The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

Statements by Ministers

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to brief the Members of the House of Assembly today on the findings of a study that was released on November 27, 1998, by Brook Hunt on the world-wide nickel industry and the relative competitiveness of the Voisey's Bay project.

Brook Hunt are a mining and metals industry consulting company that do an annual comparative review of the world-wide nickel industry. Their analysis is used as an industry benchmark globally by the industry, investment analysts and shareholders to measure the competitiveness of firms and projects around the world.

Brook Hunt has just released its annual nickel report for 1998 which focuses on existing and potential new nickel operations. It gives cost comparisons for 1996 through to 2006, with the latter capturing new projects that have yet to come on steam. There is also a long-term notional table that deals with the period beyond 2006. It is important to note that the Brook Hunt study includes an assessment of the ovoid only during the 2006 period and the underground only during the long-term period for the Voisey's Bay project.

But why are we bringing this study to the public's attention today? We do this because Inco has argued that the long-term project with a smelter and refinery is not economic. However, the Brook Hunt analysis supports the Province's view that the Voisey's Bay project is in fact an economic proposition as a fully integrated project that includes a mine, mill, smelter and refinery.

Brook Hunt, using what we consider to be very conservative assumptions, confirms that a fully integrated Voisey's Bay project, based on the ovoid and underground and involving a mine, mill, smelter and refinery has a rate of return ranging from 14 per cent to 17 per cent. In addition, payback of the original project investment can be achieved after four to five years. The Province considers these estimates to be conservative. Furthermore, it should be noted that neither Brook Hunt, the Province, nor Inco for that matter, include the $4.3 billion acquisition cost in their analyses.

Indeed, Brook Hunt notes that the Voisey's Bay project is among the lowest cash cost of any nickel project in the world.

The results of the Brook Hunt study yield the same conclusion as our provincial analysis that the ovoid component of the project is highly profitable and that the underground component less so, but still positive. Taken together, the ovoid and the underground can support a solid long-term operation including a mine, mill, smelter and refinery in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Brook Hunt's analysis also lends credence to the Province's conclusion that if Inco is allowed to strip the ovoid and ship the concentrates elsewhere for processing, then there will never be a smelter-refinery based solely on the higher cost underground mining operation. In fact, once the ovoid is gone, and depending on markets and pricing, Inco could decide not to proceed with the underground mining phase.

If you review the comparative cost analysis which Brook Hunt has done, you will see that the position the Province has argued before the Voisey's Bay Environmental Panel and elsewhere is the only logical one, that the ovoid should be spread over a longer period and blended with underground resources as the latter are proven up. Such a blended operation can support a smelter and refinery. The Brook Hunt analysis corroborates this view.

Our position of a blended operation adheres to the principles of sound resource management and long-term sustainable development. It will allow for an attractive rate of return for the developer and fair and long-term benefits for the Province and its residents.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to thank the minister for three copies of his statement today, two delivered and one faxed. I certainly had a chance to read this. I hope the minister does not ever criticize us again for taking our questions from The Telegram, since he took his ministerial statement from the front page.

In all seriousness, we in this House, and indeed in this entire Province, talk about resource development. We all adhere to that. The minister also mentioned about blended operations. That really gets down to a high grading, taking the ovoid and getting out of here quickly and making quick money. There is no doubt about that. We also should remember that we have to make the right agreement here. We all stand soundly on that same position, but at the same time the numbers that the government have, we are hopeful and confident - because we have not seen those numbers yet - that they are indeed an argument for Voisey's Bay, for Inco's numbers and that the argument is there.

As far as Brook Hunt, this is an annual report they do every year on nickel, and it certainly backs up what the government has said to date, although we have not seen those numbers.

At the end of the day, Mr. Speaker, I think everybody in this Province, with our economic conditions and so on, would like to see both sides back to the table. Most people in the Province, I say to the minister as he points to the galleries, would like to see government and Inco back at the table, trading back and forth on these numbers, talking and discussing. As we know, there are tough discussions many times when it comes to the business world and governments. The only way to resolve those is to get to the table and discuss those numbers.

The bottom line, at the end of the day, is that we get full and fair benefits for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador from the resources that are in the ground of Newfoundland and Labrador, as should have been done with the IOC operation in Labrador West.

We continue on to make sure that we get our full benefits from our resources here in this Province. We support the government on this particular study.

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

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I fully endorse and support the position of the government with respect to the Voisey's Bay project, mineral development. The statement of the minister today only gives further proof of the value of this resource and the importance to this Province that it be developed in the full and proper way.

I will say, however, that I hope we are not being lulled into the same sense of security, or false security, as the people of Labrador West were about IOCC. I hope also that we are going to see very soon an amendment to the Mineral Tax Act that gives a tax holiday to new mineral developments, so we can find out what kind of royalty and tax revenues the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador can expect from this project in addition to jobs in development.

I hope we are not, as the Premier said one time to the newspaper, I think, in an offhand way, that maybe we are trading jobs for royalties.

I would like to see what we are going to get, and let's see some legislation in this House.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BETTNEY: Thank you.

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to stand before the House today and advise hon. members about an event that I will be attending later this afternoon.

As Minister of Human Resources and Employment, I have been invited to Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador to accept, on behalf of my department, the Student Affairs and Services Association of Canada's National Achievement Award for our Student Work and Service Program with Memorial University.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BETTNEY: Mr. Speaker, the Student Work and Service Program, known familiarly as SWASP, was nominated for this national award during the 1998 Canadian Association of College and University Student Services Annual Conference in Ottawa.

The National Achievement Award was judged by a committee comprised of college and university student service professionals from across the country. Their choice to recognize SWASP as an important and innovative support for Memorial students was based on the program's demonstration of creative partnerships that address issues important to post-secondary students.

Many times our young people are told that they have good educational background but lack practical on-the-job experience. This presents a difficult challenge as our students are left wondering how they may get that practical experience if they can't get their foot in the door.

Mr. Speaker, I believe SWASP addresses these challenges. Through its participating community agencies, applicants are placed in a professional setting to gain important practical experience. In addition, the student also receives valuable career counselling and a tuition credit to help with the cost of their education.

Over the past two years SWASP has been in operation at Memorial University, it has assisted over 320 Memorial University students in preparing for their careers. Students have found this program a great support in their educational experience.

The success of SWASP is not simply restricted to students at Memorial University. The program is also available to all employers in the Province. Students can use their tuition voucher at any post-secondary educational institution in North America.

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is committed to supporting our young people in their education and career goals. In 1998-1999, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador will invest over $7.5 million in youth support and employment programs creating approximately 3,300 jobs. Of this funding, we are allocating over $2 million in the Student Work and Service Program. The federal government also contributed $1 million to the Community Service Component of SWASP.

The National Achievement Award for Student Services is an affirmation that important partnerships between government and different sectors of our community really work. While I am proud to identify government's contribution to SWASP, I would also like to recognize that SWASP would not be possible without the key supports of the federal government, other provincial departments, community agencies, educational institutions, and of course the local business community, not to mention of course our students.

With this award, both the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the people of our Province will receive national recognition. I congratulate all of the organizations and individuals for their hard work in making SWASP such an award-winning success.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I thank the minister for providing me with a copy of her statement.

SWASP and other such programs are good, but do they address the problems that are contributing to the inaccessibility of education for so many of our young people?

I am talking about the problems with student aid, the Millennium Scholarship, which is available only to students who attend university and excludes students who attend the private schools, the tuition freeze which bars education from many people because it is so high, the barrier for folks on social assistance to get into school.

I am talking in particular about a young woman on social assistance who called me this week and said: I have been accepted for an ITI program and I am on social assistance. HRDC said they would pay the tuition, but the Department of Human Resources said that if I go to school I will not be eligible for social assistance any more because I am not a parent.

The two questions that I had to ask were: If you accept HRDC funding and go to school, will you be available for social assistance? No. If you stay out of school and do not continue your education, will you be available for social assistance? Yes. That is sad testimony to the way this government is making education accessible and trying to get people off social assistance.

As far as the experience gained by the people in the SWASP, or any other program, it is great. They can take this experience with them when they become part of the U-Haul parade as it leaves this Province because there are not enough jobs here for our people.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to say that I am pleased that there is some national recognition for an innovative program in this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HARRIS: The SWASP can play an important role for students and provide a work experience similar to people who are in the Co-op program at MUN who have access to work experience related to their job. So there are certainly innovative factors to do with this.

My concern is that in many instances this really should be a job of last resort. Our economy should be far more vibrant. It can never replace the kind of jobs a growing economy would provide for students.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. HARRIS: I think there is an awful lot of work to be done, especially when this government has policies such as the clawback of the living component for single mothers on social assistance, which is detrimental to allowing students to get an education.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I am pleased to announce to hon. members that today is the United Nations International Day of Disabled Persons. It is a day to recognize the more than 50,000 Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who have disabilities and celebrate their achievements over the last year.

The Department of Health and Community Services supports numerous agencies, organizations and initiatives designed to promote equal opportunities for persons who have disabilities and to remove barriers which have historically impeded people from being a full part of their communities. Today I would like to acknowledge joining us in the gallery: Mary Reid, from the Independent Living Resource Centre, and also Mary Ennis from the Coalition of Disabled Persons.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: The department provides $1.3 million to these organizations, one of which is the Independent Living Resource Centre. The Centre is a community based, cross disability organization which provide services and programs designed by and for persons who have disabilities. It supports consumers in reaching goals of increased independence, through services of peer support, individual advocacy, information and networking.

Mr. Speaker, this year our government concluded negotiations with the federal government on a new cost sharing arrangement called Canada-Newfoundland Agreement on Employability Assistance for Persons with Disabilities which will be administered by my colleague in the Department of Human Resources and Employment. An advisory committee will develop a transition plan for EAPD, and I am pleased to say that persons with disabilities will have a place on this advisory committee.

Our government has also participated with the federal government and other provinces and territories in the development of a document entitled "In Unison." It sets out a blueprint for promoting the integration of persons with disabilities and establishes a new framework for future policy and program reform in the area of disability in three key areas: disability supports, employment, and income.

In keeping with this document and our own Strategic Social Plan we have already begun to redesign our programs for persons with disabilities. The recent transfer of the Family and Rehabilitative Services Program to my department and the redesign of the Income Support Program are just two examples. We are committed to continuing our work in this area.

I am very pleased today to announce a funding allocation of $275,000 to enhance services for children with disabilities. This funding is part of the National Child Benefit Reinvestment Program and our direction is again consistent with that of the provincial Strategic Social Plan. Again today I wear this blue ribbon in recognition that for this government, Mr. Speaker, every day is National Child Day.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, some children with disabilities require intensive interventions to successfully participate in our society. Research has proven that early and intensive interventions can help children and their families to minimize the effects of a disability. I am pleased to announce a pilot project which will provide intensive supports to families. Government is fully aware that a child's early experiences have a significant effect on his or her development. This is also true for a child with a disability.

Government is committed to a strategy that invests in children and strengthens families to support their children. To enable families to care and support children with disabilities, government will: train staff to provide an evidence-based and very intensive Applied Behaviour Analysis intervention; provide increased support in the homes of families to maintain this intervention; train the parents in Applied Behaviour Analysis technology so that they can provide instruction to their children; and ensure a coordinated multi-disciplinary approach for children participating in the program.

This project will provide very intensive and individual services to young children with disabilities. The department will coordinate the training in conjunction with community groups and our Regional Health and Community Services Boards. I am happy to announce that this intensive service, as I believe it will be, will be very beneficial to families throughout the Province. This government remains committed to children and families.

On this International day of Disabled Persons, let us salute the contributions that people with disabilities have made to our communities, our economy and to our governments. I am sure I speak for all hon. members here today when I say that the role of persons who have disabilities is integral to both the health and the well being of all aspects of our Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I too join in recognizing today as United Nations International Day of Disabled Persons, and certainly welcome the people today to this House who have played an important role in putting forth the concerns for people with disabilities in trying to become productive members of our workforce. Many times, I might add Minister, in spite of many obstacles put in the way by governments today.

