The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Penney): Order, please!


Statements by Ministers


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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. A. REID: Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform the House that, effective Friday, May 1, the North Atlantic Refining Company will commence start-up at the Come By Chance Oil Refinery that will result in full operation over the next seven to ten days.

In the meantime, investigations by the Fire Commissioner and Occupational Health and Safety into the March 25 fire/explosion are nearing completion and final reports are expected shortly. As well, a comprehensive fire/life safety audit at the refinery is underway. Audit reports involving the Fire Commissioner, pressure vessel inspectors and Occupational Health and Safety officials, as well as independent refinery experts, including Brown and Root and A. D. Tupper and Associates, indicate that there is no reason why the refinery should not proceed with start-up.

Earlier today, the Government Audit Team, co-ordinating this work, met with refinery management and the union. The union has indicated its support, Mr. Speaker, for the start-up.

The remainder of the fire /life safety audit work will continue in concert with the start-up process. Once the audit is complete, Government will work with the company and the union to ensure that all findings and recommendations are implemented.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to thank the minister as well for providing me with a copy of his statement today. We, on this side, Minister, have no problem with the announcement that the refinery is to open again tomorrow. We, of course, as well as yourself, and I guess, members on the other side, as well as on this side, are anxiously awaiting the report that is being done, with regard to safety in that particular area.

One of the families in my area I have been in touch with over the last couple of days. They are very, very anxious to see the safety report and the report, of course, into exactly what happened out there to cause the loss of two lives as it did. We would certainly support your position on this. We have no problem with the refinery opening and we hope that in very short order, all of the reports will be in and they can be made public.

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

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am very pleased that the company has worked closely with the United Steel Workers of America Safety Committee in determining that the operation is safe, along with the officials of the government. I know also, Mr. Speaker, that after being turned down on several occasions for requests for training in the oil refinery business, Occupational Health and Safety officers of the Department of Environment and Labour have now been given permission to take these courses.

I hope, Mr. Speaker, that the expertise of this department is brought up to speed immediately so that we can be assured that the operation will be able to be monitored effectively by government in the future.

MR. SPEAKER: Before we begin routine proceedings, on behalf on all hon. members, I would like to welcome a delegation from the Accra Metropolitan Authority of Ghana. This delegation is visiting St. John's as a part of a partnership between the City of St. John's and the Accra Metropolitan Authority. The partnership program is sponsored by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and funded by the Canadian International Development Agency. St. John's has been partnered with Accra since November 1988.

Members of the delegation, seated in the Speaker's gallery, are:

The hon. Reuben Nii Nortey-Dua, Speaker of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly; Mr. George Addo, Deputy Director/Accra Partnership Co-ordinator; Ms Margaret Sraha, Planning Officer.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair offers sincere regrets if the names have been mispronounced. They are accompanied today by Mr. Ronald Penney, the Chief Commissioner and City Solicitor of St. John's.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: As well, on behalf of all hon. members, the Chair would like to welcome to the public gallery today sixteen Level One students from St. Joseph's School in Terrenceville, in the district of Bellevue. accompanied by Ms Rita Kearley and Mr. Randy Vaslett.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


Oral Questions


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

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, The Ottawa Citizen reports today on a federal government working paper which argues that the best way to improve the gap between richer and poorer provinces is to cut federal transfers to the poorer regions, forcing the unemployed to move.

That is the thinking going around Ottawa these days, and recently there is plenty of hard evidence of that. The committee that just came back from Ottawa reports that is exactly the thinking within the federal Liberal caucus. The Premier, as we know, was part of that caucus before, and should have some influence over that thinking with his colleagues. Does he not think it is time, Mr. Speaker, that he took a more direct role in countering this type of thinking and this mentality that is painting a frightening picture of what this Province can expect from Confederation in the coming years?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his question. I have not seen the report he is referring to. Perhaps if he has a copy of it he could send it across the floor to me. I am not familiar with this report.

I can tell him that there are no discussions that I am familiar with whatsoever among the provinces or the federal government on cutting transfers. I do not know what report he is referring to, I do not know who the author was, I do not know whether it has been sponsored by one of the ministers, in particular, the Minister of Finance of Canada who would have the primary responsibility. I do not even know if it is a government report. If he would share with me and with the House some further information on this report we would be glad to respond to it.

I can assure him that the position of the government on this side of the House and, indeed, my position in all the years I spent in Ottawa, seventeen of them, was exactly the opposite of what he is now saying. I would remind him that the Constitution, which was repatriated in 1982, has within it a commitment to the principle of equalization. It is in Canada's Constitution. So somebody somewhere doing some thinking, issuing a report which is now in The Ottawa Citizen, does not, as far as I am concerned, constitute a change in the policy of the Government of Canada. I am certainly open to further advice, and to be enlightened by the Leader of the Opposition. Can he tell us who authored this report and whether or not it is government policy?

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

MR. E. BYRNE: My understanding from reading The Ottawa Citizen is that it was a report that Industry Canada was involved with. The Director of the Bank of Canada is quoted in The Ottawa Citizen as saying supportive, but the question I asked deals with a mentality and the thinking that is evident in the federal Liberal caucus, particularly in Ontario, of what a post-TAGS program will be like.

I would like to ask the Premier this question. On Monday when he was in Montreal he said publicly he was going to meet with the Prime Minister. We heard him say publicly after the meeting that what people have to realize is that he is no longer an MP in Ottawa, he is no longer a minister in the federal Cabinet, and that he has fulfilled his obligation in meeting with the Prime Minister to discuss a post-TAGS initiative.

The question is obvious. What discussions did take place with the Prime Minister? Did the Prime Minister tell the Premier what to expect in a post-TAGS initiative? Or did he give the Premier any firm commitments, more firm commitments than what we have seen and what we have heard to date?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Well, Mr. Speaker, I would like to go back to the premise that is contained in the first question put by the Leader of the Opposition, and then I will come to the second question, because he has put a premise and he has let it stand. He claims there is a report or there is a change in federal government policy based on an article in the Ottawa Citizen. I have asked the question, and I ask it again: Where is this Ottawa Citizen story? What is this report? Is it sponsored by the Government of Canada? Because I want to say to him: I have no knowledge - but I would happily stand to be corrected - I have no knowledge whatsoever of any initiative by the federal government to reduce transfers or to change the system of transfers in this country. I have no knowledge of it. I had never seen it when I was a member of the federal caucus; I have heard nothing of it as a Premier.

The Minister of Finance is engaged in a dialogue with all of the Ministers of Finance on the transfer system, looking for ways to improve it for Newfoundland and Labrador and for other provinces affected by transfers. Transfers are a part of the Constitution of Canada; they cannot be changed on a whim. If the Leader of the Opposition has a substantive report, I would gladly deal with it and I would ask him again for more information.

With respect to the second question: How have I been involved in the process of communicating the position of the Province? In addition to the good work that has been done on a non-partisan basis by members from all sides of the House - indeed the three parties in the House and the Independent member have all been part of an All Party Committee which has done good work last week and again this week - Mr. Speaker, I have met with the Prime Minister on the problem of TAGS. I have communicated to him all of the sentiments that have been expressed by members on all sides of this House, and urged him to move the Cabinet committee process forward as quickly as possible.

I met in the last few days with the Chairman of the ad hoc committee, the hon. Ralph Goodale, to make exactly the same points and sentiments. I have spoken with Mr. Mifflin, the Newfoundland Cabinet representative; I have spoken with Mr. Anderson, the federal fisheries minister; I have spoken with Mr. Pierre Pettigrew, the minister responsible at HRD; I have spoken with practically every single member of that committee. I have spoken as well with the hon. Marcel Massé, the Chair, in the last forty-eight hours, of the Treasury Board committee.

I have made all of the points, indeed, that the Cabinet committee has made. I have made the case clearly that the time is now overdue for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador who are affected by the TAGS program, affected by the collapse of the fishery, to have a proper response.

As for the Prime Minister, he listened to everything I had to say and he undertook to be in touch with the committee in the committee process. Mr. Speaker, I think there have been some encouraging signs over the last few days that the committee is now seized with the issue, and I hope that very soon we are going to have a response from the federal government on a substantial or substantive post-TAGS program.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. E. BYRNE: I am hopeful, as well, that there is a substantive and substantial program, but the Premier failed to answer the question. So, in light of not answering the question, I can only assume that the Prime Minister made no commitment to the Premier on behalf of the Province, and to the people of the Province through him, that there would be a post-TAGS program, or that the size and scope and relationship of it would address the fundamental problems that these people and our fellow citizens in this Province face.

With respect to the question the Premier asked about the paper out of Industry Canada, the only thing I can say is that in reading The Ottawa Citizen this morning it clearly says that a report was done for Industry Canada, a working paper, that suggested - so that is where that question came from.

Mr. Speaker, we are facing probably the biggest crisis, as the Premier knows, that we have faced in some time, certainly in the last forty-nine years. Members on both sides of the House have taken to Ottawa on a couple of occasions.

Let me ask the Premier this: Is he prepared today, in a visible show of support, to close the House of Assembly right now, and in twenty minutes or half an hour he and I meet on the front steps of this building with our respective caucuses and walk to where the protestors are to support what they are doing for the people of the Province?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, if the Leader of the Opposition wants to make a proposal, any proposal, that would help to magnify the case being made by the people of Newfoundland and Labrador for the Government of Canada to take its responsibility, I am prepared to consider it. But if the Leader of the Opposition wants to put, with no notice, with no phone call to me, with no discussion whatsoever between House Leaders, a proposition like this on the floor of the House, frankly in advance of looking at the Parliamentary schedule, looking at the Parliamentary timetable, Mr. Speaker, I cannot give an answer off the cuff like that. I think the Leader of the Opposition, I hope, would understand that we would have House Leaders look at this issue, House Leaders discuss how we might participate together exactly as we have done with an All Party Committee, whose work, by the way, I think has been excellent, and whose tone and approach has been non-partisan and constructive.

I say to the Leader of the Opposition, if he wants to take this up with me, have us discuss it together, I am prepared to look at the issue, but I am not prepared to give a snap response. I want to think through what we are doing.

The reality is, the House is closed tomorrow. This is an arrangement to which the Opposition has kindly agreed. It is a courtesy extended between parties to each other when parties are having conventions. I don't know that closing the House at a moment's notice this afternoon is conducting business in the best manner for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, but I am prepared to discuss that proposal or any other with the Leader of the Opposition in a more, I think, appropriate manner.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Premier, it is a very simple request that would be a show of support and leadership to an issue when people are fighting for their communities. It is not the first time, I might add, that this House has debated or moved swiftly on issues; most of which, I would say, were brought forward by the Premier. A simple request: Let's move now. Close the House this afternoon, and you and I walk to where the protesters are and support them in a visible way in their fight for Newfoundland and Labrador in the communities from which they come.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I have no hesitation in saying to the Leader of the Opposition that I would welcome a joint approach by him and by myself on behalf of members on both sides of the House, and I would invite the participation of the Leader of the New Democratic Party as well. I think it is important to recognize three parties present and the Independent member as well in this House. But, Mr. Speaker, let us -


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the people of the Province cannot hear the comments that are being made on the other side, the comments that are being made because the microphones are not on, because we all agree the only person who has a problem is the Premier.

What the Leader of the Opposition is attempting to do now is not to show a united Newfoundland and Labrador. He is trying to divide Newfoundland and Labrador at a time when we should not be divided. Mr. Speaker, he is doing it for political reasons.

I have just said to the Leader of the Opposition, if he really wants me to consider that request, or any other, I would be glad to discuss it with him; but I am not going to establish the precedent that somebody stands up, makes a dare that we close the House with five minutes' notice, and the business of the entire Province stops with five minutes' notice, with no advance notice, with no prior consultation.

Mr. Speaker, if the Leader of the Opposition is serious, he will take me up on my offer for a dialogue on this and we will see how we can best and most effectively, jointly, make the case. If he wants to continue to make this position he already has my answer, and people will say, once again: Newfoundlanders, at a time of need, have decided to stoop to party and petty politics.

I hope that is not the case today.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My questions today are to the Premier.

Since January of this year, 1,350 people have been dropped from the TAGS program and another 3,200 will be dropped between now and August. Almost 25 per cent of past exhaustees have had to join the lines of social assistance here in our Province. In light of the financial impact it will have on our Province, and in light of the impact that it will have on the individuals, their families, and the communities in which they live, I ask the Premier: Did he raise this specific issue of exhaustees with the Prime Minister when he was attending a conference with Atlantic Premiers in Montreal? If so, what was the Prime Minister's response?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I have raised all of the issues that are associated with the TAGS program, raised the question of timing, raised the need to have a program that has a variety of components to it, including license retirement, early retirement, mobility assistance, economic and community development and raised with the Prime Minister, as well, the reality that a large number of people, early next month, within the next eight or nine days, are going to be exhausted from this program and thus far have no knowledge and no assurance, whatsoever, of any further assistance for them.

