The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

The Chair would like to welcome to the gallery today, twenty-six Level II students from Coaker Academy in the District of Twillingate & Fogo. They are accompanied by their teacher, Gerald Peddle; guidance counsellor, Ann Marie Dalley; bus driver Edward Luff; and chaperon, Noreen Cutler.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


Statements by Ministers


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, with first oil from Hibernia last November, Newfoundland and Labrador's petroleum industry moved from the development to the production phase presenting many new challenges and opportunities. In particular, this new development requires that a renewed emphasis be placed on ensuring that offshore exploration and production activities are conducted in the safest and most environmentally responsible manner. This is a very important part of the mandate of the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board.

The provincial and federal governments, and indeed the people of the Province, also continue to look to the C-NOPB to ensure that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians receive the greatest benefit from the development of our oil and gas resources. To achieve these goals it is important that the C-NOPB be led by a strong and dynamic individual who is knowledgable about offshore oil and gas matters and, Mr. Speaker, one who will ensure that the Canadian requirement and that the Newfoundland and Labrador requirement for full opportunity, for full benefits, is fully realized.

Accordingly, Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to announce today in the House that Mr. Hal Stanley has been named as the new Chair and Chief Executive Officer of the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Stanley, who is well-known to members, and I think favourably well-known to members on all sides of the House, is the first Newfoundlander to occupy this very important position.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: Hal Stanley has had a long and distinguished career in the Newfoundland public service. He is a former Clerk of the Executive Council, Secretary to Cabinet, provincial deputy minister of a number of departments, most recently the Department of Forest Resources and Agrifoods, Intergovernmental Affairs and Natural Resources. Mr. Stanley chaired the Province's team - indeed, I had the pleasure to work with him as Chair of the Province's team - of senior officials charged with negotiating the agreements with the oil companies, with the proponents with respect to the Terra Nova development and also, Mr. Speaker, the committee responsible for developing the Province's generic offshore royalty regime.

Mr. Stanley has extensive knowledge of the offshore oil and gas industry and the Atlantic Accord legislation. He has served in a senior capacity for many years in this Province and has served with equal diligence with governments on both sides of the political spectrum. He is indeed a non-partisan, highly-qualified, professional public servant, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Stanley has dealt extensively with the C-NOPB and has a thorough understanding of the critical role the Board plays in regulating the oil and gas industry offshore Newfoundland and Labrador. I am confident that Mr. Stanley will carry out his responsibilities with the same insight, dedication and sense of fair play which has characterized, as I said a moment ago, his exemplary public service career.

Mr. Speaker, underscoring the role and responsibility of the Board is the importance that both governments place on health and safety, environmental protection, and benefit matters. The Atlantic Accord recognizes the right of Newfoundland and Labrador to be the principle beneficiary of the oil and gas resource off our shores consistent with the requirement for a strong and united Canada.

The first consideration provisions to the residents of this Province for employment and industrial benefits is a basic tenant of the Atlantic Accord implementation acts. Newfoundland-Canada benefits plan are integral components of development plans which must be approved by the Board prior to the commencement of work and monitored carefully, diligently, daily, hourly, for full compliance.

Mr. Speaker, officials of both governments continue to work closely with the Board to ensure that benefits are maximized. Officials of both governments similarly work closely with the Board with respect to safety and environmental issues.

Mr. Speaker, Mr. John Fitzgerald, who has held the position of Acting Chairperson for the past three years, has expressed a desire to retire from the Board; but, in order to allow for an orderly transition, he has agreed to remain with the Board for a number of months. During the period in which Mr. Fitzgerald has held the position of Acting Chair, the Board dealt effectively with budgetary restraints which faced all parts of the public sector and, at the same time, met the challenges as the industry in the Newfoundland and Labrador offshore passed from the development phase to the production phase. I know that all members would want to join with me in expressing to Mr. John Fitzgerald our deep thanks for his leadership, indeed for his years of service, with C-NOPB.

I wish to conclude by expressing again my congratulations to Mr. Hal Stanley on his appointment as Chair and CEO of the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board. Mr. Stanley is with us today and we wish him well in his new endeavours on behalf of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

As Leader of the Opposition, I join in congratulating Mr. Stanley. The Premier has certainly outlined his record of service to the people of the Province, and the commendable record of service that Mr. Stanley has provided in all facets of his public sector life.

I will say that if there has been a critic of the Offshore Petroleum Board in the last three or four years in this House, it has been me; and I believe that up until this point history will judge some of the decisions that were made by that Board, and it will be judged and found left wanting in some areas, especially when it comes to the provisions of the Atlantic Accord and with respect to first considerations being given to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

I am pleased today because I think - Mr. Stanley, I know, is the first Newfoundlander who will act in that capacity - along with other recent moves on the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board, I am a lot more hopeful today than I was a year ago -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. E. BYRNE: - that the benefits, the types of technology transfer, the amount of employment that should occur with respect to the people in this Province, I believe we may have turned a corner and moved in that direction.

Mr. Speaker, I will not hold up the House. I would like to say to Mr. Stanley, congratulations. I, too, join with the Premier in wishing him well in his new endeavours.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

By leave.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased to join with the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition in congratulating Mr. Hal Stanley on his appointment. I think it is fair to say that all members of the House recognize Mr. Stanley as a dedicated senior public servant who has the interests of this Province at heart in all he does. We look forward to good things from him is his new role as Chief Executive Officer and Chair of the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board.

Mr. Speaker, I would also echo that in the past, it is fair to say that the board has been less than diligent in ensuring all of the terms and conditions of the legislation, the Canada-Newfoundland Atlantic Accord Implementation Act, have been diligently pursued, and I would hope that the new regime would see also a new enthusiasm for ensuring that the Province receive maximum benefits.

I also thank Mr. Fitzgerald for his work; but I would also suggest that perhaps one of the first things the board might do is have a look at its role in the offshore safety area with a view, perhaps, to switching that role to the Department of Labour where offshore safety as well as onshore safety is more properly administered, Mr. Speaker. I think it is a potential conflict in the administration of the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board and I would ask Mr. Stanley and his new board to have a look at that with a view to making changes in jurisdiction.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier, on a point of order.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, a very slight addition to the statement I made earlier, and I know it is one with which all members will want to associate themselves: I have just recognized and realized that Mrs. Stanley is in the House as well, and we want to offer her our congratulations and thanks for the many hours, without the benefit of overtime, that we have kept Mr. Hal Stanley away from home and family, and to tell her that we anticipate he will continue to work at such a terrible pace; but we know the benefits for all of us will be wonderful. It is very nice to see you here as well.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology.

MS FOOTE: Mr. Speaker, in recent days, positive economic developments in the Province have captured a great deal of attention in the media - locally, nationally and internationally. Yesterday, in The Globe and Mail, for example, the Bank of Montreal joined a host of other credible organizations predicting our Province to lead the country in growth in 1998 and beyond. Last night, Hibernia was featured on CBC's national prime time television news show. Today, there was another story in The Globe and Mail focusing on higher than expected results from the Hebron oilfield.

Today, I would like to remind my hon. colleagues that while the oil and gas sector is important, it is only one of the reasons for the expected increase in our growth rate. There are other reasons that can be attributed to the high level of confidence in our economy. Other sectors, such as manufacturing and exporting, continue to be a key link to diversifying and expanding our provincial economy and play a significant role in future development as well.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform the House today that there is yet more good news, this time from our manufacturing and export sector. The latest issue of Alliance, the magazine published by the Alliance of Manufacturers and Exporters Canada, highlights a national study on trends in the manufacturing sector. Mr. Speaker, what is interesting about one aspect of the study, is that Newfoundland and Labrador had the strongest productivity performance in Canada.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS FOOTE: We have always known that manufacturers and exporters in Newfoundland and Labrador have the advantage of dealing with a fiercely loyal, hard-working, highly skilled workforce, and this study confirms it, Mr. Speaker.

It is also one of the factors that I always use in my attempts to attract business to this Province.

Manufacturing companies are also promoting this, and more and more of them are using this advantage to look for new export markets, and, increasingly, they are succeeding.

Companies such as: Terra Nova Shoes in Harbour Grace that exports quality footwear to Europe; Brookfield Ice Cream that makes ice cream here in St. John's that is sold in the SkyDome in Toronto; FPI in Burin that makes products that are sold in Sobey's stores across the country; and Hi-Point Peat in Bishops Falls that exports products to thirty countries worldwide, and also manufactures products sold under Canadian Tire's MasterCraft brand name.

Companies like the ones I have just mentioned employ over 16,000 people on a seasonally adjusted basis. The increase in the value of manufacturing shipments over the past five years was over $400 million. Last year, manufacturing shipments in our Province reached $1.7 billion, with the strongest growth in plastics, printing, chemicals, wood products, and fabricated metals.

This year, Newfoundland and Labrador will lead the country with the growth in shipments predicted to be at 4 per cent.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS FOOTE: In the manufacturing and exporting sector, there is a realization that if we are to succeed, we must work together. And the Alliance of Manufacturers and Exporters in Newfoundland and Labrador is leading the way. The Alliance has aligned itself with Memorial University and the College of the North Atlantic to establish a Manufacturing Technology Centre, which will provide provincial manufacturers access to capabilities that exist within the post-secondary sector.

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to continuing our partnership with AMEN. Next week, the organization will hold its 8th annual conference and exhibition. I invite my hon. colleagues to tour the exhibition and see first-hand the variety of products that are "made right here" in Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

This is another good-news statement, but I caution the minister that before we all wrap ourselves in the flag -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. T. OSBORNE: Before we wrap ourselves in the flag, Mr. Speaker, we should remember that a publication released by the minister's department just last year shows that 25,000 jobs are created in Ontario because of exports from Newfoundland, whereas only 4,000 jobs are created in Newfoundland because of imports from Ontario. We have to work at reversing those numbers, Mr. Speaker.

While this is a good news story today, we have to remember that our raw resources are going to other provinces, creating jobs there. We have to start doing the secondary processing on our own raw resources right here. Instead of putting Nova Scotia manufactured windows in our schools and selling imported juice in our cafeterias, we have to start using our own materials right here. Mr. Speaker, it is the manufacturers and the exporters of our Province that are to be commended by this good news story.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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 would like to join with the minister in expressing our pride in the productivity of our workforce. We know that they have good work habits, are very excellent workers and do terrific jobs. However, I would like to say that a 4 per cent growth rate, while excellent, if it follows several years of negative growth it may be bringing it back to where we were last year. However, it is in the right direction, but if all we are talking about is the value of oil being produced by Hibernia and shipped past our doors then it will not bring maximum benefits to this Province.

Mr. Speaker, while we pursue the increase in manufacturing jobs of the Province, let us beware that we not be trying to create a low wage economy in this Province to replace perhaps foreign workers and develop what might be known as the Maquiladoras of the North. I would beware of that, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to apologise to my critic the hon. Member for Cape St. Francis that I don't have a prepared statement, that I did not have one to share with him. As a result of a couple of phone calls that I received in the last few minutes, from both my colleague the hon. David Collenette, Minister of Transportation, and from Mr. Rex LeDrew, the Chairman of the St. John's Airport Authority, I am pleased to be able to advise the House today that the Authority and the federal government have reached successful conclusions in terms of the negotiations with respect to the devolution of the St. John's Airport to the Authority.

Later today the full details of that arrangement will be announced by the hon. Minister Collenette and Rex LeDrew, but it is sufficient to say that the agreement is a substantial one. It involves in excess of $15 million in terms of transfer of funds, both in retrofitting of 1129 Runway and other upgrades to the airport. It will conclude a series of very intense negotiations that we have been having, along with the Authority, with the federal minister, to bring this thing to fruition.

