The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

Statements by Ministers

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I am pleased today to inform hon. members that government is providing $75,000 to high school students to allow them to provide child care to meet the needs of teenage mothers who wish to complete their high school education.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: This funding has been allocated as part of the implementation of the National Child Benefit Reinvestment Program.

These infant care programs have four main purpose. They will provide high quality care to the infants while in the child care situation. Government is very aware of the lifelong effect of the experiences children have in their formative years and of the important of these experiences being positive.

They will support teenage mothers in completing their high school education. This provides them with the opportunity to go on to further education and to enter the workforce. The mothers then have the tools to support themselves and their children while also being positive role models to their children. These child care services will be provided to the mothers without personal cost.

They will support and assist parents in providing the infants with the experiences they require at this crucial stage of their development. Government recognizes that young parents need support in the care of their children. The infant care programs in high schools provide such support.

They will allow mothers and children to be together as much as possible during the school day. The infant care rooms are located in the high schools, allowing mothers easy access to their infants as their class schedules allow, thus strengthening the bond between mother and child.

Two centres have been funded to provide infant care. They are Booth Memorial High School in St. John's and Queen Elizabeth High School in Foxtrap. Without this funding, the Booth Memorial High School Infant Program would have been forced to close. Provision of the funding has allowed the valuable services to continue to meet the needs of teenage parents attending the school.

Schools and school boards in other parts of the Province have expressed interest. To date, no other proposals have been received.

Government is committed to children and to their families. We believe that investing in these infant care programs benefits the child, the mother, and ultimately has a positive effect on the community at large. We will continue to work hard to improve programs and services for our children throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. That is why today I wear the blue ribbon again: because for this government 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: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I thank the minister for providing me with a copy of the statement. I compliment her on this program, and I am glad to see that we are getting benefit -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS S. OSBORNE: - from the National Child Benefit without having clawed it back from our social assistance families.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS S. OSBORNE: Hear, hear!

I notice by the minister's statement that government is very aware of the lifelong effect of the experiences children have in their formative years, and I take advantage of this opportunity again to advocate for the child advocate.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS S. OSBORNE: I know that the Child Welfare Act was introduced without a child advocate which was recommended by people on both sides of this house.

What we are saying here is that the minister has not taken recommendation from members of her caucus and from 95 per cent of the people who made presentations to the Committee on Children's Interests.

You will continue to work hard to improve programs for the children, but I think -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MS S. OSBORNE: I think that these programs can only be enhanced by bringing in a child advocate.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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


MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

If the minister is going to keep saying that every day is National Child Day, I remind here that there are 365 days in a year and she may have trouble keeping up her pace over the rest the year.

I want to congratulate Booth Memorial High School for providing the initiative. For a number of years they have been very supportive of students who have become pregnant, who have children, and have provided an opportunity for them to continue their education. I am glad government is supporting it. It seems they would have been forced to close without this funding.

I would have been happier if the government was announcing a program today which would make available this type of program throughout the Province, rather then waiting to see whether any proposals come forward.

It is a good initiative, Mr. Speaker, and it should be more widespread throughout the Province.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

The hon. the Minister of Forest Resources and Agrifoods.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, in June of 1998, our government announced a co-operative initiative under the Canada-Newfoundland Safety Net Agreement to develop the cranberry industry in the Province. So far, $500,000 has been spent to do site development and road access. We have been working with the Department of Development and Rural Renewal on this initiative and thus far it is working quite well.

It is well known that there is an abundance of edible wild fruits growing throughout the Province. Three such native fruits are members of the cranberry family, and they are partridgeberry, marsh berry and cranberry. It is from the large cranberry that today's hybrid crosses, used in the North American commercial cranberry, were derived.

The craze for juice blends, along with recent medical research concerning the benefits of cranberry juice, especially as it relates to urinary tract infections, has propelled this berry into the limelight. This increase in consumption has led to higher grower prices and in some cases a shortage of supply. This has triggered a major response in the industry towards expansion. Most analyses of the industry have revealed that demand for cranberry products, particularly in the last decade, has outpaced supply. Overall, based on historical trends and review of industry studies, data and analyses by industry experts, the long-term demand for cranberries should be strong and opportunities should be available to supply berries to existing handlers and processors in the United States, and to tap into niche markets domestically and abroad.

I would like to inform the members of the House of Assembly of the progress made thus far. This initiative is designed to establish the basic infrastructure for cranberry production in the Province. It will also assist us in adapting technology for cranberries to this Province's climatic and geographic conditions.

I am pleased to announce that three of the four selected sites are now under construction and will be available for planting in 1999.

Hopefully, work will commence at the fourth site before the onset of winter.

In Frenchman's Cove on the Burin Peninsula, road access has been completed to the site and construction is nearing completion.

In the Stephenville area on Route 490, road access to the site has been completed and construction of the cranberry beds and infrastructure is approximately three-quarters completed.

In Deadman's Cove tenders have been called for the construction of the access road and the first stage of the construction has commenced.

In the Terra Nova area the site design is nearing completion and the access road has been completed.

Paralleling the physical development of the site is the continuation of the plant propagation program at the department's tree nursery at Wooddale.

It is here that we are multiplying plant numbers of seven commercial varieties which will be planted at the approximate rate of 50,000 plants per acre. To date, approximately 200,000 plants have been produced at the nursery. An anticipated plant population of 1.2 million will be realized by the summer of 1999.

In June 1998, we received twelve proposals from the private sector in response to our request for expressions of interest. The department is currently evaluating these submissions and the selection of operators will be announced as soon as possible.

As you can see, we are making progress, and hopefully by early next summer Newfoundland and Labrador will be establishing its first commercial planting of cranberries. Cranberry markets look good for the future, and we feel confident that this initiative will help strengthen the agrifoods industry and the rural economy of our Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

There is a plant in Centreville, I think, in the leader of the Government's district, that processes wild berries. Cranberries, I say to the minister, marsh berries, bakeapples, blueberries, raspberries, well, up until now this has been a strength in rural Newfoundland and Labrador that we have not taken advantage of. We have been satisfied to be able to go out and pick a few berries, to make a few domestic jams, and for the most part it was always left at that.

I think this is an area where we could look at spending some of the post-TAGS money very intelligently, where we can create some economic opportunities for rural Newfoundland and Labrador so our people might be able to establish an industry that exists right in the rural areas and provide some opportunities for our people.

Cabot Resources down in my district has been very vigilant in going out and trying to establish some wetlands and some bogs there in order to create some wildberry activity. They have not met with a lot of success along the way. There have been some road blocks there, both provincially and federally, I say to the government members opposite. I think there is an opportunity there. I think this is what, Mr. Speaker, we have to build on, the opportunities that exist in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, and that will create some economic activity for the people who might want to choose to live there.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, in order to grow and diversify the economy of this Province, and thereby generate the tax revenues needed to sustain critically important social programs and public services, it is important that government invest in strategic sectors of the economy, including the small business sector.

That is why government has allocated $7 million for the Department of Development and Rural Renewal's Strategic Enterprise Development Fund in each of the past two years. This investment fund is designed to assist small and medium sized businesses in order to take advantage of emerging opportunities in the provincial economy. This is especially important in rural areas where business information, financing, counselling and other small business supports are not often readily available through the private sector.

Almost 90 per cent of the business investments made through the Strategic Enterprise Development Fund since the Department of Development and Rural Renewal was formed in 1996 have been under $100,000. These 500 investments have helped create or maintain approximately 3,500 jobs in our economy. This equates to a cost per direct job of about $5,600, without taking into account any repayments on the portfolio, and without taking into account the spin-off benefits in the local economy. As well, historical write-offs have been less than 10 per cent on average. The commercial lending sector writes off an average of 5 per cent each year on small business loans. Individual investment decisions are made carefully, but by their very nature they are risk investments and developmental in nature where the commercial banks are not prepared to participate.

It is inevitable that some investments will not succeed. However, we must not let this deter us from continuing to provide support, in the appropriate circumstances, to private sector initiatives that offer opportunities to expand and diversify the economy and create new jobs for the people of our Province. This is a wise investment of the taxpayers' money.

For every bump in the night, so to speak, there are many success stories that, regretfully, do not always get profiled by the media in the same way the occasional failure does. I can point to hundreds of successes: Weathershore Windows in Trepassey, Genesis Organic in Corner Brook, United Bolero in Buchans, Northco Forest Products in Baie Verte, Hi-Point Peat in Bishop's Falls, Woodpick Enterprises in Wareham, Terry's Tents in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Innova Multimedia in Stephenville, and C & W Welding in Bay Bulls are just some examples.

This government is committed to growing the small business sector and using its business investment resources prudently and strategically. It would be very easy to take the safe route and not invest in the business community at all, but that would be the surest way to failure in rebuilding the economy.

As I indicated in the House last week, Mr. Speaker, there are encouraging signs from recent employment indicators that our efforts are starting to yield real dividends. We need to forge ahead - one step at a time - and do so by working together to rebuild the economy in all parts of this 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.

There is no doubt that small business should play a big part in this Province's economy, especially in rural Newfoundland today. With the technology today, of course, many businesses are built on the computer systems we have today. They are going to continue to play a big part, Mr. Speaker. The big question is: How much are they going to play a part in it? I think they can play a much bigger role as we see investment in small business.

There are still many businesses in this Province today that want to expand that run into the red tape and the bureaucracy that turn off a lot of businesses. Especially from young people in this Province, who we see an exodus of, who have attempted to start businesses and have been caught up in the red tape. The minister has admitted on occasion that of course we have to cut through that bureaucracy and make sure there are incentives there for those young people especially to start businesses in this Province.

The simple answer to the statement is yes, focus on small businesses. The reality is there has to be more focus on small businesses, not on the big harebrained schemes of the past, the big mega projects that are going to save us all. It is to get down to reality, to the grassroots, to rural work, for people with such industries. The minister has mentioned some here today. That comes from the initiatives of people in local areas, that is where is all started. The government, if they can assist them in some part - to a smaller or larger degree, whatever -, but it has to be initiated so that they are encouraged to do small businesses in this Province, which should be a bigger part of our economic recovery.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave!

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to applaud the minister for continuing with the Strategic Enterprise Development Fund. It has been a fund that has contributed to a lot of small businesses in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. I think of a couple of industries in my own district talking about berry production earlier as one of them, as well as other industries.

What I would say to the minister, however, is that we also need money in other sectors, and I think directly of the fisheries development component under your department. Last year alone the fisheries sector, the under thirty-five fleet, as a business enterprise contributed more in economic growth in employment in my district than probably any other sector, but the money did not come from that department or from those programs. It came from an arms' length approach, and through the banks and through fish companies and all the rest of it. In order to be able to -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MS JONES: - allow them to operate as independent enterprises, as businesses, they need to be able to avail of programs like this as well.

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 just want to say that I am very pleased to see that the small business sector is continuing to play a very important role in the development of jobs in our economy. The money that the government is talking about here is very well spent indeed, to generate on the average we are looking at six or seven or eight jobs per enterprise or for particular investments. It seems to me to be the kind of work that will spread the jobs around this Province, and particularly provide support in rural Newfoundland where it is difficult to come by financing or business knowledge and investment.

I am delighted this has been so successful, and I hope the government continues it and adds to this type of investment, because it is a very productive (inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

Before we proceed to question period the Chair would like to take this opportunity to welcome to the gallery today a group of representatives from the RCMP, the RNC and the Newfoundland Safety Council. They are here in connection with the Graduated Drivers License Program.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Oral Questions

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

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. My questions today are for the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal.

Today throughout rural Newfoundland and Labrador we are witnessing the consequences of the Ottawa post-TAGS strategy. It has turned community against community, neighbour again neighbour. Elected officials are calling down bureaucrats and vice versa publicly in local papers and so on.

We brought up some of these points a few days ago in the House. The minister says he has made representation to the federal government about addressing the crisis in this post-TAGS strategy. What did he tell them, what was his response, and when can we expect to see an end to this crisis that grips rural Newfoundland today?

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, let me say to the hon. gentleman that the minister made no such statement in this House. What I did do was on behalf of the - the Member for Bonavista South came up with a particular problem he was having with the post-TAGS job creation project in his district. I told him that I would, the next day, be meeting with the local officials from HRD, the regional director for Newfoundland, and that I would bring that problem to his attention. I did that. In terms of making representation to the government, there is no point in the hon. gentleman standing and saying I made commitments to do that. I did not.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Baie Verte.

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, I certainly understood that the minister said he would make representation to the House, but anyway we will check Hansard to see exactly what he said. He certainly indicated it in that way.

