The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

Statements by Ministers

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I rise to comment on a report released today by the Advisory Council on the Economy and Technology which was presented to me a little earlier in the day by the Chairman of the Advisory Council, Mr. Peter Woodward, on an appropriate regime for a benefits policy for the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

I think we are all aware that Newfoundland and Labrador has very substantial resource wealth, and as these resources are developed we need to ensure that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are well positioned to receive full and fair benefits. With that in mind, earlier this spring, indeed in May, I met with the Premier's Advisory Council and asked the Advisory Council to consider the question of benefits across all of the appropriate resource sectors and to give advice to government both as to the current arrangements in place and suggestions as to what new measures ought to be employed to ensure that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, both now and in the future, capture the greatest possible opportunity for the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Earlier today the Council presented its report, which will be tabled in the House today. It is a report that points out the necessity of ensuring that we capture full and fair opportunity in a couple of resource areas. In particular, I refer specifically to mining, to the oil and gas sector, and to the development of hydroelectricity; but these sectors, of course, are not the only ones with which government must be concerned in the area of capturing opportunity.

The Advisory Council represents a cross-section of women and men from all over Labrador and Newfoundland who represent both the business community, the labour community, sectorially come from oil and gas, from mining, from construction, from big and small business, and from labour. The message, I think, in a word is clear, and that is that Newfoundland and Labrador will reap the benefits, depending upon the quality of the benefits regime that we put in place.

I am referring the report which has been tabled today - and I will not go into all of it again now - to the Minister of Mines and Energy and to the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology. I am asking ministers to bring before Cabinet, before the end of this year, a work plan for an appropriate level of consultation on this benefits policy with the major stakeholders in the Province and with members of the public.

Mr. Speaker, it is the intention of government to respond to the Advisory Council's report as early as possible in the new year with a comprehensive benefits statement by government.

This Administration has come into office committed to capturing for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador the greatest measure of benefits possible from the development of the resources that we own as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

The work of the Advisory Council contributes significantly to fulfilling that commitment. I want to acknowledge the work of the Chairman, Peter Woodward, who is here today, and ask members to join me in acknowledging the work of both Mr. Woodward and the Council.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I undertake to the people of the Province, through this House - and I suspect will be aided in the examination by members of the Opposition - to giving this report, which has been made public today, a full and thorough review and to giving it a timely, adequate, and thorough response.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

First of all, let me join with the Premier in congratulating members of the Advisory Committee, as the Premier as outlined. I understand they are a group of volunteers, committed Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who, upon request of the Head of State, the Premier of the Province, have agreed to work with and on behalf of the people of the Province to provide their independent advice on matters related to the economy in our ever continuing search to improve our lot, to improve the economic opportunities available for each and every one of us.

This is not a time in terms of this Ministerial Statement to get into the debate about what is within the document. That will come through Question Periods over the coming weeks.

I want to say as well that while policies are important, while policies set out the direction with which a government expresses its clear intention on behalf of how they want to seize benefits on behalf of people within the resource sector, particulary related to this statement, the implementation of such policy is equally important. While we may make strides, and great strides in terms of outlining a general policy thrust that each and every Newfoundlander can agree with, if we do not seize the opportunities each and every day to implement such policy then failures will occur. It is within the implementation stage that we have to be very vigilant in seizing opportunities, creating opportunities that will maximize benefits for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

To that extent the Premier is right, that over the coming weeks we will have an opportunity to have a look at the document, which I have not yet seen. We will have an opportunity to debate what is contained in the document with government. I look forward to doing that. Finally, to say in closing, I will just offer our congratulations as the Official Opposition to the Advisory Committee on the Economy.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Sadly today I stand to address a tragic incident which occurred yesterday, resulting in the death of a young man at St. Clare's Hospital here in St. John's. I would first like to offer my sincere condolences to the family of this man. I am also thinking about the staff of the hospital today as they too deal with this tragedy.

I have spoken to the CEO of the St. John's Health Corporation, Sister Elizabeth Davis, who too conveys her sympathies to the family. I have been told that even before the investigation of the Chief Medical Examiner is completed, immediate action will be taken as a result of this incident. All windows at St. Clare's will be secured temporarily until locking devices from the United States are received in December and installed as a permanent measure.

No two incidents are alike and each has to be dealt with on its own individual merit. The normal process which is followed after a sudden death in one of our hospitals includes an investigation by the Province's Chief Medical Examiner as related to the Fatalities Investigation Act. Where one or more suspicious deaths occur in a facility, the medical investigator may recommend to the Minister of Justice that an inquiry be held. This recommendation must be in writing and accompanied by appropriate documents. The Minister of Justice reviews the medical investigator's report and may order that a judge conduct a public inquiry. If a judge conducts an inquiry, the findings are given to the Attorney General who determines whether they become public.

Since the time of another tragic death at St. Clare's earlier this year, the Health Care Corporation has taken certain follow-up actions. A decision to purchase and install safety devices was made. These mechanisms were ordered for more than 150 windows, with delivery and installation due to be completed by the end of this year. Other measures may be outlined in the report of the Chief Medical Examiner to the Minister of Justice.

The Health Care Corporation currently offers a two-day suicide intervention workshop to staff within and outside the Health Care Corporation by a certified trainer in suicide prevention who has received national recognition. This workshop is offered on a regular basis and is well attended. The Health Care Corporation has developed a suicide assessment tool for patients within the Mental Health Program. The Health Care Corporation is in the process of developing protocols for suicide assessment for nursing and other staff working on medical and surgical nursing units in community hospitals. Education sessions will be held expeditiously for all staff.

Earlier this fall, the Health Care Corporation had commenced a process of engaging a team of mental health professionals from outside this Province to review all suicides in St. John's hospitals during the last ten years. This team will include a psychiatrist, and will evaluate the approach of the Health Care Corporation of St. John's in these types of circumstances. The process will begin earlier in the new year.

Sadly we cannot change the outcome of yesterday's tragedy. Again, I express my heartfelt sympathy to the family involved. I am confident the staff and management of St. Clare's Hospital provide the best possible care for their patients and I also sympathize with them today. While we will never prevent all sudden deaths in the Province, Mr. Speaker, we must continue to work very hard towards that end. Thank you.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I, too, send condolences to the family on this very tragic event that occurred yesterday. While this tragic event occurred, I feel it was an unnecessary death. Less than four months ago, I say to the minister, a person fell to his death from the very same institution, entrusted with the care under this department and under the Health Care Corporation of St. John's. The necessary action was not taken despite repeated pleas from the family of the late John Careen and nothing was done about it.

To turn around now and tell us that an order form, a request to a company, four months later to have something done is an acceptable procedure, well, that, Minister, is not acceptable. Something should have been done immediately to temporarily secure these until appropriate devices could be put in place. You do not have to go to the United States to do that. You can talk to any machinist and fabricating company in our Province and that could have been secured.

It was an act of negligence on the part of this department, on the part of the Health Care Corporation, in not preventing this unnecessary death. To look at a team now to come from outside? What we need in this case is a judicial inquiry, an independent, arms' length inquiry that is going to look at the causes and circumstances surrounding those deaths, and to put recommendations in place, Minister, to secure they will never happen again.

While I am speaking on that, a judicial inquiry recommended - in another instance of a person from my district who was sent home from hospital and died at his home - recommended that when people go to hospital with suspected heart problems they should see a cardiologist. Your department has to this day not ensured that that recommendation of that inquiry has been put in place. Until we take concrete action and do something about it, it is going to happen again, Minister. It is your department and your responsibility as minister in charge of people in this Province to see that gets done.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

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

I am pleased today to inform hon. members that government is providing $300,000 to the six regions throughout Newfoundland and Labrador to employ six new Child Care Services Coordinators. There will also be a $100,000 allocation for Early Childhood Educator Certification and Training. This funding is part of the implementation of the National Child Benefit Reinvestment Program.

At this time, Mr. Speaker, I would like to acknowledge in the gallery our Early Childhood Educators who join us today for this announcement.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Government is fully aware of the need to support and promote high quality child care services, both the existing models and those that will be available upon proclamation of the new Child Care Services Act and regulations. This direction is consistent with the provincial Strategic Social Plan. High quality child care services promote and enhance healthy child development. This is particularly important for families who may not have the resources to provide a sufficiently stimulating environment for their children.

Mr. Speaker, all models of licensed child care will provide programs to meet the developmental needs of the children. Families will be able to select the model of child care that best meets their needs and the needs of their children. Currently centres are licensed to provide care to children ages two to twelve years. However, upon proclamation of the Child Care Services Act, passed in the last session of the House, the models of licensed child care will be expanded to include infant care and those family home child care providers who choose to be individually licensed or approved by a licensed Family Home Child Care Agency.

Employment of Child Care Services Coordinators is a service enhancement which is necessary in continuing to strengthen the capacity of this Province to promote and provide quality child care services for children.

Child Care Services Coordinators will be qualified and experienced in early childhood education and in child care services. They will provide expertise to assist regional staff, communities and operators of child care services centres with the promotion, establishment, development, support, and the monitoring of child care services.

Licensees of child care services will be supported by Child Care Services Coordinators in the ongoing process of program development to meet the needs of children and their families.

High quality child care is most likely to exist where certain conditions are in place. One of these is staff qualified in Early Childhood Education. Certification of Early Childhood Educators will give official recognition to the academic levels of those working in child care situations and will establish equivalencies for those who may have a variety of types of qualification.

Our Province is proud to have over 500 Early Childhood Educators who work as a key element in the licensed child care system of this Province. Early Childhood Educators are professionals who are involved in all aspects of the child care system. Their presence is crucial to the effective and efficient delivery of child care to the families of our Province.

To assist them in meeting these challenges, the certification system will provide information to each individual on their place on the career ladder, indicating what the next step might be and explain how that may be achieved. Through continuing support to Early Childhood Educators, government is contributing to the development of quality child care services available to children and their families.

This government is committed to children and families. Child Care Services Coordinators and Early Childhood Educator Certification will play an important role in increasing the capacity of the Province to provide child care services and in promoting quality care for all our children.

Today, Mr. Speaker, I continue to wear the blue ribbon in recognition of National Child Care Day because for our government in this Province, every day is National Child Care Day.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I wonder when the minister is going to run out of announcements, or will she continue to wear the blue ribbon every day?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS S. OSBORNE: It is semantical but it is a little twist on something that the Leader of the Opposition announced about two weeks ago: For the PC Party, 365 days a year will be child day. So it seems to me that I have heard that before.

I would like to welcome the Early Childhood Educators to the gallery today. It is nice to see that their careers are being put into the system and that they are being systemized, I guess you could say, so that they will know where they stand on the ladder and that they can develop their careers in a professional manner, because indeed they are all professionals.

I am wondering if this $300,000 is new money, or is it money that has been announced before with the $10.5 million? Is it just more money that is being announced?

I am glad to see that the National Child Benefit Reinvestment Program is being utilized without a clawback to the social assistance recipient families in this Province who are threatening to have this money taken from them -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS S. OSBORNE: This is not being negative. I am glad. That is not negative.

I am glad that this money is being utilized without having clawed back the money from the social assistance families in this Province who were threatened to have the money clawed back from them, because the children of the social assistance families are just as important as the children of the rest of the working families in the Province.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

Oral Questions

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. E. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My questions today are for the Minister of Health and Community Services.

A sound democratic statement must be founded on the principle that good government depends on adequate independent safeguards, adequate independent checks and balances, to ensure that the exercise of power is always under the glaring spotlight of independent scrutiny. That is why we have an Auditor General, that is why we have a Consumer Advocate, I say to the minister. It is for this reason that our party has just announced that we believe an independent child advocate is an essential safeguard that our Province can no longer afford to do without.

My question is this: Minister, would you agree that the establishment of an independent child advocate would help government spend its money even more effectively, to adjust programs that are failing, to focus resources on areas where the advocate finds a need, and to make those adjustments quickly as the need is identified?

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

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I think, by way of answering the question, a bit of background information is necessary.

When we were given the recommendations from the Select Committee of Children's Interests about a child advocate, those recommendations were based on a piece of legislation that was fifty-four years old. It was before we had integrated any of services. It was before we had coordinated any of our programs and services for children.