I have told the Prime Minister that while Newfoundland and Labrador's economy is forecasted by many private sector institutions to grow strongly this year, and perhaps in some respects to lead the country, that nobody should draw from that the conclusion that this economy can absorb 18,000 people if there is not a follow-up TAGS program. The reality is, we have been hurting in this Province, Mr. Speaker, for so long, in Newfoundland and Labrador, with both population decline and GDP decline, it is going to take many years of vigourous growth for us to get back in the game in such a manner that we can accommodate people of Newfoundland and Labrador who want to work.

So, all of that has been said to the Prime Minister. I think he understands the issues. His undertaking to me is to recognize and to point out to me that this is being dealt with by a committee of the federal Cabinet, that he does not personally have knowledge, at that point in time during the dialogue, of where the discussion would lie. The Prime Minister undertook to speak to the Chair of the committee, and pointed out that he was going to be in Cuba - got back just yesterday - and I expect that I will be talking to the Prime Minister again in the days ahead.

Let me just say that the Prime Minister understands and has heard from me that we want a response. The time is past due when there ought to be a comprehensive response for the people affected.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

There is a Central Canadian mentality that needs to be changed regarding the fishery here in our Province and the federal government's management, or maybe more appropriately, the mismanagement of that fishery.

Now, our meetings in Ottawa with the Reform, PC, NDP and Bloc showed an understanding and, I might add, support for a post-TAGS program. In fact, three of these parties raised this issue in Question Period in the House of Commons last week and again yesterday. Why, Premier, has the Ontario-dominated, Liberal caucus, your friends and former colleagues, in the House of Commons, not shown any respect for the plight of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and would the Premier admit that therein lies the problem regarding the post-TAGS program?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: No, Mr. Speaker, I am not prepared to say that the Ontario Liberal caucus is a problem until we see what the response has been and I have been very encouraged to hear in particular from the Member of Parliament for Western Newfoundland, the hon. Gerry Byrne, that the chairman of the Ontario Liberal caucus has in the last twenty-four hours made a strong statement on behalf of the Ontario Liberal caucus, for a post-TAGS program to be announced by the national government.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I would like to think that the representation that has been provided by an all-party committee of the House, so ably led by the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal and the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture with participation by the member who has just asked the question, by the Leader of the NDP, and by other members of the House, including the Independent member, has had the effect over these last two weeks of focusing attention on the issue; has had the effect of having a person-to-person dialogue at a caucus level and that it is beginning, Mr. Speaker, to gather momentum for a sense of urgency about dealing with this problem.

I want to say to the member opposite, there will be a time for judgement as to whether or not the job has been effectively done, whether or not we have made our case. But, to begin to make judgements now and to begin to divide people now on the basis of party, or to seek partisan advantage in this Province right now, I would say to the member, will not serve our purpose. There will be a time for political activity and partisanship in Newfoundland and Labrador; it is sometime off in the distant future when we have an election campaign. Right now we have a job to do together as members of this House and I am going to resist partisan response to questions which are partisan in nature.

Quite frankly, if we want to talk about who was in favour of post-NCARP programming or not, we could have a long debate. I do not want to get into it because I do not think it will serve the people down on the lines holding a demonstration today. I do not think we should start it.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is far from a partisan question, I say to the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: In a meeting with a federal Cabinet committee yesterday for an hour-and-a-half, I witnessed a strong sense of fear among those federal ministers that a substantive post-TAGS program or any post-TAGS program, will put them under attack by Central Canada, and they may not be willing to pay the price for accepting the federal government's responsibility in this matter. They have to answer questions why we have mining towns closed in Northern Ontario. That is a provincial responsibility, I say to the Premier. It is a non-renewable resource -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: I ask the Premier: Will you call in any IOUs you may have now rather than later? Will you go to Ottawa, and will you address this problem with the same degree of passion and commitment as when you went there to the Liberal caucus and addressed them on the education issue when it was needed?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I would just say to all members of the House, bear this in mind. The people of the Province, and in particular, those who are affected, who are waiting for a response on the post-TAGS program, are listening to this debate. I can tell you that they will judge any one of us very harshly who they believe is seeking a partisan advantage or partisan gain on this debate. The issue is just too serious.

It impacts 18,000 people. It impacts whether or not they can make the rent payment, the mortgage payment, payment on the vehicle, it impacts on whether or not they can put groceries on the table. It impacts whether or not they have to pack up, board up the house, and move somewhere else on the Island, or more somewhere else in the country. It is a very serious issue.

I take at face value that every member in this place shares an equal commitment to seeing that justice is done and that there is a fair response from the Government of Canada. I will tell you, any one of us risks the wrath of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador if we are seen to be playing politics with this issue.

I would say to the member that I would ask him to accept, as the duty of any Premier, of whatever party in this Province, to exercise every bit of influence that can be exercised to get the best possible case made for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador who have been affected, and to get the best possible TAGS program. Of course that is what I have been doing as Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions today are for the Minister of Environment and Labour. Minister, eleven months have now passed since the government received a report of the Statutory Review Committee on Workers' Compensation. You, yourself, Sir, last fall, and again under questioning from me about a month ago, admitted that you were appalled at what the committee found. Of course, well you should be. When will we see some action to correct what is desperately wrong with the system? Where is the government timetable? Has it now gone before Cabinet? Can we now expect legislation to correct the wrongs in this particular session of the Legislature?

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

MR LANGDON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Yes, the statutory report was done on the Workers' Compensation Commission, and a number of recommendations were instituted. I suggested to the House earlier that a response to the recommendations was forthcoming. I thought that by now I would have had all of the actuarial statements and so on threshed out so that we would be able to see exactly which of the recommendations we could implement. It is pretty close to being able to do that. Within the next week or so it will be going to Cabinet, and I am hoping that before the end of May, as I told the President of the Injured Workers' Association, we will have a report here in the House.

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I again say to the minister that when a committee finds problems as severe as what we found with workers' compensation - and, of course, what the committee found was certainly ridiculous. Mr. Minister, there are, I guess, some 75 per cent to 80 per cent of the recommendations that do not require legislative changes to correct those problems. Can I ask how much of this has been already implemented?

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

MR LANGDON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The recommendations as brought forth in the statutory review committee, of course, some of them were regulations and some of them have to be legislation. One of the things that we legislated, of course, earlier, before the recess at Christmas, was to raise the amount paid to the injured workers from 75 per cent to 80 per cent and to make it consistent across the board. We are hoping that, as I said, within the next couple of weeks, to implement some of the recommendations that have been brought forth by the committee. In due course we will do that, so at the end of the day the people who need the benefits will be looked after and, at the same time, providing the integrity of the system in the long run.

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Minister, as you are well aware, for far too long, some of these people who have been victimized have been ignored in their plight for justice. Of course, it is the government's mandate to make sure that these people have certainly been protected. These workers have been neglected and, as far as I am concerned, for far too long. I now ask the minister: Can you ensure that any new legislation that will come before this House in this session will first of all go to the Legislation Review Committees? As well, will we see the legislation in advance so that the Injured Workers' Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, along with all members of this House, will be given ample opportunity to study that particular legislation and to come back in here before we finally debate it?

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

MR LANGDON: At this time I cannot guarantee the member that all of the recommendations would go before a committee of the House but, obviously, before the recommendations are made into law, it will come to the House and be debated so that at the end of the day we will make what is best for the injured workers and the integrity of the system.

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

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

My questions are for the Minister of Education. I want to ask follow-up questions relative to the air quality assessments that have been conducted in the 150 schools on the first list in the Province. I am wondering if the minister can now bring forward to the House the results of the testing on the first 150 schools? Will he table the results specifically detailing what the results are, what schools are affected and what kind of remedial actions his department will be taking over the next number of months?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It had not been the plan to table the results in the House of Assembly but we will certainly do that if the Opposition feels that it is necessary. What we have been doing, Mr. Speaker, because there are some preliminary results - the first few, I think, have been returned. They have been studied by the expert at the university who examines the report. The first couple, as I understand it, have actually been shared with a couple of parent groups right at the schools themselves. The plan, Mr. Speaker, was not to table them here in the House where they are of no use to anyone; it was to give them to the parents, the teachers and the school-based administrators in the schools that were actually studied so that they could be told by the experts who conducted the studies and by those who recommend the appropriate remedial action, Mr. Speaker, exactly what they found in the school so that they can have a full discussion of it, with the parents and with the students and what, if anything, needed to be done by way of corrective measure. When we have compiled any particular lists that are in the department, Mr. Speaker, I will gladly provide them in the House if that is of any use to anyone.

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

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, because the minister sat on the initial report for many, many months, many parents in this Province today will want to be assured that the results of the assessments are indeed made public and shared not only with the parents involved but with the school boards and with the general public so they can be comforted that their children attend schools where the air quality is acceptable. I ask the minister again: When does he intend to be able to call tenders? Can you assure the parents that any remedial action that is identified will be corrected in time for September's opening of the school system?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and it is a good question. It is unfortunate, however, again that if the Opposition, including the Leader of the Opposition, are serious about this issue - because the Opposition critic, Mr. Speaker, talked about the issue that people would like some comfort that what was promised is actually going to be delivered. I understand that to be the gist of the question. And there will be no comfort, Mr. Speaker, on this issue or any other if the Opposition continue, for political reasons, to start suggesting things that just did not occur. Mr. Speaker, part of the lack of comfort -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. GRIMES: Mr. Speaker, part of the lack of comfort is in the preamble that was just repeated by the hon. member, and I know he did not intend to say it because it was not true.

He suggested that, because the minister sat on the report for many, many months. Now, here is the difficulty with a group that suggests they are trying to provide comfort, that they understand the parents would like to have comfort and, in the meantime, in suggesting that they are interested in comfort, they continue to perpetuate an absolute and total falsehood.

The report itself was provided to the school boards by my predecessor, the Minister of Education, within weeks after it was received in the department, and, Mr. Speaker, the school boards were advised of which schools were tested, what the difficulties were and the interim measures that were suggested.

Here we are, over two years after that, with a group again, for political reasons, suggesting -


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. GRIMES: - that they are interested in comfort, repeating what in fact, it is an absolute lie.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the minister to clue up his answer.

The hon. the Member for Waterford Valley.

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

I am not the member of this House who said that the schools have gone through ten years of neglect. The minister himself said that there had been ten years of neglect. In other words, starting with the Liberal Administration in 1989, the school system was neglected every year thereafter.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. H. HODDER: There are another 150 schools to be assessed in this Province. I ask the minister: When will these assessments start? Will they be completed before the end of the school year or are we going to be assessing schools for air quality after the students leave and go home for the summer holidays? When will that finish and will that work be completed in time for remedial action to be taken for September of this school year?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Again, along the same theme, in terms of the language and approach used by the Opposition in pretending to be serious about the issue.

Mr. Speaker, this government, through myself, as the minister, openly admitted to the people of this Province - in the last ten years, because of budgetary restraints, what we admitted was this: That the full amount of maintenance and repairs that the school boards would like to have done in the schools, did not get done. Now, Mr. Speaker, we have the Leader of the Opposition or the Opposition Education critic, now standing up and suggesting that the government stood up and admitted to ten years of neglect. No such thing occurred and it did not happen and I did not say it. What we did, we were willing to admit that budgets were under restraint and one of the areas under restraint was the maintenance and repairs budget.

Mr. Speaker, this year in the Budget, to correct that, we have established a $50 million education investment development fund so that we can make sure.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. GRIMES: We did not try to cast blame or hide the issue, or anything else, Mr. Speaker, we admitted that Budgets were restrained but we did not and would not for political reasons -


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. GRIMES: - suggest that anybody wilfully neglected anything, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the minister to clue up his answer, because Question Period has expired.

MR. GRIMES: Mr. Speaker, having dealt with the preamble, I will gladly answer the question. There will be nobody on this side of the House foolish enough to test an empty school in the summer.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period has expired.


Answers to Questions
For which Notice has been Given


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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Just a very brief reply. I undertook yesterday, in response to a question from the Opposition Education critic, with respect to Ralph Harnum's School in Hawkes Bay, to get further information and report back to the House.

Mr. Speaker, there is a discussion ongoing, as I understand it, between the board and the parents with the plans with respect to next year. The school, all the schools that were assessed, as to whether they would be small, necessarily existent, were assessed some month ago. All of them were done based on this year's enrolment. All the teachers allocations for next year are done based on this year's enrolment.

The school boards, by the way - and the Opposition critic would acknowledge that is good news because they get teachers assigned to them knowing that there will be 4,000 fewer students there next year than they actually have teachers for, because if we base it on next year's enrolments there will be further teacher declines and nobody wants that.

