The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

Before we begin our routine business, I would like to welcome today on behalf of all members, Mayor Walwin Blackmore from the town of Grand Falls-Windsor.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Statements by Ministers

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to table today a proposed bill entitled An Act Respecting Child, Youth and Family Services. This Act is intended to replace the current Child Welfare Act legislation which was based on the Welfare of Children Act, 1944, an act which is older than our own Province.

This proposed legislation represents a fundamental shift in the way child welfare services will be provided in our Province. Government, in cooperation with its regional partners, will continue to implement programs and services that are child centred and aimed at prevention and early intervention.

The proposed bill is based on an extensive review of the existing child welfare legislation and programs which was initiated during 1996-1997. The review included considerable input from community groups, agencies, service providers and clients. Considerable attention was given to the recommendations of other documents including the Select Committee's Report on Children's Interests, the Child Welfare League of Canada Evaluation Report, the Social Policy Advisory Committee Report, the Provincial Strategy Against Violence, the Classroom Issues Report, and a review of legislation in other Canadian jurisdictions. Today, I especially want to recognize Judge Gove, who conducted the Gove Inquiry from British Columbia in 1996. His report has been very helpful, and in fact we have used many of his recommendations.

The need for new legislation which supports best practise in social work has been strongly recommended by staff of my department who provide child welfare services. I am pleased to say that the proposed bill will reflect the recommendations of social work staff and validate in many ways the work that they have been doing for a number of years, work, in fact, which has not been recognized or supported through existing legislation.

The proposed legislation supports Government's intention to move from remedial approaches to prevention and early intervention strategies with services delivered by community based agencies. The framework supports an array of responses to meet the needs of children, youth and families, with the last alternative being removing the child from his or her family. These services will be provided through regional Health and Community Services Boards and integrated Health Boards to ensure that accountability rests closer to families and communities. The current authorities of the Director of Child Welfare will be given to Directors within each of these regions.

The bill also addresses the identified gap in services to youth aged sixteen and seventeen. It provides the framework for support to youth and their families, by voluntary agreement, including residential services where the young person is unable to remain safely at his home. Families who have children removed from their care can expect a more timely response from the court system and there are many more opportunities for involvement in the decisions which affect children.

Further enhancements to existing legislation are found in proposed provisions which speak to the ability to engage in alternate dispute mechanisms such as mediation and family group conferencing. This will allow two alternatives to the court process, which is often seen to be adversarial.

Admittedly, the old Child Welfare Act was not transparent. It was written in 1944. The proposed legislation recognizes the significant authority and responsibility government has in protecting the children of this Province. Consequently, the proposed act supports a number of accountability measures which will assist in ensuring the interests of our children are protected, including a Provincial Director of Child Welfare, who will have the responsibility for standards and policy development, including monitoring and evaluation, and six Regional Directors will be appointed and report to Regional Boards;

In addition, an arms' length Minister's Advisory Committee comprised of individuals who have an interest in children's issues, including a lawyer and two persons who themselves have received child welfare services, will comprise the committee, along with others.

The role of this Advisory Committee will be to review, within the first two years, and every two years thereafter, the operation of the proposed legislation and determine whether the principles and the purpose of the bill are being achieved. The Advisory Committee's report will then be presented to the House of Assembly.

The proposed legislation also provides for the establishment of Custody Review Committees within each of our regional Health and Community Services Boards and Integrated Health Boards, again with the participation of persons who have received child welfare services. This Committee would review annually all the children for whom guardianship has been granted on a permanent basis by the courts.

Government is further supporting accountability through the funding of the Youth in Care Network, the establishment of the Premier's Council on Social Development and the development of the social audit as intended in the Strategic Social Plan.

Mr. Speaker, the Bill is complementary to and consistent with our Strategic Social Plan and is one more positive step in delivering comprehensive, integrated services to children and their families. The Bill must also be viewed in the light of the other very significant initiatives within government, particulary the National Child Benefit, the Model for Service Coordination, and the integration of our health and community services boards.

These initiatives are reflective of the move to programs and services which are coordinated and delivered through community-based agencies and have a prevention and early intervention focus in this new child-centred legislation.

Government continues to be committed to services and programs which are child centred with a family focus. I would like to thank all individuals and groups who participated in the development of this significant initiative. This has been a long time coming, and today is a very special day for all the children of our Province. That is why today I wear the blue ribbon, because this government believes that every day is National Child Day.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS S. OSBORNE: I would like thank the minister for providing me with a copy of her statement, and I would like to compliment her on bringing in this Child Welfare Act. It is long overdue. However, there are a few issues that I would like to take with it.

One is: I notice there that social workers were consulted, and that this bill will reflect the recommendations of the social work staff. I know that last week sometime, social workers who work at child protection, or who work with children, demonstrated; and they demonstrated because their caseloads are too great. I would like to suggest to the minister that as good as this act may be, it is only as good as the paper it is written on if we don't have the manpower to effect the policies that are contained in it.

I am pleased to see that the gap in youth between the age of sixteen and seventeen has been identified. I know there was a problem out there. A child could run away from home at the age of sixteen and not be picked up by the police, but they could be arrested for buying cigarettes. I am glad to see that has been addressed.

I am still wondering why we don't have a child's advocate. It was recommended by the Select Committee on Children's Interests. Instead, the minister seems to have appointed an advisory committee. As good as that may be, it will only be reporting to the House of Assembly every two years. I would suggest that in a two-year period, a lot of our young people will fall through the cracks and continue to fall through the cracks as they have done so since 1944 and probably since time before then. I have a great problem with an advisory committee instead of an advocate who would enjoy the same privileges or the same power as the Auditor General.

Another thing I would like to do is ask the minister: Would she refer this to the Social Services Committee of the House of Assembly for review?

This act has been a long time in the making, it has been long overdue, and I think that if it can be put before this committee and reviewed, this time we will get it right. If we have been waiting for it this long, it will not hurt to wait another while, while this committee of the House of Assembly reviews it.

Thank you very much.

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

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased to see that the work of many years and a lot of people on the revisions of the Child Welfare Act are now being brought forward. I know that we have had very serious problems in the child welfare field in this Province, both in institutional circumstances and individual circumstances. I know a lot of reports and studies have been done on this, and I hope the conclusion will be reflected in the legislation that we see.

I do have a very serious problem, though, with the minister's approach in what appears to be putting child welfare in the responsibility of the health and community services boards and integrated health boards - she says, to ensure that accountability rests closer to families and communities.

These are unelected boards. The issue of child welfare is so important that there ought to be direct accountability to this House through the minister -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: They are not elected. That is what I said; they are unelected boards.

The responsibility for child welfare ought to begin and end right here in this House of Assembly with the minister responsible for this department. I do not want to hear, in two or three years' time when something goes seriously wrong, the finger being pointed at some board who made decisions or priority decisions that were contrary to what minister would do if she was in charge, but she cannot tell them.

That is my major criticism so far with what I see here today. I am concerned that the responsibility for children's interests is being passed on to someone else and away from this House, and I would not want to see this happen.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

The hon. the Minister of Education.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In the March 1998 Budget, government announced a $4 million Awards Program for Newfoundland and Labrador students attending Memorial University and the College of the North Atlantic. The Awards Program is a two-year bridging program to the federal government's Canada Millennium Scholarship Program to help aid student who demonstrate financial need and academic success criteria.

Today, I am pleased to announce that more than 2,000 students have received awards ranging from $500 to $1,000 maximum for this school year under the Awards Program.

To date, government has awarded a total of $1.4 million of the $2 million allocated for the 1998-1999 academic year. Another $2 million will also be available for the 1999-2000 school year. We also established a committee to administer and finalize criteria for the program. This committee consists of representatives from Memorial University, the College of the North Atlantic, along with three student representatives.

Students agree with the criteria set for the program and feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Other jurisdictions, as a matter of fact, are praising government's initiative and looking at our Awards Program as a model for their own potential programs.

In this particular process there was no application necessary. The awards were primarily based on a student's unmet financial need as assessed by the Student Aid Division, in addition to being in good academic standing at their institution.

Government is helping to create more opportunities for Newfoundland and Labrador students by increasing the amount of awards available in our own publicly funded post-secondary institutions. It is ensuring students with academic potential have the extra necessary resources to obtain a post-secondary education within our Province.

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.

As I said in Friday's Question Period, this particular initiative is a positive one if you are the parent of a son or daughter who is attending a public institution. However, if you happen to be the parent of a son or daughter who is going to a private school, a private college, then you will not welcome this particular initiative; because this initiative, while it is good and we applaud the minister and his government for making available $2 million, there are more students in private colleges than there are in the entire system of the College of the North Atlantic. These students have been excluded. Mr. Minister, why is that? We ask you again to reconsider and make sure that we remove the barriers to post-secondary education rather than imposing them, even if we do that by a scholarship program.

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: Mr. Speaker, it is hard to be critical of the minister's statement here today, but I do have to say that we have a long way to go before we have adequate support for public education in Newfoundland and Labrador. This obviously provides provide some measure of assistance.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, earlier today the Coast of Bays Corporation, a Regional Economic Development Board from the Province's South Coast, launched a major promotional campaign to attract investors to their area. I believe they have already supplied one to the Leader of the Opposition and at least the critic, the Member for Baie Verte. This promotional package is another excellent example of the REDB process at work. The Coast of Bays Corporation has put together a quality package entitled "The Natural Way to Do Business," and a strategy to bring investors to their area.

This group of volunteers have identified opportunities in their area and are working to advance the economies of their own particular communities. Another important thing to remember is that this board is independent of government, a grassroots organization for people to help encourage economic growth in their own area. It is not government telling these people what has to be done, it is government listening to the people who know what they want.

Like other people in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, the people involved in the Coast of Bays Corporation are strongly committed to revitalizing the economy of their area. In the coming weeks they will be aggressively seeking new investors by targeting companies involved in agriculture, the fishery, cultural industries, tourism, information technology and aquaculture.

I think those smaller packages are available to everybody right now. I would like to point out to the Members of the House of Assembly that this is a quality piece of work that indeed will go a long way to explaining to private investors just what is available in that region of the South Coast, primarily, I believe, in the district belonging to the Minister of Environment and Labour.

I understand that some of the participants in this morning's news conference have had to return home. However, three of the people - Jeff Gillam, a director, Conrad Collier, information technology facilitator, and Tracey Perry, executive director of the Coast of Bays Regional Development Corporation - I understand are in the gallery. Mr. Speaker, I would ask all members to join with me in wishing, through them, the Coast of Bays Corporation well with their promotional campaign and their economic plan to expand and diversify the economy of that area of the Province. Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

On this side of the House we join with the minister in complimenting the people of the South Coast, the people at the grassroots level who put together such a superb product here, encouraging investment in their communities. As we see around rural Newfoundland these days, that is exactly what is needed. That is the engine that is going to drive it, encouraging investors to come into small-town Newfoundland, to start small businesses, to help us through a transition in this Province's history of the fishery and so on. It is the people at the grassroots level that are the key to the answer.

I say to the minister we applaud them. That is the route we should be on. The proof of the pudding is going to going to be that the government can back up their initiatives, back them up when they attract investors, so that they can finish off, and at the end of the day we can say there are more jobs through investments like this.

We want to congratulate these people on putting this together. It is a superb job, and I think that anybody can see they have done their homework well. Hopefully they will attract new investment to those communities on the South Coast. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave!

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to join in complimenting the Coast of Bays Corporation on a fine job of putting together a promotional package for their area. The work in identifying the special features of your area is very important. As others have said, it is the people at the local level who know the kind of attractions that are available, the kind of business opportunities that can work in their region. If only we have the kind of support that is required at the provincial and federal level, recognition of the important need to assist these communities in making sure they reach their full potential, then I think we can really go somewhere. This is a fine example of what local groups can do.

Oral Questions

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I received calls on Sunday with respect to the situation that occurred in Davis Inlet over the weekend, allegedly a rampage by the children in Davis Inlet. It has been reported in the media also that the troubles were again due to solvent and substance abuse. I would like to ask the Minister of Health and Community Services what actions she taken to address this ongoing situation.

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

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As early as this morning my colleague the Member for Torngat Mountains raised the issue with me. We have been in contact with my officials in the department. We too are quite concerned about what we are hearing in Davis Inlet. We understand there are a number of outstanding issues. Some very significant support was put in that community a number of months ago and we will be looking again to working with the community through our regional board systems and in any other way we are able to provide support. Because as the member opposite knows, there are a number of support systems in place for our aboriginal communities, including the federal government, as well as provincial governments and the local and regional boards.

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

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

As the minister I know would agree, this is a very serious situation. In August the Member for Ferryland and critic for health wrote the minister advising her of information we had with respect to the community. Clearly, I say to the minister, we have a set of unusual circumstances. Wouldn't the minister agree that unusual circumstances like these require unusual means of intervention?

I would like to ask the minister: How many social workers do you have in Davis Inlet to cope with the problems? Or are there any plans to increase the number of social workers dealing with the situation so that people in the area can be assured that at least the government is doing whatever it can to curb the situation and to address the very serious problems that are affecting children in that community?

