The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

Before we begin our routine proceedings, the Chair would like to welcome today seventy-three Grade IV students from St. Augustine's School in Kilbride, and they are accompanied by their teachers: Ms Ann Marie Alacoque; Betty Pittman; Veronica Mahoney, Heather Coultas and chaperons: Mrs. Sudworth; Mrs. Waterman; Mr. Lee; Mr. O'Reilley and Mr. Garberg.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: As well, we have in the galleries today, Mayor Harry Cooper of the Town of Twillingate.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair would also like to recognize at this time Father Coulton from Ontario as well as Ms. Susan Kilfoy and Members of the Marystown Right to Life Association.


Statements by Ministers


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

MS BETTNEY: Mr. Speaker, Tuesday, May 19 will mark the beginning of a series of nine public meetings held throughout the Province to receive input on the most effective and efficient use of resources to improve literacy. A Consultation Paper and Workbook has been developed which will be used as a guide for these consultations.

Mr. Speaker, at the beginning of the year, the provincial government announced its intention to develop a Strategic Plan on Literacy through consultation with stakeholders. Ms Luanne Leamon has assumed responsibility for developing the Strategic Plan under a special one-year assignment to the Literacy Development Council of Newfoundland and Labrador. She will be working closely with learners, community groups, volunteers, professionals, industry, labour, the Literacy Development Council and both levels of government. The Plan will look at literacy for all ages, both within and outside of the formal education system. A Literacy Strategic Planning Unit has been established and a Steering Committee consisting of stakeholders has been meeting on a regular basis to provide guidance.

Mr. Speaker, Literacy development is a lifelong process and an important part of many functions in today's society including employment, contribution to community life and citizenship, personal fulfillment and safety. We need different skills than what we needed in the past. Our economy and related employment opportunities are changing. Our children deserve an education which will prepare them to develop their full potential, and our adult population needs to be able to take advantage of changing opportunities.

Mr. Speaker, community and client involvement is an integral part of developing this plan. I encourage everyone to participate in this process.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

It gives me great pleasure to respond to this statement and thank you, Madam Minister, for providing me with a copy of your statement.

Literacy is an important thing for everybody. It is extremely sad when you see an adult who is holding a book, pretending to be able to read, or who goes in to do business in a bank or some other institution and has to fake the fact that they are unable to read. I think this is commendable. It is a commendable thing to have all of our population educated. It will help break the cycle of poverty, because when people are more educated, are able to get out there and learn, be prepared for employment and the challenges that meet them today, then they will be better able to take care of themselves and their families. I look forward to taking part in this process.

Thank you very much.

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: I thank the minister for a copy of her statement on literacy. We obviously have to support any efforts in the area of literacy.

I have to say that I question the commitment of government in the area of literacy, Mr. Speaker. The government, several years ago, wiped out the Adult Basic Education Program which was offered by professional instructors in the public college system, in dozens and dozens of colleges around the Province.

There has been a tremendous amount of planning done, and advice to government over the years. Why we have to engage in other planning processes, is beyond me, Mr. Speaker. We should be making a commitment to the eradication of illiteracy, and getting at it.

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

Does she have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I just want to commend the minister on the initiative that she has taken with regard to literacy, and to point out that literacy groups across the Province are doing a tremendous job.

I know firsthand in rural Labrador, in the community where I live, that we have had a number of literacy coalitions that have not only provided the service of tutoring and so on to people within the community, but also developed the tools to do that. They have documented the culture, the tradition of the people who are participants, so they can learn, firsthand, from their own experiences.

I also want to say that they have done a tremendous job in providing programs like books for babies, and also reading circles, to communities where children did not have the opportunity to participate in forums like that. I welcome the commitment of this government to continue with that process so that literacy reaches a broad spectrum of people, adult and children alike.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, in the Budget of March 26 this year, government announced a major new investment in education with the establishment of the Newfoundland and Labrador Education Investment Corporation. A budget of $50 million was established for the next two fiscal years.

As all members know, the Corporation was set up to facilitate the construction, renovation, extension and equipping of educational facilities throughout the Province.

Shortly after this initiative was unveiled, we invited school boards to submit a list of priorities from all ten districts for school repairs and maintenance to be carried out during this summer season.

Mr. Speaker, I want to inform the House today that collectively the boards have submitted a very long list of prospective projects for the Investment Corporation's consideration. The Corporation, in cooperation with school boards, is currently evaluating all proposals and expects to be in a position to approve numerous projects in all ten districts so that necessary work can begin immediately upon the closing of schools for the summer break.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. GRIMES: We are expecting that major improvements will be carried out in as many as 100 schools this coming summer.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. GRIMES: Not only will these initiatives significantly improve the physical appearance of schools throughout the Province, but will also provide much needed work for people in many areas.

The $50 million fund through the Education Investment Corporation for capital related works in our schools represents the largest single investment in educational infrastructure in Newfoundland and Labrador since Confederation with Canada.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. GRIMES: This program this summer, Mr. Speaker, will also be the most ambitious maintenance and repair program ever carried out in the schools of the Province during any summer break period.

Mr. Speaker, as part of the educational reform process, we are delivering on our commitment to improve educational facilities in Newfoundland and Labrador and provide a safer, cleaner, healthier environment for all students, teachers, and school workers.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

Mr. Speaker, we must put it in context. First of all, the minister sat on the air quality report for nearly two years and would not let it be released properly. Then, last year there was $20 million in the budget for capital money, of which only $2 million was spent. Some of the $50 million is actually money that did not get spent last year.

Then, on March 22, the minister said he suspected a decade of neglecting school maintenance due to tight budgets contributed to the air quality problems. He further said: There is no question, forcing school boards to live within meagre and shrinking budgets has contributed to the sick school syndrome.

He further said: We are paying the price now for decisions that have been taken in the last decade to restrict the budgets by tightening down on the amount of money spent on regular school maintenance.

Mr. Speaker, what we have here is an admission - again, putting it in context, his statements were on March 22 and the Budget was on March 26. On May 7 he made a statement saying they were going to address the issue. Today he tells us -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, the children of this Province need more than lip service. They want action, and they want it now.

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 thank the minister for an advance copy of his statement.

We, of course, are pleased to see that long delayed, long overdue repairs and maintenance to schools throughout the Province are going to be undertaken, and the fact that 100 schools will be assisted in these improvements.

The question I have to ask is: Who is making these decisions? I understand they are now being reviewed and I would like to know, Mr. Speaker, to what extent there will be political interference in the choices of schools to receive this long overdue maintenance. There is no indication here of consultations with the corporation or with the school boards themselves. I would like to know what kind of hand the minister is going to have in dictating which schools get assistance and which ones do not?

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

MR. McLEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I first of all apologise to the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi for not receiving a copy of my statement.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce the award of an $8,446,860 contract to S.M. Construction for the upgrading of approximately fifty-six kilometres of the Trans-Labrador Highway from Cache River to Wilson River.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. McLEAN: Mr. Speaker, the award of this contract brings the Province's total commitment for the Trans-Labrador Highway project this year to $36 million. This includes $500,000 for planning, environmental assessment and design of Phase II of the project between Red Bay and Cartwright.

During the past two months, two contracts were awarded to S.M. Construction for the upgrading of 24.7 kilometres of highway from Wilson River to Metchin River, and 32 kilometres from Metchin River to Rapids Brook. Two contracts were also awarded, Mr. Speaker, to Labrador Construction for the upgrading of 21.6 kilometres from Rapids Brook to Churchill Falls, and 42 kilometres from Churchill Falls to the Esker Intersection.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. McLEAN: Together with the carry-over contracts for upgrading between Bob's Brook and Cache River, and Lower Brook to Pope's Hill, a total of 210 kilometres of highway between Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Esker will be under construction this year.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. McLEAN: The Department of Works, Services and Transportation anticipates that all work, with the exception of approximately 15 kilometres between Cache River and Wilson River, will be completed this year.

Mr. Speaker, in April, 1997, the government made a commitment to complete the upgrading of the Labrador Highway between Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Churchill Falls in three years. The projects being announced today will result in the work being substantially completed in two years.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. McLEAN: Work is ongoing on the environmental assessment for Phase II between Red Bay and Cartwright. I am hoping environmental approvals will be in place for the 1999 construction season. This being the case, government intends to construct Phase II in four construction seasons, thus fulfilling the original commitment of completing Phase II in six years. Government recognizes that it is a major undertaking to complete the road in four seasons, but the Department of Works, Services and Transportation has been assured by contractors and in-house engineering staff that it can be done.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to report this good news, to outline what work is being done on the Trans-Labrador Highway, and to re-state government's strong commitment to the Trans-Labrador Highway project. This project represents a very aggressive construction phase for this section of the highway.

Mr. Speaker, government will continue an open and regular dialogue with the trucking community and the public at large to minimize the local concerns.

Last year government spent $16 million on construction of this highway between Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Churchill Falls and created 230 direct jobs. This year our expenditure will be $36 million, and government estimates that the direct jobs created will be in the order of 510, with many more in associated work.

The Minister of Works, Services and Transportation and I will work with the contractors to maximize employment for residents of Labrador again this year.

The Member for Labrador West and I will be in Labrador tonight and tomorrow to brief local representatives and interested groups and give them a complete overview of this project.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the minister for his apology again today. We had an apology yesterday from the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, an apology today from the Minister of Government Services and Lands, on not presenting me with their statements.

In the meantime I am just wondering - this is just another announcement on the Trans-Labrador Highway - will the Trans-Labrador Highway be extended by maybe a couple of hundred kilometres with respect to the mileage that this government is going to get out of the announcements they are putting forward?

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, I would like to say that it is good to see that this Administration has announced it at least another fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, tenth time, Mr. Speaker. In the meantime, at least they are living up to one of their commitments in spending some money on the Trans-Labrador Highway. I congratulate them on that, Mr. Speaker. It is positive with respect to 510 jobs. Obviously any jobs created in the Province is a benefit to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and so be it.

Another point, of course, is the trucking industry. We have seen shows - any people who have not travelled the highway in Labrador - on the condition of the road over the past number of years, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: As usual, the only nonsensical statements made here in this House of Assembly are made by yourself, Premier.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, the trucking industry will be pleased with this because the condition of that road over the years has normally been a pathetic situation.

I say to the ministers opposite, the Minister of Government Services and Lands, the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, any time you want to get up and apologise to me, I will accept your apology.

Thank you.

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

By leave.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would just like to say that I support the efforts of government to move speedily -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HARRIS: - to move speedily with the construction and the improvement of the Trans-Labrador Highway. It is a very important project not only to the citizens of Labrador but to all the citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Cartwright - L'Anse au Clair, does she have leave?

By leave.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased to hear that construction will continue on the road from Churchill Falls to Goose Bay this year. I must say, I am extremely pleased to see that the contract for this construction has been awarded to a Labrador-based company. At the same time, I also have to stress the importance and the necessity of moving forward to the Phase II section of the Trans-Labrador Highway.

Taking into consideration and understanding the environmental assessment and the procedure that must be undertaken, I still have to stress the importance of moving this road forward as soon as possible. Every day, week and month we are delayed, it is causing concern for communities there, and the people who live there, in order to be able to carry on in everyday life and build an economy for their communities.

So I would say at this point that I welcome the day when the minister, my colleague, can stand in the House and tell me that Phase II of this road has been awarded to construction.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


Oral Questions


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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

In the federal budget in February, measures were outlined and announced by the federal Finance Minister with respect to assisting students with spiralling student debt. Now we see that those announcements today have found themselves into a bill before the House of Commons called, Bill C-36. An announcement is one thing; the details always reveal something else.

In this particular bill there are amendments being made to the Bankruptcy Insolvency Act which says that any students who wish to declare bankruptcy right now have a period of two years. Amendments to that act are going to extend it for ten years. In other words, I say to the Premier, because of the lack of economic opportunities for graduates from our post-secondary institutions, many have found the situation where they have no other choice but to declare debt. Now the federal government's response to that situation is to extend the period by which they cannot declare bankruptcy.

Will the Premier or his government join with me today in condemning this particular provision or amendments to the Bankruptcy Insolvency Act?

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


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Yes, we will take a look at that.

MR. SULLIVAN: You will what? What did he say?

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

MR. E. BYRNE: I believe the Minister of Finance said, `Yes, we will take a look at that'. That is not the question I asked.

The question I asked is: Will the government join with the Opposition today in condemning this piece of legislation that does nothing to help students in this country, and in particular in this Province?

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

MR. DICKS: Mr. Speaker, bankruptcy law is a matter of federal jurisdiction and the Province has no direct or other role to play. The concerns the hon. member is expressing may very well be legitimate and he may have the right idea, but he also may have the wrong chamber.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: It is obvious, Mr. Speaker, that when the Millennium Fund was announced, this government was quick to praise the federal government.

My question today comes from a bill before the House of Commons, so the member does, in fact, know what he is talking about. Sections that relate to it clearly indicate that students, because of lack of opportunities, because of lack of jobs for graduates, that the federal government's answer in solving this problem is to extend the period of time by which people can declare bankruptcy on a student loan from two years to ten.

Now, will the government join with us today in condemning this piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition has brought to the attention of the House a bill, a draft bill which is before the House of Commons, and provisions of the bill which he says ought to raise concern for those who are involved in the whole issue of student debt, student indebtedness, and the whole question of appropriate financing for students during their time in university.

Mr. Speaker, this is new information. The Minister of Finance has said we will take a look at it. Indeed we will, and if we need to make representation we will. But obviously this is a matter before the Parliament of Canada and I think I can say, speaking on behalf of the government, it is not something which has come on the agenda of this government. It is something we will be looking into, and we will make comment as we deem it appropriate.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, in light of the information, the question, and in particular in light of the answer that the Premier has just given, would he consider his support for the Millennium Fund right now somewhat premature as a result of the provisions that are contained in this piece of legislation?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I think it is pretty obvious to anybody who is listening to the debate in the House or outside the House, that for the Leader of the Opposition to stand up and say: I have just gotten knowledge of a bill before the federal Parliament, it has x, y or z information in it, will you join me in condemning the bill, before anybody on this side has had any chance to see the bill, that is not a reasonable proposition.

We have just responded to the Leader of the Opposition by saying: Yes, we will look at the bill, we will take it under consideration, and if we deem it appropriate to comment on it publicly or to make representation to the federal government, that we will be glad to do.