The Premier and the minister have both indicated at certain times that they have been right there with their federal counterparts in Ottawa seeing this through with committees and so on in the House. If that is the case, Minister, don't you share some of the responsibility for the crisis that has erupted in rural areas right now today in this compensation program, and how it is being administered today in this Province?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure what the hon. member opposite is talking about. Because if the hon. member opposite were doing his homework he would know that the Canadian Council for Professional Fish Harvesters was in Ottawa for the last two or three days having their annual meeting, and that extensive dialogue took place the Canadian Council of Professional Fish Harvesters, notably the FFAW in this Province, Mr. Earle McCurdy and his executive board, and with representatives of the federal government on all of these questions.

As for myself, I was in Ottawa yesterday and indeed sat down with the regional minister for Newfoundland and Labrador to talk about this program. In particular, to talk about the need to ensure that the $68 million for post-TAGS economic development is targeted towards, as we have insisted, rural Newfoundland and Labrador. We do not want to see those funds end up in institutions based in urban parts of the Province, be it any urban part of the Province. We want to see those funds targeted for economic development opportunities in rural Newfoundland and in Labrador.

I can tell you that I had a most constructive meeting with the hon. Fred Mifflin, our minister in the federal Cabinet, and he shares our commitment to seeing 100 per cent of those funds being delivered in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. I was very pleased with the meeting.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Baie Verte.

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, I can say to the Premier there is no great comfort to know they talked to the hon. Fred Mifflin to see if they can straighten out some of this mess.

I will ask the minister again. There have been squabbles among communities, among people within the communities. There has been a lot of problems. Is the minister or the Premier aware of some of the problems with the criteria as they exist now with these projects? There are many fights among people within the communities, from community to community, and so on. Are you aware of those problems, do you acknowledge those? Were some of those discussed in the meetings you have just talked about?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, anybody listening to these questions, anybody listening to the hon. member opposite who wants to hold himself up as some kind of an expert concerned about the welfare of rural Newfoundland and Labrador putting forward constructive questions, is still waiting - it has now been three questions - for an example of what it is the member is talking about.

By the way, there are about 5,000 people, I think, today in rural Newfoundland and Labrador who are employed in the projects which have been brought forward. There is probably another several thousand placements that will yet occur. I know that many members of the House, including members on the other side, have worked with the Department of Human Resources Development and made representation to see some of these people employed. I would congratulate members on both sides of the House for doing that

Let me give you an example. In the Straits-White Bay North area there are 538 persons now employed. In Bonavista South there is 427 members now employed. I know the member opposite has been involved in trying to make representation. Maybe the Member for Baie Verte hasn't been doing his job. I do not know, I will get to the list. In Twillingate & Fogo, 345 persons; in Burgeo & LaPoile, 339 persons; in St. Barbe, 279 persons; in Fortune Bay-Cape la Hune, 224 persons. The list goes on. I think we have to acknowledge that there has been a substantial start both on the Island and in Labrador, and members on both sides of the House have been working constructively to try and provide benefits and assistance to those who need it. You will not provide benefits or assistance just by getting up and making generalised statements that all is in crisis, nothing is working right -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

PREMIER TOBIN: - without coming specifically to points that we can address. We would be only happy to address them if we get concrete questions.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Baie Verte.

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, first of all, I do not need the Premier to tell me if I am doing my job or not. I am in my district day after day.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SHELLEY: People come to my house, and phone me on a daily basis. I do not need the Premier to ask me if I am doing my job. I am not in Vancouver or Toronto, talking at fundraisers.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. SHELLEY: The question is directly from people, so when you hear this question, Premier, it is directly from constituents in my district and other parts of the Province who have called me to say: Do you believe that the criteria has been right? Do you believe that the people getting on the projects are the right...? The criteria for getting on the projects - are you aware of those problems? I asked the minister yesterday and he said he was not aware of them. Do you believe the criteria is proper? Do you believe the whole program is being administered properly? Is that a fair enough question?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: First of all, Mr. Speaker, we are dealing with the federal program, and the criteria which has been established is federal criteria. Is the member suggesting that the thousands of people now on these projects should be removed? That they are on there because of improper criteria? I am not suggesting that. The member opposite is suggesting it. Are you suggesting -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

PREMIER TOBIN: The member cannot have it both ways. If you disagree with the criteria, are you suggesting that the $23.9 million spent so far on 399 projects, employing 3,899 people, that these projects be shut down? Are you suggesting that those who have been hired be dismissed? Are you suggesting that there be a restart of the program and a new criteria?

If you are suggesting that, I would ask you: What criteria ought to be applied? And which individuals, on what basis, ought to be removed from these programs?

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Baie Verte.

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, if the Premier is so close to his federal counterparts, he is on a daily basis in Ottawa bringing up the slack for Newfoundland, he would not have to ask if I am suggesting those things at all. I am dealing with them on a daily basis out in the district. I have asked you about the criteria. You have not answered that one.

The truth is that the post-TAGS program has given us more of what has been failing in the past. We certainly do need those for the short term.

Now I want to ask the question to the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal. With the end of the post-TAGS projects, what is the long term for rural renewal when it comes from the minister's department?

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, if the hon. gentleman wants me to go through the list there - yes, I have one here that I could give him - what is the future for the Department of Development and Rural Renewal. There are millions and millions of dollars that we have spent under various agreements, trying to rebuild the economy of this Province, but for me to stand up during Question Period...

I will tell him what. Tomorrow is Private Members' Day and there is a resolution on the order paper dealing with exactly what we have done. I will take fifteen or twenty minutes then and go through the whole spiel of what the Department of Development and Rural Renewal has done.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TULK: Last year I walked into this House with a list of projects, a list of jobs that had been created by the Department of Development and Rural Renewal, and I offered to put them on the Table for him. He refused to read them. He would not even bother to read them. He said: I do not want that.

No, we know what he wants. He would like to paint the image that rural Newfoundland is either dead or dying. That is the image he wants out there.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. TULK: That is what he wants to get out there so he can gain some votes in the process.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Baie Verte.

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, what I am doing is dealing with the reality, not what the minister is trying to do: to come in and gloat every day about the great revival that is going on in rural renewal in Newfoundland and Labrador.

That is what he is trying to paint; he is trying to paint a picture that is not real. He goes around the Province and talks about the statistics of 20 per cent (inaudible) on the South Coast, 21 per cent on the Northern Peninsula.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. SHELLEY: Is the minister satisfied with all of these programs, that they are addressing the problems correctly in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. Are you satisfied?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, it is very clear to anybody who is listening carefully that the time of the people's House, insofar as Question Period is concerned, is being wasted today. There is not one substantive, specific question coming from the member opposite who is leading off on behalf of the Loyal Opposition today.

There are generalized statements about criteria, generalized statements saying that the Province in rural Newfoundland in this regard has some kind of problems; no specific questions to an entire government who is sitting here waiting to answer questions.

I want to say to the gentleman who is acting on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition today that the Opposition has a responsibility to come to the House prepared to ask specific questions and to help the public policy process, not to engage in negative commentary for the sake of negative commentary. That does not give rise to good government or a good Opposition.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. the Premier to take his seat.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. J. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am on my feet now and I say to the members opposite: Don't panic; I have a few simple questions for a simple minister. My question today is for the Minister of Finance.

Government has intervened or committed to intervene in several of the Province's pension plans; very recently the teachers' pension plan, the Public Service Pension Plan and so forth. Is the Minister of Finance now confident that the Province's pension plans are on a sound footing or have we simply postponed the crisis? When does the minister expect that new interventions will be needed to shore-up the plans in the future?

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The pension plans are on a much sounder basis. At the rate that we are funding the Public Service Pension Plan, which affects the majority of employees, that will steadily increase over time. We can foresee in the next probably fifteen- to twenty-year period, that would be funded to the extend of about 60 per cent. It is now funded at 40 per cent.

With the teachers' pension plan we have not solved the problem. We have probably bought more time. Right now it is funded at about 16 per cent to 17 per cent. The changes we have made, plus money we are putting in, will achieve sort of an inverse bell. So what you will have is. it will become better funded and then in about the year 2020 it will fall off again. However, we have bought sufficient time for us to deal, over the longer period of time, with the prospects of demographic changes because one of the problems with the teachers' pension plan is different than others in that many teachers retire much younger than civil servants. So it gives us time to look at the demographics of the current teacher population, to analyze changes with people who choose it as a profession, who may perhaps stay longer. As well, it also gives the government an opportunity to see what sort of long-term assumptions we can make about not only retirement but also rates of return on the investments we made, and the balance in our portfolio.

I might say that some of the other pension plans, the uniformed services and pension plans of this House, are not funded at all, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

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

Mr. Minister, in recent years, with escalating out-migration, school enrolments have declined to the point that the government and its boards are eliminating far more teaching positions than might have been estimated even a decade ago.

When the government acted this year to shore-up the teachers' pension plan, what were the working estimates of how far the Province's population and enrolments will decline in the decade ahead? And how much pressure will the consequent reduction in teaching positions have on the plan?

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

MR. DICKS: Mr. Speaker, with respect to the first observation of the hon. member, the Province has actually not reduced teachers. We have increased them this year by approximately 400. Is that the correct figure?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: I am sorry, 200, close to 300.

We have lowered the student/teacher ratio so that for every student in the Province there are in fact more teachers rather than less. Last year we had the lowest student/teacher ratio in the Province. Now we have an even lower student/teacher ratio in the country. Now we have, by far, the lowest student/teacher ratio in the country.

The second thing to realize is that whether or not the demographics of existing teachers changes, from about 1990 forward all of the pension entitlements were self-funded. The problems with the teachers' pension plan really stemmed from the changes that were enacted and the liabilities incurred prior to 1990. The recent changes we have made, the recent amounts of money we announced that would be put into the pension plan, are monies to deal with past unfunded liabilities, not currently accruing ones.

So the pension plan with respect to benefits that we are now accumulating, whether it is teachers who were teaching prior to 1990 or will afterwards be hired, are positive and in fact help the pension plan rather than being detrimental to it.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

MR. J. BYRNE: The teacher/student ratio may have increased but, you know, you can make stats do anything you want. You can twist them whatever way you want. In the meantime, I think in actual reality there are fewer teachers in the Province today than there were a few years ago.

Now, many public service pensioners in this Province are struggling to survive on pension benefits that have not kept pace with the rising cost of living. When, if ever, does the Province intend to act to bring those pension incomes up to a reasonable level that reflects the contribution these individuals made to the public sector of the Province during the formative years of Confederation? What would it take for the Province to afford a fair and reasonable increase in pension benefits for these struggling veterans of our public sector?

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Pension plans are based on contributions. The simple truth that a lot of people do not like to hear is that many civil servants who retired in this Province contributed far less than was sufficient to pay the benefits they are currently receiving. There are only one or two pension plans in this Province, if not this country, that receive automatic increases that are inflation protected.

What we would look to -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: Oh, no, Mr. Speaker, we can have all kinds - but these are gratuities. You are giving money to people. Really what you are doing when you say: Let's give it to people because they worked for government - what about the people who worked as loggers? What about independent people who had to provide for their own pensions? What about people who retired as fishermen and fish plant workers in the Province?

It is inequitable to take tax dollars from pensioners who do not have an indexed pension and use that money to give to people who work for government on a pension increase. It is unfair.

If it is going to be done, and if there is a manner in which it could be done, it is that we could work with the unions for a plan, that we would increase the contributions of our current workforce to fund an indexation for people who are retired. So far the unions and their people and their personnel and current working population have not indicated willingness to do so, but we are prepared to enter those discussions.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question is to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

Minister, the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization, commonly know as NAFO, is the regulatory body that sets rules and regulations for fishing outside our 200-mile limit. Two months ago, NAFO held its annual meeting with participating countries in Lisbon, Portugal. I ask the minister if he, himself, attended and participated in this important meeting? If not, was there a representative there from this Province?

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

MR. EFFORD: No, Mr. Speaker, I did not. Yes, there was a representative from this Province.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Immediately after this annual NAFO meeting held in Lisbon, Portugal, the minister gave a glowing report of how pleased he was with the policy agreed to by the seventeen countries that constitute the makeup of NAFO.

Minister, you were excited about NAFO agreeing to the extension of the 100 per cent observer coverage on all fishing vessels on our Continental Shelf. I am told that those same observers that the minister is so excited about sometimes file their reports only after the catch is landed and sold.

I ask the minister if it is any great comfort in knowing that those same observers on those same foreign boats are observers from the same countries, and sometimes from the same ports, that those boats sail from?

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

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, I realize that. In fact, it was only a second ago before the question came that I turned to my colleagues and said (inaudible) a question in this sitting of the House of Assembly; but I did not expect to get the question that was asked last year, and two or three years ago.


MR. EFFORD: I thought I would have gotten something relevant to the fishery today.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. EFFORD: If the hon. member is trying to find fault with the observer program that is ongoing today, he should go back five years ago, ten years ago, twenty years ago, and take a look at what was happening outside the 200-mile limit. Take a look at what was happening inside the 200-mile limit twenty years ago compared to what is happening today.