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

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

I think the issues we are talking about run much deeper than the number of social workers. I think we would be the first to recognize, as have many other aboriginal communities right across this country, that the issues we are hearing about run much deeper. They are part of the community and they have to be addressed from a cultural as well as from a community perspective.

We have in the past worked very closely with officials from the federal government and with our own regional board people, not only from the social work perspective but from the health perspective, the mental health perspective, the teachers and all the other resource people and those who provide community services, to try to do an integrated approach to whatever type of service delivery we can give to address this problem.

As I have mentioned before, Mr. Speaker, we too are quite concerned. The Member for Torngat Mountains has mentioned it to me. We are trying to pull together now, with our officials in my department as well as with the board officials, an approach to try to look at this, to deal with it in a long-term perspective if we can. We know we will probably have to avail of more resources than we normally would.

As I have said today, without making a prediction or saying that I am going to do something of which I have not fully been apprised, I want to make sure I have all of the details and that we are able to get all of the partners. Because we know that whenever you address an issue which has such a strong and serious cultural base you must include all components of the community, use a community development approach to problem solving, if it is to be at all successful.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, there is no question that when we deal with substance abuse of any kind, whether it is at the individual level or community level, solutions lie within the community and individuals themselves. However, I would like to just reference for the minister again that back in August we wrote the minister indicating we had information. We wanted to inform her of what information we had.

Also, there are situations that demand intervention. Those in the business of dealing with substance abuse of any kind will tell you that there are situations that occur like this and where crisis intervention must take place. I would like to ask the minister: What discussions have you had with the Band Council of Davis Inlet, associated federal agencies or others involved in this matter, to find ways to cope with this very serious problem?

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

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

As the member opposite knows, when we are dealing with issues with respect to health and community services we work through our boards to try to find the best approach to solving an issue which is of such a serious nature as this one.

I will say again that whenever you try to address an issue of this magnitude you do not work from the outside in, you work from the inside out. You work very much from a community-based component. You work with all of the parties. As I have said previously, with my officials in the department, and with resources from our health and community services boards, in addition to the federal government support - because there is a significant amount of federal government money and supports that are in a number of our Aboriginal communities, as you are well aware - we will be working with all of the parties. We will be following the same premise as we followed. We do not think that this is an isolated case. We know it is an issue that required extraordinary measures the last time it was raised to this level.

Again, I am not going to stand up in the House today and make a commitment to follow any particular course. We will get all of the information that we need, we will meet with all of the necessary officials and with the people and the community that we need to meet with, and we will make the best decisions. Because I think, as we pointed out today at the introduction of our new piece of legislation, our child, youth and family services act, whatever we do will be child centred, child focused, and in the best interest of the child; but we have to work within the community and the structures that are there.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: With the greatest of respect, Minister, we advised you of a situation that occurred - information that we had early in August. The critic for health wrote you on the matter. The situation, as you have described yourself, is extraordinary and needs extraordinary measures. I understand the health boards are involved, but I say to the minister that you, yourself, become involved.

I would like to ask you this question: Have any of the children of the community been taken out of the community and sent for treatment elsewhere, or is that an option that is being considered as was done in a similar circumstance several years ago?

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

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

As the member knows, whenever possible - and we have been asked specifically by the Aboriginal community - to keep children within their community for cultural and community reasons, if at all possible. We have done that whenever possible in all areas of Labrador, particularly in the Aboriginal communities.

As I have said early, we have not been ignoring the situation. We have been meeting. We are trying to plan in terms of a long-term solution to some of these very difficult, challenging, and very disturbing situations that we find our Aboriginal children in, in some of these communities.

I think it is important to note that the Member for Torngat Mountains, as I have mentioned earlier, has been very active in working with the communities and I think, as anyone would acknowledge, the Member of the House of Assembly is a key contact person and representative of the views and issues of any community. Particularly, I know that the Member for Torngat Mountain is a very, very conscientious member and has had numerous meetings with officials from both my department as well as other deputy ministers.

We have had a intergovernmental committee in place for a long time. I have been there myself and have met with the officials and discussed a number of other issues, but whenever you deal with issues of this magnitude, you are never isolated to one issue. It involves the whole community, the whole gamut of everything from our social system to our economic base, and all of the issues in between.

Mr. Speaker, we take it very seriously. We have been working with the Aboriginal leaders. We have also been working with our own deputy ministers in an intergovernmental, collaborate approach to try to find an integrated collaborative response to this very serious problem.

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

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

Minister, for the record, I want it to be clear that the sincerity or the actions of the member for that particular district are not in question. The actions or the sincerity of the member for that particular district are certainly not been questioned by me. What is at questioned is, because of the ongoing problem, the questions that are raised to you today as minister, is the department's own response.

I would like to ask you this question. As I see it, we have a community in crisis, and clearly the parents in the area are unable to deal with the situation. Clearly, the children are at risk and are in need of protection. Minister, do you believe that this qualifies, under the definition of the Child Protection Act, and in spirit and in keeping with your own press conference in terms of the changes that you have suggested today will focus on prevention and rehabilitation, of a situation where children are in need of protection? And what new strategies are you considering right now to try to solve this ongoing problem?

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

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

What we have proposed in this legislation, and in fact what many of our social workers have been carrying out with the aid of policy as opposed to legislation, is the full gamut of services. I will say it again, that a child will be removed from the care of the parents if it is seen to be in the best interest of the child. Whatever we do with this new proposed legislation is very much based on child-centred, child-focused care. I am not going to say that the whole group of them are not going to removed from their families. I would not discuss that here in this environment.

What I would do is, to meet with all of the officials who are working with this, and the community representatives, and the families and the parents. There are numerous ways of approaching a situation like this, and have been tried in many Aboriginal communities. The family conference is another one, where you involve a group of people much broader than the immediate family, but go out to family members and also key significant people in the community, who may or may not be related, like teachers or other types of support systems for the child.

We are willing to look at any number of issues, but I think first of all I would never group any of the children together. I think it is important to look at the issues in an individual way, because each child is an individual, with an individual set of family situations that need to be looked at in that way.

I will say that we are very concerned, and that we will look to try to resolve this in the best possible way with all of the partners involved, particularly the family. If they can work with us, definitely; because if a child can stay in a family, that is what we want to do. If they cannot, and there is evidence that they cannot, and we are seeing the type of behaviour we have seen, we would certainly would move to apprehend and remove that child and put the child in a safe environment. We need to work with the community and the social worker and the people who know the situation best.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My questions today are to the Minister of Health and Community Services.

In August of 1997, private ambulance operators, upon the minister's request, voluntarily agreed to open their books and have government auditors come in and see exactly the serous plight they were in. I might add, that audit has been completed and has been in your hands since March. It has not been publicly released, but it is evident that many operators are on the brink of bankruptcy and are in danger of losing an essential service in areas of this Province unless the proper financial forces are put in place.

Minister, in August of this year, I raised this issue and indicated that your department was considering eliminating grants to some of these. The minister said: Mr. Sullivan is sounding more like an MHA and a health critic fearmonger, I say to the minister. That is what she indicated.

Well, Minister, shortly after that statement by you, a few weeks later, I attended a meeting with ambulance operators, with officials of your department, when your department had signalled out and designated twelve areas in the Province where they were going to cut grants, I say to you.

The operators at the meeting had to justify why they should provide this service. I ask the minister now: Will she confirm that she has a report by her department officials in her hands since last Monday that is reviewing cutting twelve different grants to ambulance operators across this Province?

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

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

In response to the preamble before the question, I want to say: Yes, there was a financial audit done. The information contains a lot of very personal information about a select number of operators. We have decided that would not be released for that particular reason.

What we did do though, is, in response to trying to deal with the issue, we did give a commitment to the ambulance operators, particularly the small to medium private operators, as well as the community service operators, that we would within sixty days complete a new set of negotiations that would like at the whole range of issues as they relate to ambulance service operators.

As I said to the CBC in an interview a few days ago, I know the member opposite has ambulance operators in his district and he is probably trying to advocate on their behalf. Fine, but the real issue is that this is more than grants. It is about how we deliver services for the whole Province; it is about looking at why some areas of the Province use ambulances four to five times more than other areas on an average basis throughout the Province. It is also about a whole range of issues about how we deliver services through the Public Utilities Board, how those ambulances are called, how they work closely with the community.

Grants are one part of it, that is true, but the services are also a big part of it, as well as everything else that can affect ambulance services for the people of this Province.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I ask the minister: Why are you selective in the areas that you are selecting to do a review? Why Hickman's Harbour, Trepassey, Bell Island, Forteau, Cappahayden, Port aux Basques, Norris Point, St. Bride's, Ferryland, Clarenville and Heart's Delight?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: I get calls from ambulance operators in the districts of members on that side of the House, with the same concerns. I ask the minister: Why are you further downgrading services to twelve rural Newfoundland areas when many of these areas now have no hospitals and no medical facilities. One of these areas, namely Trepassey, is further by road to a hospital in this Province than any other community on this Island.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I will say to the member - and I will ask you a question - don't you think you should wait until the results of the report come out before you start guessing the outcome of the report?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Really, Mr. Speaker, I know there is a real urgency to fearmonger about service reductions and everything else, but I do urge the member opposite to at least wait until the report is released and the decisions are made. Then make your statements.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

History has shown that it is much better to get the result you want when you raise it before you make the decision, I say to the minister.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: History has shown that.

AN HON. MEMBER: Especially with this government.

MR. SULLIVAN: Especially with that minister.

I have a copy of a report here, Minister, by your department that identified over $228,000 inefficiencies alone in one particular area - in Corner Brook in this Province. Why are you ignoring this area, Minister, and instead crucifying operators that are critical to the health and wellbeing of rural Newfoundlanders - an area, by the way, that now has a shortage of eighty medical doctors in the Province?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, let me say it again, and I will say it slower this time: I have not made a decision on the report as of yet. Yes, the report came in last Monday, but in case you have not been noticing, we have been rather busy in my department working on a lot of other issues and -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: - and while I want to admit, and have it very clearly for the record, ambulance services are a very important issue for the people of this Province. I have to say, we want to give it the full attention it deserves. We have given that commitment to the ambulance operators, and I urge the member to wait to panic until after the results of the report are made known.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I ask the minister, if it is so urgent not to panic, why do you have in your department a copy of a report dated in 1991 showing inefficiencies in the system in this Province to the tune of a quarter of a million dollars, and you are turning around and crucifying thirteen areas, thirteen operations in twelve areas of our Province? I ask the minister: Why are you waiting seven years, if it is so important? Why are you not addressing it now?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, I have been in this portfolio for a year-and-a-half and I am quite pleased with the outcomes and the measurements that we have been able to put forward on behalf of this department.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Now, Mr. Speaker, there is lots of work to be done. I can say, if it took over fifty-four years to change the child welfare legislation - a long time with both parties in place - I think that we will say very clearly that we see this as a very important issue and we will attend to it as quickly as we can.

As we have heard here today, every day the issue in Davis Inlet is a very important issue. The ambulance issue is a very important issue. Our child welfare system is a very important issue, and we will deal with the issues in a timely way, in the best way we can, and we will incorporate all of the information we have. We have given that commitment to the ambulance operators and we will stick to it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. H. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My questions are for the Minister of Education and they concern the post-secondary Awards Program.

I wanted to ask the minister: Why has the minister decided that he would limit the access to the Awards Program to students who attend public colleges - namely Memorial University and the College of the North Atlantic? Why have you adopted a double standard of eligibility?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I acknowledge that when I made the Ministerial Statement earlier that the education critic for the Opposition did praise the initiative and is glad that we do have some $4 million put aside to assist students with their indebtedness.

Mr. Speaker, if he looked back to the commentary and the comments that were made during the Budget Debate last year - because he did participate in it quite actively; maybe he has forgotten what he said -, in fact the whole debate ranged around the fact that in Newfoundland and Labrador this government had found a way in the Budget to put in place an interim measure which would bridge students in Newfoundland and Labrador to the point in time when they could hope to take advantage of the Canada Millennium Scholarships. Basically, I am pleased to indicate, the federal government, and the group which is looking at the Canada Millennium Scholarships, are looking at the criteria and the model we used to disperse $1.2 million so far this year as being the national model they might very well use.

The whole notion is that we wanted to do something that would bridge the gap. We wanted to do something on a number of fronts, including student loans, that would be harmonized with how it is being dealt with in the rest of the country. One of the criteria, front and centre, Mr. Speaker, with respect to the Canada Millennium Scholarship - this is just a mechanism to bridge us to that period of time, with some money from the provincial treasury - is that the Canada Millennium Scholarship, right across the country, is going to be available to students in publicly funded institutions.

Rather than try to have a different criteria in Newfoundland and Labrador, we checked with the students, we checked with the student representatives, we checked as well with the University, the college, recognized that people in the private institutions would also like to have some assistance, but in order for meaningful assistance to occur for the students we felt it had to be restricted to the publicly funded institutions, the same as the national program will be in a year's time.