The announcement today will indicate clearly that the Authority will now be able to move forward in this area to do the substantial work that needs to be done in terms of upgrading the airport facilities in St. John's. It is a facility, Mr. Speaker, that handles about 750,000 passengers per year at the moment. We fully anticipate and expect that that traffic rate will increase and grow with the major developments that are happening on our shores. In my brief conversation with the Authority Chairman just a few minutes ago, he shared with me his great enthusiasm on behalf of his board that this is a significant, major, economic announcement in terms of development for this region and indeed for the whole Province. We look forward to the full details in just a few minutes from the federal minister and the Authority's Chairman.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I would like to thank the minister for his apology upfront. With respect to the privatization of the Torbay airport, Mr. Speaker, what can we say? We will have to wait to see the details, to see what impact it will have with respect to downloading in and around the region of St. John's and the Northeast Avalon. So we will just wait for the details and have further comment at that time.

Thank you.

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 would like to say that the privatization of the Torbay airport, like the privatization of the rest of federal airports in Newfoundland and Labrador, is not something that we support. It does result in a downloading, not only of the services and the responsibility from the federal government which has been putting capital works into airports across this country for decades, Mr. Speaker, and while there may well be economic advantages in this particular airport because of the offshore, we think that the end result is going to be a downloading and a downgrading of services and a passing on of cost to the consumer.


Oral Questions


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

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

Yesterday, federal Justice Minister, Anne McLellan, announced plans to overhaul the Young Offenders Act, in part to deal more harshly with older, repeat, violent young offenders, and in part to respond to the recommendations of the Commons' committee urging a move away from incarceration and towards treatment, restitution, rehabilitation, and intervention as the approaches of choice.

It used to be that the federal and provincial governments shared funding for this responsibility 50-50. Some years ago it was capped. It's obvious that in order for this approach to be carried out, funding is required.

Has the government spoken with, dealt with, or is about to deal with, the federal government with respect to this issue, with respect to funding that will obviously be needed to be able to do the work of treatment, rehabilitation, and restitution, so that the approaches that are being outlined in the new Young Offenders Act will actually, in some tangible way, be carried out on the ground in the provinces?

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

MR. DICKS: Mr. Speaker, the hon. member raises a good issue. I heard an interview with Anne McLellan, I believe it was yesterday or this morning, outlining some approaches the federal government has taken, which are not substantially different from the changes that were made several years ago.

The key issue is, as the hon. member points out, whether or not any funding will follow to further enhance programs for young offenders. As far as I'm aware, no offer has been made by the federal government. As the hon. member knows, the federal government establishes a regulatory scheme, but very often the implementation of that is left to the provinces. As far as I'm aware, we haven't seen the money yet, if any is to follow, Mr. Speaker.

Thank you.

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

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

The reality is, if there is no federal funding to back up these new measures, then the federal minister's announcement yesterday is merely window-dressing, and we will have missed, I think, Minister, a golden opportunity to start addressing young offenders and the issues that face them in a very meaningful and progressive way.

What priority has the provincial government put on treatment and rehabilitation programs for young offenders, especially in light of the recent Dr. Inkpen report?

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will speak to part of it. Perhaps the questions might be addressed to the minister responsible for some of this.

The key with young offenders is often in prevention, rather than trying to impose a cure on people who for various reasons have come astray of the law. In the recent Budget, we announced several measures that were intended to deal generally with the problems of youth. That included trying to develop new programs in social services and human resources for young people, to try to deal with the problems of youth around the Island. There are many organizations that act independently to try to encourage youth toward productive lives and things in their communities, but often those efforts are not coordinated, and we believe there is some merit to helping to do that.

At a very fundamental level, the issue that concerns us most is the problem of child poverty. We have taken steps to address that, as well as problems in the school. I would say to the hon. member that the young offenders legislation changes may be very worthwhile, but the focus for us in the Budget in the current year is trying to find ways to prevent young offenders before they are actually young offenders, to try to direct youth in ways that are of more social value.

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

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

The minister goes to the heart of the issue. Because at some point government will have to invest, whether it chooses to invest up front or it's forced to invest at the latter stage of an offence in terms of incarceration.

The question is: Where will the money come from to ensure, Minister, that all this fine talk about justice reform actually ends up doing some good for somebody at some point in time? That's the question I put to the minister.

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

MR. DICKS: The hon. member identified the issue earlier on when he said that several years ago the federal government capped its participation. Up to that point, the federal government had shared with the Province, on a 50-50 basis, any costs of new programming, and any additional costs to existing programming. At this stage, not having seen exactly what the federal minister has in mind, we have not had a chance to evaluate and determine what if any additional costs there would be to the provincial government.

I would agree with him that to the extent it will demand additional resources, because we are in charge of the process provincially, the federal government should at least cost-share, if not fully fund the provinces for any additional financial burden we would have as a result of changes that I'm sure are well meaning and well intentioned.

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

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

Look, it's obvious; failure to fund adequate intervention, prevention, and treatment programs will result ultimately in the failure of this whole project to overhaul the reform of the Young Offenders Act.

Mr. Speaker, Canada already locks up more of its youth than many other countries, when the money could be better spent in many cases on rehabilitation and crime prevention.

Will the minister, or will the government, contact the federal Justice Minister to enter into some sort of negotiations urging her to put Ottawa's money where its mouth is, if she wants to support this Province and the reforms and the administration of this very worthwhile piece of legislation?

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Province has made active representations to the federal government both through the Department of Health and Community Services and the Department of Justice in the past concerning the whole issue of youth, youth poverty and young offenders.

I would say to the hon. member that some of the concern and some of the solutions that are proposed in the country are a little on the extreme side and I think, to the extent we have had a chance to evaluate them, the measures proposed by the federal minister appear to be commonsensical. I would refer to an interview I heard this morning with retired Judge Lloyd Wicks and a St. John's lawyer, Ms Dawson. I thought they had a very good perspective on it, that some of the concern being expressed in the country, particularly with regard to things such as putting ten-year-olds in prison and treating them as criminals, is probably a little bit misguided. We do not buy into all the notions that are bandied about, that the country is going to fall apart because young offenders are not sufficiently punished.

I believe, as the hon. member does, that to the extent we incarcerate young people we are probably doing them a disservice, and society in the long run, rather than trying to treat the problems there in another way. Because, as I said earlier in another expression: The problems of crime are often the problems of poverty; they are just expressed in a different way.

Having said all that, Mr. Speaker, the minister only announced these changes within the last twenty-four hours. We are obviously going to evaluate those to the extent that we disagree with some of the substantial provisions. We will make those known to Ottawa to the extent that it incurs costs to the Province, and we will make representations for the federal government to fully fund those. Whether or not they will be successful remains to be seen.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, I understand the answer to the question the minister has put forward because he has alluded to, I guess, an approach and a mind-set coming out of Western Canada that can be attributed to the Reform Party and other such approaches, very right wing.

Our focus certainly, as a Party, would not be on that. Our focus, I think, is one that would look towards intervention, rehabilitation, so that at the end of the day the investment we must make - because we must make it minister. If we put our heads in the sand and do not address the fundamental issues up front, both federally and provincially, we will be forced to make it at the end of the day with respect to more youth offenses, more crime coming out of our youth system, which ultimately will mean more incarceration.

The issue is: Investment is not a question; we must invest. The question is, where will we invest? So the issue, I think, for the provincial government, is to press the case.

I will ask the minister again: Is the Province actively pursuing - from what I understand it is not, that it hopes to be - negotiations with the federal government on this very important and timely issue?

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

MR. DICKS: Let me say, Mr. Speaker, I am sure hon. members opposite and ourselves probably understand the problem and share, in large part, a view as to how it might be resolved. I will just point our several things.

First of all, the hon. member refers to a report that was just tabled yesterday. As I said, it is unrealistic to assume that - not even having a chance to assess and review it, it is very difficult for us to say at this time what, if any, additional costs there will be. By and large it is not substantially different from the reforms that were enacted in about 1995, and we have been carrying through on that.

We do, as a matter of course, and have continually made representations to the federal government that their sharing of social costs in the country is diminished and is irresponsible on their part. That is as true of young offenders as it is of the health and educational burden that have been shifted to the Provinces. What I would say, however, is that to the extent we recognize and deem that youths in poor circumstances are in greater jeopardy of a life of crime, for obvious reasons - you can reference Charles Dickens if no one else - we recognize that and have attempted to treat that on our own.

If you think of our Budget that we just brought in a short time ago, we have put more money into the School Lunch Program, we have put more teachers in the schools. We have done numerous things, Mr. Speaker. We have developed a system at a cost of $2.5 million that will be implemented over the next year to year-and-a-half or two, to try to co-ordinate youths between sixteen and eighteen, where often the greatest number of offenses occur, in more meaningful activities in their community.

I share the hon. member's concern. We have actively looked for a solution. To the extent that young offenders legislation per se will create a greater social burden on the Province, and a greater expense, the answer is: Yes, we will certainly actively pursue the federal government, but it is not at a stage of negotiation since we have not had a chance to cost it yet to bring forward figures.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. T. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My questions are for the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology.

While we are opposed to the export of our raw resources to be processed elsewhere, including our water resources, we are, however, strongly in favour of processing our resources here to create the jobs here, to create the benefits here, which is the reason we want to see water from Gisborne Lake bottled right here before it is exported from the Province.

Last week the minister said she had no problems exporting water, both as a raw resource and in bottled form. With that in mind, I ask the minister: As the minister responsible for trade in this Province, have you read the NAFTA Agreement as it relates to the export of water from our Province? Yes or no?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology.

MS FOOTE: Mr. Speaker, when the hon. member asked me about the export of water from this Province in bulk or in container, I mentioned last week to him that truly the issue here is: We are looking at what is good for this Province in terms of job opportunities. Exporting bulk water that is being proposed - Gisborne Lake - is for irrigation purposes, Mr. Speaker. We are not interested in exporting bulk water to have the secondary processing done elsewhere. If we are exporting bulk water, it will be for irrigation purposes.

The hon. member knows that the market for export water out there in a bottled sense is only 5 per cent of the entire world's need for water. So if you have all of this water flowing into the ocean - 100,000 cubic meters of water flow into the ocean every second from Canadian waters - that is a loss.

Here we are with an opportunity to export water, both bulk and in container, and this is what we are considering. We are looking at job opportunities in Gisborne Lake.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. T. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I can only assume that she must have read the agreement then.

Mr. Speaker, the proposal that is before government right now is because of the demand for fresh, pristine water. That is written right into the proposal. The American trade representative on NAFTA states very clearly that when water is traded as a good in raw form, all the provisions of NAFTA regarding trade of goods apply.

I want to ask the minister: Given the fact that Barry Appleton, a lawyer, and one of the leading authorities in the country on the NAFTA Agreement, said that the trade of our water resources would have a serious implication within the NAFTA Agreement - the Council of Canadians agree - I am also concerned about our water supply. This is the reason I ask the question.

I ask the minister: Does she understand the implications of what would arise if we were to ship our water out as a raw resource instead of bottling it right here in this Province?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology.

MS FOOTE: Mr. Speaker, again I go back to talking about job opportunities for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, especially in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS FOOTE: Maybe we should not be exporting oil, Mr. Speaker. Clearly the individual is putting forth a proposition here that we should not export anything in its raw resource.

Here we are with a water supply, every indication that we have more than enough water in Newfoundland and Labrador to meet our immediate and foreseeable needs in the future, and the hon. member opposite is suggesting that we should not take advantage of an opportunity to export water if it means jobs.

In Grand Le Pierre, we had fifteen people leave two weekends ago to go to the mainland looking for work. You tell the people in Grand Le Pierre that we should not be exporting water, whether in bulk or in container.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. T. OSBORNE: Very clearly, Mr. Speaker, she obviously does not understand the NAFTA Agreement. Let me be clear. I want the maximum benefits and the maximum jobs for the community of Grand Le Pierre.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. T. OSBORNE: By bottling the water in Newfoundland we create more jobs and more benefits for the people of Grand Le Pierre. By trading it as a raw resource it is considered a tradeable good, and open to the water resources under the NAFTA Agreement, which would open our water resources to the American Companies and Mexican Companies to come in here and export our water. We would have no control of that.