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that under both criteria the school would not have met the designation as a small, necessarily existent school. One of the options that is being considered by the board is to take the current Grade VIIs who are in the building and bus them to an adjacent school. So, obviously the distances are not so great that there are not other options for at least some of the students in the area. Secondly, on the mean class, mean grade enrolment, which has to be twelve or less, when the calculation was done it was over thirteen - almost fourteen. Thirdly, Mr. Speaker, what the parents should know is that even if it was designated as a small, necessarily existent school, that would not necessarily mean that they would get any more teachers than what the school board is planning on providing for them for next year.

There is a discussion continuing between our department and the school board, both through the Chair of the board and the Director of Education. I know the parents are concerned, but there are several options available to the school board that they can yet explore between now and June in planning for next September.

MR. SPEAKER: On behalf of all hon. members, I would like to welcome to the public galleries a group of visitors, the actual number of which I am not certain, from C.C.M.D., the Canadian Centre Management Development. My note says they are accompanied by the hon. Roger Simmons, but I do not believe the hon. Mr. Simmons is in the gallery at this time.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!




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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I present a petition today, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of thousands of Newfoundlanders who are classified as public service pensioners, people who have dedicated many years of service to the public service of this Province and now, as pensioners in this Province, feel they have been neglected completely by this provincial government. I will just read it in part, Mr. Speaker:

This petition of the undersigned residents of Newfoundland;

WHEREAS the public service pensioners in this Province have not had an increase to their pensions since 1989; and

WHEREAS some 11,000 retired public service pensioners are directly affected; and

WHEREAS this government continues the practice of clawing back benefits pensioners would otherwise receive as a result of their Canada Pension Plan benefits;

WHEREFORE your petitioners urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to provide adequate increases in benefits to public service pensioners which reflect the increases in the wages of public servants, and to reverse the practice of clawing back benefits in public service pensions as a result of Canada Pension Plan benefits.

Mr. Speaker, there has been a very significant request made by some 11,000 retired public service pensioners in this Province, of recent date, who are simply saying to this government that we cannot live on an average of $9,000 or $10,000 or $11,000 per annum with respect to their public service pension. They have equally made a simple request with a view to an increase similar to the increase which has been granted to the public service generally, and this is not an unreasonable request, I say, Mr. Speaker. This is a request which ought to be given serious consideration by members opposite because we are dealing with some 11,000 Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who have worked diligently for a variety of governments over the years. This is not a partisan petition in any way, Mr. Speaker; this is a petition being presented on behalf of 10,000 or 11,000 people of this Province who simply say that they cannot cut it on the very meagre amount that they now receive with respect to their public service pension.

Mr. Speaker, as well, the practice with respect to the claw-back, when one takes into account the Canada Pension Plan benefits, that too requires consideration and review by the Minister of Finance and by government members opposite; because a change in that policy, or at least a recognition that that policy exists, may be enough to at least offset some of the difficulties, some of the very real financial difficulties, that are being experienced by some 11,000 retired public service pensioners in our Province.

Mr. Speaker, once again a request is being made on behalf of these Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who simply say that we cannot afford the amenities of life, the basic amenities of life, on the very meagre pension which they are now receiving, and they again come to this government seeking redress and seeking at least attention to a very genuine and real concern.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise in support of the petition so ably presented by the Member for St. John's East on behalf of some 11,000 public service pensioners who have been ignored by this government and indeed by the previous Liberal governments elected in 1989 and in 1993. The two previous Liberal governments have ignored the needs of the public service pensioners who, Mr. Speaker, had been receiving a modest increase from time to time in accordance with the raises given public servants who remained in the public sector.

Mr. Speaker, the government says we cannot afford it. The government says that we cannot afford to give the same kind of increase to the public service pensioners as we have negotiated with the public sector unions. That was all that was asked for. That was asked by me, prior to the Budget, in speeches made in the weeks leading up to the Budget. It has been asked for by the public service pensioners; a fairly modest request, Mr. Speaker, that they be treated the same as existing public sector workers and in the same manner as they have been treated for a number of years previously.

Mr. Speaker, I, along with many other members, and indeed members opposite, have received numerous letters, lobbying efforts, telephone calls, and concerns by public service pensioners, outlining the meagre resources that they have at their disposal to try and live in dignity in their retirement. Mr. Speaker, this government has failed to recognize that. They say that we cannot afford it. Yet, when you look at the government's performance in terms of the provincial debt, the provincial debt has been decreased in the past couple of years by some $900 million; not just getting rid of a deficit but, in fact, decreasing the public debt by some 15 per cent.

Mr. Speaker, when the right-wing interests, when the business community, when the Fraser forum gurus, talk about changes in public financing, they would be salivating if they were able to say that a government had reduced their overall provincial debt by 10 to 15 per cent. Yet, Mr. Speaker, we have done that here without giving proper consideration to the very grave needs that we have in this Province; not only public service pensioners, but that is who we are talking about today.

This government has ignored the needs of the public service pensioners, they have ignored the needs of children living in poverty and going to school hungry, they have ignored the needs of people living on social assistance who desperately need more assistance from this government, and here once again they are looking over their shoulders to the bond markets in New York instead of looking to the people of this Province as to what is required of them as a government in representing the needs and interests of the people of this Province.

Mr. Speaker, it is a shame that this government has failed to recognize the needs of the public service pensioners. I call on them now to recant, to reverse this decision, to find it in their hearts and find it in the budget to provide a modest increase, in this case the equivalent of what has been negotiated with the public sector unions.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MS S. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I stand again today with more petitions. They keep coming in, and they are on Sunday shopping.

Today I represent the constituents from Gander. The people of Gander have mailed in these petitions to me.

AN HON. MEMBER: Why didn't they give them to their member?

MS S. OSBORNE: I don't know. I am not sure why they would not give them to their member.

Anyway, these people have mailed petitions in and asked me to present them in this House for them, against Sunday shopping.

MR. WISEMAN: What is your position now? What is your present position on Sunday shopping? Are you (inaudible)?

MS S. OSBORNE: Oh, you had better believe it.

MR. WISEMAN: (Inaudible).

MS S. OSBORNE: The hon. Member for Topsail is speaking out against the petition. I would like to remind him that I have taken duplicate copies of all these and I am recording the comments of these members and I will personally call their constituents. If I have to, I will mail out copies of Hansard to show their constituents the scorn with which they are treated by their representatives in this House.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS S. OSBORNE: Excuse me, Mr. Speaker. Would you ask the hon. Member for Topsail, if he wants to address me, would he please sit in his seat?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS S. OSBORNE: I would like to remind the Member for Topsail -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I will remind hon. members that members are not permitted to interject, regardless of whether they are in their own seat or somebody else's seat. I remind hon. members that the Member for St. John's West has asked for the right to speak in silence.

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

MS S. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have gotten up day after day on Sunday shopping. The people of this Province are not against making purchases on Sunday. As a matter of fact, the people who have called me, who have mailed in petitions, have told me they enjoy going to the flea market. It is not about making purchases. It has been about the erosion of family life that has been perpetuated on the families of this Province whose mothers and fathers are forced into retail sales on Sunday for a minimum wage.

As long as the constituents of whatever district in this Province continue to mail petitions to me, I will continue to present them on their behalf. May I remind the hon. members opposite that I will mail out to these people - I have duplicates - the comments of them to their constituents.

Thank you Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I rise in my place today to support the petition presented by the Member for St. John's West. Yesterday she presented a petition which had signatures from Humber East. Today she is presenting a petition from people in Gander to basically get rid of Sunday shopping.

Before Christmas, in this House of Assembly, we sat through the night three or four nights in a row trying to defeat the bill to allow Sunday shopping in this Province. Immediately before Easter they brought in an amendment to that legislation. The government that pushed it through the House of Assembly brought in an amendment, admitted they made a major mistake. They wanted to change that to allow Easter to be a holiday. We moved an amendment to the amendment. What happened? We wanted Mother's Day to be considered a holiday also with respect to Sunday shopping, and we have a government over here which said no to that. They wanted to get the mothers out of bed, to give them breakfast in the morning in their beds, and then kick them out the door to work. That is what this Administration is all about. What we have said in the past is that we do not believe in Sunday shopping. We opposed it, and there are a lot of people in this Province who do not want Sunday shopping.

The members on the other side of the House will try to say: Do you do this on Sunday, do you do that on Sunday, do you buy a drop of gas on Sunday? That is not the point. What we were supporting was the status quo. We didn't see the need for large malls to be open on Sunday. Now we say people going into the malls to do a bit of shopping, or whatever the case may be, and they put this forward that there are people shopping on Sundays.

So they are, but from what I can find out there are people in the malls window shopping more than anything. They go in; they are not spending their money. The people only have so many dollars to spend. There is only so much money in the economy, and there are only so many days to the week. They will go in, and if they cannot buy it on Sunday they will buy it on Monday or Tuesday. There was no need to have the malls open on Sunday.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: What is the Member for Humber East saying? What is he yapping about now?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: I am glad you are, Mr. Speaker. The Member for Humber East says he is listening to every word. He may learn something if he pays attention. He may learn that the people of this Province do not need nor want Sunday shopping. When we refer to Sunday shopping, we refer to the large malls and the supermarkets and what have you, not the small convenience stores. What impact is Sunday shopping having on the small convenience stores in this Province? It is definitely hurting them.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: There you go. I just had some information passed on to me, Mr. Speaker, that one small convenience store owner has laid off half his staff.

AN HON. MEMBER: Five people.

MR. J. BYRNE: Five people gone. That is what we were saying. We have people now who are working for maybe the minimum wage, who are working thirty hours a week, and they had to work six days a week to get those thirty or forty hours. Now what has happened is they have to work seven days a week to get the same time, and it is hard on the family life in this Province. It was not needed.

We asked many questions in this House. Who was pushing it? We had all kinds of petitions, from all kinds of different corporations, from different organizations -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Who was pushing it? I will tell you the answer. Who was pushing it? The Premier. For what reason? Now, that is another question. Why was the Premier pushing it? There are some who will tell you that there were different people pressuring the Premier, who may be able to make certain contributions to different groups, to push this through. Now I am not saying it; I am only quoting what I have been told.

Then again we have to ask: Why are we having Sunday shopping in this Province? I am sure if you go to the stores - and I have been told by a certain store in particular that the number of people they have in there on a Sunday is down, the number of staff they have in there is down because they don't have the sales. In actual fact, it is costing them money to be open on Sundays. So close it.

As far as I am concerned, I have no problem in saying that when the next election comes, maybe this fall or next spring... Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Fisheries is over there now trying to hassle me and I will not tell him, unless he wants me to, what the Premier has planned for him - unless he wants me to.

Mr. Speaker, how concerned was the Minister of Fisheries yesterday or last night when he was in Ottawa, up on a very important trip, an All Party Committee, going to Ottawa to fight to get a program for TAGS? Maybe the minister might want to answer a question some time of where he was last night.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. J. BYRNE: By leave, Mr. Speaker?

AN HON. MEMBER: No leave.

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

MR. EFFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I cannot let this opportunity go without passing a few comments on Sunday shopping. Now let's take it in its full context. Let's go back thirty-five years in Port de Grave. When I grew up in Port de Grave, the first thing you would do Saturday evening after supper was go to the cellar to get the vegetables, because the vegetables had to be peeled Saturday night. The next thing you were told to do was get a wash, because you could not wash on Sunday. Those who were old enough to shave, the next thing you were told to do was, `You must shave tonight because you cannot shave on Sunday; it is not right to shave on Sunday.' Now that is the type of living and those are the types of conditions. Don't go aboard the fishing boats, don't go in the stage, don't touch anything on Sunday.

Let's take it in its full context, Mr. Speaker; let's start closing. Let's stop all the fishing boats, let's close the fish plants, let's close down gas bars, let's close the convenience stores and let's close one that maybe should be closed: let's close all the night clubs, all the taverns that have been opened for years and years and nobody said a word - not one word out of the Opposition. And I am going to really upset the Member for St. John's West; let's close the flea markets!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. EFFORD: Let's close the flea markets because, Mr. Speaker, you cannot have it half way.

MS S. OSBORNE: A point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

On a point of order, the hon. the Member for St. John's West.

MS S. OSBORNE: I am not saying anything about the flea markets. People work in flea markets by choice. People work in retail because they are forced back to work. I will send it out to your constituents of whose names I have, don't worry.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There is no point of order. The hon. member had her full five-minute allotment to speak in the debate on this petition.

The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, flea markets do not matter. That is not Sunday shopping. That is not people taking time away from their family time at home, from the quiet time, from the family unit getting together, going off, setting up a table, getting in the malls, getting on a sidewalk on a Sunday. That is not Sunday shopping.

Convenience bars: How many convenience stores are owned by Irving Oil? How many convenience stores are owned by Sobeys? I believe in every gas bar I have ever been in on a Sunday there have been employees. I believe the people behind the counters are what we would call employees, and I believe they are getting paid. I believe the gas attendants are getting paid. I believe the people who are stowing beer bottles in the cases are getting paid.