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

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

The minister will know that the National Scholarship Foundation - which administers the Millennium Fund, following from Bill C-36 in the federal Parliament - has not specifically excluded private colleges. In fact, they have recently agreed to appoint one of the members from the private colleges to the table to have discussions about expanding that particular program, make it available to private colleges. The minister is not quite correct, because his information, if that is what he has, is not up to date.

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the minister another question. There are two criteria that are mentioned. One is need and the other one is academic achievement. Why have you agreed to add a third criteria, which is source of operating funds?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Maybe in his third question he will elaborate further on what that means, because I don't know what he is getting at yet. I will wait and find out I guess in the next question.

Contrary to what the hon. member is saying, we indicated as well during the Budget Debate last year that if and when the federal program becomes available to students who are in privately funded institutions, in the private training sector, we would certainly then look at adjusting the criteria in Newfoundland and Labrador. There has absolutely been no decision taken at this point in time to include private training institutions for eligibility under the Canada Millennium Scholarship. We are consistent in terms of, at this point in time, being harmonized with the federal program.

We have indicated - and we have had the discussion with the students and with the committee that set up the criteria in our Province - that if it comes to that, if the federal program is extended to include application, and to apply to students who are in the private training institutions, at that point in time we would gladly look at revisiting the criteria in Newfoundland and Labrador.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Waterford Valley.

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

The minister will know there are 7,000 students in Newfoundland and Labrador who are taking their post-secondary education at a private college school. I checked with the Association of Private Colleges and they tell me that they are prepared today to enter into a dialogue with the minister that will assure that a fair and transparent methodology can be arranged, which will make sure that their students can participate in the eligibility criteria, and that they can design a process that will be as fair and reasonable and would be commensurate with that which is used in the public college system.

Following what is being done nationally, because I have correspondence here from other provinces whereby there is dialogue occurring nationally, I ask the minister: Will he in Newfoundland and Labrador today contact and negotiate with the Association of Private Colleges so that we in Newfoundland and Labrador can make sure that the students in private colleges have an equal opportunity to participate in this particular program?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It might be useful to point out one thing that the hon. member ignores in the discussion and the questions. The awards program in Newfoundland and Labrador and the Canada Millennium Scholarship program are both intended to deal with the issue of indebtedness. What he misses is this fine point, that in our private training institutions, while tuitions are higher because there is no subsidy from the public purse, the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of the courses are a semester, a year, two years maximum, whereas in the publicly funded college and in the University the programs are three, four or five years' duration.

The real indebtedness at the end of the piece in Newfoundland and Labrador, and across the country, accrues to those students who are in school for a longer period of time taking three-year technology programs, taking four- and five-year degree programs, which are not offered in the private schools. As a matter of fact, 70 per cent of the students in private schools take a course which is of one year duration or less. So while they have high tuition in the year, they do not accrue anywhere close to the debt through a student loan system that students do who are in a four- or five-year university program, or a three-year technology program in the public college.

Mr. Speaker, the main criteria of the program is to relieve indebtedness. While tuition fees on a semester basis or a yearly basis are higher in the private training institutions, the statistics do not show that students who have only gone to private training institutions have higher debt loads than students who are in the public college or the University.

MR. SPEAKER: Final supplementary, the hon. the Member for Waterford Valley.

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

The minister will know that the student debt load in private colleges can be just as high. For example, some of the programs that were offered by the Career Academy had debt loads of well over $30,000 and $40,000. I say to the minister that some of the tuition can be six times as high in private colleges as in the public colleges.

I want to ask the minister: Is he not at all concerned with the message he is sending here, a very discriminatory message that he is sending to the private college system in Newfoundland and Labrador?

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

MR. GRIMES: Mr. Speaker, maybe I will just cover some of the same ground again. The fact of the matter is that when the hon. member refers to extremely high debt loads - and we have heard some of that in public commentary during the summer. There were students, for example when the Career Academy closed, who were quoted on television as saying they had debt loads in excess of $30,000. When I met with that student individually, the reality was that the student had spent four years in university, had not gotten a job; had spent another two years in the College of the North Atlantic and not gotten a job; and had then gone to the Career Academy to do a one-year course. Yes, there was $30,000 worth of debt, but it was accrued because of the fact that the person had spent six years in publicly funded institutions prior to going to the private training institution that was the Career Academy at that time.

Again, Mr. Speaker, as we said last year when we announced the program, because we want to have meaningful debt relief for students - and this was the criteria that the students themselves agreed upon -, rather then have a program where somebody might get a cheque a week ago for $20, $10, $18, the minimum aware is $500.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. GRIMES: The maximum is $1,000. We have helped 2,000 students. If the federal criteria are to change through a process they are now going through, we would gladly then look at that process in Newfoundland and Labrador. We see no need to convene a discussion in Newfoundland and Labrador that is already being held at the national level as to whether or not private training institutions will be included.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: I ask the hon. minister to take his seat.

Question period has ended.

Presenting Reports by
Standing and Special Committees


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

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

Today I rise in my place to present the report of the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Assembly, dated November 1998.

I will make just a few comments.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)!

MR. J. BYRNE: Table the report. I have to thank a few people and stuff like that. There are government members on this, you know.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. SULLIVAN: Point of order.

MR. SPEAKER: On a point of order, the hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It has been customary here when reports are filed on children's interest and other things to make some acknowledgements of people there. Certainly I am sure the Government House Leader shouldn't feel too mean-spirited today not to have a brief comment.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, let me just say to the hon. gentleman that I do not mind, but when I hear a member standing and saying: I am going to make a few telling comments about this report, then that is totally outside of recognizing who is involved in the report or who is not. The hon. gentleman should just table the report as the routine Orders of the Day call for.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis tabling a report on the -

MR. J. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have to correct the hon. Government House Leader. He said I made a statement that I would say a few telling comments. All I said was I wanted to make a few comments with respect to recognizing certain people who are involved in this.


MR. J. BYRNE: That is what I said! Hansard will check it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. J. BYRNE: I never said telling comments. I did not.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Is the hon. member tabling the report?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. J. BYRNE: I would like to, again, table the report of the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Assembly for November 1998. I would like to thank, if I was permitted, the members of the Committee. Would that be acceptable, Mr. Speaker?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Okay. Here it is. There is the report. Let me say this, Mr. Speaker. The members on that side of the House must be frightened to death, because every time I stand in this House of Assembly the Government House Leader is on the attack, like an attack dog.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to table the 1998 annual report of the Newfoundland Liquor Corporation. I have not telling comments to make.

Notices of Motion

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RAMSAY: Mr. Speaker, I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce the following private member's resolution:

WHEREAS the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has initiated a planned approach to focus on the key areas of social and economic development in the Province; and

WHEREAS government in consultation with economic development partners throughout the Province has established Regional Economic Development Boards in twenty economic zones throughout Newfoundland and Labrador; and

WHEREAS the Regional Economic Development Boards are grassroots organizations within both urban and rural centres in the Province which are implementing strategic economic plans for their region based on local and provincial consultations; and

WHEREAS the Premier's Council on social development has been established to oversee the implementation of the Newfoundland and Labrador Strategic Social Plan; and

WHEREAS the Strategic Social Plan has evolved out of one of the most thorough and far-reaching consultations on a social strategy ever undertaken in Newfoundland and Labrador; and

WHEREAS the Strategic Social Plan and strategic regional economic plans of the Regional Economic Development Boards are a cornerstone of the path chosen by the people of the regions of our Province for our future social and economic development;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED this House go on record as supporting and encouraging the Regional Economic Development Boards in the implementation of their strategic plans and the many hard-working grassroots volunteers to continue their excellent work on behalf of the people of the Province; and

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED this House support and encourage the continued linkages and working relationships between the social and economic development sectors of the provincial strategies for economic renewal and social responsiveness.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I stand today to present a petition on behalf of constituents of mine in the District of St. John's East. I would just like to read the petition for the Members of the House.

To the hon. House of Assembly of Newfoundland in legislative session convened, the petition of the undersigned residents of Chalker Place in the electorial District of St. John's East:

WHEREAS the housing units at Chalker Place are owned by the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation; and

WHEREAS many of these units are in desperate need of repair; and

WHEREAS the tenants have been waiting now for some time to have these repairs carried out;

WHEREFORE your petitioners urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to give serious consideration to ensuring that the tenants' concerns are resolved in a satisfactory manner.

As part of this petition, Mr. Speaker, there are some sixty-five or seventy names of residents of Chalker Place in the electorial District of St. John's East. This particular part of the district is essentially units that are owned by Newfoundland and Labrador Housing, and the residents of Chalker Place are simply tenants of Newfoundland and Labrador Housing.

I have met and spoken with numerous residents in the area who repeatedly talk about the frustrations they are experiencing in having many of the problems with respect to their rental units rectified, and the work, hopefully, to be carried out by Newfoundland and Labrador Housing. These residents have tried over and over again for a significant period of time to have their problems resolved. For example, there are problems with roofing, problems with windows, problems with siding. There are approximately 100 units in Chalker Place. These are individuals who are simply frustrated beyond no end in terms of their attempts to have this particular issue dealt with.

There are, as I have indicated, approximately one hundred units. We have a lot of single-parent families. We have people who need assistance and recognition by the minister responsible for Newfoundland and Labrador Housing and by officials of Newfoundland and Labrador Housing itself. When there are approximately one hundred units, and we have close to seventy signatures from individuals who live on Chalker Place, I think that number essentially speaks for itself.

This is an issue of major concern. These individuals have tried on numerous occasions to have this issue resolved. We are talking about fundamental issues. We are talking about a housing requirement, we are talking about leaky windows, we are talking about leaking roofs, we are talking about, essentially, the day to day comfort of day to day living which unfortunately is not being adhered to and given any sort of reasonable response or recognition by Newfoundland and Labrador Housing.

I would therefore call upon the minister responsible for housing in this government, namely the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, responsible for Newfoundland and Labrador Housing, to listen carefully to what these residents are saying, and to hopefully take to heart the many complaints, the many problems, which are being experienced, and in a very genuine way have his officials go to Chalker Place to meet with the residents of Chalker Place with a very serious intent of rectifying their concerns.

This is a petition which is done in good faith on behalf of these individuals. These residents need help, these residents need assistance, these residents need attention from the minister responsible, with the view of having these particular housing needs addressed and these particular problems rectified. It may to many people seem unimportant, but believe me, to the residents of Chalker Place this is first and foremost. They require attention from the minister and it is genuinely hoped, with the help of this petition, that their needs and concerns will be addressed. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am very familiar with the Chalker Place housing development, having represented that area as a Member of Parliament, and have often been down there. The YMCA is next to it. I want to support wholeheartedly the petition of the Member for St. John's East.

It is very unfortunate, and perhaps telling, that these individuals have to come and petition this House of Assembly in order to get basic repairs done to public housing. This is clearly a basic right. That particular area seems to have been neglected by Newfoundland and Labrador Housing when it comes to refurbishing these units.

We have seen in other areas of St. John's, and I am sure in other areas of the Province but I will refer to a couple in St. John's - Buckmasters Circle has received a very excellent facelift at least, and I know the interiors were done as well. The whole area of Buckmasters Circle was redone several years ago, a very commendable job by Newfoundland and Labrador Housing. They upgraded the area, upgraded the look of the area, upgraded the atmosphere of the area and, I am sure, improved the quality of life for the tenants in the process, and also enabled people to have great pride in their living accommodations, which obviously has great other effects as well.

We have also seen it on Anderson Avenue. That whole area was upgraded a number of years ago. Livingstone Street, in the last year or so, was upgraded by Newfoundland and Labrador Housing. But this area seems to have been neglected, and I am sorry that the minister is not here to respond to it today because it is something that needs to be brought to his attention, and through this petition I hope it will. The kinds of problems that the Member for St. John's East has been talking about are fairly basic. We are talking about inadequate roofing; we are talking about windows that need to be replaced; we are talking about the general state of repair of these dwellings that casts a pall over the living arrangements that people have over their family life, over their whole self-respect, to be living in an accommodation that is visibly unsuitable and obviously unsuitable for living as well.

I want to support wholeheartedly the comments of the Member for St. John's East and the prayer of the petitioners to get some definite action undertaken by Newfoundland and Labrador Housing, to refurbish that whole area of apartments. That area has improved considerably in the last little while. The housing that was owned by the Department of Defence has recently been turned into condominiums that all have been repaired. Upgrades have taken place around that neighbourhood.

Across the street on Kenna's Hill, another apartment building, privately owned, has been upgraded and made more attractive. We now have, in the middle of that, the Chalker Place public housing which, I am sure, must make the lives of those living there saddened; to go in every day to this public housing area and see the housing that is provided by the public for people who cannot find adequate housing in the private sector, that housing treated as second-, third- and fourth-rate accommodations by virtue of the fact that they have been neglected in the basis way by Newfoundland and Labrador Housing.

I would urge the House to support the resolution, and I would urge the minister to announce very quickly a date for the start of the renovations and refurbishing of the Chalker Place apartments.

