. Speaker, what does that say about the member for Ferryland? that he is very persistent, that he is representing the people of his district very well and that he has the interests of the constituents of the District of Ferryland at heart.

By the way, Mr. Speaker, St. Shotts is not in his district, yet he is presenting petitions in this House of Assembly on behalf of the people of St. Shotts.

AN HON. MEMBER: Somebody has to do it, boy.

MR. J. BYRNE: Someone has to do it, Mr. Speaker. What a man! The Member for Humber East said: That Member for Ferryland - What a man! I agree, Mr. Speaker. What a man!

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: The Member for Humber East is saying that he is proud of the Member for Ferryland - proud! I am just saying that, Mr. Speaker, because I have the floor. I wanted to be In Hansard on what the Member for Humber East thinks of the Member for Ferryland - proud of the man! Proud of the man! Now you can get a copy of that and send it out to all of the constituents, I say to the Member for Ferryland.

With respect to the Southern Shore highway, Mr. Speaker, the Southern Shore highway is in a deplorable condition, as I said in the House of Assembly before, Mr. Speaker. It needs to be repaired, the Southern Shore highway in itself, not alone the Goulds by-pass needing to be built. We have the communities and the municipalities on the Southern Shore all supporting this. And all they are looking for this year is to get the Goulds by-pass started.

Now, the Member for Ferryland said that there is going to $96 million spent on highroads in this Province this year, and all they are looking for is probably $1 million, around 1 per cent, to get the Goulds by-pass started. When you look at the Goulds by-pass in conjunction with the Outer Ring Road and the road network in and around St. John's, one can see how important it is to get that road started.

Now, the other day in the House of Assembly, I mentioned the environmental impact it is having on the air quality in and around St. John's and the Southern Shore highway, with all the cars that are spending an extra thirty or forty minutes on the Southern Shore highway in the mornings and evenings into and out of St. John's. So that in itself makes it worth the effort to put the money into the Goulds by-pass.

Also, it has been said here a number of times, Mr. Speaker, that tourism on the Southern Shore highway - I would say most tourists come to St. John's, when they visit the Island of Newfoundland and we encourage them; the Member for the Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi just reminded me, they go out to Cape St. Francis, my district. My district is named after Cape St. Francis, by the way, and people coming to St. John's, many of them go down the Marine Drive which is in a deplorable condition also. But a good number of them, I would think, drive down the Southern Shore.

Now, a lot of people say, up the Southern Shore, Mr. Speaker, but it is really down the Southern Shore. It is south you are travelling, not north. So it is down the Southern Shore, correctly speaking.

AN HON. MEMBER: Go down to Labrador.

MR. J. BYRNE: No, that is incorrect also. We do go down to Labrador, that is the terminology used in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. We go down to Labrador, but in actual fact, we are travelling north; we are going up to Labrador.

AN HON. MEMBER: Can we go down to Florida?

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, we are getting off the topic here now.

There are a good number of tourists who do visit the Southern Shore. They go up through Bay Bulls, Witless Bay, Tors Cove and Mobile, all the way up the Southern Shore, up to Ferryland and what have you. We have to encourage these people to get up there. If they go out there and they are going to get tied up in traffic, beating up their cars and all this kind of stuff because the roads are in such poor condition, one can understand why we need the Goulds bypass started, Mr. Speaker.

Once again I stand in my place supporting the petitions coming forward. It is curious to see, and I think some of the members on the opposite side mentioned it, the fact that the Member for Ferryland presented a couple of petitions today. They are different petitions. We have different communities on the Southern Shore bringing the petitions to the Member for Ferryland, asking him to present them on behalf of their communities. They are frequently coming in. They do not all arrive at the same time; one today, two tomorrow, half a dozen last week, whatever the case may be. Every time he goes to his mailbox he is receiving petitions.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. J. BYRNE: By leave, Mr. Speaker. I have lots to say on this.

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

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes, a few minutes to clue up.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. J. BYRNE: Anyway, Mr. Speaker, I am just trying to clue up. I just say I support the petition presented on behalf of the Member for Ferryland.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have a petition on behalf of a number of people of Your Honour's district from the community of Hant's Harbour. Almost all of them are from Hant's Harbour, a few from New Chelsea, and one here from Sibleys Cove in Your Honour's district.

They are petitioning the House to direct the government to establish a universal comprehensive school lunch program for every school in Newfoundland and Labrador to help end child hunger and give our children a better chance to learn and participate fully in the benefits of education.

I know that the Speaker is delighted that these petitioners have a voice here in the House of Assembly through this hon. member, because Your Honour is not permitted to speak in the House of Assembly on matters involving politics, because of your role. So I am delighted to be able to present them to the House on behalf of these constituents.

They are painfully aware, sadly, that school children in this Province have a great deal of difficulty learning when they are hungry. It has been definitively reported by the government's own researcher, Dr. Patricia Canning, that child hunger and poverty issues affect a significantly large number of children in this Province. In fact, she says that over half the school children in the Province are at risk of low performance in school as a result of poverty related issues.

That is a startling and shocking fact. We have the Child Tax Benefit, the National Child Benefit, being introduced by Paul Martin and the Liberal government in Ottawa in an effort to ensure that children benefit from a significant amount of money from the federal coffers. Yet we have this government taking that money back from the families and using it for programs for someone else.

We have a very serious child hunger problem. There are those on the other side of the House who would say: We set aside $1 million for the school lunch program. I know that, and that is going to help, but it is not going to address the problem until we have a universal program, until each and every school in the Province has a school lunch program or a hot meal program to ensure that these schoolchildren have a chance to eat properly, be nutritionally advantaged, and be able to participate in education.

What are we going to do? I saw a very good sign that was used in the Ontario teachers' strike, and a very good message, I say to the Member for Port de Grave. The sign said: You think education is expensive; try ignorance and see how expensive that is.

Mr. Speaker, that is the situation that we are facing here in this Province with respect to hunger. If it is expensive to ensure that the hungry children are fed, how much more expensive is it to deal with the problems that are caused when those children are not able to learn properly, when those people have an anger against society because they grew up in conditions that didn't allow them to be properly fed? How much misery will be caused, Mr. Speaker, because those children are miserable today? How much will they miss out on in life because they don't have a chance to have a proper diet and a proper way of feeding themselves?