In the last two-and-a-half years we have integrated services for children; we have coordinated services within departments; we have introduced a new proposed bill to this House, which was fifty-four years old. As I said, when I came to the Department of Social Services it was really out of fear of what I had heard from the then deputy minister that I immediately set forth to try and pull all of this information together because I really felt that it was long overdue.

In addition to that, we have put forward a Strategic Social Plan, one that is based on prevention and early intervention. We did grapple over the child advocate and we still - I have said this quite publicly and I will say it again when I speak to this bill this afternoon - have not ruled out a child advocate. What we have said - and also, I might add, some of our very well-renowned and respected community leaders have also made the comments public and in consultation - let's give this new legislation a chance; a piece of legislation that is child centred, focused on prevention and early intervention.

If we want to spend millions of dollars, and we might well have to, let us be sure. In the meantime, we are committed to spending them directly on children and their services. If we need to set up a bureaucracy and spend millions of dollars, let's wait until after we have an independent report from the minister's advisory committee come and report to this minister perhaps, or another minister, and then to the House of Assembly, and make those recommendations.

If you are looking at reviewing a systems advocate, which is what the Select Committee recommended, this committee will have the same role; it will report to this House of Assembly. At the time we will have to be open to those recommendations, but at the time now with all the changes we have implemented, we believe that if we have money to spend, we will choose children over bureaucracy every time.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. E. BYRNE: It is important to note, Mr. Speaker, that the establishment of a child advocate's office is not a bureaucracy, or adding to it. Actually, in six other provinces it has shown to save government money, to redirect resources where situations have occurred where neglect and abuse for children have occurred; that it responds effectively.

The way the system is arranged today leads to a devolution of responsibility and a diffusion of accountability, I say to the minister. We see examples of it in this House every day, where some minister suggests we go to another board for an answer for which they should really be accountable. That is the issue. Wouldn't you agree, Minister?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. E. BYRNE: Wouldn't you agree?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: I am about to ask the question. Wouldn't the minister agree that in a system where responsibility is diffused as much as it is in the system we presently have, that the need for an independent safeguard such as a child advocate's office is more important now than ever?

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

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, in the Select Committee for Children's Interests, if the member was to read it, he would also read the caution that was put by that non-partisan committee of this House of Assembly: the fact that they were concerned that the money that would be put in place to create this bureaucracy would be taken away from the money we would spend for children. It is actually in here.

What we are also saying, and I think it is important because this bill is before the House and we have not had a chance to fully debate it, and I look forward to doing that, but one of the things that is very obvious in answering the question is that this old piece of legislation, admittedly fifty-four years old, was not a transparent piece of legislation. If you look at the system of accountability and transparency in the proposed new piece, I think it will clearly speak to our direction right now.

We have said is: Let's give the new piece of legislation a chance. Those six regional directors with a closer-to-home model of care for these children - let's see how this works, in addition to our provincial directorate. A continuing review of every child in care each year to be reported to the minister - let's see how that works. Let's see how the minister's advisory committee, comprised of people outside of government and outside of the system, has a chance to review this; and let's see what they have to say before we spend the valuable money that we have for children in a system which at this point in time we are not convinced - because those recommendations were made at another time.

To quote Judge Wicks, who I think is a very well-renowned and respected advocate in this manner: This new legislation is well prepared to take us into the new millennium. The old legislation was fifty years old but it spoke to how we looked at children 100 years ago.

We have taken a child-centred approach, and we are open to it, but we want to make sure that if we are going to spend the precious money we have, that it will first go to children and to the services that we are able to provide them and their families.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Again, Mr. Speaker, the minister, in an attempt, I suppose, to deflect the situation... We are not adding to the bureaucracy. If she would take the advice or the instruction or what has come out of six other provinces, she would have to acknowledge that an independent child advocate actually saves government money. It does not add to it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. E. BYRNE: I have taken the time to read the Select Committee's Report on Children's Interests, and the distinction that she raises is not necessarily or entirely correct. They raised the concern about a case advocate compared to a system's advocate.

I would like to ask the minister this: Wouldn't you agree that there is no independent non-partisan body that has independence, research capacity, funding authority, and power to review documents, to call witnesses, and have a specific mandate to review the decisions of government as they regard children? Why is this Province not taking the lead or following in the example of six other provinces where children's advocates have been put in place and have found unequivocally that they work in the best interests of children in this Province?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Very simply: Because we do not follow the country; we lead the country in our policies.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, I have to comment because I think it is important. What other province in the country can show the type of proposed legislation we have introduced into this House with the number of transparencies? What other Province has used its community-based system to deliver services to children closer to home? What other province can show a social audit of accountability for all of our programs and services that are publicly funded? I can answer all of those questions; none of them.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, there is no question that this government leads the Province in rhetoric, public relations, image politics. That is the reality.


MR. E. BYRNE: What I am talking about today is the need in this Province for an independent advocate. The bill before the House, the piece of legislation before the House we will be debating this afternoon and throughout the next coming weeks, is not a problem. I want the minister to stick to the questions and answer the questions I am asking.

MR. SPEAKER: I ask the hon. member to get to his question; he is on a supplementary.

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

The government has agreed to look out for the best interests of power consumers by appointing an independent consumer advocate, but has rejected its own legislative committee's non-partisan recommendation to do at least as much for children in the Province. Why the double standard, I ask the minister? Surely children are as important as power rates. If we need a independent consumer advocate to fight higher electricity rates - and surely we do - then shouldn't we be placing an even higher priority on establishing an independent advocate to fight for the best interests of the children of Newfoundland and Labrador?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS J.M. AYLWARD: I can understand the political perspective that is being raised in this House of Assembly because I have seen it more and more over the last couple of years.

I think what is very important is to note that we have had extensive consultations with our front-line workers, our social workers, all of our community advocates - many of whom are sitting up in this gallery today - in addition to the judicial system. We actually went to Judge Gove who conducted the Gove Inquiry in British Columbia on behalf of the government there. We had him come here and speak to ministers and our staff. He has recommended a number of these very pieces and articles that you will see in this proposed legislation.

We are not afraid to say that we would need a child advocate, if that is what is determined. What we are saying, and we will say it time and time again, and it has been brought clear in every report we have, even though we have doubled right now the budget for child welfare, which is currently $13 million, because of our initiatives with the federal government to the National Child Benefit and our own provincial commitment, we still believe that every cent of that should be spent on children.

If we are going to move to create another system, another bureaucracy, that may or may not serve the Province in the best interests of children, we want to be sure. I say, if all of the advocates and the people we have consulted with are willing to go that route, what is the premise behind this member's question if he does not want us to see this legislation fulfilled in a progressive way for children? It is beyond me, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

It needs to be said again that the experience of six other provinces shows that the introduction of a child advocate's office actually saves government money so that scarce resources can be redirected back to where the priority should be.

The last question I will ask, Minister, is this - that what we are proposing would enhance, I would think, the legislation before the House of Assembly. It would raise the bar. It would put in place an adequate safeguard, an independent office that would protect and ensure the interests of children are protected.

I am asking you this again: Wouldn't you agree, Minister, that such an independent, non-partisan officer to look out for the interests of children would enhance the legislation that you have now before the House of Assembly?

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

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, we have not created this piece of legislation in isolation. In fact, as I was introducing this piece of legislation the day before yesterday, I went through all of the various inquiries, the reports, the consultations, the Select Committee of this House, our Social Advisory Policy Committee, and our own strategic plan.

Mr. Speaker, this has probably been the most consulted - it has certainly been a long time in coming, fifty-four years. If all of the advocates in our Province and across the country can support the direction in which we are going, keeping in mind that we at no point ever said, `no child advocate'...

I think the Province and the people of this Province would commend us for trying to be as evidence-based in terms of where we are going to spend our money for children.

We will create an advisory committee that will review, really, a systems approach to the application of this legislation. If they say, at the end of that time, that our six regional directors, our one provincial director, our ministerial department, our custodial reviews, our pre-interventions with the judge, our ability to give children more opportunity to represent themselves, and all of the other safeguards, if they are saying that is not transparent enough, we will have to look at those recommendations.

Mr. Speaker, I will say it again: The six other Provinces that the member refers to does not have a piece of legislation that is progressive; they do not have community delivered services in the same capacity as we do; they do not have a minister's advisory committee; and they do not have the level of consultation of work that we have had in moving in this direction.

I repeat again, we have not said no to a children's advocate, but if this government is going to spend money creating a systems approach, a high-cost bureaucracy, it has to be something that is proven with evidence-based decisions, which is the direction we are trying to go, and then we will consider it.

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 want to ask the minister what measures were taken after the death of Mr. Careen of July 28, to ensure that future deaths of this nature would not occur in hospitals under your department's responsibility?

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

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, as was discussed yesterday, and as has been discussed with the staff and with the family involved, they have had an opportunity to go through the measures and all of the things that came out of the report that was submitted to the Minister of Justice from the chief medical enquirer. He did submit his written report to the minister. The minister, I know, would have made a recommendation to do an inquiry if that was what was recommended by the chief medical officer.

The Health Care Corporation did take the recommendations that were made. One of those recommendations was to ensure that the proper fixtures and the proper appliance were required to secure the windows. That process was in place. In the meantime, a temporary placement of security was put there in terms of not the proper type of fixtures but something that would temporarily address the problem within the immediate environment of a room. Not all windows had been secured, I think as was pointed out yesterday in the press conference by the chief executive officer.

In addition to that, we know that we do have a suicide prevention program that is available to the staff of the Corporation by a nationally renounced accredited person who does this program. Again I say that I think it is important for people who are listening outside of this House of Assembly, that each case, each incident, must be treated individually in terms of how we look at the outcomes and what has to be done.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister has admitted here today that her department has not gone far enough in addressing this concern and preventing a second death. She has admitted that. They did it in certain ones, certain areas. She did not do it generally.

I ask the minister: Will she confirm that this man who died tragically yesterday was at risk and under constant care twenty-four hours a day within one day prior to his death?

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

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, again, I think it most unfortunate that the member opposite has to ask questions about an individual in this manner. I think he is well aware of this. He mentioned information yesterday that I believe was most disturbing. Because if he really was keeping abreast of what was happening he would know that the family has asked that their wishes be respected. He talked about information here yesterday that I think was certainly inappropriate, talking about the type of care afforded to an individual.

No, Mr. Speaker, I am not going to confirm the type of care an individual was ordered by a physician. He knows the difference.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I think it would be most unfortunate for this family and other families if a matter of such importance was not raised to prevent a third death from happening in the same institution, Minister. It would be very unfortunate. I consider it quite serious. I do not want to see another day go by with the potential of this happening again.

The minister made reference in her ministerial statement today that the medical investigator may recommend that an enquiry be held. We do not need a medical investigator just to recommend. The Minister of Health can recommend to the Minister of Justice that an enquiry can be held.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: I ask the minister: Will she recommend today to the Minister of Justice that a judiciary enquiry be held into the death of these two individuals at St. Clare's Hospital within a four-month period?

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

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, whenever an incident happens like the tragedy that happened yesterday, or previous tragedies, there is a process in place whereby the Chief Medical Officer in consultation with the police and staff conduct a complete investigation and make a formal written report available to the Minister of Justice.

I think any death is a tragedy. I also have to admit that I do not ever think we will ever be to prevent all tragedies in this particular case. I think if the member opposite was to listen to Dr. Simon Avis today speak about this type of incident he would also know that that, in fact, is the information, that you cannot always prevent these incidents from happening. It does not undermine in way the sympathy and condolences we send to the family at this time.

I believe in the process. I also believe the Health Care Corporation, and particularly the staff, did everything that was able to be done at this time. I know they are to open to any other recommendations that may come out of this report. Mr. Speaker, we stand by that process.

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

MR. J. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today I have questions for the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation.

There has been some controversy regarding the new design of the Whitbourne intersection and the Trans-Canada Highway in that area. Not only is this a local issue, I say to the minister, but it is a provincial issue. The Trans-Canada Highway is used by many residents and visitors. It is also a landing over which goods must travel.

Would the minister agree that safety, efficiency, expert advice, common sense and consistency should be the criteria for

construction of a modern highway?

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would agree that all of the qualities that the member just outlined and others are important elements in making those decisions.