In particular I am pleased to know that finally this provincial government, upon repeated requests here - and I must say to my colleague from St. John's West, on clawing back what money the federal government has put into our child benefit programs and that, that it is not going to clawed back and it is going to be put to use. I think that is important. I receive many calls, I say to the minister, from people on programs under your authority in your department. For instance, regarding the special child welfare allowance, people have called from my district and elsewhere in the Province. Young two- and three-year-old kids with disabilities cannot get into day care, cannot get normal development. They cannot get funding to be able to cope with the demands that parents are facing in dealing with children with disabilities today, because it is being frozen now - some of the programs for years -, and there is only emergency funding available under some of these programs.

I have spoken with senior officials in your department and I've indicated there is no funding available. It is being frozen. I ask the minister to look at programs that have been under your authority for some time, and under this government's authority, that young two and three-year-olds have an opportunity to be able to intermingle with others of their own age group, and at the same time relieve the families of the stresses and frustrations of coping with it.

One person had to leave this Province and start a fund-raising effort for $80,000 to go to the United States just a year and a half ago, and will be completing the second of that two years now, and hopefully will come back here. Their parents had to give up their employment, one a nurse, and I know has come back to speak to people in this Province on numerous occasions. We have not taken care and used funding in our department appropriately. We have frozen funding and we have ignored the plights of many people around our Province.

Any movement forward I am delighted with and I applaud any movement, but we cannot pay lip service to somebody one day and turn around and go out and do something completely opposite the next day. That has to stop, Minister. It should have stopped before, but let's stop it today.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave!

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased to join with the minister and with the Opposition House Leader in recognizing today as United Nations International Day of Disabled Persons. In doing so I know we have to increase and understand our awareness of the needs of people with disabilities in our society, and I want to recognize the people in the gallery who are active in the support community for disabled persons.

I would be remiss however if I did not at least chide the minister on her self-congratulatory tone. It was two months ago when parents of children with disabilities had to demonstrate in the lobby of this House of Assembly in order to get the Department of Education to look after their special needs that they had in schools.

When the President of the School Boards Federation in Newfoundland has to go to the federal finance committee and to the Public Utilities Board to talk about the needs of children in this Province going to school hungry every day, we cannot sit around and be complacent about how we are dealing with these problems as long as this continues.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, as my colleagues are undoubtedly aware, the Christmas season is now upon us.

I wish to inform hon. Members of the House of Assembly and the general public that this evening at 7:00 p.m. we will celebrate the beginning of the Christmas season in a special way as we hold the 12th annual "Christmas Lights Across Canada" ceremony.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MATTHEWS: Mr. Speaker, our Province will be the first to switch on Christmas lights on the large Christmas tree on the East Block steps as part of a Canada-wide ceremony organized by the National Capital Commission in Ottawa.

Lights along the Prince Philip Parkway will also be lit. In fact, this year Memorial University and the Health Sciences Centre have agreed to participate and extend the illumination of Prince Philip Parkway.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MATTHEWS: It will be there.

Mr. Speaker, the popularity of this event continues to grow, attracting more and more people each year.

This year's ceremony will feature music provided by The Salvation Army St. John's Citadel Band and a sing-a-long lead by the Eugene Vaters Academy Elementary Choir. Christmas cake, hot chocolate and other refreshments will be served.

The actual tree lighting will be broadcast live during the weather segment of CBC television's Here and Now program with host Carl Wells.

Mr. Speaker, I invite all Members of the House to join the Premier, myself, and emcee Harry Brown and the general public for this special event which begins at 7:00 p.m. in front of the Confederation Building, East Block.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER:  Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

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

Maybe I should sit down and let that crowd over there get up and respond to the Ministerial Statement.

Indeed it is Christmastime of year. A sure sign of that is when the crowd over there wants to get out of this House of Assembly and close her down, and that is what they have been at the past few days. This should be a happy time of year, there is no doubt about that. I hope the people of the Province will have a very merry Christmas, I say to the minister, but I fear that many may not for obvious reasons, which I won't get into here today.

I remember last Christmas when I went out here, at three or four o'clock in the morning; it was lit up and I was blinded, Mr. Speaker. I thought it was a bit extravagant then. I am hoping that the planes don't mistake the parkway for the runway. Last year I thought it was a bit extravagant, but from what I can see this year - and what is not lit up will be lit up tonight - we are in for a blinding experience tonight.

I do, in all sincerity, encourage the people to get out for the Christmas tree lighting and spend a yuletide evening with the Premier and a few of the ministers.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Oral Questions

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Thank you...


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. E. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question today is for the Premier.

Yesterday, in accepting the resignation of the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal, the Premier announced that he has asked the Commissioner of Members' Interests to look at whether Mr. Tulk or any of his staff contravened the Conflict of Interest Act.

The question I have for the Premier, if he could tell us now: Did you provide any terms of reference for such an investigation to Mr. Jenkins, which he is going to conduct, and if so, could you tell us what those terms of reference are? Could you elaborate further, please?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: No, Mr. Speaker, I haven't provided terms of reference to indicate to the Commissioner - a Commissioner, by the way, is an officer of the House, so I wouldn't presume to give the Commissioner a limitation on how he ought to do his job. He has quite extensive powers, quite broad powers, and it is entirely up to the Commissioner to determine what powers should be used and how they should be used and how we should examine this issue, and to issue his report after he is satisfied fully that he has examined the question, and to make it public.

Mr. Speaker, the Commissioner, I think it is important to point out to the people of the Province, is an independent officer of the House of Assembly. He is accountable to the full House of Assembly. He does not operate under instructions or under constraints or under terms of reference issued by me or by anybody else. He operates pursuant to legislation which has been passed by this House, and he is accountable to all members of the House, and not just to government.

I should point out that the powers of the Commissioner of Members' Interests include the power to summon witnesses, to require them to give evidence orally or in writing, upon oath, and to produce documents and things necessary to carry out the investigation. Mr. Jenkins has the same authority to compel witnesses to appear before him. As is vested in a court of law in civil cases, he may engage the services of lawyers, accountants, engineers, or any other experts that he deems necessary. So these are quite broad powers that the Commissioner has.

Beyond that, I would remind the House that the allegations which were first raised with a lawyer of the Department of Justice were referred to the Deputy Minister of Justice, then from the Deputy Minister to the Director of Public Prosecutions, then from the Director of Public Prosecutions directly to the RCMP, and is now with the RCMP.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, my questions today focus on the process. The Member for Bonavista North did what he had to do, and I applaud him for that, but the questions today focus on the process we are at.

Obviously the police investigation, with respect to Mr. Woodrow's allegations, will go through in its own process, and of course all members respect that, but now we have a separate investigation, one by Mr. Jenkins, to look into the conflict of interest situation. It was a allegation of bribery that led to the Premier's decision to request his own investigation of Mr. Tulk and staff, which you have indicated yesterday in your words, by the Commissioner of Members' Interests, but the motivation behind the alleged bribery involved preferential treatment in acquiring a licence from the Department of Education for the Paralegal Institute. That is what was said yesterday.

My question is this: What process is the Premier putting in place to investigate that aspect of the allegation, and whether there was a breach of the Conflict of Interest Act or other improprieties there?

In your statement yesterday you clearly indicated that the focus would be on Mr. Tulk and his staff. It did not include anything else. I wonder if the Premier could answer that question, please?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, first of all let me thank the Leader of the Opposition for acknowledging the decision made yesterday by an hon. member of this House, by somebody who is well known to all of us - he has been here for nearly twenty years - to come forward and to recommend a process, by his own resignation, that would lead to all of the facts being examined and the air being cleared. I want to acknowledge again today the actions of the Government House Leader.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the questions of the Leader of the Opposition. I think these are fair questions in the circumstances.

I would remind the Leader of the Opposition that because these allegations have been made, and because they are serious allegations, I think we have the best process possible to determine the validity, first of all, of the allegations, and secondly to look at the question to whether or not there has been any conflict.

With respect to the serious allegations which have been made, and I have not yet seen them made by the gentleman in question, quite frankly, publicly, but they were made in some form to a lawyer for the Department of Justice, who immediately reported them to the appropriate authorities.

The best place to have that issue dealt with - I hope the Leader of the Opposition would agree - is not in a partisan debate but rather by the police, by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Let them do their job.

They are not constrained in any way, shape or form, as the Leader of the Opposition knows, in doing their job. Their investigation will lead them wherever it may go, as is appropriate. Quite frankly there is nothing anybody could do to constrain that, or characterized it, or put parameters around it, or would want to. The police have full freedom, as the Leader of the Opposition knows.

Secondly, with respect to the Commissioner - directly, the Commissioner himself - the Commissioner, I repeat again, is an officer of the House. He reports to the House of Assembly and to all of its members, and is accountable to all of us; not to the government, not to the Opposition, but to all of us as members of this institution. He is independent and has, as I just pointed out, quite considerable powers under the Public Inquiries Act which he can exercise in his own judgement.

Mr. Speaker, I have taken the decision - the only appropriate one in my judgement - that it is not for me to seek to give in any way, shape, or form, any direction or hint, one way or the other, to the police or to the Commissioner as to how they ought to do their duties, but only to acknowledge that both have very considerable powers and both investigations will lead wherever they may go.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: I understand the process very clearly. The questions today are focusing in on what you announced yesterday, as Premier, what you have asked the Commissioner of Members' Interests to do. That is where my questions are today.

You told us yesterday that Mr. Woodrow alleged that he used bribes to get a college licence with preferential treatment, and the Premier has commissioned the investigation of Mr. Tulk and his staff. That is clear. But Mr. Tulk was not the Minister of Education, and it was not Mr. Tulk or his department who issued the licence to the Paralegal Institute.

In your own statements yesterday you have indicated - and if there is more elaboration required then I would love to hear it; up to this point I have not - what you indicated directly was that you have only asked the Commissioner of Members' Interests to look at Mr. Tulk and his staff only. So the question is: Why haven't you broadened it out?

I think the question is this then: What would you do to focus the investigation on the department from which Mr. Woodrow actually received the licence, under what we now know are questionable circumstances, to see whether there were any conflicts there or not?

That is the issue in terms of the broad-ranging - from the conflict of interest Commissioner's point of view.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I am going to call upon the sense of responsibility that I know the Leader of the Opposition has, and I would ask him - I say this genuinely and I want to reflect upon what I am saying - to reflect carefully upon the words he chooses. He just said, in asking the question he asked, that he wanted to know from me what further action I was contemplating taking with respect to allegations on the issuance of a license, and I am quoting him now: In what we now know to be questionable circumstances.

I think if the Leader of the Opposition has the fair mind I think he has he will reflect upon that and realize we do not know. That is why we have called upon the RCMP to look into these allegations, to find out what is true or not true in these circumstances, and whether there is substance or no substance to allegations that have been made. That is why we have asked the Commissioner of Members' Interests to examine the matter as well.

Mr. Speaker, there had been no allegations that I know of made that would cast any question, one way or another, upon the operation of the office and the Minister of Education. If the Leader of the Opposition is suggesting something to the contrary, then he ought to bring the allegation forward in the House. Certainly, I am not aware of anything and I hope that he wouldn't inadvertently suggest there has been something.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, it is clear if we focus in on what has taken place that all I am asking is: Will you ask the Commissioner of Members' Interests not only to investigate -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: It can, I say to the Minister of Mines and Energy. I mean, public confidence is at stake here. I am not trying to politicize the issue. This is very important.


MR. E. BYRNE: Hold on, now. It is very important. The allegation has been made. It is not possible - or I would to say to the Premier: Are you saying that it is possible, that under the Administration, to take seriously an allegation, that one minister could influence - because that is what has been alleged - the department of another minister without that second minister knowing it? Is that is what is being said?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, if you take the Leader of the Opposition's question to its logical conclusion, the entire Cabinet would have to resign, because you would, by inference, say that if there is an investigation into one matter involving one minister, therefore it may affect a second minister or a second minister's staff, and would affect all ministers.