The Leader of the Opposition knows that while we welcomed the Millennium Fund, we did not welcome the fact that it did not take effect until the year 2000, and that is the reason this government has provided some $4 million worth of assistance as an interim measure to students who have greatest need.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, this is somewhat startling - for the Premier who several months ago talked about the need for a First Ministers' Conference and this would be one of the highest priorities. What we see coming from the federal government really is a slap in the face to students and the concerns that face them, particularly student debt, student employment -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

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

I would like to ask the Premier this: The problems are not just the federal government's but they are each government's. Is he aware that there were 1,200 bankruptcies in this Province last year, and over 400 of them were students with respect to student aid and spiralling debt problems?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I am glad that the Leader of the Opposition, by the change of tact in his question, has acknowledged it is quite reasonable for the government to examine a bill before we comment on it or condemn it or praise it or anything else.

With respect to the problem of students and student indebtedness, and the opportunity for students to work, we are very much aware of that problem. That is why we were very pleased to note, as the Minister of Finance did yesterday, that we have had some very significant job growth in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador; indeed, 9,000 more jobs this April, the month for which the latest statistics are available, over a year ago. Indeed, the Evening Telegram, in an editorial today, has noted that this is the third highest employment level ever in the history of the Province, that we are now just 3,000 jobs away from a new historical record.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, notwithstanding the positive growth in the economy, nevertheless we recognize that special and targeted measures are needed for students. Indeed, the Member for Terra Nova has raised this ever matter in the House. That is why we provided $7.5 million this year for student employment and that is why we provided $4 million as interim assistance prior to the coming into being of the millennium fund.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. the Premier to finish his answer.

PREMIER TOBIN: If there are other measures that are ought to be considered, we are open to considering them.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, the Premier has missed the point. The provincial initiatives announced in the provincial Budget and the federal government's millennium fund will probably have the same impact as arresting the Estai did on curbing foreign overfishing on the nose and tail of the Grand Banks.

The reality is this: That there is a piece of legislation coming before the House of commons - there was a bulletin issued today by the Canadian Insolvency Practitioners Association condemning this action because it happened without consultation. It was only a year ago that this particular piece of federal law was changed again.

I am asking the Premier today: Based upon what I am bringing forward - I can give him a copy of it - will he join with me in condemning this initiative and this provision taken by the federal government? Yes or no, Premier.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition is making us aware of a bill that is before the federal parliament or a provision of a bill. Is he telling us the bill is passed, or the bill is being studied by the federal Parliament? I am asking the question to the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. E. BYRNE: The legislation is before the House.

PREMIER TOBIN: Well, it is before the House. The Leader of the Opposition knows that when a bill, and when the provisions of the bill, are before the House of Commons, they are there for consideration through first, second and third reading. There will be a period of committee study. There will be representation by all of those who will be affected by the provisions of that bill. There is very often, in fact, almost always a degree of amendment and there will be an opportunity for those who want to be heard, to be heard.

Once we have a chance to look at the bill, which is brought to our attention, we will examine it and see what impact it has on students in Newfoundland and Labrador. If we think the provisions are onerous or not helpful, we will comment to the negative. We will tell the government of Canada that.

Mr. Speaker, for the Leader of the Opposition to stand in his place and say, `I am making you aware of this, you do not have a copy of the bill, you have not seen it yet, you have not studied it yet, but condemn it without seeing it,' Mr. Speaker, that is not responsible and that is not the way the parliamentary process works or should work.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: What is obvious, Mr. Speaker, is that between the federal government and its department, and the provincial government and its department, the Department of Education, there is no communication on the subject.

This bill is intended to be passed by June. That is the understanding I have been given, which is about two weeks from now. I would suggest to the Premier, I can provide him with a copy of the impacts with respect to the Millennium fund and the bill, which he has not sought to get himself.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

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

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

I can provide it to him.

I ask the Premier today, if he shares my assessment that this provision should not take place. Will he stand with me and the Opposition and condemn this particular piece of legislation?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, anything that is occurring, that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador opposes, we will publicly oppose no matter what the source of the proposal, be it federal government, another provincial government or for that matter the Leader of the Opposition.

I would say to the Leader of the Opposition: To expect that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is going to be cognizant of every piece of legislation going through the Parliament of Canada and be ready to comment on it, or support or condemn it, sight unseen, is not the way the parliamentary process works. That is why, both in this House and in the National Parliament, and in every legislature in Canada, and in every legislature subject to the British parliamentary tradition, there is a process of first, second, and third reading of bills, there is a process of review, there is an opportunity for public comment, there is an opportunity for study and there is an opportunity for amendment.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. Premier to complete his answer.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, in conclusion, now that this matter has been brought to our attention, we will examine it and comment, once we have seen the facts.

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

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

If we were to bottle any and all of water for export we would create more jobs and more benefits for the people of Grand Le Pierre and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. There is a water shortage in more than eighty countries of the world, and the World Bank predicts this is going to grow significantly. Even in areas where there is no water shortage, such as Newfoundland, many people are drinking bottled water.

If we were to market our bottled water I'm sure we would have no trouble selling it to the world. We have one of the most pristine water supplies in the world. We would have a great resource supplying many jobs and far more royalties than if we were to export it as a raw resource.

Minister, have you spoken to your federal counterparts, particularly in the Department of Foreign Affairs, regarding the export of water? If so, how do they feel about the export of water from this Province?

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

MS FOOTE: Mr. Speaker, let's get something clear here; the hon. member opposite is talking hypothetically. What we have at this point in time is a proponent who has suggested a proposal which will see the export of water. But, Mr. Speaker, there is a process to be followed here, and that process first sees that proponent registering under the Environmental Assessment Act. Once the proponent does that, he then has to go through an environmental impact study. This takes time. Once that is completed, then there is an environmental assessment study that includes a public component, so that the public would have a say in this proposal. This is going to take some time.

What the hon. member is talking about is very hypothetical. There is a process to be followed, and this government doesn't turn thumbs down when there is a process to be followed, Mr. Speaker. We let it take its course. That proposal may never see the light of day, but the fact of the matter is there is a process in place and we are allowing that process to happen.

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

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

"What we are looking at is the real question of the large-scale export of fresh water, which we certainly have always taken a strong stand against." This is a direct quote from the Foreign Affairs Minister, Lloyd Axworthy.

"We are still opposed to the large-scale export of water, and that includes by tanker." That is a quote from Sophie Legendre, a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

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

Minister, will you reconsider the possibility, hypothetically speaking, of the export of water in bulk from this Province, and do what British Columbia had done before they placed a moratorium on water export; that is, to ensure that any water to be exported from this Province is to be processed and placed in a container?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS FOOTE: Mr. Speaker, there is absolutely nothing to reconsider. There is no bulk water being exported from this Province. I don't know what we are supposed to reconsider here. The fact of the matter is that with respect to NAFTA there are some issues there, but even the federal government is talking to its trade officials. There are as many opinions on this issue as there are people to give them. So, we are waiting to hear.

Obviously we have no intention in this Province of allowing for the export of bulk water to be bottled somewhere else, or to allow a company to come into Newfoundland and export bulk water. That was never our intention. We would never agree to something like that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. T. OSBORNE: Many of the country's leading experts have said that to export water as a raw resource may cause problems with NAFTA. I agree, there may be some differences of opinion.

I ask the minister: Would she agree to wait until the NAFTA lawyers, the federal experts, the federal governments of the NAFTA partners, who are now working to determine an answer to this question, figure out their position and their answer, before she continues to play Russian Roulette with our water rights and consider water exports in bulk.

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

MS FOOTE: As I said previously in an answer, Mr. Speaker, there is a process that is underway. That process takes time. I am sure most people know that when you do the Environmental Impact Study, when you look at the assessment process, it takes time.

Yes, the federal government is looking at all of the issues surrounding the export of bulk water. Yes, they have agreed to meet with the Provinces on this issue later this summer. Yes, Mr. Speaker, I will be participating in those meetings.

There is nothing to wait for. We are going through a process. Let the process take its course.

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

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

I ask the minister: Considering she referred to the hypothetical proposal on the table yesterday, as for irrigation purposes - I have spoken to officials in the Department of Environment and I see nowhere in that proposal for irrigation purposes - will she clarify whether or not this water is for irrigation purposes, or was it in this proposal for drinking water purposes?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Industry, Trade and Technology.

MS FOOTE: Mr. Speaker, the proposal is not specific with respect to irrigation, but everybody knows that if you are looking at exporting bulk water there is a possibility of a number of uses. One can be irrigation, one can be use in -

MR. T. OSBORNE: There is no (inaudible) of irrigation.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS FOOTE: - cooling down an oil refinery, for instance. There are a number of uses for bulk water. But the proposal is not specific in terms of what use is intended for the bulk water. Remember, in that proposal there are two components: One is bulk water, and another is a bottling plant, Mr. Speaker.

Again it is hypothetical here, Mr. Speaker. There is a process to be followed, and we are following the process.

AN HON. MEMBER: Very hypothetical.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question is for the Premier in regard to the Fishery Resources Conservation Council. The Premier will know that this council is an independent body representing industry, science and interested individuals, as well as fishers, with a mandate to ensure, first of all, conservation of fish stocks.

Mr. Speaker, about a month ago, when the report came out, the Minister of Fisheries condemned, not only the report for its, in his terms, lack of a seal cull, but he also took the position that FRCC should be disbanded and destroyed, and apparently has taken his concerns to the Minister of Fisheries in Ottawa.

What I want to know, Mr. Speaker, is whether or not the Premier, who was a strong supporter of the FRCC when he was Minister of Fisheries, agrees with the provincial Minister of Fisheries, or whether the position of the Minister of Fisheries with respect to disbanding the FRCC is the position of his government?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture for Newfoundland and Labrador put forward the position that he thought there ought to be a more rapid increase in the cull of the number of seals taken off our coast, given the size of the population, last estimated at about 6 million animals. What the minister has said is, given the impact of the seal population on the recovery of the depleted fish stocks, there ought to be a larger cull than that which has been taken thus far this year. He also pointed out, the market can bear a larger share of the products from these animals.

Now, this is entirely the position of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, and I would hope it is the position, as well, of the Leader of the NDP.

I was very heartened to read in the paper that we now have a declaration, for example, by the Minister of Environment for the Province of Manitoba, amongst others, endorsing the position of the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

He has done a superb job of making our case, very clearly, very powerfully; and, by the way, gaining support across Canada for the reality of the Newfoundland and Labrador seal hunt.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, any time any member of the House, let alone the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, does that, we should encourage and we should support the member.

I know that the Leader of NDP will stand in his place, in a minute, and clear up any confusion and make clear that he fully supports the Minister in this important work.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask to the Hon. the Premier to conclude his answer.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you Mr. Speaker.

As is plain, the Premier did not respond to the question with respect to the FRCC.

Since he is praiseworthy of the minister, Mr. Speaker, I wonder can he agree that the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture was speaking for him and his government when he said in the House on May 4: "But, Mr. Speaker, I would like to see the 6 million seals, or whatever number is out there, killed and sold, or destroyed or burned; I do not care what happens to them."?

Is that the position of the Premier of this Province, Mr. Speaker? Or is that a statement of a Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture who has gone wild, who is out of control, who has lost it -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. member to take his seat.

MR. HARRIS: - and who is going to destroy the reputation of this Province, and going to destroy -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member has asked his question. I ask him to take his seat.

MR. HARRIS: - the seal fishery, and all the fisheries of this Province.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, for a moment there I thought we had a card-carrying member of the FFAW sneak into the House of Assembly and attack the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. I was shocked to see the Leader of the New Democratic Party, who otherwise will ask very sensible questions, attack the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture in that fashion when he is not in the House to defend himself. That is a terrible thing for the Leader of the NDP to do.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, to the specific question of the Leader of the NDP regarding -


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the Official Opposition doesn't want me to answer this important question. Regarding the specific question regarding the future of the FRCC, the Fisheries Resources Conservation Council, it is the position of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, and I know it is the position of the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture as well, that we want the FRCC, which is an independent body, to work well, to do the job that it is doing on behalf of the fishermen of Newfoundland and Labrador, and to provide an objective third-party comment on the state of stocks in this Province, and to ensure that conservation remains number one.

I don't think there is anything inconsistent with that expressed desire and the reality that was raised by the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, that when the FRCC does not comment on a resource like seals - which are growing in number, which are having an impact on recovery - and when they are not making a comment suggesting an increase in that resource, I find nothing wrong with the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture raising that point. That is what he has done.

In so far as the FRCC itself is concerned, there is no question. We want it to work, we want it to work well, we want it to take up all the issues, including seals.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Having assured the House that the Premier and his government do not support the statement of the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture to disband the FRCC, will he now condemn the statement made by the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture in this House about the destruction of 6 million seals as an affront to the sensible, responsible kind of government we should have in this Province? Because our reputation, not only in this Province but throughout the world, is at stake.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, there is absolutely no chance that I am going to stand in this House, and there is absolutely no chance that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador would tolerate any individual standing in this House and calling irresponsible, or condemning, the fantastic work that is being done by the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture on behalf of the fishermen and fish plant workers of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I think everybody in this House knows - and I would ask your tolerance - that the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture is a gentleman of unusual passion, unusual persuasion, with a fond and strong attachment to the English language, and he uses it with great effect. If on occasion, in the excitement of the moment, he uses language that is colourful to make his point, if he is to be condemned, then we lose one of our most effective voices.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. Premier to conclude his answer.

PREMIER TOBIN: I know the Leader of the NDP would not want to lose the pleasure of staring daily across the floor at the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture in debate in this House.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My questions today are for the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board, and they relate to the new home construction industry and the implications of HST.

I say to the minister, recently I have had discussions with contractors and with members and representatives of the Newfoundland and Labrador Home Builders Association Limited, and also with material suppliers. They all agree, to the person, that a factor which is creating a crisis in the new home construction industry in this Province is the imposition of the new HST.

I ask the minister: Will he consider getting involved, making changes, making recommendations to the federal government as it relates to the input tax credit, to allow an input tax credit to relate to the new additional 8 per cent as a result of the new HST as it relates to the construction of new homes in our Province?

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The hon. member must be mistaken. Under the input tax credit rules, all of the 15 per cent gets the input tax credit treatment.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Prior to the HST, Mr. Speaker, 36 per cent of the 7 per cent, under the old regime of 7 per cent, was in fact in place. We now have 15 per cent. The additional 8 per cent does not provide a benefit to the purchaser in this Province.