Let me ask the minister: Is she prepared to live with the consequences of exporting our water and opening our water resources to the NAFTA Agreement, and allowing American and Mexican Companies to come in and export our water?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology.

MS FOOTE: Mr. Speaker, I live in fear of not being able to ensure that every Newfoundlander and Labradorian who wants a job does have an opportunity to get it.

AN HON. MEMBER: Hear, hear!

MS FOOTE: Here we are, we have an opportunity to export water. We are going to look at it on a business case, Mr. Speaker. We are going to determine whether or not it is a good thing for us to do as a Province.

This member knows that before we export any water it has to go through the Environmental Assessment Act. It will be out there for public comment and review, on whether or not we proceed with this; and based on the reaction we get from the public, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Environment and Labour will bring it to Cabinet.

Clearly, Mr. Speaker, there is a opportunity here for employment and the hon. member over across the way is suggesting that we not take advantage of this opportunity. I guess he would do the same in the oil industry, Mr. Speaker. We may as well close down the oil industry in this Province, if we cannot be exporting the oil. Tell Harvey's down there, that we should not be doing that either.

AN HON. MEMBER: Shame! Shame!

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

MR. T. OSBORNE: Obviously, if there is a market for water, as drinking water, from Lake Superior, surely we must be able to find a market from Gisborne Lake.

Is the minister telling me that she would prefer to export the water from Gisborne Lake as a raw resource, and open it up to NAFTO, as opposed to exporting it as a bottled, finished product, creating even more jobs for the community of Grand Le Pierre?


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology.

MS FOOTE: No, Mr. Speaker, I am not telling the hon. member or telling this House, that I would rather export it in its bulk form. But I am telling the member that the market for bottled water in this world is about 5 per cent of the total demand for water. Now, tell me that we do not have the opportunity here, that we should not take advantage of the opportunity, to export water in bulk if the market requires it.

We are talking about water for irrigation, Mr. Speaker, under the Gisborne Lake Proposal. We are not talking about sending water over to some other country to be bottled there. This is an opportunity, Mr. Speaker, that I think we should consider taking advantage of. It will mean jobs in rural Newfoundland, for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions today are for the Minister of Health, or probably more appropriately the President of Treasury Board.

Minster, there are people working in our health care system for up to twenty years or more and they are listed as temporary, even though they have been working a full week for ten, fifteen, and twenty years. The percentage of workers who are not listed as permanent has been increasing rapidly for some time. It does little, I say to the minister, to improve the low morale among people that are overworked in our health care system.

I ask the minister: Is he prepared to address this growing concern and to help improve morale within our hospitals?

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Yes, some of these issues are being resolved at the bargaining table.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I said to the minister, some for twenty years; I just hope some people live to see them resolved. It has been close to twenty years that some people have been working. There has been no movement, I say, in the last nine years.

Temporary workers who have worked full-time hours, I say to the minister, for over ten years, can only obtain sick leave when they are hospital, even though they might have banked sick leave of up to a year. Now as a result, people who are discharged from hospital and are under doctor's care at home, are now left without any income at all, when they have worked for years in our health care system. You may be in hospital for two days, I say to the minister, and you will get your sick pay; but once you come out, you may need two to three weeks to convalesce, and you are without an income.

I ask the minister: Does he consider this aspect to be fair treatment for our sick, and will he do something about it?

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In some cases there is a reason to have temporary employees, as opposed to full-time employees, and areas where demand may diminish over time.

I am not certain that the way the hon. member describes the sick leave policy is true in every instance, or perhaps in any. Having said that - I am being generous to the hon. member - I merely point out to the hon. member that we are at the bargaining table with several of the groups. It is to the union representatives to bring forward instances where they want change, where they feel there is an inequity and where working conditions can be improved.

I can tell the hon. member, that recently we did, in some of the collective agreements we have negotiated and changed and that have been accepted by the members, had some changes regarding the status of different types of workers. There are several unions now where we are dealing with the issue of casual employees, which is of equal concern, as well as temporary.

What I say to the hon. member is that, in different bargaining units there are different rights that attach to different employees with different status, be they casual, part-time or temporary. We are resolving some of these issues.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

To listen to the minister you would think now that he is resolving this. Minister, there is something wrong when somebody who has worked for ten, fifteen, and twenty years, a full work week every single week, gets sick and is home convalescing under doctor's care for a week, two weeks and so on, and is told: If you want to get your sick pay, you have to come in and report to work that day and then go home. That creates a whole new set of problems for that person, other than this particular sick leave. That is impossible, I say to the minister, when you are sick and you just got over an operation and got out of hospital.

Minister, I would just ask you: Will you show some compassion for the injured and the sick, and will you make changes to that bureaucratic nonsense now that workers have been subjected to?

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The hon. member tells us part of the story. First of all, if the problem is of twenty years' duration, I point out that a previous government, of which he is now a member of the party, didn't resolve this problem. What he has to bear in mind is that sick leave is an accumulated benefit. What happens with temporary employees, and casual employees, as far as I'm aware, is that instead of accumulating sick leave entitlement - I know one group of casual workers, for example, that is paid an additional 14 per cent of wages in lieu of these other benefits. So to the extent that some people may want to acquire sick leave benefits, they may very well lose an additional payment they now get.

It's very easy to stand in the House and generalize, but I'm telling the hon. member that these are not simple issues, that not every employee in the bargaining unit necessarily wants to lose the immediate cash payment they receive in lieu of benefits. We are actively negotiating some of these benefits with some of our unions. It's not appropriate for me to put before the House issues and discussions at the bargaining table, but I don't mind saying that the issue of casual employees, temporaries in some instances, are issues that have been raised by some of our bargaining units. One union in particular is very concerned about casuals. We are attempting to resolve that at the bargaining table, and we are discussing it as we speak.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister, I understand some one who works casual, like nurses for example, in lieu of benefits they get a percentage, I think 14 per cent or 15 per cent, whatever. I am talking about workers who don't get that. Let's take nursing assistants and other people out there who don't get any extra pay in lieu, who are working a full week, every week for ten, fifteen, and twenty years, who don't have the privilege of those benefits, who were in hospital two days and were home for two and three weeks. They can't get sick pay, and they have eighty and ninety days built up. They can't get out of bed in some cases, Minister. It's unfair! They are the people I'm talking about.

Will the minister give us some assurance that something will be done for these people who are really struggling, and on some of the lower incomes within the health care field, who really need it; very honest, hard-working people all their lives? They deserve some compassion and understanding, I say to the minister.

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The hon. member well knows that many of the groups - and the particular groups he just referred to - are covered by collective agreements. Where there are collective agreements, the employer does not have the right to unilaterally change benefits.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. GRIMES: They wouldn't hire you as a negotiator, you need not worry about that.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. GRIMES: They would not want you as chief negotiator, you need not worry.

MR. DICKS: To the extent that the hon. member identifies areas in which there may be a lack of benefits, other people and their employers may identify areas in which there is an excess of benefits.

Where we have a collective agreement, Mr. Speaker, we abide by the collective agreement. When they come up for renewal, we negotiate them. We change them from time to time. In some there is a change of benefits that are cost neutral. Other times it's an additional monetary benefit to employees, or some substantial benefits such as sick leave.

If the hon. member is saying that I will, here in the House, announce that we are changing a collective agreement in some relevant fashion without consulting with the union involved, the answer is no. What may happen, as a result of a round of collective bargaining, is some circumstances of some employees may be improved but we have to let the process take its course, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I would like to address my question to the Minister of Human Resources and Employment. It refers again to the National Council of Welfare Report, the poverty profile. This report says that children are poor because their parents are poor, and one of the main reasons their parents are poor is because of lack of jobs. Now we know that the National Child Benefit was designed in response to public outrage over the child poverty statistics and was supposed to help children in poor families.

In light of the news that we now have 9,000 new jobs in the Province, does the minister feel her job is done, that the poverty problem is solved because job figures, the GDP figures and economists' projections are rosy, or is she hearing the reality check from new reports like this which tell her that there are children in this Province living in poverty, going hungry, malnourished and poorly clothed while our Premier, in his ivory tower, pretends that things could not be better?

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

MS BETTNEY: Mr. Speaker, the member referred to the National Child Benefit Program and indicated that it was intended to address child poverty. In doing so the member opposite is quite correct, but I would like to speak to the point that the original intention of the National Child Benefit Program, as it was stated and published in September of 1997, was to tackle the issue of child poverty by identifying and providing support for low income working families that is critical to helping parents better meet their children's needs.

The specific focus of the National Child Benefit Program is to address this one area of concern which is to support low income families in working. What we know is that for families who are receiving minimum wage, even up to $6.00 an hour, close to $7.00 an hour, they do not receive an equivalent financial benefit to people who are receiving social assistance. When you are talking families: If you take an equivalent family, with two children, who are receiving social assistance, who are renting their home, we know that a family who is receiving $6.00 and more is not receiving the same financial income let alone receiving access to the benefits and services that social assistance also provides.

So what we have to keep in mind is that the National Child Benefit Program is not intended to address all of the issues associated with child poverty. The ministers and federal government recognize that we all have to do more. This Province, likewise, recognizes that we have to do more. Our Budget reflects that this year. We have introduced a number of programs to try and address issues associated with child poverty.

The Minister of Finance referred to $1 million that we invested in the provincial School Lunch Foundation.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to conclude her answer.

MS BETTNEY: In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, what I would say is that this is a very important issue. It will take time and it will also take a number of interventions if we are going to break the cycle of poverty. The National Child Benefit Program is one aspect that will help.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for St. John's West.

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

This report points out that as the deficit has been falling poverty has been increasing. Child poverty is at a seventeen year peak. To get to this zero deficit the Province froze welfare payments and then Ottawa slashed transfer payments.

When will this government wake up to the fact that it has reduced deficits, in large part, on the backs of the poorest children? When will the federal and provincial ministers responsible for the welfare of children get their act together and come up with a real strategy to help children and their parents out of poverty, instead of making them casualties of the war on the deficit?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS BETTNEY: Mr. Speaker, another aspect of this that people need to consider is that this is a report that was issued based on data from 1996. That is what is covered in the report that I read and the coverage that took place in the media. As we all know, there has been a significant change in circumstances in 1997 and in the beginning of 1998 in this Province. I would suggest to you, that rather than, at this point, standing at the fifth position - and I would like to point out that this report identifies that when you are looking at the rates of poverty across this country for children, Newfoundland was not at the highest level, it was not the number one. Newfoundland and Labrador, in fact, was number five.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

I ask the hon. minister to quickly conclude her answer. Question Period has ended.

MS BETTNEY: In conclusion, what I would say to you is: That with the stimulation that we have seen, the infusion of 9,000 jobs in this economy over the past year, with the reduction of our social assistance caseload by up to 4,000 cases since this time last year, with the implementation of active employment programs and other measures, we have made significant gains.


Presenting Reports by

Standing and Special Committees


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Humber East.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MERCER: I appreciate the appreciation and the applause. Thank you very much.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am very pleased to report that the Social Services Committee has considered the matters to it referred, and it is pleased to report that it has considered the Estimates of the Departments of Human Resources and Employment, Education, Health and Community Services, Employment and Labour, and Justice, and that these have been approved without amendments.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


Notices of Motion


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


MR. McLEAN: Thank you Mr. Speaker.

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

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

MR. FRENCH: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I would like to move the following resolution:

WHEREAS the provincial government is not providing personal care home operators with allowances adequate to cover their growing expenses in light of rising costs; and

WHEREAS personal care home operators provide a valuable health care service in this Province stretching the government's limited health care dollar while allowing many people needing a high level of care to live in comfortable surroundings near their own homes and families; and

WHEREAS the failure on the part of the provincial government to provide adequate allowances to personal care home operators will compromise their ability to deliver health care services on which a large and growing number of families in this Province depend, and will erode this critical and much admired segment of our health care delivery system;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that this House urge the provincial government to consider moving quickly to grant that an appropriate increase in allowances for personal care home operators.