I would say to the Leader of the Opposition that this is a serious matter. The seriousness of the matter is underlined by the fact that the minister around whom these allegations - and his office - were directed has resigned and has asked for the RCMP, has asked for the Commissioner of Members' Interests to investigate, has asked for a process to clear his name. That is what he said, that is what the member and minister has said. Mr. Speaker, I cannot think of in Canada a more objective, a more unbiased process to have a minister's integrity tested then to publicly call upon the RCMP to investigate these charges and to ask an independent officer of the House who has the powers to do so to investigate these charges, and let the chips fall where they may. That is the position we have taken, and I would ask that position be respected and understood.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: That position is respected and understood. The police investigation goes through its own process. The judicial process will be served and as the Premier said, to use his own words, "let the chips fall where they may." That is exactly what will happen.

What I am asking the Premier today is this. With respect to asking the Commissioner for Members' Interests in investigating potential conflicts, it is my assertion that maybe more than one exists. What I am asking the Premier to do, if he can, if he already hasn't, is to let Mr. Jenkins do his job and not be confined to just one department. If that is not the case, then let me hear it. If it is the case that he is only confined to one department, then my suggestion to the Premier is to broaden that so he can look at all aspects dealing with this situation.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I will make it very clear to the Leader of the Opposition. Perhaps this is a question of misunderstanding the role of the conflict commissioner. The conflict commissioner is not constrained by me and is not constrained by the Leader of the Opposition. The conflict commissioner will go where the conflict commissioner wants to go, and the conflict commissioner will call forward to testify whom the conflict commissioner deems appropriate to call forward for testimony.

There is no constraint on the part of the Commissioner to talk to only a couple of individuals or one department. The conflict commissioner can talk to anybody and everybody that the conflict commissioner would like to talk to in this regard, including me and the Leader of the Opposition. There is no restraint.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, there was some confusion then.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Hold on and I will tell you why. In your statement yesterday, Premier, you have indicated only that you have asked the Commissioner of Members' Interests, Mr. Bob Jenkins, to look at whether Mr. Tulk or any member of his staff contravened the Conflict of Interest Act. That would suggest clearly -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: I say to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture just hold on a second now. That would suggest clearly that you have asked Mr. Jenkins to look at that and that only. That is why I am asking. Let me be clear. What the Premier is saying then is that the Commissioner for Members' Interests is being asked to look at this situation altogether, no matter where it may lead. Is that what the Premier is saying?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, if the Leader of the Opposition reads the legislation which establishes this office, he will know that the Commissioner - let me read again: The powers of the Commissioner of Members' Interests, under the Public Inquiries Act, include the power - I would ask members to listen - to summon witnesses, to require them to give evidence orally or in writing upon oath and to produce documents and things necessary to carry out the investigation.

Mr. Jenkins has the same authority to compel witnesses to appear before him as is vested in a court of law in civil cases. He may engage lawyers, advisors, consultants, accountants, engineers, any other expert he deems appropriate. It not the role, nor should it be - and to this extent the Leader of the Opposition and I agree - for anybody to constrain the conflict commissioner. Nor by the way could we, if we wanted to constrain the conflict commissioner. He does not work for me, he does not work for government, he works for this House.

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

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

My questions are for the Minister of Environment and Labour. Minister, I understand there was a council of environment ministers' meeting in Halifax October past. I have been told that water export was an issue discussed at those meetings. Could you tell the House what your stand on bulk water export was at those meetings and if your stand remains the same today?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Environment and Labour.

MR. LANGDON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The federal government is presently reviewing their legislation referring to exporting water in bulk form to the market. Our own legislation is mirrored after the federal legislation. When the federal government makes some adjustments to that particular act then obviously we will, at that particular time, look at it, and I would assume mirror our own legislation after that of the federal Department of Environment.

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

MR. T. OSBORNE: Minister, I understand that Ottawa suggested a two year moratorium on water export at those meetings to allow each province to put in place their own policy guidelines as well as to determine the implications on bulk export. Is it true, Minister, that Newfoundland had shown reservations towards the moratorium of water export? If so, why?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Environment and Labour.

MR. LANGDON: Definitely not, Mr. Speaker. As I said, the federal government is presently assessing and reviewing their export policy on bulk water. Until such time as they make a decision as to what their alterations will do, then obviously we will not make any judgement here with regard to the exporting of water in bulk form.

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

MR. T. OSBORNE: Minister, I have been told by other legislators in this country that you have held out at those meetings. When most other legislators are pushing for a moratorium, why is it that you are pushing for bulk export when you don't know the implications of NAFTA, and also when it is against Ottawa's better judgement?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Environment and Labour.

MR. LANGDON: Definitely not, Mr. Speaker. I never held out against exporting of water in any of the meetings that I have been to. Basically, what we have here is the federal government is proposing to change their legislation. At that particular time we will then assess what they have done and come into line with what they are proposing.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Yesterday I asked the Minister of Health and Community Services if she would confirm that the cost of hospital reorganization under the Health Care Corporation would far exceed the $135 million that was just made known publicly up to that amount last week.

I am sure the minister has had time since yesterday to check with officials to find out if it is only $135 million. I want to ask her will she confirm now that in that cost of hospital reorganization here that $135 million did not include another additional $20 million that is needed under redevelopment for furnishings and furniture, and equipment needed, to put into the new expansion?

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

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

As I said yesterday when I answered questions in the House of Assembly, the money that was brought forward, the $100 million that was originally brought forward, was brought forward to deal with the building of a new child centre. The extra $30 million that was added on was to do the renovations that were required with the cardiovascular unit and with repairs to St. Clair's and the Health Sciences.

The extra money that has been identified has yet to be approved by government. Yes, I am confident that right across the Province, right across this country, we will need a lot more money for equipment for all sorts, particularly computerized equipment, not only for the Health Care Corporation of St. John's, but right across the county particularly, Mr. Speaker, in dealing with the year 2000 issues.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We are not getting the facts. The cost of this reorganization we were told by the former minister would be $70 million to $80 million. It was upgraded to $100 million. I asked the questions at the first AGM of the Health Care Corporation here at Holiday Inn. Then it went up to $130 million. We heard last week it is $135 million. I have asked the minister to confirm now that there is going to be another $20 million on top of that, not counting the $22 million to buy St. Clair's and the Grace. Now I asked the minister to confirm that and she did not. She is keeping the truth from the public.

I want to ask the minister: Will she tell this House now if the $10 million in savings we were going to get, based on the $100 million figure, if now there is going to be any savings? If the minister does have a figure, she should be able to tell this House now exactly what the savings are projected to be as to the cost of reorganizing the health care system. I am asking the minister to tell us what the savings are going to be.

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

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite just went through a Public Accounts Committee for three or four days with the Health Care Corporation. I do not know if you do not believe what Sister Elizabeth and her people have explained to you or what, but I will say it and explain it time and time again.

All of the savings that have been identified have not yet been achieved because there are still parts of the plan that have not been implemented. That has not changed since I answered the question yesterday, or the last session, or the session before that.

AN HON. MEMBER: Or tomorrow.

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Or perhaps even again tomorrow, that is correct. However, Mr. Speaker, all components of the plan have not yet been identified. I am sure the member opposite had ample opportunity to ask Sister Elizabeth. Maybe you have a problem with her answers or the Public Accounts Committee, but I can arrange another meeting for him, if he would like, with Sister Elizabeth to go through the details of how she runs her $266 million operation. That is not a problem, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: You talk about meetings. I have been requesting to go to meetings in here and I have said I would be delighted to go in and meet with people. They have yet to get back to me and the (inaudible). Every time I do a news release I get a request for a meeting. I say yes, and I have never had a meeting yet, I say to the minister. That is factual, I can say.

The minister is not telling the truth to the people of this Province as to whether there are going to be savings reinvested. The Health Care Corporation stated in 1996 that there would be $20 million in savings. I asked the minister about this yesterday and she refused to give us a list of the targeted savings because of reorganization. Minister, if you cannot do that it is poor planning. God help us if you cannot project what savings there are going to be in the system.

I want to ask the minister this question. Initially we were told by the previous minister who went through transition - the current minister is still in transition, I say to the minister - that based on $100 million of borrowing the Health Care Corporation had permission to borrow, not the Province. It was transferred to the Corporation.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Now I want to ask the minister this. In light of the cost now being closer to $200 million than they are to $100 million, I ask her now: Is it the intention of government to borrow this money directly or to have those costs now transferred to the Health Care Corporation again? Where, I might add, Minister, there would be no savings. We will siphon money out of operations to pay for bricks and mortar.

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

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

In response to the hon. member's speech I feel obliged to again point out a few comments with respect to some of his comments.

To date we know that there is $130 million allocated for the completion of the new child centre. The additional $5 million, as I pointed out yesterday, has not yet been approved. My department is working with the Health Care Corporation to identify ways of addressing that $5 million. Any other monies have not come forward to me in a formal way, nor have they come through to Cabinet. Before I would make any comment on $20 million, or $100 million, I have a process to follow. He should know that by now. I would imagine he would. There is a process on this side of the House that you have to follow with respect to decision making, particulary as it relates to finances.

As I have said yesterday, the day before, and in the previous sessions, to date all of the savings that have to be identified have not yet been achieved because the plan has not been fully implemented.

To date we have given approval for $130 million. We are working to try to find ways to address the other $5 million which has not been approved. Now the other $20 million, I think that $20 million, along with any other amount that you can pick from the air across the Province, we will have to deal with as we look at replacing capital, as we look at replacing equipment, and other types of services across the Province. Not only because equipment is becoming outdated and because we have a capital budget for the whole Province of $4.5 million -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to conclude her answer.

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Yes, Mr. Speaker. Also because of the year 2000 and the implications it will have on the computers' ability to do the type of work it will need to do after that time.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. One final question.

The minister indicated she is not aware of any other costs beyond $135 million. I ask the minister: Does she have a copy of the five-year equipment plan for the Health Care Corporation of St. John's? Does she have a copy that gives the requirements that are needed of $20 million in this new expansion? Not counting costs. I ask her does she have a copy? If not, would she like a copy?

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

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

As I said yesterday, every board across the Province approaches this government on a regular basis for a five-year plan or a ten-year plan or even a twenty-year plan on how to replace equipment, how to meet the needs for the ongoing century.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, the amount of equipment, the amount of - and let me say it again for the record. This Province is in desperate need of financial assistance from the federal government to put into health care funding in this Province. We look forward to that, and we readily admit we desperately need it.

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

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

In the absence of the Minister of Human Resources and Employment I will ask this of the Premier. Mr. Premier, I do not necessarily expect you to identify this, but when people lose their jobs after short-term employment and they do not qualify for employment insurance they often have to resort to social assistance. When they walk into the social assistance office, the case worker is asked to examine the income they have made for the past sixty days. Most people who live in today's economy do not have the luxury of holding onto money to tide them over for thirty days, let alone sixty days.

I am asking the Premier: Does he think it is time the Minister of Human Resources and Employment re-assess this policy that places such hardship on our people?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

As the member may perhaps know, the actual time frame was increased from thirty to sixty days fairly recently. Mr. Speaker, the rationale for that was to try to look at a reasonable period of time, knowing in some cases that some people had access to a significant amount of money, and that it would be reasonable to expand that money over a sixty-day period.

There are provisions though, for emergency assistance. I would also like to inform the member that we are engaging, on this side of the House, in a full income review, as the member yesterday referred to, as part of our income support redesign and as part of our Strategic Social Plan. I am sure she would be happy to review that with you in terms of the ongoing plan.

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

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

The words that I seem to be hearing are "reassessing", "reviewing", and "in transition". I ask the question: Why have we gone backwards from thirty days to sixty days? Why can't we treat the people who apply for social assistance based on their previous pay period? Most people out there who are in temporary positions live from paycheque to paycheque. They don't have the luxury of storing money for sixty days. We have gone from thirty days to sixty days, and I am asking now: Why can't we assess the people for a normal pay period, which is how most people live?

We are putting hardship, unnecessary hardship, on our people. There are not enough jobs there.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member is on a supplementary, I ask her to get to her question quickly.


