The House met at 9:00 a.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

Statements by Ministers

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Later today I will introduce the proposed amendments to the Private Training Schools Act and regulations, the first major changes to the legislation in a decade. The amendments being introduced in the bill will establish stringent control measures, further protect students and increase the stability of the private training industry.

The rapid growth in the private training industry, which currently consists of fifty-seven different schools with more than 370 programs, has represented a significant challenge for government. A complete review of the act and regulations was necessary in order to adapt to the changes in this sector to meet the needs of the students, as well as the private training industry itself. Dr. Phil Warren's report on the private training system provides the basis for changes government is proposing to legislation today.

Dr. Warren has produced a report that has taken into account the opinions and concerns from private citizens, interest groups, the industry itself, and other political parties represented in the Legislature. Government is confident that proposed changes to the act and regulations will create the necessary bounds for protecting the students first and foremost, while addressing the needs of an expanding and changing private training industry.

Government is proposing to following major amendments to the Private Training Institutions Act and its regulations.

Firstly, the establishment of a train-out fund that will be used in the event of a school closure to assist students in the completion of their training. The fund will be credited with monies from mandatory contributions from all private training institutions, and the contribution will be 1 per cent of student tuition annually.

Secondly, the establishment of a private training corporation to administer the train-out fund on behalf of students and to make recommendations to the Minister of Education with respect to financial stability of private training institutions and other aspects of the Private Training Schools Act and regulations. The corporation will have a board of directors with members from the student population, private training industry, general public and government, and will be appointed by Cabinet.

Thirdly, there will be audited statements of institutions required annually by the Minister of Education.

There are also several regulatory changes being proposed in this bill that include:

increasing the bond to a minimum of $50,000 from the current level of $10,000, and a maximum of $150,000 from the current maximum of $75,000;

the period of time upon forfeiture of a bond, after which monies can be paid out, will be decreased from two years to six months;

schools must be in continuous operation as a registered private training institution for at least one year and have at least one graduating class before receiving designation for student aid purposes;

regulations will also stipulate the provisions that are required in a contract between a student and a private training institution;

the requirements for registration of new institutions, the renewal of registration for existing institutions, as well as the grounds for which a certificate can be refused, renewed, suspended or revoked, will be prescribed in the regulations;

the period of time for cancelling a license, when a owner ceases to operate a private training institution, will be reduced from ninety days to ten working days; and

a mechanism to address and resolve student problems with administrative and academic decisions will be developed and implemented through the regulations.

Government has lived up to its commitment for a complete review of the Private Training School Act and regulations. The implementation of these amendments to the legislation will represent this government's policy. It recognizes the changing environment of the private training industry, and most importantly, it provides more protection for students attending private training institutions in Newfoundland and Labrador.

It is government's intention to have the new legislation in effect for the next period of registration for private training institutions on January 1, 1999.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. H. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I thank the minister for forwarding a copy of the statement a few minutes ago.

One of the things I have some concern with is the fact that there is still too much policy and too much that is listed in regulations, as opposed to being listed in the act itself. We should be trying to put more of our rules and laws in legislation and less done by Cabinet through regulation.

Also, I want to make the point that the government still views college education as a commodity driven, marketplace driven focus. That philosophy has not changed. We, on this side, believe that we should be viewing college education and training as a social and economic development tool. We believe there is room in Newfoundland and Labrador for the public college system and the private college system. However, we want to say to the minister that the philosophy and the approach has not changed because we still see the government as essentially saying this is a buyer beware marketplace, commodity driven focus. We would like, as we go through the legislation, to bring that forward a little more clearly for the minister's consideration.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, I want to say that we agree with the changes that are being made here. However, there are some things in the Warren Report that are not focused here and we will bring these up during the debate which, I think, will probably start some time later this morning.

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

AN HON. MEMBER: No leave.

MR. SPEAKER: No leave.

The hon. the Minister for Environment and Labour.

MR. LANGDON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to inform hon. members of the results of the independent review undertaken by now retired Judge Nathaniel Noel, commissioned on behalf of the Department of Environment and Labour by the Department of Justice, into the cleanup of a former metal recycling site at Makinsons.

The review was undertaken to help resolve a difference of opinion between the consultant and the contractor involved in the Makinsons Environment Site Remediation Project. The dispute involved allegations that the contractor, SCC Environmental/Tri-Waste, a joint venture between a local company and a Calgary based company, had been overpaid by government for the amount of contaminated soil treated at the site. The other company involved in the dispute, Fracflow/BEAK, a joint venture between a local company and a national firm, was contracted to manage the cleanup project on behalf of the federal and provincial governments.

Mr. Speaker, Judge Noel was provided with all of the documentation relating to this project and was asked to conduct a comprehensive review into the allegations and report back to the Minister of Justice. I am pleased to report on my colleague's behalf that Judge Noel's investigation has concluded and there was no overpayment to the contractor, SCC Environmental/Tri-Waste, and that the contractor was entitled to all payments. Furthermore, the investigation reveals that there is no basis for government to take action against any party involved in the project.

Judge Noel was also asked to determine whether or not there had been any improper or undue influence during the course of the project. I am pleased to report that after careful review of the documentation, Judge Noel has concluded that there is no evidence of improper or undue influence.

Mr. Speaker, the cleanup of this former metal recycling site at Makinsons was undertaken between 1992 and 1995 as part of the National Contaminated Sites Remediation Program. The project was cost shared on a 50/50 basis between the federal and provincial governments, and a federal/provincial management committee was established to oversee the project.

Judge Noel recognized that these types of projects are new to the Province and are often difficult to manage. He has provided some guidance to my department with respect to the management of remediation projects of this type and magnitude. Please be assured, Mr. Speaker, that Judge Noel's advice will be given full consideration by my department during the course of any further remediation projects of this type.

It is my intention to table Judge Noel's report and the attachments in the House of Assembly by Monday or Tuesday of next week. The reason I am not doing so today, Mr. Speaker, is because this documentation contains several references to various companies and may contain information which could be detrimental from a competitive perspective. Therefore, the report and attachments are under review for proprietary information.

In closing, I should note that government announced its intentions to initiate an independent review of the issue in December, 1997. However, due to a number of circumstances beyond our control, the review could not begin until much later in the year. In addition, we did not place any time frame on the review so as to ensure Judge Noel had adequate and appropriate time to give this issue his full attention.

With that said, Mr. Speaker, I wish to express my appreciation to my colleague, the Minister of Justice, for his assistance in helping bring this matter to a conclusion; and, of course, my appreciation also extends to Judge Nathaniel Noel for his thorough and detailed review of this issue.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I understand the reason for the statement by Judge Nathaniel Noel being delayed, and for that reason we did not push the matter. There were circumstances which led to the delay in this report. I accept the report. It is good to finally see closure brought to this issue. I would be interested in seeing, when the documents are tabled next week, what guidance Justice Noel had provided to the Department of Justice and the Department of Environment and Labour regarding these types of projects.

Mr. Speaker, in closing, we accept as well the contents of the report and the fact that closure has finally been brought to this issue. We have no problem in the timing of the report, based on the circumstances surrounding that.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. K. AYLWARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Today I stand to inform the House of a Farm Aid Program for Canadian farmers which the Federal Minister, the Hon. Lyle Vanclief of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada announced yesterday.

This income-based program will see investment of $900 million over the next two years by the Government of Canada, and with provincial participation on a 60-40 federal-provincial cost-shared basis could see available funds boosted to $1.5 billion over the next two years.

I want to inform the House that our department, through the Assistant Deputy Minister, Martin Howlett, will be working with the other provinces' senior provincial and federal officials and industry leaders, over the coming days, to design and finalize program details and delivery options.

Mr. Speaker, the agrifoods sector of this Province is an important part of the rural economy of many of our communities, and if this program can benefit our farmers in the long term this government intends to participate.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We certainly support initiatives to support our basic primary industries here, in agriculture for example. I am sure there are needs also in this Province, under the minister's jurisdiction, with potato blight. I know my colleague, the critic for agrifoods, has raised issues on farmers and on devastation in his area too. So certainly we support initiatives.

We have the groundfishery. Support has come here for a basic industry in the Province. Our farming industry is very important and we need to have the same considerations here too for programs that affect it, even though they may not have the same magnitude as the problem out in Western Canada.

Thank you.

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 welcome any effort that can be put into place to assist farmers in this Province. We do have serious barriers to support for farm development in this country because of NAFTA and international trade obligations. We have a low food price policy but not the great ability to support farmers, and any effort that can be made through this process I would fully support.

Oral Questions

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

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

My questions today are for the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. It has been revealed today that government has stepped in to quietly take over the largest aquaculture operation in the Province, S.C.B. Fisheries Limited of Bay d'Espoir, reportedly to save the company from bankruptcy.

I would like to ask the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture this. When did the government realize the operation was in trouble, and on what date exactly did the provincial government move in?