I say, Mr. Speaker, in the Provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia - in a way partners to the new HST regime - they have found a way to assist new purchasers. They have found a way to give incentives to new home owners -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I would ask the member to get to his question.

MR. OTTENHEIMER: I would ask the minister, Mr. Speaker: Would he consider the implementation similar to the other two Atlantic Provinces for the benefit of our contractors, our subcontractors, and generally the public at large, any potential buyer of a new home in this Province?

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The hon. member should check his facts. All of the new homes that are constructed right now get the full benefit of the 15 per cent input tax credit. Prior to the implementation of the HST, the difference was that the labour component did not attract the retail sales tax which at that time provincially was 12 per cent, but it did attract the 7 per cent GST. Meanwhile, at the same time, the labour component had a 20 per cent tax burden with the 12 per cent of the RST and the 7 per cent GST, and of course they were compounded for an effective rate of 19.84 per cent.

What the hon. member probably is trying to relate is a difference now between the current tax system at 15 per cent on the gross price of labour and materials versus the earlier system which had a tax of 19.84 per cent on building materials and only 7 per cent on labour. The result of our analysis at the departmental level was that it was less than 1 per cent, .9 of a per cent. The industry disagreed, they never got their mathematics together, and in our view - and we stand to be corrected, we look for further information - the HST should have no impact in terms of increased prices on the residential home construction in the Province.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Just one quick question, Mr. Speaker, in response to that point by the minister.

Even with the return of input tax credits during the construction process, the net impact has been a 2 per cent to 5 per cent cost increase. That view is shared by the membership of the Newfoundland and Labrador Home Builders Association, it is shared by contractors, and inevitably will be shared by any potential buyer. So, I say to the minister: Why not join your Atlantic provincial counterparts and do something for the welfare and the benefit of home buyers in this Province?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DICKS: Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's question is not directed to the welfare of home buyers of the Province; he is talking about the construction industry which is seeking to get a tax advantage or refund.

Now all of the tax that is payable is input. The only issue to be considered is whether or not the difference in the two taxes should result in any major or substantial increase in the price of homes. Every analyses we have had done indicates that it is less than 1 per cent. The Home Builders Industry, when they did their initial analysis, said that it would be less than 2.5 per cent; and they were concerned that the people with whom they do business, their subcontractors, would not pass on to them the input tax credits. We said, and met with them repeatedly, that should not be the case. If each of your sub-suppliers passes on the input tax credits, it should result in less than 1 per cent difference. The effect last year was that there were more housing starts in the Province than there had been the previous year, and last year was the year in which the HST was implemented.

Housing sales are up and down, Mr. Speaker. I believe that the impact of the HST is minimal in terms of that, and the overall consideration that affects that industry has to do with the general health of the economy rather than this particular form of taxation.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The time for Oral Questions has elapsed.

Presenting Reports by

Standing and Special Committees

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have today for tabling, the annual report of Newfoundland Hydro. This is the 1997 report that was recently completed.

Secondly, I have as well the 1997 actuarial report on the Uniformed Services Pension Plan as of January 1, 1997.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Burin - Placentia West.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS M. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present a petition to the House on behalf of some 1,200 residents of this Province, mostly constituents of the beautiful District of Burin - Placentia West. The prayer of the petition reads as follows:

To the hon. House of Assembly of the Province of Newfoundland in Parliament assembled, the petition of the undersigned residents of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador humbly sweareth;

WHEREAS a public announcement has been made that a substantial portion of transfer payments to this Province from the federal government for health care has been designated for full funding of abortions at the Morgentaler clinic;

WHEREAS we, who are taxpayers in this Province, protest and raise objection toward the full funding of an elective procedure;

WHEREAS real and urgent health care issues in this Province - for example: cardiology, renal disease, cancer detection and treatment - require priority over inappropriate elective procedure;

WHEREFORE your petitioners pray and request that legislation be enacted immediately to reverse this funding decision and redirect those health care transfer payments where the most critical needs will benefit.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a few moments of the House's time to convey my personal thoughts and feelings on this issue of abortion. I have no hesitation in expressing my belief that the unborn child has an inherent right to life. As such, I support the philosophy of the pro-life movement as well as its efforts to contain the incidence of abortion in Canada. I know that many here in this House agree strongly with my beliefs.

I am also pleased, Mr. Speaker, to be part of a government where different views are tolerated and encouraged. The party that I ran for in 1996 knew and accepted me for my views, and as an elected member I have not been expected to divest from these values and principles. No doubt, Mr. Speaker, each hon. member holds his or her own beliefs surrounding this issue, and we must respect each others right to express an opinion as citizens of this Province.

Mr. Speaker, while I have my own personal thoughts on the issue, I do understand the government's recent decision to fully comply with the Canadian Health Act. After a recent review of this issue, the provincial government concluded that it was not reasonable to continue a policy which was clearly contrary to the Canadian Health Act, particularly when we support the act on all other issues. The fact is, as a result of this decision, this Province will no longer be penalized through a reduction to our Canadian Health and Social Transfer payments.

Mr. Speaker, I can fully appreciate the distress many women and girls experience when faced with an unplanned pregnancy. Since 1971, over 2 million babies have been aborted in Canada. That is an alarming number. Mr. Speaker, it equates to four times the population of Newfoundland and Labrador. In my opinion, this suggests the need for more people like myself, who support groups and individuals who advocate for life, to work more closely with them to seek ways and means of providing non-judgemental support and positive and loving alternatives to abortion.

Mr. Speaker, I share the birthright philosophy: the right of every pregnant woman to give birth, and the right of every child to be born.

I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to present this petition. In so doing, I am fulfilling the request of a number of my constituents who have strong feelings on this issue and hopefully providing a voice in government for the unborn child.

Mr. Speaker, once again I would like to welcome Father Colton to our Province, also Susan, Margaret, Edward, Gabriella, members of the pro-life group, and I wish you God's blessing.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Further petitions?

Orders of the Day.

MR. DECKER: Order No. 2, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair had called Orders of the Day, but if there is somebody who has a petition that -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) over here. (Inaudible) support the petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair has called Orders of the Day, but if the House is in agreement we can revert.

The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, you are quite right, Sir; you did call Orders of the Day, and I called Order No. 2. If the Opposition wants to revert, and are prepared to give unanimous consent, then we on this side of the House would be prepared to do that.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I saw the Member for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair standing there. Our petition can be presented on Monday. It is not urgent. We certainly consent to going back to allow the Member for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair to present her petition.

MR. DECKER: That is acceptable, Mr. Speaker.

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise today to present a petition on behalf of the parents and students in Red Bay, Labrador. The petition reads:

To the hon. House of Assembly of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador in Parliament assembled, the petition of the undersigned residents of Newfoundland and Labrador, humbly sheweth:

WHEREAS the government through their Small Necessarily Existing Schools policy has reduced teacher allocations from 5.81 regular units to 5.50 regular units in Basque Memorial All Grade School in Red Bay, Labrador, suffering a loss of .31 teaching units for a 5 per cent reduction which will result in an increase in triple grading and no variety in senior high programs;

WHEREAS this school will have to contribute 0.70 units of its SNES allocations to Distance Education, Special Education, Guidance and Administration, thus reducing the number of regular teachers in the classrooms;

WHEREAS less courses can be offered, and Level III courses have to be offered to Level I and Level II students in order to accommodate them;

WHEREAS almost no one-on-one assistance will occur because of too many grades in one classroom;

WHEREAS all students from K-12 will be at a disadvantage to become involved in a very competitive society because of a lower quality of education, for we have situations in our school compared to that of the 1950s and 1960s;

WHEREAS we feel that the provincial curriculum is not geared to these types of classroom situations;

WHEREAS Basque Memorial All Grade School is not deemed a viable school;

We, the undersigned, petition the House of Assembly to direct the government to undo these injustices and increase our number of regular teaching units, whereby students can receive the quality and diversified education that is so desperately needed if we are to graduate and become active members of this increasingly competitive and challenging society;

And as in duty bound your petitioners will ever pray.

This is from the school and the parents in the community of Red Bay.

Mr. Speaker, what is happening in this school, I guess, is somewhat of an unfortunate dilemma for the parents and the teachers there. When the idea of Small Necessarily Existing Schools came into play, and a lot of these schools in the Province were designated, this was one of them that fell within the criteria for a couple of reasons. One, this community is isolated and is not within busing distance of any other school within that region. Two, it is necessary in order to educate the sixty-some odd students who are enroled within the program within that school. Therefore it should be existing, and it should be existing to a standard that is equal and adequate to the rest of the schools around this Province.

The people in the community feel that this is eroding at an opportunity for their children, that they are not going to be able to avail of and access the quality of education and courses and curriculum that they should be entitled to, and I think they are well within what they are saying. I agree truly with what they say. Because when you look at the number of units, the teaching time being reduced from 5.81 units - which is just a bare minimum that they are operating with at present - and go down to 5.5 units, and then you see their services for guidance counsellors, their time for distance education programs, administration, the time that they put into special education, to deal with the needs of the special children within their school, and that all comes out of their regular teaching time, Mr. Speaker; once you add that all up it comes down to less than five units to carry on the every day business of this school, to teach Kindergarten to Grade XII, a full curriculum within the classroom. It cannot be done, Mr. Speaker, to be justified to give them the level of education that they deserve.

What we are going to look at here is that you are going to have triple grades in a classroom. You are talking about a little more that four teachers. In one class you will have to have Kindergarten, Grades I, II, and III, all in one classroom, Mr. Speaker. You would have Grades IV, V, and VI in one classroom, Grades VII, VIII and IX in one classroom, and Grades X, XI and XII in one classroom.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MS JONES: I ask for leave, Mr. Speaker, just to clue up.

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

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MS JONES: This is the kind of situation that it creates for children who are in this school, Mr. Speaker. I do not think that this is any kind of quality of education. If government is going to show a commitment to rural schools in this Province, to continuing their existence and providing an education for the children who live there, they have to make it adequate and they have to make it a quality education.

That means giving them the teachers that they need to be able to deliver the courses and giving them curriculum that they need to prepare for post-graduate school and other career options. I ask that they be given the support and given the increased units that they need for their schools, so that they can continue operating and delivering a satisfactory program to the children there.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I rise to support the petition put forward by the Member for Cartwright - L'Anse au Clair.

Mr. Speaker, I have been raising questions in the House in the last several weeks relative to the conditions of educational access and educational opportunity in School District No. 2, which includes the area that the member is addressing today, the area of Red Bay.

Mr. Speaker, last evening on CBC radio, there was a discussion with one of the parent groups relative to this very same issue.

Mr. Speaker, we have to ask the minister what he is going to do in situations like this. In this school board district, over 80 per cent of all classrooms are either double classrooms or triple classrooms, in other words, two grades in one class or three grades in one class.

Mr. Speaker, what we have in some cases throughout School District No. 2 is a substantive decrease in the quality of education because these children do not have equal access and equal opportunity. Last year, this particular school board, School District No. 2, closed eight schools. They have done their best to accommodate the best interests of their children. This year they propose to close three more schools.

Mr. Speaker, when we look at what is needed to be offered in Red Bay, I can say to the member that it is impossible to offer a viable curriculum that will have equal opportunity, with the number of teachers that have been allocated. As an experienced teacher, I know that it cannot be done. I have taught at the junior and senior high school levels over many, many years.

Mr. Speaker, if we are going to offer honour's math to students of ability, if we are going to offer chemistry and physics, if we are going to offer the proper literature courses, unless these children come into St. John's or Corner Brook or go to Montreal, wherever, for post-secondary education opportunities, they will not be able to advance on an equal footing with other children in the Province.

Mr. Speaker, we acknowledge that distance education does help, but it does not replace having teacher in the classroom in all cases.

Mr. Speaker, I think it is time for the minister to look seriously at District No. 2, and look at scrapping the currently existing teacher allocation formula. That is what is needed in District No. 2. We need to scrap the formula. The twenty-three to one is not going to work. It is prejudicially affecting the curriculum in District No. 2. It is time that the minister acknowledge that, work with the school board, work with the parent councils, do what is right and make sure that a child who is growing up in Red Bay has an opportunity equal to a child in Corner Brook, Grand Fall, Mount Pearl or anywhere else in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, we know the government should do more. We are asking them to hear the petitions of the parents and, on behalf of the children, acknowledge that more can be done and more should be done. Don't leave it to the school boards. As the minister responsible for teacher allocations, do what is right, scrap the existing formula and start looking at what we need by way of support personnel and teachers to make a viable curriculum potentially possible for all these smaller rural Newfoundland schools.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Just some brief comments with respect to the petition presented. First and foremost, Mr. Speaker - and I would hope the hon. member might pass along these comments to the parents in Red Bay - we had been dealing with the school board.

Mr. Speaker, it is important to note that the government has abandoned the formulas for District No. 2 a long time ago. The fact of the matter is, in a school like Red Bay, if we were using the same formulas that we use in St. John's, Corner Brook, Gander, Stephenville, Grand Falls - Windsor, and even in St. Anthony, there would not be 5.8 or 5.7 units in Red Bay, there would be three. The fact of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, formulas have not applied in Red Bay. That is what small necessarily existing schools are all about.

The number of units, Mr. Speaker, was arrived at with respect to a discussion between departmental officials. The officials of the school board had nothing to do with the formulas.

Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that people are now suggesting that some of the units in the school cannot be counted. Well, they are all counted, because every teaching person who shows up in the school will be assigned by the school administration to do whatever is required to meet the best interests of the students. So it is not an argument that anybody can use to suggest that, if you are the administrator or the guidance counsellor or the special education teacher, for some reason you have to pretend they are not in the building. They may be there, they may have a certain title, Mr. Speaker, but certainly the hon. member who just spoke in support of the petition, having been an administrator for thirty years in the system, knows full well that it does not matter how a teacher shows up in a school. Once there, the school based administrators are free to assign them to do whatever is required in the best interests of the students.

Mr. Speaker, there is a guaranteed opportunity for students in Newfoundland and Labrador, whether they are in St. John's, Corner Brook, Gander, St. Anthony or Red Bay; and it is this, it is simply this: That having gone through the K to XII system, regardless of where you complete Grade XII, you will have been exposed to enough course offerings that you can meet the post-secondary entrance requirements for any institution in this Province.