Mr. Speaker, you cannot have it both ways. Sunday shopping: The argument put forth is that people are working on Sunday. Yes, people have a choice. Yes, people are working on Sunday. It is the new age in which we are living. I will only agree to stopping Sunday shopping if we close everything on Sunday, shut her down, total silence on Sunday for everybody, no peeling potatoes and no shaving.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have petitions here, about 800 names, that just came in the last couple of days, on the Goulds bypass road. I thought the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture was going to stand and tell us that you cannot have it both ways. You cannot go to Ottawa with a TAGS committee, to impress upon the federal ministers - I ask him: Did he skip the meeting and end up at a $1,000-a-plate Liberal fund-raising dinner in Toronto? Did he? I say to the minister, you cannot have it both ways. You cannot represent the fishermen and workers of this Province and go to a $1,000-a-plate fund-raising dinner, and never show up in Ottawa!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: I say to the minister, you cannot have it both ways.

MR. DECKER: A point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, the hon. Opposition House Leader is not being relevant; he is totally irrelevant.

However, we recognize that the petition which he brings forward was put forward seriously by his constituents and other people, and if he needs a few extra minutes to make up for the time that he has lost being irrelevant, we are quite prepared to give him leave, because it is an important petition, Mr. Speaker, and he should not be wasting time when his people want him to speak on the petition. We will gladly give him an extra couple of minutes to speak.

MR. SPEAKER: Hon. members are aware that during the section on the Order Paper that we call Petitions debate should be restricted to the material content of the petitions.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Any time that was lost during the point of order will be allowed to be extended to the hon. Opposition House Leader.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will get back to the minister a little later.

This petition is an important matter, and I keep getting them day after day, almost every time I go to the mail; 800 names on a petition asking the provincial government to address the Goulds bypass road, a very important issue. I will address the issue I have with the minister very shortly when I am finished with the petition, I say to the minister. I will deal with that then. I hope you will stay in your seat.

Maybe the money we could have used on the Goulds bypass road got wasted by some other function. The people in the Goulds area and on the Southern Shore are not getting the benefit of that money when we are wasting it on other endeavours, which is why we should be concentrating on high priorities, the government here, with taxpayers' dollars, I might add.

I have presented at least, I am sure, eight or nine other petitions before. As they come in I will present them, 800 names this time, sometimes thirty or forty, seventy and eighty on occasions, and I will continue with them. I know there will be more coming in because they are out there in almost every store in places that I visit. The people in the area want to see a Goulds bypass road.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: They are delighted with the MHA they have. One point one million for the East Coast trail, I say, coming up this year; in the millions for the Colony of Avalon, I might add; a road getting paved up in Port Kirwan this year, I say to the minister. What a member, I say to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. But we don't pave driveways. I say to the minister, we don't pave up to people's back doors, though, in the Ferryland District. We don't expect taxpayers in the Ferryland District to do what they do in some other districts. There are certain responsibilities. That is why we could be doing more paving of public roads and so on. The minister expects every single little driveway out there to be paved.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, that is what I indicated.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Not at all, no. I don't know the man. He was here before my time. I try not to go back in history. I only like to deal with things since 1992, I would say.

AN HON. MEMBER: The new Tory Party.

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, the new revitalized Tory Party, the one that didn't do anything bad in this Province. Nobody was around. There are more Tories sitting on your side of the House right now than there were in the party when they were in power here in 1989, I say to the minister. There are more of them over there. There are many times more; that is what I would say to the minister.

The people of the Ferryland District want a proper transportation system. They want to have a proper paved road bypassing a very heavily populated urban area. They need an access to it. The main street of the City of St. John's is the avenue by which you have to drive from Trepassey into St. John's. The main street of St. John's, that is what it is. It is the longest street, I think, in the City of St. John's, I would say, from Middle Pond into Waterford Bridge Road, the Southern Shore highway. There is not another street in the City of St. John's longer than that road.

That is our main highway. The longest street in the City of St. John's is our highway. So if you have to drive up Water Street every day and out Topsail Road and through the whole city every day to try to commute, over a period of five or six miles to spend half an hour, it is not acceptable. That is why the Outer Ring Road was necessary. It cost a lot of money. That is why a Goulds bypass road is necessary. Not a sod has been turned, nothing but a letter giving a commitment.

We need action, I would say, for the people of the district up there. We want something done with that. It is evidenced by the continuous outpouring of petitions. In fact, I would say, based on the numbers that have come through, a significant percentage of the people who live in that district now have already signed petitions and submitted them. I would imagine up to probably 20 per cent of the people have put their name on a petition already and sent it in, of every man, woman and child that is there. So there are significant numbers now. It is in the thousands, the numbers that have been presented here already, and they are streaming in. In fact, they are coming fast and furious. Eight hundred names just arrived over the last couple of days.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up. The Chair has allowed an extension of two minutes beyond the five minutes he is permitted by the rules of the House.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you. I have been allowed, or it is already used?

MR. SPEAKER: It is now seven minutes and fifteen seconds from the time that the hon. member started the petition.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am sure I will have other petitions in the future - tomorrow, other days, or next week - to present on this same topic.

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

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

I rise today to support the petition, as I have done on a number of occasions, presented by the Member for Ferryland. He is presenting petitions on this side of the House often times that should be presented on that side of the House, just like the Member for St. John's West did today and yesterday. He is after presenting petitions in this House representing people in the District of Placentia & St. Mary's on this very issue, which refers to the Goulds bypass.

The Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture has sat in his place there and said the Member for Ferryland should be a member for the Liberals, or he should have a Liberal member. We have to understand that that party on that side of the House would not be going anywhere without the Tories sitting on that side of the House. Just at a glimpse, there are five ministers over there who are former members of the PC Party, who ran for the PCs in this Province.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who? (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Look, one sitting next to you there, one over there in the back, the minister of - we know where you have been. The Minister of Environment and Labour is one. The Member for Humber Valley is just about perched, ready and waiting to go into Cabinet again, when we have true Liberals over there - a few, very few true Liberals - on that side of the House. They are waiting to go into Cabinet and they cannot get in because all the former Tories are going into Cabinet.

AN HON. MEMBER: Tory ministers?

MR. J. BYRNE: Yes.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Listen, pay attention. You know exactly what I am saying. We have a member sitting to your right who is a former Tory, he sat on this side of the House.

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

I remind the hon. member that he is speaking to a petition and I ask him to speak to the content of the petition.

MR. J. BYRNE: The Speaker is asking for relevancy and it is no trouble to make this relevant, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: Now he is sitting in a Tory (inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Who sits there?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Oh, boy, another one! She is sitting in one, too, she is sitting in a Tory seat, right there; the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology is sitting in a Tory seat; and the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation is another, they are all over the place. But, the relevancy, Mr. Speaker, is this: that the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture said - and we, over on this side of the House, are trying to get the Goulds bypass -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: The Minister of Health, yes and the Member for Ferryland is trying to get the Goulds bypass in his district. The Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture has said that he needs a Liberal member to get the Goulds bypass, but what I am saying to you, Mr. Speaker, the relevancy is this: that anybody on that side, the ministers of any consequence on that side of the House, of any importance, are all former Tories - that is the relevancy, Mr. Speaker. But the Goulds bypass is a road that is absolutely needed, Mr. Speaker, it is a part of the -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) should not go through.

MR. J. BYRNE: Did you hear that? The Member for Humber East said it should not go through. Anyway, he is a sandbagger; he has his head in the sand all the time and does not have a clue anyhow, Mr. Speaker, he does not have a clue. The Member for Labrador West says it should go through.

Now, is that not something? We have a Member for Labrador West, the furthest district away, agreeing that the Goulds bypass should go through.

MR. DECKER: After the Strait of Belle Isle is finished.

MR. J. BYRNE: After the Strait of Belle Isle is finished. The Member for the Straits and White Bay North says it should go there also.

Now, the Member for Labrador West, you know he is an average guy, of average intelligence, I suppose, and he can see the wisdom of the Goulds bypass. What does that say about the rest of them over there, Mr Speaker? What does that say about the rest of them if they cannot see the wisdom of the Goulds bypass, a road is a part of the network of the highways in and around St. John's? Thousands upon thousands of people travel over the road every single day, Mr. Speaker.

We have the Kilbride Road, the Goulds Road itself in desperate condition and needs work to be done up there, and there are reasons for that. I know there have been water and sewer put in but it is an absolute necessity to have the Goulds bypass put in, Mr. Speaker, and while I am on it, Torbay bypass was designed a number of years ago, land was purchased for Torbay bypass, and the present Minister of Fisheries, Mr. Speaker, the former Minister of Works, Service and Transportation, put that on the back burner and that road, the Torbay highway, the road going down to Torbay, Pouch Cove and Flat Rock, with respect to the amount of traffic on that highway, Mr. Speaker, it is desperate, especially in the mornings and evenings and something should be done with respect to that highway. It should be either a four-lane highway from the end of the city of St. John's boundary to the north side in Torbay, up the Bauline Line; it should be either a four-lane highway there or another bypass put in for the Torbay bypass. But, in the meantime -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. J. BYRNE: In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I will just say again there is support for the construction of the Goulds bypass and the petition being presented by the Member for Ferryland.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Opposition House Leader, but before the hon. member begins, let me draw all hon. members' attention to Standing Order 92 of our Standing Orders that says: "Every Member offering a petition to the House shall confine himself or herself to the statement of the parties from whom it comes, the number of signatures attached to it and the material allegations it contains." I would ask all hon. members to conduct themselves accordingly.

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise again to present a petition on behalf of the residents of my district, and as I said when I spoke, they are coming fast and furious, just another passed to me a minute ago. This petition pertains to the Goulds bypass road again and it says:

WHEREAS the construction of the Goulds bypass road has been identified as a priority for development under the Canada-Newfoundland transportation initiative; and

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

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

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

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

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

WHEREAS the financial resources to begin the Goulds bypass for what have been identified under the Canada-Newfoundland Transportation Initiative;

WHEREFORE your petitioners urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to begin construction on the Goulds bypass road this coming year.

This is signed by, almost exclusively, residents of Portugal Cove South, a couple of residents of Trepassey and even one from St. Mary's in the District of Placentia & St. Mary's.

So, Mr. Speaker, once again, as I indicated when I spoke before, there are hundreds of petitioners signing their names and petitions have been submitted and have been coming in on a steady basis. I am sure, this afternoon, maybe as I speak, there will be others when I get back upstairs, on this particular issue. Because it highlights the concern, Mr. Speaker, that people have, and the urgent need, that they want to see a system, a road network that will be able to cut down driving time by up to thirty minutes. In a short section of highway it can cut driving time down by thirty minutes, it can allow people on the main in the Goulds to get back and forth under safer conditions, because it is a nightmare there now. In heavy traffic it often takes fifteen minutes to break into traffic on that Goulds highway. It is almost impossible to get to turn on to the highway making a left turn.

Anybody in transportation that checks on traffic flows supports this. The government has identified this as an initiative, the minister has acknowledged it. We realize that, we are very pleased to know that. He has put it in writing to us.

The point is, it has been ongoing for a number of years, from way back since the 1980s. Since 1992 a commitment was given with all the municipalities and with the two ministers and deputy ministers in attendance at the time meeting in my district and subsequently in the minister's office with members representing all municipalities a few months ago. But the people want to see work beginning there, because there are companies now spending up in the seven figures, up in that particular area now, in Bay Bulls, for example, trying to develop a port there. We need to transport heavy materials, and so on, if we are successful in landing a supply base for the offshore and basic contracts. It has been utilized.

We just saw on TV last week how a company there, C & W Industrial Fabrication and Marine Equipment Limited, are supplying boats for South America using patrols there. So, it is a area that has tremendous potential and one of the drawbacks to setting up businesses in this particular area is an improper highway. And, not only the Goulds bypass, Mr. Speaker, but the surface of the road that is there now has been there for some time and it is not in a very good condition to ride on. In fact the road itself, the old road up there is winding. It was described, I think, by a caravan that came here years ago as snake-like, like the Southern Shore highway, with so many turns, there have been many people killed. Many people in the Goulds area have been killed on dangerous turns in the Goulds because it is a main the highway.

So, hopefully, for safety purposes, for an efficient mode of transportation, to entice economic activity and businesses - there is tens of thousands of tourists who come to that area every year -tens of thousands to Bay Bulls, alone, up in the Ferryland area, the Colony of Avalon and other particular endeavours. Several thousand attend the festival in July and there is a steady stream of traffic on the road from St. John's to Witless Bay, Tor's Cove and Bay Bulls for those charters out to Bird Island and to observe whales and icebergs. It is a growing industry there. We just have approval coming, I understand, of in access of $1 million for an East Coast Trail association.

MR. SPEAKER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, with that I will just conclude my comments.