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

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

I say to the minister that government's own highway designers and an independent consultant recommended the original design, which was one of three options. This new proposal is not one of the three options. Will the minister admit that political interference and patronage were reasons for the change and that this new design is not as safe as the original design?

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the -


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Just for the sake of the record, there were not three recommendations, there were nine recommendations, nine possible options put forward when this issue was brought forward, I think, in the days of the previous, previous Minister of Works, Services and Transportation.

The issue regarding the Whitbourne intersection was an issue that we wanted to address on a couple of bases. We wanted to ensure first of all that Routes 80 and 81 were taken care of in terms of the safety issue there. There is a light there, as you know, at the moment, and it is a four-way stop. We also wanted to take into consideration the best way to realign the highway in that area. We also wanted to, and we did in fact, take into consideration the views of the town council of Whitbourne and others in the area. We also took into account the views of the business community there that employs up to 150 people at any particular time.

In the considered opinion of the government, in the considered opinion of the officials and myself, I would say that it was appropriate to revisit where we ended the four-laning of that highway. The fact of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, that there was no magic in and there was no particular agreement signed that indicated we had to go right to the Argentia intersection with that four-laning. We could have stopped the four-laning at Roaches Line. We could have stopped it at Hodgewater Line.

MR. J. BYRNE: You did not have to start it if you didn't want to.

MR. MATTHEWS: We did not have to start it if we did not want to. The member is more or less right. The fact of the matter is we decided to end it at a point where we could address the safety issues and meet the concerns of the town council of Whitbourne, and also address the significant economic issues that were brought forward by the businesses in the area. Simply put, Mr. Speaker, we are more interested in preserving and creating jobs than we are in eliminating and discouraging jobs.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I ask the minister: What happened in Grand Falls-Windsor? That was a change of attitude, I would say. With respect to the three options, there were not nine. Three were presented to the public in the area in the first time around.

Shouldn't government ensure that we get a highway that is built for the future? The current construction costs will be $3.6 million which will be paid out of the Roads for Rail Agreement. A letter dated October 6 from the Member for Harbour Main-Whitbourne states that: This new plan does not preclude the future bypassing of the Whitbourne Intersection.

Also, why waste $3.6 million now when we know in the future they may be bypassed? Why not design a highway now that is built for the future? Why waste $3.6 million now, Mr. Speaker?

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The member is precisely right. We should build a highway that takes into account what might happen in the future. For that reason we have done two things. We have designed an interchange at the old Brigus Road intersection that will be totally usable and completely accommodating of a four-laning situation, if we want to go by that. We are spending a lot less money today than we would otherwise have spent if we had gone with a further four-laning situation. We are providing an interchange that provides a safe solution to Routes 80 and 81. The interchange can be used if we ever go further with our four-laning.

At this point, as the member says, we need to look forward to a four-laning across the Province. We look forward to the day - probably not in my day and his day - when there will be a four-lane highway across the Province, but what we are doing now is the appropriate thing for safety purposes, for economic purposes and for meeting all of the needs that have to be addressed with respect to trying to make that intersection safer.

The hon. member knows we are making the right decision. The hon. member is trying to allege that there is some political reason why we did it. There is no political reason, but I can tell you there is a very sound economic reason. We want to keep jobs, we want to make sure that our Province prospers -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. MATTHEWS: - and that we do nothing in road construction that will mitigate against that principal.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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, this morning you and some of your colleagues, along with myself, met with the advisory council put in place to advise the national heritage minister, the hon. Sheila Copps, on the possibility of establishing a national marine conservation area in Bonavista and Notre Dame Bays.

Minister, I know you have concerns about the establishment of such an area, as I do. Since the committee was looking for a definitive answer from provincial representatives and government, I ask the minister when his government could be expected to provide an answer as to where you stand on this particular issue.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I knew that question was coming because I provided the forum for the hon. gentleman to get it this morning.

Let me just say to him, quite simply, that this government's stand is very clear. If this process does not adhere to and get the wishes of the people involved, and does not abide by them, this government will not be apart of it.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Minister, Bill C-48, An Act Respecting Marine Conservation Areas, is presently before the House of Commons in Ottawa for second reading. If you read this bill, it speaks of such things as conservation, setting of fees and licenses, and management plans.

I ask the minister if he agrees with extra fees and licenses being charged for the use of this particular area of our coast, and if he would also agree that conservation is already being practised by the mere fact of licensing, opening and closing of seasons, as well as total allowable catch, as it relates to the fishery industry.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, let me just reiterate something to the hon. gentleman. I say to him that yes, while Bill C-48 is on the Order Paper in the House of Commons, that does not necessarily mean it is going to be passed, any more that it does here. Let me just say to him that I agree with him that the people of the area are very good conservationists, and the people living around the coast of Newfoundland are very good conservationists.

If their wishes and if the respect for their way of life is not built into it, and if they are charged for being where they are now any more than they are presently, then of course this government will not be a part of anything that they do not desire to be a part of themselves. It is that simple.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Minister, it is my understanding that approximately $400,000 of taxpayers' money is being spent on this feasibility study, a study that most people do not even want to see conducted since they are not interested in seeing another form of bureaucracy and extra fees charged and implemented.

I ask the minister if his decision to support or reject this project is going to be swayed by the fact that our very own Premier, along with Sheila Copps, were the two people who asked that this same study be conducted.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, it is very interesting to hear the member opposite suggest that the taxpayers of Newfoundland and Labrador, who more than any other coastal community on the planet suffered the devastation of a lack of proper conservation practices - both by fleets of vessels, foreign vessels fishing beyond the 200-mile limit, and at one point both by our own fleets operating inside the 200-mile limit - that this government of all governments should refuse to spend the money necessary to understand whether or not a proposed conservation regime is going to achieve the objective of conserving our ocean resources for the benefit of our own people. We do not think that is a bad investment. We think that is a prudent investment for Newfoundland and Labrador and we have no hesitation in making it.

I think the member should listen carefully to what has just been said by the minister who has spoken, that any proposed conservation regime, any proposed marine conservation area, is something we need to understand very well. That is why we are prepared to invest in a study. Secondly, if a marine conservation area cannot attract and keep the interest and the approval of the people who are going to be most directly affected by it, it should not be established.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER TOBIN: Our purpose, Mr. Speaker, in conclusion, is to understand all of the parameters, to make sure that the people in the areas affected are heard, and to make sure we have their support before we undertake any commitment to proceed.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The time for Oral Questions has elapsed.

Notices of Motion

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

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce the following private member's resolution:

WHEREAS pursuant to Section 38 of the Memorial University Act, as amended in 1993, and the Auditor General Act, the University is required to give the Auditor General access to all books, accounts and records of the University; and

WHEREAS the University since 1992 has repeatedly refused to give the Auditor General access to all books, accounts and records to which the Auditor General is entitled access by law; and

WHEREAS the Supreme Court of Newfoundland ruled on March 11, 1993, that the Auditor General Act imposes on the University an obligation to give the Auditor General access to all of its books, accounts and records, and that the University has not fulfilled this obligation, and that the only avenue available to the Auditor General under existing law is to report to the House of Assembly that the University has denied the Auditor General full access; and

WHEREAS the people of Newfoundland and Labrador who are providing enormous amounts of funding annually to the University from the public treasury expect and demand accountability for the expenditure by the University of that money; and

WHEREAS it is appropriate that the Auditor General as the chief auditor in this Province of publicly funded institutions and as an independent arm of the Legislature which votes the funding for Memorial University should have access to all books and accounts and records of the University; and

WHEREAS imposing on the University to demand that the Auditor General must have access to all its books, accounts and records is reasonable and does not compromise the integrity or customary autonomy of the University;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that this hon. House urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to take whatever action is necessary, including legislative action if deemed appropriate, to ensure that the University without further delay, and promptly whenever requested, effectively gives the Auditor General full access to all books, accounts and records of the University to which the Auditor General is entitled access by law.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today on an issue of great importance to thousands of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who have now, for a significant period of time, pleaded with government to deal with the issue of pensions as it relates to the pensioners of our public service.

In recent date, and again in the upcoming days, there will be aggressive representation taken by members of the Newfoundland Public Service Pensioners Association to have their concerns and their needs hopefully addressed by a government which up until now has not paid any attention whatsoever to the expressed concerns and problems as experienced by 11,000 retired public service pensioners in our Province.

I would like to read briefly the petition which is being presented today on behalf of the retired public service pensioners. It reads as follows:

The petition of the undersigned residents of Newfoundland;

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

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

WHEREAS many public service pensioners who spent a lifetime contributing to their society are now slipping deeper and deeper into poverty;

WHEREFORE your petitioners and those represented by the forms attached urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to provide adequate increases in benefits to public service pensioners which reflect the increases in the wages of public servants.

Mr. Speaker, as indicated, this particular petition is signed by some twenty pensioners, but I would like to refer in a moment to another form that has been signed by close to 1,000 public service pensioners in our Province.

In a recent publication - it is simply entitled Pensioners' Publication, dated October 1998 - the president of the association stated in part that:

"It has been stated recently that the average public service pension is $11,000 per annum. This statement has not been challenged. The last pension increase provided to pensioners was in 1989. The cost of living has increased significantly since then. The question has to be asked: What has government - particularly this government - done, or what is being planned to address this problem of pension indexation or ad hoc pension increases? The answer to that very direct question is, sadly, nothing.

Mr. Speaker, there comes a point when 11,000 Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have to be heard by this government. We are talking about people who have dedicated years of service, loyal service, faithful service, to the government - regardless of political stripe - of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. To this very day, there is absolutely no indication from this government that it takes the pleas and the requests and concerns of 11,000 Newfoundlanders and Labradorians seriously.

There was an attempt a couple of days ago when the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board indicated that the Province would consider indexing the pensions of retired public servants if unions are on side. Well, these pensioners do not have a union. There are many civil servants, retired civil servants, who were never members of a union; so the minister cannot deflect the problem and say that this is now dependent upon the existence of a union. This is a non-union issue. These are individuals in good faith who come to this government and say: Please adhere to our concerns. We are thousands of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who simply want to be given consideration for something that over the years we have dedicated our lives to.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Mr. Speaker, just in conclusion, 905 of what are called ballots - they are simply forms that I am attaching to this petition - have been signed by Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, retired pensioners, who have taken the time and who have shown the interest in the support of their association to hopefully show government - this, for some reason, heartless government - that they are serious about this, and that this is an issue that will not go away. They will be aggressive in the continuation of their plight -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Mr. Speaker, I am proud to stand here today and represent their interests. I would now simply add, as an appendix to this petition, these 905 forms.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I am pleased to stand today in support of this petition. What we are asking for here is for a basic consideration for our public service pensioners, to our people who have made a very significant contribution to our Province.

These 11,000 people are all retired. Some retired as planned - they had planned for their retirement - but many retired because they were forced into retirement when this government had job cutbacks. So, the money they are receiving is not as nearly as high as what they had anticipated they would receive when they were working.

They were working in government jobs, they looked forward to retirement, and they were expecting to receive x number of dollars, but they were forced into early retirement, unable to find jobs, and here they are receiving not nearly the amount of money they had planned on. Whether they planned their retirements or not, none of them anticipated that the cost of living would rise, that there would be such a increase in the cost of living. Here they are; the cost of living keeps going up and up and up. Their light bills have gone up with the HST, their fuel bills have gone up with the HST, their gasoline bills have gone up with the HST, but their pensions have remained the same. What they are asking for is a basic right, a right to be able to live their retirement years in dignity; and this cold and heartless government is refusing them that right.

I say here now that I will stand behind them every step of the way in their fight. I look forward to their fight, and I look forward to a successful resolution to it. It is my pleasure to second this petition. I say to the pensioners: Keep up the good work. We are behind you all the way.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I rise again today to present a petition on behalf of students who are studying at the private colleges in this Province. Today's petitions are from Academy Canada, the St. John's Campus, and we have petitioners here in total number of about 400 students. The prayer of the petition reads:

We, the undersigned, petition the hon. House of Assembly to not discriminate against students who choose to attend private schools. We ask that we be eligible immediately for the Awards Program as announced by the Minister of Education in the March Budget and re-announced by the minister on September 24.