It does not guarantee everybody equality. It has never meant that everybody should have exactly the same program offerings, regardless of where you are, but everybody is guaranteed - and this is the case in Red Bay - that in that school, if they take the courses that are offered and if they are successful in meeting the requirements and pass, they will have met the minimum requirements to go on to post-secondary education in any institution in this Province.

That is the only guarantee that any government in Newfoundland and Labrador, or anywhere in the country, has ever been able to give students in rural communities and isolated settlements, and it applies in Red Bay today.

So, it is clear that we have already deviated from the formulas a long time ago with respect to District 2, other rural schools and all the ones that are designated as small necessarily existing schools.

Mr. Speaker, we have suggested to the school board, that when they are finished their final decisions for next year, if they need to do some things with their designations, if they need to make some other adjustments, the school board will work with them to give them the maximum flexibility that they need to take their current allocation of teachers and make sure that the best interests of all of their students, in all thirty-four of their schools, are adequately and appropriately met for the next school year.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


Orders of the Day


MR. DECKER: Order No. 2, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order No. 2. It is moved and seconded that I do now leave the Chair for the House to resolve itself into Committee of the Whole on Supply.

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


Committee of the Whole


CHAIR (Penney): Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. DECKER: Mr. Chairman, we are doing the Executive Council. We did not finish it, so I call Executive Council.

CHAIR: Order 2, Committee of Supply Estimates, Executive Council.

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

We have some questions here. I am not sure to who is designated to provide answers, but in any event I will ask the questions.

Under Public Service Reform, page 25, 2.8.01: Appropriations provide for coordination of Government's Public Service Reform initiatives. I would be interested in knowing what initiatives, as we are putting in $485,400, when we did not have any initiatives last year, nothing. I would like to know the specific breakdown. I do not know whose designation it is. Is it the Minister of Education?

I am wondering if that would be the Reform Initiative that is trying to eliminate the Public Service Commission now and give it all to the departments, or is there some other scheme or plan they may have there, or a similar - what do you call them, the same thing? An antonoym, is it, that they might have there to use in place of those words?

There is a fine chunk, $344,400, on Salaries. The whole head there, 2.8.01, is $485,400. So I would be interested in knowing what the initiatives are, and then I might have some more questions pertaining to it.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Education.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I discussed proceedings for this afternoon with the Minister of Finance a few minutes ago. He is out of the House for a little while, but will be back. The undertaking that I gave is that I would make a note of each of the issues that was raised and make sure he was aware of them, so that he would not have to wait for Hansard for a day, or two or three, down the road. He will try to give an undertaking to give answers as we go through later on this afternoon.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I will just move along. I am sure, if it slips his mind we will be back on this again. I know we have another ten or twelve hours to get questions in, and we should be able to drag the answers from the minister in that period of time.

MR. FITZGERALD: You are taking note of (inaudible) the questions that will be coming out, the questions for which answers have not been given? Is that the way it is going to be?

MR. GRIMES: I am taking notes now and when the minister is back in later today he will answer some of the questions.


CHAIR: Order, please! Order, please!

I wonder if we could agree that the microphones for the Minister of Education and for the hon. the Opposition House Leader be left on, and there could be a continuous dialogue between the two without the Chair having to recognize the two of them every two or three minutes. If that is acceptable to both members, then I will make the necessary instructions.

MR. SULLIVAN: Mr. Chairman, that is an excellent idea, except with the answer the minister just gave me, it might make that useless, because he sort of indicated that we are not going to get any answers, that it is going to be all questions. He is only going to take notes of the questions and the Minister of Finance, the President of Treasury Board, responsible for Executive Council, is going to give us answers. So I am not sure if the Minister of Education needs his mike on or not, I would say, unless he is going to tell us something we want to hear. If he is not, I would rather have his mike off.

MR. GRIMES: By all means, Mr. Chairman, I think we should leave it off. If they leave the mike on for the Minister of Education, Mr. Chairman, I might not be able to blurt out some of the things I want to say under my breath, so we better turn it off.

MR. SULLIVAN: I do not have a problem with it, I say, Mr. Chairman, not at all. In fact, I do not have a problem if he turns on the mike of the Member for Humber East who is trying to get into our conversation here; no problem whatsoever.

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes that the hon. Minister of Education has stated, for the record, that he will be taking notes. He will not be answering the questions but he will be taking notes, and the information will be passed to the Minister of Finance when he arrives.

That was taken into consideration when the request was made of both hon. members but this, I believe, is a little bit more of an expedient process. It worked for me quite well in the last sitting and I would like to try it again. If we find that it is not working, I will ask for one of the microphones to be turned off and we will go back to the old system.

MR. SULLIVAN: Agreed, Mr. Chairman. It worked quite well yesterday with the President of Treasury Board in the response for Executive Council here. We will certainly try anything. If it works we will even suggest that it continue forever.

Public Service Reform; I am sure I will hear from the minister in due course on that. The next item here - we have been following these through with each head to facilitate things. I know my colleague is pretty eager to get up. He may want to revert. He has some priorities other than mine. When I get a chance again, when the minister - rather than re-cover all the ground again I will -

I will just touch on another head and then I will move on and let my colleague from Bonavista South - he has some specific areas here he would like to address.

Under the Women's Policy Office, there was a little extra money expended in Salaries over what was anticipated, but I can see the budget is sort of back to what it was the previous year. I am just wondering whether there was an additional salary just put in for that specific year, for a particular purpose, and is not there now; or whether it was put in and there is a vacant position now that they are not intending to fill.

Transportation and Communications; we spent 30 per cent less than we budgeted last year in that specific area and now it is back up again to what it was before. Whether that has been an historic amount, it has been at around the $40,000 mark. If it is, we would certainly like to know. If not, why is it up there if it is not a necessary expenditure based on historic performance here in the Budget?

There is a significant increase in Professional Services. We are seeing almost double what was budgeted last year. We are seeing more than that. We are seeing more than twice as much budgeted this year for Professional Services. I am just wondering what that increase might be, the nature of it, what particular need might be there to justify that. I say to the minister, I am not questioning the justification of it. I am asking a question. When I hear the response, then I may or may not question the justification of it.

Purchased Services once again was down last year, $39,000 over what was budgeted, and it is back up again by $27,000 over what was actually spent there. It is a very similar question to what I asked there in 05 and in 06: What might be the nature of that?

Property, Furnishings and Equipment seems to be more of - it is an item in there. It is only a minimal amount so I am not really hung up on that one because they budgeted some and if it was not utilized then it may be in next year. That is not a large number to get excited over, I say to the minister.

Allowances and Assistance has been on a similar basis. I would assume that is - Grants and Subsidies is another area that they pointed out they provided. So Allowances and Assistance has been steady. Who might those allowances and assistance be provided to, basically, for information purposes? If there has been any change in the past on that, or whether we are just following the normal course in that specific area.

In those two heads, I am sure, rather than go too far afield with too many notes and too many questions for the minister... We don't want to overwork him when we will have an opportunity and lots of time in due course when the minister is able to respond.

My colleague now may want to address or certainly comment on this poor Budget that is put forth by this government, the one that does not address some of the inequities out there in our society today; one I actually mentioned yesterday, I say to my colleague. It does not really seem fair. I will have a comment on this before I sit down. For instance, people have been out there in the public service, and the minister said yesterday: Well, that is a collective bargaining issue.

I said: That is why I am asking the President of the Treasury Board that question, to consider that people out there working today, ten years, twenty years - I know someone who is working over twenty years. There could be more than one, there could be many, over twenty years, and they are still temporary, giving a full week's work. Can you imagine? A full week's work for twenty years. I am sure, Minister, in the collective bargaining it has been an issue, I say, in the past, on this particular thing.

We just want the minister to show some compassion, some sympathy, for people for instance out there who are going to work every day for ten, fifteen and twenty years. Somebody else is going to work in the same place of work, is doing the same work, probably for a lesser period of time, and they are entitled to benefits to which this other person is not entitled. There is something wrong with the system when you work for twenty years, when you get out of hospital under doctor's care, you cannot draw your seventy or eighty days, whatever they had built up in sick leave there. It is important. They are not given any fee like, for instances, nurses (inaudible) 14 per cent in lieu of those benefits. These other people are not. Those are some of the things.

If my colleague there is not too impatient, I had some questions asked, and rather than the minister having to go back over them with you, maybe if we will just look at 2.8.01, Public Service Reform. Maybe the minister might take a moment on that one, and on 2.9.01, just to let us know whether that reform is a move to curtail the functions of the Public Service Commission and reform that and get rid of it. What does the minister have in mind under that particular heading?

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I apologize to the hon. member, I was outside for a few minutes.

First of all, with respect to his questions concerning the temporary employees. I want to thank my hon. colleague, the hon. Minister of Education, who did such a fine job in my absence of keeping track of the numerous and detailed and of course always intelligent and articulate questions posed by my colleague opposite.

Just to continue for a moment, I don't disagree that there are certain benefits that are not accorded to all our employees, but frankly we are bound by our collective agreements. Inasmuch as we do not reduce benefits that we think are excessive, neither do we, on the other hand, unilaterally increase benefits. We reclassify them, we try to maintain uniformity across the government service.

I just say to the hon. member that -

MR. SULLIVAN: There are anomalies, you know, out there.

MR. DICKS: That is right, there are. We try to address those, and those are matters that I will be drawing to the attention of my officials. They are quite taxed right now with the different areas of collective bargaining. I would say there may often be areas where benefits could arguably be greater. On the other hand, there are areas where they are beyond what are offered in other provinces and we do not unilaterally reduce them.

I am aware of his concerns and I have asked my officials to brief me on what, if any, position there is at the bargaining table. Aside from that, I really cannot divulge any particular matters that are subject to collective agreement bargaining at the present time.

The hon. member asked some questions with respect to the categories or the expenses and Estimates under 2.8.01. The Public Service Reform is the initiative that the government started last year to address some morale problems in government, to look at more efficient modes of delivery, and to - and I wouldn't say for the first time, but on a more formal basis - seek input from managers and other groups, including right down to front-line employees, as to how they think our services can be better offered, and also how we can provide better services to the public, including training and incentives to our employees.

This is basically a new expense or Estimate category for us. I think I indicated the other day that we have a program coordinator, an executive director, a program development officer, a personnel officer, a communications officer and a secretary. That group is headed by Mr. Phonse Faour, who was the Deputy Clerk of the Council. He is on secondment to do this. This is an initiative that really is part of the program review we are doing. You can change the programs you deliver, but if as part of it you do not re-instill some form of review of your own managerial and employee systems, you probably are not going to be very effective in the end.

That is what that group is for. These are people who are basically seconded from other government departments. As far as I am aware, there are no new hires. These are all temporary assignments. I think that is fairly clear.

MR. SULLIVAN: The salaries that pertain to those other areas from which they have been seconded would be reduced in that salary line accordingly?

MR. DICKS: Yes, I would expect so.

MR. SULLIVAN: Are there any new positions in this specific area that have been added?

MR. DICKS: As far as I am aware, for example, the Acting Deputy Clerk of the Council, in Mr. Faour's absence, is John Cummings; and John is the Associate Deputy Minister of Justice. He is on secondment from Justice. There are no double entries. We carry the people through. When you are on temporary assignment to a position, you keep your old salary unless you are in the new position for a period of time - I think it might be beyond four months - and then you acquire the salary of the new position for the time you are there.

So the answer in short is yes, we don't do double entries on salaries but a lot of times when you move people you backfill. For instance, there is no new Associate Deputy Minister of Justice while Mr. Cummings is the Acting Deputy Clerk. So yes, in essence.

The only reason say I that is, these are all temporary assignments but that is a little misleading in the sense that a temporary assignment could be two or three years. In Mr. Faour's case, I believe a large part of his time prior to this was spent helping out at regulatory reform as well, where we tried to get rid of a lot of the anomalies we had acquired over the years due to politicians' - ourselves and others - excessive zeal to regulate the lives of those who do not wish to be regulated.

In any event, 2.09.01, you asked why there was a salary change here. It is essentially the same amount as last year but there was, I think, a slight overrun here last year from what was projected. Why that would be, I don't know. I think it is pretty much within the range. We had budgeted $319,000, we spent $341,000. Just looking down through it, it does not appear to me that there is anything extraordinary here. I do notice that there was some temporary assistance and overtime of approximately $15,500. So that might account -

MR. SULLIVAN: In overtime?

MR. DICKS: Well it says: temporary assistance and overtime. So that might account for the bulk of it, I think. We don't have that level of detail, but it may have been that somebody at some level might have been off on sick leave, maternity leave, or something like that. That person will continue to receive his or her salary during that period of time and we pick up the extra expense through additional staff.

The other question the hon. member had, I believe, was with respect to, Transportation and Communications again. In answer to his question: Yes, I believe we generally give the Women's Policy Office approximately $40,000. They do a lot of coordination with women's groups around the Province. As I mentioned earlier in response to his questions on several occasions earlier this week, we try not to penalize people who spend less than they are allotted, to combat that phenomena of people wanting to spend it all just in case they don't get it next year. Given the scope and nature of the duties, and the advice we expect to receive from them, we believe $40,000 is a pretty fair budget allocation.

Under, Professional Services; again, this particular group really gives us very broad-ranging advice concerning a whole lot of government programs. For example, as recently as the other day I met with members of the Women's Policy Office on pension issues that they were concerned about, and they meet with members of the public and so on. Sometimes what they do is seek consultants who develop policies, and get advice on general initiatives government may have, particularly of course as it regards women's issues. So we give them about $80,000 a year. I don't know that the $82,000 is budgeted for any specific research or policies this year, but last year they only spent $35,000. So again, we believe that is a reasonable budget request.

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes. My question was: Has it traditionally been in the $45,000 range? It is up to almost double now. Is there some extraordinary item that you may anticipate this year over past years? Has it historically been in the $40,000-some range?

MR. DICKS: Just looking at the Budget details, I would expect it has probably been in the range of about, I would say, something under $100,000 each year; $50,000, $70,000, $100,000. I would expect it has a lot to do with the range of issues confronting the Province. Last year, for example, we did quite a bit of consultation on the Strategic Social Plan, and frankly that is an area in which you have a lot of gender concerns and issues for the most part because women very often are the group in society that have the greater custody, or spend a greater time caring for young children. So when you are looking at our general social problems and social concerns in social services and health, you often find that those issues uniquely impact on single females. So there is a lot of consultation with groups. We often hire consultants to give us advice as to how other provinces have tried to deal with this and so on.