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

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, we realized within the last eight months that there were some problems in Bay d'Espoir, when it really came to the crux. Before that we recognized there were major problems there because the type of strains of fish they were allowed to use in Bay d'Espoir were not conducive to the strains of fish that were being used in other parts of the world. They were limited in the size of fish that they could grow, and the cost of growing that species of fish was more than they could make a profit on. The cost was too high and they could not make a profit on it. That was when we recognized there was a problem in Bay d'Espoir.

When the shareholders of S.C.B. Fisheries Limited came to government we sat down. They were asking government for some assistance. We thought it necessary then to go down to S.C.B. Fisheries, to look into the operations, and to do a complete study. It was about six to seven months ago. I do not have the exact date, but I can certainly provide that for the hon. member.

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

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

It has been reported that government has put an additional $6 million in this year, on top of an investment of about $13 million from provincial sources over the years already - I would ask the minister to just correct that if that is not true -, for restructuring and to keep the operation alive. I would like to ask the minister: Is that correct? Exactly how much has government invested in the operation this year? In what forms has the investment come - whether it is in cash, guarantees et cetera-, and does the government anticipate other requirements in the near future for additional investment? Could he elaborate in some more detail to the House, please?

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

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, if you looked at what the governments of the past, up until the present day, have put into aquaculture in Newfoundland and Labrador, it is a minimum amount compared to the investment in aquaculture in other regions of Canada and other countries. There have been hundreds of millions of dollars invested in aquaculture worldwide. Research and development monies were put in in the initial stages. In any industry you certainly have to do that, and particularly the aquaculture industry.

In the case of Bay d'Espoir, we have put in the operation about $6.2 million this year. That is in the operations of Bay d'Espoir, the aquaculture division of fin fish operation there. We had to do that, otherwise we would have let it go into bankruptcy and all of the money that was invested in the past would have been wasted. We believe, very strongly, that there is a future in the aquaculture industry in Newfoundland. There is major aquaculture industry in New Brunswick, there is a major one in Nova Scotia, in the United States, there are major aquaculture industries all over the world. We are just going through some growing pains.

Will be put any more money into the future? No. We have drawn to a close on the investment from the taxpayers' point of view and government's point of view. What we are now doing is turning the aquaculture industry over to a private industry which has experience in the aquaculture industry. We are saying now they must make it work or else the aquaculture industry is over. I believe they can make it work.

Where we will invest money, where we will continue to participate, is in research and development in the aquaculture industry. Not only in the fin fish but all the species, and the shellfish industry as well.

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

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

I understand that the aquaculture industry is a growing industry. It requires assistance in research developing. It requires assistance when companies which are involved in the industry need to get their product to market or the develop niche markets. The minister has indicated they have put $6.2 million in this year. I would like to ask: Is that real cash you have put in in the form of guarantees? Could you explain exactly what investment was required since you moved into the operation?

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

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, that is cash. That is not in the form of guaranteed loans, that is in the actual operation of S.C.B. Fisheries Limited. In fact, I took the Assistant Deputy Minister responsible for aquaculture out of my department and sent him down to Bay d'Espoir to give me a complete review of the whole operation of the aquaculture industry in Bay d'Espoir where there was some problems. Then we went in and had an audit done. When I say an audit, I do not mean an audit of the books of S.C.B. Fisheries Limited, but an audit of the whole operations. To point out where the inefficiencies are and where we could make some improvements into the operations before we began discussions with private industry, or calling proposals for private industry to move into Bay d'Espoir.

We wanted to know the problems, and where we could make some improvements down there. That process has taken place. Now we are ready to negotiate with a private firm to move into Bay d'Espoir and make the aquaculture industry work down there.

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

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

Obviously we are talking about taxpayers' money. Whether we disagree or agree on what we should be doing, people have a right to know how the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture and government generally are investing their money.

I would like to ask the minister this question: What security or guarantees has the provincial government received that would protect the Province's investment in this private company? Is it still a private company? Does the Province now have all the guarantees on it? Do they own the investment down there? To what degree are provincial taxpayers exposed on the most recent government investment in this private operation?

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

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, if we had not moved into Bay d'Espoir this year, into S.C.B. Fisheries Limited, there would be no aquaculture industry. It would be over in Bay d'Espoir. It would be in bankruptcy.

What we have done as a government is recognize the contribution that the fin fish industry is making to the Connaigre Peninsula, some 200-plus jobs down there, recognize that we have confidence in the aquaculture industry in Newfoundland and Labrador in the future, beyond what is taking place today, if we continue to support it. We have to support the aquaculture industry or lock the door altogether. If the aquaculture industry is being profitable in other parts of Canada and the world, I see no reason why it cannot be profitable here, providing it has the necessary supports from government and from private industry.

The one thing we should not and cannot do as a government is continue being involved in private industry. We are only in there now to save it from collapsing altogether, to work with private industry, and to make sure that the future of aquaculture in Bay d'Espoir and in Newfoundland and Labrador remains successful (inaudible), and grows into a successful industry.

What guarantees do we have? The only guarantees we can have is to ensure that a private company takes over S.C.B. Fisheries Limited and operates it. If a private company does not take over S.C.B. Fisheries or - let's backtrack a second. If we are not allowed to bring in the necessary strains of fish there will be no aquaculture industry in Bay d'Espoir, and with no fish in the water, no guarantees to private companies or to government or anybody else. The future of the aquaculture industry depends on two things: number one, bringing in the necessary strains of fish, and number two, a private firm going in there and making a success out of it.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, it is known that there were three interests that owned S.C.B. Fisheries Limited - part of it the Conne River Band, and two other private interests - when government moved in. Does government now own S.C.B. Fisheries Limited, or is it still owned by those three private interests?

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

MR. EFFORD: Actually, it is owned by about thirty shareholders. There are three major shareholders, but there are about thirty or forty-one. There is a number of shareholders. I am not sure of the exact amount.

On the books it is still in the name of S.C.B. Fisheries Limited, but if government moves away the shares are not worth a penny. If the aquaculture industry collapses and goes into bankruptcy nobody has any value. What we have done is we have met with the shareholders of S.C.B. Fisheries Limited and they have agreed to turn this company over to a private firm. That private firm is interested in operating S.C.B. Fisheries Limited. What deal the private firm will work out with the present shareholders of S.C.B. Fisheries Limited will be something they will negotiate between the shareholders and themselves at what time we make a decision on who is going to operate that. As far as today goes, we are the operators of S.C.B. Fisheries Limited. We put the monies into S.C.B. Fisheries Limited, but on the books it is still, technically, S.C.B. Fisheries Limited.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Minister, I will a question in a second but I want to be clear. So right now the government really, for all intents and purposes, is in control of the aquaculture industry in Bay d'Espoir. If a private interest is involved or takes over S.C.B. Fisheries Limited, will it be government negotiating directly with the private company? Whatever the purchase price is, is part of our guarantee on the $6.2 million we put in this year - if the company buys the infrastructure, buys the business - will part of that purchase sale, or the money realized from the purchase sale, will some of that go back against the $6.2 million we put into the company this year?

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

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, I am not going to discuss today the negotiations that are taking place between my department of the government and the company, and/or the shareholders of S.C.B. Fisheries Limited. All I will say is that we have one common interest in mind - and that is the people in S.C.B. Fisheries Limited, the people in Bay d'Espoir, and the government - to make sure that there is a future for the aquaculture industry in that region.

I cannot imagine that any party, any government, or any policy of any particular party, would be saying: Let's pull the plug and let's let it go. I am saying that we have to stay there, so our role there is to make sure it doesn't go into bankruptcy. If it goes into bankruptcy, it is all over. So, for all intents and purposes we are the operators of S.C.B Fisheries Limited. We are negotiating between the shareholders of the company and the company who is interested in taking it over. At the end of the day we will make sure that the best interests of the people in the Bay d' Espoir region are protected in the future of the aquaculture industry. As far as the details of the negotiations, I am not going to discuss them here today.

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

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

The minister has indicated today publicly that there were operational problems, when he sent down a departmental official to examine the company. I would like to ask him: What operational problems did the minister's department find when they examined the company? What, if any, changes have been made in the management structure - you have alluded to that - of the company to ensure that the integrity of the company and of the Province's significant investment will be protected, ultimately?

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

MR. EFFORD: I will deal with the last part of the question first. If this company that we are negotiating with - the present company - takes over the S.C.B Fisheries Limited, I have total confidence with the history of this company in aquaculture, with its success in Newfoundland and Labrador today. I have no doubt that the future of the aquaculture industry in Bay d' Espoir will be protected.

What problems did we find? It would take me an hour. Seriously, it would take me a long time to tell you all of the individual problems that we found. Right from too many fish in the hatchery, right from the feed, of how the fish were being fed, right from the size of the fish being grown out, too many fish going into a particular cage. The overall management structure of S.C.B Fisheries Limited was in chaos. We had an company external from government do an audit on the whole operation. We suspected a lot of things, we found a lot of things, but we wanted to have an in-depth study.