Orders of the Day

Private Members' Day


MR. SPEAKER: I believe it is Private Members' Day, and the motion today is by the hon. the Member for St. John's West.

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

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

WHEREAS the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has announced its intention to prevent social assistance recipients from enjoying the full advantage of the National Child Benefit in addition to their meagre social assistance; and

WHEREAS the government's decision to use this clawed-back funding for employment incentives and family resource centres, while important for many people, does not change the fact that those receiving social assistance are clearly receiving inadequate benefits on which to support their families properly;

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that this House urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to change its current policy to ensure that children living in families on social assistance receive an increase in benefits equal to the National Child Benefit.

Mr. Speaker, the reason the public put pressure on the government to develop a program like the National Child Benefit is that there are children in this country and in this Province in families living below the poverty line who are going hungry. They are malnourished and they are poorly clothed. Poverty in childhood undermines the opportunities available as a child grows. Poverty in childhood leads to poverty in adulthood.

As I spoke on a few moments ago, the national report on welfare, 72.1 per cent of children in single parent families live in poverty. That figure leads in Canada. We have the highest poverty rate in Canada in children in single parent families. This report confirms all older reports which say there is a serious problem with child poverty in our country, and especially in our Province. According to these statistics, some 27,000 children in this Province subsist below the poverty line. In single parent families the rate of child poverty, as I said, is a whopping 72.1 per cent, the highest in the country. Some 11,000 children in single parent families in this Province live in poverty. As I said yesterday, I find those results absolutely appalling.

I ask the minister if she is concerned by those results, or is she content, as our Premier is, to dismiss every piece of evidence of the failure of this government's policies, and the hurting of our people, as nothing but negativity?

The report points out that as the deficit has been falling the poverty rate has been increasing. The poor are getting poorer. Child poverty is at a seventeen-year peak. To get to the zero deficit that they were so proud to announce, this Province froze welfare payments, and then Ottawa slashed transfer payments.

The Patricia Canning report released a while ago said that tens of thousands of our children live in poverty. Her report, as well as the Williams Royal Commission Report, linked poverty and hunger to poor performance in school. Poverty and hunger sap the life and initiative and potential out of a child and lead to poor attentiveness, poor performance, and poor expectancy for employment, post-secondary education, employment and economic self-sufficiency. So, it is common sense that these things are linked, but we now have reports that put it in black and white. The evidence is here and it is time for us to do something about it.

If the Williams and the Canning reports didn't wake up the government, then the report of the Select Committee on Children's Interests should have. Members on both sides of this House cooperated to undertake an in-depth study of the challenges facing our children, and what they found was not good. What they recommended was sweeping. They recommended ensuring all decisions affecting children be examined in view of their impact on children, but the government has completely ignored the calls for a child advocate. Children remain an afterthought. Even when it comes to programs where the interests of children are the primary focus, such as the Child Benefit, the interests of many children are simply ignored. Children in families on social assistance have been ignored. You were warned not to ignore the interests of children. You ignored the warning, and because you ignored the warning children continue to suffer.

As if all these other reports were not enough to wake up the government, we had the Social Policy Advisory Report, chaired by Penelope Rowe. This comprehensive report calls for a new way of thinking about the delivery of social programs. It calls for a new focus on how government programs affect and ignore the people they are supposed to serve.

The release of this report should have represented a turning point in the way government does things. It should have been the last wake-up call the government needed; but it, too, is starting to gather dust. The report called for new, imaginative ways to help the vulnerable and disenfranchised of our society, but it certainly did not recommend doing so on the backs of the poorest in our society. Why is this government ignoring the advice of this report when it comes to the National Child Benefit? Why are poor children, like so many other vulnerable citizens of this Province, getting the short end of the stick once again? Even if there had never been any of these reports, common sense would have dictated to us the poverty problem was increasing and children were suffering.

For years, the Wells government froze social assistance rates despite the rising cost of living. People were slipping deeper and deeper into poverty. In addition, as the moratorium progressed and the lame efforts to foster economic recovery failed, the government gave up altogether on economic recovery, more and more turned to social assistance, and the dependency reached record levels - we were back in the 1930s; towns dying, people leaving - and what did the newly elected Chrétien government do with our own Premier sitting at the table banging his fist in support? It decided to freeze welfare transfers; then, to combine transfers under the CHST; and, finally, to slash hundreds of millions out of the money we get for social assistance, health and post-secondary education. And things have become worse and worse and worse.

Out-migration has ballooned to record levels. Poverty has reached crisis proportions. Our food banks have seen record demand and, sadly, have had to turn people away despite the great boost they got from a PC resolution to help with food donations.

In their crusade for the great zero deficit, the Liberals, with the `Tobinator' dancing merrily to the same tune, have hacked away at the poor, and the poorest of the poor in this Province have suffered the most. And what crumbs have the Liberals given back in return for all they have cut? The meagre, paltry, National Child Benefit, a mere pittance compared to what they have cut from our tens of thousands of poor and vulnerable children. They have thrown crumbs to tomorrow's generation of leaders, on whom we will one day be counting to build a new society out of the ruins that the Liberals will leave.

The National Child Benefit is inadequate. We applaud any expenditure of new money. We applaud money for the working poor; they deserve it. It barely compensates for what they have lost under these governments, but we covet every penny of it. We applaud any new money for family resource centres, day care and other key services, and we would like to see these services available everywhere in the Province.

What we bitterly oppose is that the money to help the poor has come from the poorer. Children on social assistance will have to give up their National Child Benefit to pay for the government's "generosity". The government officials make themselves look good by announcing the money twice: first for the children and then, after clawing back the money from the children, they announce it again for the resource centres and the services. How callous.

We have long spoken out for the working poor. There are fewer and fewer working middle class, and many of the new jobs are at very low wages, barely enough to support a household. These people count themselves fortunate to have a job. Newfoundlanders always prefer to be working than to be idle, but there comes a point when the wages are so low that they are just not enough. Where is the economic growth that fosters job creation and brings with it the opportunity for upward mobility? People cannot spend decades of their lives working for the same low wages. As their families grow and their expenses increase, they need new income; so it is critical to support low income families, if not with more and better jobs then certainly as a band-aid to support them with child supplements.

Is this Child Benefit enough to compensate for what has been lost through increased taxes on essentials like electricity and children's clothing when the government sold out with the HST? Is it enough to make up for the numerous other cuts that have worked their way to the pocket books of the working poor? No, no, no!

The government takes away ten of your cows and gives you back one. While that is hardly a good reason to sing the praises of the government, it does mean at least you will get one cow. But let us never forget that a government that gives you back part of what it has stolen from you is not giving you a gift.

Family resource centres are important. The government should have been funding them long ago, not from social assistance claw-backs but from general revenues. They represent an important investment in the social and economic potential of a community. They provide incentives and assistance to families, and advance the welfare of our children.

This government has lost sight of the importance of investment. It speaks only of costs, and the need to cut these costs, to achieve an even bottom line. A government often needs to spend money and incur debt associated with that debt in order to invest in some future good. If it were not for debt, and debt financing, there would be no roads, no schools, no hospitals. There would be no mortgages or car lease arrangements, and most students would not even get an education. Debt is a good thing when it is sound investment. Somehow that truth has been lost to today's generation of Cabinet ministers, whether upstairs in Confederation Building or in Ottawa around the Prime Minister's table.

Investing in families, communities and children is critical. That is why we, like so many socially progressive groups, support the concept of family resource centres, day care, youth services, employment incentives and the like. It is sensible. We need to borrow from the public Treasury to finance such services, but stealing the money for such programs from our hungriest, poorest, most vulnerable children, as this government has done, is absolutely outrageous and unforgivable.

Since the government has insisted on stealing the money to pay for these services from all children in families on social assistance, the debate shifts to one of fairness. The government says it can better spend the money on behalf of these children - but funnelling it into services that help people escape welfare and get the services they need to help them find jobs. Here it is a matter of choice. We are not giving the people who get the money a choice of how to spend it, or who get the services, a choice to direct how their money should be spent.

Is it the case in Newfoundland that the lack of services like day care is what is keeping so many people unemployed? Or is it rather the case that in many areas, rural and urban, there simply are no jobs to be had? All the family resource centres and day care centres in the world will be meaningless if there are no jobs for the people.

It is like when we had hairdressing courses in so many community colleges. It is great to have training and experience, and the self-esteem that goes with the training and experience and with completing a program and getting a certificate, but what is the economic value of every second household in a small community having a person trained in exactly the same skill? What happens to self-esteem when you realize that your training has given you no employment advantage whatsoever? What happens when single parents put their children in family resource centres and find out the government has ignored the job creation side of things?

Family resource centres and day care centres are critical, but the government must not stop there or their strategy is ridiculous. It is like budgeting for a new car and forgetting to budget for the gas to drive it. How much good will that do?

It is time the government followed through with integrated programs that treat not only the lack of day care and the like, but the lack of jobs, industries, diversification and investment. Since all children on social assistance are paying equally for these centres, will they and their parents all have equal access to the centres they are financing? This question is less important when such centres are funded from general revenue. In those cases we recognize that some areas will benefit from some programs and services more directly than others; but when child (a) and child (b) are losing equal amounts of money to pay for services intended for these children and their families, is it fair when only child (a) and his parents have access to them? What did child (b) lose her money for? How does she benefit from the Child Benefit that has been taken away to pay for programs and services if the programs and services are out of reach because of geography? Could all of this have been done better? You had better believe it. Put us in office and we will show you.

Today I call for one strategy: Ensure that children in families on social assistance get the equivalent of the Child Benefit just as children in families of the working poor are getting it. It was intended to benefit them in the workplace. That is how the program was sold to the taxpayers, and it would be deceptive to turn around now and steal the money from these poor children as the government has done.

MR. SPEAKER (Penney): Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

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

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Burgeo & LaPoile.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RAMSAY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has good intentions. No one, I don't think, on this side of the House has any comment on the intentions that the hon. member has with respect to the motion. There is an element of it, though, that of course is political in nature; the whole idea of suggesting that the government is doing something to take something away from anyone.

The National Child Benefit Program, Mr. Speaker, is one that is not just in place here in Newfoundland and Labrador. It is one that has been put together by the federal minister responsible, the provincial ministers responsible, and the territorial ministers as well. Mr. Speaker, the whole concept of the program is that it should be followed on a nationwide basis.

Also, Mr. Speaker, the early intervention programs, and the concept of early intervention that this is pointing towards, is trying to steer all of our child activities towards, is such that it tries to provide some early intervention for children and therefore realize savings in a system at some future point. But, more importantly, it is providing benefit for the sake of children so they can become more productive and more contributing members of society later in life.

We can prevent them, Mr. Speaker, from involvement in activity which does not benefit them in any way by early intervention programs, by early education, preschool programs, through constructive day care programs, through a variety of these things which this program will provide to community groups and other agencies that request this kind of thing. Now where there are schools, where there are government agencies, these programs will be provided.

The whole idea is to eventually - according to the brochure and the documents printed - remove the children from receipt of social assistance. The idea is to provide a quality and a large enough benefit for children so that they may be removed from the social assistance system so that the National Child Benefit, as this evolves, will allow children to be off social assistance, off the total social assistance system. The way of doing that, of course, is to gradually increase the federal share of the overall portion of what is made available to children as we also decrease the provincial contribution. Now a function of doing this is, of course, seeing that we reinvest the funds that are saved.

These are not really savings, this is not really, in any way, shape or form, taking from the children that which was intended for them in the first place. There are provinces in the nation that have put in different program, but this is the way the program was designed. I guess groups which are opposed to this have found an angle that allows them to suggest that we are taking from children, when that is not the case, Mr. Speaker.