Where are the observers coming from who are aboard our own ships? Where are the observers coming from who are aboard the 65-footers inside our own waters? From the communities in Newfoundland. Are we saying that because they are coming from the same port, from the same community, they are all crooks, they are all not doing the job? Is that what you are saying?

Are you aware that the enforcement agency of DFO, of the Coast Guard of the Government of Canada, have found 85 per cent less infractions outside the 200-mile limit since the observer program was put in place - 85 per cent?

Now there was an agreement at the most recent NAFO meeting to extend the observer program outside the 200-mile limit aboard those foreign ships.

If the hon. member wants it scrapped and wants no observers on the boats, then he should stand up and say so.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, I say to the minister that it is not our own ships we are worried about. I say to the minister, if they repeated the question from last year, it is still a question for which we have not gotten an answer.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FITZGERALD: Minister, in your praise for NAFO and their new policies, you also stated that a continuation of a moratorium on shrimp outside our 200-mile limit, in area 3L, was also an important objective achieved. The great concern here was that a shrimp fishery in this area could compromise the recovery of flatfish stocks.

I ask the minister if he is aware, or is he at all concerned, that part of this very same area, area 3L, which you said would not be fished for shrimp, is now being allowed by the establishment of a new area, area 3Ma? Minister, this decision comes from the very same meeting which you were so quick to embrace.

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

MR. EFFORD: I think I am going to take the advice of my hon. colleague, the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal, and set up a consulting business and write some questions for you over there.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. EFFORD: Because it is absolutely unbelievable.

My praise for NAFO and the results of the NAFO meeting was in the best interest of this Province and the fishery.

Let's take about the shrimp fishery that is taking place in Newfoundland and Labrador today, where some $85 million worth of shrimp has been landed, where some $60 million has been invested into shrimp processing plants and another $20 million to $30 million invested by fishermen in the equipment on their boats.

Why would we be agreeable to extending the moratorium for another year, another period of time, outside the 200-mile limit? To give Canada a chance to do some exploratory work inside and outside the 200-mile limit to establish its presence in NAFO, to make representation, to get the advantage of the greater percentage of that shrimp which will be fished commercially in the near future.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. EFFORD: I would rather see Canada having time to do the proper exploratory work and get 80 per cent or 85 per cent of that quota than to see the foreign countries get the 80 per cent or 85 per cent of the quota sent outside.

So, yes, we agree to the extension of the moratorium -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. EFFORD: - until we can position ourselves to make presentation to get the best advantage of that fish which belongs to us.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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.

I was asked to attend a meeting last night with families of residents of the Agnes Pratt Nursing Home. They said they appealed to you months ago, and in a letter they indicated - of which I have a copy - they appealed to the Premier on November 2 to intervene in this matter, the current lack of medical coverage they have there.

Only 19 per cent of the 134 residents there are able to speak on their own behalf. The families there are gravely concerned for the welfare of these families, and especially members they have entrusted into the care of those nursing homes under responsibility of your department; and, I might add, at a cost to some of up to $2,800 a month. They feel they are not getting the medical services that they bought into when they entered into those homes. This matter, as the minister knows, has been going on for many, many months, closer to a year.

As the chief individual who is overseeing health care here in this Province, why have you procrastinated in giving these people the services they require?

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

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

Just by way of information, all of the St. John's nursing homes now come under a board, the St. John's Nursing Home Board. Also by way of information, we have recently negotiated a collective agreement with the Medical Association for $32 million.

Part of that process, as the member may or may not know, is that you have to actually work out the details of an agreement of such a magnitude after the deal has been reached.

In terms of what is happening at the Agnes Pratt Home, the member opposite, I am sure, is aware that as we speak the micro-allocation process is occurring with the Medical Association, with the physicians, and with Treasury Board of government. They are trying to work out the details of the micro-allocation. However, I have great confidence in the physicians of the Province who are professionals, and I know that they will not withdraw their services to our frail elderly until this process is completed and at least until they have an opportunity to see what is being offered.

In the meantime, it is also very important to inform the public that within government we have administrative physicians who are now providing services there, as well as the other physicians who are currently there working.

Again, I am not prepared to panic and I am not prepared to fearmonger. What I am prepared to do is to allow the process to work, to trust in the professionals and physicians to do the services that they are very equipped to provide, and to have the confidence in our own administrative positions, Mr. Speaker, to see that the services required are rendered.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is not the nursing home board that is taken to task by these people, and it is not the doctors that are taken to task. They speak very highly of staff. Back on April 21 the concerns were first addressed to you, and the people (inaudible) concerned. On October 1 you allotted some money, and the money has not been distributed.

I say to the minister that I was told yesterday a lady spent ten days with a dislocated spine, in agony, before she could see a doctor. I was told of a person who spent three weeks with an infection, on repeated requests from the family to have a doctor, and they could not see him.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: I say to the minister that your own deputy minister apologized last week to one of these, that it was inadequate care. As minister you have a responsibility, not just the nursing home board, not the physicians, not the staff -

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

I ask the hon. member to get to his question.

MR. SULLIVAN: I ask the minister: When are you going to exercise the responsibility that you have to these people that are in need of care in our Province?

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 have to say again, because I think it is important, that I do have confidence in the process and I have confidence in the physicians. I also have to inform the member opposite that we live in an urban centre where we have a number of hospital, acute and tertiary care centres available to us at any particular point in time. I have great confidence in the nursing staff who are able to make the assessment that is required. If one of the residents requires a trip to the emergency department for care, that can easily be arranged.

However, I also want to note that a nursing home is not a hospital. It is in fact a home, and we are providing the services there through our administrative staff. Again, I will say that the micro-allocation of fees that are going to be required to be paid in this particular instance has not been completed. Unlike the member opposite, I would prefer to see the process completed before I instill panic in people. I think it is important to reassure people services are available, and the coverage will be granted to the people that need the services.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Yes, Mr. Speaker. Services will be provided, either through the hospital system or through the physicians.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister was in this House yesterday complaining that too many people are using ambulances, and now she expects people to go from those homes by ambulance to emergency departments. Now she is saying today: Use an ambulance, take an emergency (inaudible). They could not go in an ambulance because they were not considered an emergency, I say to the minister.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: In light of the fact that this issue has been going on for almost a year, and frustration, Minister, is setting in, I have been informed that as of November 30 - after waiting for several months and given notice before and agreed to stay, that this matter still has not been settled - most or all of the physicians in this City serving people at these homes will be resigning. I ask the minister: Is she aware of this pending crisis that we have been waiting since April to get settled? What is she doing to get it resolved?

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

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

I feel compelled to respond to the preamble before getting to the question because I think it is really - I cannot describe the word. To try to make some sort of a correlation between abuse of ambulance services and nurses making the assessment that a resident would have to be transferred to an emergency, well, I think, quite frankly, it is really a despicable comparison to make. I have to say it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Anyway, Mr. Speaker, in response to the question, the reason we have been waiting for intervention is because, as I previously mentioned, we were in the process of negotiating a $32 million package for physicians in this Province. In all fairness, as I pointed out before, we have to work through each of the areas that require the micro-allocation or the allocation of that particular amount of money to provide the services for long-term care.

Mr. Speaker, I have confidence. I find it very difficult to believe that physicians in this City would withdraw services in the middle of a negotiation process.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MS J.M. AYLWARD: It is like going on strike before you know what the deal is. Quite frankly, Mr. Speaker, they are in the process of negotiating that. We are working very quickly to try to come to some resolution, and I have the confidence in our physicians as professionals.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Question period has ended.


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

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

I rise today to present a petition on behalf of the students who attend Lawrence College in St. John's.

The prayer of the petition reads:

We petition the hon. House of Assembly to not discriminate against students who attend private schools in Newfoundland and Labrador. We ask that we be eligible immediately for the Awards Program. We also petition the Minister of Education to contact Ottawa to ensure that private college students are included in the Millennium Scholarship Fund.

Mr. Speaker, this issue has been raised in the House. It was raised yesterday. Again I say, as I said during question period, we support the Awards Program. We believe it is a good, positive thing and we compliment the government on that particular initiative. However, as we pointed out during our questioning in the House, we want to say to the minister that it is inappropriate the funds be available only to those students who are attending public schools, namely Memorial University and the College of the North Atlantic. We say that the minister should examine the double standard of eligibility. As the minister knows, there were two criteria established. These criteria are that the students have financial need and that they have a proven record of scholastic ability.

I want to say to the minister that he should establish another criterion, namely the type of school that the student attends. There are approximately, in this Province, 7,000 students who go to private colleges. In fact, that is more than the total number of students attending the College of the North Atlantic. We want to say to the minister that we acknowledge that there has been some discussion between the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Career Colleges, the national association, and the committee set up in Ottawa to develop regulations under Bill C-36. The view is, of course, that these students may be able to be included. In fact, the Canadian Education and Training Accreditation Commission has a seat now on the board or the committee that is setting up the criteria. We want to say to the minister that if the federal and provincial governments permit students in private colleges to avail of the student aid programs, it makes commonsense that they should also be able to avail of any of the initiatives.

We also point out to the minister that many of the programs that are offered in private colleges are not available in public colleges. Therefore, I guess that for the minister to be fair and reasonable he should take steps today to make sure that the Awards Program he has just initiated be available to students in all post-secondary institutions.

I say to the minister that in my dialogue with the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Career Colleges they have said that if the issue for the minister is one that talks about the eligibility as far as the programs are concerned, they are quite prepared to enter into dialogue with the minister and his department to make sure that if he has concerns about eligibility, as far as the content of programs or the longevity of programs, they recognize that not all students in these schools spend the same length of time in their studies as students at the University or at the College of the North Atlantic. They are willing to dialogue on that.

It is fundamentally unfair. Since the minister, and the governments nationally and provincially, take the money out of the taxpayers' hands to make those awards, then we should say to the minister that it is incumbent upon him as the minister to make sure all students are eligible on the same criteria to be awarded a fair share of those scholarships.

Mr. Speaker, I say to the minister that the methodology should be transparent -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. H. HODDER: - it should be available to all students, and they should take steps today to do away with the double standard of eligibility.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased to support the petition as read and as commented on by my colleague, the Member for Waterford Valley, as it relates to this issue of scholarship funding, and where this scholarship funding is directed.

It is my understanding that the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation, which I understand was created under Bill C-36, has not specifically excluded private colleges, and in fact included private college representation in its dialogue on the Millennium Fund preparation and the Millennium Fund scholarship provisions.

Therefore, it appears that it was certainly the intention of the federal parties, and the federal association put together for the scholarship plan and program, that private colleges would in fact be included. Therefore, it is somewhat surprising that in our own Province of Newfoundland and Labrador we see some 7,000 private college students essentially being discriminated against, because this is an issue of discrimination. It is obvious that there are thousands of students in our public system who can take advantage of the provisions of this scholarship program and this scholarship fund. However, we must not exclude those 7,000 young Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who have seen fit to enrol in private college programs.

Therefore, the question has to be asked: Why isn't the minister taking a more proactive role in ensuring that the interests and the concerns of students who are enroled in private college programs are protected?

The petition today is from one particular college, namely, Lawrence College, and the particular petition is signed by some twenty or twenty-five individuals who have expressed concern - pardon me?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. OTTENHEIMER: That is, I understand, one of many petitions which are to be forthcoming in this Legislature.

Clearly, we have a representation here of a number of students, private college students, who are saying to this minister and who are saying to this government: Please include us. Do not exclude us. We ought to be eligible. We ought to be able to have access to this particular programming.

It is indeed a shame that this government has seen fit, for whatever reason, for whatever unknown reason, to simple exclude the 7,000 Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who have elected quite voluntarily to enrol in the private college system.

I would ask the minister to accept seriously the plea of these students and to give some consideration to the directing or redirecting of many of these funds to those students who are enroled in such private colleges.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would just like to make a few brief comments with respect to the petition which has been presented by the education critic and supported by the Member for St. John's East.

Mr. Speaker, I happened to spend ten or twelve minutes earlier today on the telephone with one of the petitioners, and I think I had to spend a little bit of time correcting some of the information that he indicated to me he had gotten from Mr. Hodder's office.

I would suggest that when members opposite are assisting people with petitions, that at least they give them the facts. Because the conversation I had with the student who was quite concerned, because it is a student of a private college who would like to be included in the Newfoundland Awards Program, and would like to be considered for the Canada Millennium Scholarship, although the student did not know a lot about it and actually thought it had already started because he had been told that by somebody from the Opposition critic's office. I have to correct that, Mr. Speaker.

The notion that the students have bought into, which is in the language of the petitions, they feel they are being discriminated against. I indicated to the student that, while to claim discrimination makes for a good speech, there is nothing discriminatory about this program.