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to rise to support the petition so ably put forward by the Member for Ferryland, that historic district of this Province, a district that has carried the same name since 1832. In fact, it is the only district in this House that has carried that same name ever since we had the Responsible Government system in 1855 and, in fact, before that when we had a Representative Government in 1832.

Mr. Speaker, I want to reflect on the promises made to the people of the Southern Shore. For many, many years now the people of the Southern Shore have heard it said that they are going to have the Goulds bypass built. It has been in Budget Speech after Budget Speech, Throne Speech after Throne Speech, their commitment to revitalize that part of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, we know that the people of the Goulds and the area to the south of that - Bay Bulls, Witless Bay, and all down the shore - have been promised many, many times that the time would come - real soon they were told - when the Goulds bypass would be completed and they could commune to St. John's in a reasonable time. However, nothing has been done.

As a matter of fact, it was said earlier here today that that particular road is now the longest road in St. John's. It does not have any sidewalks. The Member for Kilbride said yesterday, it really is nothing more than a cow path, upgraded a little bit over time. In fact, the Kilbride road has been identified on mapping as far back as the 1820s, so the general direction of that road has been there for a long, long time. It is very twisted, very narrow, and, of course, deemed to be very unsafe.

Let us look at the safety record of that road. I am sure that all members here can note, and those of us who lived in the region over time will certainly attest to the fact, that hardly a year passes without some terrible tragedy on that particular road. The number of accidents - fatal accidents - that have been on that road over years is indeed incredible.

We should be addressing this issue from two or three perspectives. As the member has said, we should be addressing it from the issue of safety, and what is reasonable. Looking at the record of accidents and fatalities would lead us to believe that something is needed to be addressed by way of improvements in that particular part of this region. Therefore, from the point of view of safety, we should be saying: What is it we can do?

The department of highways' planners and the regional planners, City of St. John's planners and the Mount Pearl regional planners, have all said that the Goulds bypass road should be a priority for the region. The second point we have to make is that this particular road is of vital importance for development in the region.

We are pleased to read about the proposals to develop and revitalize that wonderful, historic community of Bay Bulls, and I am sure that all members are familiar with the history of Bay Bulls as a fishing community. We know that the fish plant burned down just a couple of years ago, and we know now that there have been several firms interested in developing that port. There are talks of the fact that the fish plant itself may not be rebuilt - or it may be. Now there is difficulty with the transfer of the licence that is held by the community of Bay Bulls.

The Bay Bulls people do not want their licence to be moved out of Bay Bulls, and we understand and support that; however, if we are going to develop Bay Bulls harbour in the way that it is envisioned by some of the entrepreneurs of this Province then we are not going to improve Bay Bulls harbour if we do not have an adequate transportation system. Therefore, we should be saying to the government, if you are going to go and develop Bay Bulls harbour -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. H. HODDER: I say to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, who is not in his seat and was not in his right office last night, if he wants to speak he should go to his seat. He should also be out there all in favour of his buddy, Ed Puddicombe, getting development done in Bay Bulls. He should be saying to develop Bay Bulls at any expense, because obviously it is his buddy who is part of that particular development. So I say to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, if he wants to participate and support the Goulds bypass then he should get to his seat and participate in the regular manner.

Mr. Speaker, I also want to reiterate what the Member for Ferryland said relative to tourism. Of course, we are promoting tourism in all parts of the Province. The Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, in her literature, has identified the Southern Shore as one of the prime tourist attraction areas in the Province. There has been a lot of work done down in that part of the Province. I visit it on a regular basis. In fact, there is not a two-week period when I don't drive down the Southern Shore, at least part of the way.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, from a tourism perspective I am saying that we should build the Goulds bypass for all the other reasons which I have identified.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.


Orders of the Day


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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, we are going to suggest that we do a few first readings. I call Motion 7.

MR. SPEAKER: Motion 7.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The Health And Post-Secondary Education Tax Act," carried. (Bill No. 14)

On motion, Bill No. 14 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

MR. DECKER: Motion 8, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Motion 8.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The Financial Administration Act," carried. (Bill No. 16)

On motion, Bill No. 16 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

MR. DECKER: Motion 9, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Motion 9.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The Aquaculture Act," carried. (Bill No. 8)

On motion, Bill No. 8 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

MR. DECKER: Motion 10, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Motion 10.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Government Services and Lands to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The Highway Traffic Act," carried. (Bill No. 9)

On motion, Bill No. 9 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

MR. DECKER: Motion 11, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Motion 11.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Government Services and Lands to introduce a bill, "An Act Respecting Co-Operatives," carried. (Bill No. 10)

On motion, Bill No. 10 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

MR. DECKER: Now, Mr. Speaker, we will call the Budget Speech, which is Motion 1.

MR. SPEAKER: Motion 1.

The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board 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.

The hon. the Member for Waterford Valley.

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

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Waterford Valley on a point of order.

MR. H. HODDER: I wonder if we could have a consensual agreement with the Acting Government House Leader. The Leader of the Opposition and the Premier are having some discussions at the moment and he is due to finish up his comments on the non-confidence motion. I wonder if we could have an agreement whereby when the Leader of the Opposition does get back to the House he can continue his speech. In the meantime, we will put up another speaker.

MR. DECKER: To that point of order.

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

MR. DECKER: Did he adjourn debate or not? Who adjourned debate?

MR. H. HODDER: Yes, the Leader of the Opposition adjourned debate on the last day we were on the Budget Speech. He still has some time remaining. This afternoon there are some discussions going on between the respective party leaders that is taking his time. I am wondering if we could have an agreement. We will put up another speaker, but that under the circumstances we would not penalize the Leader of the Opposition the time he is missing to carry on the debate.

MR. DECKER: That is acceptable, Mr. Speaker. No problem.

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair understands the request and the Chair understands that there has been agreement.

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

MR. T. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Just to speak a little more on the Budget debate. I spoke on this just prior to our Easter break.

Before I do that I would like, I guess, in appreciation of the Minister of Environment and Labour and the Minister of Health and Community Services, for recognizing the problem at the Grace Hospital and agreeing to work towards doing something on that. I didn't have a chance to thank the minister for that, so I would like to do that officially before I get into the Budget debate.

This Budget was pegged as a social budget. When the Throne Speech was read by the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board - they called it a social budget, a budget with a social conscience, a kinder, gentler budget for this year, recognizing the fact that people in the Province had tightened their belts for several years in the past. They were going to recognize some of the social issues that had been overlooked in previous budgets.

While we all agree, on this side of the House anyhow, that the Throne Speech was filled with rhetoric, and through the rhetoric of the Throne Speech, if one were to believe what was read in the Throne Speech, you would believe that it is a kinder, gentler Budget. We won't get into whether or not we believe that. I am just opening it up for interpretation.

The government was repenting for spending the last two years ignoring social issues through the Throne Speech. Now they say the time has come to right the wrongs of the past by making social reform a priority. Have we seen any evidence of that social reform yet, I ask the House? Have we seen any evidence that the Throne Speech is true to its word and that this is truly a social budget? Perhaps the Premier was trying to play to those by saying that he was sorry for neglecting our social sector and by promising to do things better this time through the Throne Speech. Maybe that was the message the Premier was portraying through the Throne Speech of the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

Forgiveness is also firmly rooted in the traditions of Newfoundland and Labrador, the people of our Province, in religious traditions in the Province, but it is difficult for the people of our Province to accept the Premier's word in his Throne Speech and grant him forgiveness. Because it seems that while the Throne Speech was full of promises and signs that it is going to be a softer year for those who depend on social benefits, for those who depend on the health care system and so on, one has to wonder really how sincere the Throne Speech was, how sincere the Premier was when he gave the initiative to have the Throne Speech read and the wording of that Throne Speech.

Mr. Speaker, the children of our Province have perhaps been ignored in this year's Budget. Where are the actions, we ask, to implement the House of Assembly select committee report on children's interests? We did not see them this year in the Budget. They are not in the Budget. This Budget is another in a long string of budgets that put children down at the bottom of the priority list. Children will have to wait yet another year for another budget and promises this year, that in years to come, maybe next year, will see the children's issues addressed. But will they be? After all, this is the year of the social budget and they were not addressed this year in this year's Budget.

What about a child advocate? I looked through the Budget this year for the allocation to create a new child advocate, an ombudsman who will slice through the bureaucratic red tape and the various departments and agencies of government and their programs, to ensure that the best interests of the child and the family are paramount. We did not see that this year, Mr. Speaker. The select committee recommended it, the Budget ignored it. The Opposition strongly embrace the concept but it was no where to be found in the Budget.

It would make a difference in the lives of the countless children who are suffering under a system that treats them as numbers as opposed to children, but in this year of the social budget there was no mention of an ombudsman, a child advocate; it was ignored. Is this a social budget? That is what we were told but we see no true signs other than the rhetoric that it is.

I suppose that the child advocate would have a lot of changes to recommend on how government does things; changes in the social assistance program, in education, perhaps in the justice system and so forth. Perhaps the government does not really want to create a thorn in the flesh for itself as it enters into the latter half of its mandate, with speculation maybe of an election even as early as this fall. Perhaps therefore, government is willing to sacrifice the child for its own political gain, ignoring the select committee's wise recommendation which I may add was a wrong decision. It would have cost little, yet it would have meant so much to the people who need that child advocate, the children of this Province.

What about the National Child Benefit, or should we say the claw- back of the National Child Benefit? Mr. Speaker, I am especially appalled that government is funding several social programs this year by clawing back the National Child Benefit from children whose families are on social assistance. That was a program put in place by the federal government for those in the Province most in need, the people on social benefits and the working poor. Yet government saw fit to claw it back from people on social benefits.

We are told it is a social budget, Mr. Speaker, a budget with a social conscience, but there is no solid, concrete evidence of that. Poor families not on social assistance get to keep their claw-back and we agree with that. We, on this side of the House feel that is only proper.

Families living on minimum wage income are in certain respects worse off than those on social assistance. We have seen that, Mr. Speaker, we have seen it when the changes were made to the charges that Newfoundland and Labrador Housing had made. They made some adjustments to that so that it would be fair and equitable to the working poor, because in some cases with those changes - in some cases, I stress - the working poor would have certainly been worse off than those on social benefits.

I am not for reducing everyone to the lowest common denominator, and that is what this Budget does. By clawing back from those on social benefits, the National Child Benefit, they are reducing those to the lowest denominator and that is the wrong emphasis in a Province where so many children are going to school hungry. While there is a School Lunch Program and while there have been strides to make some dent to that, it is not enough, not nearly enough.

This government will probably say the federal government insists that it claw-back the National Child Benefit from children on social assistance or from children whose families are on social assistance. Well it is shameful if that is the attitude taken by this government and by the federal government. Mr. Speaker, how dare the federal government and the provincial government defend this program as an acceptable response, to claw it back from children of families on social benefits. The children of social assistance clients are indeed going hungry, not only at school, not only are they going to school hungry, but some of them are going hungry at home; malnourished and improperly clothed in 1998 because of paltry assistance levels, Mr. Speaker. We all know that there is a direct correlation between children who are hungry and their academic performance in school, and there is nobody here who will dispute that.

Many families in rural areas will not be able to avail of the programs this clawed-back money is being used to fund. They are off the beaten track in the land that government has forgotten. So not only are you robbing the poor to help the poor but you are also leaving many of the poorest people with nothing, because the programs that are being created and funded by the National Child Benefit, some of these people cannot avail of. Those programs are not going to be conveniently located for some rural areas in the Province.

The same social assistance rates that force single adults to squalor in some areas of the Province, Mr. Speaker, are forcing children to live almost in Third World impoverishment throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. It is not a joke, this is not fiction, Mr. Speaker, this is fact. This is not overblown. People from across Canada saw in media reports what happened in Black Tickle this past year, we have seen it in Hawke's Bay, and on Here and Now as well. In countless other situations, Mr. Speaker, children in this Province are suffering.

The government says that there are some 32,000 in this Province living on social assistance, and it may be far more than that if there is no program to replace the TAGS program. There may be far more than that on social assistance by the end of this year. That is just the caseload, 32,000. It is just a caseload we are talking about. In actual fact, the number of people relying on social assistance is closer to 65,000 or 70,000. One in eight of our people depends on social assistance in this Province and it is going to be higher than that if there is no suitable program to replace TAGS. This is a stark condemnation of the success of the economic planning of this government and its predecessor who have presided over the phenomenal growth in social assistance dependency.

We have spoken a little bit about the School Lunch Program, Mr. Speaker, and the question is not our children going to school hungry in Newfoundland and Labrador, but how many children are going to school hungry in Newfoundland and Labrador? Because there are children in this Province going to school hungry.