My question is: Can we assess the applicants on a previous pay period as opposed to sixty days?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

With respect to the preamble before the question: Many people who actually are working temporarily receive top-up from the Department of Human Resources and Employment to assist them.

I think it is also important to note that last year in our budget we gave an increase to social assistance recipients which was the highest that I can ever remember being allocated for this Province.

We will continue to try to meet the needs as best we can, keeping in line with our income support redesign as well as our Strategic Social Plan.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.

Question Period has ended.


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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I rise today to present another group of petitions from Academy Canada, from Lawrence College, from Centrac College in St. John's, from Highland College of Trades and Technology, from Central Training Academy in Badger, and from Nortech College here in St. John's.

The prayer of the petition is: We, the undersigned, petition the hon. House of Assembly to not discriminate against students who choose to attend private colleges and schools. We ask that we be eligible immediately for the Awards Program as announced by the Minister of Education on September 24. We also petition the Minister of Education to contact Ottawa to ensure that private college students are included in the Millennium Scholarship Fund.

This is the third or fourth time now that we have presented petitions. The number signing today's group of petitions is about 500 students who represent the six colleges that I have named.

These petitioners are asking again for the Minister of Education to reconsider. They are asking that they be included in the Awards Program as announced by the minister on September 24.

The minister, in his announcement at budget time, indicated that these awards will be made on the basis of merit and on the basis of need. These students are quite prepared to enter into a dialogue with the ministry as to how they would meet that particular criterion.

Mr. Speaker, we on this side of the House believe that the Awards Program is a good program. It is an excellent program. It is a form of bridging the gap that many students will face between now and the beginning of the millennium program by the federal government in the year 2000. However, the students who go to private colleges are saying they want to be treated fairly. They are not asking for anything special. They are not saying that all of their programs and all of the students would be eligible. They are saying, compare apples with apples and oranges with oranges. If that happens, they are quite prepared to be compared on that basis. Where programs are of nine months duration, I agree that they cannot be compared to programs that are of four years duration.

What I am asking the minister to do is enter into a dialogue with the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Career Colleges to make sure that we treat all of the students in Newfoundland and Labrador who are engaged in post-secondary education, in a very fair and equitable manner. We are saying as well that if the minister takes our advice, he will make a major step towards reducing some of the barriers that these students face.

We acknowledge, as I said before, the minister has already expended about $1.4 million this year in helping needy students, good students, students who are dedicated to their studies in public colleges. We know that there is another $600,000 left, as I understand it, unless there have been more awards made in the last several days.

We are saying: Can the minister today say that he is prepared to enter into a meaningful dialogue with the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Career Colleges so that all students can be eligible on the same basis, merit and scholastic achievement and need, and that all students can be treated in a reasonable and equitable manner?

Mr. Speaker, I thank you very much for the opportunity to speak up on behalf of these 500 students who signed today's petitions. Thank you very much.

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

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

I rise to support the petition presented by the Member for Waterford Valley, a very reasonable petition by the people who put their signatures to the petition. Of course, all they are asking for is equality.

A couple of questions need to be asked here. Why is the government, this Administration, not allowing students going to private colleges to access the post-secondary scholarship, the one that is put in place by the Province to bridge the gap until the year 2000, the Millennium Fund? Why is the government doing that, and why have they adopted a double standard here on equality? That is the simple question that needs to be asked.

If you have a person living anywhere in this Province and they decide to go to a private school, for whatever reason - it could be for geographic reasons - they do not have the same opportunities as someone who lives near a pubic institution. They may have any number of reasons why they would want to go to a private college. I would not venture to guess what they may be, but there could be very many reasons, I would expect. So why would government not have this fund available to all people in this Province, all post-secondary students? I cannot answer the question.

I would say the minister will get to his feet and maybe respond to this petition and say: Oh, dollars. It is because of dollars. There is not enough money to go around. Well I don't think that is a legitimate reason to say no; for unfairness, for discrimination. You cannot use the dollar sign as a logical, legitimate reason for discrimination in this Province, in this country. I thought we had gotten away from that. Any programs that government puts in should be based on fairness and balance, two words that were used by the previous Premier here, numerous, numerous times in this House of Assembly when I was here. I was tired of hearing those two words, to be honest with you, but in this situation those two words apply - fairness and balance - to all post-secondary students in this Province, to people attending the private colleges and to people going to the public colleges.

We know also that a lot of students now who are attending private colleges were put in that situation from the cutbacks - from the public colleges. We saw public colleges closing down. I think the one on Bell Island closed down, did it not, a couple of years ago? So in actual fact there is a double whammy here, if you want to call it, that the government is forcing people to go to these private colleges and they are going to subsidize people going to the public colleges. Again, it is wrong. It is morally wrong. Not only is it discrimination and unfair and no balance there.

Again, I expect the Minister of Education to get up and give his - I don't know if there will be justification but it will be some kind of a rationalization, I can guarantee you that, because he is very good at getting on his feet and rationalizing the decisions of government, even if they are unfair, unbalanced and discriminatory.

Other than those few words, Mr. Speaker, I want to say I support the petition put forward by the Member for Waterford Valley, and I am curious to see what response the minister will have. Thank you.

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I just appreciate the opportunity to make a few brief comments with respect to the petition presented. The issue has been addressed here in this Legislature several times, but just so the record would show again, one of the difficulties with the petition and the presentation by the hon. member is the notion that they talk about discriminating against these students.

When I have talked to the students themselves they have used the same language, talking about a discriminatory program and being discriminated against. I have reminded those students, and I have reminded the hon. members opposite, that when this program was announced in the Budget last year it was made quite clear that this program was not a program of general application to every post-secondary student in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The only point in time that anybody can justify a claim of discrimination is if there is a program that is generally available to the student population and for some discriminatory reason it is not then provided to some of the students. When the program was introduced it was described as a targeted program for a select group of students, not that every single student in every single institution and every single program could expect to ever avail of it. That is the one difficulty I pointed out before with respect to the presentation made.

Secondly, I have pointed out again, and will for the record of the debates of this Legislature, that the whole notion of our awards program in Newfoundland and Labrador arose as the result of meetings we held last year prior to the Budget with the Council of the Student's Union at Memorial University and the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Students who represent students in the public college system. The Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Students does not represent students in the private training institutions.

The issue that was discussed was that there was a remission fund in place in the student loan program to have students who had succeeded in completing their diplomas and degrees get part of their indebtedness forgiven and paid for by the government. In fact, the information in the first couple of years of operation of the remission program had shown that only about half of the students were qualifying for this remission for the forgiveness of their loan by the money that was set aside on their behalf.

The students asked the government to find another way to give the money that was targeted for debt relief to the students for debt relief. We came up with the awards program. The remission program suggested that students who had borrowed in excess of $22,000 in less than five years of study would have the amount over $22,000 forgiven and paid for by the government. It is that amount of money we are using. Because of the high unlikelihood that any student in a private training institution would amass $22,000 in student loans, never mind total indebtedness, but student loans in less than five years - because of the fact that most of the programs in those institutions are a year or less in duration -, while their tuitions are expensive, their total indebtedness in a private training institution does not match that of someone in a four- or five-year university program, and does not match that of somebody in the public college system in a three-year certificate or diploma program.

As a result, the Student's Union and the Federation of Students agreed with the government, when it was announced in the Budget, that this money should be targeted to the most seriously indebted students in the Province who are in the public system. As a result, the program was put in place under the current rules.

As well, we have indicated that it parallels the plan for the Millennium Scholarship of Canada which will come in place in two years' time. If the federal rules change - because that is what they stated to be their intent as well, to have the Millennium Scholarship Fund apply only to publicly funded post-secondary institutions. If they change in all of those rules, we have indicated we are willing then to review the criteria of Newfoundland and Labrador with the student representatives at that point in time.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I am proud today to rise and present a petition on behalf of people in the community of Seal Cove in the district of Baie Verte, but more specifically on behalf of the children of Rickets Elementary in the District of Baie Verte.

To the hon. House of Assembly in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, the petition of the undersigned residents of Newfoundland and Labrador asks for the House of Assembly to accept the following prayer:

We the undersigned parents and citizens of Seal Cove in the District of Baie Verte do hereby petition the House of Assembly to classify Rickets Elementary as a necessary existing school. We feel it is essential to the full development and safety of our children. Rickets is a very important resource in our town.

Mr. Speaker, I have been trying to actually present this petition for a few days now but with the things that happen in this House of Assembly sometimes it is hard to get the petition in the schedule. I am proud to be on this petition today because it is very significant for the community of Seal Cove and specifically, as I have said, for the children of Seal Cove.

This particular school, Rickets Elementary, is a small school with multi-classes from Grade K to IV. It was to Grade VI but it was reduced. If you want to talk to a group of people who took the professional, diplomatic route of making sure they presented their case, this is one of the best groups I have dealt with since this school reform process has started.

As the minister knows, a lot of people on the Baie Verte Peninsula went through some very big changes, and they were very civilized in accepting a lot of the changes that came about for the betterment of their children and the education of their children. The people in Seal Cove, especially last year, were able to maintain twenty-four students and their staff. They still have not been designated as a necessarily existing school. That is what their aim is now. Very simply put, at the end of the day they want to maintain their school in their district. They are very proud of what has happened in Rickets Elementary over the years with a superb staff, and a volunteer group of parents that is second to none. Those are not just my words, but from board members and people throughout the district who know what the parents and volunteers do at that particular school. It was actually quoted to me that it was phenomenal the amount of work the parents do in involvement in that particular school.

By the way, I myself, as a former teacher, had the experience of teaching in a multi-grade classroom, and I can tell you there are very many advantages to the atmosphere that is provided at a school such as that. As a matter of fact, there is a handbook on administrative resources from Edmonton Catholic schools and it lists all kinds of - I won't read them all out here today - advantages to that particular type of school: they allow children to develop independent work habits, children learn to associate with different age levels, students learn to cooperate more, and so on. There are a lot of reasons for maintaining that type of school.

I am pleased that the parents and the people of the community took the time to do such a good job of expressing their concern for the children and putting their argument forward for maintaining their school.

I support them fully. I think parents are the best judges of their own children. Over the year, with the number of teachers they have had and what has happened in the school, parents are satisfied. I think that is the key, that the parents are satisfied with the quality of education their children are getting.

This is not just a room or a school. This is the heart and soul of the community of Seal Cove that has a proud tradition and a proud history. That school is their centre. The extra-curricular activities they have in that school are the early intervention program, the read to me program, parent participation in their children's school, the preschool playgroup. This school is very active. They have after-school sports, of course. They even have two kids' social clubs at the school. A very active school that is the heart and soul of that community and means so much to a small community like that.

I support them totally. I believe the arguments they put forward and presented to the minister are very serious ones. For example, the safety of them driving over a treacherous road. If you have ever visited the community of Seal Cove which is beautiful and picturesque to the tourist, for children, driving on it at 7:00 a.m. over icy road conditions with twists and turns can be very dangerous. They have a very good point there.

They have a well structured school with a good foundation, so the school itself is in good shape. I believe if the parents are satisfied with the education their children is getting that the government of today should see fit that that school can be maintained in that community. They are very reasonable people. They know that if the numbers dwindle to small amounts that changes will come.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, just to conclude, I would like to say that I think they put forward a good case for their children. It is our future. When we talk about resources of the Province, the most important resource is our children. The people of Seal Cove and Rickets Elementary are proud of what they have accomplished to date, they have a long history of that. They want to maintain that and I support them fully.

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

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise again today to support the petition put forward by my colleague the Member for Baie Verte.

The parents in Seal Cove are to be complimented for participating in the decision making processes that are affecting their community. Each day now we see the paper in this part of the Province filled with stories emanating from the Burin Peninsula, where the school board engaged a consultant that recommended they would close down a certain number of schools.

Parents are concerned about what is happening to their communities, concerned about what is happening to their children. We support the process. It is a very public process, it is a very transparent process, it is a process where parents are putting their children's interests first.