The prayer of the petition asks the Minister of Education to change the criteria he is using for the Awards Program in this Province today, the interim funding that has been made available, and also that he ensure that he approach the federal government to ensure that private college students are included in the Millennium Scholarship Fund.

We have attempted in this House in the last few days to bring this matter forcefully to the attention of the Minister of Education. The 400 students who have signed the petition from the Academy Canada campus here in St. John's believe that they have not been treated fairly.

We have said, and we say again today, that the Awards Program is an excellent program - with the exception that it has not been extended to include in this eligible listing, students who are attending private colleges.

We say to the minister that he has established two official criteria. The first part of the criteria deals with need. It can be established that students of private colleges have the same need for assistance as those who are in public colleges.

The second criteria is that of scholastic achievement. Certainly the students who are going to private colleges can show that they are completing programs and that their scholastic achievement can be measured and compared to any that occurs in the public colleges.

This party is supporting the students who are saying that the minister's initiatives really do nothing to reduce the barriers that students of private colleges face in their attempt to get a meaningful education, an attempt to be able to complete their program of studies.

Mr. Speaker, we say this is wrong because the funding comes from all the taxpayers of Newfoundland and Labrador, where only some students are eligible to receive the benefits from that. That is unfair. You cannot take the money from all of the mothers and fathers and then say to them: We are only going to spend that money and make these scholarships available to students who are attending Memorial or those who are attending the College of the North Atlantic and we are going to exclude sixty-four private college institutions in this Province.

There are 7,000 students who are deemed to be ineligible. That is fundamentally unfair. The source of money is from all of the taxpayers. Therefore, all of the students in post-secondary institutions should be eligible to apply.

I say to the minister - I say to the House - that this issue will be coming forward almost every day in this session, because this is a fundamentally unjust action of this government.

Today the students from Academy Canada want their voices heard here in this Legislature, because they believe they should be eligible to have an application presented, or they should be eligible, as now it is done, through the Student Loan Program, whereby the institution identifies needy students and assures that their academic standings are in place. Then the student is awarded the bursary or the Awards Program monies.

Mr. Speaker, we want to say again that if the minister is concerned about the private colleges -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. H. HODDER: - and their curriculum and their standards, they are quite prepared to enter into a dialogue with the minister to resolve those issues. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I just want to stand briefly to support the spirit of the petition as presented by the Member for Waterford Valley.

It occurs to me that what is being practised here is politics of exclusion as opposed to inclusion. Because essentially there are some 7,000 students who have been denied even eligibility for these post-secondary scholarships, I am speaking of the 7,000 students who have applied to and are enroled in our private colleges in the Province.

Certainly education is a right. It is not a privilege. Therefore the possibility of award and recognition for success within a person's educational process also should be a right. Therefore that right can be best recognized when there is an equal opportunity for the recognition of such an award when distinction occurs. Really there is a philosophical issue here which seems to me has to be addressed by members opposite in terms of ensuring that there is an equality of opportunity for students, regardless of the nature and basis of the educational institution in which they are enroled.

I support the petition as presented by my colleague. I would ask the Minister of Education to revisit this issue, in consultation with his federal counterparts if necessary, because it is fundamentally a federal program, but to revisit the allocation of these awards, to ensure that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, regardless of educational institution, have equal opportunity in terms of being recognized for successes throughout the educational program.

It is an important petition, Mr. Speaker, and I support it wholeheartedly.

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to present a petition to the House. It is from the residents of the Labrador Straits area. It says:

To the hon. the House of Assembly in Newfoundland and Labrador in legislative session convened:

The petition of the undersigned citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador:

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

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

Mr. Speaker, there is a number of signatures are on this petition, and no doubt all of them come from outside the Labrador West area, but no doubt they are still from a part of Labrador. There are some things in Labrador we share in consensus, and one of those things is resource development. Although we have our differences in terms of how each of us perceive the environment and development and so on, and sometimes we have disagreements on issues, there has always been a consensus, and one that is based on principal. That is, we always look to get maximum potential from our resources and to see that the benefits from these resources accrue to the people that are adjacent, and especially to the people of Labrador.

When the people of the Labrador Straits signed this petition, what they were signing was their stand on resource development. Their stand is that any resources found in the area - whether it be minerals, whether it be fisheries, whether it be forestry, or some other industry - that the maximum resources that can be derived from that particular industry, from that particular resource, then those benefits should accrue to the people who are there.

That is what these people are saying. We in Labrador have seen exploitation of resources for years. We have seen it in the mining industry in the past. We have seen it in other industries, especially in our fishery, issues that we are still dealing with as communities and as people. Once we see something like this happen to a specific part of our region and part of Labrador, whereby you have a resource that is being taken and shipped somewhere else to be smelted, refined or whatever the case for the benefit of other people, creating employment in other provinces, deriving revenue in other provinces, well then that always hits a sore spot for all of us in Newfoundland and Labrador, but especially for the people in Labrador, and in this case the people in Labrador West.

The Iron Ore Company of Canada, which operates out of Carol Lake and Wabush, has been one of the largest mining operations in this Province and probably one of the largest iron ore producers in the world. Over the years it has contributed substantially to the local economy of these communities. It was built up over years, since 1950. What started out as an exploration project in that area turned into a full fledged mine. It was only, I think, in 1996 or 1997 that they extracted their 1 billion tons of iron ore from this particular facility.

The company and the resource itself over the years have built up the economy of Labrador City and Wabush. It put the schools there, it paved the highways, it created employment for people all over our Province who moved there and worked there. Right now I think what they are feeling is that they are in a very vulnerable position. They fear for what will happen in the future. Right now the industry is good, it is prospering, it is deriving good benefits there, but what happens when it is no longer that feasible, when it is no longer that viable? When it starts to fail, there are no assurances in this contract. There are no guarantees. There is nothing that says that the facility in Labrador West will survive any kind of downturn in the economy.

I think that is what the people here want. They want security on what they already have. They want to feel that the industry, as it is, is going to continue to support the economy, and that a facility going somewhere else means they are not only seeing their resource taken out, but also they are seeing any guarantees or assurances for the future being taken out with it. That is very frustrating.

The people in Labrador City and Wabush who worked on this particular issue - the councils, the unions, development associations and others, and even the Member for Labrador West who worked closely with these committees and these groups - did it to try and ensure a sustainable future economy, not only for people in their community but for people all over this Province -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MS JONES: - who have gone there, who have worked there, who have benefitted from this resource and this development. We should continue to support it.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, I stand in support of the petition so capably put forward by the Member for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair. She talks about the decision of government to allow IOC to carry on production of its processing pellets of iron ore in Sept-Iles instead of Labrador City. I can understand full well where the people from Labrador are coming from. It is not only a Labrador City-Wabush issue, and not only a Labrador issue.

If you pick up the papers and read the letters to the editor, read the comments being put forward by some journalists, some of The Telegram journalists, you find that it goes much further than that. It is all about keeping what we have here in this Province for the good and the benefit of Newfoundlanders. It is all about allowing us to be able to live and raise our families in Newfoundland and Labrador.

One thing that I found in talking with Newfoundlanders, when they are looking for a job, they don't care if that job is in Labrador or Newfoundland as long as it is somewhere. As long as it is somewhere within the Province they are willing to travel and go to it. They do not want to go out to British Columbia or Alberta, but many of them unfortunately are forced to go that distance.

If this decision by the Iron Ore Company of Canada to process their iron ore pellets at Sept-Iles had happened thirty years or twenty years ago, there probably would not be nearly the attention brought to it as there is today. Because people went to Labrador City in those days to find a job. It was a temporary move. Nobody looked at Labrador City as their home. I remember going to Wabush in 1965. It was a place to go and earn a few quick dollars to return back to your own hometown.

Today when you talk to people and find out they have retired, and you ask them where they are living, they are living in Labrador City. They are living in Wabush. People have made it their home because this is where they have raised their families; this is where they have worked all of their working lives.

AN HON. MEMBER: They have built a fantastic community.

MR. FITZGERALD: They have built a fantastic community there, that is right. People today call it home, and that is why it is hurting when they see the government of the day allowing our own resources to be taken out of not only their town but out of our Province altogether and processed for the good of other people in other provinces, especially when you look at an unemployment rate of 20 per cent.

I say it is being very conservative when you talk about an unemployment rate of 20 per cent. I always say: Show me the employment rates, show me the number of people who are working, because the number of people unemployed does not give you a true reflection of the number of people who are out there today looking for a job. In many cases the numbers do not show up because people have given up looking for work; people have given up trying to get up every morning and knock on doors and fill out resumes. Tell me the number of people who are employed. That is when you will get a true reflection of the problems that are being experienced in this Province today.

It is something that I think the people in Labrador City and other Newfoundlanders and Labradorians expected the government of the day - their government, the people that they went out and elected to represent them - to get up and fight for them, to make sure that they maintain those jobs within the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador for the good of Newfoundlanders.

That is why people find it so hard to accept. They find it so hard to accept that just up the coast there is a firm decision made that we must have a smelter and a refinery here in this Province or the ore stays in the ground. You come a little further down the coast and turn west, and you will find that it is a different decision altogether. That is what people find so hard to accept, and that is what I find hard to accept as well.

People have suggested to me that maybe this is part of the bigger picture. This might be part of the big announcement that our Premier, Mr. Bouchard, made on the Lower Churchill some months ago. This might be all part of it. It is probably all tied in together. It is now unfolding. The deal that we thought we were getting with the Lower Churchill, maybe there are payoffs somewhere else.


MR. FITZGERALD: There are payoffs somewhere else, I say to members opposite.

The people in Labrador City, the Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who are unemployed, are probably some of those people who are going to be witnessing, and the people who are hurt because of those payoffs.

That is what I fear is happening. I fear that is what is happening as we see this thing unfolding here today. It is certainly not being done by a government that people elected to represent them, to support them, to fight for them, to maintain the jobs here in this Province.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: I remember the Government House Leader going around with a trunk full of buttons that nobody wanted, that were left over from the last election. On the button was: Tobin and Tulk, T and T. Mr. Speaker, T and T is a very highly explosive substance, and that is what people expected. They did not expect a government to lie down and play pussy cat with the people. They did not expect the government to give in to the giant, IOC.

The Premier went to Labrador and made the big announcement on the Lower Churchill, what a wonderful thing it was going to be. I saw, shamelessly, a board of a big roller yesterday, because it was good news -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. FITZGERALD: - but when it came time to face the people he was nowhere to be seen.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Education.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I just want to make a couple of comments just for the record with respect to the petition presented by the Member for Cartwright - L'Anse au Clair and supported by the Member for Bonavista South with respect to the premise put forward by the Member for L'Anse au Clair in error. I just want to correct the errors in it, to make sure that the record shows that somebody actually presented the facts in this Legislature instead of getting on with a pile of nonsense and bogeyman tactics about things that may or may not be.

The Member L'Anse au Clair, in presenting the petition, suggested that the government had given some permission to the Iron Ore Company of Canada to ship concentrate out of the Province; that the government has been all part of this and that we have actually now given permission to IOC to ship concentrate out of the Province. Maybe she does not know much about it, but for the forty years or just about of the operation of IOC, part of their whole operation as a finished product has been the shipping of concentrate out of Labrador West. They did not need or require any permission from this government to ship concentrate out as a part of the expansion and the investment of the billion dollars that they are going to put into their operation in Labrador West.

Why she would suggest that there is something wrong here because the government is giving permission to ship out concentrate, it has been happening in Labrador West for forty years just about - not only with the Iron Ore Company of Canada; but it is the only product that is shipped out from Wabush Mines. So anytime that anybody is going to suggest there is a problem with that, then they are by inference, by direct implication, suggesting that if the answer for the government is to say you cannot ship concentration out of Labrador, it means that Wabush mines shuts down. I am sure that nobody is proposing that should be the answer.

MS JONES: A point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Cartwright - L'Anse au Clair on a point of order.

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, I did not say that concentrate was not being shipped out. I did not say that government should revoke permission for them to ship it out. I realize it has been shipped out for the last forty years, that it contributes to a number of jobs in Wabush and the Labrador West area. I say to the minister, that was not what I was suggesting.

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order. The hon. member was engaging further in the debate.