When we did the in-depth study, everything that we thought was wrong proved to be wrong, plus more, in the whole operation of the whole aquaculture industry, even down as far as the processing, even as far as how it is being processed, and the yield from the fillet to the fish was less than it should be. Every percentage causes a loss at the end of the day. So there were quite a number of things that caused the overall operation of S.C.B Fisheries Limited to be in chaos.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, the minister's answer is interesting. I mean, prior to government stepping in, in the present day situation, government had put about $9 million into the operation prior to that. Were some of these management problems that you have referred to in terms of structure, feed, processing, and what you have indicated - that the management structure of S.C.B. Fisheries Limited, some of these problems - when did you become aware of some of these problems prior to having to step in? Was it just before, which caused you and your department to act to step in, or were you aware of it beforehand?

The next question: You have referred to the fact that you had an external auditing company go in. Did you do that prior to making the investment and, based upon what they found, then make the investment?

With respect to the audit: Is it possible without jeopardizing, I guess, the situation now with respect to private negotiations, to table that external audit that you had done? Or would you be able to do that at another point in time?

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

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, let us go back to the first part of the question. When did we find out the problems? After I was appointed Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, one of my first things to do was to go out and meet with everybody in the industry, whether it was in the traditional fishery, it was in the aquaculture industry, in the fin fish or in the mussel industry. It took me a couple of months to get around and get acquainted with all the different sectors of the fishing industry. As the hon. member opposite knows, it is quite a diverse industry out there and it is not easy to get inside to know what it is going on, because every day there is new problem.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. EFFORD: It took me couple of months, but after I first met with the people, the shareholders of S.C.B Fisheries Limited, I recognized there were some problems. I did not know how in-depth, but then it was a private company, then it was not coming to government looking for money. Before I became Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, there was some investment made from government when they privatized S.C.B. Fisheries Limited. After it was privatized, it operated for two, three or four years before I took over. It was only after that, that I realized there were some problem. Then they went on for several months, meeting back and forth, until they came to government and said: If the government does not put some money into the fin fish aquaculture industry in Bay d'Espoir, we have nowhere to turn but to go out of business.

Then, before we put any money into it, I sent my assistant deputy minister down there to look at the operation. That was when we started to realize there were some major problems down there. In order to keep the aquaculture industry going, we did not just go down there and say: Here is $6 million.

We put our manager down there, Mr. Ward, my assistant deputy minister, and as the necessary payments and monies needed to be invested, it was done over a period of time, right up until a month or so ago when there was no need to put any more money into it, because you are at the time of the year now when the fish do not have to be fed any more for a number of months, only on a minimal basis.

We have a leeway between now and the end of March to turn that company over to a private company without putting any further taxpayers' money into it.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, the company has expressed concern about the impact of its operations, of federal DFO's stalling on its request to import the strains of fish that would give it a better yield at a faster rate and thereby increasing profitability.

I know and I understand that the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture provincially has been pushing the federal department to make a decision. Why is the federal fisheries department dragging its heels on this, I ask the Minister? Has the minister had any contact recently with his federal counterparts, and the reason for this delay? Can he comment on whether he believes DFO will be approving this request in the near future?

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

MR. EFFORD: My colleagues are not agreeing with some of the comments I am making or the words I am using. I used the wrong words; I apologize to my colleagues. I think it is the Friday morning blues we have here this morning.

Seriously, the problem with bringing in the strains of fish is the problem with the science, the scientific department of DFO, the same problem we have with scientists - it took them fifteen years to realize that seals eat fish. After fifteen years of research, they finally agreed that seals eat fish.

We are having a similar problem now with certain people in the department of DFO, in the science department. They are afraid to bring in the diploid of fish that reproduce - that they might carry on with the fish in our waters and might mix up the strains of fish. That is really how ridiculous it is.

In Norway, Maine, New Brunswick, and all over the world they are doing it, except Newfoundland and Labrador. I have made quite a bit of representation to the federal minister. The federal minister has met with the scientists and is gathering all of the information. At the end of the day, he must make the decision.

If he makes the decision that we could only continue to use the strains of fish that we are now using, the future of the aquaculture industry is in jeopardy here in this Province. I have told him that very clearly.

Taking the advice of scientists, and the precautionary methods which they carry on, could jeopardize the future of the aquaculture industry in Newfoundland. It is on the table of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. We have laid the cases clear with the aquaculture association and with other people in the industry, as clear as we possibly can. I only hope, at the end of the day, he realizes how crucial this is to the success of the aquaculture industry in the Province. We have laid it out as clear as we possibly can.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: It is clear that the industry is in jeopardy now. I have to ask: Why is the DFO stalling? This is not a new industry that has been laid on their table for them to have a look at. DFO scientists have been involved with this industry since the get-go, when the company started.

Can you update us further? Why is DFO stalling to the point where they won't make a decision? Surely, the federal Minister of Fisheries has the information on his desk now with the recommendations from the branch of DFO, from science, on what he should or should not do. Surely you have made representations to the federal Minister of Fisheries with respect to this industry as to what he should do. Why the hold up? Why the delay?

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

AN HON. MEMBER: We are going to have to ask George to get this (inaudible).

MR. EFFORD: We may have to call on George on this one, yes.

Mr. Speaker, in 1987, I was in the Opposition. I made representation to the scientists and DFO, to the then-federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, saying we had too many seals in the ocean and that they were destroying our fish stocks. They did not destroy the fish stocks by themselves; we played a major role by overfishing. Nevertheless, the FRCC reported in its most recent report in 1998 that the biomass of northern cod is worse now than it was in pre-1992, when there is no fishing taking place on the Grand Banks.

It is quite obvious the seals are having a major impact, yet the scientists won't own up to that. What goes through the scientific mind? I don't have the ability to answer that question, but I can tell you very clearly, it is as tough as a concrete wall or as hard as nails, as the old saying goes, to try to change their minds. Unless they are 150 per cent sure that a salmon or a steelhead trout is going to come in from Norway and not change the species that we have here in our waters, they don't want to change their minds.

The responsibility of that decision making power lies with the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. He knows full well that if he says no to our request the aquaculture industry is over in Newfoundland and Labrador. I hope he has the good common sense to overrule science. Not only science, our own Salmonid Council in Newfoundland and Labrador is against bringing in fish. I think we are afraid of prosperity. That is the problem we have here.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, if I can take what the provincial Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture is saying, it is that what we are 150 per cent sure of is that if the right decision is not made from Ottawa then $20 million of federal-provincial money in investment in the aquaculture industry will go down the tubes overnight.

I would like to ask him this. Is there a contingency plan, or is that it? If Ottawa does not make the right decision, if Ottawa does not make the decision to introduce diploids or let us introduce diploids in that industry, is it over? What happens to the Province's investment? If that is the case it would be gone, I say to the minister. At what point has the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans given you any commitment, and through you the people of the Province, that he will make a decision this week, next week, the week after or next month? When can we expect a decision with respect to the introduction of this new strain of fish?

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

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, you talk about $20 million being lost in the aquaculture industry. Last year the NAFO science community reported that the seals ate 108,000 ton of northern cod less than forty centimetres, which represents 300 million juvenile fish. You put that into a two- or three-year growth and you have about 800,000 million pounds of fish, worth about $1.00 a pound to the fishermen in this Province and more to the industry. That is $800 million. What do we do with the science community in Ottawa? What do we do with them in Newfoundland? I don't know. What do we do with eleven biologists at Memorial University who have signed a letter and sent it off to the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans saying: Seals are becoming extinct, decrease the quota, don't kill anymore? I don't know. If we take them all and put them out on Kellys Island and take the boat away - anything short of that I don't know what to do with them.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions today are to the Minister of Health and Community Services. Yesterday I asked the minister why her department has not approved atypical anti-psychotics for people who are suffering from schizophrenia, especially when such medications are more effective and reduce hospitalization, which accounts for 89 per cent of the cost of dealing with schizophrenia. The minister said yesterday their decision was evidence based and she is working with specialists towards a final solution on which a decision will be coming soon.

I ask the minister: Why is it that this Province cannot approve those particular drugs when all others provinces have approved at least one of the four new modern medications, and when recent scientific research shows that the new atypical anti-psychotics are effective against both the positive and negative effects of schizophrenia?

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

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

I hope the people of the Province are listening to some of the questions coming that have come across here to me as Minister of Health and Community Services since I sat in this House as minister. Every single day the member opposite asks for more money, whether it is for hospital beds, physician services, long-term care, new drugs and the list goes on. Nobody more than I would love to stand and give everybody everything, but when you govern you have to make choices. What we are saying very clearly is that we will make the decisions based on the best evidence we have.

Now the member opposite said that certain drugs will reduce hospitalization. That may or may not be true. One of the things we are doing - and I made it quite clear yesterday - is we are very far along in announcing an arrangement where we will give physicians the ability to make decisions about the drugs that they will prescribe. We will put in place the ability to do the follow up evaluation to actually prove, in fact, if what the member said is accurate, if by diagnosing the disease and then following up with certain medications that that will in fact reduce hospitalization.