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

MS S. OSBORNE: I would also like to speak to the petition, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Does the hon. member have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The member has asked for leave. Does the member have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MS S. OSBORNE: I get calls all the time from people who live in Newfoundland and Labrador Housing. One of the common threads is that these people are very vulnerable. If they were renting privately, they could go to their landlord and say: I need the repairs done, and the landlord would execute the repairs because he would be threatened probably with losing the tenant. However, Newfoundland and Labrador Housing know that they are in charge here, and these people are living in homes where there are leaky roofs, leaky windows, and where the gyproc gets mouldy. Children are living in rooms where there is mould growing on the walls, and these people are at the mercy of Newfoundland and Labrador Housing. They have no place else to go.

As a matter of fact, a couple of months ago in one of the areas in St. John's Centre, the houses were so bad and the people had complained so much, and there was no action, that eventually the conditions in which this government lets our people exist - not live but exist - became evident on the front page of The Telegram. There were pictures there of staircases falling in, of mould on the walls. This problem is not just in Chalker Place. This problem is throughout the city in many of the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing units.

There was one area of the city where they were having trouble with their eavestrough; the eavestrough was leaking. They called Newfoundland Labrador and Housing and asked to have it repaired. They removed the eavestrough and now water is running down on the

steps and accumulating. Actually, it is posing quite a danger.

There was a mailman making a delivery, or dropping off the mail one day last week, and there was a bit of frost buildup there. He slipped. I checked and found out that if he falls, the person living in the house is the one responsible should anything happen to him. I would like to suggest that it is the owner who has caused the danger by not having the repairs effected properly who would be responsible, and this government might very well find itself in court.

More importantly than that, we have our children; children who are living in damp bedrooms because the windows are leaking, because there is mould. Actually, the gyproc has gotten soft with the leaks and there is mould there.

I know it is a policy of Newfoundland and Labrador Housing, when somebody has been selected for a unit and they want to go visit the unit, they are not allowed to visit the unit until the painting has been done. I determined, from dealing with so many of the residents of Newfoundland and Labrador Housing, that actually what happens is that Newfoundland and Labrador Housing goes in and paints over the mould.

As the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi, said: It is too bad the minister is not here to hear these complaints, as I am sure he receives every day in his office, as I do in mine, complaints about how this government allows our people to exist.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise today to present a petition. The petition reads:

To the hon. House of Assembly of Newfoundland in legislative session convened, the petition of the undersigned residents of Newfoundland;

WHEREAS we feel the priorities being followed by HRDC for the hiring of applicants on term job creation projects are morally wrong and unfair; and

WHEREAS we believe that Priority 1 should be given to former TAGS clients who are unemployed and have little or no income; and

WHEREAS we further believe that whether or not an individual received EI in the past three years should have absolutely no bearing on a person's placement on a priority list;

WHEREFORE your petitioners urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to immediately make strong representation to the Government of Canada urging them to direct their HRDC offices to give first priority in hiring for term job creation projects to former TAG clients who are unemployed, and to disregard whether the applicant has received EI in the past three years.

And as in duty bound your petitioners will ever pray.

Mr. Speaker, I brought this to the attention of the Government House Leader just last Friday. He had indicated at that time that he will bringing it forward to his cousins up in Ottawa to bring about those changes.

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader, on a point of order.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I did not indicate that I would bring it to any cousins in Ottawa. I have no cousins in Ottawa. I don't even have a brother or a sister.

What I did say to the hon. gentlemen was that I would bring it to the attention of the Regional Director of HRDC, and I did that for him this morning.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There is no point of order.

The hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, I think the only way to change this, I say to the minister, is probably to bring it to Ottawa's attention. I have already met with the HRDC offices, both here in St. John's and also in Clarenville, and it seems that they are very reluctant to make any changes.

In fact, Minister, what you will find is that most HRDC offices have a completely different set of rules and regulations. That is what has people disappointed and upset and discouraged, if you would, because they see no similarities in where people put the priorities for hiring on those post-TAGS programs. If you are receiving EI benefits whatsoever, you are in the lowest priority on the totem pole.

I had one person come to me just a couple of weeks ago who indicated that they were getting $9 a week, I say to the minister, $9 a week in unemployment insurance, and because they were making that $9 a week they are now disentitled to go to work on one of those projects unless almost everybody else in the community has gone to work first. This does not put them at a very good advantage.

I remember the manager of the HRDC office saying to me: Well, where do we draw the line? If it is $1 or $10, where do we draw the line? Mr. Speaker, it is very easy to know where you draw the line - if you want to draw a line that is - look at what the person would normally get if they were fortunate enough to have gotten a job on one of those projects. It pays $8 per hour for unskilled labour and it pays I think $11 per hour for a foreman's position. Find out what they get, figure out their 55 per cent unemployment insurance, and that is where you can draw the line. At least they would be no worse off than somebody who was fortunate enough to get a job.

Mr. Speaker, I think we should be encouraging people to go to work and offer them some incentive instead of discouraging them and almost discriminating against them because they had the initiative to go out and look for a job and find work three years ago. What people made three years ago on some of those community jobs is certainly of no benefit for them to put bread and butter on the table today. Those people are concerned because of the very program that was put in place to help them, provide them with an income so they could support their families over the coming winter months, now find themselves at the lower end of the priority list and unable to access one of those positions that is brought forward by this post-TAGS funding.

Mr. Speaker, they are not looking to get leverage over anybody else. All they are asking for is that they be considered in one of the higher priorities so they can get a job since they do not have any income. They should not be discriminated against for having the initiative, for getting up in the morning and finding a job. In some cases, like I said, that happened three years ago.

I ask the minister if he would bring it to the attention of the Human Resource Development office in Ottawa. There is no point in taking it to the manager of any of the HRDC offices. That has all been tried. That has all been done earlier, and there have been absolutely no changes brought about. I ask him to take it to the minister in Ottawa to try to bring about those changes; and when the changes are brought about, have a clear set of priorities, have a clear set of rules, so that all HRD offices here in Newfoundland might go forward with the same set of priorities, and what somebody in Gander would qualify for -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. members's time is up.

MR. H. HODDER: - that somebody in Bonavista and somebody in Port de Grave could qualify with the same rules and regulations.

Thank you.

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

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

I am pleased today to stand and support my colleague in this particular petition. I am telling you, a lot of people in this Province care. If the minister and all members, especially in the rural parts of Newfoundland, are out there now getting the same calls that I am getting about people in the communities fighting among themselves, community fighting community -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: They do not all have jobs. As a matter of fact, since the minister raised this, so did his political cousin in Ottawa. You talk about getting them all jobs, Mr. George Baker - I don't mind saying it because it was said publicly at a meeting in Little Bay Islands when he slammed his fist on the table back in July month and said: There will be a job for every single person in this community, I can bet you that.

MR. J. BYRNE: Who said that?

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. George Baker. That is where it all started, and that is where the inconsistencies started. That is when all these projects were coming. They were going to save everybody. Everybody was going to get on. Don't worry about criteria, they were told.

Mr. Speaker, the truth is, what is happening today is we have the MPs blaming the bureaucrats, the bureaucrats blaming the MPs, and back and forth it goes; front page stories in local papers, MPs attacking the bureaucrats. As long as they don't touch it, it has nothing to do with them. They are only in the government. It is not us. They are only MPs who are sitting on these boards, who have the input with their colleagues. Unless, maybe the MPs don't talk to their Cabinet ministers. Maybe they are not allowed in the same room.

The bottom line is that people around communities yesterday, today and will be again tomorrow, are phoning and complaining about people who are on the project; people who cannot get on the project; the criteria is different in one community as opposed to the criteria in another community. Every now and then when they phone their MP and get a call through, they say: No, it is the HRDC office. Then you phone the HRDC office and they tell you: Phone your MP. Back and forth it goes. People's lives are like a ping-pong ball, back and forth. Back and forth it goes. The bottom line is that people are looking at this as short term, which it is, Mr. Speaker. It is short term, it is make-work projects. You can phrase it anyway you want, FRAM projects, short term, and people are scrambling to get those few weeks on.

In the criteria, as my colleague spoke about, imagine somebody with $9 a week unemployment, $50 a week. I have seen three or four of those already in my own district. Because they are getting $50 a week unemployment, because they went out and tried to better themselves, the bureaucrats or the MPs, whoever you want to blame it on, are telling them: That was a bad thing to do, you shouldn't have done anything, you should have stayed home and done absolutely nothing. We would have awarded you then.

They are the most ridiculous criteria. At the end of the day, whoever's lap it falls in, it is so stupid - there is not another word that can be used. Somebody sat down with this type of criteria and tried to use a bit of logic. Logic must have gone out the window, whoever wrote up these criteria, because it does not fit the situation people in rural Newfoundland find themselves in today. It is a real shame they have got to get into a ping pong match back and forth with who is to blame.

The bottom line is that people should be able to go to work if they want to go to work on these projects. Hopefully they are projects that are going to be worthwhile and useful. Some of them are very questionable, there is no doubt about that. It seems as though all of a sudden there were no projects in place, and then there was the big mad rush because the pressure started, when the protests started on the Northern Peninsula and so on. Then they started to squeeze them all through as quick as they could. Now we have a bottleneck effect. All the projects are going to be pushed on at the one time: Let's get this handful on, let's get on the fellows that are doing the most complaining. Any of those groups making all the noise in the media, make sure they get on.

That is what has been going on. It is a sad state. Really, it is crisis management, that is the best example of it, where they try to squeeze everybody in, shut them up as quick as they could, get them on a project, get them to work so they would not say anything else.

It was the same thing with the mobility assistance situation just a little while ago. Everything is in a rush. What happened is this. Back when we did our all party committee to Ottawa you could see the attitude of the federal bureaucrats at the time and the people in Ottawa. What are you coming for now? A last dose of something. Let's throw a few more dollars at them, pave it over, and they are saying to our provincial government: Here is your load of cash, the one-term effect, take it and use it the best way you can. We do not care if it is a good project or if it makes sense or if it is something that is worth while. We do not care if it is logical. We just want to put a lot of cash over the front face of it so it looks good. That is the problem with all of this. It is a big one-shot deal that is supposed to keep everybody quiet. The big question is: What happens down the road?

The Member for Torngat Mountains, when he gave his great speech when we were in Ottawa to the MPs there at the time and all the other members of the committee, he told it just like it is. You ask the Member for Torngat Mountains: Did that fall on deaf ears? Did they really listen to the circumstances? It was all futile. They just went up and went through the motions. Everybody nodded their head, very polite, go through the whole mess. Of course, when we walked into Liberal Caucus Room and we found there was more of us on the committee than there were people actually listening to our concerns, that said enough for me.

Really, what we are seeing here, Mr. Speaker, is the last shot -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. SHELLEY: - cash flow, get them off their back and get them to sit down and be quiet. It is not going to work. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to present a petition now on behalf of the people of Labrador West.

To the Honourable House of Assembly:

WHEREAS we the residents of Labrador City condemn the provincial government in supporting the Iron Ore Company of Canada's decision to process Labrador resources in Sept-Iles, Quebec;

WHEREFORE your petitioners urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to reverse this decision immediately and support a policy of second-hand processing within the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, people think this issue has gone away but the truth is it hasn't. You talk to people, especially in the Labrador West region, or when I went back to my district this weekend and talked to people in the mining industry that remember what it is like, and remember that same old argument we have in this Province.

A lot of people in this Province are confused with what they see in the messages sent out by government. One day they are taking on Inco with their fists folded and they are going to take them on no matter how big they are, and the next day they are saying to IOC: Go ahead, fill up the trains with the iron ore, take it all out again, it is not a problem. It is an inconsistent message. It is a message I got from people at the CIM down here a couple of weekends ago when they said: We do not know where the Premier is going to come from, it is going to depend on his mood. If you come into the Premier in a good mood and you are in cahoots with the Premier and everything is going smoothly, it should not be a problem. Depending on where you are going to, if you take on the Premier and get his back up, look out, it could be a whole different situation.

That is why even with the Mineral Act now, and changes that are going to come on - there is nobody in this Province who argues we shouldn't keep our resources and get the most benefits for our resources. There is nobody who is going to argue that. The people of Labrador West are reflective of what is happening in this Province when it comes to our resources. What has really happened in Labrador West is it has come to a head. They finally said: Here is a company with thirty-eight years in this Province of pelletizing ore in this Province. Not doing something new. They are not asking them to do something new here, they are asking them to continue a primary process that has been there for thirty-eight years. The people that still have not read Cain's Legacy should read it, especially that particular thing that thirty-eight years ago that same argument was put before the then-Premier of the Province when IOC said to the government of the day: We have full intentions of mining the iron ore in Labrador West, but our intention is to pelletize in Sept-Iles, Quebec.

In a ten-minute meeting with the premier of the day, Joseph R. Smallwood, he looked at these people and said - I almost have paraphrased, I almost have it verbatim, but paraphrased he basically said: Yes, that is a company decision. We do not have anything in the legislation of the day that would stop you from putting that pellet plant in Sept-Iles, Quebec. Which is the same situation that you have today. The premier of the day looked at those people and said: Yes, you can put it there, but as the Premier of this Province I will use whatever I can to make your lives miserable if you make that decision.