Mr. Speaker, today the Minister of Human Resources and Employment said that there are no losers on social assistance in Newfoundland and Labrador. That is so absolutely, obviously false that it is not even funny. Every person on social assistance in this Province, especially children, are losers, Mr. Speaker, because they cannot get the proper diet, they cannot afford to be fed properly by their families, and all of us, our entire society, are also losers because of it. So there are lots of losers to go around because of this government's policy on social services, because of this government's failure to recognize what the Committee on Children's Interests recognized, that child hunger was the number one problem facing children in this Province. Hunger was the number one problem facing children in this Province.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. HARRIS: If we don't deal with that, Mr. Speaker, we can't really have respect for any policies of this government.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I want to rise to support the petition put forward by my colleague for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi, as I usually do when his petitions deal with children and children's issues.

Mr. Speaker, we need from time to time to be reminded that children are the important foundations of our society in this country and in this Province.

Today we listened to the Minister of Human Resources and Employment try to explain, in the most conservative, right-wing, Preston Manning type address that we have had in this House in a long time, the logic that they have adopted in the federal system and in the provincial system that justifies taking money away from the very poorest of families and giving that money to the families who are not quite so poor.

Then the minister stands in her place and says: I want to make a big announcement. Nobody will get any less money than they are now getting. We know that. That is not the question. The thing is that when all other families are going to be better off, when they are going to be given money to provide school lunches for their children, when they are going to be able to use that money to break down some of the barriers to a better education, we have this minister standing and saying: We have good news for you; we are not going to browbeat the poorest people in this Province any more than we have browbeaten them in the past.

Mr. Speaker, as the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi has said on many occasions - and I have said it many times here as well - we have a situation where, as many writers have said, the poorest of children in this Province do not have equal opportunities. What we expect the Minister of Human Resources and Employment to do is to break down some of the barriers to these children getting a better education.

Now, Mr. Speaker, we know that the minister today said that she is going to take money from the Child Tax Credit. She is going to use that money to provide programs for those people who are not quite so poor. Now, Mr. Speaker, we know that the Canning Report - and I keep a copy of the Canning Report here with me in the House almost at all times. Mr. Speaker, we just remind the members that on page 11 it talks about poverty and low income. Mr. Speaker, it says that 73 per cent of children in single family homes in this Province live in poverty.

Mr. Speaker, we know that a great number of single parents are dependant on social services. Not all of them, but there is a higher number of them because of the way that mothers are left to care for children, and very often because of the attitudes we have as males of this society that males very often abrogate their responsibilities to their children.

It says here: It is well documented that there is a disproportionate number of poor people with low levels of education. It says there is overwhelming evidence that social economic status has been and continues to be the single best predictor of educational achievement.

Mr. Speaker, the question I have to ask is: What was there in the minister's statement today that would let some mother who is dependent on social services have any hope that she will have a chance to give her children a better opportunity in life than she herself had? Mr. Speaker, we know that poverty is cyclical. While we applaud the fact that there was some extra money put into the Budget for the school food foundation, we note as well that money does not always go to the school lunch program.

So, Mr. Speaker, we want to say that the poorest of children in this Province have nothing to look forward to because of the Ministerial Statements made today. The status quo continues. The poor will stay poor and the Child Tax Credit money that was designated by Ottawa to be used to help the very poorest of people is now going to be taken, and they are using that money, from the very poorest of families, to help out those who are not quite so poor. When the minister said in her place today: I am so happy to announce that there will be no reductions -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, the truth of the matter is that the poorest of poor families will still stay poor.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Does the hon. member have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, we just want to continue on to remind the minister, who is over there listening, that they have to do something about the very poorest of families. What they are doing today, and the way that they are trying to explain this, I wish they would come right up front and be honest and straightforward, say it like it is. If you are going to take money from the poorest of families to subsidize programs for the people who are not quite so poor, then be straightforward, don't camouflage it.

I am not against incentive programs for people going back to work. I am not against going and saying: Let's extend the drug card, let's give people an opportunity to make a few extra dollars. I think that is wonderful. The question is, who should pay for it? Should it be the big banks in Canada with their hundreds of millions of dollars in profit? Should we ask the corporate community to do more for the poorest of families? Or should we ask the people who are the working poor to be subsidized by the people who can never get a job, who don't have any skills, and have families to look after?

To hear the minister today say that she is so proud that they are not going to have any reductions from the very poorest of families - in fact, she was quite boastful that they are going to get a 7 per cent increase. Whoop-ti-do!

AN HON. MEMBER: How many years?

MR. H. HODDER: A 7 per cent increase over a three-year period, and they have not had any increases since 1989. They are going to increase the cost of children's clothing. We have trouble with the heat, and all of these things, no help for these people at all. In other words, what we are really doing is taking the extra taxes they are paying and we are saying: We are going to give you back a little bit of your own money and you are supposed to be very happy with that.

To hear the Member for Humber East say how happy he is to be robbing food from the tables of the poorest people in this Province is disgusting indeed. He thinks this program that the minister supposedly explained today is a wonderful program. I cannot believe that hon. members on that side today were applauding that Ministerial Statement. It has to be the most right-winged, Preston Manning type statement ever made in this House in the last ten years that I have been here, hearing members over there today applauding the kind of thing that would make Preston Manning look good, because obviously that is a reform, Western Canadian - made in Western Canada - kind of program. It could not have been made in Atlantic Canada because nobody who knows anything about Atlantic Canada and the needs of young children in Atlantic Canada would ever, ever agree to that. Yet, today we saw the members of that side thump their desks. They were so happy that the Minister of Human Resources was going to rob money from the very poorest of families. They thumped their desks and said: This is wonderful program. We are so happy, we are adopting the Western Canadian reform package. We are going to bring it to Newfoundland, and that is the kind of social policy we are going to keep introducing in this Province.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


Orders of the Day


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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, first of all, Motion No. 3.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs to introduce a bill, "An Act to Amend The Urban and Rural Planning Act", carried. (Bill No. 3)

On motion, Bill No. 3 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, Motion No. 1, the Budget Speech.

MR. SPEAKER: Motion 1: To move that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole on Ways and Means to consider the Raising of Supply to be granted to Her Majesty, otherwise known as the Budget Speech.

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

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

I closed debate on Friday, and I am going to start again today, talking about out-migration. One of the biggest problems facing our Province today is out-migration.