Discrimination applies in a case where there is a program of general application available that for some reason is then denied to a certain group of people. The program that is in Newfoundland and Labrador, the Newfoundland Awards Program, was never introduced as a program of general application that any and every post-secondary student could have access to. It was introduced as a targeted specific program. That happens in government all the time.

The student that I spoke to also had it somehow confused. He said that he was discriminated against under the Canada Study Grants - again, which are not generally applied programs but are programs through the Student Loan Program that are available for single parents who are post-secondary students. He admitted that he had no children. He was single, but he thought he should get money too because there is a program to assist single parents pursue their post-secondary education. He also described that as being discriminatory because he was using some language, I guess, that he had heard in conversation with the hon. member's office. At least that is what he ascribed it to.

The student also erroneously thought that the $4 million that is being provided in the next two years by the Province while we are waiting for the Canada Millennium Scholarship Program to begin in the year 2000 and beyond, that the money was part of the Canada Millennium Scholarship; that it was sent to Newfoundland by the federal government and we were passing it out early.

Mr. Speaker, there was some clear misinformation. I hope that when hon. members opposite are speaking to students they will give them at least the correct information, because it is an important issue. We have stated, as I said yesterday, that if and when the federal government decides that the Canada Millennium Scholarship, in which they have not developed the full criteria yet, will apply to students in private training institutions rather than just the publicly funded schools across the country, then we would certainly look at revising the criteria for our interim program, the Newfoundland Awards Program, which we announced yesterday has just dispersed the first $1.2 million. The grants range from a minimum of $500 to a maximum of $1,000.

In fact, the students who were on the committee wanted to make sure that we didn't send out a few dollars - five, ten, eight, seven, twelve dollars - to 5,000 or 6,000 students, but that we would give meaningful debt relief to students; and meaningful means at least $500 dollars.

Because the program is so small, when we announced it in the Budget, we indicated to the whole world that it was not a program of general application for every student, but was a program targeted at the students with the greatest indebtedness who, over the period of their full post-secondary careers, are students in the public colleges and in the university, because they have longer programs, longer borrowing periods, and greater debt. Because most of the programs in the private training institutes, while they have higher tuition initially, are only of a year's duration or less, so the students do not end up with the debt levels that are in the public system.

As I stated again yesterday, and as I stated to the student this morning, if and when the federal government decides to change the criteria for the Millennium Program in the year 2000, and they specify the criteria includes private schools, we will certainly look at it with our program as well.

Orders of the Day

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, Order No. 16, "An Act to Amend The Highway Traffic Act (No. 2)", Bill No. 29, the Minister of Government Services and Lands.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Motion, second reading of a bill, " An Act To Amend The Highway Traffic Act". (Bill No. 29)


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

MR. McLEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am very pleased to be here today to move second reading on Bill No. 29, An Act To Amend The Highway Traffic Act. This is a very significant bill.

I would also like to acknowledge the members of the police forces in the gallery, along with the Safety Council representation, and members of our department as well.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. McLEAN: Mr. Speaker, as members of this House are aware, the intent of this bill is consistent with the unanimous recommendation made by the Select Committee of the House of Assembly on property and casualty insurance.

In this report, the Select Committee said that the novice drivers, regardless of age, were significantly over-represented in motor vehicle accidents, and that teenage drivers were involved in a disproportionately high number of accidents compared to other age groups. Graduated licencing, the report said, is the solution.

I can assure the House that the Chair of the Select Committee, along with the other members of the committee, that government is extremely pleased with the work that the committee has done and that government expects to act on other recommendations in the very near future.

There is widespread public support for a graduated licensing program from the community at large, from our police forces, our health and safety organizations, the insurance industry, and I welcome representatives of these organizations. As I said, they are in the gallery here today to witness this.

This bill calls for the new Graduated Drivers Licence Program to be introduced effective January 1, 1999. Also, I understand that all of the mechanisms are in place. The police forces have their equipment; they have the training in place. Our department has everything ready to go, so we are ready to move on this as of January 1.

Other Canadian provinces have already taken such action, with remarkable results, and I would like to speak briefly of the Ontario experience. The program that was implemented in Ontario in April, 1994, and an interim report that tracked data from 1993 to 1996 showed that overall collisions by novice drivers went down dramatically by 31 per cent, and that the fatality and injury rates among novice drivers went down by 24 per cent - very significant figures.

According to a study of Newfoundland and Labrador accident statistics, 16.5 per cent of all fatalities in this Province over a six-year period involved drivers with less than two years of driving experience.

I am confident that our proposed program will save lives. It is designed to help novice drivers acquire, on a gradual basis, the knowledge and skill needed to safely operate passenger vehicles, light trucks and motor cycles. This program enables new drivers to gain experience in conditions where the risk of having a collision is low. For example, there is a section in the bill which requires Level I novice drivers to be accompanied by a licensed driver with at least four years' experience. There is a section which does not allow Level I novice drivers to drive between midnight and 5:00 a.m. Under this bill there is also zero toleration for alcohol for novice drivers.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. McLEAN: I look forward to the introduction of this program. It is undoubtedly a move in the right direction; a move that will provide our novice drivers, as well as our other drivers, with a greater degree of safety when travelling on our roads.

The clauses that are very significant in this particular bill as well - I will just draw your attention to these at this time because we can get down to discussion in clause-by-clause situations in the committee stage.

At issue in this is that we will now allow teenagers at sixteen years of age to do a test and begin to drive on our highways under very restricted processes. This is a significant change because prior to now you had to be seventeen before you could get behind the wheel of a car or light truck.

Also, I think the zero tolerance in the alcohol situation for novice drivers is a situation that we should really, really stick to and ensure that when novice drivers are getting behind the wheel, they will not be looked on in a very favourable light. The penalties are very stiff for any novice drivers who are tacked with a smell of booze on them anytime they want to get behind the wheel.

These are a couple of very significant issues in this particular bill. As I said, I would like to certainly congratulate the Insurance Committee of the House, the Select Committee of the House, and all its members, for bringing this forward and ensuring that we take it in. I would also like to say thank you again to the police forces, the Safety Council, and our department staff who worked very hard to ensure that we get this in place and have this ready to enact on January 1.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

Today, I am certainly pleased to rise in my place and support this legislation. I think this is a very important piece of legislation that is going through the House of Assembly in the very near future. Obviously it has been supported by the RNC, the RCMP and the Newfoundland Safety Council. I believe some of their representatives are here today.

As I say, any legislation that deals with the possibility of saving lives has to be considered to be a very important piece of legislation. There is no doubt about that. I think this will go a long way to save lives, not only of younger people, though the stats have shown they are involved in more collisions and more deaths and what have you than the percentages should be. Again, how many lives will they save if they have an accident with any individual? It could be a senior, it could someone in their middle age, or whatever the case may be. It could be young children that they may have in the car with them.

I was amazed at this though, I have to say, when I read some of the literature, that there have been approximately 10,000 young Canadians killed on our highways within a ten-year period. It is really amazing. Again, this legislation I think is long overdue. Certainly on this side of the House we support it. That works about to be approximately, in a given year, over 800 per year killed on our highways.

The minister mentioned the decrease in the collisions and the deaths when the program was implemented in Ontario, and again, significant numbers in the saving of lives.

There is one thing that I noticed in the legislation, I say to the minister, and he probably could comment on this. I am thinking about younger people in particular that are trying to get their driver's license and what have you. I have known individuals who have gone up to Motor Registration in Mount Pearl probably five or six times to get their license, and each time they go in they have to fork over $50. I noticed here that when they are leaving certain classes to go on to the next level, or whatever the case may be, I think it is going to end up with paying a fee, probably $50. Then if they have to be reinstated, if they do lose their license - I know there have to be penalties involved -, upwards of $100 for reinstatement.

Another point I would like to make. This is something that really upsets me, I suppose. Maybe it is because it is so close ,because I just had a son this past January get his license, seventeen years old. It has to do with the insurance rates that are charged for young male drivers. He is seventeen years old and he has a number of friends, buddies, young women and young men he knocks around with, and all of them have gotten their licenses. From what I can see over this past number of months, in the past ten months say, some of them have had accidents. It seems to me that it is the young females that are having more accidents today than the young males. This is from my personal experience. Yet the young males have to pay exorbitant amounts of money for insurance rates.

The point I am trying to make here is that with this new novice program and the Graduated Driver License Program we have now, these young people cannot drive from midnight to 5:00 a.m. When they do drive they have to have an individual with four years' experience driving with them, so it is not someone seventeen or eighteen years old. It is like someone seventeen and twenty or twenty-one, whatever the case may be.

I am wondering is there any thought given to that aspect of it with respect to the impact it is going to have on the insurance rates? Will the insurance companies bring down the insurance rates themselves, or will there be some kind of legislation, we would say? I doubt if that would happen, but in the meantime it is a concern of mine.

Also, the zero tolerance with respect to alcohol, again will have a positive impact in reducing the amount of accidents on our highways.

I do not want to belabour this because I support it, and I think most members on this side of the House support this legislation. This Graduated Driver License Program - and I do not want to minimize the importance of this legislation, let me tell you that - but I have to say that if you talk about drivers the Minister of Government Services and Lands is getting some mileage out of this. Last winter he brought this into the House, he talked about it. He put out a press release on September 29 where some of his facts were not straight, from what I can read. Today he put out another release, had a press conference, presented it in the House. Talk about somebody getting mileage out of something.

He is bringing in a fair bit of legislation this sitting of the House, I have to say that to him. He is keeping me busy, I can guarantee you that, in this House of Assembly.

AN HON,. MEMBER: (Inaudible) credit union, the co-operative (inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Untold. Yes, we have the co-op and the credit union bills already done in this House, within a week. I would say to the Government House Leader that it is a good thing we have the Minister of Government Services and Lands or he would have nothing in this House of Assembly. He wants to keep it open for a month. If you want to keep it open for a month it is a good thing you have that man over there and this man right here, I say to you, Mr. Speaker!

Anyway, this is a very serious piece of legislation and I want to get back to it.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: What did you say, the Member for Humber East?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: The RNC or the RCMP have no reason to give me a speeding ticket, or any kind of a ticket, I can guarantee you that. I am a well behaved citizen on the highways, so far. The RNC and the RCMP have my full support and they know that.

MR. SHELLEY: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: The Member for Baie Verte wants me to mention a certain thing which I have already done.

MR. SHELLEY: I think you should do it again.

MR. J. BYRNE: I will mention it again. We have the Newfoundland Safety Council in the gallery up there, and the RCMP and the RNC.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, I am going to sit down to the pleasure of - pardon?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Anyway, Mr. Speaker, I want to compliment the Minister of Government Services and Lands. I do not do it that often, I can guarantee you that, but with respect to this piece of legislation and the possibility of saving lives on our highways in Newfoundland and Labrador, and in Canada in general, it is very positive legislation. When we get into committee stage, I will say to the minister, there may be some questions or points of clarification but generally speaking, this is a good piece of work.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am certainly happy to rise here today and pass a few comments on the Graduated Driver Licence Program. I commend the minister for implementing this particular part of the Committee's report. I served on the Committee, along with the Members for Humber Valley, Placentia & St. Mary's, Twillingate & Fogo and the Member for Labrador West. Our Committee held in excess of sixty meetings, if I recall. We went right across this Province and met with everybody who wanted to meet with us and provided an opportunity in the forum for them to come forward and express their views and opinions.

The underlying efforts, the reason why this Committee was formed, was to try to reduce the cost of insurance. That was the reason why the committee was put in place. In order for us to reduce the cost of insurance, the premiums we all pay on an annual basis, we had to look at ways of reducing the payout by insurance companies. The thing we heard most of all, everywhere we went, was to implement a Graduated Driver Licence Program. It is nothing new. It has been tried in other provinces and it has been quite successful, I say to members opposite.

Everybody knows themselves, if you think back to your own days when you reached the age of seventeen and you went out and got your driver's licence, that it was a big event. The time that you excelled most, the time that you picked to show how good you could drive the old man's car, was midnight or 1:00 a.m. If you look at statistics across this country, you will find that the majority of accidents by young people happens between midnight and 5:00 a.m. None of us were any different.

When we thought about implementing changes in order to reduce the accidents that happen within those hours there were all kinds of concerns brought up. We thought about the young person who was working at the service station and got off at 2:00 a.m. or midnight. We thought about people who had to use their vehicle to go and pick up their mom and dad, and people with one-car families. We thought about bringing about a graduated licensing program where people would go and take advantage of a driver training program, and we could see us creating a bigger riff there by creating the haves and the have-nots. There is enough disparity in this Province already without having somebody who was your buddy or your friend who, because they came from a well-to-do family, could get their driver's licence probably one year before my daughter or my son could go and have the advantage of driving a vehicle.