Within ten minutes of ending that meeting the IOC decision was: Okay, we will put the pellet plant in Labrador City. That is why you see a pellet plant there today. You have to start questioning yourself. What really happened here. Was Labrador West used as a pawn in a bigger game the Premier is in? Were they used as scapegoats in a bigger charade that is going on between the Premier and his national agenda? Is that the real truth?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: Before, the history books were right, Mr. Speaker, and there is a lot of this going over the heads of a lot of members in this House of Assembly. What is really taking place is that the Premier of this Province is playing games with the people of Labrador West. He is saying: They will not kick up too much of a stink. We do not care that the member locally might be in a bit of trouble, we do not care that they had a motorcade in Labrador City. There were no cameras around, nobody noticed that. Don't worry about it. Because, you see, the problem is the Premier - this would have been an announcement to go up and say: We are going to expand the pellet plant in Labrador City and get fifty jobs. That was not big enough. That was not a million dollars he was going to spend on a press conference like he had in the Churchill Falls announcement. That is not big enough for the Premier. No, that is not big enough.

If he had a big announcement that there were going to be 1,000 new jobs and we were going to do secondary processing, and this big company was on side, you would see the Premier up there. Everybody in Labrador West asked. Then the Premier said: No, there is a big expansion in Labrador West, $650 million and so on. They were going to do that anyway. Everybody asked the same question. They asked us, they said: Premier Bouchard is down in Sept-Iles, Quebec, today making an announcement on a pellet plant in Sept-Iles, Quebec, and bragging and gloating about the ore coming out of Labrador City. They said: How come the Premier is not in Labrador West today to give us this great news? If it is such good news, do you think that the Premier of this Province, the man who loves the flashbulbs and the lights from the cameras, do you think he would have been here? Yes, he would have been in Labrador West if the announcement was so great.

The truth is, and the history books will prove it, Mr. Speaker -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. SHELLEY: - that Labrador West was led down the garden path, and the people will not forget it. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to support the petition of the Member for Baie Verte, and support the people of Labrador West. This is not about fifty jobs in Labrador West, this is about the future of Labrador City.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: I would say to the Government House Leader, the people of Labrador West have their future invested in the Iron Ore Company of Canada, and their families' future, and the future of their children. That is dependent upon the future of the Iron Ore Company of Canada in Labrador West. It is not fifty jobs, it is the future of that part of Newfoundland and Labrador. In fact, not only that, the future of mineral policy and development policy in this Province is at stake.

One of the interesting things is this. There is a lot of talk from the other side of this House about whether or not there is any commitment to Labrador West from the Iron Ore Company of Canada. The people who are directly involved, the unions who sat down with the company, the Chamber of Commerce, the leadership at the municipal level in Labrador City and Wabush, all were unable to get any commitment from the Iron Ore Company of Canada. They refused to give a commitment that if there was a downturn and if one pellet plant had to close, that pellet plant would not be Labrador City, that they would close down the operations in Sept-Iles before they closed down Labrador City.

They did not get assurance. The company refused to give that assurance. They refused to give that assurance to the people of Labrador West, to the unions involved. I understand the Premier said that he had verbal assurances from the company that they would not treat the pellet plant in Labrador City in that manner, but the verbal assurances that are second-hand from the Premier are not worth anything if the company is not prepared to put it in writing a statement of policy, put in writing a commitment to the unions with which they sign their collective agreements, and to provide that kind of assurance. The fact they are unwilling to do that certainly indicates to me that the future of Labrador West is on shaky ground as a result of this decision.

This company, North Limited, will have, if they open up this pellet plant in Sept-Iles, an operation that they can use for Labrador West pellets, for pellets from other operations they have around the world, and can build and develop and keep that plant going, whether the pellet plant in Labrador West continues or not. What this government has done is adopt a policy which is going to spell the downgrading of Labrador West and its importance, and shows a lack of commitment to the maximum amount of development that is feasible and possible within Newfoundland and Labrador.

I do not have much faith in a statement by a company like Iron Ore Company of Canada that says they have no current plants to close the pellet plant in Labrador West. Of course, they have no current plans to close the plant in Labrador West. They are making money on it. It is a profitable, feasible plant that makes money for the Iron Ore Company of Canada. They do not, of course, have any current plans to close it. That does not give me any confidence if some time down the road they have to make a choice between Labrador West and Sept-Iles and they are not prepared to make any commitment that Labrador West will have first priority.

What has really happened here is that the government and the government party and the government member lulled the local people in Labrador West into a false sense of security.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. HARRIS: When the time came, they were not able to back up. They were not able to back up their rash comments with action and have treated them differently. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to make a couple of brief comments with respect to the petition presented. I just wanted to point out that the hon. Member for Baie Verte, who continues every time the issue is raised to refer to Cain's Legacy and the strong stand taken by the premier of the day, that I did not know he was such a fan of Premier Smallwood. Obviously he is, and it is nice to see him praising up the premier for the stand of that day.

He conveniently forgets or doesn't bother to mention the difference between taking that stand, which is very similar to what the government is doing now with Voisey's Bay, in an area where it was virgin territory, where there was no community, where there was no development, where nothing had ever started, versus going in now to a company that has a forty-year track record of successful operation in which one of the finished products has always been concentrate. For him to suggest that this is a parallel to the statements that are referred to and in the record of history in Cain's Legacy is very misleading.

Then members like the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi always bring up this issue: They might close down the pellet plant in Labrador City and keep the one open in Sept-Iles, as if anybody in Newfoundland and Labrador would ever let that happen. That is when it would be clear that first and foremost, as today, the workers in Labrador City would not let that happen because they would not go to work in the mine. The town council would not let it happen because they would bar the place up. The Chamber of Commerce would shut it down. They would not need any action in this Legislature, because everybody over there, just like everybody in Labrador West, knows that if anyone were to ever try to do that kind of thing, five, ten or fifteen years down the road, that it would not happen. It could not possibly happen.

So it is not a matter if they are downgrading things at IOC or that there is a risk for the operation at Labrador West. It is rhetoric that bears no fact. It is not even remotely possible, because the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and those in Labrador West itself, would never let it happen.

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that there is a mixed message because I guess between the Opposition, different members, they do not know for sure what their stand would be if they were the government. They do talk alternatively about either leaving it in the ground, which means you send no concentrate out of IOC - which means it is kind of hard to send it out of Wabush, so you shut down Wabush too - or else, give them the money because we have heard the fact: Never mind how much the difference in cost, just give them the cash and ask the question.

I know exactly how it is being played out in the streets in common language. The Opposition has suggested two choices: leave it in the ground, which does nothing for anybody; or give them the cash, which is something that they would not do even if they were the government, so I am surprised to hear them suggest it in a petition as a possible course of action.

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

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to present a petition -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Did you make a deal?

MR. SULLIVAN: I told him that (inaudible). Okay, we will go to the bill.

MR. J. BYRNE: Okay.

MR. SULLIVAN: We will move the bill. We were hoping for Ed to come back in.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Orders of the Day

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

MR. TULK: Order No. 13, "An Act To Amend The Mineral Act." I understand that the Leader of the Opposition was speaking. I think what we have agreed to is that the Member for Bonavista South will speak and when the Leader of the Opposition comes back he will continue his remarks.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I say to the Government House Leader, he has to be faster getting to his feet. He has to be faster standing up and calling Orders of the Day. He is too slow. If he cannot fulfil that duty then the member sitting next to him would be very quick to move in his seat there. He is fast, I say to the Government House Leader.

MR. SULLIVAN: Art is going to have to bring him to New World Fitness in the morning with him.

MR. FITZGERALD: Yes, he is going to have to. He will have to go with Art and Harvey to New World Fitness.

Mr. Speaker, I stand today to say a few words on Bill 38. Every time we speak of Bill 38 there is a parallel drawn in what is happening in Voisey's Bay and what is happening in Labrador City.

As I listen to the debate back and forth, I am reminded of Labrador West where I worked. The second job I ever had, back in 1965, was in Wabush. At that particular time there were very few homes in Labrador West. If what is happening today in Labrador West happened back in 1965, there would hardly be a word said because the situation would have been that nobody looked at Labrador City or Wabush as their home. Very few people looked at it as their home. It was a place to go to work. It was a place to make some money. I recall being there, and the big challenge at the time was who could work the most double shifts. There was no nightlife. You came home, you ate, you slept, you worked, and that was all there was to be done there at the time.

Things have changed now. It is not uncommon today, when you talk with people who are retiring, when you ask them where they are going to retire, they answer, Labrador City; because that is where their children are. That is where they spent the majority of their working days. They worked in excess of twenty-five years with the Iron Ore Company of Canada, and when there is a decision made that holds any possibility whatsoever of having a negative impact on the Iron Ore Company of Canada, or on the town, today people get upset and emotional, because today it is people's homes. People live there. It is where they have retired, and it is where they raised their families. That was not the case thirty years ago, I say to members opposite.

Mr. Speaker, Bill 38 is a bill that I don't think we are going to have too many problems with over here on this side of the House. We have some concerns about it. I have some concerns about it, and one of the concerns was echoed in Friday's Telegram: "One junior mining company executive said it was a kick in the stomach." He said Bill 38 was a kick in the stomach. Others said, "...the proposed changes would make Newfoundland a harder place to do business than most corrupt Third World regimes. All said jobs would vanish. Peter Dimmell, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Chamber of Mineral Resources, said the amendments will scare off new investors."

Mr. Speaker, I ask the government if they consulted with those people before they wrote up this Act to Amend the Mineral Act? You would think they would have included the stakeholders. You would have thought they would have talked to some of the junior mining companies, that they would have talked to people like Peter Dimmell and said: Here is what we are proposing to do. Can you offer any suggestions or proposals of what we might include in a mining act?

When you look at the number of jobs that are disappearing out of this Province today, you would have to question this piece of legislation. You would have to question it and make us wonder, I suppose, if it is going to have a negative impact and be a discouragement for job creation.

When you hear, I think it was the Premier or one of the members opposite - the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology stood in the House the other day and talked about the Whiffen Head transshipment facility, how there were forty or fifty full-time jobs there. That is great stuff. Every job is very important. How many jobs are being created somewhere else? How many jobs are being create on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States with oil that is produced off our coast? Those are the things that we have to question. Those are the places that we have to be very vigilant about in trying to create some economic activity.

You look at our own refinery right here in Come By Chance. You drive over the highway and you meet workers going to work, and you see the smoke towering from the stacks, and the flame flying. You have to ask why our own refinery cannot sell oil in Canada. You have to question that. Why is it, I say to the Member for Bellevue, that we can have an oil refinery in your district, right here in the Province of Newfoundland, and we are not allowed to sell one quart of oil from that oil refinery in Canada? Not allowed to sell one quart of oil. We are allowed to sell it right here in Newfoundland, I say to members opposite, but we are not allowed to sell it in Canada.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: Maybe it was, but you have been in government now for nine years - eight or nine years. We could have changed it, I say to members opposite. Instead of having a couple of hundred people there, maybe the expansion that we all talked about, maybe the petrochemical plant that we talked about might be able to happen there, and some of our sons and daughters might be able to go to work there and continue to live in their communities and raise their families. Those are the things that concern me.

Mr. Speaker, a couple of nights ago I turned on the television and I was listening to Here and Now. I do not know how many people saw it, but it hit me right in the stomach when I saw a carpenter's union representative, I think it was the business agent of the carpenter's union, on the local program Here and Now, talk about the Sobeys complex down here, bringing in carpenters from outside the Province and paying them $28 an hour, and look after the cost of getting into the Province. That is shameful, I say to members opposite.

Can you imagine that happening in Quebec? Can you imagine that happening in any other province but Newfoundland? Can you imagine - I say to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture who is working so very hard to create jobs and economic activity, who believes in rural Newfoundland and Labrador - that we would bring carpenters into Newfoundland and Labrador?

The housewives in Newfoundland and Labrador can build cabinets. They are all carpenters, I say to members opposite. There are more skilled carpenters in this Province, I would say, than any other one in the Atlantic region; but what do we do? We have 20 per cent unemployment and we go out and allow carpenters to be brought in to this Province and pay them $28 an hour. That is shameful, I say to members opposite. It is shameful to allow that to happen. I would have thought the Premier would have been on the radio the next night talking about how there would have to be an end to the skilled labour being brought into this Province when we have our own people here, unemployed, who are capable of doing the work.

Everybody sitting over there on that side as well as here knows lots of carpenters. They know lots of people who can go down there to the Sobeys building on the Mount Cashel property and put up a building.

Newfoundlanders have built skyscrapers in New York. Newfoundlanders built Toronto. Newfoundlanders have worked on major construction jobs all over this world, but still we allow an employer to go outside the Province and bring carpenters into this Province, pay them $28 an hour, and leave our own carpenters home, unemployed, without a job, without unemployment insurance, a lot of them. That is shameful and it has to stop.

That is what the fear is with this piece of legislation here. I will support the piece of legislation, I say to the member, but that does not say it is perfect. It does not say that there was enough consultation done. I firmly believe that pieces of legislation like this should be passed to the committees of the House. This particular piece of legislation should have been passed to the Resource Committee of the House of Assembly; allowed them to go out and have public hearings; hold a session here in the House that would not have cost the taxpayers one plug nickel; allowed us to come in here, have our meetings, allow people to come forward and put forward their suggestions and their proposals. We go and put together committees of the House of Assembly but they are always bypassed. Very, very seldom are they ever used. That is one sure way to get in trouble. That is one sure way for government to get in trouble.