There is no rural development plan to rescue areas of the Province that are suffering from out-migration. We heard of stories just last week, on the radio and in the paper, of towns near death because of out-migration. Yet, there is no rural development plan put forward by this Province to curb that.

Mr. Speaker, this Province is breaking all of the records when it comes to out-migration. The Province is predicting this year that there are going to be another 9,000 people leave. In the third quarter of 1997 over 3,100 people left this Province, more than double any of the other quarters of the previous year.

Our people are leaving by the thousands each year, and many of those leaving are the ones we have helped to educate. It is called the `brain drain', Mr. Speaker. It is the people we have educated who are leaving the Province by the thousands every year. The Economy 1998 document of the Province is estimating that thousands more are going to leave this Province - in the vicinity of 9,000 - again this year. Instead of a strategy to deal with that this year, we see a government ringing its hands, finding someone else to blame, allowing these people to leave without a rural development plan.

On the other side of the Atlantic we look at Ireland, who have successfully addressed out-migration by taking a hard look at education, technology, investment, and bolstering the traditional industries of that country. Yet, right here in our own Province we can't even get government to support our own local industry, let alone bolster new industry.

They talk about EDGE, and granting companies EDGE status, yet our own local companies find it difficult to get the help they need from our government. Government are after the big headlines: We have attracted another big company; we have attracted more investment into the Province. What we already have here is being neglected by government.

What do we do here? We slash education to the bone, making it impossible for young people to go to school and for graduates to stay in their home Province. We neglect our local industry. We allow the most educated young people to leave this Province, allowing towns to die.

I will remind the House that it was the Tories who were successful in laying the foundation for the offshore oil and gas industry when they signed the Atlantic Accord in 1994, a major industry. Yet I will ask right now: What successful major industries have the Liberal Administration signed, successfully closed, and brought to this Province since that date? Nothing.

They have dismally failed at Voisey's Bay. They threatened to unplug the Churchill power last year and have not yet done so. Now we see on the table negotiations on the Lower Churchill, yet the federal government has not yet come to the table to agree to supply a power corridor to the Island. Without a power corridor to the Island, how can we expect to attract major industry and major employment to the Island? We cannot, because we haven't even got the power on the Island right now to supply electricity to the smelter in Argentia.

That is the stark reality here. We need that power corridor to the Island. While the electricity from that power corridor may be expensive in the short term, in the long term we know that electricity prices are stable, as we have seen with the Upper Churchill deal, and in the long term it will supply very inexpensive power to supply electricity for major industry to set up in this Province, to hire people, to create employment, and to drive our economy.

What have we seen on Voisey's Bay? We have seen more rhetoric than substance, really. We have seen Inco threaten to pull up stakes if they don't get their own way by not putting a smelter here. We have seen no signs of a royalty regime from Voisey's Bay that would keep profits here in this Province and allow us to continue to drive our economy, and potentially create employment that would keep our young people here.

The provincial and federal governments of Brian Tobin and Jean Chrétien fell down on the job when it came to working out land claims to deal with the Aboriginal people who have long-held claims on the land in Labrador that deal with both the Voisey's Bay project and the Lower Churchill. We still haven't seen any land claims. Last year we saw the charade, the show, the media hype, of announcing a deal to announce a deal to try and negotiate a deal to negotiate land claims. That is what was announced.

MR. CANNING: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Labrador West on a point of order.

MR. CANNING: Mr. Speaker, I would like to know if the hon. member has had discussions with the Aboriginal peoples on the North Coast of Labrador. I would like to know how much he knows about Voisey's Bay. I would like to know how much he knows about the Lower Churchill and the Upper Churchill, and where he stands on the Churchill Falls agreement we have negotiated and are continuing to negotiate with the Government of Quebec. I would like to know when he has been advised by the Aboriginal peoples on the North Coast that they are not satisfied with the rate of land claims, and how the land claims are unfolding.

Mr. Speaker, perhaps he can tell the House, tell the whole people of the Province, where all these issues are currently standing today.

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There is no point of order. The hon. member took advantage of the opportunity to engage in the debate.

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

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

There was no point of order, Mr. Speaker, you are right, and I can tell the member where I stand. I stand right here in the House, which is where I will be standing after the next election, which is more than I can say for that member, Mr. Speaker.

The Tobin government, I will tell you, fell down on the job when it came to putting in place an up-front royalty regime so that the companies that are in Labrador would have to pay dividends to this Province. Mr. Speaker, we still do not know what the royalty regime is on Voisey's Bay, and I would venture to guess that the government does not know what the royalty regime is on the Voisey's Bay project, because there is no royalty regime on the Voisey's Bay project.

We all want sound development of that huge resource to proceed. We all want the Voisey's Bay development to proceed and employ Newfoundlanders and give our economy a much needed boost; but, Mr. Speaker, we note that once again the provincial government has excluded the Aboriginal people. Why, I ask, have they been excluded?

We move on from there to rural renewal, Mr. Speaker. I tell you, as the mega-projects deliver headlines, what is happening in rural Newfoundland and Labrador? That is the question when we talk about rural renewal. We see it on the news night after night: street lights are being turned off, houses are being boarded up. In Trepassey some of the houses are being sold for $3,000, $4,000 and $5,000; roads are being swallowed by potholes; people hungry for work and for a solid plan for the future are giving up hope and leaving this Province for prospects elsewhere, for employment elsewhere. That is what is happening in rural renewal. That is what the government is delivering on rural renewal, Mr. Speaker.

We note that most of the economic zone reports are in, but we do not see in the Budget anything to implement the recommendations, to put some of the economic growth alternatives in those regions that have been dying from the groundfish moratorium since 1992. So, Mr. Speaker, while the economic zone reports are in, the government has done very little about it, very little. It is all on page 30 in the Budget. There it lists seven of the projects submitted from around the Province. No doubt there are countless others to go along with those to be submitted, but where is the action to put these recommendations to work? Nowhere.

You read the next paragraph and then you go back and reread the entire thing because you feel that you must have missed it. Surely, they would not leave it out. Surely a Province starved of rural renewal opportunities would not omit this from the Budget; but they did. They omitted that from the Budget. Where is the plan on rural renewal, I ask? We have grave fears that the work of these boards will end up gathering dust on the shelves of Cabinet ministers, next to all of the other reports that are gathering dust, because they certainly do not use these reports.