What is happening is this: As it was originally designed by both the federal and all of the provincial governments, it was not there to give the money directly to children who are in social assistance families of the non-working poor. It is designed so that by reinvesting these newly available funds that are saved as children move more into the federal realm of being cared for, as far as the Child Benefit goes, these low-income families with children can then see improvements, not only to their own lot from a financial perspective, but also to the overall benefit of them in their communities; so that they can receive, through work support programs for their parents, the continuation of certain benefits that are now not available to social assistance recipient families.

All of these things, Mr. Speaker, would allow people to move out of poverty and into the realm of, you know, work programs. If it is a low-wage earner, at the very least allow them to move to that without being penalized.

So there are some pilot projects that are a part of this program. There are many different areas. One only has to look at the problems associated with situations as we know them. How many times have we, as individual members of the House of Assembly, received complaints that there was no incentive for someone to go to work who was in receipt of social assistance? They could look after their families better by not moving from the base social assistance into the regular workforce.

How could we, as legislators, discredit anyone, in any way, shape or form, for the fact that they wouldn't go out and start some work? Because, are they doing the right thing for their children if they are not going forward and finding work, if in fact they are going to receive less money to benefit their children? Actually, they are hurting their children by going to work.

One of the key elements of the Child Benefit Program that the minister has suggested is the pilot where we are trying to get people off the social assistance payroll and into the workforce, providing some extended period for medical care benefits through the drug card program and providing some incentives for them on the day care side of things. Mr. Speaker, those are very important elements of the program, and something that cannot be denied.

Now to look at some of the parts of it - it's a staged approach - some of the component parts and the principles that are used. These elements are all much more important than the idea of suggesting that we are taking from children. In no place in the country does the program allow, from what I'm able to gather - the program is done a little bit differently in each province according to its needs and existing programming. In each case, the provision is being made for the equivalent savings to be directed into programs for children in the community.

This is, I think, a challenge now to the minister and the department, to see to it that these programs are implemented equitably throughout the Province, so that the rural child is treated as well, in light of this programming, as the child who is in an urban setting. That is a concern for all of us who represent rural areas in the Province. It's a challenge. It's something that we, as individual members, have to work with our communities on, developing proposals. Because it is not to go to a community where there is little or no leadership in the community and say: You people go ahead and come up with a program. It is for us to take, in some cases, to that smaller community, make suggestions, work with them and bring forward proposals which will access some of the funds that are available.

So these are the things that we have to do; and hopefully the overall benefit, as time goes on, over the next two to three years of the term that is already defined for the program, will allow us to move into a stage where we can improve the financial lot of those who are still on social assistance and who have little or no opportunity for work. Regardless of our desire as legislators to bring forward a program whereby everyone will be working, we all know in our heart of hearts that there are people who will continue to be in receipt of social assistance. There are people who will always have a reliance on the system for the benefit of their children. Now those people, hopefully we can make their lot in life a little better through the provision of more funding, through the provision of better services in the community, not necessarily to make it a more comfortable situation but to provide more for the benefit of the children in those situations.

Now, Mr. Speaker, in order to make this resolution of the hon. Member for St. John's West more acceptable to the House of Assembly, I want to propose the following amendment:

It would, number one, strike out the first WHEREAS and substitute the following, and this reads:

WHEREAS the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has announced its intention to have social assistance recipients enjoy the full advantages of the National Child Benefit in addition to existing social assistance benefits;

Two, to strike out the second WHEREAS entirely; and three, to strike out the BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED and substitute the following:

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that this House urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to ensure that all children living in families on social assistance benefit to the maximum extent possible as a result of the National Child Benefit Program.

Mr. Speaker, I move that, seconded by the hon. Member for Labrador West.

Now, Mr. Speaker, if I could just speak to the amendment.

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

The Chair has not yet seen a copy of it.

MR. H. HODDER: A point of order, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, we would like to see a copy of the amendment, to see if it is consistent with the thrust; and would await your ruling before we would, shall we say, wish the House to continue.

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair will recess for a few minutes to consider whether the amendment is in order.




MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The Chair has considered the amendment, has referred to Beauchesne, and has read from '567 to '579. I would like to refer hon. members to '567, which states, "The object of an amendment may be either to modify a question in such a way as to increase its acceptability or to present to the House a different proposition as an alternative to the original question".

It is the ruling of the Chair that the amendment falls within the definition as I read in '567. It is the position of the Chair that the amendment is in order.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

While the Chair was waiting for photocopies of the amendment, we will consider that the House was in fact recessed. Therefore, the hon. member has two minutes left in his allotted time.

MR. RAMSAY: Mr. Speaker, there are just a few points I wanted to make about the National Child Benefit and the Province's implementation of it, for the benefit of the House and for the benefit of those who would like to see this put on the record.

Certainly both levels of government are working together to prevent and reduce child poverty, to support parents in their employment efforts, and to reduce the overlap between both levels of government. We are also committed to reducing child poverty and reducing barriers to employment.

Mr. Speaker, we also wanted to point out that this approach will ensure a secure uniform basic level of support for children in low income families across the country. Furthermore, we are maintaining our commitment to those in receipt of social assistance, increased child care earnings exemption in the tax system, increased earned income exemption for social assistance recipients, extended drug card benefits for some, and also the increase of social assistance rates by 2 per cent. Also, Mr. Speaker, we will reinvest the $10.15 million every year, to reinvest that in new programs and services - the first year, I am sorry; the second year it is $7.7 million. That variation is because of the implementation date of July 1 as opposed to the fiscal date, the date of the fiscal year.

Also, Mr. Speaker, the strategy reflects the findings of a number of recent public consultation processes, including the Select Committee on Children's Interests, which was a bipartisan committee of course, the Strategic Economic Plan, also the Classroom Issues Report done under the auspices of - I forget the name of the author and the committee. Anyway, the other points to make: Low income working families will receive a higher income benefit as a result of the National Child Benefit. That will help them enter and also remain in the workforce. And those in receipt of social assistance will not receive any less in combined social assistance and National Child Benefit income.

Mr. Speaker, those are the key points, the elements of which we all would like to be able to do better for the children of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. RAMSAY: Maybe if I could continue just for thirty seconds.

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. RAMSAY: Mr. Speaker, I come at this from a little bit of a different perspective. My family, when I met my wife, was a social assistance family. She was managing on very little and my two daughters now, my stepdaughters - at the time I met her and we married, she was getting by on social assistance. So I come at this from a standpoint of someone who has been there, who has seen how getting out into the workforce, and the ability to move out and take positions, was hampered by the fact that by declaring income and different things like that, it certainly would put a person into a more difficult circumstance financially.

These benefits will work. They are a long-term approach, and they certainly will benefit children throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

Mr. Speaker, while I recognize the fact that you have ruled the amendment in order, I also have recognized that the amendment is substantially a different proposition and it is put forward as an alternative by the governing party. That essentially says that the governing party was not happy with the words that had been put forward by the Member for St. John's West.

What this resolution by the Member for St. John's West was all about was to make sure that all children in this Province, children from the very poorest of families, children who live in communities where their parents will not have an opportunity to be able to find employment, parents in rural Newfoundland, where unemployment rates are 70 per cent, 80 per cent and 90 per cent, that their children will be able to have an opportunity to have food on their tables, lunches to take to school, and they will have equal access and equal opportunities in this world.

What the amendment put forward by the Member for Burgeo & LaPoile essentially says is: We want to water that down. We are content to put in words like, `to the maximum extent possible'. Therefore what we have done again, we have compromised at the expense of children. Children have no voice in this Legislature. Let's be honest. Children do not vote. Children here are not heard. By this amendment, what we are saying is that the very poorest of the children in this Province have absolutely no voice here whatsoever. Because this amendment put forward by the government so waters down the commitment of this government that what it is essentially saying is that the poor child living in Harbour Deep, or the poor child living in Wesleyville, or the poor child in St. John's, has absolutely no hope of being able to say to their parents, come this September, they want a new pair of sneakers to go to school, or they want to be able to buy food so they can be equal to children in the school system. This will do nothing to erase the poverty that is out there in the families of this Province.

I recognize that the thrust of the National Child Benefit is, as the minister said in the meeting last night on the Estimates, to break the dependency, to use her words. The minister said last night that she did not want to continue the policies we now have. We have to make people more self-reliant. So we are going to take $7.7 million this year that is going to come in to this Province and we are going to promote jobs. I agree with that. I think we should be putting more money into policies and changing practices to make sure we can have opportunities for the poorest of families to be able to find meaningful employment.

The minister essentially is taking the approach that not having a job is the fault of the individual, because they are not sufficiently self-reliant. What we are really hearing the minister say is: If you are really poor and you either cannot work or there are no opportunities for you to work in your community, we are going to punish you. When the punishment comes out, it is going to be punishment inflicted on children. While, therefore, a family where the mother or father can find a job that is paying $6 per hour or $5.25 per hour can have extra benefits coming in, they are the working poor.

Right next door to them you have somebody who cannot get a job, tries hard to get a job, and would work if there were jobs available. Who suffers when that family cannot get access to the National Child Benefit? What does it mean when you call the children to supper? What does it mean when you go to school and walk the corridors because you do not have a lunch? What does it mean when the children go and line up in the cafeteria and you have to walk around and say: Do you have five cents?

This is the reality in the school system in this Province today: Children walk the corridors; children go to the cafeteria; children wait to see if something is left over on someone else's plate. Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that I know children in this City, in St. John's, who have to go to the dumpsters at McDonalds. They go around and see if they can get into the dumpsters so they can get some food. And you are telling me that these children will not be able to have benefits from a National Child Tax Benefit.

Mr. Speaker, there is a reality. I wish that children had a voice in this legislation. I wish there was some way in which we could tweak the consciousness of the government because it is not right that the youngest citizens of this Province, from the very poorest of families, in communities where there is no opportunity to get a job, be asked to pay the price. So we are going to punish people for being poor. We are going to punish people for the fact that they search and search in a community where there is 75 per cent unemployment. We are going to say to them: You can't get any benefit from the National Child Tax Benefit.

Mr. Speaker, what we have here in this poor Province is a `Made in Western Canada' approach, a very right-wing approach that basically says if you are poor then that is God's will; that is what God wanted you to be. Be happy - that kind of nonsense. Mr. Speaker, what we have here is an absolute right-wing approach that is so passé you have to go back to economic history in Canada to the 1890s to find literature that supports it.

Mr. Speaker, what I am saying is that it is a tragedy unfolding right here today in this Legislature when we are, by this amendment, watering down the commitment that the Member for St. John's West wanted to have placed in this government's hands, and wanted this Legislature to say: We are going to be proactive. We are going to take care of the poorest of families.

Mr. Speaker, it certainly has been said here many times by me and by many others, and the Williams' Royal Commission said it eloquently in Chapter No. 16, when they talked about equal access and equal opportunities. Mr. Speaker, the first barrier that is talked about to equal access and equal opportunities, in terms of education, is a barrier of poverty. That entire chapter talks about all the studies that have been done.

Then, Mr. Speaker, we can look at reports done for the Department of Social Services and the Department of Health and Community Services, background papers done for the Select Committee on Children's Interests, background papers done for the Dr. Patricia Canning Report; and all of them talk about child hunger, and the impact on children when they happen to be born into families whose social economic status is not commensurate with the majority of the population.

Mr. Speaker, nine years ago the Government of Canada said we were going to have poverty of children eliminated by 1999. Today, sadly, there are 500,000 more children in poverty in Canada, then there was nine years ago.

Mr. Speaker, we in this Province, put $1 million of taxpayers' money into an allocation to the School Children's Food Foundation. That is commendable. That is wonderful. Mr. Speaker, I know that Susie Green and her team have been going across the Province trying to initiate and support programs that will see food provided in schools, either by way of a breakfast program or school lunch program. Seven schools in St. John's now offer a school lunch program. That is recognition, that before you teach children, you have to make sure, first of all, that they are not hungry. That is not new. That has been around for a long time.

Mr. Speaker, what this resolution was intended to do, the one that was put forward by the Member for St. John's West, was to get a commitment that we would not be bringing in programs to support the working poor, on the backs of the very poor.