The hon. the Minister of Education.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am delighted to have that clarified for the record so that the Member for Cartwright - L'Anse au Clair agrees that one of the products - not raw ore but one of the products - that is appropriate to be shipped out of Labrador West, and has been for forty years, is concentrate, so that Wabush mines can continue operate. About one-third of the finished product of IOC has always been concentrate instead of pellets. At least the record is clear, and she agrees, that concentrate is a product that should be shipped out of Labrador West, as long as that is a point.

The other thing is, we have heard the Official Opposition state that there are two choices for the government; that we could have intervened by suggesting first of all that if they are going to do pellets anywhere else other than Labrador City that it should be left in the ground - they have stated that clearly - which again concludes to the closure of Wabush; because I am sure they would not put any government, even if they were the government, in such a compromising position to suggest that you can ship concentrate out of a mine on one side of Carol Lake but you cannot ship concentrate out of a mine on the other side of the same lake. Either you have to leave it in the ground or you have to mine it, process it into either pellets or concentrates. It is the inconsistency in the position.

As well, the other point that the Official Opposition has always been saying, I guess in line with the Chamber of Commerce for Labrador West, is: Never mind the economics of it. If there is $200 million or $300 million or $400 million difference in terms of expanding the pellet plant in Labrador City and reactivating one in Sept-Iles, their representation is that the government should give the difference in cash to IOC and buy the expansion, and that it is worth it because it is going to go on for another 100 years and so on.

The difficulty - and this is why it is convenient for them as Opposition because they have to do nothing about it - is to suggest that you can amortize it over the hundred remaining years of life of proven reserves in the area. The problem, though, is that any government of today, to give effect to what they are suggesting, would have to go out and immediately borrow almost $300 million in cash and give it to the Iron Ore Company of Canada so they would put the expansion of the pellet plant in Labrador West instead of Sept-Iles.

They know that cannot work. They will not admit it because it is not politically to their advantage to admit it. They have to say otherwise, half in jest I am sure. Then you get into the unsavoury type of comments that characterize the Member for Bonavista South. He must listen to Jim Morgan a lot because he wants to drag some kind of gutter politics into it by suggesting that there must be some kind of a payoff in this for Premier Bouchard in Quebec; that this is somehow linked to the hydro project that we are trying to put together, and that in order to get Quebec to agree to the hydro project, the Premier must have already agreed to let this go in Quebec some months ago. Pure gutter politics -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. GRIMES: - as well as the idea that there are political contributions from the Iron Ore Company of Canada and so on. It is unfortunate that they do not stick to the facts and debate the case on its merits.

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

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

Orders of the Day

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health adjourned the debate on Bill No. 37, "An Act Respecting Child, Youth And Family Services", and we need a minute for her to get back. I think she had to run out.

Before doing that I would like to call Motion 3, which is first reading on a bill, so that we can distribute it. The bill is in the name of the hon. the Minister of Government Services and Lands, to ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, "An Act Respecting Security Interests In Personal Property." (Bill No. 39)

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Government Services and Lands to introduce a bill, "An Act Respecting Security Interests in Personal Property", carried. (Bill No. 39)

On motion, Bill No. 39 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I think the Opposition will agree that while we are waiting - the Minister of Health had to run out for a few minutes, she told me, and she would be back -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TULK: Of course, and she does it very, very well. She is one of the best that I have ever seen in this Legislature, one of the very, very best people ever I have seen defending the government's actions, and she does it very well.

While we are waiting, though, maybe the Minister of Education might like to introduce, "An Act To Revise The Law Respecting Apprenticeship And Occupational Certification", Bill No. 5, Order No. 9.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Revise The Law Respecting Apprenticeship And Occupational Certification." (Bill No. 5)

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will take a few minutes if I can, at this point, to give some background information with respect to the introduction of Bill 5, and maybe just a few points to be read into the record of Hansard. Then, as the debate continues over the next days and weeks, I will certainly make note of the interventions made by members opposite and we can conclude, as we usually do, in clause-by-clause examination of the bill in third reading, to look at the real details of the act.

The background of it basically is that the Apprenticeship Act, as it presently exists in the Province, was last revised in 1990. Since then, I think most people would recognize that there have been significant changes occurring within the field of apprenticeship training and certification. Basically to determine if the act, as it is written and was revised in 1990, continues to be relevant in light of today's industrial involvement and environment, the Chair of the Provincial Apprenticeship Board was given the task of reviewing the existing act and the industrial training process.

The review consisted of consultations throughout the Province with stakeholders, consultation with the provincial trades advisory committees on a wide range of issues affecting the quality and efficiency of apprenticeship training in the Province as it exists today. There were several recommendations then that arose from the report of the Chair of the Provincial Apprenticeship and Certification Board, and among the recommendations arising from this report was the need to refocus the objectives of apprentice for starters.

At present the system serves the needs of training as well as the needs of labour in the apprenticeship act. Since the intent of the apprenticeship program, however, is to train and certify individuals, it was deemed as a result of the review that this must become the primary focus, and that the needs of labour itself in terms of workplaces and the workers they needed would have to be secondary. The individual needs for the training had to come first and foremost and needed to be the primary focus of the provisions of the act.

Also, it was clear that efforts needed to be made to expand the system to include occupations that lend themselves to the apprenticeship model that were not currently included. Because the present act specifies exactly which trades for which there will be apprenticeship in the Province and thereby, by not mentioning the others, by exclusion, leaves the rest from being considered in training periods for the apprenticeship model.

The review since 1990 in the past eight years has indicated there are a number of different types of occupations today that are not listed in the 1990 act that might best be served, for the workers in their training, by having an apprenticeship period and apprenticeship model to follow.

The apprenticeship system needs to be dynamic, reflecting the needs of the labour market, offering flexibility in course design and delivery, and certainly with a shift in emphasis from time served in apprenticeship, which is the fundamental premise of the current act, to proving that you have actually achieved the competencies for the occupation or trade in which you are apprenticed.

The focus clearly in this new act, Bill 5, is to shift the emphasis from successful completion of apprenticeship based on how many hours you have been an apprentice, to at some point, at the conclusion of your apprenticeship period, being able to demonstrate that you are actually competent in the trade or occupation you have entered into apprenticeship for.

The review as well recommended that an accreditation process be established with the Provincial Apprenticeship and Certification Board holding the accreditation and certification authority. Those are the kinds of things that are spelled out in this Bill 5.

These things are necessary to ensure quality and relevant courses in all institutions, a full range of relevant experiences in the workplace, full monitoring of all institutional and workplace training, and high-quality testing and certification at the end of the process.

It is increasingly more difficult for industry to offer the full scope of the training and conditions now set forth in the plans of training under the current apprenticeship act. As an accreditation and certification authority, the new board will review recommendations from industry and institutions for training programs, and then consult with appropriate groups to ensure the training is timely and relevant and delivered by institutions that can offer quality apprenticeship programs.

Concurrently, the Regulatory Reform Commission that the government had established a couple of years back recommended that regulations be repealed and replaced with policy established by the Provincial Apprenticeship and Certification Board. The board is currently going through a process of addressing this change as well.

Unless a matter needs to be put into a regulation, the act would give the basis and foundation on which apprenticeship training would occur in the Province. The Provincial Apprenticeship and Certification Board, which is going to oversee the whole of the apprenticeship training area and try to keep it dynamic and fluid and able to respond to industry needs, would deal with matters through policies of the board which they can change on a timely basis to reflect what is happening in the Province and in the industrial sectors, rather than have to come back to a Cabinet process or go to the Legislature to adapt to the changing environment in the workplace.

The new act will enhance the flexibility of the minister and the Provincial Apprenticeship and Certification Board to ensure that the training of apprentices reflects the changing needs of industry. The key to it is to try to be much more responsive on a much more timely basis through the Provincial Apprenticeship and Certification Board, rather than spelling out the specifics of exactly what is going to happen in legislation and/or regulation.

We would have an legislative basis for it, a legislative framework which would be in this new Bill 5, and then the Provincial Apprenticeship and Certification Board, I guess, with some issues being referred to the Minister of Education or the minister of whichever department this board answers to at some point in the future. Because that has changed from time to time. That issue would be resolved at that point.

The apprenticeship and occupational certification bill I am tabling here today provides the flexibility and authority for the minister and the Provincial Apprenticeship and Certification Board to implement the recommendations that resulted from those provincial consultations that were conducted by the chair of the current apprenticeship board. It points out the need for several changes to bring that needed flexibility and adaptability to the apprenticeship program so that it can be responsive to needs in industry, and responsive to the individual training needs on a much more timely basis than the current Act permits. In some instances as well, it does reflect the direction provided in the regulatory reform review that said: Stay away from regulations unless you absolutely need to have them for monitoring purposes, and let the board get its work done through policies if we can at all.

I will not refer to any of the clauses and their specific intent, other than to suggest that is the general intent of the bill. As the debate continues in, I say, the next few days and weeks I will listen intently to the representations and interventions made by any members that participate in the debate. We will do the details of it in clause by clause.

With those few comments, Mr. Speaker, I move adjournment to the debate on this particular bill.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 37, Order No. 21. Second reading of a bill, "An Act Respecting Child, Youth And Family Services."

I believe the debate was adjourned by the Minister of Health and Community Services.

MR. SPEAKER: Second reading of a bill, "An Act Respecting Child, Youth And Family Services," Bill 37.

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Now to the more important issues at hand.

What I would like to do is to recap. I had an opportunity to briefly introduce the bill the last day, so I would like to recap, because I think it is important, and I think it will set the stage for the discussion and questions that will follow because of this very important new piece of legislation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair is having some difficulty hearing the hon. minister.

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for your attention on this very important bill.

First of all, I would like to talk about the process that allowed this bill to come forward this year, after fifty-four years with the old Child Welfare Act. We had numerous consultations. We started off back in 1996 trying to coordinate all of the various reports that were made, and at this point had not been brought together to move forward with a new direction in legislation.

Our old legislation was very much focused on one of apprehension, very much focused on a system, and very much focused around the needs of adults. It was certainly a piece of legislation that prevented the fine work that is being done today by our social workers and other health care professionals because they did not have the legislation required to do the type of work they were doing. In fact, much of what they were doing was done by regulation and policy, while today this new piece of proposed legislation is definitely a totally different direction from where we have come. As many of our community advocates have said, it will quite adeptly lead us into the next century in terms of how we focus our interests on children.

We looked at a number of reports, such as the Classroom Issues Report, and particulary the Gove Inquiry. I want to take the opportunity again to publicly thank Judge Gove from British Columbia who made a number of recommendations to his government that we were fortunate enough to put into this piece of legislation.

In addition to that, we used reports from the provincial strategy against violence. We used our own Program Review where we looked at how we could improve the services within government and integrate, particulary, services for children in this Province. As a result of that Program Review we moved to create a new Department of Health and Community Services with an integrated approach to service delivery.

Our Select Committee Report on Children's Interests that was reported to this House of Assembly in 1996 was also used, and in fact, many of their recommendations have been met and exceeded. Those recommendations were based on a piece of child welfare legislation that was fifty-four years old, and again one that was at a time when there were a lot less transparency and accountability mechanisms in place to address issues.

As a result of our Social Policy Advisory Committee Report in 1996, we were then able to pull together even more information to create our own Strategic Social Plan, which was released earlier this fall. In our ability to look at all these reports, we move forward.

If there was one phrase to describe how we are moving forward with this new piece of legislation, it is that it is called `child-centred.' No longer are we focusing on the needs of adults, or the courts, or other systems. We are very much focused on providing services to children, and particularly services to youth.

You will find in the old legislation that there is no recognition of youth and the definition of youth. In this particular legislation we are looking at adding our sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds to the legislation in a voluntary capacity. We are very proud of that, because it has been a recommendation made by so many different reports and enquiries over the years.

Our implementation plan for this new piece of legislation will be a phased-in approach. We will be moving towards implementing most of this legislation as soon as it is proclaimed. Because of the new direction, because of the major accountably factors involved, particularly as it relates to our front-line social workers, we will be moving forward with our training in a very comprehensive way, and also program development. We look forward to having numerous meetings with the public through our boards to inform them of this new direction.

We hope to reach a target of all of the children in the Province who require assistance in some way, and that is one of the new directions of this piece of child welfare legislation. We are moving away from a crisis intervention mode to one of early intervention and prevention.