We talk about post-TAGS, and we debated TAGS last Wednesday in the Legislature, Mr. Speaker. The event this year that could turn things upside-down for our Province is the pending ending of TAGS almost a year ahead of schedule. There is a lot of rhetoric about demanding that Ottawa fulfil its responsibilities. We have not seen anything delivered yet.

Let us think about that for a second, what happens post-TAGS. If all of those people who were affected by the groundfish moratorium are withdrawn from the TAGS program without another program to replace it, where do those people go? They either leave the Province and add to the out-migration problem, or they resort to social benefits. Can our Province afford for these people to resort to social benefits? The answer again is no.

We need the federal government to put in place a post-TAGS program. They are the people who manage the groundfishery, they are the people who destroyed the groundfishery by making promises to foreign countries of fish quotas in place of purchasing wheat and grain and whatever else in this country. They are the people who have to make up for those mistakes. They now have to pay the price.

We might argue they have paid it for the last four years, but again, the people who are relying on TAGS benefits in this Province were given a five-year guarantee by the federal government. Because of the federal government mismanaging that program, they are cutting these people off a year early. Some of these people have purchased vehicles, have made commitments to banks for repayment of loans based on five years, and the government has broken that contract.

We have to send a strong message to the federal government in Ottawa that we will not allow them to discontinue TAGS without another program to replace it. This Province cannot afford it, and every one of us in this House agrees to that. We agreed last Wednesday. The federal government are falling down on their responsibility there, and we need more than just rhetoric, we need more than just pleas from the people in this Province. We need action.

Let us think about the students for a moment. How we will get rural renewal and provincial economic development if we continue to export our young people and our graduates from this Province? Everyone knows that by letting our young people, our graduates, leave the Province that we are amputating our future hopes when we export a generation of educated people. Again, you look back at the example of Ireland. Right now almost 50 per cent of the population of Ireland are thirty-five years old and younger. That there tells me they have a strong economic future. I wonder what our stats are in this Province? Because I would venture to guess that 50 per cent of our population are at least forty-five years old and older, if not more.

It is sad to see an aging population and young people, educated graduates, leaving this Province to develop a future elsewhere, either in this country or south of the border, or even in Europe, and help their economy grow, when it should be ours. This government has failed to provide these graduates with the hope to stay here, with employment to stay here. We have to start dealing with these problems instead of just creating headlines, rhetoric, because they are problems, and unless they are dealt with, the economic future of this Province will be dismal.

It has been pointed out how impossible it is to survive on student loans these days, or to start making a contribution to your society as a graduate when you have a loan the size of a mortgage, because of your education.

What does government do? They continue to cut education to the bone. They continue to cut at Memorial University, at public-funded colleges and shift the reliance of people on to private colleges, because there is no room for them at the public colleges and the public university. At the private colleges the student debt is even higher, Mr. Speaker.

Surely, long-range planning demands that we address this problem. So what do we do, Mr. Speaker? We look into this year's Budget to see the plan. Surely, government has a plan. Surely, they have a plan to deal with this, Mr. Speaker. One would think they have a plan to deal with this growing problem.

The document is on page 37 with long numerous attachments and appendices. Surely, somewhere in all of that there is a strategy to help students with their education and to allow these young people to cope with the debt once they graduate. Surely, there is a strategy to do what Ireland did, Mr. Speaker, by using the post-secondary sector and students as the engine for unprecedented economic revival. Surely, government has a plan. You would think they have a plan.

But try as you might, Mr. Speaker, you will not find any such strategy anywhere in this year's Budget - there is nothing - or in last year's so-called three-year plan; one page printed on both sides last year and there was nothing there either. Instead of more funding for students, we find the government actually reneging on its commitment to provide stable funding for the University over a three-year period. There is a modest two-year scholarship program, but the funding for that program is counterbalanced by a reduction in Memorial's operating budget.

Shifting, Mr. Speaker, the reliance to operate Memorial's overhead on students; higher tuitions. It has been forced on the University once again, on their shoulders, to entertain proposals such as program cuts, cutting courses or increasing tuition fees.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. T. OSBORNE: By leave, Mr. Speaker? Just twenty minutes or so to clue up.


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

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Virginia Waters.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. NOEL: Sounds like my maiden speech again.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to begin today by paying tribute to Newfoundland's newest senator.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. NOEL: Joan Cook has been a good friend of mine for a long time and a good friend of our Province, a good friend of many organizations in our Province.

AN HON. MEMBER: Including the Liberal Party.

MR. NOEL: Including the Liberal Party, that is right, but that should be no prohibition to anybody becoming an appointed Senator.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. NOEL: I think it probably was in this case.

Mr. Speaker, Mrs. Cook is a woman with a long record of achievement in our Province, in the field of business, in the field of community affairs, and in the field of politics. She is a wonderful lady who has been very loyal to the causes she has been involved with and the people she has been involved with, and I look forward to her making a great contribution in the Senate of Canada.

I don't know if this House has recognized Mrs. Cook's appointment during some period when I was not here but if not, Mr. Speaker, I would suggest you give some consideration to sending a letter to Mrs. Cook acknowledging her appointment -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. NOEL: - and extending the best wishes of the House, all the members, and all the citizens of our Province.

Now, Mr. Speaker, my endorsement of Mrs. Cook should not be taken as an endorsement of our appointed Senate. I am far from a supporter of the appointed Senate. I think we have to make all of the efforts that we can make in order to get an effective Senate for Canada, if our Province and if the smaller provinces are to exercise the kind of rights and have the kind of responsibilities we should have in this country.

Some members might recall, Mr. Speaker, that during the period of consideration of the Calgary Declaration last fall, I had spoken to a number of members and publicly about the possibility of including a provision for Senate reform in the Calgary Declaration. Now, Mr. Speaker, by an unfortunate coincidence of events, I was unable to be in the House when the declaration was voted on so I did not get a chance to propose my amendment. I hope that before the country proceeds with acting on that declaration in any meaningful way there will be consideration, including Senate reform, and any kind of constitutional change that may be associated with it.