We are doing many things in health care that we do not have the evidence for, that we do not have any past practice to really prove, other than the fact that we always did it. Our dollars are scarce. We continue to say that we need more money, and we are being very conscientious and careful in saying we cannot throw money at everything.

Yes, schizophrenia is a very serious illness and one that we will do whatever we can to address, but we want to make sure that whatever money we put in there, whichever partners we work with in delivering that care -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to conclude her answer.

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I am finishing up.

Whatever partners we work with, we have to make sure we will provide the best care for the limited resources we have, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I ask the minister when is she going to move into the mainstream of modern medicine? Drugs cost 5 per cent of the cost of schizophrenia. Hospitalization is 89 per cent, Minister. This is cost-effective and we will save money, and you will realize that in the next month.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. SULLIVAN: I ask the minister: Would she confirm that yes, they are going to make that decision - it is going to be done in the next month or so -, and that the reason for delay is not based on need or cost-effectiveness of that decision, but because government is now waiting to get a cheque from the pharmaceutical company before they approve those drugs?

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

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, let me say again that on this side of the House we are very much aware of how limited our resources are. We deal with it every single day because when you govern you have to make choices. I am not prepared to say that drugs in every particular case are cheaper than treating people in other modalities. I am not prepared to say that. Because I believe we should have the evidence before we spew off at the mouth without knowing what we are talking about. That is how I would like to make my decisions.

I am not ashamed to say we are working with other partners. In fact, I am very committed, as the Premier is, to try to make sure that we get our fair share of Bill C-91 as it relates to the drug research monies that should go in this Province as well as other provinces across the country. We have been working with the pharmaceutical association. We have an excellent ability in this Province to provide evidence based research because of our population size and because of the close-knit relationships we have with many service providers, including the academic community.

So yes, we are working with partners, and I would think the member opposite would be delighted that we are working with other partners, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The time for Oral Questions has elapsed.


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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise to present a petition on behalf of the residents of Labrador City who have a petition as residents of Labrador City condemning the provincial government in supporting the Iron Ore Company of Canada's decision to process Labrador resources in Sept-Iles, Quebec.

The petitioners are urging the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to reverse the decision immediately and support a policy of secondary processing within the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, the people of Labrador West have been, ever since this decision was made, trying to get the kind of answers that they need from this government about the decision government made to support IOC. They have not been very successful, because this government is trying to bury the issue, say that it is a done deal, end the debate, and refuse to answer questions.

The town council of Labrador West, the Labrador West Chamber of Commerce, have asked various government members, various ministers, for answers to questions that they have yet to get answers to. The government is trying to end the debate. They do not want any discussion about this any more. They want everyone to forget about what has happened in Labrador West and what this government has failed to do in supporting the needs of the workers and residents in Labrador to have development take place there.

There is a whole series of things government did not do in defending the interests of the people of Labrador West. The whole of the government's decision rested on one effort and one effort only. That was whether or not a study assisted the company's argument that they could make more money by opening in Sept-Iles, or more money by building a new expansion in Labrador West. That was the whole of the government's effort in this particular decision.

That betrays a lack of commitment to the people of Labrador West. It betrays a lack of commitment to a policy of insuring maximum use of our resources in our Province. It shows a lack of initiative on the part of government in putting on the table what needed to be done to make this happen.

We have heard of what the Quebec government did in terms of working to ensure that the IOCC development took place in Sept-Iles. We have heard of all of that. We have not heard of anything that this government has done to try and make that possible. We are talking about a project that could last one hundred years, and we have short-term thinking on the part of this government as to how to deal with the problem. It is a long-term project.

We know how many billions of dollars' worth of ore have been produced in Labrador West in the last thirty-eight years. We know the value of that development to the tax base to this Province. We know how important it is, not just to the people of Labrador West, but to the people who would like to continue to live in Labrador West, the people who would like to move to Labrador West to work, the people who would like to stay in Labrador West, raise their families there, and have an opportunity for their children. The future of this community depends on commitment by this government to ensure that development based on its resources that can take place in Labrador West does take place in Labrador West.

This is a situation where the differences between the two projects are not so insurmountable that government's efforts could not have been put into place to make it happen.

I think what happened here was the people of Labrador West were lulled into a false sense of security by this government. They led them to believe that government was going to step in, ensure and guarantee that the future of Labrador West was not going to suffer as a result of this decision. That has not happened. Not only has that not happened, we have seen through the negotiations and the discussions between the union, for example, and the Iron Ore Company of Canada, that there is no guarantee being given -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. HARRIS: - that this pellet plant in Labrador West will not be shut down prior to a Sept-Iles shut down. That is a very serious problem, along with the government's failure to answer the questions of the people of Labrador West.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I rise again today to support the people of Labrador West in their desire to have the whole issue of the production plants moving to Sept-Iles, Quebec, revisited by this government.

We, on this side, will continue to present petitions on behalf of the people of Labrador West.

I want to bring to the attention of the House the fact that the plant in Labrador City is not now producing at capacity. In fact, information received just yesterday indicates that three of the machines have now been shut down. Therefore, the people of Labrador West see this as a threat to the security of their pelletizing plant in their community.

We listened with some interest back in October, when the Minister of Mines and Energy had the audacity to state publicly, and he was referring to the decision of North to move its plant operations and reopen them in Sept-Iles, Quebec. He said, talking about Labrador City: This decision secures the future of Labrador West and it is a solid base for growth and economic security for the area.

Well, the people of Labrador West do not see the decisions that North is making, or decisions that this government has made, and decisions they have permitted North to make, as doing anything to secure the security of the people of Labrador West in jobs or, for that matter, to make sure that this resource is developed in Newfoundland for the benefit of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

It is time for the government to wake up, says a letter written by the Mayor of Labrador City, Darrel Brenton, dated December 7. The letter reads: It is time for this government to wake up and recognize that this is a bad decision, bad economically, and a bad political decision, and it puts at risk the current job security and future employment opportunities for hundreds of our Province's youth.

He writes: Our precious non-renewable resources are being used to subsidize jobs in the Province of Quebec and will result in the loss of millions of dollars to our Province in the coming years.

Now, Mr. Speaker, it seems as if the government is not willing to revisit this particular decision that was made relative to Labrador West. Yesterday in the House the Leader of the Opposition put certain questions to the government relative to the alternatives that were available to the government at that time. It seems as if the government has made up its mind; they have gone and ignored the people of Labrador West. In fact, up until yesterday they had no correspondence with the people in that part of the Province whatsoever. Yesterday they sent them off a eighteen or nineteen page letter which was in response to questions that they raised, but in doing so they did not give them any commitment that they would be willing to revisit this whole question.

Mr. Speaker, we know that the plant in Sept-Iles is able to be upgraded to produce a lot more of the pellets than it will in its initial phases, and that concerns the people of Labrador West because they are very anxious to have something in writing.

We listened with some concern when we heard the Premier giving verbal assurances. Verbal assurances are worth nothing when you are dealing with a company the size of North. The Premier gives comforting words to the people of Labrador West. Well, comforting words are not enough. For example, there is no long-term guarantee that has been given by North to ensure maximum plant output in Labrador City versus Sept-Iles, Quebec. In other words, North Company has not said that they will always produce the maximum in Labrador City. In fact, it is quite obvious that if the government accepted North's logic in moving to Sept-Iles, Quebec, they will also accept North's logic when it comes to either producing in Sept-Iles, where it might be more efficient, versus, shall we say, maximizing the production in Labrador City.

Mr. Speaker, we want to see this government make more commitments in writing -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. H. HODDER: - and to ensure that the people of Labrador West, and their ventures, are adequately protected.

Mr. Speaker, we will continue to be the voice of the people of Labrador West.

Orders of the Day

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, I call Motion 3.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Justice to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The Public Utilities Act", carried. (Bill No. 57)

On motion, Bill No. 57 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, Order 28, which is Bill No. 45, An Act To Amend The Teachers' Pensions Act.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Teachers' Pensions Act." (Bill No. 45)

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This bill is the enactment that contains the various changes that came about as a result or our negotiations with the teachers. They have since voted on and adopted the collective agreement, that had been negotiated over some long period of time. An important part of that was the change in various amendments to their pension plan.

This bill sets them out. I won't bore the House by going through it section by section. I will make a general reference. One of the significant ones for many teachers was that it changed what was known as staffing, something we did ourselves. So, rather than have their Canada Pension in its entirety, when it became collectable, given to them, or paid to them, what now happens, of course, it is integrated with the government pension plan here in Newfoundland and Labrador, which then is reduced and that, of course, thereby lessened the liabilities for the pension plan. It goes some distance toward changing the plan, which has a tremendous deficit that we are attempting to address also by paying funds into it.