The parents in Seal Cove believe it is in the best interest of their children, and I note that the petition is signed by nearly everybody who lives in the community - page after page on this petition has been signed -, and these parents are to be complimented. Because they are saying they want their voices to be heard, and we want to have them heard here in the Legislature. They wish to have their prayer brought forward here. Of course I also say to them that they will also have an opportunity to have their voices heard at their local school district level.

School boards are mandated now to engage the parents in public discussion matters. I trust that the school board in the district that we are talking about will see the opportunity to go out and meet with the parents in Seal Cove because they want what is best for their children. They want good programs, they want to preserve the integrity of their school unit, and they want to have the opportunity to have that information known not only to this House and therefore to the Province, but also to the Minister of Education and of course to the local school board.

We on this side of the House support the public dialogue that is going on in various parts of the Province. We are a bit concerned, however, because some school boards tell me they are under pressure by the minister to close down schools. Parents are really questioning whether or not the minister's heart is in the right place. Because you hear stories that school boards are told that if they close down this number of schools they will get this much money, if they do not close down they are going to have to do with a lot less. If the school boards are pressured by the Ministry to close down - we know that a few years ago we had well over 400 schools. At one point we had over 1,200 schools in this Province. We are down now to under 400 schools. Last year in the House the minister said he believed that eventually we would have about 300 schools. We know that there is a lot of consolidation going to go ahead yet if that is the target that the minister has.

There are limits as to how far a young child should be transported. There are limits as to what is reasonable to expect from parents in terms of putting their children on buses, how long they are going to be on buses, the kind of roads that they have to drive over. Parents express concern about these things. We on this side of the House say to the minister: Let the public dialogue go on. Let's not hear that the ministry is putting pressure on school boards to close down schools so they can get money to support the reorganization. That is wrong, but that is what is happening.

School boards and the school board officials, I have gotten calls from all parts of the Province saying: What is happening here? We are being forced, we are being told that if we don't close these schools then we are going to have fewer dollars to spend. While we support reinvesting money back into education, we have concerns if there is a lot of pressure put on communities and on school boards; they are saying that the only way we are going to give you money to support your curriculum is if you start closing schools. There is something wrong with that.

We say to the House: Listen to the people out there, listen to the residents of smaller communities, because we may need all the dialogue we can to make sure we always arrive at the right decisions in the right way.

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

Orders of the Day

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, Order 16, Bill No. 37. I believe the Member for St. John's West adjourned debate.

MR. SPEAKER: Order 16, second reading of Bill No. 37.

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

MS S. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I continue debate on this very important act, the Child, Youth and Family Services Act.

The other day when I was speaking, I referred to the fact that the minister said that in developing this act it is not setting up a system of bureaucracy, but I see the setting up of several tiers in the system. There will be an appointment by Cabinet of a provincial director, and then there will be six regional directors. Each of these directors will report to their respective health and community services boards and so on. I see this as a devolution of power from the minister down to these boards.

Many times in the House of Assembly, in this House, when the minister has been asked a question, she has referred back to the community health boards or to the Health Care Corporation. Oftentimes we have seen the Minister of Education, when asked a question, refer back to one of the school boards. Will the same thing happen with this act, with the setting up of all of these boards? When questions are asked now, who will be accountable? It is awfully hard to assess accountability when there are so many levels of government. All of this is done without a child advocate who would be directly accountable on behalf of the children and on behalf of the parents and the youth who are referred to in this act.

I see the setting up of these boards as a definite devolution of power. Definitely it seems like an attempt to take direct accountability away from elected officials. The minister, of course, retains -

AN HON. MEMBER: She doesn't look (inaudible), does she?

MS S. OSBORNE: Yes, I am.

AN HON. MEMBER: I would say you are fifty-six or fifty-seven (inaudible).

MS S. OSBORNE: As Bob Barker says: Lower, lower, lower.

AN HON. MEMBER: We will go lower.

MS S. OSBORNE: Not too much lower.

How old are you?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS S. OSBORNE: Probably. Anyway, let's get back to the serious matter at hand.

In spite of this devolution of authority, I know that the minister retains the authority to direct the boards and so on. These boards report from the provincial director. This provides some measure of ministerial responsibility, but it is not direct responsibility. Therefore the minister is not directly responsible, not directly accountable.

Cabinet will appoint the provincial director. Clearly, accountability is confused and defused. Protection of public interest is best achieved when there is clear and direct accountability specified in law. Under the current bill, the 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 is 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, not independent, and will receive no 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 or as exhaustive as it decides. It can only be assumed that support for the committee will come from the department, further undermining its independence.

It is for these reasons that this new act, An Act Respecting Child, Youth and Family Services, should have included the appointment of a children's advocate. I fail to see why the minister is avoiding this. She has discussed accountability. The one measure that would provide the most accountability on behalf of children, she has avoided. Is there a fear that a child advocate would focus on the shortcomings of this government? What do they have to hide? 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, but in fact the Select Committee recommended an advocate that would be tailored to the financial position and democratic traditions of this Province. The cost that the Select Committee was concerned with was the appointment of a case advocate, which is why they strongly recommended a system's advocate, one which would address the larger problems found within the government system. A system's advocate would address itself to problems that are in the system as opposed to a case advocate. In many cases or many times I find that MHAs become the case advocate on behalf of their constituents or on behalf of the folks out there who call in seeking help.

It was determined by the Select Committee that definitely a case advocate could be avoided and that the duties that a case advocate would fulfil are now addressed by an MHA, because many times we get calls from parents or from authorities who say this child or that child needs intervention. Basically the MHA becomes the case advocate, but what the Select Committee did in fact say they would very much like to see - and they felt that it was tailored to the financial needs and to the traditions of this Province - was a system's advocate.

A system's advocate would look at all the things that were happening not only within the government system but also things that were happening outside; things that are happening out in the community, out in the world; things that would directly have an adverse effect on children. This is what the Select Committee did in fact recommend and did in fact feel that the cost would fit the financial position that this Province is in.

Now the Select Committee on Children's Interests heard the majority of the presentations at the public consultations. What they heard was that there is 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 would be an absolute necessity.

The report from the Select Committee cites Rosenbaum and Newell in their publication: Taking Children Seriously: A Proposal for a Children's Rights Commissioner. They summarized as follows: There has been an international trend towards: (a) recognizing the lack of input from a children's perspective to many decisions that affect them and; (b) consequently, the creation of institutions to promote children's interests and rights at national and local levels, with the following important characteristic: One, the institution is established by a public authority and has some sort of official status, and that a child advocate appointed by this House and responsible to this House would fit that bill just nicely. It is substantially, if not completely, independent in actions and attitudes.

Once again, a child advocate which would enjoy the same pleasures as does the Auditor General, that particular clause is tailored to the child advocate. Three, it has wide-ranging (inaudible) across different policy areas.

A child advocate would in fact have wide-ranging (inaudible) and that would cross not only into the bureaucracy that is found in the system and all the cracks that children can fall through, but also things that are happening outside the system, outside in the community that would have a direct or indirect effect on the quality of life of the children of our Province.

The committee also recommends that the advocate report to the legislature as opposed to Cabinet and that the reporting would be similar to that of the Auditor General. As I have said before, the advocate would be empowered to review and comment on the operations, programs, and mandate of all provincial government departments and agencies.

I feel herein lies the problem, not with finances; but this advocate would focus on the shortcomings of the government. There would be somebody independent who could look at everything that this government is doing or is not doing that adversely effects children. This advocate would bring to the attention of the government and to the attention of the public all of these shortcomings.

The minister refers to the input of social workers. It was only a little while ago that there was a demonstration of social workers. This demonstration was to protest the heavy caseloads that these social workers have and how they are unable to give adequate attention to their caseloads as it is.

I suggest that we start right here at home and listen to these social workers who are telling us that they are greatly overworked, that their caseloads are so great that they cannot give the proper attention to the folks who are getting in touch with them, to the folks they are serving and government are serving, and there is definitely a need for more social workers.

In fact, if this Child, Youth and Family Services Act is to fulfil what it is meant to fulfil then we certainly need additional resources; resources in the form of more money into the programs and resources into the form of many more social workers in the programs.

While in talking about social workers, at the present time there really is no avenue for social workers in the child welfare system to voice any grievances about matters of policy within their department. There have been numerous studies done and still within the social workers there is an atmosphere of fear that if they speak up against policy there will be retribution. A child advocate would be a perfect vehicle for social workers to bring any failures or shortcomings in the policy to the attention of a person who would be actually able to do something about it without fear of reprisal of the social workers.

A child advocate would also be aware of the needs of parents and other family. Right now, if a welfare worker or social worker has to go and apprehend a child from a family, then the next day that social worker finds herself dealing directly with the family. There has to be adversary there because the family immediately are on the defensive or the offensive with the social worker for having apprehended the child from the house. Social workers are really put in the position of having to remove children one day and go back and work with families the next day.

The Child Welfare Act will not really be worth the paper it is written on if the government does not address the issue of providing enough resources to implement the policies. It is all very well to come into this House and verbalize, get up and present a document like this Act Respecting Child, Youth and Family Services. Many of the policies that are written within there are excellent policies and would do a good service to the families, to the youth, and to the children of this Province.

But if we do not have enough resources to implement the policies, then really what is the point of coming in here and saying we are going to do this and going to do that, as has been seen so often when we have passed legislation in this House before, and when we have commissioned committees to do studies and they have not been implemented? I find that this government is strong on commissioning people, strong on studies, but not strong enough in the implementation. Where there are extra workers needed to address the growing caseloads we are experiencing here in the Province, there really needs to be more social workers appointed.

The minister also refers to the voluntary agreements where parents can in fact offer that their child be placed in care without having to admit they have done something wrong. Parents can come forward and seek help, something in the past they were afraid to do. That is really wonderful, because in many cases we see parents in our Province in stress.

Another recommendation from the Report of the Select Committee on Children's Interests was Recommendation No. 21, and that 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 or who are in crisis.

Many times out in rural Newfoundland we find there is no access to a social worker or to a professional, and the parents know they have a problem on their hands but have nowhere to turn. If this 1-800 line were established, then help would be as close as the nearest telephone.

I think there are very few places now in Newfoundland where there is no access to a telephone. So that would do two things. It would give people in all parts of our Province access to help immediately. Also in many cases in the Province, and I suppose universally, in small communities if parents were to approach a professional and report they had a crisis or they needed help, or they were abusing their child, or that there was any problem, there would be a societal stigma attached to that. Therefore in many instances families, even if the professional is there in the community, in small communities, families - parents - will not take advantage of that. Because they immediately see themselves as going public with their problem and this stigma is then attached to them, that they have a problem with their children.

This 1-800 line that was recommended by the Select Committee on Children's Interests would actually be something that would eliminate that altogether. It is pretty well cost negligible to set up this line. It is $95,000. Ironically enough, the cost of setting up this telephone line equates with the cost of keeping one person in Whitbourne for a year. If we are talking about intervention and prevention, this is a perfect avenue to access prevention. If the setting up of this line prevented one child from going to Whitbourne then we have already saved the money. I suggest that it would be much more effective than that. It was suggested by the Select Committee representing people on both sides of this House that in fact that would be a wonderful idea.

Another reason why parents find themselves in crisis is because they find themselves hungry, and in many cases government can invest in the prevention of the factors that lead to neglect, abandonment and harm for children. We do not know all the causes but we do know that poverty and child welfare go hand in hand.

A social assistance policy that would allow parents to adequately feed and clothe their children - one that would see their financial assistance officers not referring them to food banks - would have far-reaching positive effects in reducing the stress that prevents adequate parenting.

I am constantly receiving calls from people. They do not have enough food in the house for their children and they have been referred to the food bank. They have already been there once this month and they cannot go back again because the food banks only have x number of resources to deal with. With the constant drain on them, they find that they have to reduce the amount of visits that people can make, and also that they have to reduce the amount of food they can give them.