In addition to our 700 children that we have in care on average, we will also be trying to meet the needs of a larger group of children within their families that we provide services to every year in this Province.

This new legislative regime is very much in keeping with the current themes that we have adopted through all of our new pieces of legislation in terms of prevention and early intervention, and very much in keeping with our Strategic Social Plan.

In addition to prevention and early intervention, we are very much committed to community involvement on an ongoing basis. In addition to numerous consultations, we continue to work very closely with our own social workers and front-line staff. We also continue to work with our advocates, to make sure that we are able to implement the belief and actual articles within this legislation to meet the needs of children and youth. We are very much looking forward to continuing working with the groups and also to working in advocacy roles through our community health boards.

I want to say that because of our six regional community health boards, we are now able to deliver this service to children in the Province in a closer-to-home model whereby we know in fact that many of our regions know the intricacies and the specifics of the family needs within their region.

We believe, rather than dealing from this as an employer perspective from St. John's in this Province, that we are now able to move out to six regions within the Province, knowing and recognizing that the regions have a much better understanding of their own issues and concerns on many issues, including child care.

One of the reasons we are able to make this happen, and we are very proud of the initiatives that we have announced - I can recap those as well because I think they are important and very complimentary to this piece of legislation.

On National Child Day, last Friday, November 20, we were able to make an announcement of $1.2 million for addressing the long waiting lists of children requiring licensed child care. That eliminates the current waiting list. Again, we are very committed to trying to do our best to meet ongoing needs as well.

In addition to that, we have announced $75,000 for maintaining day care centres within our high schools, and today we made another announcement of $400,000 for providing coordinators to make sure that this new concept of early childhood education and qualifications and licensure will be attained. This money has been made possible not only from our own Province but from our National Child Benefit. In fact, we are very pleased and proud to say that our child welfare budget today of $13 million has in fact been doubled because of these new initiatives. New money for new programs for children in a child-centred piece of legislation.

In addition to that, we have more announcements to come, I can say to the member opposite. We look forward again, as I wear my blue ribbon today, to recognizing National Child Day. For this government, every day is National Child Day.

Other complimentary initiatives which are important include the National Crime Prevention Strategy which will give to this Province a significant amount of money for the next three years so that we are able to continue to work on a community development basis to work with communities to prevent crime, particularly with youth. We think this is also a very important initiative to enhance this new piece of legislation.

Mr. Speaker, my colleague in the Department of Human Resources and Employment is also working very stringently to make youth employment strategies as successful as possible. She, in her capacity, is working with HRDC to ensure that a new youth employment strategy will address employment issues for our youth. As well, she has undertaken an income support redesign which we believe will enhance the care of children and families in this Province so that they can focus more on the delivery of services to their children and focus less on other issues that may be of concern to them.

Mr. Speaker, our integrated services delivery model and our model for service coordination again will allow us to deliver services in a closer-to-home perspective. Again, we see this as an enhancement to the services being provided to children. Through our health and community services boards, and through our six new directors - soon to be appointed - and with our provincial director reporting to the minister, we believe we have created a number of new transparencies in this new piece of legislation.

We are moving away from the old days of crisis intervention to ones of prevention and early intervention. Particularly important to us is our sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds who have been added to this legislation on a voluntary capacity, where we are able to provide a whole host of services from early intervention to family services that might allow, for example, a teen to stay in their own home. But we are very careful not to let the pendulum swing the other way. We still will retain the right to remove that child, if in fact it is deemed appropriate by the people who would make the assessment, and move that child into some other residential care capacity.

With respect to the courts, we have also moved in a very progressive way to try to keep children out of courts and to make sure that children are in stable environments as soon as possible. We have now allowed pre-trial settlement conferences to occur outside of St. John's because currently they are only able to be done in St. John's under our Supreme Court system, under Unified Family Court. So this will allow the rest of the Province as well to try to resolve issues around children sooner than they previously could.

With the introduction of mediation and voluntary agreements on behalf of parents and social workers, we believe again we are addressing the best interests of the child in this new piece of legislation. Family group conferences, which was piloted in our Province through assistance from the Department of Social Work, is also a technique that we will use again to keep children within a family environment before we go outside the family unit, whether it be nuclear or extended family, to try to provide a safe and secure environment for children.

Again, we believe that this legislation will move us towards providing continuity of care for children, supporting families in a way that we have previously been unable to do for a number of reasons, and allow children who have been removed from care the option for counselling.

Our accountability measures again, as I alluded to earlier, are really based on a number of consultations and really based on the fact that we are coming from a piece of legislation that was written fifty-four years ago and was one that was not transparent. We believe that with the introduction of our services through the regional boards, and our minister's advisory committee, which will be comprised of people who have received services under our system previously, as well as people who have a legal background and will report to the minister - and that report will be forwarded to the House of Assembly within thirty days or, if the House is not in session, within fifteen days after the House should open.

In addition to that, for the first time we will be doing what I think is a very progressive move, and that is an annual review of every child in care. Over 700 children, on average, are in care in our Province and we now will be able to provide an annual report to the minister outlining the care plans for those children, because it is something of concern to us. Right now we know that a child has to be in care for thirty-six continuous months before we are able to look to provide a permanency order for that child. Now those times in care will be reduced, and those times are based on the age of the child; very much aware that the younger the child, the sooner that child needs a stable environment. We no longer need to look at a continuous amount of time and care. Again, we are very pleased with this because our view is that we need to do what is in the best interest of the child and not what is in the best interest of the family.

In addition to that, we have a Premier's Council on Social Development which has a social audit component which I believe is the most progressive in the country. In fact, we are the only Province who have put ourselves forward in terms of this level of accountability on how we administer programs and services with publicly funded money. Again, we believe this is the right direction in which to move.

As well, we have a youth and care network which we have been funding for the last number of years, and we recognize their need to continue to have input into our new legislation and to make sure that the systems that are using this, in fact, make it work.

We believe that this piece of legislation again is very progressive. I want to say, in response again to the child advocate, we believe, because of the accountability mechanisms that are built into this new piece of legislation that was not there at a time when previous recommendations were made by the Select Committee, that we have chosen to spend the money right now that would be used to create a new system or a new bureaucracy at this point in time on services to our children.

We have, though, made it quite clear that we have not said no to a child advocate; but we, as well as many of our child advocates in the community, people who we have confidence in because of their expertise and because of their intentions with respect to this new piece of legislation, we believe they have the expertise and they have the right initiative when they say to us that they are willing to wait, they are willing to see how this new advisory committee is able to oversee and evaluate the implementation of this new piece of legislation when it reports to this House of Assembly within two years.

Mr. Speaker, as I have said with the inclusion of sixteen- to eighteen-year-olds, with our social audit, and with the other accountability mechanisms, and most important with the focus moved from a systems approach to a child-centred approach based on prevention and early intervention, we look forward to answering questions on an article-by-article basis as we move forward to recognize children, children who are over twelve and who, for the first time ever, will have an opportunity to appear before a judge and make their own case.

We look forward to talking about the other initiatives we have put in place to ensure that a child in care stays there as little time as possible before they have the proper safe environment to ensure that they grow up to be productive adults.

I want to thank you for the opportunity for speaking about this bill. Again, I look forward to answering any questions as they should arise.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Before recognizing the Member for St. John's West, it being close to 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, I would like to announce the questions for the Late Show.

The first question for today's Late Show is from the Member for Bonavista South. I am dissatisfied with the answer provided by the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal regarding my question on marine conservation areas.

The second one is from the Member for Waterford Valley. I am dissatisfied with the answer provided by the Minister of Education regarding my question on the post-secondary scholarship funding.

The third is from the Opposition House Leader. I am dissatisfied with the answer provided by the Minister of Health and Community Services on the department's responsibility regarding the tragic deaths at St. Clare's Mercy Hospital.

AN HON. MEMBER: How many questions?

MR. SPEAKER: There are three.

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

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

I, too, welcome the Child Welfare Act. It is long overdue.

MS J.M. AYLWARD: The Child, Youth and Family Services Act.

MS S. OSBORNE: The Child, Youth and Family Services Act. Thank you, Madam Minister. I, too, welcome this Child, Youth and Family Services Act.

For too long our children have been overlooked and they have been victims of the system. There are several aspects of this report that I would like to address.

The minister says that the act is not something that is developed for the system, and not something for the bureaucracy, but we see the setting up of a system where Cabinet will appoint the provincial director and then there will be six regional directors and an advisory board which will report to the House every two years. That sounds like bureaucracy to me. Each of these directors will report to the respective health and community services or integrated health boards and so on. This system sounds not just like a bureaucracy but like a complete devolution of power.

We have witnessed here in the House of Assembly on many occasions the Minister of Health and Community Services, when asked a question, that she responded to the question with: Well, that is the responsibility of the Health Care Corporation, or that is the responsibility of the Nursing Home Board. She could not be held accountable.

We have heard questions asked of the Minister of Education and he has referred these questions on to the school boards. He could not answer them.

With the setting up of a provincial director and the six regional directors who will report to their respective boards, I can see problems which are raised in this House regarding children, youth and family services, and the Minister of Health and Community Services can get up and say: No, we are not responsible for that; the regional board is responsible for that.

It seems like the power has been devolved down into the boards again. It is a devolution of authority to the appointed boards, and their responsibility will be diffused for carrying out this act.

The line of authority from the minister, through the provincial director, through the six regional directors, to the appointed board, provides for ample opportunity for confusion.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS S. OSBORNE: This provides for ample opportunity for confusion to exist and to weaken accountability. In the area of child protection, we cannot afford weakened accountability. Direct accountability to elected officials should exist.

The minister, of course, will retain authority to direct the board on the activities of the regional director and the board must comply. This would occur upon a report from the provincial director. This provides some measure of ministerial responsibility; however, it is not direct responsibility. The minister, once this act is legislated, will not be directly responsible and therefore not directly accountable.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS S. OSBORNE: Mr. Speaker, would you like to give that member -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS S. OSBORNE: Thank you. I do not mind sitting down and giving him a few minutes.

Cabinet will appoint the provincial director. Clearly, accountability is confused and diffused. Protection of the public interest is best achieved when there is clear and direct accountability specified in law. Under the current bill, accountability is to a variety of positions, each appointed differently.

In the case of system failure, or in the case of personal failure, it would be extremely difficult to assess responsibility. Then there will be the appointment by the minister of the ministerial advisory committee. This committee will review the act every two years and report to the House of Assembly.

The first problem that I see with this situation is that the committee is an appointed one and not an independent one and will not receive remuneration. Secondly, the committee is not granted any power or any authority to review documents or reports. Its mandate is not spelled out and therefore its review can be as brief as it wishes, or it can be as exhaustive as it decides. It can only be assumed that support for the committee will come from the department and this will further undermine the independence of this committee.

If this committee is appointed by the department: the department appointed us, therefore we are responsible to the department, and therefore it will undermine its independence. It won't really be at arm's length. It won't be independent of this government. What we are talking about here - we need something at arm's length, outside the House of the Assembly, not having to report to the minister, not having to report to Cabinet, an independent person completely outside of this House.

For these reasons this new act respecting children, youth and family services should have included the appointment of a children's advocate. I cannot understand why the minister keeps avoiding a children's advocate. She has discussed accountability measures. The one measure that would provide the most accountability on behalf of the children, she has avoided. That is the children's advocate.

Is there a fear that a child advocate would focus on the shortcomings of this government? Is this government afraid of the spotlight being focused on the deficiencies that exist within it? Why do they continue to avoid the one step that would allow for true accountability?

The minister says that the Select Committee on Children's Interests had concerns about the cost that a children's advocate would have to the system. Now, the Select Committee in fact recommended an advocate, and I quote: An advocate that would be tailored to the financial position and democratic traditions of this Province.

The costs that they were concerned about were those that would be entailed by the creation of a case advocate, which is why they strongly recommended a systems advocate - one which would address the larger problems found within the government system.

A case advocate would advocate on behalf of individual cases, one at a time; so that if a person was out there and they felt that they needed the services of an ombudsman-like office, they could go there. If we had a system's advocate, then that could address the larger problems in the system, and problems outside of the government, too. There would be lots of things going on in the community that a system advocate could address.