Still, it had to be considered. We had to give some rewards to the people who might want to go in that direction. That has been addressed right here in this driver licensing program. Today in this Province you can go out and get your licence at age seventeen. If you can get somebody to let you drive their tractor-trailer, I can meet you tomorrow morning, after you get your Level I licence, barrelling down the highway with the air horn going. That is how much protection we give our young people in this Province today. All that has to be changed. I think the reflection of the change will be reflected in what we pay for insurance coverage down the road.

I say to the minister that he has been very fast acting in the undergraduated licensing program and I commend him for that, but I also suggest that he act expeditiously as well on our suggestion in our report regarding the uninsured driver. That is a problem right across this nation, not only in Newfoundland. It is a problem that needs to be addressed and needs to be addressed now.

I also suggest that the minister might want to look at the test that is presently given to new drivers. In this Province today, in order to drive a vehicle you must have a driver's licence, but equally important, in order to drive a vehicle you must also have a minimum of third-party liability. One goes hand-in-hand with the other. You are not allowed to drive without third-party liability, and you are not allowed to drive without a driver's licence. You would be surprised at how many people out there who know the shape of a stop sign, they know the shape of a yield sign, but how many young drivers out there today know anything about insurance? How many drivers out there today, when you ask them if they have insurance coverage, they say: Yes, I have insurance. But they do not know if they have public liability, they don't know if they have Section B coverage, they don't know if they have Section C. They are not sure. They don't know, in a lot of cases, what their insurance means or what it consists of.

If we are going to require, Minister, for our people to have insurance, I think we should also include a few questions on the written driver exam about insurance. At least it will get them to go looking and go searching, and find out what some of the terminologies used in the insurance industry are.

I was an insurance representative for twenty-one years before I came into the House of Assembly. Many times people would come to purchase - especially young people - auto insurance and they would say: I want insurance. That is all they would know about it. You would write them up their policy, they would pay the premium, and they would not know what insurance they had until they were involved in a collision or a mishap with somebody. Then they would come back and probably find out that the insurance they thought they had purchased to protect themselves was not there at all.

We heard this as we travelled the Province. We heard of people going to sign an SEF form that would allow an underage driver to drive their vehicle, only to find out in one particular case that the form they signed took away that very privilege, and while driving in another province the person who they thought was insured was not insured, and was involved in an accident for which they are still paying the price.

We have started here today. I think it is a good beginning. I compliment the minister, but I ask him to continue to implement the suggestions and the recommendations that are made and brought forward in the report of the Select Committee of the Property and Casualty Insurance in this Province. I feel that give the implementation of those recommendations four or five years and we will see the reduction of insurance premiums, because it will reflect on the payouts the insurance companies are paying.

I commend the RCMP and the RNC and the Newfoundland Safety Council for taking an interest in this piece of legislation, and coming here today in order to see it passed through the House of Assembly, or at least passed through second reading. Thank you.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased to rise at second reading and support Bill No. 29, An Act To Amend The Highway Traffic Act (No. 2), to provide for a Graduated Driver Licence Program. I think that this program ought to have a very positive affect on the safety on our highways, both the safety of young people and young drivers and the general safety of the program. I want to recognize the presence in the gallery of representatives of both police forces and the Department of Works, Services Transportation safety officers as well, as the Newfoundland Safety Council.

It is not often recognized that both the RNC and the RCMP play a very important role in the area of safety and safety education. They are not just concerned with a strict enforcement of the rules as they exist, but they have a very important role to play in encouraging safety on our highways. I am glad to see they are here and in support of the Graduated Driver Licence Program.

When I learned to drive years ago the idea that was common in those days is that you really learned to drive after you got your licence. You got your licence, you qualified, you passed your test, then you really learned how to drive afterwards. There was some common sense to that, and that common sense is reflected in this program that we are discussing today. The common sense is that the actual learning how to drive was becoming an experienced driver. That you became an experienced driver really after you passed your test and after you started driving. You did not become an expert driver just because you were able to pass the test. You in fact passed the test that showed you had the basics, and then you learned how to drive by getting experience on the highways and by driving around in your community.

That is what this program recognizes as part of an inherent part of human nature. That every young person, it is just as true today as it was when I was young, is very anxious to get their licence because the privilege of driving a vehicle is regarded as one of the paths to adulthood, a recognition that you are responsible enough to get behind the wheel of a car and drive a vehicle.

That is a very important right of passage to adulthood, and people are anxious to get that as quickly as they possibly can. This accomplishes that. People always sort of felt discriminated against, I guess in this Province, because you could not drive when you were sixteen, but you could in Ontario, the States, and in other places. Now we have recognized that, but we have also recognized that inexperienced drivers are involved in far more accidents then experienced drivers. I want to make some reference to the insurance aspects of this.

The Member for Cape St. Francis has raised some concerns about the cost of insurance for young people. I would fully expect that in a matter of a couple of years the experience ratings should reflect the safer driving habits and experience of young drivers. I would expect that fairly immediately afterwards, and if it do not happen I would urge the Member for Cape St. Francis to go to the Public Utilities Board and ask them to review the rates for young people under a particular age, based on the experience in this Province of young drivers. If this does have the effect that is predicted, and I am confident that it will have a positive effect, then surely that would be reflected in the accident rate. It may take a couple of years for it to flow through the system based on accidents that are already in the pipe, but there should be a resulting decrease in the cost of insurance for young drivers, whether they be male or female.

Notwithstanding the comments of the Member for Cape St. Francis, I suspect the anecdotal evidence of his friends and children's friends and neighbours and other people he has talked to, may not be a big enough sample to change the rating system just yet. I think we could await further evidence on that before we call for a change in the rate for young people.

This is a program that I support. I look forward to a reduction in the number of young people who are killed on our highways. If you look at the figure of 800 young people in Canada per year losing their lives in car accidents, that would probably translate in this Province to somewhere between fifteen and twenty per year based on the population of this Province compared to the rest of Canada. That is a very significant number of people. If the result of this effort can reduce that significantly, that would be a very positive result indeed. The number of deaths on our highways, the number of injuries that young people sustain, and obviously the pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life for young people as well as the cost of accidents would be thereby reduced.

I think there is some flexibility in the program. The minister has the power to make and change regulations. I guess the first part of the program will be the one that will have to be pretty carefully monitored to see how the program is working. I hope that both the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary and the RCMP will be vigilant in seeing how the program is working, and not be hesitant in pointing out to the minister and to the government any flaws that may appear in the program. No doubt this program, like any other program, is going to have some growing pains and flaws that will have to be worked out.

I hope that can be implemented, as the minister suggested, on January 1, and that the new year will then bring about a better system for novice drivers. We call them novice drivers; I know they are principally young drivers, although it applies to novice drivers at any age. The new regime for younger drivers in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador should be a far more improved system as a result of this program, and I commend it to the House and to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

MR. SPEAKER: If the minister speaks now he will close the debate. The hon. the Minister of Government Services and Lands.

MR. McLEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Just before I close debate on second reading, there are a couple of comments in response to the Member for Bonavista South.

We take the report of the Select Committee of the House very seriously, and we are dealing with the issues that were recommended in that report. Some of the recommendations take longer than others and have to be dealt with in different ways. This particular program was one of the easier ones to implement, that allowed us to be able to get this implemented before January 1.

We are dealing with the issue of insurance rates in many ways, and hopefully this is one of the issues that will certainly allow us to see rates either stabilize or become much more affordable to the younger people, especially when we go through this graduated program.

Some stats from 1997: Our population, I believe, is somewhere around 550,000 or 600,000 people in this Province, and we had, in 1997, 369,000 licensed drivers. Many of our population take advantage of getting behind the wheel, so it is very important that we get our young people set up through a good program that will enable them to feel much safer on the highway when they get out there.

Also in 1997, there was a total of 410,743 vehicles registered in our Province, which is a fair number of vehicles to be on highways such as we have. That includes all types of vehicles, not only cars and light trucks.

Annually we get 6,000 new drivers come into the program each year at age seventeen. We will see a change in that because we are now allowing people to come in at sixteen, but there are still 6,000 new drivers each year who are seventeen. It is quite a substantial number for a Province like ours. We also see roughly 800 new motorcycle drivers per year. There are a fair number of those as well.

Annually we have sorted out that there are about 7,100 accidents, and annually we have approximately thirty-three fatalities. With this Graduated Drivers Licence Program coming into play, we should certainly see a substantial drop in that number.

Another initiative that our department has taken this past year and has been very successful, and has put a lot of students through it, is the Driver Examiner School Visitation Program which we did throughout the Province last year and we are continuing to do this year. That has certainly impacted very well on the younger drivers. In fact the take-up on that, according to my officials, is very substantial. This will certainly help us as well in dealing with the younger drivers who are coming onto the highways.

Mr. Speaker, I will deal with some of the other issues that the members have raised in the committee stage, so I will now close debate on second reading of Bill No. 29.

Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Highway Traffic Act (No. 2)", read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 29).

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the House would like to have the record show that there was a unanimous `aye' for that bill.

AN HON. MEMBER: Take a vote.

MR. TULK: We do not need a vote. If we all agree, the record will show that.

Mr. Speaker, "An Act To Amend The Mineral Act", Bill No. 38, Order No. 13.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Mineral Act". (Bill No. 38)

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is my pleasure to rise today to speak in relation to the Act currently before the House, An Act To Amend The Mineral Act. I want to speak in favour of the legislation because it provides some new and strengthened powers to government to act in the area of mineral development in Newfoundland and Labrador.

We have an unhappy past in this Province in relation to our people obtaining the maximum amount of benefit for our resources. You know, it is kind of ironic that in the last couple of years a brand new political party arose out of nowhere on the strength of a single proposition. That proposition was that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador should get the maximum benefit from their resources.

The people who devised that party may have had a very negative view of Newfoundland history, but they did not know very much about Newfoundland politics because it has been the policy of every single party in Newfoundland and Labrador since the history of Responsible Government in this Province and even before, Representative Government back in 1832, to have Newfoundlanders and Labradorians obtain the maximum benefit from their resources. The question has often been: How do we do that? And the question has often been: What is the maximum benefit from our resources?

It has been an ongoing theme of Newfoundland history, whether it be our mineral resources, whether it be our forest resources, or whether it be the resources of the sea. The constant struggle in this Province has been between the beneficiaries of our resources, whether they are resident here, or whether the beneficiaries of our resources reside somewhere else in the capital markets of England, the U.K., or the merchant princes going back to the fish merchants or the lumber barons or the pulp and paper barons who established paper mills in Grand Falls and Corner Brook. These people have done very well by our resources, leaving behind serious questions about what value the people of this Province have obtained.

When we look at our Budget, at the Estimates annually put before the House, and we see that this Province gets more revenue from gambling, from bingo, lotteries - lotteries run by the government - a tax on hope someone called it. This government is really big on hope. They ran the last time on `ready for a better tomorrow'. They are reaping more from hope than they are from positive results. When we see that the revenue from gambling and lottery earnings is significantly higher than the revenues from mineral royalties, by a factor of about two, I think - almost twice as much comes from gambling than comes from our minerals and royalties, including oil.

That is one aspect of it. That is certainly one aspect of it. The other aspect is jobs; in many cases in our mining industry, well-paying jobs. We use Labrador West as an example. We have very high paying jobs in the mines of Labrador West. People who work there earn probably the highest on average incomes of any town or city in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, in Labrador West, and contributing significantly to government revenues in the form of income taxes as individuals.

Mr. Speaker, individuals in this Province contribute ten or twelve or more times the income tax revenue than do corporations. We had a situation a few years ago where government introduced a Mineral Tax Act amendment which was going to give a tax holiday for ten years for every new mineral development in the Province - bar none. That was a decision of government in December of 1994. They introduced a tax regime that was going to say - that did say - that from here on in, any new mineral development in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador was going to have a tax holiday of ten years.

The Minister of Mines and Resources at the time was a geologist, an experienced geologist with a doctorate in geology. He had worked in the Department of Mines and Resources for many years himself, and he and his government, in their wisdom of the day, felt that there was not very much left by way of mineral development to take place in Newfoundland and Labrador. They felt that we had to encourage the development of what little bits and pieces there were around, the unprofitable mines; perhaps someone having a go at the tailings out in Baie Verte, the marginal types of operation government was trying to encourage.

They seemed to think that the only kind of mineral development that could possibly take place in the future of this Province was mineral development involving marginal operations that needed a tax holiday to go ahead. This was in December of 1994, some months -

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Yes, in December of 1994, I say to the minister, you and your government passed the mineral tax amendment act that gave a tax holiday to Voisey's Bay.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Voisey's Bay was discovered in 1994. In December of 1994 - November of 1994 - you and this government passed a Mineral Tax Act that was giving a tax holiday to all new mineral developments in the Province, bar none.