Here we have a couple of things. Today in question period I mentioned in this House that when people find themselves laid off from work, when they go to a financial assistance officer, the financial assistance officer goes back sixty days. I said - and I stick by this - that there are very few people working in this Province who provide for sixty days. Most people live from cheque to cheque. If you get your cheque you have budgeted to allow yourself to live from that cheque until the next pay period, and in most instances that is bi-monthly or two weeks away. I suggested to the Minister of Health and Community Services that instead of going from thirty days to sixty days we should in fact have gone from thirty days to a pay period, which is the way most people budget.

I know of very few people, especially those who are employed temporarily or get temporary employment, who are able to put away money for sixty days. The minister referred to the fact that many of them have been topped up in the past. If they have then Human Resources and Employment know what they have gotten so they don't need to go back sixty days. They know that if they have had their employment topped up that it has been topped up to barely meet the necessity, or almost barely meet, because we know that social assistance payments, in most cases, are not enough to meet the needs of the families.

I say to the minister that she should confer with her colleague from the Department of Human Resources and Employment and bring in a social assistance policy that will address prevention in a real way. This policy will not merely address the small amount of social assistance but will also address hands-on education for family, resources, education that a family can take advantage of; a program that would see resource workers going in with the family, taking the amount of money that they need, budgeting for meals, shopping for the food, and in the preparation of nutritious meals for their families that would help them utilize the amount of money they receive in the best possible way for their families, and thus cut down on the stress that causes abuse and causes parents to abuse or abandon or hurt their children in any way.

The Child Welfare Act says it will be in the best interest of the child. It also says that it is in the best interest of the child that he or she be kept with family. If they cannot be kept with their parents that they be kept with a member of the immediate family or with some distant relative. As I said the other day, I remember a case a couple of years ago where there was a family in Torbay. The parents were unable to take care of their three children so the sister of the mother, the children's aunt, was going to take the children in. They were low income people, and caring for three extra children would have created a major burden financially on them. The Department of Human Resources and Employment said that it is not the policy to pay for children if they were living with family.

As good as the concept of keeping children and siblings together and keeping them with family is, unless we put up the necessary resources, put them in place to ensure that this is able to be implemented, then it is not really worth much. Because for any family to take in a couple of extra children obviously causes a burden. I know it is the policy of the Department of Human Resources and Employment and of this government that families should be responsible for families. That is easy to say, but if you put three children in on a family that is already having difficulty making ends meet, this is going to increase the financial burden. It may in fact preclude the children from staying with the families. While I think this is a wonderful idea, I also think we should put resources in place to see that this is able to happen.

There was another case of a young single mother. This mom was about twenty years old, she was a single person and she had had a child. When she had her baby, she and her baby then went to live with her parents. Things were going along fine for about eighteen months and this baby really bonded with the grandmother. Then the young twenty-year-old mother, who had been looking for work for quite awhile, found she was unable to find employment here. She decided she would move away to Ontario, she could get a job there, and eventually she could probably make a life for herself and then send for her baby. It was physically impossible for her to take her baby to Ontario with her. As a matter of fact, her family doctor recommended that at this point in time she was not really emotionally equipped to take an eighteen-month-old child to Ontario.

The grandmother went to social services and said: I want to take this baby. This baby has been living with us for eighteen months, it has been living in this house, it has bonded with us, but my husband and I are on fixed income, we make barely enough to make the mortgage payments on our modest home, pay our bills, and keep food on the table. I will take care of this baby, I want to take care of this baby, but when her mom moves out of the house then the income that this mom is receiving for the baby will go with it. We are unable to take care of the baby. We do not want to be paid for the hours that we put in. All I am asking is that daycare be provided so that I can go to work, and also an allowance just for diapers. The Department of Human Resources, Child Protection said: We do not pay families to take care of children.

They would have had to take the child out and put it into foster care The question was asked: How much will it cost for this baby to be put in foster care? The amount was approximately $1,000 a month. How much would the cost be for daycare for this baby and for Pampers? It came to $400 a month, but because the policy of the Department of Human Resources and Employment and the policy of Child Protection was that they did not pay families to take care of children, they were going to take this child - Child Protection, which is supposed to be responsible for the protection of children - from its grandmother's home, where it had lived for the eighteen months of its life, where it was obviously being nurtured and cared for, and put it into a foster home costing $600 more a month than it would to keep it where it had bonded. This was the policy.

Fortunately, after many phone calls, after much begging and beseeching, and asking people to figure the numbers, that grandmother was fortunate enough to be able to keep that baby in her home. As I said, it is all very well to put into the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, that it is in the best interest of children that they be left with immediate family. We certainly have to put our money where the written word is. We have to put the money where the policy is.

In this case the government would have had to put less money into better care for the child, and if advocacy had not taken place on behalf of this child and a lot of intervention had not taken place at a lot of levels, this eighteen-month-old baby would have been removed from the home where she had lived and bonded and was nurtured and loved, and put in a foster home at a cost of $600 more a month to the government.

We have to take a long hard look at that particular section of the act and make sure we have provisions there so that the children can in fact remain in places with families where they are loved.

I would like to address the act as it pertains to the youth. A child is a person up to sixteen years of age and a youth is a person between sixteen and eighteen. That is the sixteen- and seventeen-years-olds.

Part II of the act applies to the youth as well as to the child; however, there is no duty by the public to report incidents of neglect or abuse where a youth is concerned. We can say that in many cases a youth, a sixteen- or seventeen-year-old, is quite capable of going and reporting the abuse himself or herself. In many case that, in fact, is true. However, there are many, many cases where a youth, sixteen or seventeen years old, is living in a situation where they are intimidated by their caregiver and they are in fact afraid to report abuse. Therefore, the act should state that as well as people being responsible for reporting obvious or suspected child abuse, they should also be expected to report obvious or suspected youth abuse.

The services of the act are available. There is a weakness in the act because the services are available once a report is made and the director feels the necessity for intervention. It is most certainly appropriate to treat youth differently in the area of services, but the duty to report abuse should be the same both for the child and the youth.

In an effort to portray accountability, the minister has provided for the appointment of - and I have spoken about this before - a provincial director of child welfare who will have the responsibility for standards and policy development, including mandatory evaluation; six regional directors will be appointed and will report to regional boards; an arm's length minister's advisory committee comprised of individuals who will have an interest in children's issues, including a lawyer and two persons who will receive child welfare services. The role of the advisory committee will be to review every two years the operation of the proposed legislation and determine whether the principles and purpose of the bill are being achieved. The proposed legislation also provides for the establishment of custody review committees within each of the regional health and community services board and integrated health boards, again with the participation of the persons who have received child welfare services. This committee would review annually all children for whom guardianship has been granted on a permanent basis by the court.

Government is further supporting accountability through the funding of youth and care network, the establishment of the Premier's Council on Social Development, and the development of the social audit as intended in the Strategic Social Plan. The focus, rather than to provide for direct accountability on the part of the minister, seems to overemphasis the technique, procedures, mechanisms and information systems. It is my doubt that the problems that concern us will be resolved with such a focus. If this were the case, our problems would have been solved long ago.

The focus should be on children, the best interests of children, an advocate - one who speaks for another - in this case for the children; one who would empower the child to speak for himself or to direct and instruct the activities of the advocate to speak on his or her behalf; one who would seek to enhance and support rather than replace the child's relationship with others; one who would be independent, and thus whose focus would be entirely on children.

It is obvious that this government fears the appointment of such a person. I can only conclude that there must be many deficiencies and failures on which they do not want the spotlight to shine. With the devolution of power to the boards, the need for an advocate is even greater than ever.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS S. OSBORNE: How is my time? Two minutes? Okay.

I will go back to accountably. As I have mentioned previously, with the devolution of power, the lines of responsibility are getting further and further away from the ministerial level, creating even more bureaucracy.

Community health boards are also responsible for the running of other programs. When it comes to fiscal restraint, where will the priorities lay? It is human nature for bureaucrats to put their scare resources into health care rather than into child welfare. Health care demands are more public and gain greater publicity.

Who is going to advocate for funds for the children? I suspect once again we see the need for a children's advocate. Child welfare responsibility should be held by an agency or by an advocate that has no allegations or allegiances to other demands. If this new legislation is enacted and implemented properly, it will see a need for many more resources; resources that presently does not exist.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

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

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MS S. OSBORNE: Thank you.

Right now in every Province thousands of children go to bed hungry, and all the child welfare legislation in the world is not going to do anything about that. At present the people on social assistance are not receiving enough money to live on, to supply the basic essentials. Will these problems be addressed with the Child Welfare Act?

Section 7(c) reads that: "...the family is the basic...". The problems with this statement is the use of the word, `family'. Nowhere in the act that I could find was the term `family' defined at all, not to say properly defined.

The minister is saying that she is being progressive and bringing this legislation into the next century, but it will be flawed if it does not define what it really means as family. What really constitutes a family?

There are traditional definitions of family; there is a mom, a dad, and children, et cetera. That really no longer exists. Is there any reason why the government is intentionally not defining family in this act? Is it afraid of going some place where it perhaps does not want to be?

Section 11 is youth care agreements. Now there are some serious concerns about establishing legislation promising to offer services to the sixteen and eighteen age groups, as I have said. In legislation, as well as having to report abuse of a child, the legislation should also see that we report the abuse of the sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds. This group is always seen as lost. They were not previously covered by the Child Welfare Act once they turned sixteen, and they were too young to apply for social assistance. So they were out there from the age of sixteen to the age of eighteen or nineteen, floating around in limbo. They really were not protected by anybody. It is really good to see that they are brought into the act, but we have to be very aware that the problems of people who are sixteen and seventeen years old, differ greatly from the problems of small children.

Small children will suffer abuse, hunger and things, but the people who are sixteen and seventeen years old have distinct problems. Many of them are into alcohol and substance abuse. Now, I know that this also pertains to the folks who are twelve, thirteen and fourteen these days, but they are covered well by the act. The sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds suffer from substance abuse, from alcohol abuse, from sexually transmitted diseases, from pregnancies and things, and they are going to pose a great challenge to the system. I welcome the fact that they have been brought into the system - this is long overdue - but these folks are going to pose a definite challenge to the system. The attention they will demand by their varied and very, very definite problems - as I have said: substance abuse, alcohol abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, teenage pregnancy, et cetera - they are going to demand a lot of time from the system, and that time we should give them, but in order to give them that time, once again we need to see more social workers brought into the system, professionally trained social workers, to deal with these particular kinds of problems brought into the system.

In many other parts of the country, and in other parts of the world, when a child reaches the age of fifteen child, welfare authorities almost wash their hands of them. They are very volatile. If new resources and new social workers are not found to deal with the problems, everybody in the system will suffer then. The small children who were previously in the system will suffer and the youth will suffer because the social workers' caseloads will become so great not just in number but also in the seriousness of their caseloads. That is not to undermine the seriousness of child abuse, which we are already dealing with, but why would we take the present number of social workers and put extra caseloads on them, extra very serious caseloads on them, which will take away from the validity and take away from the ability to implement the different policies that are contained in this Child, Youth and Family Services Act?

Section 14(j): A child is in need of protective intervention where the child is living in a situation where there is violence.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. member to take her seat for a moment.

It being 4:04 p.m. on a Thursday, the Chair will now read the questions that will be debated at what we refer to as the Late Show.

Number 1 is from the Member for Bonavista South, a question to the Minister of Health and Community Services: I am dissatisfied with the answer concerning my question on the need to open beds at Golden Heights Manor.

Number 2 is from the Member for St. John's West, a question to the Minister of Human Resources and Employment: I am dissatisfied with the answer concerning my question on social assistance appeals.

Number 3 is from the Member for St. John's South, a question to the Minister of Environment and Labour: I am dissatisfied with the answer concerning my question on Newfoundland Hardwoods toxic waste.

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

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

I was just speaking on Section 14(j). This is where the act will now state: A child is in need of protective intervention where the child is living in a situation where there is violence.

The old act read `where there is severe domestic violence.' Now, what constitutes violence? We know what severe domestic violence is, but the new legislation is reading just `violence'. What is violence? I have already spoken previously that law enforcement officers are reluctant and unwilling to call the child welfare authorities when they visit a home where there is domestic violence. Many times the welfare of the children is overlooked in these volatile situations. If the officer goes in, he is already going into a very volatile situation so he or she could go in and address the situation with the adults there, but what about the children who are exposed to this violence?