Mr. Speaker, the people who were interviewed in The Telegram story, `Industry trashes Mining Act amendments, are knowledgeable people. They are people who will deal with this piece of legislation every day. They are people who know what should be included and what should not be included in a piece of legislation. They can put forward their suggestions and proposals. Government will not accept them all. Maybe they will accept part of it, maybe none of it, but at least we will give them the opportunity to bring forward their concerns and suggestions, and it can come back into this House and we and other members can stand here and debate it in an open forum knowing full-well what the industry asked for and what the industry feels should be included. That is what is not being done, and that is what should be done here in this piece of legislation.

The only concern that I have is when I hear government talking about introducing a piece of legislation that they are going to make retroactive back to January 1, 1993.

AN HON. MEMBER: January 1.

MR. FITZGERALD: January 1, 1993. That is frightening, I say to members opposite, when you can bring in a piece of legislation and go back five years or more and say: Mr. Inco, or Mr. IOC, or Mr. Bre-X, because you did not play by the rules fives years ago, the repercussions are that we are going to do this, we are going to do that, or we are going to take you to court, or we are going to cancel your mining lease. That is what is scary about this piece of legislation - its retroactivity to go back five years.

I say to the minister, I suppose this has all gone to the legal people in Justice. I suppose this has all gone to the lawyers up in Justice, and there is no fear of a court case coming about to government whereby we are going to see another massive payout of taxpayers' dollars. We will never know. We will know about the court case, and we will know there is going to be a payout if there is one, but we will never, ever know what the settlement will be. That is what is scary about this piece of legislation.

We have to show some accountability. If somebody wants to come here in this Province and invest money, whether it be in the mining industry, in the manufacturing industry, in the processing industry of iron ore or fish or wood, we should support them. We should get whatever we can for the taxpayers of this Province but, by the same token, create an environment where that particular company can make a profit and be answerable to its shareholders in order to justify being here in this Province carrying out business.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: I have been over there many times, I say to the Member for Humber East, and I will continue to go over there to talk with people and put forward some concerns that happen in my district every day, because we have many of them. I say to members opposite, those are some of the concerns that I have.

I go back to the Iron Ore Company of Canada situation again. When you see some of the things that are happening there, it makes you wonder if all of this was played out in the bigger picture. When the Lower Churchill was to be announced a few months ago, when all of this was announced with Mr. Bouchard, was all of this a part of the bigger picture. It is all unfolding now, a little giveaway here, a little giveaway somewhere else, and all of a sudden: here is the great deal.

I say to the minister from Labrador, where does he stand on the IOC situation? Where does the minister from Labrador stand on the Labrador issue? Does he support what government is doing? Does he support the moving and shifting of job opportunities, and the shift of the company making profits in Labrador rather than in Quebec?

Some of the things that are happening in this Province today are shameful. It is shameful when you look at the number of people who are unemployed. It is shameful when you see the opportunities that could be created. It is shameful when you see our young people having to leave the Province and go away in order to find a job.

It is one thing we have become accustomed to - not accustomed to - one thing that we have accepted as Newfoundlanders, is that if we are going to continue to live here in this Province, there is one thing I assure you: Your family will not be living around you. Your family will not be living with you. It is very unlikely, I say to the Government House Leader.

The Government House Leader knows where his family is. Only the other day he was telling me how he was going to visit his family in some other province of this country. I know where my family is, and I know where they would like to be. I do not know of one Newfoundlander who would not rather be home if the opportunity was here.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible) enjoy their life.

MR. FITZGERALD: They could enjoy their life here, I say to the Government House Leader.

There is one thing that I have found in travelling around; there is nobody prouder of their Province than Newfoundlanders. There is nobody I have ever met anywhere who speaks and promotes their Province like Newfoundlanders, because it is a special place. That is why people would like to be here.

Since NewTel have had this - not Newtel, but this company Sprint, I think it is - special deal on the go that after 6 p.m. you can make all the phone calls you want for about $20 a month, there are area codes in my district where it is impossible to get through in the nighttime because of people away calling home, because of the sons and daughters and mothers and fathers up in Brooks, Alberta and up in Fort McMurray calling home.

MR. SULLIVAN: Sixty-five in Whitecourt, Alberta from Plate Cove.

MR. FITZGERALD: Sixty-five families from a little community of less than 200 people in my district up in Whitecourt, Alberta; from Plate Cove East and Plate Cove West. Less than 200 people, and sixty-five of the people who once populated those communities are up in Whitecourt working, doing very well for themselves, but it is not where they want to be. They are there because they have had the initiative to go away and find work.

This is the reason why people are upset with what is happening in Labrador City, and it is the reason why there are a lot of fears being expressed because of An Act To Amend The Mineral Act.

Mr. Speaker, that is all I am going to say. I am not going to just kill time on this particular bill. It is a bill that I feel was brought about because government has some fears, and rightly so. Rightly so they have fears of what might happen to Inco. They have fears that Inco will somehow march them before the courts of the land. It could still very well happen. I suppose that governments have the right and they can bring about rules and regulations to change just about anything if it goes through the people's House. That is why you see this bill being retroactive back to 1993, five years ago.

It is the concern that I have, and it is the concern that some of the mining industry people have as well. I can assure you that the bill will not go through with unanimous support on this side and from the other side, and with people involved in the industry. The minister will get his bill, there is no doubt about that, but there are some concerns about it. The only advice that I will put forward - and I am sure that the minister may want to take it - is that when bills come forward of such a controversial nature, or when there are some concerns expressed about a bill with the stakeholders involved, maybe he might want to introduce them a little early and have them go through the appropriate committee of the House of Assembly so hearings might be allowed to happen and the people, the stakeholders, might be allowed to come forward and offer their views and opinions.

Sometimes those views and opinions may be the furthest thing that we will accept, but it gives somebody the peace of mind of knowing that there are other people out there listening. It gives them an opportunity to express their views and opinions, and that is important because many people have their lives holdings - in fact they have financed their lives - in order to get into some of those junior mining companies and to be able to go out and do some prospecting, make some money, and there is no better place to do it than right here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I will sit and allow somebody else to continue debate on this bill.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I appreciate the opportunity just for a few minutes to make some comments with respect to Bill 38, An Act To Amend The Mineral Act, legislation which is of extreme importance to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador as we enter into, I guess, a new age with respect to mineral development within our jurisdiction.

This act introduces, I guess, a few mechanical changes because we see from a procedural point of view a number of smaller issues being addressed. I think the Explanatory Notes, for example - and this has been reviewed by the Minister of Mines and Energy and my colleague, the Member for Baie Verte, has also alluded to some of the more procedural changes that we find in the legislation. For example, we see under clause 1 of the bill an amendment which states now that we need a requirement of an exploration plan. So clearly the government is asking mining companies who want to do business with the government of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, in other words with the people of this Province, we want more information, more disclosure being tabled for the benefit of government so that we can fully see what is being undertaken and what is being envisaged by a prospective mining company.

Clause 1 of the bill also makes non-compliance with the amendment contained in this clause an offence, so there is certainly an attempt by this legislation to provide penal provisions to ensure that any company that wishes to do business with a government of this Province, that if the company does not adhere to either the statutory provisions found in the act, or the regulations pursuant to the act, that there will be a penalty provision. So that certainly puts mining companies on their guard to ensure that they adhere to the legislation and that there is strict compliance.

Subclause 2(1) of the bill allows for applications for a licence to be made by mail. I was interested in what my colleague, the Member for Baie Verte, was saying: that in the past the situation was somewhat farcical in the sense that people simply had to line up and wait their turn, and spend hours in the early morning or overnight simply to ensure that their place in line was not overlooked and was not missed. Obviously this sort of change is simply a practical one, and one that should be for the benefit of any applicants.

Subclause 2(2) of the bill amends section 21 of the act in order to provide a different procedure for areas coming open for re-staking, and a provision for a draw to determine the priority of applications.

Again, essentially procedural and one which most people I am sure in the mining industry would agree is of benefit and a move in the right direction.

Clause 3 of the bill would qualify subsection 22(4) regarding the boundaries of the area of land covered by a licence to apply to only a ground staked lease.

When one looks closely at the original section with respect to this specific issue, when one looks at the old act, we can see that this, too, is just for greater certainty and of benefit to interested parties.

I am interested in clause 5 as well, and I think there should be some comment on clause 5. It states that section 5 of the Act would add the proposed section 31.1 of the act which would allow the Lieutenant-Governor in Council or Cabinet to order the holder of a lease to complete primary production of a mineral in the Province.

This is obviously one of the main features of this legislation. It puts an imposition on the holder of a lease to complete production in accordance with what this Province deems to be essential and necessary for the well-being of the people of the Province. Furthermore, it states that the Lieutenant-Governor in Council could also exempt the holder of a lease from a requirement to complete primary production in the Province. So we see great authority, great decision-making, being reserved to the Lieutenant-Governor in Council to make strategic decisions with respect to the holder of a lease and the primary production in the Province of that particular mineral.

Clause 7 of the bill adds a proposed paragraph, number 35(a.1), which allows the minister to cancel a lease for failure to comply with an order made under the proposed section. So again we see perhaps unfettered discretion being given to the Lieutenant-Governor in Council, or to the minister, to not only ensure that certain points are adhered to by the applicant but also gives the power of revocation or the power of cancellation with respect to the cancelling of a lease.

In a few moments I would just like to speak briefly about this discretion being given to the Lieutenant-Governor in Council as it relates to the proposed changes to Bill 38.

Clause 8 of the proposed bill adds a new proposed subsection labelled 38(2), which would, "...prohibit the Mineral Rights Adjudication Board from hearing matters related to the proposed Section 31.1..." which I referenced earlier.

Mr. Speaker, it is clear what the purpose and the intent of this legislation is; however, I think it is important to realize that this restriction is quite significant. It is quite substantial when we look at the fact that there is now a prohibition in the fact that the Mineral Rights Adjudication Board is essentially disbanded. It no longer exists. What this does is that there is no objective third party. There is essentially no instrument in the legislation which would respond to decisions made by the minister or by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council.

This is obviously significant legislation and one which - when we look at the intent of the legislation - very many people would agree with, but one has to question: What about an independent review? What about an independent body being put in place to perhaps assess decisions and positions that may be made by applicants in accordance with the legislation? I would be interested in learning from the minister what the substance of the legal opinions have been with respect to the constitutionality of such a provision.

Again, we agree with the spirit of the act. We agree with the spirit of the legislation. However, it would be a shame, I say to members opposite, if in three months' time or six months' time there is a provision of this legislation which is deemed to be what is known as ultra vires and without the constitutional authority of this Legislature to in fact implement and, once that particular clause or section is tested, to find that a superior court, either in this Province or the Supreme Court of Canada, attempts to strike down that very provision. That would be unfortunate because that obviously goes against what the spirit and the intent of the legislation is.

So my question to the minister would be - or a comment I would have - is that it is hoped that a thorough legal analysis and a complete and thorough legal opinion has been presented to the minister to ensure that the risk of having this legislation defeated is a very small one, it is a very minimal risk, because if it is not a minimal risk perhaps this is only an exercise in futility and we are going through legislation generally supported by the vast majority of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians which can be challenged perhaps by individuals who want to do business with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

I am certain, of course, that the department and the minister has sought legal advice, but I would be interested in knowing how foolproof the legislation is. Is it similar to legislation in other parts of this country? Have other similar provisions been contested or challenged constitutionally in either the Supreme Court of a particular province or in the Supreme Court of Canada? Do we have precedents available to us which in some way can give this government an indication as to how successful any challenge may be and how defensible the position of this government may be.

These are simply words of caution and, I would say on behalf of the members of this side of the House, words of concern, because in spirit the legislation attempts to achieve what the people of this Province support. However, it would be indeed a serious omission if in fact the risk is great, only to find out that the very constitutionality of either the act as a whole, or certain provisions or sections of it, may be constitutionally defeated.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. OTTENHEIMER: No, I say to the member, it certainly should not be referred, but I certainly say that the research ought to have been completed and the position confirmed before this legislation has reached where it is, in fact, today.

Under clause 10 of the bill, it increases the maximum fine upon conviction for an offence under the act from the present $2,000 to $10,000. That is generally supportable, I would say, because obviously it gives teeth to the legislation and it sends a message to any company or any enterprise or any entrepreneur who is interested in making application to the Department of Mines and Energy that non-compliance will not be accepted, and that there is a real penalty, there is a provision here, that if you do not adhere to our legislation the courts will deal with you in a much harsher manner.

Clause 11 would add the proposed section 45 to the act which prohibits an action against the Crown. Perhaps I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, if there is one section of the act that is at greatest risk, I would suggest this is the section, whereby the legislation in and of itself, on the face of the legislation, we see an act of the provincial Legislature basically saying to any third party, basically saying to anybody who wants to do business, that under section 45 of the proposed legislation there is a prohibition of any action, in other words no third party may commence an action against the Crown for compensation arising out of an order made under section 31.1 referred to in clause 5.