Are children living in conditions of poverty that can influence their growth and education? The answer to that question is yes. Yes, in fact, they are. That fact was reported by Dr. Len Williams in the 1992 royal commission report, and again more recently by the Patricia Canning report, Special Matters. Tens of thousands of children are living below the poverty line and child hunger in this Province is directly linked to poor attentiveness in school, poor behaviour, poor performance, and all the other things that go with that. It cannot be ignored, yet in this social budget this year it was. It's unfortunate, but it was. The children are going to school hungry because government has forced them into poverty through neglect in previous years, in previous budgets, and through neglect in the social conscience Budget of 1998.

How do we address that? Through volunteers? Thank God for volunteers, Mr. Speaker. In many areas of the Province people contribute to volunteer-run food banks which enable families to eat more than government allows them to eat. It allows these people to eat more than government are providing for. In smaller areas people lack the luxury of a food bank, if we can call food banks a luxury. In some areas children have the privilege of receiving a daily hot meal at school. Food in a child's belly means retention of knowledge in the child's brain. For months, through petitions from the people of this Province, we have urged the government to take the lead in developing a universal, comprehensive school lunch program for all schools and for any student who may need a hot meal at school.

Showing leadership means applying funds, and also attracting the investment of others. The government has had years to think about this, yet they have done nothing. In the social budget of 1998 they have done nothing. There is no mention of any progressive program in this year's so-called socially compassionate Budget, and we have to wonder why.

Sure, the Premier is good at selling things. He sold the story of the Estai, he sold the people of New York and of North America on the turbot and how he arrested the Estai, and we all know what happened there. Sure, he is a salesman. He sold himself to the Province, but can he sell the social Budget of 1998? People believed that it was a social Budget through the Throne Speech but they are finding out the difference.

Child welfare: The government has, of course, done something to address the report on children's interests. It has made the lateral shift of child welfare from Human Resources and Employment to the regional community health boards. How that will benefit the children is yet to be seen, or at least we hope it will benefit the children. Even this cosmetic change has failed in two regions. The Province does not have enough faith in the Western and Labrador boards, Mr. Speaker, to entrust them with this new responsibility. So we find that even this cosmetic change has failed to produce meaningful results for children.

In fact, the government's bungling of this shift has fostered confusion and will cause who knows what confusion for child welfare professionals on the front lines. That is yet to be seen. Once again, the government has demonstrated a lack of understanding of the real needs of children, and the lack of what will make the right changes.

Children in care of child welfare are often passed from pillar to post because of mismanagement and the government's failure to commit sufficient resources and personnel to do the job that is required. Again, it has been overlooked in the social budget of 1998.

It is sad that every child wants a family and a home to call its own but often our most vulnerable children are deprived of stability because the government has failed to get its act together. Why does the truth not make its way to the Cabinet table and into the consciences of the decision-makers of this Province? There is only one answer to that: They are not PC.

Why are the needed changes in child welfare being ignored while the government settles for the cheaper cosmetic changes? Why always the easy way out, instead of doing what is required to change things for the better? This social budget of 1998 has done very little for social programs.

Education is another issue, Mr. Speaker. Now that we have finally navigated the stormy waters of education restructuring under the governments that have gone this way and that, back and forth, we are awaiting leadership in implementing the dusty recommendations of the 1992 Royal Commission Report and the Canning Report, among others.

We note that the bulk of these changes did not depend on government gaining control of governance. The bulk of them were already within government's power to change. Yet, we were told that restructuring would be needed to eliminate the costly duplication in the system and free up money that could be redirected into the classroom to pay for those important reforms.

Now we hear the government has no intention of redirecting education savings back into the classroom. Instead, it will funnel this money into general revenue to pay for such things as excursions for trade mission to Asia, South America, Chile - the recommendations of ministers' offices - and the stringing of lights along the Parkway at Christmas.

We have to ask: Was the second referendum, the costly second referendum, needed in order to make education reform? The answer is, no. If the savings were not really needed to implement the reforms, then why did the government wait six years without moving on key education-based recommendations? And if the savings were indeed needed to pay for those reforms, then does this mean the government has abandoned reform altogether?

What about standardized public exams, Mr. Speaker? We know that the government cancelled them on a whim, in the face of expert recommendations and a public outcry. The minister promised to replace them with region-wide standardized exams, defeating his argument that no one uses them. But now we ask: Where are those region-wide standardized public exams that we were promised? We do not see them announced in this year's Budget. We are about to see yet another year's worth of students graduate without the benefit of dependable standardized public exams.

We ask: What about the other reform recommendations of the Williams and Canning reports? There is very little here in this year's Budget, Mr. Speaker. They show a little here and a little there, but a random peppering is all we seem to get.

Where is the debate over the length of the school day and school year? What about refocusing the curriculum of education essentials like reading and writing, where children today need a lot of emphasis in order to compete for jobs nationally with graduates from other provinces?

Mr. Speaker, what about the Special Needs children? What about access to more expensive and specialized programs, such as the sciences and the arts? We were told that savings from reform would enable the government to proceed with more of this, but we now see that this was another sales job by the Premier and his Cabinet.

What happens now that the government has reneged on its funding commitment? Government did a good sales job on the second education referendum, Mr. Speaker. They achieved 70 per cent. They sold people on the idea that savings would be redirected back into the classrooms, that children would be better off, that they would finally get the programs that they were looking for, especially in some of the schools that were lacking those programs. We see now that there are teacher lay-offs and school closures. Yet, the savings that are derived from those cutbacks are not being put back into the classrooms. It is another promise that was broken.

We learned last year that the government has neglected its responsibility to ensure high air quality in the Province's schools. The government has been forced now to deal with that problem all at once, when they could have done it gradually over a period of time. We wonder how much of the capital expenditures allocated from this year will be eaten up by correcting the consequences of the government's neglect.

With reform proceeding and new schools, classrooms and labs needed, we will need the money in addition to the air quality remediation money. Surely, the government understands this. So I ask the government again to reconsider their own decision to renege on their commitment to return education restructuring savings to the classroom, to benefit the children, to benefit education, to put education at a higher standard in this Province, to keep people interested in school, to keep young people interested in their academics and make them well-rounded students, to compete for jobs, especially IT jobs where they are going to be competing with children from other provinces, sometimes in provinces that have standardized public exams, provinces that are better able to judge the academic performance of their children, provinces that promote a higher level of academic achievement.

Health is another area. Another social sector largely ignored by the Liberals is health care. The Chrétien government got a swift kick in the 1997 election, most especially in Newfoundland but also by Eastern Canada, largely because it failed in the area of health care. They tried to sell to the people that there was no problem in the health care, but people know better than that. We see families in need of health care. We see people who need health care. We saw a gentleman just last year collapse in the lobby of a hospital because he was lobbying for better health care.

It seems that the government that had dressed itself up as the protector of health standards is instead hacking away at the very foundations of our Medicare system, such as universality and accessability.

In this Budget we see a flurry of announcements of new health care facilities. In the newspaper we hear that some of those may be funded through foreign investment dollars received from new immigrants. Another hospital is being paid for by INCO and its Voisey's Bay subsidiary. But for many of the constructions, as welcome as they are, we see no schedule or source of funding.

We ask about the accountability of government in many of these areas, Mr. Speaker. We have seen parks sold. We now see the fishers of this Province about to have their TAGS benefits eliminated without any knowledge of a future program; demonstrating just today and yesterday, in fact, and no knowledge of what tomorrow holds for them. Are they going to rely on social benefits in this Province, or are they going to move to other provinces or other areas in search of better economic conditions and employment? This Province has let them down. The past eight or nine years of government in this Province have led the people of this Province astray. It has let the people of this Province down.

It is unfortunate, truly unfortunate, that we see our youngest, brightest people moving out of this Province to find employment elsewhere. We see our public servants fighting for increased wages because the cost of living has increased substantially, and they have to fight for increased wages. We see public pensioners fighting for an increase. They have not received an increase since the PC days, and it looks as though they will not receive an increase from this government.

This government has shed its responsibility to increase public service pensions in line with the public service employees, and that is unfortunate. It is truly unfortunate, Mr. Speaker, that the public service pensioners in this Province are being ignored by government.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up



MR. SPEAKER: No leave granted.

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Before recognizing the Member for Cape St. Francis, it being 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, I have to read the questions for the Late Show.

Question number one: Mr. Speaker, I am dissatisfied with the answer provided by the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation re my question on Marine Atlantic. That is from the Member for Cape St. Francis.

Mr. Speaker, I am dissatisfied with the answer provided by the Minister of Education re my questioning regarding air quality studies in the Newfoundland schools. That is from the Member for Waterford Valley.

Mr. Speaker, I am dissatisfied with the answer provided by the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal re my question on out-migration. That is from the Member for Ferryland.

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

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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased once again to stand in my place and say a few words about this 1998-99 Budget.

AN HON. MEMBER: Make it a few.

MR. J. BYRNE: Make it a few words. Oh, I have a certain amount of time and I intend to take up every second of the time allocated to me. That is somewhere up to thirty minutes, and there are probably twenty-nine minutes and thirty seconds left. So if you want to learn something, sit back, put your feet up, and pay attention.

Now, the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture is there with his ears wide open, ready to hear every word that I have to say; and I have a lot to say, Mr. Speaker.

The Premier and the Minister of Finance are all the time talking about what a wonderful Budget they brought down this year, and rightly so. They should have brought down a good Budget this year, after the hardship that this Province has gone through because of this Adminstration over the past number of years.

Mr. Speaker, they have cut everything to the bone. You name any sector or any subhead within the Budget and it has been cut, cut, cut, Mr. Speaker. Take, for example, health care in this Province; it has been cut to the bone. All you would have to do is go into any of the health organizations in this Province, walk through the hospitals, for example, and you will see the cleanliness of the hospitals is not nearly what it once was. You can see stains on the floors in the hospitals - stains. It was once never heard of.

I will give you a true story that happened to me about a month-and-a-half ago. I went to a hospital in this City, in St. John's - I will not say which one because it will be addressed, hopefully - to visit a patient. As a matter of fact, the patient was a friend of mine. He had surgery, and he was in a room with another individual. I am talking about cleanliness now. This is fact, I saw it myself. On the wall over his head there were bloodstains. Blood! Not even after being washed off. That is a fact. So that is (inaudible). Some people are smiling in this House, but that's nothing to smile about. That is the reality of what is happening in this Province today with the health care.

I have another situation, Mr. Speaker, that -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Well, bed sheets. I've gone through that myself. I've been in hospital for up to a week and the bed sheets haven't been changed. That was last year, Mr. Speaker. Anything that has to be done, the patients are asked to do it themselves.

With respect to health care in this Province, we have situations now where it is becoming a fee for service.

MR. T. OSBORNE: Jack, would you please tell them (inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: The Member for St. John's South just relayed a little story to me, Mr. Speaker. I find it hard to believe, but if he is saying it, it has to be true. I believe him. A patient was sent out of a hospital with certain amounts of drugs in her system. She didn't even know the address she had to go to, but she was put into a taxi. I find that hard to believe but he has no reason to -

MR. MERCER: Demoral.

MR. J. BYRNE: Demoral was the drug that was used.

I'm really excited here now. The Member for Humber East is listening.

The health care in this Province, that is only one area that has been cut. The Auditor General, in her report this year, had some serious concerns and questions with respect to the re-organization of the Health Care Corporation of St. John's.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Yes, boy, no doubt about it.

Anyway, the Health Care Corporation of St. John's, we all know, is under a major re-organization, for the St. John's region. The Auditor General has some concerns with respect to what is happening with respect to the re-organization of health care in St. John's. Some of the questions that were put forward by the Auditor General question the amounts of money that have been allocated to do this job.

Back in 1989 there was something like $300 million allocated to do this re-organization, yet in 1996 it was up to, I think, $100 million, and in 1997 it was changed to $137 million. That did not include the closing down or the purchasing of the Grace and St. Clare's. It didn't include that. It didn't include the relocating of the Janeway and the purchasing of capital equipment for the operation of the Janeway. There is a deficit over the past few years with the Health Care Corporation of St. John's: $4.8 million in 1996-1997, $6.8 million in 1997-1998, and $10 million in 1998-1999, which totals $21.6 million over three years.

What impact is this going to have on the amounts of money that have been allocated to do the complete re-organization of the health care organization in and around St. John's? That is one area we have to look at.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: The Member for Humber East is - I can't say the words, can I? He is losing interest, Mr. Speaker, already. He finds it hard to take the truth. When there is constructive criticism put forward by this side of the House, members on the other side of the House find it very hard to pay attention and to listen to it. But, Mr. Speaker, we will persist, we will continue to do our job on this side of the House, although there are certain members on the other side who are sometimes lax in their duties. I don't want to point anybody out, but the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture comes to mind in his responsibilities, Mr. Speaker, but I will not get into that. That is for a later date.