Mr. Speaker, I was reading a columnist the other day who was speaking about the Senate and Mrs. Cook's appointment and who was suggesting that we should do away with the Senate. Of course, many people in the country advocate doing away with the Senate. I think it is a mistake. I think they do not understand what the function of the Senate was intended to be, and I think if we were to simply do away with the Senate we would do harm to the interests of all the smaller provinces in the country.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. NOEL: I agree with that, yes.

This particular columnist said that it would be ludicrous to think that we could ever have an effective and an equal Senate in Canada. He said what nonsense it would be for Prince Edward Island, for instance, to have the same number of senators as Ontario; but, Mr. Speaker, he does not understand what the function of the Senate was intended to be. Our Senate was intended to be an effective House of Parliament. It was the means by which the smaller provinces, who would be outnumbered in the House of Commons that is elected by population and where Ontario, for instance, has about one-third of the total membership, the intention of the Senate was to ensure that the smaller provinces would have an opportunity to have meaningful participation in the Parliament of Canada and to ensure that provincial interests were protected and advocated. That is how the Senate of the United States functions, Mr. Speaker, and that is how most federal systems function. You cannot have a proper federal system that consists of a number of states if you are going to allow a couple of states with a substantial portion of the population to elect most of the members to, in our case, a House of Commons or any representative House.

The Senate was intended to ensure that the smaller provinces would have effective participation in the national Parliament. It is no coincidence, Mr. Speaker, that the province that has benefitted most through Confederation has also been the province that has dominated the House of Commons of Canada, and that province is Ontario. The provinces that are poorest in Canada are the smallest provinces, the provinces with the least representation in the House of Commons, and the provinces who suffer because we don't have an effective Senate. We don't have an effective Senate, Mr. Speaker, because our senators are not elected, and it will never be effective until we begin electing senators in this country. We have to commit ourselves to electing senators, it is not just going to happen automatically. You are never going to get Ontario or Quebec to agree to electing senators in Canada. The other provinces that want to elect senators have to use whatever levers they have at their disposal.

During the Meech Lake debate, Mr. Speaker, on the Charlottetown Accord debate, I was one of the people in this Province who most strongly disagreed with agreeing to the constitutional change being proposed, because it did not speak to our needs, it did not provide for Senate reform. If it had provided for Senate reform, Mr. Speaker, I would probably have supported the Meech Lake Accord and even the Charlottetown Accord, even though I felt they never properly provided for our interests, and they certainly didn't in what they were proposing in the way of Senate reform. But if it had provided for effective Senate reform, Mr. Speaker, I would probably have supported it. I think we must never agree to constitutional change that does not address Senate reform, because that is the only lever we have to try and force that sort of reform on the larger provinces.

Mr. Speaker, many things are happening in our country and our Province today that demonstrate our need for more say in how the national government functions. We had a TAGS debate in the House here a little while ago. We were talking about the problems we are having with equalization payments, and we are going to have. These kinds of things, Mr. Speaker, will never change to the advantage of the smaller provinces, and our Province in particular, as long as Ontario and Quebec call the shots in Ottawa.

Now, there are many things that can be done to improve the economy in our Province, Mr. Speaker. We have just passed the anniversary of forty-nine years of Confederation. When we became Canadians we had no debt, we had a balanced budget. Ontario and the other provinces of Canada had a much higher per capita debt at the time.

MR. J. BYRNE: It was the first (inaudible) years of Liberal Government caused all the debt.

MR. NOEL: The Conservative Government that we had during the Mulroney years has primary responsibility for the Canadian debt, and the Conservative Government that we had in this Province for seventeen years ran up most of the debt. It is only the Liberal Government in the past nine years that has been dealing meaningfully with our debt and deficit problem.

The hon. member should remember that some of us on this side of the House, myself included, were amongst the people who nine years ago began pointing out the problems we have with a debt we cannot service, or we would not be able to service in this House if we continued borrowing at the rate we were borrowing.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the previous speaker talked about Ireland. Many people today are talking about Ireland and all of these economic programs and innovations that they say worked well for Ireland. Everybody in our Province knows we have tried many of these programs here over the years also and we have not improved.

What is the big difference between Newfoundland and Ireland? The one big difference is that Ireland is an independent country and Newfoundland is part of a federal system. The Irish government can do whatever they think is in the best interest of Ireland. Unfortunately we have only 2 per cent of the seats in the House of Commons. We have very little influence with our federal government, and we have to work to get more influence with our federal government. I suggest that an effective Senate would be a good way to do it. If there is another way, fine, I will be happy to support that, but nobody has been able to devise another way that has any kind of support in the country.

Now, Mr. Speaker, yesterday afternoon I had a meeting with some thirty constituents of mine, many of whom are on social services. They talked about various provisions of our Budget and problems they are having in life. Your know, Mr. Speaker, I have gotten to know a lot of these people in the nine years that I have been a member and I have to tell you that I don't know anybody on social services who wants to be on social services, particularly these days. Some of the best people I know are on social services. They are having a very hard time these days, Mr. Speaker. Simply feeding their children is becoming more of a challenge every day as prices go up, some taxes and other things go up, and their income has remained stagnant for so long.

The government has provided for an increase this year and the next couple of years, but the people I met with yesterday say they need more. They need more cash to feed and properly clothe their children, and to provide schoolbooks and the other things that are necessary and that they have to pay for to provide for a good education.

I must say, Mr. Speaker, their response to our proposed manner of dealing with the National Child Benefit has not been too supportive of what the government is proposing. They want to have the cash that is available through that benefit to use and spend themselves. I ask them if that was the unanimous view of the meeting yesterday and they said it was. They said they would prefer to have cash in their pockets rather than have the programs that are being proposed to be establish through the $10 million fund that we will have as a result of the benefit.

I think, Mr. Speaker, we should give some consideration to whether we can do anything to accommodate that problem. Some of these people think that the $10 million is being used to set up more bureaucracy, more red tape, spending more money on setting up systems, rather than giving the money to the people who really need the dollars to feed and clothe their kids.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask the minister responsible to look at what we are proposing and see if there is any way we can do anything that would be more accommodating to the needs of the people like those I met with yesterday.

They also had a couple of other things they wanted me to bring to the attention of the government, Mr. Speaker. Of course, one of them is the problem that they have to pay for school busing. As we all know, most of the Province gets free school busing but the people of St. John's do not. They have to pay for their busing. Some areas have limited busing for half price, but most of St. John's has to pay the full cost of busing. Now, Mr. Speaker, I think government should look at dealing with this inequity some time when it is putting together its Budget for next year.