Mr. Speaker, there are quite a number of enactments. Members have heard the many statements that have been made by the NLTA as well as government over the last number of months, outlining to the public and for the benefit of teachers what exactly those changes were. I look forward to any comments or concerns hon. members opposite may have. My understanding is that this has been reviewed with the NLTA, and everything is as understood by them. I would be delighted to answer any questions members may have.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I know my colleague, the finance critic, has a few comments and he will be here shortly. In the meantime, I will entertain the minister.

With reference to The Teachers' Pensions Act, we are all aware that it was severely underfunded and there was a tremendous liability. I am sure the minister can confirm it, but I believe it was only in the 15 per cent or 17 per cent range - the unfunded liability - the funded portion of that. I am wondering what figure now are we projecting it should be with this latest commitment of $800-some million by government? It should bring it up to -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: In what range? In the thirties?

Anyway, you do not have to answer it right now, but at least when we get on committee stage. I am just tossing these out to see what - because I think the Public Service Pension Plan, with the changes made there, was in a healthier position. That is about 44 per cent funded, in that ball park. This still would not be funded to the level, I don't think, of the Public Service Pension Plan, in my understanding. At least it is buying time to make the necessary adjustments.

When we get those future periods of prosperity, I say, we are all waiting for, we will be able to dish out significant amounts. It is my understanding the $166 million now has already been put into that separate plan. This is only really a part of the responsibility of governments to fulfil their obligations where they took money from teachers' pensions and spent it on other expenditures - roads, schools, hospitals, whatever, on public expenditures.

Where the crunch has been pushed back from the year 2002 or 2003 - I think it pushed it back another fifteen or twenty years before it gets to the point again where adjustments have to be made. I am sure government ministers realize that. I am sure the Minister of Education, who so valiantly fought for teachers, the person on the steps of the Confederation Building fighting for teachers - whipped out in the front of the building on behalf of teachers - and then he got in and crucified them. Yes, he crucified them. That is what he did, call it what you want. He crucified them. He crucified teachers there.

I must say, there is still a fair commitment to go on behalf of government, but at least it pushes the clock back. I am not sure if the Minister of Education knows the exact year, but it is about twenty years, roughly twenty years back. It give you a little bit of buying time to be able to, in the periods of great prosperity we are going to see now, in surplus budgets and monies to roll into it, we will be seeing that over the next ten and twelve years. As the oil keeps rolling ashore here, as the Voisey's Bay keeps turning in money, as we start losing revenues in IOC and as Sept-Iles gets up and running, all of those areas, all of that added prosperity we could have had if we had to get out pellet plant in Labrador rather than Sept-Iles, Quebec. I do not think we are going to get too many revenues back here to our Province from the Sept-Iles operation, to be able to put revenues, to be able to reduce further this unfunded liability that we have.

It is my understanding that $166 million has already been done this year. Maybe the minister can confirm that. Even though the bill has not gone through the House - $166 million on or before September 1, 1998. Basically all we are doing anyway, we are transferring it from an unfunded liability back to the Province. We are just shifting the dollars here from one pot to another; that is essentially what we are doing. At least the pension fund itself is put in a healthier position. Nobody discounts that. There have been efforts made to reduce liabilities in all pension funds - I will not comment on that - to enhance and improve it there.

I am sure when we get to second reading, on a few clauses in second reading, I am sure my colleague has a few questions. I am not getting into any specific questions here. The trust of this legislation is fine. The trust is to make the commitments that government have indicated, and a shift from allowing an unfunded liability to build, to transfer directly on the direct debt of our Province, basically. Whatever way you cut it, the total debt plus unfunded liabilities and Crown corporations are all responsible to the Province anyway, so it is just shifting them from one pool to another to be able to put it in a different position.

Any future moves also to increase it further, as finances dictate, and as government gets the sufficient pressures to be able to move there and to pay back to those plans what money they have spent - really the money that they robbed out of the pockets of these people over the years to use for other areas before they established a particular pension plan, it is time to come back now and pay the piper and to pay back really what was due in the first place.

That will conclude, I say to the minister, my comments on the second reading of this bill.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I take this opportunity to join in the debate in second reading of Bill 45, An Act To Amend The Teachers' Pensions Act.

I want to talk about government's efforts to bring about some financial stability to the whole pension issue in the Province and the government's responsibility for pensions. Substantial efforts have been made over the last number of years in all the pension plans to attempt to put them on a sounder financial footing. It is one of those things in government when governments deals with the necessities of the day, and the long-term problems that are caused by current costs and current expenditures are not always regarded.

What government has undertaken to do, and rightly so, is recognize that these unfunded liabilities that we have in pensions, in workers' compensation as well, and in these areas have to be addressed. They have to be addressed fairly and consistently, and with a knowledge that a lot of people are affected by what decisions are made to try and bring the financial house of government in order. It has to be done, there is no doubt about that, and it has to be done properly.

I am glad to see that this bill is before the House, and that after a whole number of years there has been some sense brought to attempting to rationalize the Teachers' Pension Plan. We are only partway there, there is no doubt about that.

I remember the former premier adamant about doing something about the pensions, and yet at the same time the instructions obviously given to the Minister of Finance and the President of Treasury Board of the day seemed to be at variance with that. When we went into the 1996 general election the teachers and the NTA people were coming to the various political parties. I thought when I met with the NTA representatives I was going to have a demand that X, Y, and Z be done on behalf of teachers to fix up the pension plan, a whole list of demands, and no, they didn't say that. All they wanted was a commitment to sit down and discuss and negotiate the issue. That was all they were asking for in 1996. This is after several years of being pilloried by the former premier and government officials about the state of the Teachers' Pension Plan.

It is almost as if the government was out there trying to create public antipathy towards teachers and teachers' pensions to prepare the groundwork for some sort of action to take away or diminish the pension entitlement of teachers who had worked and earned it. That is the approach that the government seems to have taken in the past. At least they have sat down and come so far as to come up with some sort of solution, or at least at interim solution or temporary solution, or part of the way down the road. They have done that with the Teachers' Pension Act now. There have been some steps taken with all of the pension plans, including the MHA pension plan, which saw some changes brought about last spring as well, increasing the contribution rate and making other changes. All of the pension plans have been addressed to a certain extent. Perhaps the biggest outstanding one was the Teachers' Pension Plan. These amendments go some way to solving that problem.

While I am on the topic, there is a group of people whose needs have not been addressed by government. Those people are the retired pensioners who are on very low pensions. I want to talk about that because I know it is an issue of great controversy. All of a sudden everybody in this House have stopped talking about it. Not a lot of talk about retired pensioners anymore. Do you know why? We are not allowed to talk about retired persons' pensions any more because some piece of legislation was passed last week, without debate, when the press was not in the House -

MR. SULLIVAN: I spoke on it in second reading. I spoke in second reading.

MR. HARRIS: Some piece of legislation was passed last week about increasing MHAs' salaries. All of a sudden the open lines are buzzing, the cynic's corner is hard at work pillorying every single Member of the House of Assembly for feathering their own nest but not looking after the retirees. That stopped debate. Let's stop debate. No more discussion of retired people in this House from the Opposition, from the government, is allowed, because anything you say after that point: It is only political opportunism.

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about what can be done for pensioners and what should be done for pensions. I want to talk about the private member's resolution which I put forth the other day and what role that could play in ensuring that the retired pensioners of the public service can get some relief.

We don't have to, just as we didn't in this bill, do everything at once, give the teachers everything they wanted or needed, give the government everything it wanted or needed. We don't have to do that in order to make substantial progress in looking after the public interest and looking after the existing pensioners or future pensioners of this Province.

There are solutions. Those solutions can be found. The way to find the solutions is to do the kind of thing that happened with the teachers' pension. Sit down with the groups that are affected, sit down with the teachers, sit down with retired teachers if they are involved, sit down with the representatives of the teachers and discuss the options, talk about the problems, talk about the need, talk about the expectations that people have had during their working lives, talk about what happened to them afterwards. If you look at the retired pensioners, what you see is that there was a reasonable expectation people had that they would get an increase along the way.

Now, you can sit down and blame it on the unions: They didn't negotiate that back in the 1980s. Why would you negotiate and pay for something at the bargaining table that was coming as a matter of course by government policy?

MR. SULLIVAN: It wasn't negotiable initially (inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: The government used to say it was not even negotiable. It wouldn't negotiate pensions, not required to. What I am talking about here, Mr. Speaker, is: Why would a union - NAPE in this case for the retired public servants - sit down and negotiate an indexed pension if, in fact, the pension was already operated in a manner that gave increases to pensioners along with public sector workers?

There are a lot of problems with the pensions position this government took. They paid their pensions out of the Consolidated Revenue and they kept the premiums. They self-financed the thing. Whether that is a big problem or not - I guess the chickens have come home to roost when the numbers go the wrong way. The alternative, I suppose, is to keep the money and invest it, put it back into the system. That is what we are doing now with the various pension funds, and hopefully they are managed in an appropriate way, getting the maximum return. I would like to see them invested more in this Province to create jobs, and that is another issue.