Now the cuts: Another area that has been significantly cut over the years, Mr. Speaker, is in the amount of money that municipalities have been receiving over the years. We know that since 1989 there have been significant cuts in the MOGs, Municipal Operating Grants, and the municipalities are finding it very, very difficult. As a matter of fact, some municipalities are finding it difficult - I say to the minister, don't get upset with me. I am only telling the truth.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Now, Mr. Speaker, I don't know if that is warranted or not. Did you hear that comment? I don't know about that.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Yes, right.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, the municipalities have been hit hard, there is no doubt about that. Works, Services and Transportation, the roads in the Province -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: I can't hear you. Speak up, I can't hear you.

Mr. Speaker, I am here on a very serious speech with respect to the Budget and the expenditures of money in this Province by this administration and I am being continually interrupted.

MR. WISEMAN: Did you get enough Chinese food last night?

MR. J. BYRNE: What is he getting on about now? The legal beagle from Topsail is at it again, Mr. Speaker. He is talking about Chinese food. Now that is where his mind is at today. We are up here talking about a $3 billion or $4 billion expenditure of public funds and the Member for Topsail is talking about the Chinese food he had last night. Now, Mr. Speaker, he is talking about $3 billion or $4 billion worth of Chinese food he had last night.

MR. WISEMAN: Not me, it was you.

MR. J. BYRNE: Anyway, Mr. Speaker, I am here on a very serious issue. I have so much to say and so little time to say it. I have reams of information in front of me. I could pick up any paper on my desk - for example, look what we have here; some straight talk about the Churchill River power projects, another mega-project. Here is another one here that was sent out to all the mailboxes in the Province, Mr. Speaker. By whom? The Premier of the Province. Some straight talk - one thing about it, it should have been printed in blue letters instead of red, for a starter.

MR. MERCER: Frame it.

MR. J. BYRNE: The Member for Humber East says I should frame this, Mr. Speaker. Well, I will frame it, I say to the Member for Humber East, when the deal is signed. I will frame it then, I can guarantee you that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. J. BYRNE: But the deal is not signed yet. We have growing opposition to this in Quebec. The Premier of Quebec is getting a hard time on this issue. I hope it comes to pass. I sincerely hope this project comes to pass. But what we have to get away from in this Province, Mr. Speaker, is putting all our faith and all our emphasis on the mega-projects. The Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology knows differently. The Minister of Development and Rural Renewal should know differently.

We have to start rejuvenating the communities in this Province. What comes to my mind now, Mr. Speaker, and this may be oversimplifying the problems that we have in this Province today - I hope not. We existed in this Province for 450 years, 480 years, 490 years probably on the fishery. That was our reason for being in this Province, Mr. Speaker, why we came here and why we stayed here and how the 500 or 600 communities in this Province survived; on the fishery.

Then what happened? In 1949, Mr. Speaker, we turned over our reason for being to the federal government to administer, to take care of the people in Newfoundland and Labrador and to make sure that that was there in perpetuity for us, the fishery, the resource. It should be a renewable resource but it is not any more.

Mr. Speaker, what we are saying now, what I am saying - I remember, as I said before, growing up in Torbay and going down to the big beach down there, when we were kids, going down to Tappers Cove, getting a few fish and bringing them home. There were maybe fifteen or twenty fishermen in Torbay at the time and their families who made a living off the fishery, the small boat fishery, and there were reams of communities around this Province doing the same thing. But, what happened, Mr. Speaker? There were licenses, quotas set and what have you by the federal government to allow foreigners to come into our waters and take fish. There were quotas set for multi-national companies to go out in trawlers and draggers, and whatever the case may be, and get all kinds of fish. I have to say, from my perspective, it had to have an impact on the amount of fish in our waters today.

If we had gone back to the community fishery, back to the small boat fishery, hand line, whatever it may be - we know that certain technology helped to ruin the cod fishery in this Province. As I said before, I don't profess to be a professional fisherman here, Mr. Speaker. I am only speaking from personal experience, and what appears to be common sense to me.

To help rejuvenate our communities, if we went back to the small boat fishery and maybe the hand line, trap and what have you - apparently there is some problem with the gill-nets. We could help rejuvenate and get our people back into the fishery and we could have a lot more people fishing. We could set up along the coastline, Mr. Speaker. We know over the years there were too many fish plants, one in every second community. If the Minister of Fisheries would address this issue, maybe there should be a certain amount of plants on each coastline, put up a proper transportation system with freezer trucks or whatever the case may be, whatever the proper technology would be, and get the people back to work, put a system in place where we are going to get maybe thousands of people back to work; instead of depending on the big trawlers which go out, rake the bottom, and take in tons and tons and tons of fish, with very few people working.

Now, this may be an oversimplification of what has happened in this Province, but if you look at it from the point of view of a person who has not been involved in the fishery, but just on the outside, to me it makes sense. Now, of course you are going to get some major opposition from the multi-national companies. There is no doubt about that, Mr. Speaker. There are no ifs, ands or buts about that. It is something that I think maybe the Minister of Fisheries should look at.

Now, that was one of the big issues in the past few weeks, Mr. Speaker, and the situation with respect to TAGS. Now, what I find happening in the Province today is something I find a bit repulsive, I suppose, and it is something that we need to address. The Premier of this Province, as the major spokesperson for this Province, should be addressing it. The Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture should be addressing it.

What I am seeing here I have seen in other areas of the economy, Mr. Speaker, but I have had calls from a couple of individuals who said: They have received enough, the TAGS people have received enough; cut them off. These people don't understand the impact of that statement, if that came to pass. The Premier and whomever should be talking about the impact if we didn't have another program, how it affects the taxi driver, how it affects the convenience store operator, how it affects the person who runs a small garage, how it affects all of us, anybody in a business, a carpenter, an electrician, a plummer, all of us. If this money is taken out of the system, Mr. Speaker, it is going to have a detrimental, negative, unreal impact on the welfare of this Province.

What these people don't understand, Mr. Speaker is this: That the fishery is a natural resource that was put here by God for us to take advantage of. There is no doubt about that. The federal government are the people who were responsible to maintain that, to license it, to set the quotas, and what have you. They did not live up to their responsibilities, Mr. Speaker. It is different from me - I was in the surveying business before I got into politics and I had to set up a couple of companies over the years, and I can't say the same thing applies to me. It is a different lifestyle altogether, Mr. Speaker, it is a different environment, it is a different - how will I put it? - way of life.

Traditionally we are here for 500 years for the fishery. I think that the people have come to realize the impact that this is going to have. We have a group, an all-party group from this House of Assembly, that travelled twice to Ottawa to deal with the attitude that is prevalent in Ottawa today with respect to this situation and we are trying to make a case. I hope, I sincerely hope that we do come up with something, but I do not want a piece-meal approach. We had a system put in place the last time that did not pan out the way it was supposed to pan out.

I said at the time, Mr. Speaker, that I believed that this TAGS program and the NCARP program were not properly implemented. What we should have done at that time - if we are realistic, let us take an individual who is forty-five years old, in the fishery all his life, Grade VII education, Grade VIII education, he chose a way of life. He felt or she felt that the fishery would be there forever and they were prepared to work in the fishery until they retired. Now, that was taken away from them. So, Mr. Speaker, I think these people - and if you look at the TAGS situation and the money that was put into the system, if you took a person who is forty-five years old, prepared to spend his life there, if you have to retrain that person, you know he is forty-five years old and you have to be realistic. He has to get his Grade XI equivalent or Grade XII today, then he or she has to go on to post-secondary, then you are talking about being fifty years old, coming out without any experience in whatever the new chosen field would be. Where would they get a job? So, Mr. Speaker, it was unrealistic. What we should have been looking at, at that time, was instead of putting the money into schools and making certain people rich in this Province, the people -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: What is the Member for Labrador West saying now? He seems to be ridiculing what I am saying here, Mr. Speaker. He should get up and take on his counterpart, his federal cousin in Ottawa, take him on about what is happening in Labrador, Mr. Speaker, about the smelter and Voisey's Bay. I have not had a chance to get into that yet but I will get into it, Mr. Speaker, no doubt about that, in due course and I will inform the Member for Labrador West what he should be saying and what he is not saying. But back, Mr. Speaker, to the very important issue about what is hitting this Province today, that is, the situation with TAGS.

Now, we have this individual, fifty years old, coming out of the fishery, being retrained, has no experience. Where is he getting a job? They should have taken the money at the time that was put into it - from my perspective, now, this is one man speaking in the House of Assembly, they should have taken the money bought the licences out, retired these people and we would have been far better off today instead of looking at what we are today. Are we getting another program? I do not like calling it a package because it is not a gift, it is something that is rightfully ours. The government mismanaged the fishery big time, took away a way of life from the people in this Province and they are questioning what they should be doing or thinking about what they should be doing, Mr. Speaker.

What we should have in this Province today is something to replace the program that was there, that did not work right, from my perspective. They should put something in place today, Mr. Speaker, that is going to take care of the older fisherperson in this Province, look at either licence buy-out or retirement package and those other people who are there in the fishery and are not going back, there has to be training for these people, not as I read somewhere recently, that it was like - I think it was on the news last night, an individual said we had something like eighty people being trained in a community for hair-dressing. Now, give me a break; that is ludicrous even thinking about it; to do it is worse. Mr. Speaker, where are the jobs coming from?

Now, there is so much to be said, Mr. Speaker, but I will go on now to something to which I referred here before in the House of Assembly since this Budget came down. Doug House, a professor at MUN, has been involved in giving advice to various Administrations in this Province over the years, but it does not seem that he is listened to too much, Mr. Speaker, but he has made a comparison between Ireland and Newfoundland with respect to the economic revolution in Ireland over the past few years and how Ireland dealt with the situation that they were in. We are in basically the same situation today and maybe, if some of his recommendations could be adhered to or listened to, maybe we could find a way out of this economic mess we are in.

Now, one of the concerns, of course, that he has and I have, is out-migration. I just have a note here today - I will have to take my glasses off - March 27, 1998 and they are talking about out-migration in this Province, how it is getting worse. We talk about out-migration in this Province, and whenever we talk about out-migration, the Premier gets up and talks about the downfall of the fishery, the disaster in the fishery, and people leaving the Province because of that. But there was a report done that we received a few hours before they had the meeting in Ottawa the other night, and it says the out-migration in this Province is not necessarily related to the downfall of the fishery.

The Premier consistently uses the argument that it was not us - it is not us. Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Fishery is over there - I am caught up on the Minister of Fishery, I suppose, because I am speaking about TAGS. The Minister of Education is over there not really paying a lot of attention but - I was going to make a comment about where he was early this morning, but I will not, because if I do, I will be setting myself up. Because I know what the comment will be - I guarantee you that. I will not refer to that.

Now, I see I only have a few minutes left because we have the Late Show coming up, so I am going to continue on. Maybe the members on the opposite side will give me leave to continue on tomorrow for another hour or so.

Mr. Speaker, the highlights of the Budget - the Budget '98 highlights - now there are so many comments in this, that I have to address. It says: `Living within our means: Government is on track with its three-year financial plan.' Now, Mr. Speaker, a three-year financial plan: Did anybody take the time to look at this government's three-year financial plan? I ask the Minister of Finance: did he look at it? Did he take time to look at it? Now, the Budget that comes down each year is about three-quarters of an inch to one inch thick - how many pages? - 400 or 500 pages, maybe - I do not know. Yet, the three-year financial plan was two pages, was it? Two pages, I say to the Minister of Finance? We will see what the three-year financial plan is all about - not a lot of thought went into it, I would not think. Maybe there is something behind the scenes that we do not know anything about.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: I could not tell you. The Minister of Finance asked me how long was the Sermon on the Mount? How long was it, I ask the Member for -

AN HON. MEMBER: About 40 verses.

MR. J. BYRNE: About 40 verses. Long enough to do the job and that is what I am going to take - long enough to do the job here, I say to the Minister of Finance.

Here is one that really gets me going: it is the $30 million contingency reserve again this year - $30 million, a contingency. All I have to say - I do not know about being correct in referring to that as a $30 million slush fund -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: no - and the minister talks about a $10 million deficit this year but, in actual fact, if you do not spend that $30 million he has $20 million surplus. That is what he has, a $30 million surplus, so what is coming down the tubes? What is coming down the tubes to the Minister of Finance - $20 million surplus.

Now, if you look at next year's Budget, you would have to ask, what is going to happen next year? When we have the structural deficit coming into place, now, ah, I say - we have the Premier of the Province working desperately to come up with a reason to call an election, maybe this fall, but, certainly, before next spring - certainly, before the Budget comes down next year. So, all you, guys over there, get ready - I say, get ready.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. J. BYRNE: Is it up or can I adjourn debate?

MR. SPEAKER: We have to move to adjourn the debate.

MR. J. BYRNE: I will adjourn debate.


Debate on the Adjournment
[Late Show]


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

We will move to the Late Show and I recognize the Member for Cape St. Francis.

AN HON. MEMBER: Hear, hear!