Those people also say they have trouble getting nutritious food. Many of them go to food banks but say that very often the kinds of food available are not the kind of foods their kids need. They wondered if government could look at the possibility of making some contributions, or providing for some contributions, of nutritious food to these food banks - milk, cheese, and things like that - that they need for their families and are having a great deal of trouble getting. Mr. Speaker, I hope the ministers would look into the possibility of dealing with these needs.

Mr. Speaker, I have had several meetings in my district in the past couple of months and there is still a concern with delivery of health care in our Province. Most people feel that we have a pretty good system; once you get into hospital you are well looked after and are quite happy with that. But a problem many of them have is that they have to wait a long while to see doctors, they have to wait a long while for appointments, and sometimes they have to wait in the emergency rooms of hospitals, and they have to wait for particular treatments that they need.

Mr. Speaker, I know that the main problem we have with funding health care is because of the cutbacks of the federal government.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. NOEL: Mr. Speaker, it is the smaller provinces, the provinces who do not have adequate representation in Ottawa, who are suffering most as a result of these cutbacks; getting back to the some old story of how we deal with having more influence in Ottawa. So I think we all - and I know that most of the members of this House feel the same way. They realize that we have to put whatever pressures we can on Ottawa to get better funding for health care, and particularly for programs like home care and pharmacare; because one of the things that has been pointed out to me recently is that the direction health care is moving in now is to get people out of the hospitals as soon as possible and get them home because that is a more economic way to deal with them. Unfortunately, many people when they go home, have to pay too much for their own home care and for their own drugs. Drugs that they can get in hospitals under the government plan, they cannot get at home under the government plan. So, if it is good administration for us to change our health care system in that kind of way - and I am sure that people do not spend excessive time in the hospital - then I think we have to look at doing these other things so that we make sure they are well-treated once they go home and do not suffer as a consequence of making these sorts of changes.

Now, Mr. Speaker, a couple of weeks ago I think it was, the St. John's members of the House of Assembly met with the new St. John's City Council and talked about a number of problems that our mutual constituents have. One of the main problems, of course, Mr. Speaker, is the inadequacy of funding of municipal services in the St. John's region. I appreciate that the government is taking the position that they are not prepared to proceed with amalgamation in the St. John's region but they are encouraging communities throughout the Province to get together to structure municipal government in the way that is going to be most efficient and productive for the region, and to try to ensure that we have a reasonable distribution of the tax burden.

Now, in the St. John's region, which I like to call our capital region, I would like to see set up a unified, municipal government for the capital region of the Province, because every Newfoundlander has an interest in having a good capital region and a well-financed capital region, and a capital region of which we can all be proud. So I understand if the government takes the position that it is not prepared to force Mount Pearl into joining with the city, and I think part of Paradise, the urban part of Paradise and Mount Pearl and St. John's should agree to merge into one municipal organization. I think it would be best for all residents of the area.

People have to realize that St. John's has very serious financial problems. We are not maintaining infrastructure that should be maintained; we are not collecting the revenues that we need to collect in order to provide for proper maintenance. Now, these costs are just accumulating and will have to be paid at some point and St. John's residents are not going to be able to shoulder the burden of financing them on their own. There has to be some provision or else everybody will suffer as a consequence of deteriorating services, and that includes the people in Mount Pearl, people in Paradise and people in all surrounding areas and even the hon. members of the House who come into St. John's from their own communities from time to time to represent their people.

So, Mr. Speaker, I would encourage the minister and the government to do what they can to encourage these other areas to understand the problems that we are facing, and to make them aware of the fact that they have to be dealt with, we cannot keep sweeping them under the rug. We are going to have real problems some time in the future. If tax rates in St. John's were the same as they are in Mount Pearl this year, the City of St. John's would collect $8 million less in taxation than it is going to collect this year. The business-property tax in Mount Pearl is about 60 per cent of what it is in St. John's and those are the only people who are really benefitting from the status quo; the business-property owners in Mount Pearl who are not paying their share of taxes for financing municipal services throughout the whole region. Now, something has to be done about that, Mr. Speaker. How we are going to do it, I do not know, but something has to be done.

Another issue we spoke with municipal council about was the civic centre, and I believe, Mr. Speaker, that it is time that this issue was finally resolved. The Province has indicated that it is prepared to make a substantial contribution to building a civic centre for the city. Most citizens of the city want to have a new centre if a financially viable proposal can be put together. I think it can be put together on the basis of what the Province has offered and if we get a reasonable contribution from the federal government.

So, Mr. Speaker, I urge all members of the House who support the building of such a centre because I think it would be good for the Province. Something like that brings business to the whole Province, to this region in particular, and has many benefits that I think will justify the cost of it. So I think that all members should do what they can to try to help ensure this project goes ahead in the near future.

Now, we dealt with a number of other issues with the city council, the major one being their request to have grants in lieu of taxes from the Province, Mr. Speaker, and they claim that if the Province paid grants in lieu of taxes on the same basis that other provincial governments pay, the City of St. John's would collect an additional $8 million this year. Now, something has to be done about that. They also say that Newfoundland is the only Province in the country that does not pay grants in lieu of taxes for its municipal buildings. Now, I know the minister is looking into that and I hope he comes with a solution that provides a reasonable resolution.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I just want to say a brief word about the proposed new hydro development on the Churchill River. I am really disappointed in the scepticism and cynicism that we have seen in relation to that project. From what I have seen,the project seems to me to make a lot of sense for our Province.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. NOEL: The new Churchill Falls proposal. I am really disappointed to see so many people criticizing the fact that we may be dealing with Quebec on that development. It makes so much sense to deal with Quebec, in so many ways. I think some people should stop feeling the kind of animosity they apparently feel toward Quebec. I, more than anybody else, perhaps, in the House over the past nine years, have criticized the Churchill Falls deal. But it is not Quebec who are responsible for the inadequacy of that deal. It is the Government of Canada, who are responsible for that deal. They would not enforce our right to transmit power across Quebec and it is the Government of Canada that we should keep pressing, regardless of what happens with this present development - that we should keep pressing to try to ensure that we get an improved deal on the Upper Churchill development.