Mr. Speaker, we believe that there should be programs for the working poor, but when the minister stands up and says, nobody will have less money than they had before, what they are saying is that they are going to make the gap wider between the very poor and those who are not so poor. Mr. Speaker, that is what is going to happen, because there are no jobs in rural Newfoundland for many of the people who are unemployed today. So we are going to perpetuate - instead of solving and breaking the cycle of dependency, we are going to make it even worse. What we are trying to prevent, we may even be causing.

Mr. Speaker, I can only say to the minister: Think about it. I know that her heart is in the right place. I know her to be a kind, compassionate person, and I might say that anywhere. Very few people in this House know the minister better than I do. I want to say that she, in her very heart, wants to do what is right for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. She knows that this program does not meet her expectations. Therefore, I have to say that we had expected her today to be supporting the resolution put forward by the Member for St. John's West, because that resolution was put forward with all great intentions, put forward with the intention of supporting what we know to be right in this Province.

It disappoints me that we have it so watered down with language that says: To ensure that all children, living in families of Social Services, benefit to the maximum extent possible. I wish there were some definitions of that language; maximum extent possible. What you have here is a watering down that so weakens the intent of the resolution, of the original motion put forward by the Member for St. John's West, that you have to use subsection 567 of Beauchesne to have it accepted.

Mr. Speaker, on this side, we will be voting - I will be voting, I should say - for the motion even in its amended state, because we find that anything -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. H. HODDER: - will give greater recognition to the issues that have been put forward on behalf of the children of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, we say to the minister: Reconsider. Do what is right for the poorest of children, because if we don't do what is right for them we will perpetuate the cycle of poverty forever and ever and ever.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation.

MS KELLY: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

I am very proud this afternoon, actually, to stand to discuss this very futuristic program, a program that many in this Province have known for a long time, services that many mothers and fathers and families have always wished that we had been able to provide, but due to circumstances over the years, of just not having the financial capability to provide these programs that many, many other provinces have, we have been unable to provide these programs in spite of the will being there to want to do it.

This government initiative deals with all poor children, not just those on social assistance but also those who are part of families who work or part of families who have disabled parents. It includes everyone.

It is true that this is a first step; this is not as far as all of us would like to go. We all know that if times were ideal and we had money that could be allocated, all of our social programs would be greatly enhanced. But as this Province's and this country's fiscal situation improves, we will do that. There is already a commitment from the federal government that as times become better more money will be put into this program, and the commitment is there that when the first $850 million is spent, in the first two years, that they will do better. They are already committed to carrying on with this program.

Advocacy groups in my district, in particular groups like the Women's Centre, support the new programs that will be now available because of the enhanced funding under the National Child Care Benefit. Many single mothers, as I work with them, come in and say: I don't want to be on social assistance, I would prefer to be working. Many of them talk about how they could go back to work if they had these programs.

One mother, in particular, whom I have, who has a child with a chronic illness and requires medication, and will for the rest of that child's life, because the medication costs so much each month, she realizes that if she does go back to work at what she is able to do, probably in a fairly low-wage position, that her child will be worse off. Now who can blame a mother, you know, in circumstances like that, for staying on social assistance? This program may possibly help that woman and she has been asking for that help for many a long year. Her child is now seven years old and she would appreciate being able to get back into the workforce and to do what she trained to do many years ago.

It is important for us to realize that we have families who are not on social assistance, who are worse off than if they were on social assistance. I think, more than anyone else, that is the group that will be able to avail of these programs. We have long worried about families whose mother or father, or both, work in a low-wage sector, and meanwhile their children are worse off and they are worse off than if they gave up their jobs and stayed on social assistance.

This program, above all else, supports all of the consultation and the direction we have done with our Strategic Social Plan. Hundreds of people, hundreds of submissions, came in. When the group went around this Province asking for input and we consulted far and wide, these are the recommended directions that we are taking at this time.

I think that is why many of the advocacy groups, while they wish we had more money to put into this, while we all wish we had more money to put into it, to enhance the monthly allowances we give on social assistance, know that this is a good program and one that many people have asked for a long, long time: Could we have these programs?

Federal, provincial and territorial governments have agreed on the objectives of this National Child Benefit. It took a lot of consultation at many tables to come to these conclusions. The most important of the objectives of the program is to help prevent and reduce the depth of child poverty in this Province and in this country at this time.

It is also to promote attachment to the workforce, resulting in fewer families having to rely on social assistance. Maybe that's the point where we will be able to give greater allowances on social assistance, when we have fewer people receiving it, by ensuring that families will always be better off as a result of working; and to reduce the overlap and duplication through closer harmonization of program objectives and benefits and through a simplified administration. This is an ongoing process. While we continue to strive for greater harmonization, even now as we speak many of us feel this program could be greater harmonized between the federal and provincial governments. This government will continue to work in that direction.

Federal, provincial and territorial governments have agreed on operating principles for this program. This will be a partnership between all levels of government. It will require significant incremental and permanent federal investment; and, as I have said, the federal government have agreed that this will be necessary, as well as appropriate and complementary provincial investments benefiting children in low-income families.

It will be developed in a staged approach. I know that many times a staged approach is viewed with cynicism, but in this instance the staged approach is being put in place because as the money becomes available we will stage it and improve this program; the initial investment representing a starting point to a more significant investment in the future, an investment which is sufficient to (inaudible) benefits for children who are on our welfare systems.

It will not result in the reduction of the overall level of income support for families in receipt of social assistance. We know that this year, through several Budget initiatives that our government put in place, while some of them are not huge, they are still significant. There is a 2 per cent increase in the basic social assistance rate. Effective May 1, a $150 cost of living allowance will be provided to families with dependent children residing in Coastal Labrador communities. We all saw this winter with Black Tickle the significance of the problems. It's bad enough, some of the problems that we have in many of our rural communities, but when you look at Coastal Labrador and the cost of goods, this $150 allowance is being spent very strategically to help the people who most need it.

Effective June 1 this year, the earnings exemption for families with dependent children will increase to $150 a month, but the national child care programs and services we need to continue to work on. Effective the fall of 1998, the child care expense deduction will be increased for families moving into employment. Effective this fall also, drug card benefits will be extended for families moving into employment. As I have pointed out, my constituent who has had such difficult problems moving into the labour force for seven full years now, will be able to avail of this opportunity.

Additional family resource centres will provide a range of supportive and early intervention services to meet the needs of low-income and social assistance families. Also, the point that several people have been making, that family resource centres are for urban Newfoundland, that is just not true. One of the best family resource centres and the best models that we have is in Gander Bay, in the minister's district.

Licensed child care services will be improved and expanded, including additional child care subsidies, the introduction of licensed family home child care, which we have never had in this Province - we are the only Province in Canada that has never had it - the introduction of licensed infant child care for the first time in this Province, and the provision of a range of supportive program funds to assist with the development of general child care services. All of these are extremely important programs that we have long wanted to have and now, because of this new national program, we will be able to offer the citizens of our Province.

Regional youth services networks will also be developed in partnership with existing community programs to support youth at risk. It is only today, as we hear in the news and read in the news about the need for changing our Young Offenders Program, that we realize it is not just the Young Offenders Program that needs changing. We will be able to address some of these needs through this new program, with an emphasis on prevention and early intervention supports, stay-in-school initiatives and other initiatives which will contribute to future employability.

These programs are good for all children, all over this Province, every nook and cranny, in Labrador and on the island portion of our Province. In particular, one of the reasons I support this program is because it is good for both rural and urban Newfoundland. These programs are able to be implemented in rural Newfoundland. Some of the programs that we have had in the past were not able to be, but now that we are moving into licensed family care situations - and we have already proven that family resource centres and regional youth service networks can be big assets in rural Newfoundland. All of these programs, the child expense care deduction, drug card benefits, will extend into rural Newfoundland as well as urban Newfoundland and Labrador.

This government initiative deals with all poor children, not just those on social assistance but also those who are part of families who work but in reality are worse off than if they were on social assistance. As I have said, this is a good first step. As this country and this Province's fiscal situation improves, we will do better. That has to be a goal of our government, that we will continue to improve on these programs and to make sure that these are a good first step.

Prevention and early intervention programs are essential to addressing child poverty and the problems associated with it. It is not just the amount that comes in the cheque with social assistance that will address child poverty in this Province and in this country. Early, effective intervention programs can have important lifelong benefits. Families with low incomes often have difficult times in meeting the needs of their children. Whether a family, as I have said, is on social assistance or earning a low wage, the hardships caused by poverty can be truly overwhelming.

I know, on a daily basis as I assist constituents in my district, in Gander district, that many of the needs they have expressed to me in the past will be addressed in this program, for a number of reasons: Working poor parents may be financially worse off than when they are receiving social assistance; their employment income may be actually, believe it or not, less than social assistance income; they may not be eligible for supplementary health and dental care, dental care in particular, and for prescription drugs, one of our biggest problems; they may incur work related expenses such as child care, clothing and transportation; and they may be required to pay income taxes, various premiums and contributions. Similarly, parents on social assistance may find it difficult to move into low-wage work while continuing to meet their families needs, especially if their children have special needs; and as we know, we have many special needs children.

The National Child Benefit is an important first step in improving the life chances for poor Newfoundland and Labrador children, but child poverty, we all know, cannot be eliminated overnight. We have struggled with this for years and years and years, and it is good that finally we have some money that we can put into programs that we know, in other areas, have addressed some of the child poverty needs. That is why federal, provincial and territorial governments have made an ongoing commitment to doing more for children. Our aim is to do more for children and to erase child poverty by the year 2000.

While that may be very, very optimistic, considering the fiscal circumstances in this Province, if we do everything in our power between now and the year 2000, we will have made a huge, big dent in this problem. As fiscal circumstances improve, the investment in this initiative will go further and further and further, so that we can continue to ensure that all of our children have the best chance in life.

The federal government's initial $850 million investment in the National Child Benefit just represents a down payment, and this has been made very clear. Not many people are addressing that this is the beginning of this program. The federal government is committed, and this government is committed, to increasing its investment when resources become available. It is very important that we continue not to, you know, think this is the end all and be all; it is not. We recognize this as a first step.

The funds that the National Child Care Benefit will provide in provinces and territories will be devoted to reducing barriers to work and providing more benefits and services for low-income families and their children. The National Child Benefit will protect the overall benefits for families receiving social assistance, and this is a very, very important point.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MS KELLY: Well, Mr. Speaker, I would like to conclude by saying; I know we have a long way to go, but more important than anything else here, this is the most important first step that we have ever taken in this government to erase child poverty in this Province and in this country.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise to speak on this motion presented by the Member for St. John's West.

I won't even refer to the amendment yet, Mr. Speaker, because I could regard the amendment as a cynical piece of work by the government to try and deflect attention from the reality of child poverty in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, let's look back a few years and put this into the right perspective, as a part of Canada, one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Mr. Speaker, the Canada Child Tax Benefit came about nine years after there was a unanimous all party House of Commons resolution to seek to eliminate child poverty in Canada by the year 2000. Mr. Speaker, that was a motion presented by the hon. Edward Broadbent, as Leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada. It was supported unanimously by the Liberals in the House, by the Conservatives in the House, by the New Democrats and whomever else was there, Mr. Speaker, at that time, sitting as Independents. It was a national commitment, Mr. Speaker, to place an emphasis and to place a priority on the elimination of child poverty. Mr. Speaker, at that time there were 1 million children living in poverty in Canada, 1 million children.

Now, following the passage of that resolution, Mr. Speaker, in 1989, and the signing of the Charter of the UN Convention on the rights of the child in 1990, the Government of Canada continued to cut social programs year after year. At the same time economic policies, both fiscal and monetary, were put in place that created permanently high unemployment, underemployment and fostered a trend towards low-wage employment and the downward pressure on wages, Mr. Speaker; and did nothing to solve the high regional unemployment in places like Newfoundland which has historically been double the national average. There were cuts to social assistance, to higher education, to health care, to UI, only serving to increase the ranks of the poor.