The cases that are presented, in many cases, are presented to the MHA, one on one. The MHA then acts as the advocate within the system for the children. The Select Committee saw more of a need for a systems advocate, one which could address the larger problems that exist within government and, I would say to the minister, outside of government.

The Select Committee on Children's Interests heard in the majority of presentations at the public consultations that there is, at present, no effective mechanism to represent the interests of children. The majority of presenters expressed the necessity for a children's advocate. Not that it would be nice, but that it was an absolute necessity.

A member of the Straits area child protection team who was a presenter summarized the feeling of these presenters, and I quote from her: Children do need someone to speak up for them. They are too scared to speak up sometimes. An advocate who has the responsibility, and specifically dealing with children's issues, can focus time on something like that. I think it would be great if we had that someone.

The report from the Select Committee also cites Rosenbaum and Newell in their publication entitled, "Taking Children Seriously: A Proposal for a Children's Rights Commissioner," who summarized as follows: There has been an international trend towards (a) recognizing the lack of input from a children's perspective into many decisions which affect them, and (b) consequently, the creation of institutions to promote children's interests and rights at national or local levels with the following important characteristics: one, the institution is established by a public authority and has some sort of official status. It is substantially, if not completely, independent in actions and attitudes.

This is where, once again, the advisory committee, the regional directors and the provincial director cannot be independent in actions and attitudes because they are all part of the government system. They are not removed from government, they are within government reporting to the minister, reporting to Cabinet, whereas the advocate would be totally and completely independent and enjoy the same privileges as an Auditor General, answerable really to no one.

The third important characteristic is: it has a wide-ranging remit across different policy areas, substantially if not completely independent.

The Committee also recommended that the advocate report to the Legislature as opposed to Cabinet, and that the reporting would be structured similar to that of the Auditor General. An advocate would be empowered to review and comment on the operations, programs and mandate of all provincial government departments and agencies.

I feel that basically this is where is the problem lies. Not with finances, but that this advocate would focus on the shortcomings of this government. The spotlight would be on the downfall and on the deficiencies that exist within all government departments, many that we are not even aware of. Deficiencies that exist which have a detrimental effect on the lives of our children. This advocate would focus on that. Maybe that is why this government is shifting away from an advocate or is very hesitant to appoint one. The minister says they have not said no, but they have not said yes. What is the problem here?

The minister refers also in her statement and in this bill to the input of social workers. Our social workers are an invaluable part of the system. They are the people who the children, and who the moms, dads and the families of the children, rely on almost like a teacher, like another parent, like somebody they can go to. They depend on the social workers and they trust the social workers, because once they are in the system the social worker is ultimately responsible for the direction these children will go.

It was only a week or so ago that there was a demonstration by social workers who are involved in the area of child protection. This demonstration was to protest the heavy caseload that these social workers have to endure, and how they feel they are unable to give adequate attention to the children who are placed in their care. These social workers are in a position of trust and have a heavy responsibility, they have heavy caseloads. They know that the children who are on their caseload are dependent on them. Because the caseload is so heavy, many times they cannot get back, they cannot address the needs of the children in any one day. Many times they spend extra hours, after regular working hours, dealing with these cases. Because of their conscientiousness, they are hesitant to go home and leave something that they can address unresolved. What we are seeing here is burnout.

These social workers had a demonstration telling us that they were burned out, that they need more social workers. As good as most of this bill may be, it is only as good as the paper it is printed on unless we can put the resources in place to see to it that the clauses and the policies in here are implemented, and see to it that the children entrusted in the care of the social worker actually are given all the rights they deserve. Also, that the social workers are not suffering from burnout, and that they can adequately address the needs of the children who are in the system.

It is all very well to pass legislation, but implementing it is another matter. Where are these other workers that are needed to address the growing caseloads we are experiencing in this Province?

The minister refers to the voluntary agreements where parents can in fact have their child placed in care without having to admit they have done something wrong. Parents can come forward and seek help, something in the past that they were afraid to do.

There are a couple of points here I would like to address. One refers to another recommendation from the report of the Select Committee on Children's Interest. That is recommendation number twenty-one and it reads as follows: The Committee recommends the establishment of a 1-800 "Crisis" or "Warm" line for parents. This number would be designed to respond to parents who have questions, who are in crisis. It would be available to all the parents in this Province, even those in small isolated communities, and those who are in crisis and who do not have immediate or easy access to a social worker or a professional. This 1-800 number would be available to those people who would not otherwise seek help from a social worker or professional.

It is nice that we have made a provision that families can voluntarily come forward without a feeling of reprisal, but in many small isolated communities in the Province there isn't a social worker on hand, and there isn't a professional on hand they can access immediately if the need should arise.

In many small communities, even where there is a social worker or professional, because of societal issues the people are hesitant to approach one of the professionals in the community, and they might feel almost everybody in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador has access to a telephone. In many cases, in small communities where people talk, where gossip spreads, the moms or the dads or the families would feel a lot more comfortable if they find themselves in a crisis situation. They know there will be no reprisal. Pick up the telephone, call this 1-800 number, and somebody is readily available to them, and it could be on a 24-hour basis. The cost of such a service is estimated at approximately $95,000. We are talking about prevention here, and $95,000 is what it costs to keep one youth at Whitbourne for a year. I think this would be money well spent.

Another issue is why parents would find themselves in a position to have their child placed in care. In many cases the government can invest in prevention factors that lead families to neglect, abandon and harm for their children. Now, we may not know all the causes of why families do this, but we do know that poverty and child welfare involvement in many cases go hand in hand. A social assistance policy that allows parents to adequately feed and clothe their children, one that would not see their financial assistance officers having to refer them to food banks, would have far reaching positive affects in reducing the stress that prevents adequate parenting.

I am constantly receiving calls from our people that they do not have enough food in the house to feed their children. They have been referred by their FAO to the food bank, but they have already been to the food bank once this month and they know they cannot go back again. Food banks cannot give food all the time. They are low on food and the demand is increasing. The demand on food banks is getting higher. When they go, the food banks can give them enough food for a day or so, but not enough. I say to the minister that she should confer with her colleague from the Department of Human Resources and Employment and have a social assistance policy put in place that will address prevention in a very real way.

I am not talking about a policy merely to address this small amount of social assistance that families receive, but one that will address hands-on education for families, one that will see individuals offer one-on-one assistance in meal planning, one-on- one assistance in budgeting the amount that they do receive on social assistance. Somebody that could go into their homes, if necessary, look at the amount of money they have, plan the meals, show them how to shop for proper nutritious food for their family, and show them how to budget for meals.

So this is in order to prevent the increasing occurrence of the family's need to have to say: I am sorry, I cannot take care of my child anymore because of stress on me. This could take care of this in a very real way.

This new act respecting child, youth and family services, will it be in the best interest of the child? It is in the best interest of the child that they be kept with family. If not with parents, then a member of the immediate family or a distant relative.

I wholeheartedly agree with this concept. If the parents are in crisis or if there is sickness in the family, or they find for some other reason that they are unable to care for their children, it is wonderful that a member of the immediate family or a relative can take care of them.

I would also like to see that there is some sort of remuneration available for these families. Right now the system says that it is the responsibility of a family to take care of its family members. I remember a few years ago there was a young woman from Torbay, and this was shown on the news. This woman and her husband had a couple of children of their own. Her sister found herself in a position that she was unable to care for her three children. This woman and her husband wanted to take in the sister's three children. They were on low income, and while they could provide a loving environment they could not afford to take in three extra children and take care of them. I remember that they had gone to the department - it was called the Department of Social Services at the time - and expressed their desire to take care of the sister's three children. The sister had agreed to this. Of course, the children were happy they would be in the home with their aunt and uncle and with their cousins.

The Department of Social Services, at the time, did not have it within their policy to be able to pay family members to take care of children. If the children were "living with family" then the policy showed that no remuneration was available. As good as the concept of keeping the siblings together, and keeping them with immediate or distant relatives is, it can only be implemented properly if the necessary resources are in place to ensure that it does so.

At this time, I would like to adjourn debate, and carry on tomorrow.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, (inaudible) order, if I could.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, Order No. 20, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Internal Economy Commission Act." (Bill No. 36).

MR. SPEAKER: Order No. 20.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Internal Economy Commission Act." (Bill No. 36)

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, this bill is just really a housekeeping bill that gives to MHAs the same benefits as other people in the civil service. It is quite deserving and I would move second reading.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I certainly support the Government House Leader. I don't always support what the Government House Leader says, but it is only fair play when we deal with rollbacks in the past. It applied to people here. Any movement forward or backward, we should expect no more and no less than the general public.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Internal Economy Commission Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 36)

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I know it is 4:23 p.m. but perhaps we might, if people are ready, just move and do the Late Show and save all of us seven minutes, and contribute to our sanity.

Debate on the Adjournment

[Late Show]

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, my five minutes or the three minutes that I am going to use right now are not going to be in the form of a question. I think it is going to be more in the form of finding out where government proposes to go with the conservation park that was put forward this morning in a meeting that myself, the Government House Leader, the Ministers of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Tourism, Culture and Recreation, Education, and the Member for Twillingate & Fogo attended. We listened and asked some questions about some concerns we had with Bill C-48 that is presently before the House of Commons in Ottawa.

The proposal being put forward is a situation where a committee has been struck to hold workshops around the Province. They have already held two, from my understanding. It is a proposal to give people an opportunity to come forward and air their views and opinions of what they think of turning the whole of Bonavista Bay, right from Cape Bonavista up to North Point in Notre Dame Bay.

Now, I don't have to go in and tell the House about what happens in this particular area, or how important it is to fishermen and how important it is for people who own cabins in this particular area. What people's concerns are is they look at what has happened with places like Terra Nova National Park being declared a national park, and all the promises that were made to people in that area when that park was talked about being formed.

I have very vivid memories of people coming by. My grandfather, I say to the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal, owned large blocks of land or had grants for large blocks of land on the Newman Sound area of this particular park. We were told if that land was given up that: Your sons or your daughters would have an opportunity for employment, things would be looked after, it is all in the name of conservation, and the park itself would bring new opportunities and new beginnings. Only to find out there were very few opportunities and very few new beginnings. Most of the people who are hired there are hired on a seasonal basis and require many skills. Most of them I think are probably, or were, from outside the Province.

When you hear of conservation areas and you hear of people doing things in the name of conservation, it gives me great concern. I am concerned because the questions that I am asked are: How about my cabin? Am I going to be allowed to continue going and using my cabin? We enjoy going out turr hunting on the bay. Am I going to be allowed to do that? How about the seals? How about being allowed to go out and kill your three or five seals? Am I going to be able to continue to do that? How about the taxes that are going to be paid? Because it clearly refers to taxes, licenses and fees.

I feel, as those people do, that if we allow this to happen and go unnoticed that all this might be pushed at us and we may have progressed too far before we can change the proposals that are presently being put forward. There are some things that I take some comfort in. I know the Ministers of Fisheries and Aquaculture and Development and Rural Renewal certainly have grave concerns. I know that they represent people, as I do, who enjoy going out and doing those things, and how important it is for us to conserve and protect some of the freedoms that we enjoy as Newfoundlanders. I think that is very important, and people are saying that if this is allowed to happen then maybe some of those freedoms and some of those enjoyments maybe taken away from us.

They have great concerns. I share their concerns because I have seen what has happened in the past. Things are dressed up and prettied up for a good presentation, only to find out down the road that it is something completely different than what you thought it was.

I also derive some comfort in seeing some of the people who make up this board, who make up this committee. Many of them are fishermen, many of them are people who are a representative of processors. I think there was one gentleman there who was representing Beothuck Fisheries, I say to the minister. I know FPI has a representative there, and I know that the union, the FFAW, has a representative there. I take some comfort in that, in hearing those people and talking with them, knowing full-well that they are not on that particular board or on that particular committee because they believe in what it is they are trying to do. They are there because many of them feel they would much rather work from the inside than to be on the outside trying to get things changed.

That makes sense, and I commend them for that, but I think the government of the day, our own government, will ultimately be the strongest voice in what will happen with this particular conservation park. I think what the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal will put forward, what the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation will say, what the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture will say, will probably carry more weight than what us collectively over hear might say, or people groups out in the area.