But, Mr. Speaker, I am very optimistic by what might happen with this development, and I must say, I am very happy to say and see that we still have a Hydro Newfoundland and Labrador to lead our negotiations on that behalf. I think it was fortunate that government decided not to go ahead with privatization which was proposed a few years ago and which some of us questioned at the time. I think that what has happened over those years, has been a demonstration of the good judgment that has been made. Because the value of the shares in Fortis has doubled since 1984 and I think that today if we were to sell Hydro, we would get twice as much for it as we could have got when it was proposed for sale in 1993. So I think it is fortunate that we still have that great organization to help the Province with this new development, Mr. Speaker.

Now, I guess we are getting pretty close to the end of the day, so, Mr. Speaker, I will stop there and give somebody else an opportunity to have a few words before we adjourn.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I stand today to say a few words in the Budget debate, Mr. Speaker, and congratulate the Member for Virginia Waters. He made some good points.

MR. DECKER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: I will not need leave, I say to The Justice Minister, and I am not going to go on with the old tirade that the Justice Minister went on with on Friday.

MR. SHELLEY: No, for god's sake, spare us from that.

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, that was one of worst days that we spent in this House and I do not know what motivated the Justice Minister to be so active and so motivated on Friday morning, to be able to get up and rant and roar. I never saw the Justice Minister when he was a minister of the cloth. I never had occasion to go and sit in on his sermons, but if Friday was any indication, they must have been lively sermons.

MR. DECKER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: And I will as well, I say to the Justice Minister. I know other people who did attend the Justice Minister's church. In fact, the Justice Minister christened a nephew of mine when he was a minister of the cloth rather than a minister of the Crown. I think at that particular time he served in the Lethbridge area, minister?

MR. DECKER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: Yes, you christened one of my nephews in the United Church in Portland.

MR. DECKER: A beautiful little town.

MR. FITZGERALD: A beautiful little town, a beautiful little church, well kept. A small congregation but it is a very active congregation. They have a nice church there. Their cemetery is well maintained and -

MR. DECKER: Right on the road.

MR. FITZGERALD: Right on the road. I think it was last summer they celebrated their - I am not sure what anniversary it was. I attended it but I am not sure what anniversary it was, but they had a full house. They had a couple of groups from St. John's, a guest minister there from St. John's. They served a lunch and it was a real nice evening.

Mr. Speaker, getting back to the subject at hand and taking part in the Budget Debate, I was shocked and amazed, I guess, when the Budget was delivered here in the House a couple of short weeks ago by the Minister of Finance, and see so many of the people on the other side rush forward and shake his hand, knock on their desks, get up and clap and talk about what a wonderful projection it was for 1998; what a wonderful projection it would be for the people in rural Newfoundland and Labrador and for the people living in urban areas. But I can assure you that there are not many people dancing with joy out in the district that I am from. There are not many people dancing for joy in the district in which I live.

I don't think anybody expects miracles, I don't think everybody out there expected to have a job the next day, but what we heard for the most part was a projection of what was going to happen in ten years' time, in six years' time. What people are reaching for and what people are grasping for is something that might happen today.

I don't know how often government ministers or the urban members travel in rural areas of this Province, but if you have not and if you don't make a habit of doing that I would encourage you this summer to go out to the Bonavistas, the Port Unions, and the Duntaras, and speak to the people who are living in those communities, and see the dilemma they are facing today. I would encourage you to go out and see the number of `For Sale' signs that are on the houses there; go out and look at the number of houses that are boarded up, people having left this Province altogether and having to go to another province or another country to look for work.

When you turn on the television or you turn on the radio and listen to the Open Line shows - Mr. Speaker, some people might say you don't pay any attention to such programs because they are not a true reflection of what is happening, that people who call and make representation on those programs are people who are just putting forward the worst scenarios.

You listen, Mr. Speaker, and attend some of the public meetings that are continually held across this Province as they relate to people trying to improve their situation, and see the real need that is out there today.

In one particular area in my district, Mr. Speaker, a town called Plate Cove, in excess of 35 per cent of the people in that particular town have left and gone away. Down in the Port Union - Catalina area in excess of fifty-two businesses have closed up shop and either have had to go away to look for a living or are finding themselves working at trying to find work at some other job. I don't know of any other area that is more devastated than the Bonavista Peninsula. A very thriving area where we had one, two, three, four fish plants, most people were working year round. They now find themselves without a job and without an alternative. I can assure you, going to Alberta Ontario is not an option for everybody in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, there are a couple of positive things happening in my district. One of them is a seal manufacturing plant that started to do renovations there just a couple of months ago. I happened to go in there on Saturday when I was visiting my district. They were busy, I didn't take a tour through the plant, but I went into the office there and talked to some of the people. When I looked over at a chair there were fifteen seal pelts put there. I picked up one of them, I smelled it and looked at it, and I asked: Boys, where did this come from? Where did you bring this from? There was a big dog hood there as well. It could almost fit the Minister of Government Services and Lands, I say to him; you could almost get it together.

Anyway, there were fifteen seal pelts there. I asked: Boys, where did those seal pelts come from? They weren't made here. They said: Yes, they are.

I will tell you, I wanted to borrow one. I asked: Would you be kind enough to give me one to carry into the House of Assembly so I can show the people in there what is being done right here in Catalina? Would you be kind enough to let me borrow one? He thought for a moment, and he said: No, not today, because we are not happy with what we have done here. Those are just fifteen or twenty that we put through to try out the equipment.

I took them up and I looked at them. You wouldn't say it was anything that came from a seal, because you associate a certain smell with seal, and there was no smell of seal on the pelts at all. It was completely turned into a product that was ready to be sewn together to be worn as beautiful apparel on some man or woman. It was something of which we can all be very proud.

I said: I thought it was a situation where what you were putting through here would only be taken to a certain stage, and it would have to be shipped somewhere else and carried in a further process before it could be marketed. Such is not the case. When a product leaves that plant it is going to be any colour that you want, it is going to be ready to be taken to some manufacturer to be turned into some form of clothing or other commodity that can be sold and is in demand today. It is going to offer an opportunity for probably 130 or 140 people.