The Minister of Mines and Energy wants to know what it has to do with this bill. He obviously has not been listening to my remarks because what I have been talking about is how we, in this Province, maximize the benefit to the people of this Province from our resources. One of the ways that we do not do it is by giving holus-bolus, bar none, tax holidays on the basis that we think somehow there is nothing else to be discovered; there is nothing else to take place except marginal operations.

I think the government acknowledged that they made a mistake. They did. They acknowledged that they made a mistake, but they have yet to correct it. There was legislation brought in by the previous Premier in what turned out to be the twilight of his premiership, what turned out to be one of his last acts in this House of Assembly. There was legislation brought in at second reading to bring in a new mineral tax and royalty regime. What happened to it? Dead. It died with the government, never again to see the light of day.

The former, former Leader of the Opposition who faced the electorate in the last election as Leader of the Opposition, that former, former leader -

MR. SULLIVAN: Former, former, not me.

MR. HARRIS: Not you, no. The former, former.

The former, former Leader of the Opposition, Lynn Verge, and I were successful in forcing the government to stop, to send that legislation to a Select Committee of the House. That legislation on a new mineral royalty regime, we forced the government to put that to a Select Committee of the House. That committee was supposed to meet but never met.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Yes, that is a very interesting story. I will let you tell it yourself now when you get up.

Mr. Speaker, that committee never met. It was never able to hear from people across this Province as to what kind of mineral royalty regime we should have in this Province to deal with Voisey's Bay. It never met because the government was dissolved. A new Premier took the place of the previous Premier and we went into an election. From that day forward we have yet to see a piece of legislation dealing with royalty regimes for minerals in this Province. We have yet to see one.

What do we see instead? We see two things. Number one, we know there is something going on. We know there are negotiations going on behind the scenes between the government and Inco. They probably stopped a little while ago. They are probably on hold at the moment, but we know there have been negotiations and discussions. We do not know yet what those negotiations were. We do not know yet what royalty regimes were under discussion. We do not know yet what this government believes ought to be a proper royalty regime for Voisey's Bay or other mineral development.

Now what we have is legislation here - it is an improvement. We do not have words that are subject to interpretation by high-priced lawyers, subject to the uncertainties of the courts, using words that members opposite get up and trumpet when it suits them but they lose out when it comes down to having them interpreted.

We now have a definite seat of power in the Cabinet. What we lack, despite that, is some certainty.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) said you were down before the PUB last (inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: I was down there yesterday.

Mr. Speaker, since this is going to appear on the record, the members opposite are wondering what I was doing at the Public Utilities Board. I will tell them what I was doing at the Public Utilities Board. I was responding to a very important concern that was raised to my office by many, many people over the last year. That is the collection practices of Newfoundland Power, and how they go about cutting off people's electricity when they are unable to pay their arrears or unable to pay their light bill.

I am doing that as a Member of the House of Assembly, and trying to do two things. I am trying to have proper collection policies written that people can know about. The second thing I am trying to do is hopefully to create - out of excess profits that may have been earned by Newfoundland Power - a hardship fund for those people, some on social assistance, some who are working, who do not get enough money from this government to be able to heat their homes and feed their families, can get some relief. That is what I am doing there.

If members opposite want to take potshots at me for being before the Public Utilities Board, they can go right ahead. In fact, I would welcome some of them coming down and offering some more evidence from problems they have had with people who have had trouble with Newfoundland Power or Newfoundland Hydro, I say to the Minister of Mines and Energy.

I have just written you a letter about the particular individual. You will hear from me.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, to get back to the Mineral Tax Act and the Mineral Act, what we are doing here is in effect the same thing as government has done, taken upon itself with respect to Voisey's Bay. They have taken power onto themselves, and with that power comes a great deal of discretion, I say.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: The minister says responsibility. Yes, responsibility, but I am going to ask this minister, and hopefully he is going to address this when he speak on this bill: Let's look back in history and see what previous governments have done with the kind of discretion they have been given by legislation.

We have seen, for example, the giveaway of most of our forest resources, large tracts of land.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: I am back before Commission of Government, I say to the minister. I am back to 1906, 1909. If looking back in history we see that this Province, and the people of this Province, and country before it, gave away total rights to natural resources in order to get development, that has to end. There has to be a continuing ability of government, of the people of this Province, to extract the best deal we can get in order to get development and maximize our potential.

One of my first lessons about this I learned in the Province of Alberta when I was there as a law student in the 1970s. This was just after this Province had started a drilling program, just after this Province had gotten involved in offshore oil exploration. What I discovered out in Alberta is that the people of Alberta, the Alberta government, owns every drop of oil in the ground.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: They do not have any ocean; I noticed that when I was out there. I was 700 miles from the ocean; I remember it well.

They owned that, and do you know something else? The Alberta government has the power to amend every lease with every oil company, based on their ownership of the oil in the ground. That is a continuing power that the people of Alberta have, through their government, over time, to make sure that they are able to insist and maximize the resources of their province.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: I say to the minister, that is why I remembered it so well. It was so important to Alberta's control of its own resources in the future. That would be fabulous, if we in this Province had the same right of ownership and control of offshore oil. It would be fabulous if we continued to have that right over our forest resources in this Province that have been hived off and given to private interests, whether it be Bowaters, Abitibi Consolidated, or whatever their name is this particular year. I do not mean that facetiously, but it is obvious that the ownership of the resources of this Province changes hands again and again - not our hands, someone else's hands, whoever has the capital power to buy out this company or merge that company or take over some other company and have the resulting control over our lands.

We have seen that when that happens we alienate our natural resources to private interests. We do not have the kind of control we need to have. As a result we see Bowaters, for example, for fifty or sixty years, produce one product. Out of the vast forest resources they had under their control and power, they produced one product - pulp and paper - newsprint. As a result, the West Coast of our Province in underdeveloped. It does not have the diversity of industry and enterprise and manufacturing that is could easily have if, in fact, there was the power and control of governments from time to time to insist that the whole panoply of products that are able to be developed from forest resources were in fact produced.

It has taken extraordinary measures by government to force companies to use enormous sawlogs for sawlogs instead of turning them into pulp. It has taken an enormous effort from governments from time to time to do that.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Well, governments do some things but they often have to pay for them with concessions of other kinds. We should not have to do that. Sometimes we do.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: That is what I mean, sometimes we do.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Progress is being made. I am not saying that. I say to the minister: Why did you have to do it? This is something -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: You did it, Mr. Speaker. This government did it because nobody had done it in the past. Nobody had forced them because they were able to exercise their power and control because of their ownership of the resource.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: It is absolutely right to do it. It should have been done fifty years ago. What happens is, when we allow ourselves to have these natural resources alienated in the hands of someone else, they start exercising their private property rights and they have the ability to insist that they use those private property rights in the way that suits their profit.

Mr. Speaker, in principle what is being done here is a very positive thing. I would go further and say that it is not retroactive enough. I know the minister made some promises about tabling legal opinions; I have not seen them yet.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Yes, and I am sure that if it is in the interest of the people of the Province that Cabinet will agree to make them put them on the Table of this Legislature.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: What I am interested in is the future of this Province. If this minister is saying that there are legal opinions that prevent them from going back before 1993, let us see them. They are only opinions. They are not state secrets. If the minister wants to say that they are not in the interests of the Province, let him explain why they are not. Let him put them on the table. I would like to see them because I think we should be going back further in time.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Take the consequences. We will take them on and stand up for our future.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: The minister is being facetious, I know, and he will, in his own speech, deal seriously with these issues.

Mr. Speaker, there has to be a point at which we stand up and say we are going to take control of our natural resources. We have taken a few steps in the past and some of them have been expensive. We took back some of the reed lands. We took over CF(L) Co. We can also pass legislation, and progressive legislation, that sees us taking control over a mineral development in this Province that goes back prior to 1993, that ensures that whatever property rights exist in mineral development cannot come under the same regime; progressively based on rules that would gradually see all minerals come under this if they are not developed. (Inaudible) I think it was a different regime.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Okay, I will deal with that. I mentioned that what we are doing here is giving a lot of power to the executive. That cuts both ways. If you have a government that is prepared to stand up, be tough, and represent the best interest of the people, then it is good. On the other hand if you have a government - and some have said that former Premier Smallwood was good at this too, doing whatever deal he had to do to get a development to take place.

That is the other side of that, Mr. Speaker. I am not going to deal with any particular argument about history, because that cuts both ways. The other side of that is that if you have a strong government that is doing a proper job, and they have the tools and the power to do it, that is one thing. On the other hand, if you have a government that can be manipulated by the carrot of development into making bad deals, then it can go the wrong way.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: I would be much happier that it reside with the executive because the executive we can throw out. The judges we have trouble throwing out. The judges, once they are appointed - and I don't disagree with that, Mr. Speaker. The independence of the judiciary is important, but the will of the people is also important.

As long as this legislation is there individual particular schemes can be put before the Legislature to be voted on, rather than people saying: I discovered this mineral, I have these property rights, and I am going to dispute them in the courts. This is a very positive step. I guess one of the things that has changed over time is that developments of this nature are going to be scrutinized very deeply by this side of the House, by the public in general. As long as we have the ability to influence agreements that are made there should be some process in place that we do not have a fait accompli presented to the public: Here is the deal that we have made with such-and-such an organization, lay it on the table, and that is it, take it or leave it.

There ought to be a process as part of this where there can be public scrutiny of a proposed scheme for a particular development before the die is cast. That is what is important. When you give the Legislature power there is public scrutiny. When you give the executive power quite often the public scrutiny comes after the fact. That is the only weakness I see here, and I think it can be improved by a process that subjects this to public scrutiny before the die is cast.

The other weakness of the executive having the power is they can do a deal and present it as a done deal and say: If you don't like us, throw us out next time. The public never has a chance to have a look at the deal before the die is cast. That is one of the weaknesses of this approach. We should look at some scheme or some method whereby a proposed leasing arrangement can be subject to public scrutiny, perhaps a committee of the House, before the die is cast. I think, in terms of insulating the people and the government from legal challenges, this is a good first step.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I want to say a few words on this Mineral Act, or more than a few I would imagine. Bill 38 is An Act To Amend The Mineral Act. What have we done, and what has history shown that we have done, in this Province for hundreds of years with our natural resources? The Minister of Mines and Energy does not look too energetic over there today, but he is going to hear the story now. Our history, as I said, is that for hundreds of years we have squandered our natural resources. It started in 1497 when John Cabot -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Pardon? My relatives may have been there, I say to the minister. Sometimes in this House of Assembly when things are being dragged out I feel like I have been there, I can guarantee you that, when I'm hearing some of the ministers on that side giving answers. I can guarantee you that, with respect to time going by.

In reality, if people want to sit back and size up the situation with respect to this Province, our natural resources, Mr. Speaker, we have squandered our resources over the past number of years. Since back in 1497, as I say. If you would read your history books, back in the time of the fishing admirals, they would be down sitting on the barrels handing out judgements all over the place. What did we have at that time? We had our people working for a pittance, and when they were finished up for the season they would owe the people they fished for. That went on over the years in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.

AN HON. MEMBER: Long before that.

MR. J. BYRNE: Long before that, the Member for Humber East says. That was with our fishery. That continued on in the 1950s through the 1980s with our natural resource of the fishery. When we joined Confederation back in 1949 and we gave jurisdiction to the federal government for the fishery, Mr. Speaker, they started giving away all kinds of quotas for the foreign fishery, to countries like Spain and some other countries, I suppose, in Europe. We gave away our fishery for years. Today we are paying a price for it in this Province when we don't have a fishery like we used to have.

The Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture gets up every now and then and he talks about: We have more money coming into the coffers now from the various fisheries and the different species and what have you. We do not have as many people working in the fishery. We do not have the rural fishery, the inshore small fishery where the villages in this Province survived for years.

I got that from the Premier, I say to the Minister of Mines and Energy. Then, what happened? After we gave away our resources with respect to the fishery, then came the forestry. What happened there? We gave that away over the years. Yes, the natural resources. I remember the former minister of forestry, the Member for Windsor-Springdale, was asked a question in this House of Assembly by the Member for Baie Verte. The response was: Trees can't swim.

There are questions being asked all the time with respect to the forestry about the natural resources, about silviculture, and that is why he is no longer the minister. With that attitude of course, let's look at our land. We wanted to get a railway across this Province. What happened there? We gave away our land, thousands of acres - we would say now thousands of hectares - for the railway.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: I wish I had been there to survey it, I say to the Government House Leader. I probably would not be here today, I would be off retired somewhere, I suppose, Mr. Speaker. The railway, again, we gave away thousands of acres of land. I think it was a few years ago we got some of that land back in a deal with one of the paper companies.