To specifically answer your question, I honestly don't know whether the - it has been down around $40,000 or so. I think it is admirable that they didn't go off and spend the full amount. In the overall scheme of things, and given the nature and the necessity of the advice they offer, I believe $80,000 or so was a fair budgetary allocation.

The Professional Services here, .06, that amount is to cover the cost of posters, pamphlets, newsletters, and entertainment. Whether that could be some other figure I don't know, but that is the amount we have traditionally given them. As you know, there is quite a lot of literature produced by that office for distribution. We have a lot of transition homes around the Island which deal with women in very difficult circumstances, unfortunately, in many cases finding themselves out of their homes at difficult times of the year in extreme conditions, and there is a lot of coordination through this Office as well.

I don't believe the hon. member had many other questions, other than just a little greater level of detail on the $12,000 and so on. The $12,000 in category .09, which was one question he raised, is funding for various projects dealing with volunteer women's and community groups from across the Province, dealing with transition homes. In some cases where we don't have transition homes, they also deal with the local Status of Women councils and so on. I hope that answers the majority of your questions.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: I was worried we might not get to Government House.

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Chairman, I would like to ask the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board if he would be kind enough to share with me what the total salaries of Government House are in the Budget of this fiscal year.

MR. DICKS: The (inaudible) salaries?

MR. FITZGERALD: I beg your pardon?

MR. DICKS: I didn't hear the adjective. The which salaries?

MR. FITZGERALD: The total salaries for Government House.

MR. DICKS: Sure.

MR. SHELLEY: And a breakdown of each one.

MR. DICKS: Yes, absolutely. Would you like to hear the details now? The private secretary to the Lieutenant-Governor receives $95,543. This year as well there is an extra pay day, so that is an additional $3,675. The secretary to the Lieutenant-Governor receives $27,344, and an additional $1,000 this year for an extra pay day, which is really not any extra money, it is just an incidence of timing. Perhaps what I will do is just give the actual salaries all the way down.

Twenty-two thousand dollars for the secretary to the assistant deputy minister; to the gardener, $30,593; a chef, $26,645; environmental services supervisor, $23,533; maintenance repairer II, $26,499; chauffeur, $20,826; seamstress, $18,018; four domestic workers, each at the salary of $18,892, for a total of $367,357. The extra pay period for this year, for each of those individuals, ranging from a low of about $693 to the high for the private secretary of $3,675, totals $14,131. There will be salary increases this year in the amount of $10,100, step progressions of $248, and some temporary assistance and overtime of $20,300, for a modest total of $412,100.

MR. FITZGERALD: Minister, on page 9 of your Departmental Salary Details it shows the Lieutenant-Governor's residence for the total activity of $374,276, but on page -

MR. DICKS: Could you refer me to the numbered category, because I am using a different reference?

MR. FITZGERALD: Okay. 1.1.

MR. DICKS: 1.1.01?

MR. FITZGERALD: 1.1 of Government House. It shows the total activity there for salaries. The total number of approved positions is 13, the total amount of salaries is $374,276. In your Executive Council report, the Estimates of the Budget, it shows Salaries of $412,100. What is the discrepancy there? Why the difference, Mr. Minister, of in excess of $30,000 in those two figures?

MR. DICKS: I am sorry. The reference I have is $412,100 for the Budget. Last year the actual amount spent was $375,000, and the original budget last year was $401,300. Are those the figures to which you are referring? Those are the actual salaries.

MR. FITZGERALD: I am taking the salaries from two books. I am taking one from the Departmental Salary Details, and I am taking the other one from your Estimates of the same year, 1998-1999.

MR. DICKS: 1998-1999.

MR. FITZGERALD: In 1998-1999, under the Lieutenant-Governor's Establishment in the Estimates, it shows a total of $412,100, in, under Salaries.

MR. DICKS: Right.

MR. FITZGERALD: If you look at 1.1 under Government House in your Departmental Salary Details, it shows the total activity for those thirteen employees of $374,276. I am wondering why the difference of in excess of $30,000 there?

MR. DICKS: Yes. That was part of the detail I gave the hon. member earlier. Our permanent staff are $374,276. If you read across the line, the two reconcile, $412,100. If you look to the total in the right-hand column... There are five columns. If you look -

MR. FITZGERALD: Which book are you into now?

MR. DICKS: This one to which you referred, the Departmental Salary Details.

MR. FITZGERALD: What page?

MR. DICKS: On page 7.

If you look at the Estimates and compare it with this, it is just a matter of how they are accounted for. The total for Salaries is $412,100, if you read across the line. Now it is just a matter of how you categorize it. For example: Permanent and Other Adjustments of $27,624 includes the extra pay period this year. You see our base pay is $374,276, if you add in the extra pay period this year for $14,131, and then you add in this year's salary increase which they would receive of 2 per cent, that gives you another $10,000; that gets you up to $24,000. There are some modest step progressions of $248, so that gets you up - and I am just having difficulty reconciling it exactly, but that gets you up in the vicinity of about $26,000 or so. Then, in addition to that, Overtime and Other Earnings there are $10,200.

What we have here as well, in a more detailed summary that I have, is temporary assistance and overtime adjustment of $20,300. So, looking at the overtime and other earnings, I would say they are expecting temporary assistance probably in the order of about $10,000, and that may be included in these amounts here.

MR. FITZGERALD: Minister, did you say the overtime and other earnings was $20,000 plus?

MR. DICKS: Yes. There is also a figure in here for temporary assistance.

MR. FITZGERALD: It shows $10,200 on page 7, in Overtime and Other Earnings.

MR. DICKS: Yes, that is right.

MR. FITZGERALD: So, where does the $20,000 come from?

MR. DICKS: You also have temporary assistance. They may hire temporary people down there from time to time to assist. The difference is, these are totalled differently from the figures I have, but they all total the same; it is just a matter of how you categorize it before you get to the end. You have the figure A, B, C, D, E, so here they have added A, E and F and I have B, C and D, or what have you, but the total figures are the same. The detailed accounting I have given the hon. member is more detailed. If I may just repeat: There is $14,000 in there for an additional pay period; there is $10,000 for salary increases; there is $20,300 for temporary assistance and overtime. The base I started with was $367,357, and the base they started with is $374,276, but the total is still $412,100.

MR. FITZGERALD: Minister, I do not know how many people have taken a look at this Budget, especially the Executive Council, under Government House. I do not know how many people, how many members of this House of Assembly, have sat down and looked at the difference in salary for the private secretary to the Lieutenant-Governor.

Mr. Chairman, if you look at the salary of the private secretary to the Lieutenant-Governor, you will find that from 1996-1997 salary detail up to the 1998-1099 detail, the private secretary to the Lieutenant-Governor had a 40 per cent pay increase.

MR. DICKS: Let me answer that.

What the hon. member should understand is that the person in the position is now a different person from the one who was there in 1996. Mr. Wayne Mitchell is now the private secretary. Mr. Mitchell has been in government service for a number of years. The rule in the public service is that you are transferred from position to position and you retain the former salary that you had was higher than the one to which you go. As the hon. member knows, Mr. Mitchell was the Chief Electoral Officer, and prior to that time had been deputy minister in several other government departments; which ones elude me right now. When he went to Government House, his salary was $95,000. Had he not held those other positions, his salary for this position would have been lower, because of a lower rated position. So, in effect, you are red circled when you are transferred to a lower paying position.

The rationale in government is that it gives the Premier and Clerk of the Council latitude to move people around without having to reduce their salaries so there is no particular stigma attached to being transferred, and also to allow the Premier and government some latitude to move people where their skills are needed. Because the HAY system is a reflection not only of your skills but also of the size of the budget and the number of employees you have.

Unfortunately in government, had that flexibility not been given, people would be loathe to being transferred, if they were going to a position that was lower rated. So to give maximum flexibility within the executive, the rule under the HAY system, be it good, bad or indifferent, is - basically what you do is attain the salary of the highest position of responsibility that you achieve within government.

It is not a 40 per cent increase for the private secretary. It just happens that the person there had a higher salary. Next year, if Mr. Mitchell moves on to another position, the next incumbent might only have a $70,000 or $80,000 salary, or whatever he or she may bring to that position.

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Minister.

I am not aware of the pay scale or the progressions for the public service, but does that mean that if this individual stays in this particular position for ten years he will continue to get his $95,000? Or does it gradually go back to what that particular position would normally pay?

MR. DICKS: No, the first. An individual in the executive of the government... It is common employment practice, it applies in unions as well, they call it red circling. If you are in a union, or in most bargaining situations, or in a government position, or even in the private sector, normally if you are asked to go to another position, you keep that salary.

MR. FITZGERALD: So the salary goes with the individual rather than staying with the position?

MR. DICKS: Well, the two are calculated. If you go to a position that has a higher salary than the one you are receiving, you would go on a different scale. Now, having said that, it gets confusing. The HAY system is rather confusing. You get on a different scale. You might move into a position and the incumbent before you might have had a salary of $60,000. You might be getting $50,000. When you go into it, you might only receive $55,000 because you are on a higher scale. But, all other things being equal, two individuals in the same position should generally hold the same salary, if they have the same level of government service.

What sometimes happens is that an individual has held a position in government that is of higher salary, so when they go to a position with a lower salary you do not reduce their salary. The rationale is that you may need someone who has particular skills to put into it, and a part of the consideration should not be: Well, I do not know if I should transfer that person there because he or she will receive a lesser salary.

You just want to have the freedom to put the right person in the right job. We do not, as a practice, reduce someone's salary when they move to a position that might be lower paying. Even when we move them to another position where the incumbent was getting a higher salary, they do not necessarily acquire the same salary as the person who was there. But if it is higher rated, they get on a different pay scale and gradually move up once they are there.

MR. FITZGERALD: So does that position gradually move down, or does he stay up where he is and progress along with other raises that would come at the deputy minister level?

MR. DICKS: Yes, the person will get the ordinary pay -

MR. FITZGERALD: I think (inaudible) approximately a deputy minister's salary.

MR. DICKS: Yes, the person would get the ordinary increases but they would not get any step increases if they are over-rated in that position, because they are on a certain salary scale.

MR. FITZGERALD: So if a deputy minister here today received a raise, this particular individual would not receive a raise in line with the deputy minister's position, if he is still occupying this position right here as a secretary to the Lieutenant-Governor?

MR. DICKS: No, my understanding is that he would still get the same general raise that a person would get in government, but he would not necessarily get the step increase.

MR. FITZGERALD: Yes, step progression.

MR. DICKS: Step progression, yes. Because in this position there would be no step progression per se, because they are already at the end of that process.

MR. FITZGERALD: I can understand that, I guess, Mr. Chairman.

MR. DICKS: I apologise; it is a little complex, but the HAY system is rather -

MR. FITZGERALD: It is the position that probably bothers me, when I look and see a secretary to the Lieutenant-Governor getting a $33,000 raise.

MR. DICKS: Were that the case -

MR. FITZGERALD: Then, if you look down through the column and you see the lowest paid people, when you look at the gardener and the chef and the seamstress I... I do not know what happened to the seamstress II - that position seems to have disappeared - but up until last year there was a seamstress II.

MR. DICKS: Fiscal restraint.

MR. FITZGERALD: If you look at those positions which are still existing, those were the people who did not get a raise, but the Secretary to the Lieutenant Governor got a 40 per cent increase, over a $33,000 raise in one year.

MR. DICKS: Just to make it clear: This person did not get a raise or any step increase this year. Frankly, the majority of people at Government House - there are, I think, thirteen. Only two are getting a step increase this year, because the majority of people there are at the top of their scale. So, there are no step increases at Government House other than for two individuals. Everybody down there gets a percentage increase the same as any other government employee.

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, the Maintenance Repairer II and the Environmental Services Supervisor, one at $26,499 and the other job at $25,533, are those two new positions or is it a new name for an old job?

MR. DICKS: I honestly do not know. The Environmental Services Supervisor is a new term for me, but we have 1,500 different classifications in government, so that may well have existed for some time.

Maintenance Repairer 11 - these are people who basically work at Government House and help maintain the premises. Whether or not that is a common classification across government, I do not know. I suspect it is. Certainly, we have maintenance people all around government and I suspect that one is an Environmental Services Supervisory. I suspect we might have a few of those in the Department of Environment. I cannot say with certainty.

MR. FITZGERALD: Minister, I guess the raise, the 2 per cent that was brought forward in the agreement just recently, has not been factored in those employee estimations for 1998/99. They have not been factored in?

MR. DICKS: Yes, they have been. The actual salary increase this year is $10,100 for all those positions combined. In other words, as I said earlier, the base this year is $367,000 for all the salaries. The 2 per cent increase on that would be, because of timing, $10,100 this year. That is what gets us up to the $412,000, in part.

MR. FITZGERALD: If you look at some of those figures for Government House, many of them remain the same, but when you get down to the Secretary to the Assistant Deputy Minister you see a $5,000 raise which is one position, which would certainly be more than 2 per cent over last year. Then you come down to the Chauffeur, Mr. Speaker, and the salary there went up another $2,000 a year. While the Domestic Workers, of which there are four, remain the same. The Gardener remains the same.

MR. DICKS: On a point of order, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board, on a point of order.

MR. DICKS: I trust the hon. gentleman is not suggesting that the Chauffeur is driving up costs.

MR. FITZGERALD: Driving up costs?

MR. DICKS: A thought!

MR. FITZGERALD: I am asking questions of why some of those pay scales are the same. The minister indicated that the 2 per cent is factored in, but they remain the same as last year, identical to what is on the 1997/98 estimates. Then we come down to two other positions where we see a $5,000 and a $2,000 raise. I was wondering why.

MR. DICKS: I am not really sure to what the member is referring.

MR. FITZGERALD: Secretary to the Assistant Deputy Minister.

MR. DICKS: Are you referring to page 9 of the Departmental Salary Details?


MR. DICKS: The Secretary to the Assistant Deputy Minister, $22,788?


MR. DICKS: The Secretary to the Assistant Deputy Minister this year will receive $22,788 as a base, a step progression of $35, an extra pay period of $876, and will receive a 2 per cent increase on top of that. That is consistent with the figures I have here. Is the hon. member comparing this to some figure that was there last year or this year?

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Chairman, I am comparing it to figures that were there last year.