Nevertheless, the retired pensioners had come to expect an increase on the same basis as the public sector workers, and that has been taken away in an effort to, basically, bring some stability to the pension fund. The goal of stability of the pension fund is a good one, but that does not have to be done on the backs of people who are retired, who are not in the position to really bargain, other than use political persuasion and political pressure.

I think the members of this House of Assembly ought to have a stake in finding a solution to this problem. The solution does not have to be: Give everybody 7 per cent immediately, or commit to 7 per cent immediately. We do have a group of people, and a large number of them, whose pensions are not $104,000. In fact, everybody except one public service pensioner has a pension less than $100,000, and everybody except about forty or fifty has a pension less than $40,000.

I am talking here about people making $5,000, $6,000, $7,000, $8,000 and $9,000 in pension, or down in that area. There are lots of them. The average pension is $11,000. What we need to do is find a solution that is going to do something for the people at the lower end of the pension scale and people who are hurting financially as a result of the change in the policy. What we need is some kind of across the board amount for them.

There have been creative solutions. I am going to suggest one that was undertaken in Nova Scotia for retired hospital workers by the Nova Scotia Health Care Corporation pension fund. What they did was they implemented a plan for pensioners based on giving people an equivalency to the old age supplement. That is for people who didn't qualify for an old age supplement at age sixty-five. The pension would provide an equivalency to the old age supplement so that if somebody was on a pension and that pension was less than what they would receive if they received the old age supplement on top of an old age pension, that their pension would be increased to that amount. That looked after people who were not sixty-five, people who either retired early, were made redundant, were forced out or whatever, and had a very small pension.

It did not do anything for anybody with an income of $10,000 a year or more, the kind of people the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board was talking about, who were stacking their various benefits up to a big income. It did not do anything for anybody with a pension of $10,000, $15,000, $20,000 or $30,000. All it did was have a very significant affect on people whose incomes were very low and who were very poor.

That is the kind of creative solution that needs to be found, but there has to be a stake in finding it. If all we are going to do is let this issue pass - the issue is before us. We are confronted with that issue. Whether there is any connection or not between an increase for MHAs and an increase for pensioners, in the public mind the two are melded together as surely as two metals are which are moulded together in the one mould.

This is an important issue, because while we are trying to ensure that the public finance of this Province is on a sound footing, particularly with respect to long-term commitments, we have to do that knowing that the consequences for individuals are severe. If we do not undertake to ensure that the individuals who are going to be hurt most as a result of ignoring this problem are looked after, then we are not meeting our obligations to these citizens. We are not meeting our obligations to former public servants.

While I support the approach indicated by this bill of moving forward on a... incremental is not quite the word, because it is a big step being taken here, but that a partial step be done. This bill does not result in full funding of the Teachers' Pension Plan. This bill does not accomplish the full funding of the unfunded liability of teachers' pensions. It does not provide full unfunded liability being looked after. Just as this does not do that, surely we do not have to look at the crisis mode created by the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board by the mere suggestion that retired public servants can get some kind of an increase, particularly at the lower level.

We do not need to talk about a financial crisis of $120 million having to be found to provide this. What we need to find is a creative solution that is going to look after the needs of those at the lower end, perhaps by looking at an old age supplement equivalency as a method of giving an increase to those on the lower end of the scale, like was done in Nova Scotia, in the Nova Scotia's Hospital Corporation, for their already retired employees.

This did nothing for the people who were at the executive level or had high pensions, it did nothing for anybody who had other sources of income. All it did was ensure that people at the lower end of the scale were looked after. It had the effect of giving an across the board increase to people at the lower end of the scale, and being of much lesser cost than the kind of numbers that the minister has been talking about to solve this, or make an attempt to solve this pension problem.

We are attempting to solve the teachers' pension problem here. We are only going partway. We are not intending to go all the way but, Mr. Speaker, you do not have to do everything at once. I think a solution can be found.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In response to the question of the Leader of the Opposition, I believe he asked how this would affect the pension. It is something like the bell curve. In the first number of years it improves it and the plan becomes more solid. As you get out into about the year 2015 to 2020 it tapers off at the end and then will gradually peter out at that time to where there is no money left. However, it is a much improved position from where it is right now. If it had not been done, and we do not do those changes, then of course the plan would have run out of money in about the year 2002 or so. It goes a long way toward ensuring the viability of pensions that are now in existence.

When you look out that far, you look out to the year 2015 or 2020, many things can change. Of course, we will be reviewing it and doing an audit. We will have to take a serious look at it every five years just to see how our actuarial experience is proceeding.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I therefore move second reading.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Teachers' Pensions Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 45)

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

MR. DECKER: Order 29, Mr. Speaker, which is Bill 49, An Act To Amend The Tobacco Tax Act (No. 2).

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Tobacco Tax Act (No. 2). (Bill No. 49)

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This bill allows us to establish a different rate in Labrador for tobacco products. What it is meant to do is fight a problem in Labrador where the differential between the price of cigarettes on our side of the border and on the Quebec side of the border is so substantial that people are induced to travel across the border to those communities and buy their cigarettes there. It is not legal to do so but it is a fact of life.

Last year - excuse me, I guess it was more like two years ago, we reduced the price of cigarettes. The incidence, of course, was that as people went across the border to buy cigarettes they not only did that but bought a lot of other consumer products, gasoline, groceries and so on. The previous changes that were made were intended and did, in fact, fight the problem of cross-border shopping not only for cigarettes but for other items.

What happened recently was that Quebec, in order to deal with some across-the-border smuggling, eliminated their tobacco tax and now they do it in a different fashion. As a result of that, what has happened is that where the cost of cigarettes were within a relatively narrow range, now it is broadened to about $6 or $7 a carton again. I think the differential is - I think in Newfoundland and Labrador they are not about $39 and in Quebec I think they are about $33 or so. Anyway, it is a substantial difference, and these prices I am quoting are in Labrador West. It may lead to a problem.

What we want to do at this time is have authority from the House to amend it so that we can, by regulation, make the changes to keep it within a reasonable limit. The differential before, I believe, was approximately $2 or so and we will keep it somewhere in that range for the foreseeable future.

As I say, this is an interesting thing that happened because of the change that Quebec went through. My recollection is that they eliminated their tobacco tax entirely but because we still had it, the effect of the GST on it actually had the impact of increasing our taxes beyond what we had intended. We did want to keep it within a certain price range.

That being the case, these amendments will effectively allow us to reduce the cost of cigarettes, cigars, tobacco and so on, to a range that will deal with the cross-border shopping problem.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Just a few brief comments with respect to Bill 49, An Act To Amend The Tobacco Tax Act.

Essentially, as the minister has indicated, it is my understanding that this is just giving authority to what essentially is already happening. The minister, in his introduction, has given the rationale as to why. Obviously it is overall a benefit to the residents of Labrador West as it affects the purchase of certain goods and commodities.

We have had an opportunity to discuss the nature of this legislation and we essentially support it. It is being done for the right reasons, and it is an opportunity for the residents of the communities of Labrador West to take advantage of a situation where, if not implemented, they would be disadvantaged and disadvantaged most unfairly.

I am not going to belabour this point, Mr. Speaker. We have agreed to accept the spirit and the provisions of Bill No. 49.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to rise and speak on this bill in support of the legislation to amend The Tobacco Tax Act, to remove the disadvantages from the people of Labrador West in terms of operations. We are dealing with an area of - I suppose we are taxing, it used to be called sin taxes at one time. I don't know if it is a sin to smoke a cigarette. I know it is very unhealthy and something that we try to discourage somehow or other, but it is one of those things like gambling, I guess, with governments. We do not like it but we like to make money on it.

I am not going to get into a big, long speech about these efforts/ I know the bill itself has directed a very specific point that I think needs to be done. It is one of those things that results really from some major changes that the federal government undertook for similar reasons between Canada and the United States having to do with border crossings, illegal activities and smuggling - smuggling undertaken, really, with the cooperation of the major tobacco companies who are facilitating the sending of cigarettes to the United States and having them smuggled into Canada to be sold; so the tobacco companies were complicit in all of this but the Government of Canada, instead of clamping down and solving the problem at that level, caved in and reduced the taxes.

We now have a situation where we have differential taxes in the two provinces. Newfoundland has managed, for the most part, to maintain its high tobacco tax rate with some difficulty, but obviously in border areas where individuals are able to walk across the border or drive across the border very easily and get tobacco in another province which has a different attitude towards tobacco taxes, this is a problem.

I think it is something that has been worked out by the Minister of Finance, and rightly so, with the commercial community, the business community of Labrador West, and I support this legislation.