The act will address that, but the legislation raises the bar when it comes to tolerance for children being exposed to violence in the home. Violence could be siblings fighting. We would not remove children for that, but then who decides that, if you went into a home and there were two siblings fighting? I know, from being a mom and also from being a sibling, that siblings fight. How much of this would be tolerated? Where is the line drawn on the violence? I think that this should be defined a little bit better.

Many more social workers would be needed to be employed by the government if we are going to address this broad definition of violence. I would be afraid to address what resources would be needed, but in fact if we are going to take the time in this House to go clause-by-clause through this act, and if we are going to take the time of this House to pass this act, this much needed and long overdue act, then we should be prepared to put in place the resources, financial and human, that are necessary to implement this act.

Section 21 is long overdue. Looking at the time frame for court hearings and serving of notices, it appears that this will be a nightmare for social workers because of the time constraints especially in the courts. If notice is made, as it is referred to in the act, in conjunction with other protective intervention such as the removal of a child, then it would appear that the social worker would do nothing for about a week but prepare the documents, deliver them, and then appear in court.

With each piece of the Legislation that we look at, once again we see the need for: (a) more human resources, more social workers; (b) a child advocate; (c) more money to implement it. This act will be good when these things are put in place.

Part V refers to court proceedings. The new legislation seems to have added another court hearing into the legal process. This court hearing will be called a presentation hearing. This is new and on appearance creates much more work for the social worker and for the courts.

I have no problem in creating more work. If we need to create more work by bringing in this act then we need to create more work. Once again, I want to stress the importance of providing the human resources that will be able to implement this act to see that the people who this act is intended to protect, that their needs are addressed.

Once again in Part V I would say that court dates are already difficult to obtain. Notices of hearing will have to be served on more people, which will be time consuming for the social worker. The completion of court orders and other court documents have been the responsibility of the social workers, and the added process is going to create more paperwork and take away from the time that the social worker will have in the field. Once again addressing the need for more human people, more human resources have to be added in order to effectively implement this act.

The new act requires the social worker to supply the court with a written plan for the child ten days prior to the presentation hearing. A proper case plan is something that takes time and requires the social worker to fully acquaint themselves with the parties involved.

Once again, we are back to the same thing. We are back to the need for more people. There is more work and that is great. Actually we are creating employment; we are creating more work. If this act is to be successfully implemented, I stress again the need for more social workers.

There is much more, I suppose, and we could go on. I will address this act further in committee. On the surface, the act is very good but it is only as good as this paper that has been used to print it on if we do not address the need for a child advocate who will advocate on behalf of the child, on behalf of the youth, on behalf of the family, and on behalf of the social workers who -

AN HON. MEMBER: How much leave do you want?

MS S. OSBORNE: How much do you want to give me?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) depend on us to cooperate.

MS S. OSBORNE: I say to the member opposite, this is a very important act.

MR. SHELLEY: She's making good points.

MS S. OSBORNE: Yes, I am making good points.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS S. OSBORNE: Okay, I will conclude now. I will address the rest of -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS S. OSBORNE: Anyway, in conclusion I will say that this act - and I will address it further when it comes to committee - is a good act, there is no doubt about it. It lacks a couple of things. The main thing that it lacks is - no, I guess they are equal - a child advocate who will be able to advocate on behalf of the child, on behalf of the youth, on behalf of the family, on behalf of the social workers and the folks out there in the system into whose hands we entrust the lives of these children.

The advocate is a person who, if a child is removed from the home, the families will feel comfortable in approaching. The social worker who sees deficiencies in the policies, rather than having to go to a supervisor, a manager, a department head, a director, an advisory board, can go directly to the child advocate and say: These are the flaws that I see in my everyday working with the people of this Province, in whose care we are entrusted. These children trust us to take care of them, so we should leave no stone unturned in the care of these children. If, by appointing a child advocate, this situation can be addressed by the children themselves - the youth, the moms and dads, the aunts, uncles and the families as well as the social workers - then we should definitely - I have no question about it. I don't understand why it has not been recommended with this new act. However, I will keep pushing for it and hopefully we will be successful because I think this is going to be an integral part of this Child, Youth and Family Services Act.

The other thing that is not addressed here is resources - monetary resources and human resources - because with each clause of this act we see more and more things being directed for the children, more and more work for the social workers in the apprehension of the children and in getting involved in the court system, more paperwork for the social workers. I am not knocking that. I am merely advocating to make sure that we have enough social workers in place that these policies are able to be implemented properly on behalf of the people entrusted to our care.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I am pleased to rise today to speak in the debate relative to Bill No. 37, An Act Respecting Child, Youth And Family Services. As has been said by my colleague, the Member for St. John's West, we generally speaking give some approvals to this particular piece of legislation.

In the minister's statement in the House a few days ago she made great fanfare out of the fact that the act has not been amended since 1944. There have been lots of opportunity for changes to be made since 1944; that is fifty-four years. The Liberal Party has been in power for all but seventeen of those years, so they had thirty-seven years to be able to make changes. The truth of the matter is that this amendment or this new act has been in the process now for a long, long time. Before I arrived at the Legislature in 1993, there was talk of a new child welfare act. When my colleague, the Member for Bonavista South, became the critic in 1993, I think it was, there was great dialogue at that time over a report by the Child Welfare League of America, and how that particular report recommended that our child welfare legislation be changed to become more modern, to become less focused on structures and systems, and more focused on the child.

One of the big things about this act is that it is child-centred. I commend the minister for her initiative in making sure that for once this Province has a piece of child welfare legislation that isn't system-centred and structure-centred, but it is child-centred.

Also, in her notes she mentioned the fact that it is the government's intention to aim at early intervention and prevention. We on this side of the House commend these initiatives. We believe that we have to do a lot more with our child welfare legislation other than give it enabling function, which is what we are doing now, if this act is going to have meaning in the homes, in the schools, and also in this Province, in the various communities, because while this Legislature will give enabling approval, enabling legislation, it is what is going to happen in the homes, in the schools, in the communities, that will mean whether this act works or not.

The philosophy is right. The minister's philosophy is correct; it is headed in the right direction. It is child-centred, it is early intervention, it is prevention. When we fail to have early intervention, to have prevention strategies in place, we see the results through children who are leaving school at Grade VIII and Grade IX; we see the end results.

Some years ago we had a federal initiative called `Stay in School'. It was a commendable program but it was on the wrong end of things. It was after the children had fallen through the cracks. It was after they had gone and had not had the benefit of early intervention.

What this act does - and I commend the minister for persuading her colleagues over there to go along with the legislation - hopefully, is change the focus. It says we are going to have focus on the preschool. We are going to have some focus there that says, when you have difficulty with a child who is two years old or three years old, you can get help for that child, so that child can maintain a meaningful growth pattern that can measure it with children of that age. That is what is good about this piece of legislation. If I were to say one thing that is positive about it, I would say that it is the focus on early childhood years.

There is lots of research, plenty of research. I could quote from many, many authors and presenters who came forward to the Children's Interest Committee, who said: If you are going to anything with child welfare legislation, look at the early years. That is why we on this side of the House are saying that we are going to give some approval to this particular piece of legislation. It is not a perfect piece.

We acknowledge as well the comments made by the minister relative to the Judge Gove inquiry in British Columbia. I have read extensively about Judge Gove, and I know that he made some significant recommendations which have been followed in the Province of British Columbia. Again, we know that this particular piece of legislation has been vetted through a number of authorities, of which Judge Gove is one.

Mr. Speaker, perhaps as well I should note the very progressive piece of legislation governing child welfare in the Yukon. The Yukon Territories has some of the very best progressive child legislation in this country. There has been some consultation between some of the people who work for the department and the people in the Yukon. Also, we have had some extensive discussion with the lawyers who have drafted the legislation for the Yukon.

Mr. Speaker, I should note here that the minister, in her comments, identified as well the sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds. If there is one thing I would want to point out in my short time to speak here, it is that this particular piece of legislation doesn't cure the problem, but it does something for the sixteen- to seventeen-year-olds.

I can say from experience what it is like to be a school administrator and to have a parent call and say: My sixteen-year-old has run away. You say to them: What can we do about it? They say: I have called the social worker and they say: We cannot do anything about it unless the child has been previously in foster care and there had been less than a three month gap.

This particular piece of legislation enables the Ministry to take some actions. That is good. We note as well that there has to be some consensual agreements put in place. This should help parents, who find it so frustrating to find that their sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds are in trouble. Some of them walk out of their homes, some of them are on the streets, some of them run away and go out of the Province. They get on buses, in trucks or whatever they do, and parents find that their sixteen-year-olds could be out of the Province and they are not able to get intervention, unless they can prove the child is in some kind of danger or has been in some kind of coercive situation.

This particular piece of legislation addresses these kinds of issues. As a former school administrator I can tell you that it is so frustrating when you have a young teenager who is in difficulty and when the law does not permit you to do anything about it. You have parents who are in agony and cannot get help from the police, cannot get help from the Department of Health and Community Services, formerly the Department of Social Services, and social workers are not able to intervene. This particular piece of legislation does permit that to happen.

As well, I want to note that there is a family focus in this legislation. These are the positive things we want to say are commendable. However, we also want to bring forward a couple of things that are not in the legislation.

I had hoped we would introduce a policy to have social workers more connected with the school system. We have our children going to a setting every day called our school system. There should be some kind of interaction between the department's social workers and the school system. I just want to note here that many times in the school system teachers have many students who need help from social workers. There was an experiment done a few years ago where they did have some targeted schools, and these targeted schools had social workers as part of their team approach. In fact, the members opposite, when they reviewed the situation a few years ago, changed it.

I would just like to perhaps elaborate on that a little bit. Because we do know that in 1992 the former Roman Catholic School Board for St. John's, and the former Avalon Consolidated School Board, they issued a pilot program in a partnership with the School of Social Work at Memorial to place social work interns in the school environment. That was part of their curriculum, part of their practicum for the completion of the degree of social work.

However, later the program was extended to the former Conception Bay South School Board, and also for the Appalachia School Board. In fact, a total of eighteen schools participated in that particular pilot program. They were scattered all throughout the Province.

I don't see in this legislation any sense whereby we are going to build on that initiative, and I think we are making our mistake, because most children go to school every day, expect those who are too hungry to go. The school system is a place where we could be doing a lot more to solve some of the social problems than we are doing. Having the social workers more directly involved in the school system I think is a way to go, because the teachers see the problems, they identify the problems, they see the hungry children and they see the aggression. They are witnessing it every day.

When we had the pilot we had eighteen schools involved in it, to have the school system working with the department's social workers to make the best programs available for children. Initially, I should say, there was some hesitancy on the part of some guidance counsellors. Some guidance counsellors said: No, we don't want this going on because this is competing on our turf.

We have a situation today in this Province where there is one guidance counsellor for every 1,000 students. On the Burin Peninsula, for example, where there are 4,900 students, in essence there are five guidance counsellors. They have to cover everything, from the bottom of Fortune Bay, all around the Burin Peninsula. There are five guidance counsellors for the entire Burin Peninsula. If we were to use that resource and we were able to integrate it more with the social workers we would have a much better system. We could address more of the issues in a much better way.

I would like to see, somewhere in this particular piece of legislation, some way in which the school system and the social services division of the Department of Health and Community Services would be more integrated to provide a total service. We need to have what we call a one-stop shopping approach to child care. If we could have this approach, I think it would reap great benefits.

I should note as well that there was an analysis done in 1995 by a firm hired by the government. It was done by Warren and Rowe to conduct a review of the pilot, and their assessment of that pilot was very positive. They said: This is the right way to go to make sure that the school system and the department's social workers would work as a team. That is not happening. I don't see anything in this legislation that says we are going to do everything we could do. When you have a pilot done in eighteen schools - every single school principal said: This is a great idea. Then the pilot money was gone, the federal money dried up, and the initiative dried up.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, I will continue the debate on tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

It being 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, I call on the hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health and Community Services. Earlier in the week, I think it was on Monday or Tuesday, I raised the question with the minister where I asked if the minister would consider opening some extra beds at the Golden Heights Manor, commonly referred to as the home in Bonavista, in order to accommodate the people who are on the waiting list and identified and assessed to be candidates to be admitted into that facility.