MR. DICKS: Yes, I noticed that the incumbent this year - the person was on temporary assignment to the position. I do not like to use names of individuals other than the executive of government. I do not think it is fair to the individuals concerned. These amounts are fairly modest and fairly straightforward and subject to the normal rules of government. The individuals concerned have not gotten any increases other than their normal step progressions which apply only in the case of two individuals, and have a modest total of $248 of the total amount of $412,000.

There is, of course, as in any government service for people who are not at a managerial level, the provision for overtime. Other than that they get an extra pay period and a modest salary increase. I don't think there is any cause for alarm that Government House is being unduly compensated.

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Chairman, I'm still not clear if the Lieutenant-Governor pays income tax. Does the Lieutenant-Governor pay income tax on his salary?

MR. DICKS: I think so. I know the Governor-General doesn't pay income tax.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: It's changed now, the Clerk advises me. There was a time when - even now the Queen herself I believe submits an income tax in England. The Governor-General used to get it, but my recollection is that I think the Lieutenant-Governor does pay tax on his income. It comes from the federal government, so I'm not aware of the practice, since that is arranged and paid by the federal government and not the Province. I'm sure the Lieutenant-Governor will be delighted to enlighten us all, and I'm sure he keeps his own house in order, as it were.

MR. FITZGERALD: It's our house, I say to the minister.

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: I know, I know. I'm not here by appointment, I say to the Opposition House Leader.

Minister, what you are saying is that the Lieutenant-Governor's salary is paid by the federal government, and the Lieutenant-Governor's keep is paid by the provincial government.

MR. DICKS: His staff is.

MR. FITZGERALD: And we pay the expenses of the house?

MR. DICKS: Yes. Just let me clarify. In areas where the federal government has appointees - these would be the Lieutenant-Governor and federal court judges, Supreme Court judges - the federal government pays the salaries of its own officials that hold office. I'm not sure really if you can call them officials as such. They are probably office holders. Judges are members of the judiciary. They pay the judges' salaries, benefits and all those sorts of things. The Province finances the court system, so we would not pay the judges but we would pay the secretaries of judges, the court priors if we still have them, and so on. We pay for the maintenance of the court houses, and we would be responsible for the police and those people who attend the justice system.

Those people who are direct appointees of the federal government at this level are paid by the federal government, and we pick up the ancillary expenses for accommodation and so on.

In addition to that, the federal government as well pays some amount to the Lieutenant-Governor to help defray some entertainment expenses, I understand.

MR. FITZGERALD: The Lieutenant-Governor pays for entertainment expenses?

MR. DICKS: For some of them. They give him an allowance, in addition to salary, to defray some entertainment.

I should say, for the public record, the office of the Lieutenant-Governor is not really a sinecure. I'm told by incumbents of that office that many of them pay for the expenses, in some cases of Government House, and certainly their own entertainment, at a level that far exceeds what - we don't pay. The last Lieutenant-Governors have been very generous in providing from their own means supplements to provide for entertainment. These are Girl Guide groups and Boy Scouts. They have been very magnanimous.

Frankly, it's not a position you can take on without expecting that to some extent you will have to pay for some of the many things you would wish to do out of your own pocket. The people who take it are to be admired in making their personal means available in providing a very, what I think, and the hon. member may not share my view, what is still a very important office, and providing a very ceremonial role and adding a certain dignity to all our proceedings, be it here in the House or generally in society in the Province.

MR. FITZGERALD: Minister, has your department seriously looked at - I know I've brought it up in the House many times, and I will continue to bring it up, and I'm very serious when I say it - or ever considered having an office provided for the Lieutenant-Governor, and having that house turned into some other place, I guess, is what I'm trying to say?

I hear the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation talking about the need for a new museum, and I hear the minister talking about the need for a new art gallery, the need for somewhere to put the archives in this Province. Has your office considered that seriously at all, or is it a situation that we have adopted the plan to maintain Government House and keep it forever and a day?

MR. DICKS: Let me say that we examined that issue during Program Review. The conclusion we came to was that - and let's take the example where you say to the Lieutenant-Governor: It's nice to have you but we are not going to provide you with a residence as such.

So the Lieutenant-Governor then would have to find some other place to live, and would also then have to provide some place to entertain. We are going to turn that into a museum or provincial archives. So then you go to the Newfoundland Hotel, the Delta or the Holiday Inn and you start renting rooms for a reception at $5,000 or $8,000 a day. Then you have to provide the staff and the other things that go with it to do it. You very quickly would find that the cost of providing the same level or nature of receptions as the Lieutenant-Governor now does, would probably come close to or exceed the figure that we have.

Secondly, and this is, I think, the critical consideration, the usage for that building, which is probably the most historic building we now have on the Island, that and our old Assembly - it is not suitable for a museum, it is not suitable for archives. The number of renovations that you would have to do there to install air conditioning, to acquire new and different forms of lighting, to control the humidity and so on, the cost of it would be extraordinary; and in doing so I think you would ruin the uniqueness of that residence. Yet, at the same time, if we evict the Lieutenant-Governor, tell him or her to go elsewhere and provide all of these at additional cost - which I think would approach what is paid here - you would still have this residence to maintain without an appropriate usage. You would still have to employ, to some extent, a gardener, as we do with Pippy Park and the staffing up there. Then you decide, well, let's lay off the domestic workers, let's not clean it if we are not going to use it, and you would quickly find it would go into disrepair.

I would say, given the nature of the building and the office of the Lieutenant-Governor, I find nothing particularly objectionable about having the Lieutenant-Governor in residence and hosting the sort of receptions that the Lieutenant-Governor and His Honour do. I frankly looked at the economics of it, and were we not to use it as the Lieutenant-Governor's residence there is no other usage that suggests itself that would be as appropriate. To transform it into some other type of usage, there is none that clearly comes to mind, and the cost of doing so would be extraordinary. At the same time, we would still have the cost of maintaining it and have duplicated the expenses elsewhere.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: I suppose we could put townhouses down there or something, cut it up and divide it up, but somehow it does not appeal to me. I think there is still something to be said for our history. I am sure the French occasionally examine whether Versailles is worth keeping or Sans Souci and Potsdam, but most people with some sense of their own heritage come to the conclusion that some things are worth maintaining. I am sure my colleagues share my view that Government House, given our more recent history, perhaps less within the European nations, have the same view.

MR. FITZGERALD: What happens in other provinces, minister, provinces like Ontario and Alberta, where the Lieutenant-Governor does not have a residence, the province does not supply a residence? What happens there? Where does the Lieutenant-Governor entertain and provide those services in those particular provinces?

MR. DICKS: Well may I say, with all due respect for our colleagues elsewhere in the country, very few of them, if any, have the same rich heritage that Newfoundland and Labrador does. Government House itself stands as a monument to government's foresight in spending. When that was built, I think the request originally was for 500 pounds or something to build a new house for the Governor. It turned out to be 5,000 pounds or something of that magnitude. So I think it is an object lesson to us all, that one should watch one's expenditures and so on carefully, but at the same time you can see that an overexpenditure in one age, whether it be Versailles with Louis XIV or Government House back in the 1820s or '30s, in the end may leave a result that other people, our descendants, will in due course be proud of.

Frankly, I don't know that Ontario had a residence that was worth preserving, but no doubt these societies make their own decisions on what the best use of the building is. I don't recall the Lieutenant-Governor in Ontario having any residence that was of particular note. I say our problem here if - the hon. members, you and others may share it - that the Lieutenant-Governor should not be in that building. I don't think there is another appropriate usage that one can find for that building and given the nature of the fact that you want to entertain and have the Duke of Edinburgh Awards and things like this, having the Lieutenant-Governor in residence, I think, adds something to the whole. Certainly there is no cost-savings to taxpayers by evicting the Lieutenant-Governor and trying to convert it to some other usage, at least none we could find.

CHAIR: Order, please!

It is important that I announce the questions for the Late Show.

The first question is: Mr. Speaker, I am dissatisfied with the answer provided by the Minister of Health and Community Services on the Atkinson Report. That is from the Member for Ferryland.

Mr. Speaker, I'm dissatisfied with the answer provided by the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board re my question on new home construction. That is from the Member for St. John's East.

Mr. Speaker, I'm dissatisfied with the answer provided by the Premier re my question on watershed management. That is from the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. FITZGERALD: Just one last question on Government House, Minister. From listening to you and explaining all the details, it's not hard to realize that you feel Government House is a bargain. You feel it is something that is part of our heritage that we should maintain, and for $500,000 it's money well spent. I totally disagree and would argue with that. I think there are better ways we can spend $500,000. If we talk about the thirteen jobs that are provided, if somebody gave me or you $500,000 I think we could employ a lot more people and pay them a much better salary than some of the people who are being paid here.

It is not the point of doing away with thirteen jobs, but I feel personally that, yes, if we want to maintain the ceremonial role of the Lieutenant-Governor, that we should do that, but I'm not so sure we can continue to afford to maintain a residence and spend $500,000 a year when the need for other things is so great right here in this Province.

Mr. Chairman, with that, I will pass to one of my colleagues to continue questions.

MR. DICKS: I would just like to reply to the hon. member's comments. There is always a different point of view on these issues. I think when one looks at Government House you have to be careful to realize that even if one were to close it, or to ask the Lieutenant-Governor - unless you want to change our system of government - to move elsewhere, you would not save all that money. A lot of these expenses would still subsist.

As much as one might view the Lieutenant-Governor as an unnecessary expense, you know, there are people who might say that renovating the stadium in Bonavista last year when the Queen was here in case it rained, or paving the road down to Bonavista to accommodate all the people who go there to see the Queen - I mean, we could have very well said: Thank you very much, Your Highness, but we would rather not have you this year. We are going to put a little thank you note on t.v. But, we do these things.

I mean, I was asked a question the other day: Why were the expenses so high last year? Well, it was a Cabot year. We do things, we celebrate our history, and this is a celebration of our history, and we provide expenditures. Other people may say; Instead of renovating the stadium in Bonavista, maybe we should have put it into the hospitals. Maybe we should have. Maybe we shouldn't have paved the road. These are all decisions that you make. As much as one can spend it on essential services, I believe it is also necessary for us to maintain our infrastructure.

In the case of Government House, though - and I make these remarks to the hon. member because we all have value judgements we bring to bear - it is a unique structure, and the Lieutenant-Governor is part of it. It's part of our history. The difficult thing with Government House, even if you wanted to change it, we would still have that building, and frankly, I can't think of a better use for it than to have a Lieutenant-Governor in residence. It doesn't lend itself to some of the other things that first suggest themselves. To have it as the home of the Lieutenant-Governor I think adds something to the receptions that are held there. I've been to receptions there, and I've been to them elsewhere in St. John's, and other parts of the Island, but I think few, if any, and none I can think of, have the same - what would one say? - ambience? Maybe that's too grand a word.

To go to Government House for a reception is an exceptional event in any of our lives, and it's one you can't duplicate in a hotel. It's one that, I think, has that significance for us because it is the Lieutenant-Governor's residence. It's our Buckingham Palace to a point, I suppose, with all that that means. It has historic significance, and yet I believe in the cultural and social life of the Province it's something worth preserving. I see kids go there and they are impressed with this house and with the cordiality extended to them by the Lieutenant-Governor and his staff and his wife. That has been the case not only with this Lieutenant-Governor but with others.

I support the institution. I came to this job with a different point of view, but having seen it, I'm a great admirer of the incumbents of that office, and I believe they have all fulfilled it with great dignity. To the extent it is an expense to the Province, I really don't think that given the many other things on which we spend money that that's money poorly spent.

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Chairman, I say to the minister that when the kids come to this House of Assembly they are in awe as well, but when they are told what this particular room cost, I tell you, they aren't long saying: Oh! It's the same thing.

The minister used the comparison of the stadium in Bonavista and the road paved going to Bonavista. I say to the minister, if that was done for the Queen's visit, it would have been a waste of money. I say to the minister that the stadium was upgraded and the road was paved for the 13,000 residents that live in that particular area -

MR. DICKS: And visitors.

MR. FITZGERALD: - so they might have a stadium where the children can compete and entertain, and bring competition in. It is good for the area, good for businesses there and it will be maintained and kept for years to come. The Queen has long gone, the roads are being driven over every day by people going to and from work, by taxpayers dollars that those people have contributed. So if it was done solely for the Queen it would have been a waste of money, you are right, but it was done for different reasons, that being just one of them and the smallest one that I accept as the reason it was done. It needed to be done.

MR. DICKS: Let me finish my comments by making the same point exactly. The money spent at Government House is not for the Lieutenant-Governor in as much as the amount spent in Bonavista was for the Queen. That money is spent for the people of the Province, for the children of the Province who go there, for the rest of us, for all of us to maintain it for the future. In as much as the stadium in Bonavista is a facility to be utilized primarily for the people of Bonavista, Government House is an institution and a building to be maintained for the future, for the history and for the entertainment and for the value we attach to it.

MR. FITZGERALD: It is my understanding that when we are talking about doing away with the Lieutenant-Governor, that we cannot do that as a Province.

MR. H. HODDER: You cannot do away with the Lieutenant-Governor.

MR. DICKS: You mean to eliminate the position.

MR. FITZGERALD: That has to be done with the consent of other provinces and the Prime Minister of the country. We, as a Province, cannot do that alone.

MR. DICKS: We would have to vote to become a Republic, I expect. You would still need a head of state.

MR. FITZGERALD: You would still need a head of state. But I think it is within our power to do away with Government House. I think it is the biggest waste of money that this government spends, this government and governments before.

MR. DICKS: When you are in my position you find much bigger wastes of money from time to time.


MR. DICKS: I said, when you are in my position you find much bigger wastes of money from time to time than Government House.

MR. FITZGERALD: Those are my thoughts.

Thank you very much, Minister.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Waterford Valley.

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

Just a few questions for the minister.

I want to refer to page 26 of the Estimates, Women's Policy Office. I want to ask a couple of questions purely for the sake of getting the explanations on the record.

I do note that Salaries in that office have gone from $341,500 down to $317,500. Does that mean that we have one position that is not filled, or is there some other explanation as to why the salary allocation in 2.9.01, subsection .01 under Salaries, has been reduced by approximately $23,000?

MR. DICKS: I am not sure and I apologize. Are you talking about the Women's Policy Office, 2.9.01?