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, I asked a question in this House of Assembly, maybe a couple of days ago, of the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, with respect to Marine Atlantic. I asked the minister the point-blank question: when did he know about the closing down of the Port aux Basques situation and the transfer of jobs from Moncton to North Sydney and what have you. Now, Mr. Speaker, I find it very peculiar that -

AN HON. MEMBER: Strange.

MR. J. BYRNE: Strange, peculiar, whatever you want it to be - that the House closed one day; all the ministers on that side of the House were gone off to Ottawa except the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, who is the Acting Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, who was Acting minister of this, the Acting Premier - what else was he the Acting of?

AN HON. MEMBER: Everything.

MR. J. BYRNE: He was some man, I tell you that. Every time you turned the radio on -

AN HON. MEMBER: What do you mean, `was'?

MR. J. BYRNE: He was some man, Mr. Speaker, for a week. Every time that the radio was on or television, you saw his face on it answering questions, but sobeit. It was strange it happened just after the House closed, Mr. Speaker, just before the Easter break. We all know what happens during the Easter break. Let us be realistic here, Mr. Speaker. So it was all orchestrated. But my problem is this, I asked the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation when he found out about this. He said he was all upset because he was not informed before other people knew or before it was made public and he was promised.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier of Nova Scotia, in an article, stated - here it is, I have it highlighted, I will read it to you. It says, `...that Premier Russell MacLellan would say about the pending relocation of Marine Atlantic administrative jobs from Moncton.' Now, this is during the election. `A decision of great interest to his own riding was that the north side would be very pleased with the outcome.' Now, here we have the Premier of Nova Scotia making this statement before it was announced in Newfoundland. We had the Premier, who is supposed to have an open-door policy going to Ottawa, and did not know anything about it. To me it was an insult to the Premier, an insult to the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation and an insult to the people of this Province, if they did not know about it. Therefore, there is the need to ask the question, why did they not know about it? Why were we treated like this? I was talking yesterday about the attitude on the mainland with respect to Marine Atlantic and the attitude now that is again - from what I can gather from talking to people who have travelled to Ottawa to discuss the TAGS situation. So I would like to know what is going on with Marine Atlantic.

I had a call today, someone made a very good suggestion - I personally think that the only jobs that should be in North Sydney are the jobs to tie up the boat and ticket-takers or whatever the case may be. Every other job that is -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Yes, `tie to the gumps' or whatever.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, every job should be in Newfoundland. This service is for Newfoundlanders. It would not be there only for Newfoundland and Labrador. My big fear, too, by the way, is that this is going to be privatized. The Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs made a comment that maybe - now, in all fairness to him, he said, and this is just one of many ways to handle this, that maybe it is being looked at to be privatized. I have a problem with that personally, Mr. Speaker.

Another thing, Mr. Speaker, is we have a Board of Directors - I suppose, that you refer to - for Marine Atlantic and the chairperson of that board is a lady from Newfoundland. Now most of the people on that Board of Directors are from outside this Province and I would think a chairman of a board should have a big influence on the decisions that are made. They should be able to lead it and whatever, but still, they have votes -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: I know what you are getting at. So I am saying to you, Mr. Speaker, that maybe we have been pointing our fingers at the wrong person. Maybe the chairperson of the board should be answering questions here. It is pretty quiet over the past little while, Mr. Speaker, and I think that the Province should be kicking up high hell to get every job into Newfoundland.

AN HON. MEMBER: Is that a parliamentary word?

MR. J. BYRNE: High heaven, how is that? Get every job into Newfoundland and Labrador. Maybe what should have happened - and to divide this Province, to send jobs out of St. John's to Port aux Basques and then we are not getting any jobs really from Moncton. An extra six jobs, that is all that is coming, that is what was promised after people fought and fought and fought for it.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. J. BYRNE: By leave, Mr. Speaker?

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


MR. SPEAKER: No leave.

The hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

MR. A. REID: Mr. Speaker, speaking again today as acting Minister of Works, Services and Transportation -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. A. REID: - let me answer the question, Mr. Speaker, and say quite honestly to you that it is too bad - and I said this a number of times in the ten days that followed the announcement, in a number of capacities in which I reacted - it is too bad that we, as a House, everyone in this House, could not have heard the Premier of this Province talking to me when he called me the day that that announcement was down. Because I think you would have seen and heard the true Brian, if I may say this, Mr. Speaker, the true Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, Brian Tobin. Even though he came to us from Ottawa, I think it would have shown you, sir, for sure, and everyone else around, that Ottawa or no Ottawa, this was something that he was not going to let pass by very easily. He was visibly upset from what some people told me, and certainly from what I heard, he was audibly upset at the time when he called me and asked me to take the lead on this.

In fact, I got the call at exactly five o'clock the afternoon. He is one of those people who has a tendency to believe that everybody should work just as hard as he does and to react in the same manner as he does. So, at five o'clock he said: I want you on NTV at six o'clock and I want you on CBC at six-thirty. I was over in my office and I just happened to be going through the door when I picked up the phone. The secretary had gone and everyone else had gone, but we managed to get on NTV at six o'clock and on CBC at six-thirty and did a number of interviews with some audio -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. A. REID: Oh, yes, I was, and I honestly say to you that at the time he was upset, I was upset, we were all, I guess, upset over what was coming down.

I say to this hon. House, that if there was someone who knew that this was going to happen, it certainly was not me. I do not believe for one minute because of the reaction from the Premier that day, I am assuming because of his reaction, unless he is a darn good actor, but I do not think he is that good, not with me, he is not - he might be with others but I do not think he is that good with me - to pretend or try to pretend that he knew this was coming down the tube prior to that day or that moment, I doubt that very much. I do not have any reservations in saying to you that I believe honestly that there was no one in this Province who actually knew, even though there are people who said there were.

So, the other question you asked, why were we treated like it, I do not really know. I do not have any connections in Ottawa, I do not have any connections whatsoever. I know the Member for Bonavista - Trinity - Conception who is our representative but I am not a friend of his. I have no connection with the gentleman other than the fact that he is a Liberal and he runs out in the area, and that's about the extent of it. I can honestly say here, I probably know Norm Doyle better than I know Fred Mifflin because I have known Norm for a longer period of time and I have no problems with that and in saying that. I say to you quite honestly that I do not know what happened in Ottawa in this particular case. I can only surmise that maybe it was done and maybe those in Ottawa did not even know it was going down the tubes.

A couple of final comments I make to you: I did mention the word privatization but it was mentioned three days in a row on Open Line by Bill Rowe, and I made the comment in reaction to Bill Rowe's suggestion about privatization. I said, if I can remember correctly: Bill, anything could possibly happen, even privatization. His immediate reaction was: Well, I have been preaching that for the last three or four days.

I say on behalf of this government that we are still not satisfied. We have not stopped, we are still lobbying and the members are working good and hard at this. I say on behalf of this government that we are not satisfied with even the latest offer. They have to do better and we have to make sure that Marine Atlantic and what we have gone through does not happen again, and ultimately all the jobs that we can possibly take into Newfoundland we will. We will not be able to take them all, because, Mr. Speaker, there will be nobody to catch that line when we leave from Port aux Basques to go to North Sydney. There will be no one on the wharf to catch the line unless we have somebody working for Marine Atlantic.

I say quite honestly to you: No, we are not satisfied and we are going to continue at it. We have a group of people who are working on it, and the Premier is talking about it on a daily basis.

Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

Earlier today I asked the Minister of Education some questions relative to the air quality analysis that has been completed in 150 schools.

Mr. Speaker, on March 12 there were twenty-five schools assigned to ADI Nolan Davis Limited to do an analysis of the air quality in these schools. There were also twenty-five schools that were assigned to Jacques Whitford Environment Ltd. in St. John's. Most of these were in the Port au Port, Port aux Basques and Corner Brook areas, with a couple in the St. John's area.

Twenty-five schools were also assigned to Envirotech Solutions Ltd. They have an address in St. John's. Most of these schools were in Bay Roberts, Carbonear, Dildo, Heart's Content, Whitbourne, and a couple in St. John's. Twenty-five schools were also assigned to Atlantic Safety Ltd. Most of these would have been in the Great Northern Peninsula area, and Deer Lake and Howley, a couple in Corner Brook. Twenty-five more schools were assigned to Rogers Enterprises Ltd. in the Clarenville, Marystown, Grand Bank, Burin, Gambo, Eastport, Hare Bay areas. Twenty-five more were assigned to Pinchin LeBlanc Environmental, and their address is in St. John's. They were mostly in Central Newfoundland, with a few up in the Baie Verte, Springdale and Twillingate areas.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Education some time ago indicated that he would make the results of the analyses public, and today I asked the minister if he would. In view of the fact that there was some deliberate, some people believe, failure on the part of the minister to disclose the initial air quality study report, the people of this Province want the minister to assure all Newfoundland and Labrador that there is not just selective dissemination of material to the school council that is involved or to a school board. What happened was that somebody in the school board office got the original report, in some cases, and it never went anywhere else. Nothing happened to it.

What we are saying to the minister is that 150 schools in this Province have been studied. We want to see the information that came out of these studies made public. There has to be full public disclosure. It is not good enough to say that we will have disclosures that are selective, we want to have disclosures of all of these 150. Then we want the public to know that the government is going to take some of it's capital money, some of the money that it did not spend last year - let us not forget that $20 million of the $50 million that was announced was money that was not spent last year, and $8 million to $50 million that has already been committed to school's of Labrador. We want to make sure that the money is then spent to make the necessary remedial program's effective for September, 1998.

Mr. Speaker, today when I was asking the minister - I wanted him to assure that the full information package that emanated from those 150 studies would be made public. Secondly, we wanted him to tell us the names of the schools that would be on the next 150. Now we admit that probably the first 150 will contain more schools that need remedial action than the second 150, on the assumption that the officials of the department identified the worst schools the first time around. However, we are calling upon the minister to make full public disclosure of all of the data that came from the consulting firms that I have named here. Of course, I could name all of the schools that were on the first 150, but of course that would take up to much time.

So we are looking for full public disclosure of information that the public should know about in the context of what the minister said in the nine or ten years of neglect in cleaning and the consequences of that. We are calling on the minister to do the right thing, share the information thoroughly and completely with the public of this Province.

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, I really, for the life of me, cannot understand why the hon. member is not satisfied with the answer that the Minister of Education gave to his question. If the hon. member were talking about some other minister, myself or the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, I could probably have some understanding about what he is talking about. But the Minister of Education is the most meticulous minister in this House when it comes to answering question's. He leaves no stone unturned, Mr. Speaker. He goes into every single part of the questions that are put forward by the hon. members.

Today he did an admirable job of answering the question which was put forward by the critic. The question was about tabling the reports which are being done into the various schools in the Province about air quality control. The minister got up and just as plain as daylight said: Look, I didn't intend to table these reports. These reports are being done so that we can identify the problems in the schools and address the problems with the $50 million that we have allocated for school construction and school maintenance and all this sort of thing. The answer was perfectly clear.

However, the minister went on to say: Although I did not intend to table these reports - they weren't meant for tabling, they are not political documents, they are not something that you are going to try to make political points on - if the hon. member wants it tabled, I will table it. Didn't that cover the topic? That covered it perfectly well.

I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, that the only reason the hon. member got up and is going through this charade this afternoon is because there is a place on the Order Paper for the Late Show so that you can revisit questions that you asked, and you say you aren't satisfied with the answer. I think the hon. member thinks that just because that place is on the Order Paper for that, that you have to put something on it anyway, but that isn't the case at all. If you are truly not satisfied with your answer, then there is the opportunity to deal with it.

I can't see why it is necessary to say you are not satisfied, if with this particular question, which was just as plain as the nose on your face, just as clear as daylight, every single aspect of the question was addressed perfectly. I only wish I had the ability to answer questions as adequately and as completely as the Minister of Education did.

I think the hon. member should apologize to the Minister of Education because there is no reason to be dissatisfied. The question was well answered, and Hansard will bear it out, and generations yet unborn when they read Hansard will know full well that that question was answered perfectly well.

I stand beside the Minister of Education, proud to be his colleague, and reiterate that he answered the question perfectly well. It is just wasting the time of this House to suggest that the hon. member was not satisfied with the answer, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I understand that the third question was deferred to another day.

The hon. the Member for Waterford Valley.

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, in view of the severe reprimand that the acting, acting Government House Leader just gave us, and in view of the fact that the Opposition House Leader is meeting with the Premier at the moment, which is the more important matter, together with the Leader of the Opposition, we on this side will not be putting forward the last set of questions.

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, as hon. members know, we have an agreement with the Opposition that the House will not be opening tomorrow. We thank the hon. members for doing that. I will tell them that we do have a provision in the convention that you can have observers. The fee is nominal. If they feel like coming along they might learn something. They will be more than welcome to come as observers, and we could make a deal for them.

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

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