I understand they are going to be having workshops around the Province. I understand people will be given the opportunity to hear their opinions, voice their views, and that is why I raise it here on the Late Show, not so much as a question but to echo the concern. I am sure the minister might want to respond to that, and I give him an opportunity, now.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, let me say to the hon. gentleman, let me clearly say to him, what I said to him in Question Period today. Let me put it on the record for him very clearly. Yes, I suspect that the government of the day, the government over here, or the government of the day in the year 2000 - which will still be this government - I suspect we will have some influence on what will happen. How much remains to be seen. But that influence will be guided by - and I want to repeat that - will be guided by and dictated to by what the people in that area from Cape Bonavista to North Head in Notre Dame Bay decided.

Now, when you look at what is said in some of the letters that we have, and in some of the things that are laid out to us about the marine conservation area, it is very hard to disagree with some of them. When you read, for example, that a national marine conservation area, a marine environment which is managed for sustainable use - it includes everything from the seabed, including subsoil to the surface of the water, and it includes the living resources within that environment - and the objectives of the feasibility study are to learn the goals of the people of the area, you cannot quarrel with that - and to establish whether or not a national marine conservation area or some other type of management tool is in their best interest, you cannot quarrel with the either.

You cannot quarrel with the next statement which is says: A conservation area must compliment a commercial fishery, traditional hunting, aquaculture, and many other uses for the sustainability of the local communities.

I think that is an objective that all of us would laud say, that is great stuff. I think the Member for Bonavista South would agree, as would everybody else, with all of those statements. I think he would agree with that.

Mr. Speaker, let me just say that the board make up I think is important. The Member for Bonavista South here alluded to the fact of who the board is made up. I am going to read, if I can, their names into the record.

The advisory committee are: Chair, John Melendy from the Kittiwake Economic Development Board; first chair, Hedley Butler, fisher from Bonavista; second vice-chair, George Feltham, fisher from Eastport; secretary, Cyril Dalley, fisher from Twillingate; treasurer, Harry Harding, Beothic Fish Processors; George Clemens, at large, from Bonavista; Marilyn Quinton, fisher from Open Hall; Roger Beck, Discovery zone board; Kenneth Lane, fisher from St. Chads; Harris Wheaton, fisher from Fredericton; Aubrey Paine, fisher from Seldom; Albert Canning, fisher from Bridgeport; Paul Wood, at large from Lewisporte; Marsha Porter, fisher from Porterville; Reg Hammond, Exploits Valley Economic Development Board; Greg Pretty, FFAW/CAW; Kevin Coombs, FANL, ex-officio member; David McCreary, Parks Canada, ex-officio member; Tim Anderson, DFO, ex-officio member; Kevin Aucoin - there is our representative from the Department of Development and Rural Renewal -; Nelson Higdon, DFA.

I do not think you could argue either that really if you look at the make-up of this advisory committee - and I think we have to emphasize that it is only an advisory committee -, I don't think you can argue that fishermen and the people in that area who would be concerned aren't well represented on that board.

There is, I say to the hon. Member for Bonavista South, and we know, a serious mistrust of government. That is perfectly understandable.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TULK: No, I say to the Member for Waterford Valley, it is not Liberal, it is not PC, it is not municipal, it is not provincial, it is not federal. There is a serious mistrust of government in this Province, and they understand it. You have to understand it, in view of what has happened. In view of what has happened to the area represented by the Members for Bonavista South, Terra Nova, Bonavista North, Twillingate & Fogo, and Lewisporte, you have to understand that those people have seen the greatest conservationists in the world.

My grandfather was the greatest was the greatest conservationist the northeast coast ever saw. He took only what he needed, and he lived well with his environment. Sustainable development. He did not need to learn a lesson from anybody. They saw a government from Upper Canada and the mainland of this country allow the destruction of that eco system, allow their way of life to be destroyed.

I want to say that I want to assure the hon. gentleman that we will watch this process closely. If the people of those districts, the people of that area, do not want, in the final analysis, a marine conservation area - and we will let the federal government know this -, this government will support them.

Mr. Speaker, I do not think I need to say any more. Thank you.

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

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

A few days ago I asked the Minister of Education if he would give an adequate answer to the petitioners from Lawrence College who were petitioning the minister for inclusion in the awards program.

The petitioners wanted me to say to the minister that they approve the concept of the awards program. However, they find great difficulty with the fact the minister did not see fit to include those students who attend private colleges.

The minister has stated publicly that he has awarded approximately 2,000 scholarships, varying from $500 at a minimum, to I do believe around $1,000 at a maximum. He also said that the press release said they have awarded $1.4 million. I do believe in the text in Hansard it says it is $1.2 million. Let's say there is approximately $600,000 that has not been awarded, or has not been publicly acknowledged as being awarded, of the $2 million allocated this year.

We want to ask the minister, on behalf of the 7,000 students who are out in this Provence attending post-secondary private institutions, if he would give some reconsideration to those students based on their need and academic scholastic achievement.

The private college operators assure me they are quite willing to work with the minister to develop a transparent methodology to identify eligible students. They are willing to enter into dialogue immediately. They want to cooperate with the minister to make sure that the kind of criteria and programs that would be targeted in the public institutions can measure up with those in their own institutions. In other words, if the minister is concerned about there being equality of access, and that there has been some difficulty with either the length of programs or the amount of the debt load, then the administrators of private colleges are quite prepared to talk to the minister on that issue as soon as possible.

They are not asking for anything different, they are just asking to be included. Hopefully today the minister would get up and say that he is quite prepared on tomorrow to talk to the private colleges to see if we can't find some way to treat all students fairly, regardless of which type of institution they might be attending.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I must express some surprise in terms of being asked a question in the Late Show on the premise that I did not give a full and complete answer previously. Because I really thought that I tried to give a complete and full, entire answer when I was asked the questions in question period earlier in the week.

I might add though, in a brief reply that I will give this time, one other element or component of where the money came from that we are using to fund the Newfoundland Awards Program. Because one of the students who had been in contact with the hon. member's office was obviously very much left in the dark as to where the money came from. He understood or was left to believe that the $4 million that we are putting into this program over the next two years, $2 million each year from provincial sources, was actually money that was already coming out of the Canada Millennium Scholarship Fund that was sent down to Newfoundland early to get the program started. Obviously the student did not understand the issue, Mr. Speaker.

MR. H. HODDER: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

On a point of order, the hon. the Member for Waterford Valley.

MR. H. HODDER: To correct the minister, I know the student to whom he is referring. At no point was that information given to that student by me or anybody in my office, so he must have received it from it from other sources. Maybe even the minister's office.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There is no point of order.

The hon. the Minister of Education.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am glad he made that correction, because I will take this copy of Hansard and send it out to that student who told me that personally on the phone a couple of days ago when I asked him: Where did you get the information? Because I think you have the wrong information? He said: I've gotten the information that I am telling you from Mr. Hodder's office.

He will be glad to hear now that Mr. Hodder has disowned himself, he has washed his hands clean of that student completely. Pontius Pilot over there now, because he has walked away from the student completely and doesn't want anything to do with him.

The issue is this. There are some criteria surrounding the program that have been put in place. It is $2 million a year from provincial sources. Two of the main criteria that everybody agreed on, particularly the students, is that we shouldn't make the money available to someone just beginning their post-secondary education because its primary objective is to relieve debt. Someone who is going into their first semester has not really accumulated any or much debt yet. Everybody agreed that a student coming right out of high school, or an adult learner going into their first semester of study, should not be eligible at all, that they would not be eligible for these awards, and that part of showing scholastic achievement is that you would at least complete one semester successfully to show that you can meet the criteria of the program. Then you could be considered in your second semester.

Even if private training students are to be considered, for most of them over half of their course, and for most of them over half of their borrowing, would be finished before they were ever eligible for this program.

As I have stated before, the majority of the courses offered in private training institutions, while having higher tuition, are of a year's duration or less - the majority of the courses - so these people do not, by virtue of going to private training institutions, incur significant debt. If they have significant debt, it is because they are in longer-range courses somewhere else, or they are into a third or fourth or fifth try in terms of trying several different courses; not because they have gone to take one particular diploma or certificate in a private training institution.

The reason that we had the program in Newfoundland and Labrador and that we have it now in the first instance, arose out of a discussion with students about the loan remission program, where it was understood that only one-third of the students were qualifying for loan remission; whereby no matter how long you borrowed at the university, or in a three-year course for technical programs and so on, the maximum debt that you would be saddled with would be $22,000 and the provincial government would write off the rest of it on your behalf.

What was happening was we had a certain amount of money budgeted to relieve that kind of student debt. Only one-third of the students were actually achieving all the criteria associated with loan remission. So we took money that was targeted for loan remission, at the request of students, and put it into an award and grant program. It was agreed that the grants and awards would not apply to beginning students. It was agreed because it was only $2 million and because we have 30,000 students in the university, the public college and the private colleges, that the greatest debt was in the public system and that we wanted it to be a significant award, $500 or more, not $10, $15, or $20 for a whole bunch of students.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. minister's time is up.

MR. GRIMES: Based on that criteria, we always expressed a willingness to change if the federal government changed their program.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I just want to comment briefly. I have said it already twice today, I guess, in response to the Ministerial Statement again in Question Period, so I will not beat it to death for five minutes but I will make a couple of particular points here why I am not satisfied with the response.

Number one: I do not feel there was proper direction and proper controls in place after that fatality on July 28 of this year, to ensure it did not happen again. As I said today, when someone is at risk and is put under care, and was under constant care, within twenty-four hours of dying by falling through a window, I do not consider that being adequate measures put in place.

To have to order something four months after the date and it is still on order from the United States, when mechanisms could be put in place by qualified people here in this Province - in my district and in half the other districts in the Province with machinists - and there are fabrication facilities right around this Province here, something could be done to secure those windows, either temporarily or permanently after that tragic death.

I am not satisfied with the responsibility. I have considered the department to be negligent in moving properly to deal with the fallout from July 28. We have seen it before in the Province. We do not need any other unnecessary deaths in the Province. We have been listening to the Careen family since July 28, asking for an inquiry, asking for measures to stop this.

I made reference earlier today, too, even a judicial inquiry alone means nothing unless the department and the minister is going to accept the results of a judicial inquiry. They did not do that in the fatality of Sylvester Lynch of Bay Bulls, when an inquiry indicated one medical recommendation: that whenever a person goes to an emergency department with a suspected heart attack, they have the symptoms of a heart attach, they should see a cardiologist at the earliest possible time. That does not include sending somebody home and coming back for an autopsy a few days later.

You have to accept the recommendations of judicial inquiries when they occur, and you have to move to ensure that it does not happen again.

I feel as bad about it as the minister does. The family is devastated. I know families of people. I went through it in my district with one particular case I referred to there. I am a friend of the family involved on July 28. Every family out there has close friends and relatives and they do not want to have to go through this again.

I am asking you that you move quickly. Don't let it happen again. Move expeditiously and get a result. Don't use a feeble excuse, that you could not find anything to close the window in four months and had to go to the United States. That is utter nonsense now and it does not wash. It is not going to wash with me, and it is not going to wash with the public or the family or anyone concerned.

(Inaudible) will the minister do something, move immediately? That is the gist of my question. I have already said that in my statement.

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

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

Yes, I will do something immediately. I do support the actions of the process we have in place whereby we have a medical examiner's office, in conjunction with the police, as well as staff to conduct a full investigation, to do a written report, and to submit that to the Minister of Justice.

Mr. Speaker, I am not prepared this afternoon, nor I was earlier today, to make a correlation between different individuals and what happened with each individual. I would urge the member opposite to read the transcripts of Dr. Simon Avis, who addressed this very eloquently as a professional speaking about the individual differences between those two. Perhaps he would have a better understanding of how each of these in fact are different.

On each of these cases the Health Care Corporation, I believe, have acted responsibly. They have apologized for this incident and offered condolences to the family, as we have here. We are very disturbed by what has happened.

I continue to say, as I have said publicly, that I have confidence in Sister Elizabeth and her board. I have great confidence in the staff, and I also have confidence in the process - a process which looks at each case individually.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that this House do now adjourn.

On motion, the House at its rising adjourned until tomorrow, Friday, at 9:00 a.m.