Mr. Speaker, the astounding fact is, that by 1996 there were nearly 500,000 more children who had become poor as a result of their parents either becoming unemployed or could only find work in poorly paid, temporary or precarious jobs. This was, Mr. Speaker, a 50 per cent increase in the amount of child poverty in a country that had committed itself to the elimination of child poverty in Canada. That is indicative, Mr. Speaker, of how low a priority children and families were for the Government of Canada, both the Tory Government and the Liberal Government that followed, at the national level.

Mr. Speaker, what has happened is this country's deficit reduction, rather than alleviating the poverty of children and that of their families, has become the unwavering but misguided priority of governments at the federal level and at the provincial level as well, Mr. Speaker.

Our country, and we as a part of it, should be ashamed of the record of this country. As one of the wealthiest countries in the world, we have let 1.5 million of our children suffer the hardship and burden of poverty daily. Mr. Speaker, we have, in this Province and in this Country, over 20 per cent of our children living in poverty; 20 per cent, Mr. Speaker. Six out of every ten children in single mother families are poor in Canada. That is 58 or 60 per cent, Mr. Speaker, in Canada. In this Province it is 72 per cent. Over seven of every ten children in single parent families live in poverty, Mr. Speaker.

At 57 per cent, the Canadian figure, that is the second worst record in the whole industrialized world; in Canada. In Newfoundland we are nearly twenty points higher than the Canadian rate. Now, Mr. Speaker, why are we allowing our children to suffer the harsh sentence of poverty?

Mr. Speaker, we have a terrible record and a terrible problem. What do we do to solve it? We have a program which is going to deliver $10 million worth of programs in this Province, that are needed and they are not bad programs. They are not perhaps as well distributed as they should be. They do not offer the opportunities to everybody. But where is the money coming from for this program, Mr. Speaker? The $10 million is coming out of the pockets of the children on welfare. That is a condition of the program.

The Provinces are required to reduce their level of welfare payments by the amount of the increase in the Canadian Child Tax Benefit and invest these savings in services and programs, designed to promote attachment to the work force, not designed to eliminate child poverty, Mr. Speaker. What happened? Did this Province go up there and say: No, we are not going to participate in a cruel program that is going to destroy the possibility of children on social assistance being better off? Did they say: No, we are not going to participate in probably the worse social program that has ever been foisted upon the children of Canada? Did they say, no? No, Mr. Speaker. They said: Oh, this looks good. We will be able to pass out $10 million and look like we are adding new services.

We just had the minister speak about all the wonderful new services that are going to be ongoing. She did not say that the poorest of the children in this Province are the ones who are going to be paying for those programs for someone else, Mr. Speaker. She did not say that. This is appalling, and every member opposite who has gone along with this, one way or the other, should be ashamed of themselves. The ministry, the Premier, whoever had any say in it -and I do not care if they blame it on Paul Martin. They should not have been sucked in by Paul Martin, if they think it is Paul Martin's fault. They should have said: No, we are going to participate in this cruel program that attacks the welfare of children.

Not only that, Mr. Speaker, what does it do to our children? It tells them that because your mother or father does not have a job there is something wrong with them; not with the system that consistently has twice the national unemployment rate in this Province as in Canada.

This requirement, Mr. Speaker, effectively restores the concept of the deserving and the undeserving poor to the approach to income support. It perpetuates the harmful myths and the stereotypes about people who suffer the misfortune of needing to rely on social assistance to survive. It blames people for their poverty, Mr. Speaker, when the reality is that the economic and social conditions are to blame, the economic and social conditions that are beyond the control of the family living in Port Anson in White Bay, or beyond the control of the people living down in Fortune Bay who do not have jobs, or in Placentia Bay, or the areas where the fisheries has been shut down for the past six years, and does not happen to have the benefit of TAGS.

It blames them, Mr. Speaker, for their poverty and says: You shall contribute by a reduction in social assistance to programs for people who are working. That is what it does, Mr. Speaker; as if somehow or other, the fact that you are lucky enough to get the job makes you better than someone who does not happen to be in the position to do that. The truth of the matter, Mr. Speaker, is that the people who are forced to rely on social assistance have to do so because the policies of government are inadequate.

Now, Mr. Speaker, don't tell me we are trying our best, because if every other country in the industrialized world, except Canada, can have lower child poverty rates than Canada, then we are doing something wrong. Do not blame it on the globalization, do not blame it on trying to be competitive in the markets, do not blame it on anything except the cruelty of governments towards the poorest of our people.

If this program was designed to help poor children, why would you have a program that by its very design refuses to help the poorest of the people, those on social assistance? The children who are going to get this benefit through their parents are having the benefit taken away from them by government.

Don't tell me that the federal government forced us to do it. The Premier of this Province knows how the federal government works. This Cabinet knows that they went along with whatever agreements had to be made, and if they disagreed with it they would have said: No, we are not going to participate in a program of such a cruel design as this. We are not going to do it. We want to make sure that we have social programs in this Province equal to or better than the national average. That is what we want to have in this Province, and our Province and our government should be demanding nothing less.

If that means shaking up Paul Martin, if that means shaking up Jean Chrétien out of his golfing lethargy, if that means shaking up the rest of the people of Canada who don't recognize that what we are doing in this country is treating our poor people and our children in a cruel way, then let's do it. Let's have this government lead the way, let's have our Province lead the way, not just roll over and say: This is wonderful, now, we have $10 million to spend. Neglecting the fact the $10 million comes out of the pockets of the people who would otherwise receive the Child Tax Credit.

We are not talking about just statistics, either. We are talking about real people here. We are talking about real people who have hunger, real people who don't have enough to eat. You know, I have young children, and most members here have young children. If they don't have children of their own, they have grandchildren. You have to have children of your own, I suppose, to have grandchildren. You have nieces or nephews. Everybody knows the needs of children. I find myself, how much milk does a two- or three-year-old drink? When a child is asking for another bottle of milk and someone has to - I don't have to say no to my child. I would very much not want to be a parent who had to say: No, you can't have another bottle of milk because we don't have any milk in the house. We can't afford to buy milk because we don't have enough money.

When it comes around at the end of the month - and I get phone calls from people who are saying: Me and my sixteen-year-old daughter have to go hungry for a couple of days towards the end of the month. That is what they are saying. Me and my daughter, who is in high school, have to go hungry for two or three days until our cheque comes because we have run out of food.

We have a proliferation of food banks in this country. I don't want to blame the people who are volunteering and helping out the food banks, they are doing a wonderful job, but they are doing the work of the government. When the government praises them for it, I say to them: Shame on you for praising someone for doing the work you should be doing in making sure that poverty doesn't exist. I don't think it is right for a government to go around and praise people for, through volunteer effort, setting up food banks and providing food to the hungry. That is the job of government, to have a system that works for poor people and works for poor children.

I don't care if they can say they are doing what they want and they are doing as much as they can. There is something very wrong. When we are one of the wealthiest countries in the world, why is it that our child poverty rate is the second-worst in all of the industrialized world? What are we doing wrong? Do we not care about our children? Or are we lulled into some sense of waiting for the train to come, waiting for prosperity, waiting for the better tomorrow?

I don't care how many million barrels of oil have been discovered off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. I don't care how many million barrels of oil are coming out of one well and being sent to the tankers somewhere else in the world. That doesn't bother me one bit. We can double and triple our GDP, but if we don't distribute our wealth properly - so that we have poor children continuing to live and exist in this country, then all of that is for nought, all of that is wrong.

It is wrong to allow the distribution of wealth, the wealth and poverty, to be stretched to the point that we have the worst record, in this Province, in all of the industrialized world for poor children. We have to do something about it. We can list off all the programs that you are going to do with the money you take out of the poor people's pocket. That is all very well, but I say shame on them if that is what they want to talk about. Shame on them if they amend that motion. If they amend and pass that motion and say: We will help them to the fullest extent possible that we can under the existing Child Tax Benefit, what they are saying is: We won't help them at all. Because the program is designed only to promote attachment to the workforce to subsidize, in fact, low wage jobs.

I did not hear the minister get up in the House today - not this minister, the other minister - and talk about how we have an inadequate minimum wage in this Province. What I heard her say was that some of them are better off on welfare so we have to have programs. Mr. Speaker, if we had a minimum wage that paid a living wage, we would not have that problem. So let's try and address the problem, and not try and make excuses for the fact that we cannot find a solution.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MS BETTNEY: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I would like to take the opportunity before we close here this afternoon to once again speak on the National Child Benefit Program and support the amendment which has been introduced this afternoon.

Mr. Speaker, there has been a lot of emotional rhetoric that has taken place here this afternoon and I agree that the subject, the issue of child poverty, and the issue of helping children who are poor, is an emotional issue and it does tend to lend itself to that kind of rhetoric.

There have been statements made here in the House this afternoon with respect to this. When you talk about stealing from poor children, and making comments that are emotionally loaded, such as these, they really do have to be set straight for the record, Mr. Speaker.

We all know that no one program will address and resolve the issues of poverty that face children and families across this Province. The ministers and the federal government minister, when they met on this time and time again, recognized that there were many, many, facets to the program, or to the issue of child poverty. The ministers had to try and determine: Where was the best place to intervene in the beginning, knowing that this is a large problem, that it will take a long period of time, and that it will take a large amount of resources before we will ever conquer the problem as a whole. The federal and provincial ministers agreed that the way to approach it in the beginning was to start with the attachment to the workforce issue and to start with intervention, early intervention and prevention programs for all children.

The National Child Benefit Program had two facets when it was designed. One part of it was to make it easier for people to be able to work, because we fundamentally believe that people who can work are always better off working. We all know there are many cases across this Province and across this country where people will be in a position of refusing work because they know it is in the best interests of their family and their children, from a financial perspective, that they are better off, they will have more income from social assistance than if they are receiving work at $5.25 and $6.00 and even up to $7.00 an hour.

Mr. Speaker, that is the area that we are trying to address for this purpose with this particular program. In addition to that, we recognize there is a cycle of poverty, there are systemic barriers to poverty, and we have to change attitudes, we have to change the whole approach to early childhood development in this Province if we are going to break those systemic barriers and achieve the kind of outcomes for children's lives that we all want.

Mr. Speaker, when the program was designed, the federal and provincial governments agreed - and this was written and published. Last September this was published by both orders of government to say that the federal would increase its benefits to low income families with children, enabling it to assume more financial responsibility.

Number two - not that we are doing something unilaterally as a Province here - in this document says: Corresponding with the increased federal benefit, provinces and territories will decrease social assistance payments for families with children while ensuring that these families receive at least the same level of overall income support from governments.

Finally, number three: That provinces and territories will reinvest these newly available funds in complementary programs that are targeted at improving work incentives, benefits and services for low income families with children.

Mr. Speaker, that was the express intent of the program that the Province is following through on, as is every other province and territory in this country. This Province is doing nothing different in its intent with its programs and services. But let's look at those programs and services, Mr. Speaker.

We need to look at the value of the kinds of interventions that we will be able to make when we have family resource centres across this Province who are able to provide prenatal nutrition, who are able to provide parenting skills, who are able to provide supports to families and tot-playing programs and all of those good development programs that advocates have been asking and demanding and pleading for, for decades in this Province. Instituting this program now marks a major shift in social policy in this Province. It indicates that as a government we are finally courageous enough to take the step to try something different, that just handing out income support does not break the cycle of poverty. We know that. We know that from experience, not only in this Province but throughout the world.