Then came of course the infamous Churchill Falls. Again, a natural resource for this Province that should have been utilized for the maximum benefits of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. What is happening? Again, a comparison can be drawn between Churchill Falls and the IOCC situation that we find ourselves in today and the people being upset. Churchill Falls, water flowing for eternity, flowing hundreds of millions of dollars into Quebec.

The point I am trying to make is that this piece of legislation hopefully will go a long way to resolving that situation and putting to an end the squandering of our natural resources in the Province.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Pardon? Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Mines and Energy is not taking this very seriously. This is very serious. This is a piece of legislation that is being -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Pardon? Yes. Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Mines and Energy who is sponsoring this bill in this House of Assembly, who tabled this bill in the House of Assembly or whatever, who is presenting it, is over there and I do not think he is taking it too seriously. Maybe it is just the spirit.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: I am getting to it. I am telling you history now. I have already told the Minister of Mines and Energy since I stood that we support this legislation, but there are some concerns. I think the minister should be interested in hearing what they are.

One thing is that it is about time we as a people maximize the benefits that we get from our natural resources. Again, this piece of legislation, hopefully, will go a long way for us as a people to maximize the benefits that we get from our natural resources.

Basically, when we have legislation coming through the House of Assembly - and there was some discussion on this with the Government House Leader some time ago, since I have been here anyway - when we get legislation that is going to be put to the House, that we get it in advance so we can sit down, go through it clause by clause, come in this House of Assembly, speak to the legislation, and we can say if we are for it or against it. Often times we do not really have a lot of lead time to look at the legislation and get up here and speak and make some good points.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: The Minister of Government Services and Lands, who is not in his chair, I might add, is over there making comments. I really cannot hear him because I am speaking a bit loudly here now. If he wants to speak to this legislation he can get up. Again, as usual, we on this side of the House are speaking to the legislation. No one on that side of the House gets up to support any legislation that comes to the House, only the minister when he introduces it and the minister when he ends debate. No members on that side of the House speak to any of the legislation. Very few of them, very seldom. I remember the Member for up in Labrador who was here the last time, what was his name?

AN HON. MEMBER: Mr. Dumaresque.

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Dumaresque, Mr. Speaker, often spoke on legislation, I have to say that. He stood in his place, and he often wanted to get up and basically put on a big show for everybody here, but at least he got up to speak to the legislation.

The Member for St. John's East spoke to this legislation and he made a few comments. One of the points he brought up was the legal implications. I am going to make it quite clear that I am no lawyer, I have had no training in the profession of law, but a couple of points that he made -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: I would make a good one, there is no doubt about that, I will can say that.

AN HON. MEMBER: I don't believe you have had no training in law. (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: I had a little bit, but not much. The legal implications here are that there is no appeal process. I think the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi may have said a few words with respect to this no appeal, and about the authority that has been given to the executive with respect to this legislation. I was looking at reading it as Cabinet, but the terminology that was being used was the executive.

We have two extremes. We would consider most people to be average, I suppose. What could be perceived to be a problem with this is that it moves from one extreme to the other. We could have a government in power that is going to go to the extreme of protecting our natural resources, to the ultimate, or we could go to the other extreme and have a government in power that will not do as they should be doing and to protect the public interests. So we have from one extreme to the other. We need I think maybe a possibility of an appeal process that should be considered.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Treading on thin ice here, Mr. Speaker, according to the Minister of Mines and Energy. Also, the point was made that it could be challenged, possibly, because it restricts a third party for legal purposes from a legal recourse. It does not do that.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Yes, okay, they have the legal recourse, but spelled out in the act there is a clause in there that refers to no legal recourse with respect -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: You know what I am talking about, and I do not want to get into it a lot because I am afraid I might say something that could be held against me.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: The minister is saying basically that what they have done with respect to that aspect of the piece of legislation is to tighten it up and to clarify the wording of the act.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: It can still be challenged in court, he says, but hopefully, constitutionally - that is the word I was getting at - constitutionally it could be challenged. I suppose anything could be challenged constitutionally, no matter what it is. If the Minister of Mines and Energy and the powers to be, and the legal advice that he has obtained - and it is a good, solid piece of legislation, it should not be constitutionally challenged.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: But you cannot forego someone's right. That is what the Minister of Mines and Energy is saying, and rightly so, but in the meantime what we have to do is put a lot of faith in the Minister of Mines and Energy and his legal council that...

When I look back over the history of what has happened here, and the court challenges that this Administration has had - not constitutional challenges - and they have had legal advice before -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: I put my faith in the Minister of Mines and Energy. I hope that he is smart enough to read between the advice that he is given, but he has not proven that in the past, I say to the minister, and this Administration has not. He is a part of this Administration, to be more clear on it.

Mr. Speaker, Bill 38: I made a number of comments here and again I suppose we have to look at the situation with IOCC. We have to look at the Voisey's Bay situation. This legislation, I think, is retroactive to 1993, so hopefully a lot of the concerns that we have with respect to Voisey's Bay will be addressed with this legislation.

I know that the Premier has taken a strong stand on that, but I do not see it as pertaining to the situation that we have with IOCC. IOCC in Labrador are upgrading their pelletizing plant in Sept-Iles and they have for years and years and years taken profits out of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador - hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars. But when the minister and the Premier get up and talk about the situation there, they look at it in isolation - this project - rather than with the overall scheme of things. What they should be doing, when they are looking at that situation in Labrador, is looking the overall project.

This really does not address that, and that is too bad because I know in speaking with the individuals in Labrador City who have concerns, who were in this House of Assembly a couple of weeks ago, that they were concerned about jobs. The minister and the Premier got up and said there will be no job losses; again, playing with words.

What is actually going to happen is that there will be job losses through attrition. So in five years down the road, ten years down the road, there will not be as many people working in that plant as there are today. In effect, those people will - if they are not working, if their jobs are lost and they are not replaced, the community is not going to grow. The community will not grow, it cannot grow, unless something happens that we do not know about at this point in time. That is a possibility, I will say to you, Mr. Speaker.

I am not going to take a lot of time on this piece of legislation. I have spoken a few minutes on it now already today. I think, from my perspective on this side of the House, that the legislation hopefully will prove to be a positive thing for the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Just skimming through it here, I notice that they talked about the primary production " whole or in part, in the province, of a mineral or mineral ore extracted or removed under that lease..." and that the lease shall comply with those other terms and conditions that the minister may impose.

Again, that goes back to the point when I spoke earlier with respect to two extremes, depending on the government in power, what attitude they have, what policies they have in place, and the definition of a primary resource. I think that is addressed, or the definition is, here in this act.

I would expect many, many concerns by the people in the Province, as I said earlier, with respect to this legislation, in that hopefully it will address the concerns of the squandering of our resources over the years. I sincerely hope that it does. Again, I want to say that I hope the minister will be forthcoming in the committee stage of this bill in the House of Assembly, before it is approved, with any concerns that we may have at the time, clause-by-clause.

As you can see - I am going to hold it up for you - I have quite a few things highlighted in various clauses of this bill, but I do not think this is the time to get into those.

With that, I want to say that we support the legislation at this point in time. I am going to give time to someone else to say a few words, hopefully someone on the opposite side of the House.

Thank you.

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

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

I have a few concerns with the amendments to the Mineral Act. Hopefully the present system of stacking in the names for staking will be corrected and a fairer system will be put in place. Maybe as my colleague from Baie Verte suggested in this House, a couple of days could be set aside in different regions of the Province so that people from these areas could go in and stake their claims. It is important that the playing field is level, that all of our people are treated equally, and that a system of fairness exist. It seems that this legislation is moving in the right direction.

The main focus of any legislation like this should be to attract investors; that is, people from outside the Province interested in our Province. That escalated with Voisey's Bay. We have to make sure that we attract the dollars to this Province, the investors who will contribute to the economy of this Province, who do not mind spending the dollars.

We have to be careful what message we send out to those investors. They are interested in our minerals, and they are interested in spending money, but they need to know the rules. It is important. Before they ante up with the money, they want to know the rules. We must be user friendly. We have to be careful.

There is excitement in many areas throughout the Province about what lies in the ground - in Buchans, in the Baie Verte Peninsula, King's Point, et cetera. With the excitement generated by Voisey's Bay, we have attracted many junior mining companies who do their surface work and then get on with the job of exciting the guys with the dollars. This has to be done. When these guys come in here, they have to know that we have rules; that we are open for business but we have rules.

When we are passing this legislation - and it will pass; we know that this legislation will pass in the House - we have to remain cognizant that there should be a balance. There is a balance we want to achieve. We want the investors to come in. We do not want to turn them off with rules that they do not know what the rules mean. The balance that we strike should, on the one hand, enable the companies to make a profit. After all, they would not be coming here if they could not make a profit. On the other hand, the other side should determine that the people of this Province, our people, should benefit from our resources; benefit by the development of these resources; benefit in money that is turned back into this Province; and, most of all, benefit from jobs that would keep our people in the Province and get them spending the money in the Province.

What should be a reasonable profit, and who determines what a reasonable profit is? Take IOC, for instance. They have been in Labrador for forty years. They are making a profit, or I say they would not have stayed in Labrador for forty years. They have provided jobs. The people of Labrador West have been delighted with the jobs. Our resources were kept in the Province, and our people worked there in Labrador. They spent the money in the Province, we got the tax benefits, and there were a couple of benefits that accrued from it. Our people were not leaving the Province; they were staying here and spending their money in the Province. The scales were balanced until now. IOC are planning on taking our resources out of the Province, and with these resources will go the jobs. Now the scales are all tipped to the other side, and this is where the government should come in.

What is the message that we send to people like IOC? What is the message that we send to people like Voisey's Bay? To IOC we are sending a message: You have been here for forty years; you have been pelletizing in Labrador for forty years; you have been making a profit; you have been employing our people and we were glad to have you, but now it is okay for you to pack up. Fold up your tent and move it to the other side. Move it to Quebec and take the jobs with you. That is fine. We are not going to do a thing to stop you. There is nothing in legislation to stop them. Go right ahead.

On the other hand, to Voisey's Bay: No, you are not allowed to do that. You have to leave the nickel in the ground unless you put in a smelter.

There is chalk for one and cheese for the other. At least this is the perception that the major investors would have. Okay, IOC are allowed to take the resources out; Voisey's Bay are not allowed to take the resources out. What are the rules?

When we are passing legislation on the Mineral Act, we should make very clear to the investors and to the people of our Province what the rules are. If we want the investors to come in here with their money, they do not need mixed messages.

MR. TULK: Who wrote that for you, Harry Steele?

MS S. OSBORNE: Harry Steele did. His signature is right there on one of the pages. Do you want a copy of it?

MR. TULK: (Inaudible) when I see him.

MS S. OSBORNE: Well, sure, ask him for a copy of it.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MS S. OSBORNE: Are you finished?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair has recognized the hon. the Member for St. John's West.

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

If we want investors to come into this Province with their money, to provide jobs to our people so our people can stay here and spend the money, that will have a benefit for us too. They will be spending the money. We will not have to spend money on them in the form of social assistance because they have lost jobs. If they go out of the Province - not that we put a price on their head, but - when people go out of the Province the transfer payments are reduced.

These investors have to know what the rules are, and these rules cannot be at the whim of the government of the day. Companies will not want to bring their dollars into the Province when they do not know the rules of the game. Who is in charge? We need the junior mining companies who will employ ten, twelve, or half a dozen people, and we need them going into the ground and finding out what minerals are there. We need them getting excited about these minerals, and we need them rubbing shoulders or hobnobbing or passing this message on to the major mining investors. We need them to get excited.

In their excitement, they need to know that this Province is open for business and that the rules of the business will present them with a level playing field so that their business can be conducted, so that they will bring the dollars into the Province for our people.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Just a few comments on the Mineral Act, Bill No. 38.

It was introduced, and I think the necessity of bringing it in had to do with some concerns that may arise as to, I guess, the Province's liability, and also with giving the Province some direct control basically over its resources.

I certainly cannot dispute the Province taking a more direct role in its resources and ensuring that we reap the benefits of those resources for the people of the Province. That is very, very important.

We certainly have to be cognisant that any committee or any Cabinet that is going to deal with this is going to look at it in an appropriate light. That is, I guess, one of the points there: that we are entrusting a Cabinet with certain decisions and we are removing really a panel in the legislation of experts. A mining expert, a financial expert and a legal expert, basically would sit on a panel that would look at decisions involved here. Now we are putting it sort of under the direct control of Cabinet. Certainly Cabinet has responsibility and can make very wide-ranging decisions and have very wide powers in this particular instance here.

There have to be certain things we have to watch and ensure that government, while protecting the resources of people in this Province, we have to make sure that we are cognizant of opportunities for business investment and an appropriate climate here in our Province. That is very, very important too.