MR. DICKS: You say Salaries have gone down. The base budget is roughly the same. It was $319,600 last year, and $317,500 this year. I believe what happened here, there might have been a contractual position that is no longer there. I know there was a contractual community liaison officer who is still there, but that amount is paid from Professional Services, and I know there is a vacant position there but I think that salary detail is still carried.

My colleague, who is responsible for it, is not here. I don't think the staff has been reduced. It might have been that they may have had a contractual or temporary position there last year. I do not have last year's Estimates to make the comparison. So I am afraid I cannot answer the question.

MR. H. HODDER: Similarly, Minister, if you look at the Departmental Salary Details which is on page 12 of that document, you will find that the total salary allocations for the Women's Policy Office is further reduced to $281,978. In the Budget document, it was reduced from $341,500 to $317,500, but in the Departmental Salary Details it is down to $281,978. Why the discrepancy?

MR. DICKS: In the Salary Details, the figure of $281,976 is our base where we start the year. We have seven people in office, seven permanent staff. Where you get up to $317,500 is the extra pay period, $10,848, which does not occur in every year. So what the Salary Details give you is the base budget, because these are the salaries of the individuals. So, the pay period this year is $10,845, there is salary increase to 2 per cent on top of that of $7,700, step progressions, $1,492 rounding, which is down $15, and temporary assistants and overtime of $15,500. That plus the $281,978 gives you a total of $317,500.

So the total salary expense for that office is $317,500 with the add-ons. So that is our salary basically when we start the year, but when you add on the projected salary increase, the step increases, the extra pay period and an amount for overtime, that gets you up to the full total. So in our Salary category that is what we will expect but that is not our salary base.

Next year, I should say that our base will be higher by the salary increases and step progressions again, of course, but we will not have an extra pay period.

MR. H. HODDER: Of course, there being about a 10 per cent variation there between the $281,987 to the $317,500, you are not suggesting that there is a 10 per cent increase in salary taking into account the step increases and the 2 per cent that has been allocated for salaries with the civil servants? That is not the intent, I do not think.

MR. DICKS: As I say earlier, the actual salary increase is $7,700, but in that additional $30,000 or so there is $15,500 for overtime, and the other pay period this year was roughly 4 per cent, $10,845. The total of the salary increases and step progressions would be the $7,700 plus the $1,492 which would give you about $9,100 or $9,200, I think.

MR. H. HODDER: In the same section,, Transportation and Communications, we went from $28,300 in the revised Budget for last year up to $41,700 which was budgeted for last year. The question is: If we only used $28,300 of it last year, why are we now expecting it to be higher this year? Are there certain things we did not do last year that are expected to occur this year, purchases or trips for staff or for minister that did not occur and will occur now? Is there any explanation you can offer?

MR. DICKS: We give each department and each category a travel budget. We do not penalize people if they do not use it. The danger would be if you said: You spend $28,000 last year, we are only going to give you $30,000 this year. You would tempt them to spend more next year so they would get it.

Given the size of the office and the nature of the duties, we believe it is appropriate to give them a travel budget of $41,700. We encourage people not to spend all the money they receive.

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible) efficiency.

MR. DICKS: Very efficient people.

MR. H. HODDER: I ask the minister: For those departments who are able to bring their budgets in under the allocation, is there a motivation that is provided to civil servants to make sure that their budget comes in under, rather than the traditional March spending that usually occurs, whereby we must spend the money because we might lose it in next year's budget? What are the incentives that are offered by the minister to those civil servants and departmental people from the civil service who make sure their budgets do come in under? What is the incentive and what is the reward that might be offered to those people who are fiscally conscience?

MR. DICKS: There is no financial award, of course, but the ministers encourage the deputies, the deputies encourage the assistant deputies, the assistant deputies encourage the directors. One presumes that over time performance is monitored. Those who do well are promoted and receive additional responsibilities. Those who do poorly are looked on with less favour and advance less rapidly, if at all. Of course, the ultimate penalty is, if people cannot do their jobs, if they do not deliver services in a timely fashion, they should be held accountable in some appropriate way.

I understand the hon. member's question and I have toyed myself with the idea: What, if anything, one could do to provide some sort of cash incentive or some sort of incentive for people coming under budget. The difficulty with it, of course, is if you create an incentive of that sort you may encourage people to not spend money in areas where it should be spend.

It is a very delicate task and I am not averse to suggestions. What one tries to do is to monitor as closely as possible the budget for each department and provide them with reasonable flexibility to transfer money around to fill their objectives. We encourage them to be efficient. What we do each year in the budget process is, in the overhaul scheme of government, to allocate what resources we have among the various departments, they compete for their social and economic priorities and Cabinet, in its infinite wisdom, decides what should be allocated and how it should be divided among the departments and within the departments in each of these subcategories and groups.

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Minister, I would agree that the objective is a laudable and quite commendable objective on your part. I am just wondering what incentives there might be or what discussions there are - and I am pleased to see that kind of thing happening in a budgetary process because I do believe that there should be some recognition for those individuals or those departments which are able to deliver the services that are required but able to deliver them not only within the budget but, if possible, deliver it underneath the budget allocation. I share his objective. I am not criticizing here. I am simply saying that this is a commendable thing and complimenting, I guess, indirectly the civil servants who can make that happen, and commending them for not spending money in March month just because it is there.

I want to move on to another item and that is to go to - the section we are talking about is Purchased Services, the same section, .06. You had $151,000 in last year's Budget, spent $112,000, and it is now allocated to $139,300. Is that because you recognize that the $112,000 was sufficient for the services that would be purchased, and rather than drop it back to that level this year it was put up to $139,300, and there might be an expectation that we might be able to have it down to $112,000 this year?

MR. DICKS: Yes, I am sorry I don't have a greater level of detail on this category. The Status of Women offices around the Province receive a lot of literature and correspondence and this sort of thing from the Women's Policy Office. So this, for the most part, covers posters, pamphlets, newsletters, and things of that sort. Why it is increased by $20,000, I don't know. I don't know if there is a specific project they plan to do. These sorts of levels of detail are reviewed by the departmental officials who work - the Treasury Board people work with the departments and they bring to us what they consider appropriate for each expenditure category, and we approve it at a higher level of detail. It is just that we don't get down into how many stamps this is going to buy and so on. In the overall budget scheme, this presentation was made to Treasury Board officials. It was approved, and in the overall scheme of things it appeared to us to make sense; but we did not look down to that level of detail.

With regard to the other question the hon. member had in terms of encouraging people not to spend at year end, I think what you want to do is not create disincentive.

The other matter that interests me, and I have mentioned to my officials to look into, is that in Ontario they have an award system to government employees. My understanding - and this is not to suggest that this is accurate or entirely how it works - is that government provides a certain sum of money as an awards program. Then, of course, as well, if you understand the background, the departments have to provide business plans and they set budgetary and social targets for themselves. A group within government does an assessment of each department's performance during the year, and they look at how well they have met their budget targets, how well they have fulfilled their objectives, how the department is generally managed, and how they are providing services to the public. They then determine what, if any, awards should be made from this sum of money to the individual department. What they have done is put restrictions on it and said - because it is only intended to award not everybody but those who have exceptional performance - I think they said no department can be awarded more than 10 per cent of salary, I believe, and that you cannot compensate or include more than 20 per cent of departments.

What they do is put aside a sum of money and then put restrictions on how much can go in any particular direction. Of course, if every department performed brilliantly it would only be the 20 per cent who were most brilliant who would get the award. So it creates an incentive system. When I heard it I was intrigued by it, because I knew that the federal government had an award system for senior executives some years ago. They were giving, I think, a 9 per cent total. It was either a 4 per cent performance bonus and a 5 per cent salary increase, or the reverse. In any event, every executive got it. So if you have an incentive program and you give it to everybody, it is not an incentive; it becomes part of compensation and so on. So it is an issue I am very concerned about.

I spoke to the (inaudible) Association of government, I guess a week ago Monday, and I raised this issue with them because I do believe that if we are going to encourage and reward performance in the public sector we should create, to some extent, a type of bonus system or a type of reward system. It need not be money, but we should have some way to recognize and reward services other than the fact that someone has been here for twenty or twenty-five or thirty or thirty-five years. The length that you are here is, of course, much less important than what you do while you are here, and how well you perform.

I agree with the hon. member's view that we really should encourage and provide incentives for people. It is just that I am not sure how we should do it. I am examining these notions. Of course, the other aspect of it is that we have to justify it to taxpayers. People have differing views, and if you suddenly start giving public employees above and beyond what their salaries are, you might have a degree of public scepticism about your motivations and the merits of the people who receive it. Having said that, I do not believe that is an insurmountable obstacle. If we are going to have exceptional service, I think we should reward it in some fashion. The only thing I have not been able to determine, or bring to my colleagues yet, is some meaningful way to do that, to determine the cost and distribution, methodology, and a system of - what would you say?

MR. H. HODDER: Functional audits?

MR. DICKS: Yes, functional audits perhaps. A system, I guess, of accountability, and a system that would fairly assess individuals in departments on performance, because it is not easy. One department may not do well in their budget, but if you look at the pressures on them, they may have done very well considering where they could have been.

I think these are legitimate concerns. If the hon. member has any suggestions, I would be delighted to receive them.

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Chairman, if we could move down to 2.9.02, Provincial Advisory Council On The Status Of Women, section 10, Grants and Subsidies, I was wondering if the minister might be able to give us some kind of a breakdown as to these grants, and how they are -

MR. DICKS: 2.9.02?

MR. H. HODDER: 2.9.02. There is only one heading there; that is No. 10, Grants and Subsidies, $203,800 up from $196,300. I am not questioning the amount that it is up because it is only a small amount there, about $7,000, but I am wondering what groups or agencies - what the general broad spectrum of these grants might be.

MR. DICKS: Is this the Provincial Advisory Council on The Status Of Women, 2.9.02?


MR. DICKS: In the amount of $203,800? That is an amount that is given to provide for the operations of the women's groups who make presentations to government, independent evaluation and advice to government on women's issues as it were. It is a focal point for groups dedicated to the achievement of equal rights and opportunities for women. This is the Advisory Council on the Status of Women that operates outside government. We have the Policy Office within government and there is, of course, a provincial organization, the Advisory Council on the Status of Women. As well, they have offices in different areas; I know we have one in Corner Brook as well. This is our grant that supports their activities.

My recollection is that their gross budget is much larger than this and we are part of their core funding. I think, for some reason, it is in the vicinity of $500,000 or so, but that may not be entirely accurate. What we do is provide from public funds a measure of support to them because what they do, and they are an independent body, they are a good safeguard on government because they are not always enthusiastic about things government is doing or plans to do, but what they do for us is give us a conduit to a certain group in society which is sensitive to how actions and inactions affect women in particular. So we assist them in their endeavours and this year there is a modest increase above what it was last year.

I do not really recall to what extent the core funding we provide to the provincial is distributed to the other offices they have, but I think there is some flow-through there as well to help sustain these operations around the Province.

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

I want to ask the minister, the minister who is responsible for the Status of Women, who unfortunately is not in her place at the moment, the government is very supportive of private/public partnerships. I am wondering if there is any recognition in the funding allocations for the Status of Women in the offices outside of, shall we say, the government structures, whereby there is some encouragement for the promotion of private/public partnerships in this particular office?

MR. DICKS: I am sorry, I did not get the question.

MR. H. HODDER: The question was that the government has been encouraging private and public partnerships, and in this particular case the minister responsible is a great advocate of this.


MR. H. HODDER: I was wondering if there is any recognition in here, in the $203,800, of incentives to the different offices in terms of raising money from the private sector to be able to increase the funding that we should be using for advocacy of women's issues and for women's policy initiatives.

MR. DICKS: I believe that the Status of Women Council and their Advisory Council partakes in fund-raising from the outside. We do not direct their activities. It is a necessary thing in what we do that we not, of course, direct the Advisory Council. They are outside us; we look for independent advice. But they do, I know, seek to fund-raise through activities.

I am not aware to what extent the corporate sector or outside groups have taken this on as an activity, inasmuch as some of them espouse The Heart Foundation or other forms of activity, but we certainly encourage people to fund advisory groups that are in the position. We do so directly and in some cases the private parties in the Province do as well.

I hope that answers the hon. member's question in part. Maybe we can come back to it at the next stage because I would like to move that we rise and report progress, Mr. Chairman.

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

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Trinity North.

MR. OLDFORD: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole have considered the matters to them referred, have directed me to report progress and ask leave to sit again.

On motion, report received and adopted, Committee ordered to sit again on tomorrow.


Debate on the Adjournment

[Late Show]


MR. SPEAKER: We are now into the Late Show. The first question, I believe, is from the hon. the Member for Ferryland. It is for the Minister of Health & Community Services concerning the Atkinson Report.

The hon. the Member for Ferryland.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I had so many questions with inadequate answers submitted, I had to check and see which one of the many I had selected there to put on. The Atkinson Report was ordered by the minister, ordered over a year ago by the former minister. That is worse again. Because the current minister is there - it was about this time last year you got the boot, was it, roughly?

Actually - the former minister can confirm it - over a year ago the Atkinson Report was supposed to be completed by July, and reported to the minister on the Western Health Care Board. Since July it still has not reported. On March 18 the Minister of Health stated it would be ready by the end of the month. That was thirteen days from then. Now it is in May and we still don't have it.

If you can believe it, that Health Care Corporation has not filed a financial statement since 1995. The hospital board on accreditation - they want to do an accreditation because it is a teaching hospital, you want to maintain status, you want to give it a certain recognition out there, they cannot complete the accreditation because it does not have the information it needs.

All this past year, while the new minister was there - I would have the former minister back any day. The current minister does not have a handle on the finances and the management of the organization of it. We rolled all these boards out, cut down boards, and they are on automatic pilot. The new CEO, Dr. Eric Parsons, who worked with the Health Science Centre, stated: Because of the instability in appointing a CEO, because of an instability over the past year, has attributed reasons why there are problems in getting this done.

That is what was stated by the new CEO. In other words, the minister does not have a handle on what is happening. You can imagine running a business, running a corporation, and you cannot get a financial statement since 1995. We do not have a financial statement for 1995-1996; we do not have one for 1996-1997. The minister stands in her place and all she talks about is some unrelated thing to the issue. She hasn't admitted she has not delivered, she hasn't admitted she does not have a handle on the management that is going on there. We have to get our act in order, I would say to the minister.