This is extremely strong language; one which again, in accordance with the spirit of the legislation, many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians would support. However, I raise a concern that in fact by denying any individual or any corporate entity that right to commence an action against the Crown is, in fact, taking away from any individual or corporation either his or her or its entrenched legal right to in fact commence an action whenever a third party wishes to do so.

Again, it is hoped that the research having been completed and the legal positions having been strongly maintained, it is hoped that an assessment of such wording as found in this legislation has found that the risk is minimal. However, I am concerned that all it will take is an application to the court to perhaps challenge that particular provision. It is certainly hoped that we have a position as a government, and that the people of the Province have a position, that can defeat any attempt to challenge the wording of this legislation.

Under clause 12, it states that clause 12 of the bill would cancel and abrogate any rights to a lease which accrued or was accruing after January 1, 1993. This goes to the issue of retroactivity.

I would state just as a general principle, and I am sure members opposite are quite aware of the general principle in statutory law which goes against the notion of retroactivity. For example, there have been many cases where governments, both federal and provincial, have attempted to introduce legislation which attempts to effect certain imposition of taxes on a retroactive basis. I am not aware of any court saying, in response to such an application, that retroactivity is acceptable.

Retroactivity is frowned upon. Retroactivity is a constitutional no-no, and it is one where courts will state - essentially, all examples will state - that legislation must be forward thinking; it must be as of today and deal with the jurisdiction in the future, but not impact upon one's rights or a company's rights or an individual's rights as they may or may not have existed in the past. This whole doctrine of retroactivity is in fact a very interesting one, Mr. Speaker, and I can only repeat what I said earlier. It is hoped that we do not see a challenge based on the principal or doctrine of retroactivity which could defeat the very purpose and intent of this legislation.

In conclusion I would simply say that the legislation attempts to satisfy the wishes of many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, which is why in principal we support many of the features of this proposed act. However, we wish to have simply placed on the record that there are concerns of constitutionality, concerns of the possibility of court challenges which may be successful. If that were to happen, what we are going through now has unfortunately been a waste of time. Hopefully government, either through the solicitors in the Department of Justice or outside council, have exhausted any possibilities and have thoroughly researched this legislation so that they can give to members opposite some assurance that this legislation is foolproof and will not be subject to a successful challenge in the very near future.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER (Penney): The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Before the Leader of the Opposition rises to speak, I spoke to the Opposition House Leader about asking for leave to move first reading of Motion No. 3, and I would like to do that at this time.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services to introduce a bill, "An Act Respecting Child, Youth And Family Services." (Bill No. 37).

On motion, Bill No. 37, "An Act Respecting Child, Youth And Family Services," read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: I understand the Minister of Education is in a hurry to leave. I think I have forty-six minutes left so I will keep going until we adjourn the House. If he needs to move, he certainly can move on now.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: For the record, the Government House Leader has asked me to debate this piece of legislation till 4:59 p.m. Is that what I am hearing?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Minister, are you going to stick around?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: That is good to hear. I understand, likewise. It has been an ongoing debate for the last five years. I am always interested in what the Minister of Education - former Minister of Employment and Labour, former Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, former parliamentary assistant - has to say on a variety of topics. The problem is, while I am always interested to hear what he has to say I am always left sitting down wondering what was that after he speaks. Even his own colleagues have acknowledged that when the Member for Exploits, the Minister of Education, gets up no one knows where he is going, when he is going to get there, what time he is going to arrive and what he is going to say in the process. Even his own colleagues, Mr. Speaker, understand that. He has one of the best approaches I have seen -

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

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Government House Leader on a point of order.

MR. TULK: I find myself rarely agreeing with the Leader of the Opposition, but in this particular case I want to say to him that when the Minister of Education stands up to speak I think there is a feeling around that when he stands he doesn't know what he is going to say and when he sits down he doesn't know what he said. Neither do the rest of us, but we all like the way that he said it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SHELLEY: Whether he knows what he is talking about or not.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Yes, and whether he knows what he is talking about or not, he has a great approach, I say, Mr. Speaker. He always stands up in a very diligent and serious way: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for the question he has posed. Then it begins. Whatever it is, I have not heard a satisfactory explanation of it yet, from anybody.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: What is it?

AN HON. MEMBER: He is computerized. What is fed into him, that is what comes out of him.

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, I am not going to touch that with what would be commonly known as a ten-foot pole. What would be a common Newfoundland expression, what is fed into him is what comes out of him. Like I said to my hon. friend from Topsail, certainly I am not going to comment on those derogatory remarks made about the Minister of Education by one of his own colleagues.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Absolutely not, sir.

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to say: Then it begins, did I hear the hon. member say this? I would like to remind the hon. member of his comments five years ago. I would like to remind the hon. member of his comments when he was a principal of a school here, there or anywhere. This is the sort of approach the Minister of Education has. I saw it again today. I think what he does is he stands, first of all, looks at the clock, makes an assessment of how much time he is going to use, and then proceeds to use it. Now whatever comes out in the process of that comes out.

As the hon. Member for Topsail indicated, he is right. I have seen it and recognized it. When I first was elected in 1993 I was the member's critic. Employment and Labour Relations, I believe, was the portfolio that he had under the former Administration.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: No, the member is right. The Member for Exploits, the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, got more press as a result of my questions in 1993 than he has ever gotten since. That is exactly right. Here is what happens. He looks at the clock and the Speaker, doing his job, as he has done for the past five years - I say he because there has only been a he in that Chair for the past five years, since I have been here - and I've seen it happen, says: Order please!

The minister sits in his seat and the Speaker says: I would like to ask the minister to conclude his remarks. The minister gets up and says: Absolutely, Mr. Speaker. Then on he goes again for another two or three minutes. The Speaker sits him down, saying: Order, please! The minister sits down, very serious, very deliberate in his approach. He sits down and the Speaker says: Please, if the minister could conclude his remarks. He gets up and says: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I will do that. Then on he goes again.

By this time he has hit his four minute response. Because on average, anybody who has taken the time to notice, the Minister of Education, the Member for Exploits, in any response gets four minutes or nothing. That is why he has earned the very legitimate name, he is called, `Roger the dodger.' Absolutely. It is a crown he can wear. He has been tagged with the name, legitimately so. Not by the Opposition, unfortunately. I would like to claim credit for tagging the Member for Exploits with that nickname, however I can't. I heard it first more than three-and-a-half years ago. It was before I was elected in the House. It was a situation that he got involved with in the Bay of Islands when he was labour minister. It was a tough situation. I am not trying to raise the situation. I am just trying to -

MR. RAMSAY: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: I am getting to that, I would say to the Member for Burgeo & LaPoile. That is the situation where the minister - it is the only time I think in his political career where he did not come out of a sort of pressure cooker, public issue situation, where he came out unscathed. At that time, Mr. Speaker, I think the member then learned a lesson, because in every other situation, at least physically, he has come out unscathed.

My point is that it was at that time I recall I was working with a labour management group. I was somewhere I think around Baie Verte, Grand Falls, on my way back from Port de Basques. There was public commentary on the Open Line, and that is when I heard someone name the Member for Exploits `Roger the dodger.' It stuck to him ever since.

You see, all of the situations that this member has been involved with. I predicted last year - because I said one of the most significant pieces of legislation - and how this ties into the Mineral Act, well, I want to assure members I am going to get there, if you just provide me with some latitude so I can get there. It is very important, I say to the Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: I would like to understand, if the member could probably privately some time indicate how he did it. Anyway, if you want to review the situations of why this minister is called that nickname it is very clear. Let's look at events, for example, in the last two years. We will not refer to the former Administration, we will refer to the last two years.

The first thing the new Minister of Education had to do with the close down of communities colleges around the Province. I tell you, there was a meeting on Bell Island, sir, and if anybody had been there to see the questions, the public reaction, to hear from the residents in that area about what happened, and the potential closure at the time being discussed with their community college, and see the Minister of Education stand up and defend the undefensible and deflect from the situation for - how long?

AN HON. MEMBER: About forty-five minutes.

MR. E. BYRNE: About forty-five minutes to one hour.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair has given the hon. member the benefit of the doubt, but the Chair is waiting with baited breath for the hon. member to start debating the bill in question.

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, thank you. They say imitation is the best form of flattery so I will imitate my friend the Minister of Education and say: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The next situation I saw him in was in Lewisporte on the public college system. They locked him in the building, sir, where they were holding it for three and one-half hours. The local member apparently was behind it, but I cannot make any references because the local member is not sitting in his Chair. Again -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair would be very willing to go and sit in his chair if somebody would be willing to take my place for a moment.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, I want to assure Your Honour, Sir, that if there were any comments made they would be nothing but flattering to you. Because you did your job and locked the minister in. His own member locked the minister in.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. E. BYRNE: Again, the Minister of Education came out of it relatively unscaled. The next situation was the referendum. He piloted a very tough initiative.

AN HON. MEMBER: Be nice, now, be nice.

MR. E. BYRNE: I am being very nice, I say to the Member from Bellevue. This is an important point. He piloted a tough piece of business, controversial, provocative, but did it. He came out of it and presented it last fall when we stood and debated the amendments to the schools act. The Member for St. John's East, who was at that time critic for education, recommended a number of changes, some of which the minister saw fit to embrace, worked with it and as a legislature all of us passed an historical bill. Bill 26, I believe it was, the schools' act.

Then the debate began on private colleges. Without reviewing the history, we know what took place over the last several months and the minister, deflector as he is - the same minister nine months ago accusing the Opposition that there was a school closure, and the comments in the House were what precipitated the school closure - talked about public education in the private college system as being like any other commodity, purchasing a can of milk or a loaf of bread at any convenience store. Then, when he was aware of the situation that was going to happen this summer with one of the colleges, appointed -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: I say to the Minister of Health and Community Services, I am getting to the shuffle, because this is very important, and what he is in line for, because it ties into this piece of legislation very directly.

He then appoints the former Minister of Education, Dr. Phil Warren, a very credible individual, very knowledgeable of education in the Province. No problem with the appointment of Dr. Warren. He appoints Dr. Warren about two weeks before the real news hits the street, I say. He piloted his way through very tough waters at that point. Then last week in the report he stood in this House. There is no shame, the minister has no shame whatsoever. No question about it, this is all business with the hon. Minister of Education. Then last week he stands and embraces the new found philosophy, a new orientation, with respect to career colleges.

The point I want to make from all of this, in terms of reviewing the minister's record, is simply this. If there has been a minister in the Crown that has done the service for the Crown who has taken on the tough challenges since February 22, 1996, who has taken it squarely on the chin and kept standing, if that is the case, if there has been any minister, Mr. Speaker, it has been the Minister of Education.

Last year -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The contribution made by the hon. member to the debate is very entertaining, but the Chair is still waiting for a single comment during the debate that is relevant to An Act to Amend the Mineral Act.

MR. E. BYRNE: I am about to get to that, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: I know the hon. will tie it in eventually, but the Chair is still waiting for that.

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, I know you and all others are waiting anxiously in anticipation of how I am going to tie it together, but I am only few moments away from doing exactly that. I beg the indulgence of the Chair just for a few more moments.

Last year I stood in the House and I predicted this time last year just before the House closed, about a week or two weeks before, that one of the significant pieces of legislation we debated in the last year was the legislation really that provided the Premier with the opportunity, if he saw fit at any point in time, of not having to saddle himself with being not only Premier, but also the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs.

Mr. Speaker, I said at that time, and in some of the comments I've made in the last few moments, that it was obvious the Minister of Education, because of what he had done over the past two years - now this was before the private college debate occurred - that if there was any candidate that should be in line for the job of Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, negotiating with every other province, negotiating with the federal government federal-provincial agreements, interprovincial boundary disputes, I felt it was the Minister of Education. I was off. I wasn't entirely correct, and that is because I did not have all of the information at my disposal as I do now.

There has been no Cabinet shuffle, yet. I want to go on the record to say that my prediction last fall, while it still may be correct, there is new information that has surfaced that would lead me to believe he is not only number one on that priority list, but apparently number one on another list. We are getting very close now to the mineral mining tax act.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Pardon me? John will be very happy with the news I am about to break in the Legislature tonight. News of great public importance, I say to the Government House Leader. As a result of, I guess, the challenging times that the Department of Education has gone through in terms of government's choice of where it should go, and in view of the fact that this is the minister who has dealt with those very challenging times - and I believe he is, to use the words of the Premier: Chairman of the social troika?; I believe troika is right - but from what I understand, Mr. Speaker, he is now on a priority list from the Province. I am not sure if is first, second or third, but it is the top three for the open Senate appointment in the federal House.


MR. E. BYRNE: Yes, from what I hear. I hear there have been a couple of individuals who have turned it down.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Pardon me? Oh, no. That is why I said the Member for Port au Grave would be very happy with the news I am breaking here this evening.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Boy, from what I hear.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: What is that?

AN HON. MEMBER: If the Premier should ever decide to leave (inaudible) -

MR. E. BYRNE: Right.