Then I went over to Bonavista. I saw the door open in the old bait depot, right on the wharf in Bonavista and I went in there, Mr. Speaker, where there was a young chap working and I asked: `What is happening here today?' and he said: `We are receiving the seal oil, we are receiving the refined oil from the plant over in Catalina.' And even though this is an industry, this is a plant that just started up a few short weeks ago, there must have been forty or fifty drums - they were much bigger than the forty-five-gallon drums, I would say there must be at least seventy to seventy-five gallons in the plastic containers.

Now, this is all pure, refined oil ready to be put in capsule form in order to be put on the market today to be sold. So this is a new opportunity and it is breathing a little bit of excitement into the community. Even though it is not going to take the place of the Northern-cod fishery, Mr. Speaker, it has given at least some people there, some hope of being able to live in their community and to be able to live in the houses that they have worked so hard on and, I suppose, spent so much money on, in order to make it their home.

The FPI plant in Port Union, a good employer, probably one of the best employers here in the Province, Fishery Products International, Mr. Speaker, have taken that particular plant now, that once employed in excess of 1,200 people working year round, twelve months of the year, they have now turned this particular plant into a shrimp plant; it is going to be a state-of-the-art shrimp plant and where once we had 1,200 people going to work, now we are going to have probably 150. It is not the answer for all our needs, Mr. Speaker, it is not the answer to end the old unemployment problem on the Bonavista Peninsula but here again, it is a beginning. This particular plant has about, I would say, forty, forty-five to fifty people working there now on construction, tearing up floors, tearing down ceilings, taking down buildings, removing old tanks outside on the grounds, Mr. Speaker, and this is going to be a new, modern shrimp processing plant.

Mr. Speaker, what people are asking for, what people would like to see is, what is going to happen in order to fill the void that is left. Right now we are talking about probably 300 jobs and those 300 jobs are going to be very, very helpful, but how about all the other people who are now unemployed, getting a TAGS cheque, Mr. Speaker, and unable to find work. We seem to sit back as a government here and say, well, what are you complaining about. You have 300 people working or you have 100 people working - that always seems to be our mentality. I remember when Hibernia reached its peak, there were questions asked here in this House, and the minister of the day would always say: You know, there is one thing the member fails to understand - that we have 3,000 or 4,000 people working there. Why are you complaining because we are bringing in people from Alberta, or from Ontario, or from Nova Scotia. Mr. Speaker, some of those people were brought in to do unskilled labour, some of those people were brought in to do skilled labour for which we have the skills right here in this Province.

The minister could not quite grasp why we were complaining, because we had 3,000, 4,000 or 5,000 people working. The reason why we were complaining is because there were another 30,000 or 40,000 out there unemployed. The Minister of ITT could not grasp why we would want to have more people, why we were saying that those other people should be employed. Kenonic Controls is a prime example, was brought here on this floor many times. When we asked the questions as to why we did not use our own skills here, the minister would continually stand in its place and ask: What is the member complaining about; the Leader of the Opposition - What is the Leader of the Opposition complaining about? We have 7,000 people working out there.

We have to go a step further. We should not be satisfied with 7,000 people if we can get 8,000 employed - we should be not satisfied with the nickel and the smelter down in Argentia, we should not settle for that. It seems like in the minister - the minister said: What a wonderful future we have! We are going to have a smelter and refinery down in Argentia. What a wonderful future! And I agree with that - that is wonderful stuff- good stuff. But how about the pots and pans, and the washroom attachments and everything else that can be made from the nickel that is going to be produced there. It is a wonderful thing. We have the Iron Ore Company down in Labrador City. We are refining the pellets, but where do the pellets go? We have to take it a step further, is all I am saying. I do not have the answers; we do not have the answers here. I think we should be very vigilant, and as long as we have people unemployed we should be doing whatever needs to be done to get those people working, Mr. Speaker. Up until now we haven't been doing that. We have been satisfied to sit back and accept part of something rather than going after the whole thing.

You look at what is happening in our fishery. The minister is travelling around the Province and talking about getting into underutilized species: seaweed, sea kelp, roundnose grenadier, silver hake, all those underutilized species we talk about, that we have to get into other fisheries. That is very true. The prime example, I suppose, is our lump roe. When you go around to the fish plants in this Province you see lump roe done up in thirty-five or forty gallon drums. It is pickled, mixed with brine, and put abroad a tractor trailer, put aboard a boat, and shipped out of the Province altogether. It is brought back in one-gram or two-gram bottles and sold. I saw one at Sobeys there, I think it's called sturgeon roe or something, $4.95.

Why can't we be doing it ourselves? It should be done. A few years ago we had the mentality, and I think that has changed, but we were of the mind- set that if something was done in Newfoundland it was inferior, it wasn't of good quality. That was the mind-set.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: The minister is right, that is gone. There has been a good job in telling people that we are proud of what we do.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: What is it?

AN HON. MEMBER: We're doing it right here.

MR. FITZGERALD: Oh yes, nothing wrong with that ad. I will tell you the one I don't like is this silliness that members take part in, and it is both sides: `I believe in the people of Newfoundland and Labrador'. How silly. If you are going to put on an ad and take up some time, say something that people are going to be able to be benefitted from. If you don't believe in the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, why are you here? Are you going to put on an ad on Mother's Day and say `I love my mother', and on Father's Day, `I love my father'? It goes without saying. If you don't believe in the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, then what are you doing here? How silly. The future Minister of Education agrees with what I am saying.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, I will be touring Newfoundland in that one, and that way I will be seeing what a lot of people here are not seeing out in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. There should be a lot of that done. There should be more of it done. Government members, the Cabinet especially, should be getting out and mixing more with the rural areas because that is the lifeblood of this Province.


MR. FITZGERALD: I know the minister does. I see the minister around my district attending functions. He was there when he was the Minister of Forest Resources and Agrifoods and he has been there a few times since that. That is what needs to be done because that is when you hear the real stories, when you see them and talk to the people there. People have a story to tell and they are not all negative. They are not all negative stories. There are some positive ones as well.

Mr. Speaker, I will now adjourn debate and rise again tomorrow to finish my time on the Budget.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, before we move the adjournment I think tomorrow we will be doing a bit of legislation. For fear of the roof falling in, I think everybody on all sides of the House knows what little piece of legislation it is that we are going to bring in, but I don't want to use the words -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TULK: The Easter Bunny, we are going to -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TULK: Oh, we are going to bring in something that I think we have all agreed that we shall bring in tomorrow, which is an amendment to the Shops' Closing Act.


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

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