While I am on feet, though, I will say that I was disappointed that the federal government is not entertaining the additional tax on cigarettes that could be used to - they are not calling it a tax. I guess the fact that it may well be a tax is causing the problems. The efforts of Senator Kenny to introduce a special levy on cigarettes that would be used to create a fund to support efforts to stop young people from smoking is something that is a very high priority in my books. We do see, surprisingly, shockingly, and frighteningly for parents of young children, that the rate of young children smoking - teenagers - is actually increasing. It is astounding, and it does not seem to be that the proper efforts are able to be made to dissuade people from smoking. I think that the effort has to be redoubled and better efforts have to be made to ensure that young people do not start smoking.

One of the things that we found when we debated this issue in the House - the Social Legislation Review Committee that I was on a number of years ago when we introduced some changes to the regulations about selling cigarettes to minors, and other efforts - we heard testimony that indicated the price of cigarettes itself was a major deterrent; that the higher the price was, the less young people smoked. Here, in a sense, we are reducing the cost of cigarettes to young people in Labrador West. We are making it easier and cheaper for young people in Labrador West to buy cigarettes. I know that is not the intention of the bill and the minister, I am sure, will address that when he replies. We are actually making cigarettes cheaper for young people in Labrador West, thereby encouraging them, or at least giving them more encouragement, to smoke than we would be otherwise.

I know the Member for Labrador West is worried about that because it is a serious problem. It is a serious problem because young people are smoking at a faster rate today than they were last year, and being introduced to smoking. As we all know, tobacco is additive, nicotine is additive. I don't have much trust or faith in the tobacco companies whose interests are totally at variance with the public good in this matter, totally at variance with the good health of people, totally at variance with the desire of governments to control health care costs, totally at variance with governments' efforts to increase the quality of life for our citizens. Here, in a sense, we are making cigarettes to juveniles and young people, even though it is illegal, more accessible because of reducing the cost.

I support the legislation reluctantly. With great reluctance I support the legislation, not because it does not partially solve a problem that people have in Labrador West; because the problem really is compounded not by people going across the border to get cigarettes, but the problem is compounded by the fact that when they go across the border to get cigarettes they spend money on other things. They cross the border to go and get cigarettes in Quebec. They go to a supermarket to buy the cigarettes, and then they buy groceries. They go to another store to buy cigarettes and they buy something else. The business for cigarettes is not the only business being lost to Labrador West; it is other business as well.

It is with reluctance - and I know the government has acted with reluctance as well - but it is a measure that has to be undertaken in order to solve the problem that we have in that one particular area of our Province - or the two areas of Labrador West and Southern Labrador where, in both of those areas, easy access to the Quebec tax regime for tobacco is available.

That is all I have to say on the issue. I support it with reluctance. Also, I am very mindful of the effects of the cost on the ability of young people to access smoking, and with regret that the federal government has not seen fit to act on Senator Colin Kenny's efforts to have an additional levy that would create a fund to fight against young people's desire to smoke and to - because these things work, these programs work, and we should have more money to be able to ensure that they can be put into place.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Labrador West.

MR. CANNING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to speak on this bill today because it has a serious implication to the businesses in Labrador West. I understand and appreciate the words of the speaker who just spoke with respect to youth smoking. It is a serious problem. This particular tax change was not meant to increase smoking. It was really meant to change the point of sale for tobacco products, specifically in Labrador West and on the South Coast of Labrador.

I would point out that this has made huge changes to the small business community, especially in the towns that I serve, Labrador City and Wabush. They have seen their businesses increase, sometimes two- and threefold. This does not show at all that there are extra tobacco products being sold. In fact, what it does show is that it is being sold now within the communities of Labrador rather than being sold through Fermont. Because what was happening, of course, was because people were travelling to buy their tobacco products in Fermont, they were also purchasing other products, other consumables, and this was driving businesses away from Labrador West. It was having an impact on jobs for people in the retail sector.

Mr. Speaker, I want to point out too that the federal excise tax has not been changed. The federal excise tax stayed as it was. The federal government has not helped to try to change the problem faced by retailers there. I do appreciate the point that was made by the member previous in terms of a special tax or some form of tax by the federal government that should be placed to ensure that there is a program to prevent youth smoking in our country. Once you began smoking, it is very difficult to quit. I believe that the best time to intercept this whole thing is at an early age, to ensure that our youth understand the impact of smoking.

This particular bill, Bill 49, I do appreciate that the government took this unto themselves to assure that retailers in Labrador West can compete on a level playing field. I support it strongly and endorse it and, in fact, argued strongly to have this presented to the House.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: If the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board speaks now he will close the debate.

The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I think most of the members and I appreciate most of the comments that have been made in support of the bill. It is something that I think some people indicated that they found distasteful for various reasons, but it is a practical necessity. I think it works well for the reason my hon. colleague as well indicated to the House. For these reasons, I commend the bill to the House and move second reading.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Tobacco Tax Act (No. 2)", read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 49)

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

MR. DICKS: Mr. Speaker, Order No. 31, which is, An Act To Amend The Public Service Pensions Act, 1991, Bill No. 54.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Public Service Pensions Act, 1991". (Bill No. 54)

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This bill is a companion to the bill that the House just approved on second reading. It, as well, provides for payments into the Public Service Pension Plan of $40 million yearly which, as well, goes toward the unfunded liabilities. It is a fairly straightforward bill that has merely one clause. The amounts are set forwarded there. I think my hon. colleagues understand the necessity for doing so.

The Public Service Pension Plan is the one that is in the best shape, with the highest ratio of funding, but it is still below 50 per cent. This, over time, will improve it. We have the option in here to either pay it in cash, if revenues are sufficient, or to issue a bond which, of course, over a period of twenty-five years carries an interest rate of 8 per cent, which is higher than the rate one would get in the market these days, and will go a long way towards dealing with future liabilities and past liabilities as well.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I guess this piece of legislation, I say to the Minister of Finance, basically reflects the agreement that was reached earlier this year. Would that be a correct statement, the agreement that was reached earlier this year? This piece of legislation gives government more flexibility. Have you decided, in terms of - the government of the Province shall pay into the pension plan, payments of $40 million yearly - how you are going to do that? Will it be coming out of current account? Will you issue what you have alluded to here in terms of a twenty-five year bond? Or will it be a combination of both? Those are the concerns.

Clearly the bill is measured at solving the unfunded liability, the problem associated with the public pension plan. We also have to do it with all other pension plans, because those are problems we all have to deal with in the Legislature and at some point we have to do it. The sooner we act, our exposure as a Province becomes less, if we act now in terms of what the Province is doing, in terms of unfunded liability, but all pension plans.

I understand fully the reason for the bill, An Act To Amend The Public Service Pension Act, 1991. It is a problem that all governments of all political stripes have had to come to terms with, in dealing with it. This is one measure, in a very bona fide way, to deal with the unfunded liability situation so that those public pensioners who have contributed, who are continuing to contribute into the plan, that when they reach the age where they can draw a pension, that is, in fact, there for them.

This is a bill that speaks for itself and is self-evident in terms of government's attempts to solve the unfunded liability portion, thus reducing all of our liabilities of the Province and continuing to fund other services.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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


MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would just like to speak briefly with respect to Bill No. 54, An Act To Amend The Public Service Pensions Act, 1991.

I concur entirely with the words of my colleague, the Leader of the Opposition. It has been unfortunate, I would say, that this bill only goes so far. We see concerns that have been expressed by representatives of the Retired Public Service Pensioners' Association. They have expressed their concerns loudly. They were here in great numbers approximately ten days ago but unfortunately this government, to now at least, continues to refuse to listen to what are legitimate and bona fide concerns as expressed by a group of individuals, disadvantaged individuals in this Province, who have not seen any assistance being attributed to them for almost a ten-year period of time.

It is unfortunate that there appears to be even absolutely no willingness by the minister and by members opposite to even sit down and engage in meaningful discussions with representatives of Treasury Board, with representatives of unions - because their union has now taken an active interest - and with representatives of the Public Service Pensioners' Association. If the minister were prepared to do that, that would at least indicate a willingness to listen to their concerns, to work towards some move and some resolution to what has been a very agonizing dispute for thousands and thousands of dedicated public service pensioners in this Province.

We have introduced in the past a private member's motion which unfortunately was defeated many months ago. There have been numerous petitions. There have been numerous occasions when, during Question Period, members of the Opposition have raised issues and have asked questions on behalf of public service pensioners in this Province but, unfortunately, always on deaf ears. It is most unfortunate. What this message and signal is to the 11,000 public service pensioners in this Province is that their government simply does not care. It does not want to listen. That is a very sad and unfortunate message.

Again - because we will continue to fight on their behalf - I say to the minister, use this opportunity when we have seen significant numbers in the lobby of Confederation Building, use this opportunity to say to 11,000 retired Newfoundlanders and Labradorians: Yes, we will try to find a way to work with you with a view to a resolution of a concern and a dispute which has been ongoing for years.