Down in Bonavista there has been a concerned citizens committee that has been out protesting, I think, for well in excess of 150 days to try to bring light to this particular situation. What they are asking is if the minister would look favourably on opening the amount of beds that need to be opened in order to accommodate the people who are on the waiting list to be admitted to this facility. The minister continues to say that the waiting list is not long enough or else some of the people assessed are not at the level that should be admitted into this particular home.

It is a job to tell somebody when they call you and they are trying to get their loved one - their mother, father or grandmother - into a senior citizens' home knowing full well that there are ten vacant beds there, ten vacant beds which were created by the spending of $1.4 million, that their loved one cannot be admitted to that home because there is not enough people on the waiting list.

My argument and the argument of the concerned citizens in Bonavista is that if there is one person on the waiting list, and if there is a vacant bed there, then why can't that person be admitted? Nobody expects the minister to go down and announce the opening of ten beds with nobody there to fill them. What they are saying, and what I am saying is: If there is a vacancy, if there is a need for one bed, open one bed. If there is a need for two, open two. If that need disappears within a week, a month, or two months, then that is okay, close the bed. If there is no need there, nobody expects to have staff hired or to have beds opened that do not need to be opened. That is the plea that has been brought forward.

The minister continues to say that it is not the need to reopen the beds that is the concern there; it has all to do with the economy; it has all to do with the fishery; it has all to do with employment.

Mr. Speaker, I say to you, I say through you, that I have not received one call from somebody asking me to do what I can to have those beds open so that their son or daughter, or they themselves, might be able to find a job in this particular institution. That is not the concern, and it is only sidestepping the issue by putting that need forward.

I have to refer to the board as well because I feel that this is another area where we could solve some problems locally. The boards, I feel - I have echoed this many times before - should be elected rather than appointed. Today boards are appointed and not only do I fear but I know, for the most part, they carry out the minister's wishes rather than the wishes of the people. I think many of the concerns that are brought to the minister could have been resolved at the board level if the board was more vigilant and going out and responding to the needs of the people rather than carrying out the department's agenda or the minister's agenda.

Mr. Speaker, my plea for the second time this week is very simple. I ask the minister if she would consider opening the number of beds that are needed to fill the list in Bonavista, and when that need subsidizes, when there is no need there, then the minister can certainly have the beds closed again and there will be no argument from me or from the people in the area who want to keep those particular beds open.

The Golden Heights Manor is an institution that is comparable to anything here in this Province. When people refer to it as the Home, that is the way it should be because it is a home. I don't know anywhere else where parents or grandparents or loved ones could go to be treated any better than they can in this particular facility in Bonavista.

Mr. Speaker, with that I will pass it to the minister and ask if she would respond.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) to say.

MR. FITZGERALD: I have lots to say, I say to the minister, and I have said it many times before in conversation with the minister and in meetings with the minister.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. FITZGERALD: I implore the minister to respond to the need to have those beds open as the need arises, and if the need is not there then nobody will be putting forward any argument for having them closed.

Thank you.

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


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

I was really disappointed. I thought I would have another opportunity to talk about the Health Care Corporation and their budget again. However, in response to this question today, I will say that I have full confidence in the board. They have made the decisions based on the needs in the area. Whenever you are dealing with the issue of long-term care, you have to factor in the home support, personal care homes, and also the long-term care needs within the community. I will say again that we will make the decisions not only based on the financial needs but also based on the waiting list and the appropriate level of client that is waiting to be serviced in that area.

As well, I think it is important to note that I did not blame what was happening on the fishery. In fact, I said that whenever you are looking at a community you have to look at the community in its whole; and we do know there are many issues happening in the town of Bonavista. I have met with the people many times, both in the lobby and in my office. I have gone out to Bonavista, as has the board, and I think we will work and treat the people in Bonavista in a fair way based on the needs and our ability to meet those needs.

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

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

I would like to address once again today the problem of the appeal process with the Department of Human Resources and Employment. I know the minister is not here but maybe somebody on the other side of the House could address this situation for me.

When I was speaking to this situation one day this week, what I asked was - and I did not get a response to this question - when a social worker, a financial assistance officer, or anybody in the system, makes a determination - and it could be an accurate or an inaccurate determination - that it is their opinion that a person is in violation of, or defrauding or breaking the rules or whatever as it refers to receiving social assistance, that person either has their money reduced or has their money suspended until the appeal process takes place.

What I asked was that, rather than suspending their money until the end of the appeal process when it is determined whether they are in fact guilty of violating the social services policy - I asked that because of the extremely low amount of money that they already receive and the hardship that is placed on them, and then they find themselves in a situation where maybe they are not guilty - and in this House of Assembly and in this Province and in this country we operate on the premise, `innocent until proven guilty' - basically we have put these people in a `guilty until proven innocent' mode. We assume that they are guilty and we behave as if they are guilty because we either reduce or withdraw assistance from them until after the appeal process has taken place.

My question to the minister was: Why can't we leave their assistance in place until after the appeal process? Her answer was to me: In an appeal, how it starts, it starts at the level of the FAO, the financial assistance officer. Then it proceeds to the district manager. Then there can be a service review appeal that also takes place at the district level. Of course, ultimately there can also be an independent appeal through the appeal board.

This is the very thing I was addressing. A person has to go through each of these levels, and they do not take a day and they do not take a week. Many times they are into two or three months. They have to go through all of these levels until their social assistance is reinstated.

What I am asking is: Folks who have been determined or who are alleged to have or believed to be or perceive to be in violation of the social assistance policy don't have to wait until they go through their financial assistance officer, the district manager, the service review appeal at the district level, and then an independent appeal process. The question that I am asking is: Can we keep them receiving their social assistance until all these appeals have been heard? If we have to go through these four different levels of bureaucracy, with people not receiving social assistance, in many, many cases they are innocent and their social assistance is suspended, causing great hardship to them and to their children. Can we leave their assistance in place until after the appeal process has been done with?

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I just wanted to make a few comments with respect to the question raised. I am always a little concerned when the hon. member asks the questions because I know her intent is properly focused, but she tries to suggest, as the Opposition critic, that she might be the only person in Newfoundland and Labrador concerned about the plight of those who are least fortunate amongst us in terms of people who have to turn to social assistance for support and so on.

Members on this side of the House spend over half their time, I would suggest, trying to assist people she refers to - from their own districts and from others - who have fallen upon hard times and would like to try to get through the bureaucracy as best they can to qualify for some assistance from the government under social assistance or other programs. From time to time a question like this one is raised: Is it reasonable to have a sixty-day period of looking at income and so on?

In fact, the policies have continued to be under review, and it has always been deemed to be reasonable. The fact of the matter is that unless the policy, I guess, that was drawn up for the Blue Book that they did not get to use, was that if someone comes into a social assistance office and asks for assistance, that you will ask them no questions about whether or not they have any financial ability themselves or never had any, then I do not understand how they are going to assess anyone's individual need.

MS S. OSBORNE: A point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the member for St. John's West, on a point of order.

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

The hon. member seems to be answering the question that I asked today in the House. The question that I was referring to was the one I asked the other day on people being removed from social assistance while their appeal process is on the go, rather than going in - they are not looking for social assistance. It has been determined that they are in violation.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. member to taker her seat. There is no point of order.

The hon. the Minister of Education.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As always, they do not listen to my answer. They always want to try to interrupt me because I was getting around to the point. As the Leader of the Opposition said the other day when he gave a twenty-five minute soliloquy on why it is that I should be in the Senate now instead of being the Minister of Education, and the Speaker regularly and several times intervened to suggest that their should be relevance, I will get to the relevance if they will bear with me.

The fact of the matter is that all of the policies within this government are under constant review with respect to eligibility for social assistance. The bulk of the programs that are now being put in place in the overall review by the Minister of Human Resources and Employment, are designed to make sure that those people who are not on social assistance do not have to go there, and that those people who are the working poor will be as well off, if not better off, than those on social assistance. I am sure that the member opposite, and all of her caucus, fully supports those kinds of initiatives.

Because there was a program, I guess, and some information about a month ago that was discussed in the public about the fact that if somebody was on social assistance and had found a way to improve their lot in life and maybe find a job, they would in fact have to earn about $11 or $12 an hour or else it was better off for them to stay on social assistance.

Everything that is being done by this government, is being done from the point of view of trying to make sure that the system is designed so that anyone that needs assistance can have it. Those that find a way to remove themselves from the system still have enough supports that go with them so that they will be as well off, if not better off, bettering their life than when they were on social assistance.

The kinds of questions that the hon. member raises always suggest that the policies of the government are misdirected, that there is something wrong with the policies that this government has instituted, and that they are all designed in fact to leave people more dependent on social assistance rather than help get on with their lives. I will be interested to see, as will the minister responsible and everybody on this side of the House, what the statements will be. Because I think we should probably get a sneak preview of the blue book. They were so ready for the election that was not called that I am sure there is a whole section on what their policy would be with respect to each and every one of the issues that have been raised by the hon. member in his questions when and if they ever become the government.

Because we are quite interested in keeping a running tally of the commitments that they have made. We do know that with social assistance for those that are eligible (inaudible) that they will have a much broader program that will give people more money and will probably destroy a lot of the incentives to try to keep people from not depending on social assistance. We know, Mr. Speaker, that they will automatically put at least a couple of million dollars into -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the minister's time is up.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I look forward to giving more information as we get around to the answer to the question, maybe in the Late Show next week.

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

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

My questions again are for the Minister of Environment and Labour. Yesterday, I asked questions regarding Newfoundland Hardwoods and the toxic waste from Newfoundland Hardwoods. One of the questions I asked was: Could this problem have been avoided if it were addressed earlier? The response by the minister was that now that the toxic waste has solidified it is not going to leak out of the tanks. I appreciate that answer and that response, because I am sure the people of the Province feel far more comfortable now knowing that it is not going to leak, that it is solid.

What I would like to know is if this situation could have been avoided if it were addressed sooner. I address the question again. Could this situation of the waste solidifying been avoided, thus reducing the hazards of having to deal with toxic waste, if this had been dealt with while it was still in the form of creosote and asphalt?

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Environment and Labour.

MR. LANGDON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The bottom line is that the waste is secured and contained in sealed containers. The material that we are talking about is creosote, asphalt, and some contaminated soil. We recognize that some time this material has to be disposed of in a proper waste facility, but not in an ordinary landfill.

We have been negotiating sometime with the ITT as to find an affordable long-term solution to that. One of the possibilities of course is to work with the government, Public Works Canada, to find a proposed site at Argentia, but we would only do that with the concurrence of the local people. Sometimes also we have to ship out the hazardous waste. We obviously do not want to do that because we want to look after our own.

I want to say to the hon. member that the options were not there for the disposal earlier in liquid form and neither are they there at this particular moment. I want to reiterate to him that there is no threat to the environment, and the cost will be worked out when the options are finally concluded.

It would be cheaper for us to be able to dispose of it here than to send it abroad. It might very well be one of the options that we would have to look at, and probably one that would make a lot of sense, if we were to find a site of our own in the Province where we could contain all of our hazardous waste. That is certainly open as one of the possibilities.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, before you call the order to adjourn I want to advise members that tomorrow morning we will continue second reading of Bill 39. I expect we should clue that up in fifteen or twenty minutes. Then we will be going to Order No. 15, which is Bill 18. If we get through that, as I think we should, we will be going to Order No. 12, which is Bill 34. If we get that done we will be going to Order No. 17, which is Bill 39. When that is clued up we will go to Order No. 11, which is Bill 35. From there we will keep going right along. We will go through these few, Mr. Speaker. We might have to take an hour after lunch if hon. members opposite are satisfied, but we will try to get out of here as fast as we can.

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