Now we are suggesting, with the assistance of the federal government, through the infusion of $850 million at this time and another committed $850 million, that we will try something different. We will try what the advocacy groups - what the Select Committee on Children's Interests has asked for, prevention and early intervention programs; what the Social Policy Advisory Committee's report has asked for, prevention and early intervention programs for children, for families, to help them in their development.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, we are at a point where we have enough resources to make that start. But, as one of the previous speakers has indicated, this is not the end of our response to children and to the issue of poverty in this Province. Through this Budget this year we made a number of different responses which will help, but that is not the end of our response. We recognize that as a government we do have further to go, and as our resources become available we can continue to provide increased benefits, that we can continue to provide increased services to children and to families who are in need across this Province. We will have the opportunity to do that, and we are committed to doing that, but we have to work within the constraints of the resources that we have. That is a natural, given part of what we have had to do over the past two years. In any year we have had to make difficult budget choices in order to try and deal with our financial constraints and meet the priorities that exist in our Province, in a variety of social areas.

So this is a very important issue and I think it is important that we get accurate information out when we are talking about it. I am concerned with all of the families on social assistance. I know that in receiving this benefit from the federal government it is difficult for them, as individuals, to see an adjustment made on their provincial cheques. I understand, as individuals, that they would prefer to keep that, but the reality is that we had to make a choice. When you have the programs and services that we feel are priority here, when we know that we can do something of real value to finally make a dent in that cycle of poverty, we have to determine: Is it worth sacrificing those programs and services?

As I said before, I am committed 100 per cent to taking the kind of active social measures that we have outlined in the National Child Benefit Program. The resources that we have applied to try and deliver those programs and services come from the recovery of the supplement that the federal government provides. It does that by design. It does that by agreement. It happens throughout the country. We have all committed, as ministers, that not only will the federal government commit itself to try and increase the level of that income benefit so that ultimately we will be able to say that social assistance children, and children throughout this Province, no longer are on social assistance.

There is an income benefit that is provided, both federally and provincially, that supports them so they are not trapped in that cycle of welfare, as everybody knows it. As we are able to then contribute more to this benefit, we will realize the goal that I think both sides of this House support. Because in all of this debate, in all of the discussion that has gone on, all of the calls that I have had from individuals, and the support that I have received from the social advocates throughout this Province, they recognize that there are poor children in this Province, that there are poor families and that we have to continue to strive, to the best of our ability as individuals, as a government, as advocacy groups, as communities, to better improve the life circumstances of those children and families.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I would say to you, as well, that we know there are low-income families in this Province today who are working, and they are what we know as the working poor. The main intent of the National Child Benefit Program is twofold. It is to address the difference in income levels that exist between children in families on social assistance and children who are in working poor families, but it is very much to have the resources, as well, to finally put in place the kind of early intervention, prevention programs for children and their families that will really make a difference in their lives as they grow up and into the future.

So, Mr. Speaker, I fully support the program. I fully support the amendment that is brought here today, because what it does is say that we will work to the best of our ability, as a government, as government members and as this House of Assembly, to make sure that children who live in social assistance families, access as much as is possible the benefit, the very real benefit, that this National Child Benefit Program brings to poor children in this Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Cartwright - L'Anse au Clair.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I should point out to the member that at 4:45 p.m., which is in two minutes time, the procedure would be to recognize the hon. Member for St. John's West.

The hon. the Member for Cartwright - L'Anse au Clair.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to rise today and make a few comments on the resolution and amendment that were put forward.

I think it was back in April of last year when I started looking at the social assistance recipients in my district. I was getting a lot of calls up there in terms of the difficult times that they were having in trying to provide for their families and so on. So, I took it upon myself, at that time, to kind of do an evaluation and make an analysis of people on social assistance in Labrador as compared to people in other parts of the Province, in terms of what services they were receiving and how it was impacting upon them.

I must say, the results were remarkably surprising to me, and obviously that was submitted to the minister and her department, at that time, for review.

We were discovering, at that time, that the prices of food for people who are living in these communities was anywhere between 40 per cent and 165 per cent, in the case of certain communities like Black Tickle in Labrador, greater than in other parts of the Province. I made that comparison. It was done according to the Newfoundland Dietetic Association and a nutritious basket that they distribute for families. They average the cost for four at $120 a week. So we were looking at substantially higher costs in Labrador, and today the cost has still not changed.

Also, at that time, I brought to their attention the fuel allowances for people who are on low income, and social assistance families in Coastal Labrador. They are receiving about ninety dollars a month to cover fuel allowances, but the average householder right now is spending an average of about $396 a month on home heating oil, and the fuel allowance that is allocated to cover that is certainly inadequate.

I guess, having said that, I want to point out that the National Child Benefit Program was a national commitment on behalf of the federal government to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000. I think the programs are necessary, that the minister speaks of today, and can go a long way in terms of adding to the services to people on social assistance. I think what we are doing by making the people that are the recipients of the program pay for these services is we are counteracting the strategies of the federal government to meet these targets. I think what we should do is look at how we can enhance the strategies wherever possible.

I think some of the initiatives that are looked at are good ones, but the people who are presently on social assistance should not be the people who are paying for those programs. The children on welfare, I recognize, are paying to enhance the services of the department and promote employment opportunities for people on welfare. This is not right. I do not think these children should be penalized any more than they are being penalized in society right now, and I think we have to make that change.

I also want to point out that presently people residing in rural Newfoundland and in Labrador, on the coast in my district, certainly are not going to see a great deal of benefit from a lot of these programs and services; especially when you look at parenting skills, early intervention, prenatal intervention and so on. Certainly, we do not have the structure within the communities right now to deliver such programs. How they will be delivered to reach people in rural areas of the Province, I have not seen anything on that yet; and I would ask how the delivery of these programs will work and how the benefits will reach the people there.

What I see instead, Mr. Speaker, is people in my district having to pay for a service that they will not be receiving, and that concerns me a great deal. Because when you look at how the department is structured right now, just in my district alone, in the last two years, actually since 1995, we have had a position for a social worker that has been vacant in that area. So the people who are recipients of the program do not even have a social worker in the area where they can receive direct services from that position. So I would have to question how these other services are going to be provided to the people who are up there.

I guess the other thing that I would want to point out is that, if there are benefits - and obviously there are benefits under this program, under the National Child Benefit, that can revert to people who are living in this Province. I think they should.

I would like to point out that, even today, when I ran up to my office and I went through my messages; out of these here I had four calls today from people who are losing benefits because of taxes. Their benefits are being clawed back. Some of them are being disentitled up until July. These people have children who they have to provide for, who are in school.

In the case of this individual, and others that I have here, people who are receiving $407 a month in pensions, their benefits are being clawed back because of the fisheries licence buy-back program, and they are incurring a cost of something like $386 a month in drugs, and no assistance to these people.

If there are benefits that can accrue because of the National Child Benefit program, they should accrue to those people, because they aren't receiving it at present. I think the structure of the programs that are being put in place, if they are going to benefit everyone, they have to be directed to benefit people in rural Newfoundland and Labrador as well. I don't think it is the people on the program that should pay for them. I think their money should come from other sources and other revenue, and I think that the people who are being penalized right now in society for being poor should not be penalized further. We have to look at a way that we can help these people and not cause them more hardship and frustration in their lives.

Having said that, Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to make a few comments today.

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

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

I've listened with interest today to the arguments and discussions on this motion and on the amendment.

The Member for Burgeo & LaPoile said that the federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible got together and they agreed with this program that would create all the programs for the people in low-income families and for social assistance recipients, and that these programs would make our children more productive in society. Sir, I have no argument with that.

I agree that we should remove as many people as possible from social assistance. I have no argument with that.

As the National Child Benefit evolves, you said children will be off social assistance. That is the plan, and I agree with the plan. But you said it was not being clawed back.

There are a couple of places where I find, both in the provincial government's Budget and in the federal budget - provincial social assistance benefits to families with children will decrease by the same amount. So it is being given and it is being taken back. Clawed back, taken back, decreased or whatever, it is being taken back.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) put there in the first place.

MS S. OSBORNE: Well, then, if it was never - you are discriminating. If it was never intended to be put there in the first place it should not be given to the poor and taken from the poorest. This is what is happening, exactly what is happening. These work incentives are great. They will help people get off social assistance. The incentives for people on low income to stay working because they get to keep the National Child Benefits are great. I have been a proponent that people who are on low income should be encouraged to stay working. They should be given benefits. They should not suffer because they work for minimum wage.

Job incentives are not great if there are no jobs. There are people calling my office daily asking for the list of jobs that are out there so their children who have just graduated from post-secondary school, who have worn out their shoes looking for jobs, can go apply there. So if these people who have diplomas from post-secondary institutions cannot get jobs, how do we expect people on social assistance, who have been out of the workforce for years, to get jobs? This is another flaw.

There will be people in rural Newfoundland who will probably be enticed, because if they are living in a community where there are no jobs, and they are looking at the people who are living next door to the poor in the next community who have a job keeping their Child Benefit, they could be enticed to move to take advantage of the National Child Benefit, because they might get a job in another community. Is this another form of resettlement? Another form of forcing rural Newfoundland to die? Another program?

The Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation said: People have been waiting for us to provide programs like this. I am one of the people who have been waiting for programs like this. We need programs like this; however, I did not anticipate that the poorest children in our Province would pay for these programs.

My colleague from Cartwright - L'Anse au Clair said how the programs would affect rural Newfoundland, how they would affect small communities in Coastal Labrador, and the minister said the cost of living allowance was $150 a month. These people asked for $300 a month. One hundred-and-fifty dollars a month will only half cover their needs.

Children in this Province have been poor for a long time, and

they are being made poorer. We have struggled with child poverty - yes, we have struggled with child poverty - and what did we do to address it? We also struggled with the deficit. What did we take care of first? What did this government take care of first, its deficit or child poverty? To answer that question, look at what has been taken care of first, look at what was resolved first: the deficit, on the backs of child poverty.

The words of the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, praised the federal government. She was giving it out like she was an MP in Ottawa selling the program. They should have been fighting their federal cousins in Ottawa, fighting this very program that is going to pillage and plunder the social assistance recipients, the social assistance families in this Province. The minister said: We are courageous to try something different. Congratulations. I have told the Minister of Human Resources and Employment time and time again, I agree with the programs, I agree with family resource centres, I agree with work incentives, I agree with taking care of people who are low income families, and you made a choice.

You chose to go along with, to concur with, to agree with, your cousins in Ottawa to steal, rob, pillage, claw back, decrease this money from the children so you can pat yourself on the back by introducing these programs. The social advocates are supporting the programs. Are they supporting the source of the money that goes into these programs? The resources for early intervention, they are all wonderful. You said you are hoping that the families, the children on social assistance, can access these programs as much as possible. If there is one family on this program who cannot access it, that means one family of children is paying for programs out of money they should have for programs that they can never take advantage of.

AN HON. MEMBER: What are they doing in Ontario?

MS S. OSBORNE: I have no idea what they are doing in Ontario; I have no idea.

As part of the National Child Benefit system, social assistance payments made by provinces and territories will be adjusted. Adjusted, clawed back, decreased, whatever it is, these children own that money. We have adjusted, decreased, clawed back this money and, as I said, if there is only one family of children in this Province not able to access this program then they are paying for something they cannot use, and they are not having the choice to have their own money.

AN HON. MEMBER: What are they doing in Prince Edward Island?

MS S. OSBORNE: I do not care what they are doing in Prince Edward Island. I care about the 72.1 per cent of the children in this Province who are children of single parent families. Are you proud? Are you proud that we can wave around and say, 72.1 per cent? Look, we topped the list; 72.1 per cent of poor children are living below the poverty rate. That is what we are doing in Newfoundland, Sir!

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS S. OSBORNE: I do not know what they are doing in Prince Edward Island. Oh, well, they have 45.3 per cent. That is what they are doing. What we are doing in Newfoundland with the 75.1 per cent of children in poverty is what I am concerned about.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair is ready to call the question. We are voting on the amendment.

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


MR. SPEAKER: Against?


On motion, amendment carried.

MR. SPEAKER: We are now voting on the resolution as amended.

All those in favour, `aye'.


MR. SPEAKER: Against?

On motion, resolution as amended carried.

MR. SPEAKER: This House stands adjourned until tomorrow, Thursday, at 2:00 p.m.