AN HON. MEMBER: - then he is probably the top contender for that position.

MR. E. BYRNE: You never know, but from what I understand, in the short-term the priority list is for Intergovernmental Affairs, and for long-term, Senator Roger Grimes. It has a ring to it, Mr. Speaker. Even he would have to admit it has a particular ring to it, doesn't it?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, that is the point. He would fit in with the philosophizing that occurs in the chamber of second sober thought. He would fit in, in due course. I am not sure that they would be completely ready for him when he got there, but they would adjust. I do not think that the minister would be doing the adjusting, it would be them.

With respect to the mineral mining tax act -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: That is what I am about to get into, I say to the Government House Leader.

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair had no doubt that the hon. member would eventually tie it in.

MR. E. BYRNE: I was going to say that I would support, generally or directly, the move of the Minister of Education to the Senate, because as we proceed with the mineral mining tax act it obviously has some national consequences. No question about it. There is no question about the implications of this particular piece of legislation, that it could have consequences nationally.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Exactly. I was just about to get there. The Government House Leader is way ahead of me. He is slightly ahead of his time. There are national consequences associated with this particular piece of legislation.

The impact that this bill has upon NAFTA is unclear. I am led to believe that the mineral mining tax act and the amendments that are being debated right now, that we are about to debate, and have been debating for the last couple of days, that before tabling the legislation government had to have a look at the interprovincial trade agreements with respect to the conduct and behaviour of the provinces. It had to have a look at the impact on NAFTA in terms of this sort of legislation, in that we do not fly in the face of existing regulations and agreements. If it does, if at any point in time any challenge is associated with this particular piece of legislation or any of its amendments or clauses, with respect nationally, then we are going to need somebody like the Minister of Education who can talk all day and all night about almost anything, about anything, in the Senate.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: I shamed him out of the House, Mr. Speaker. Let the record show that the Minister of Education was driven out of the House of Assembly today. The review of his record precipitated his leave here this afternoon, I say to the Member for Bonavista South. That is what has taken place here this afternoon. I want to be on record to show it.

Clearly the piece of legislation we are debating, Bill 38, amendments to the mineral act, as I have talked about, is an important piece of legislation.

The House of Assembly is a funny sort of process that we work in. Government takes 2.5 to 3 months putting together a piece of legislation, it has virtually every lawyer in the Department of Justice who has experience related to mineral and mining tax acts working on it, it engages private legal council as a second opinion to ensure that the legislation they have come up with to put before the House of Assembly, particularly this piece of legislation, is, to use the Premier's words, bulletproof. They spend considerable sums of public money in doing so, which is fair enough, in terms of this piece of legislation, to ensure that what they are about and what they do is credible, that it puts government, in terms of its own policy direction and initiatives, in the direction clearly that they want to be in.

After all of that is done, certainly Cabinet is briefed. The Minister of Mines and Energy prepared, through the department, or on his behalf the department prepared, an assessment of where they are going, what they have done, who they have done it with, what they have found, why they have interjected certain clauses in the bill, to inform all of Cabinet of this particular direction.

Then I assume, like any government should, consult their caucus and advise caucus of what is coming down the legislative track in terms of this particular piece of legislation, and the amount of time, consideration, and expertise that has been sought in terms of the mining industry that they have taken - so they advise everybody of that - take all the time to advise everybody of that, except the Opposition. Then the bill is tabled, a press conference is called, after three months of exhaustive work -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: I am talking about Bill 38.

After exhaustive work, all the implications of NAFTA, take all of the layers of amendments, and the impact such amendments will have on the industry on existing legislation, everybody is briefed, and then the Premier -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Good stuff. We will get a chance to debate some of that, too, I think, on Wednesday is it?

Then the Premier, the Minister of Mines and Energy, take the opportunity last week to brief everybody through a press conference. We find out exactly the same time. Then, what is ironic about the situation in which we exist in the House, particularly when you are in Opposition, then the bill is tabled and the first question is: Do you support that? How come you do not support that? What is it that you do not like about that? I suppose now you are just going to stand up and be critical of this stuff.

In five minutes flat, we are expected to respond to what took government's own bureaucracy, own public service, own independent counsel, all independent counsel, all of the so-called experts, or experts who have a vast body of knowledge on this particular piece of legislation - it has taken them three months to get everybody up to speed, in particular Cabinet and everybody else - and bango, the Government House Leader expects the Opposition to stand to its feet and say, aye or nay in five minutes flat.

Now that happens a lot, no question about it. I guess it begs a larger question in terms of the rights that we should have as private members to get briefings before things happen on significant pieces of legislation.

If, for example - and it has happened here. Members who have sat in this House, and members opposite who were one time in Opposition can tell you this, on any particular piece of legislation you are expected in five minutes flat to say aye or nay. Now, if you all of a sudden, based upon our own assessment with the limited resources that we have, our own research, discussions with industry, discussions with individuals who were affected by it or will be affected by it, discussions with people who have a range of experience and expertise as well who generally are concerned about the direction the Province is taking in a number of areas; if you are all of a sudden very critical of the piece of legislation - oh, that is just the Opposition being very critical. How often have we heard that?

With this particular piece of legislation, the amendments made, there are some necessary changes that we have no problem supporting. We have no problem supporting some of the amendments that are being put forward by government.

As we all know, there is an opportunity today in second reading to generally discuss the merits of the bill, and I am sure that Mr. Speaker will remind any member that if we got into the detailed questions about certain clauses in the bill, the Speaker would stand and remind all members in the House that this is an opportunity to generally discuss the direction of the bill, that an opportunity will be provided in committee stage for a clause-by-clause debate of the bill where either every clause will be debated and passed, or amendments could be made, either agreed upon by both parties or not.

I have sat in the House now for five-and-a-half years, and my colleagues can attest to it who have sat here with me that there have been many occasions where legislation was bought forward by government in this Assembly, and many occasions that in the clause-by-clause debate recommendations that were made by the Opposition, government embraced. They said: Yes, look, that is a opportunity. What you are pointing out there is a legitimate argument that has some legitimacy associated with it so we agree. We agree with you that on the basis of that we will move forward.

On the basis of the recommendation coming from the critic or from the Opposition, certain clauses in particular pieces of legislation have been amended according to the recommendations that we have. Certainly the recommendations on public accountancy saw that; recommendations that the Opposition made with respect to the Education Act saw that; and a host of other pieces of legislation where the Opposition has raised something that we felt would benefit or enhance a piece of legislation, or go a long way in correcting what we saw as some of the loopholes, or enhancing what the spirit of the particular piece of legislation is, then government have adopted it.

Mr. Speaker, my take on this particular piece of legislation which I got into Friday is very clear. I think it has been summarized by, in an articulate way, a number of comments that have been made by the Member for Baie Verte, who is the mines critic; certainly the Member for St. John's East who spoke so eloquently before I did with respect to the possible legal implications of this bill. Those are serious, thoughtful comments put forward by two members in particular who are close to this industry - one is the Mines and Energy critic - who are close and generally support, as this caucus does, the spirit and intent of this particular piece of legislation.

Now there are some concerns, and I believe on the political panel last week the two sides of this issue were crystallized. We saw it very clearly. It was one of the best political panels that I saw with respect to debating a particular issue or government initiative or issue of public affairs. On the one hand we had an Open Line host talk about the need to do this: the need to close any loopholes whatsoever to ensure that the maximum benefits from this significant resource development - the most significant, I would put forward, certainly in the 1990s that has come forward - that we get as much out of it as we can, as long as it is viable.

Then on the other side we had the commentator reflecting some of the comments and concerns that have been directed to me as Leader of the Opposition with respect to the impact it will have on the mining industry, junior mining companies, in terms of exploration. It centres around the debate in the bill with respect to the power that Cabinet will now have if this bill passes without amendment. Many people, in the last four or five days, have talked to me about: Why are we eliminating the independent right to appeal?

We do it in a variety of other areas. For example, what is the Public Utilities Board? A quasi-judicial board that sets rates in particular for the motor carrying industry, sets rates for electricity, and insurance rates; independent, set up arm's length by government legislation - in fact, law - by where an independent body can look at and take a sober assessment of a situation and make recommendations.

Cabinet has the right to - as the ultimate lawmaker in the Province - decide on any public matter through, I guess, its expression, through legislation. We allow the right to appeal, for example, in matters affecting injured workers. What used to be at one point, a three-person independent review tribunal subsequently changed to the independent chief review commissioner, changed by the Minister of Education when he was the Minister of Employment and Labour. We called it an independent adjudicator, where people who feel aggrieved by government decision-making, whether that be the employer, the commission itself, whether it be a decision made that an injured worker feels is not in his or her best interest, they have an independent process that they can appeal to, through the Workers' Compensation Chief Review Commissioner.

It is another expression of how government has set up a process by where if people feel aggrieved, if the process has not worked for them, that they have a place they can go to that is independent of the political considerations, or the perception of the political considerations, of any government.

The Labour Relations Board is another example of an independent body - that matters affecting labour in the Province, whether it be the labour code, labour disputes, matters of arbitration, matters of employer/employee -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: No, I did not, Sir. I did not say anything about Ladle Cove.

Where matters concerned with the perceived unfair treatment by either the bureaucracy or matters of unfair treatment by the bureaucracy's masters, the politicians, that there is an independent place where we can go, that people have a place where they can have a hearing.

We used to have an Ombudsman, which we do not any more, which I think we should, where it is independent, operates arm's length, is given the powers to investigate on behalf of citizens of the Province who again feel aggrieved.

With the Auditor General, for example, and the act governing the Auditor General's performance, governing the Auditor General's activities, is an independent process, if you will, Mr. Speaker.

It allows a party, in this case the Auditor General - for purposes of accountability, for purposes of transparency, and for purposes of legitimising and allowing proper checks and balance in the system - for an independent body to assess the financial decisions made by government as a follow up. For example, if government through its budget exercise has indicated that it is going to spend X number of dollars in a particular department, was the Public Tender Act followed? Were the requests for proposals followed? Did Crown agencies or departments spend their money according to the legislative authority that governs how they should spend it? Again, it is a checks and balance system.

What has been articulated loudly and clearly to me in the last four to five days has been if there is a problem with this particular piece of legislation it is that it does not allow for that independent process to occur. So that if a situation happens, either from the government's point of view or from a independent business point of view, in this case the mining industry, they have nowhere to appeal whatsoever.

One of the clauses we have eliminated in the change from the old piece of legislation to the proposed new piece is that aspect of the legislation that provides people that independent non-partisan, non-political entity to appeal to. Mr. Speaker, I guess it would be fair to say -

MR. TULK: Non-political, non-partisan?

MR. E. BYRNE: Yes.

MR. TULK: You sound like a Republican from the U.S.

MR. E. BYRNE: No. I am saying to the hon. House Leader, if he had taken the time to listen, that some of the concerns articulated to me in the last four or five days with this particular legislation from people generally concerned about it has been that.

I think it is the responsible thing to do to articulate those concerns. We will have the opportunity to question the minister directly in terms of the clause by clause debate. I think it is section 31, if I'm not mistaken, of the act, or the proposed changes that would eliminate altogether that independent right to appeal.

Coming to grips with doing this is a move that not everybody is happy with. At this point and time I am not sure why government is moving in that direction, but I know that in the parliamentary forum and the parliamentary rules we operate under there are checks and balances with legislation. There are checks and balances in terms of the Opposition's ability or the ability of any member in this House - it does not necessarily have to be the Opposition, it could be any member in this House - to stand and ask government specifically: What did they have in mind by eliminating this particular amendment or adding this particular amendment? What is the spirit, especially if it so contravenes some of the advances that we have made in legislation in the last twenty years? Legislation like the Public Service Alliance or the Public Service Commission, the Public Tender Act, measures aimed at accountability in government.

So, Mr. Speaker, with that I will conclude my remarks and adjourn debate for the -

MR. TULK: No, don't adjourn debate (inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Yes, okay.

I will conclude my remarks by saying this. Generally and for the most part, the amendments that tighten up the language in Bill 38, the Mineral Act, are some of the changes we have called for. The record will show that two-and-a-half years ago, but there are legitimate concerns associated with this particular piece of legislation. Concerns in terms of the approach of the new process, the impact upon an industry, the impact upon possible employment, the potential impact on reducing out-migration. All of those concerns have certainly been indicated.

Members on both sides of the House I am sure - we are not the only people who get calls. I am sure the minister, in dealing with bodies associated with the mining industry, has heard some of the things I have said and probably more. I guess through the clause by clause debate, I would say to the Government House Leader, that at that point directly we have an opportunity to debate the merits or demerits of that particular initiative or that particular clause in the legislation. Generally we support what the legislation wants to accomplish, which is more benefits for all of us. I think that is where this piece of legislation is headed, but there are specific problems with some clauses. Not many, but there are some that require additional explanation by the minister responsible for this legislation. I trust he will be here this week to give us those explanations when called upon to do so.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, before adjourning the House I want to tell the Opposition House Leader that tomorrow I intend to call, starting off - that does not say we are finished on this bill - with Bill 9, Order No. 11, "An Act To Amend The Highway Traffic Act," whenever we get into debate.

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

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