We certainly do not want the world to feel we are anti-business, and I am sure and feel confident that will not happen; that Cabinet will take their responsibilities seriously in protecting the interests of our people here, too, as well as keeping a door open for business development. Because overall, the development of our resources here for the people of our Province is of utmost importance.

Certainly the legislation here is legislation that we certainly do not have any grave concerns about at all. It is, I think, legislation that certainly could have been avoided awhile back. I guess to bring in the radioactivity aspect of it is always a concern, but in light of protecting the resources of our Province to ensure that we get the greatest possible return, and that we are not going to bend down to any particular company and particular companies that have come in here historically and raped the resources of our Province. We have to take a stand on it. l am sure industry - and they have expressed some concerns on that.

I think it is legislation, and what Cabinet does with the powers they are being given here, that will determine what the business climate in this Province is going to be in the future. I am sure that with the best interests of the Province in mind - I would certainly hope - decisions would not adversely affect and poison the investment climate and hurt us in the long term.

Overall we have to support something that we have called for. We have indicated, under the current legislation, there were some concerns with that. We have to try to rectify something that - now is better than never - is something that I think initially could have been avoided and written in appropriately in the first place.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: If the minister speaks now he will close the debate.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, there were a number of issues raised by different members when they rose in their place, and I will be happy to deal with them in committee as we go clause-by-clause. I move second reading.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Mineral Act", read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 38)

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, Order 21, "An Act Respecting Child, Youth And Family Services", Bill No. 37, the Minister of Health and Community Services.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act Respecting Child, Youth And Family Services". (Bill No. 37).

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I am very pleased today to speak to our new legislation, the Child Youth and Family Services Act, which will replace our old Child Welfare Act of 1944. As Members of the House of Assembly know, this legislation has come about after a very lengthy consultation process, fifty-four years or almost of working on this to try to get it where we have it right now.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS J.M. AYLWARD: That is right, long before I was born, Mr. Speaker. In fact, we have through the last two and a half years particularly - as I have said, when I first went to the Department of Social Services it was made very evident to me by the then deputy minister and staff that in one area alone very little had been done. In fact, it was quite a disturbing situation to have been in that system and so little to have been done for children.

Immediately we began a review to pull together all of the various reports that have been made in our Province and across the country to look at child welfare, and particularly how we wanted to move, recognizing that the current bill was written some fifty-four years earlier and was based on a time when we treated children very differently than we treat them today.

We brought into consideration with my deputy then - the Deputy Minister Joan Dawe - and my deputy today into focus all of these reviews, and we looked at any number of them, including the classroom issues report that had been done, the Select Committee on Children's Interest, as well as our own Program Review, and the Provincial Strategy Against Violence. We also looked at our Social Policy Advisory Committee report where we heard a number of presentations from across the Province.

I think perhaps most importantly we looked at work that was done in British Columbia by the British Columbia Government in their secondment of Judge Gove to look into child welfare services in that Province. I want to formally acknowledge the work of Judge Gove and the help he has provided us in his meetings with our Province, meeting with me and my deputy minister and officials in helping us put together this very important new piece of legislation with a new direction.

If this new piece of legislation can be summarized in just a couple of words, it is best to be described as child centred. It is not something that is developed for the systems, it is not something that developed for the bureaucracy. It is something that has been developed very clearly with children in mind. That is why we are very proud of introducing this piece of legislation in keeping with our Strategic Social Plan and our focus on prevention and early intervention.

The common themes that run right through this legislation - and I look forward to going through each of the articles individually to discuss the types of change in comparison to the old legislation - are based on a number of very important concepts. First of all, one of coordination and an integration of services. As we know, over the last two and a half years this government has moved very strongly in a direction to coordinate and integrate services, particularly in our social program areas. We focused that coordination and integration of services around a theme of prevention and early intervention because we believe it is important to intervene early, particularly as it relates to children, and to try to prevent things from happening.

Also, very importantly, in keeping in line with our Strategic Social Plan, we have moved towards a model of community development, whereby we include the communities and get them to assist and help in making this possible. Again, the most important theme is its child centred theme, one that we are very proud of because, again, we are moving away from meeting the needs of the system and moving very clearly towards meeting the needs of the child.

The most obvious addition to this piece of legislation, which is new, is allowing services on a volunteer capacity to be offered to sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds. Currently, children who have not entered our child welfare system prior to age sixteen have not had the ability to access services even when the demands and the needs have been made very clear. What this new piece of legislation will do will allow children between the ages of sixteen and seventeen to access voluntarily the services which they previously had not that opportunity to do. We believe this is very important.

In addition to that, it would allow our directors to also access the needs of these children if we find they are in a very difficult situation. If we find that a child at the age of sixteen or seventeen is in, for example, an abusive environment - the child may be developmentally delayed or challenged in some other way where they are not able to come forward and voluntarily seek the support of our department - then the social worker and/or the regional director can actually go and remove that particular child or provide the necessary services that were not able to be provided before.

Our last theme of our themes is one of advocacy. It is very clear throughout the whole legislation, particularly with the changes as it relates to the judicial component of this piece of legislation, that we are very much focused on advocacy for children. Again, moving away from meeting the needs of adults and systems. Again, it is something I think is very important in terms of our direction.

Making many of these initiatives possible in terms of this legislation, we have currently a budget of about $13 million in our child welfare system. Because of the complimentary initiatives we have been able to achieve, through negotiations to identify our National Child Benefit Reinvestment Plan, as well as other plans, we have in fact doubled our current child welfare legislation. We have doubled the $13 million, and all of that money will be going to providing services for children in our Province. I think that is certainly a very important initiative. Particularly important in these initiatives are our National Child Benefit Reinvestment Program which will give us $10.8 million for new programs, many of which you have heard here over the last couple of days, and $1.2 million for child care seats and spaces which will currently eliminate our waiting list for people waiting to have child care.

Another initiative is, of course, the one announced today where we have offered money to provide child care in high schools for teenage mothers to allow them to stay in school. In addition to that of course is the legislation that will allow us to provide the services and care to age sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds. Because in addition to the $1.3 million of new money we are providing for this new piece of legislation, we also have $480,000 each year for the next three years coming into our Province under the National Crime Prevention Strategy, working with communities.

Our own Strategic Social Plan, in addition to that, has an allocation of $1.2 million, much of which will be for projects that will very clearly relate to children, and certainly one based on early intervention and prevention. Other initiatives include our income support redesign as well as our Youth Employment Strategy. That is a coordinated approach between our own Department of Human Resources and Employment as well as the federal Department of HRDC.

We are very pleased to have a new model of service coordination. I think if you were to ask many of our community boards, particulary the people, the front-line workers, our social workers, and many of our managers, they will tell you that even since April the amount of red tape has diminished, the ability to access services sooner has increased and the ability to make decisions sooner has certainly increased. That is certainly a good direction we need to go on.

In terms of how we can monitor what is happening, the delineation of powers with respect to this new piece of child welfare legislation, our Child, Youth and Family Services Act, clearly the minister will have the ultimate ability to oversee the monitoring and evaluation of this piece of legislation through the provincial director and the six regional directors. In addition to the six regional directors which will be newly appointed positions, each of these directors will then report to their respective health and community services or integrated health boards. Again, this framework allows each board to have the kind of autonomy it needs to make the type of decision with a piece of legislation providing the social policy so that that work can be completed.

In terms of how we are looking at our family services, we very clearly pointed out time and time again that we are trying to move very clearly in this legislation away from a time when we would just apprehend the children at will, which was something that was very difficult for social workers to do. I know over the last number of years, through policy changes, they have been able to do other types of measures, acknowledging today that that was without the legislation to do that. I know our social workers have had a very strong role in making this happen, and also that they have been working very clearly towards moving our system towards one of prevention and early intervention, and away from crisis intervention.

What we have been able to do for our 700 children in care, and also for over the 5,000 children in families whom we provide care for, is to move from a system of crisis intervention to one where we are able to put services in place to the family. Again, we are very pleased that social workers now have the autonomy, instead of going to the courts, to be able to identify the need for mediation, for family services, that they currently could not provide because there was no ability to do that. Now they will have that ability. We believe that as long as that intervention is in the best interest of the child that that is the direction in which we must continue to move. This now gives social workers the ability to move in that direction.

Our sixteen- to seventeen-year-olds, as I've mentioned again, this is a new addition to the legislation, one that is recommended in numerous pieces of consultation materials, right from the Select Committee to the Classroom Issues Report. Over the years it has been identified time and time again. The important of this is that while we are acknowledging they need the service, we are also acknowledging the need for voluntary options. So that a child between the ages of sixteen to seventeen can voluntarily seek that kind of support. We will be able to provide a full range of services, from emergency removal of the sixteen- and seventeen-year-old to even residential care, or maybe in some cases, being able to provide some sort of family services that will allow the sixteen- or seventeen-year-old to stay in the home.

I think what is important is that we recognize that many families caring for adolescents have a number of challenges and they do require support. I think it is obvious we are committed to that support by virtue of the fact that we have clearly doubled our child welfare budget in this Province to administer this new piece of legislation. That is something we are very proud off.

Most importantly, I think, in terms of one of the hindrances of the old act, was how the court system saw our process as it relates to children. Many times children were kept in care for long periods of time because, in fact, they didn't have access to the proper types of supports. This new piece of legislation puts a very clear direction in place for alternate dispute resolution that will hopefully keep many more families and children out of the court system and allow children to be returned to their homes sooner or, in fact, prevent them from being removed from their home at all.

One of the things we will be offering across the Province is pretrial settlement conferences. Currently, pretrial settlement conferences are only available in St. John's through the Supreme Court. Now we are making the provision for the whole Province, through Provincial Court judges, to be able to offer this same service right across the Island. Also, we will be offering mediation. We will be looking to broaden the types of mediation services that are available and we will hopefully continue to use the expertise from the Department of Justice. I have spoken with my colleague from Justice. He is certainly interested and will continue to work in consultation with us as we try to address this need across the Province.

The other important piece is the voluntary agreements which we are again very pleased with. This is where parents can in fact offer to have their child placed in care without having to admit they have done something wrong. I think this is a very important new direction, whereby parents now can come forward and seek the help that previously they were afraid to do because they would have had to agree to have violated some part of the act. We are, again, very pleased with this.

Another important initiative under our alternative dispute resolution mechanism is our family group conferences. Again, this will allow families to access all of the services available to them from their immediate family as well as significant others in the community.

Again, our placement of children in the community will be based much differently. In this legislation you will not see reference to a number of pieces of terminology that we saw before. For example, we believe that if a child has one set of parents, really what they need in the interim are alternate care givers. We are now looking, whenever possible, to keep children, siblings, together in a home at all cost, if it is in the best interest to the child. If not, then we will go to a member of the immediate family first, then go to a distant relative, and eventually we will go outside of the family circle if all other possibilities have become exhausted. Again, children that have been removed from home will be able to access counselling services, and again we will provide the types of service to families that we currently were not able to provide. A lot of those reasons of course were monetary.

I am very interested and I am very much looking forward to discussing our accountability measures within this new piece of legislation. Because I think it is important to address that the Select Committee on Children's Interests did, in fact, identify the need for a child advocate that would be a systems child advocate, but admittedly they also had many concerns about the costs that would have to the system, and in fact that it would take money away from children and would go to a bureaucracy.

We too have grappled with the concept of a child advocate, and we have decided that at this point in time we will not move forward with a child advocate because the recommendations of the Select Committee were made at a time when the old legislation was in place, over two and a half years ago. Since that time we have introduced a new piece of legislation that in my mind far exceeds many and more of the recommendations of the Select Committee on Children's Interests. We have integrated our services, we have moved towards coordinating our services for children, and in fact we have made a piece of legislation that is so much more transparent than the old piece that we will stand by our accountability measures. We look forward to talking about our accountability measures.

Again, very quickly, in addition to our provincial director we have put in place six regional directors of child welfare. We will appoint an arms' length minister's advisory committee which will oversee the implementation of this legislation and report to the House of Assembly within two years.

In addition to that, for the first time ever, every single child in care will be part of a review committee to make sure that the care they are receiving is appropriate within that year, and that report will be written annually. In addition to that, we have provided a youth in care network, which we are now funding and of course, with our newly appointed Premier's council on social development, the social audit component will also allow us the ability to oversee the programs and services that are being delivered on behalf of children.

Mr. Speaker, if I may, I look forward to coming back on Thursday to continue speaking to this introduction of the bill. I now adjourn debate.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow is Private Members' Day, and I believe that we are going to hear from the Member for Burgeo & LaPoile. On Thursday we will come back, of course, to the Minister of Health and Community Services. Minister, I move that the House adjourn until tomorrow at 2:00 p.m.

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