Hopefully we will see a report. That is important. The people in that area depend on that particular service. They depend on a certain status there. A teaching hospital could lose its status, accreditation, and here we hear now they are coming in to do an accreditation on the Health Care Corporation of St. John's. They couldn't do it on the West Coast. Three different CEOs in one year. It doesn't do much to put confidence in the running of our health care system, the financial accountability. People are starting to wonder, when you hear the waiting list. People cannot get into hospitals. Doctors are leaving over there. The new CEO said it is affecting recruitment and the retention of people. In fact, there is another mass of people leaving over the next while. I believe there are two or three in one specific specialty area who are going.

We have problems, and we don't have a handle on the problem there. We don't have a finger on the button to control the operation of that. It is about time the minister took her job seriously in doing this and ensuring we have boards up and running efficiently. Because we were promised back in 1993 -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. SULLIVAN: Just a second to finish up?

AN HON. MEMBER: Go right ahead; you are only using up your own time.

MR. SULLIVAN: Sure, yes, that is fine.

We were promised in 1993, and I said at the time, when you roll those boards together into giant boards it should accomplish one of two things. One, it should improve the efficiency of administration in those services; number two: and/or it should improve the quality of service that we have had. I don't have to ask very many people if they believe the quality of service has increased since 1993. The answer is no. Have we had an increase in efficiently? Look at the Auditor General's Report and that will answer that; and talk to anybody within the system, it has been atrocious, it has been a downhill slide in health care, in administration. And the minister can not even give us an answer.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DICKS: Mr. Speaker, we share the hon. member's concerns. I find it interesting that, in asking his questions, he poses many `whys' but I have not heard any `whats'.


MR. DICKS: A bit too subtle for my friends.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: Mr. Speaker, perhaps an instance of why one should never use the number 13.

Mr. Speaker, we are equally concerned with the situation at Western Memorial Hospital. We have ourselves been awaiting the Atkinson Report. It was supposed to be finished, as the hon. member mentioned, some time ago.

Dr. Atkinson, or whomever it is, came back and asked for further time to complete that report, and we are concerned because there are things that need to be done. I say it, because Western Memorial Hospital is in my area, and my colleagues who is sitting here to my right.

As the hon. member mentions, one of the key events is that it took us some time to find a new administrator. The Report of the Auditor General was appalling, to be kind about it. There were deep fundamental problems at Western Memorial. To some extent, they were problems of leadership at that institution, and we are attempting to resolve those.

We have a new administrator in place. It took us some time to find the appropriate candidate, and I understand he is getting a handle on it. We are concerned about the accreditation, but I suggest to the hon. member, that is a matter of process not of substance.

The facility itself at Western Memorial is an excellent facility. The staff are dedicated and hard working, and we have a health service in Western Newfoundland that really is second to none. We share many of the problems of the health care system in the rest of the country and we look to the Atkinson Report for guidance.

Having said that, Mr. Speaker, the leadership for reform and for maintaining adequate and proper health care service in the Province really is in the department. Although we look for reports from outside consultants to assist us, we ourselves bear the responsibility to do it properly.

I know the minister, who unfortunately is not here today - she is hyped up on other matters, had to be absent and therefore could not be here to answer this important question.

May I say, Mr. Speaker, that we are confident in our staff and the leadership of our minister and indeed with Western Memorial and the whole region. We intend to make and proceed with changes and we are doing so even without this report, because in the end the report itself will not give us all the answers. It may provide some of the direction we may wish to take, but as the hon. member knows we are already, in the absent of that the report, replacing the hospital in Stephenville, we are replacing the hospital in Bonne Bay and, of course, the Nurse Practitioner's Program in Port aux Basques.

So, we can always find ourselves in the position of waiting for a report from an external authority to do something, on the other hand we can do what we are doing, Mr. Speaker, and that is addressing the question of repairing the obvious deficiencies and going forward with appropriate health care for the people of our Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question is also for the Minister of Finance and it is to continue the discussion that was raised today on the effect and impact of HST on new home construction.

Mr. Speaker, in addition to the points that were raised today, the Newfoundland and Labrador Home Builders Association Ltd. had a KPMG Report prepared on the impact of HST and how HST drastically affects new home construction.

I would just like to refer to a couple of the findings. One in particular, Mr. Speaker, states: We have determined the impact on the price of a new house, home renovation or construction of a residential rental property will be price increases of approximately 4.5 per cent. The recommendation on that point indicates that a new housing rebate ought to be provided to consumers, in addition to, Mr. Speaker, the 36 per cent new housing rebate for the GST component of the tax, and that this rebate should apply to all new housing regardless of price.

So clearly, Mr. Speaker, there has been some independent assessment of this issue. As I indicated before, contractors and sub-contractors, and the association itself, feel quite strongly that the HST impact has had a negative impact on the prices of newly constructed homes. Of course, it is the consumer who is losing out on this, because not only is the contractor being affected and prejudiced - because obviously the work is not there - the subcontractor does not get the work. Ultimately it is the consumer who must pay more for a newly constructed home in this Province. So it is an issue of housing affordability.

My question to the minister is: Is there the political will to simply take this assessment into account and to basically just follow the lead of other Atlantic provinces who have offered at least some minimal assistance to home buyers, newly constructed home buyers and alleviate them of the problems associated with the impact of the new HST? So above and beyond his answer today, my question to the minister: Is there the political will to take into account these assessments and to move in the direction of other provinces and assist the owners of newly constructed homes?

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DICKS: I want to thank the hon. member for Government House for that strong round of applause.

Mr. Speaker, we have looked very closely at this issue. When we implemented the HST we were very concerned that it not unduly or unfairly impact any particular category of individuals or groups in society. There were some areas of concern. One was poor people with low incomes. What we found, on analysis, was that even people with an income of $10,000 a year would have a benefit from HST integration to the extent of $1,100 per year, that they would be that much better off. What one has to realize is the fact that the HST system provides for input tax credits. So the tax that you pay on goods or services consumed, you deduct. The ultimate effect of that is to bring prices down and that has been the impact in this country. Prices in this country, since 1990, have been very stable. Rate of inflation for this decade has probably been the lowest prior to the 1960s. It is something virtually unprecedented in modern Canadian history. Part of that, not all of it, was free trade, part of it was HST, part of it was good fiscal policy, part of it was a general downsizing of government services which required less taxation, to some extent, in the country.

This particular form of taxation, Mr. Speaker, and this particular group, we examined, and we had a difference of opinion with them. We instituted a low-income credit. We could see that there was not generally a need for it, but there might be groups of people at low-income levels who might be affected; for instance, an elderly person who spends a lot of time at home and consumes a lot of electricity. So we instituted a modest credit program that we thought was appropriate.

With this particular group, the Home Builders Association, we could not agree with the figures and they could not determine it among themselves. Ultimately their case to government was this: That the suppliers would not pass along to them - suppliers of both goods and services - the input tax credits that they were allowed to deduct.

Our position back to them was: We cannot take from taxpayers in the Province and give to you when you are telling us that your industry is going to withhold price decreases due to HST input tax credits that should follow from it. So if your position at the end of the day is your subcontractor is not going to pass it on to you, you have to force it with them.

Now even saying that, we do allow - there was a modest increase of .9 per cent in the cost of a house, but at the same time, the contractors were allowed indirect credits. For example, when they buy a truck, all of that is HST included. Their tools, on their legal bills, accounting bills and so on like that, all of that gets passed along.

I want to say, Mr. Speaker, that in the year it was instituted housing starts were up substantially in the Province over the previous year. Retail prices in effect went down by 1 per cent in the first month. So I was not indifferent, nor was the government indifferent, but we were not convinced that it was of sufficient damage to that industry, that it was of sufficient public concern, that we could justify taking taxes of other people and giving it to an industry whose primary position to us was: Give us this benefit because we are going to have to raise prices, because we are not going to pass along the input tax credit. If that was their position we could not justify that because it would result in undue and unfair profits to that group.

Industry has benefitted substantially from this, but the converse and the social obligation that the business community in this Province has is to pass on those savings as the result of HST integration to the customers. If the housing industry is not going to do that then we, ourselves, cannot aid and abet them in that.

Now if they come along and make a convincing case that for some reason it is necessary and this is damaging, then we will have a look at it, but to date, Mr. Speaker, we see no convincing and compelling evidence that that will be the case.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I think it was on Tuesday I asked the Premier, in the absence of the Minister of Forest Resources and Agrifoods, some questions here in the House on watershed management.

Mr. Speaker, if anybody has been listening to the news or reading the paper these days, it is not hard to tell that there is a lot of apprehension and a lot of anxiety out there, Mr. Speaker, as it relates to watershed management versus river and watershed privatization.

Mr. Speaker, the minister is well aware of the many fears and he is well aware of what is happening today on some of the salmon rivers right here in Newfoundland and Labrador. Mr. Speaker, I asked the Premier if it was the intention of his government to implement privatization of rivers and watersheds and he went on to say: Absolutely not! The person who would bring that about should be thrown off the head of the wharf.

I went on to ask him, Mr. Speaker, if there has been any pressure put on his government to bring about privatization of watershed areas and certain salmon rivers, and the Premier answered by saying: No, there is not.

I went on to quote, Mr. Speaker, a comment made by Mr. Jerry Byrne in The Humber Log. I stated the date and it was there for everybody to see. The MP for Humber - St. Barbe, Mr. Jerry Byrne, made the statement on April 15, 1998 saying that there was tremendous pressure being put on government to bring about privatization since the moratorium of the coastal salmon fishery was implemented back in 1992.

Mr. Speaker, my plea to the Premier, my plea to the minister, at this time, is to say to the minister quite clearly: Why all this confusion, Minister? I ask that you would probably go out and implement a consulting policy or have some people go out and meet with those people who have those great concerns about privatization.

Mr. Speaker, many people take great comfort in being able to go, buy a license, pay their twenty dollars for a salmon licence, and be able to go and catch the number of salmon they are allowed, whether it is catch and release or catch and keep, and access any salmon river of Newfoundland and Labrador. They are in fear that if the minister allows what is happening on the Gander River to proceed to other rivers, then all of a sudden, those people who enjoy this relaxing outing with their sons and their grandchildren, Mr. Speaker, will not be allowed to take part in such activity any more. In fact, in order for them to fish the Gander River right now, Minister, those people are expected to go out and pay $20. If they want to fish the other salmon rivers, and if they want to go to fish their favourite hole on the Gander River, they have to spend another $20. That is $40, Mr. Speaker, double the fee they would ordinarily pay to be able to go and take part in this exercise.

Mr. Speaker, maybe the minister is right. I'm not saying he is wrong. There are people on both sides of this issue. I'm certainly not a salmon fisherman myself. I know nothing about it, but I do listen to the many calls that are being put forward by those people who enjoy this sport. What they are saying to the minister is: Allow us to put forward our views and opinions. I want you to consider what we think of river management and watershed management.

Mr. Speaker, when you mention the word privatisation, all kinds of funny things go through your mind. When you look at what is happening on some of the salmon rivers in this Province today, with ACOA taking part in funding lodges, and you hear people talking about going to their favourite salmon hole by a particular lodge, and all of a sudden some guide comes out and says to them: You have ten minutes to get out of here, because we have some people in from other parts of this country who have paid a price to come here and fish, and we don't want you near those salmon holes - this is what people fear might happen on some of those salmon rivers, and they will be deprived of an opportunity to go and take part in this sport that they have been allowed to pursue for years.

My question to the minister is: Minister, is your department considering going out and listening to those people who have this difference of opinion? I know you have tried to put forward your views and opinions of what is happening and what is not going to happen, but up until now, Minister, it seems like those views and opinions haven't been accepted by everybody. I'm asking you if you would provide a forum for those people to come forward with their views and opinions. I am sure you will take those views and opinions into consideration before you, Minister, make a decision on what privatization of watershed management might look like in the years to come.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, the short answer to the question is no. I was going to bring a big sign which I was going to lay out which says: No means no, but I won't do that today. I am getting one made up though.

There is some apprehension by some people, and that has been created, I think, for the most part - it is unfortunate that it has gotten to the point that it did a few week ago, but I think it is starting to come around.

We are looking at a process to evaluate watershed management. We are looking at that, because I think we should straighten out what is allowed, what we are going to consider, and what we are not going to consider. So we are looking at a process.

Watershed management, in the last three or four years, was a process that was undertaken in local areas because local people wanted to have a say. They wanted to be involved in the management of the rivers. They wanted to have a say over some of the enforcement measures. They wanted to have a say about the signs that were on the rivers. There are a lot of local people who have put a lot of hours in watershed management, and brought forward some good ideas.

I think what we are going to look at doing - and I am going back to my colleagues shortly - is having a further consultation process, to get some public input into what watershed management should be and what it shouldn't. That way we can go forward with what the rules are. I think some groups are suggesting some options that are not acceptable to certain people and we are having a public debate.

I think what we are going to do - I can pretty well assure the member of this - is we are going to have a process put in place which will streamline, which will allow people to have an input, which will allow us then to go forward, in a together way, to help develop the rivers of our Province in the sense of the signs that need to be put on them.

I just came back from Winnipeg. We had meetings with Minister Anderson, the federal DFO minister, and we pointed out to him that we have over 176 salmon rivers in this Province. We have over 50 per cent of the salmon rivers of North America. We should have a lot more signs up, we should have a lot more signs activity and work towards that with the federal minister. At the end of the day, they also have a large role to play here when it comes to the authority that they have, the jurisdiction that they have. When it comes to watershed management they have a large role to play.

What we are going to do - and I have talked to him about this and we are going to have further discussion - we are looking at a consultative process. When we do that, we are going to ask the DFO to play a role in the process. I think that will help straighten it out.

There are no other specific river licenses being approved. The Gander is a two-year; it is in the second year now. We will evaluate that at the end of the summer. We are very cognizant of the concerns that have been put forward, Mr. Speaker.

The bottom line, Mr. Speaker, is that the government of this Province will never allow the privatization of rivers in this Province, and that is it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, we have been making excellent progress in this spring session, had a lot of cooperation from both sides, and the legislation is being debated strenuously. The Estimate Committees are moving right ahead. It has been a very strenuous few weeks.

We are expecting, after the long weekend, we are going to have to come back and go into some night sittings. In view of that, there has been an agreement between both the House Leaders that we will not be sitting tomorrow, but that we will be coming back on Tuesday.

So, I would move, Mr. Speaker, that the House, when it adjourns, will adjourn until Tuesday, May 19, at 2:00 p.m.

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