I know the minister says: Well, there are a variety of issues and reasons why we cannot do it. I say to the minister: Sit down with the group and work towards finding a way to meet their needs, to pay particular attention to those individuals who are on the lower end of pensions. To say that there are individuals receiving pensions in excess of $100,000 a year is an unfortunate answer when in fact we know there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, receiving pensions in the range of $7,000, $8,000, $9,000, $10,000 or $11,000 a year.

It is those individuals for whom we make this request once again. Again, I would ask the minister to carry the torch, to lead the way, to show some leadership, and to show that this minister and this government has, as a part of its mandate, a genuine concern for approximately 11,000 Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise to speak in second reading on Bill No. 54, An Act To Amend The Public Service Pensions Act, 1991.

I support the bill itself in adding $40 million yearly into the public service pension plan. That will go some way, as the minister has indicated, in addressing the unfunded liability of that fund which the minister indicates is funded at less than 50 per cent at this point.

There is no magic in saying that the fund ought to be fully funded to 100 per cent on this particular day or that particular day, or some other particular year. There are obviously financial implications for the future in obligations that are undertaken today, obligations that we have in the Public Service Pension Act.

I want to talk about those who are already retired and those who are fighting with government now to get some recognition for their problems. We know, Mr. Speaker, that an increase has been sought for some years by the public service pensioners who back in 1989 had the practice discontinued whereby pensioners received the same rate of increase as the public sector workers had negotiated.

Since I have been in this House, when I was elected in December 1990, I have been challenging the government, and the previous government, on this issue because I believe that there was an established practice granted to a pension increase to coincide with public sector workers. That created a reasonable expectation -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: I know this member wants to distract me because he does not want the issue to stay alive about retired pensioners in this Province. He does not want that issue to stay alive. He wants it to go away because it is causing his government problems. The reasonable expectation has been created. It is Friday morning. If the member wants to start getting on with that we could be here a long time debating this issue and many others, but I want to talk about pensions, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. HARRIS: I want to talk about pensions and I want to talk about what is happening to the retired pensioners who are on very low fixed incomes, because their ability to look after themselves and live in dignity is being affected by this change in policy.

Whatever way you want to cut it, Mr. Speaker, it is a change in policy by this government to refuse to give recognition to the pension plan or a feature of the pension plan that was based on a reasonable expectation that their pension entitlement would increase as the public sector pay increased.

What are we going to do about it? Are we going to stonewall them? Are we going to talk about $100,000 pensioners and try and turn the public against them? Is that what we are going to do? Talk about the massive cost of implementing this and say the treasury will be bankrupt? Is that the solution? Is that the way to deal with this problem? Is that the way? Try and turn the public against them, let's talk about: We will have to raise taxes to deal with this problem? That is the kind of response we have had so far. We have not been looking for creative solutions. We have not been looking for ways to ameliorate the problem as faced by the lower income group in this pension group.

I was out there in the lobby, as was the Member for Virginia Waters, talking to pensioners. Seriously I might say, not in a cynical way. I know the member was as serious as I was in being there and supporting them. Not in a cynical way and coming in here afterwards and voting ourselves an increase. Because I was not in here. I don't think the Member of Virginia Waters was in here either when the vote went on that afternoon.

MR. G. REID: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: The Member for Twillingate & Fogo was not either. That is fine. What I want to say, Mr. Speaker, is that there is something that can be done about this. It is not all or nothing. It is not a black-or-white situation. The Retired Pensioners Association say the same thing. What they say is we have to sit down and negotiate and talk with them.

I spoke to an individual the other day, a Newfoundlander who worked in Nova Scotia with the hospitals' board there. He was a trustee of their pension plan. He said: We found a solution. We had a similar problem. We had a lot of people on low pensions. What we did was introduce a plan that would give pensioners an equivalency to the old age supplement. It would bring them up to what they would have gotten if they were on the old age supplement. Now if you are sixty-five you do not get it, because you are going to get as much as what you get on the old age supplement. It was what they call an old age supplement equivalency. That effected a significant raise for people on the lower end, but did nothing for someone who had a pension of $11,000, $12,000, $15,000, or even other income, in fact, that would bring them up to that.

I spoke with a former high level civil servant in the Auditor General's department who says he does income tax for free as a service to pensioners when income tax time comes around. He said there are hundreds of people he does tax forms for who are receiving pensions of $4,000, $5,000, $6,000, $7,000 and $8,000. In fact, these were the people who were out here. The people who were here lobbying and fighting and trying to change these things were the people who recognize that this is a serious problem for people on the lower end of the scale.

What do we have happen? We came in here and the minister talked about the $100,000 pensioner. I do not know who that person is and it does not really matter. That is not the issue, that is not the one we are talking about, that is not the problem we are talking about. We have to try and find a solution.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: I think we have to find a solution within reason, within cost. I think we have to look at what has happened here. I think if you sat down and talked to the people who are representing this group and said: Let's talk about a formula, let's talk about something that is going to work to benefit the people at the lower end in a way that is more important than the people on the other end. I think that it is important to look at what the solution might be.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: No, I do not think an across the board increase - I think there is room to negotiate changes in the established practice. I think there has to be a commitment to sit down and talk about that and try to find a solution.

The reason I put forth the resolution I did on Monday - which was to delay the increase for Members of the House of Assembly till we find that solution - is to give members of this House, on both sides, a stake in helping to find a solution. We should have a stake in helping to find a solution that is going to be - I think the retired pensioners are certainly prepared to be flexible. They are here talking about a genuine need and a genuine problem that they face and they want a solution.

I support this measure in the bill that we have because it does do something to help the unfunded liability. At the same time, we should be doing something positive to ensure that our provincial government retirees are not totally ignored by this government when they come seeking to have government recognize its responsibility to public service pensioners.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I have just a few comments on this particular bill, and again to echo the comments that were made by my colleagues on this side of the House.

This bill does not go far enough. This bill does not have any inclusion of any assurances that our public service pensioners are going to receive an increase. It has been some years since they have received an increase. There is not much more that I can add that has not already been said on this side of the House, other than to voice my concern as well for our public service pensioners, who we have seen lobby for the past year and half, who we have supported for the past year and half in their fight for an increase to their public service pensions, and who we will continue to fight on behalf of here in this House. I think it is safe to say that a government led by our Party would see an increase to the public service pensioners. We feel that this bill should give consideration to seeing an increase in the public service pensions.

With that said, I will give leave to another member to speak on this bill.

MR. SPEAKER: If the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board speaks now he will close the debate.

The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I thank the hon. members for their comments. I believe members, notwithstanding views on other matters, understand the importance of doing this. I thank them for their support for the bill and move second reading.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Public Service Pensions Act, 1991," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 54).

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, Order No. 26, "An Act Respecting The Management Of Waste Material," Bill No. 53.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act Respecting The Management Of Waste Material". (Bill No. 53).

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

MR. LANGDON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

When the Packaging Material Act was brought into the House over a year ago the mandate of that particular board was to implement a program for the recycling of beverage containers. That program has been in place for awhile and is meeting the objectives it was set out to meet.

However, when the Multi-Materials Stewardship Board wanted to get into other recycling products like tires, glass, newspapers, household hazardous waste and so on. We were told by the Department of Justice that the original legislation was not broad enough to encompass all these particular programs.

Basically what we are asking today is to replace that Packaging Material Act with the new act here, An Act Respecting the Management of Waste Material, so that it legitimizes the Multi-Materials Stewardship Board to supervise these particular new initiatives that are in planning process now and we hope to implement in the not-too-distant future. A few of these are well under way and a lot of planning has already been done into it. We feel that this act really, in a sense, will help to clean the environment and help to restore it to the pristine nest that we all would wish to see at the end of the day.

I will not have too much more to say with this at this time but in committee stage, I am sure, there might be other questions that the Opposition might have and at that time I will be prepared to deal with it in committee stage.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

Mr. Speaker, we do have some concerns with this bill. While we agree that the Multi-Materials Stewardship Boards are doing good work and we see fewer and fewer beverage containers on the streets, there are concerns with that, such as containers not being allowed to be crushed prior to being brought back for recycling and so on.

There was tremendous opposition by the public when that bill was first introduced, towards paying a deposit on containers. While this bill does not specifically say that there will be deposits put on tires and glass and newspapers and so on, it does give the Multi-Materials Stewardship Boards the right to do so. If this bill were to pass, what guarantees do we have that would not take place?

We do have some concerns here. We all agree that the protection of our environment is something that is becoming more and more a thing that people are becoming aware of, and it is a very important thing if we are to enjoy what we have today. We are going to have to protect it so that generations to come continue to enjoy it. With that in mind, we see the goods points that are made in the bill but at the same time there are concerns that there will be deposits put on everything from newspapers to motor vehicle tires.

There is a section in this bill that speaks specifically about offenses and it relates to if a party is guilty of not carrying out what is put forward in this legislation. A person who provides the minister or board with false or misleading information or fails to provide information that is required by this act or regulations may be given a fine of not more than $250,000.

That is a considerable fine and we have no problem with that and with that amount, but at the same time there may be other ways as well of attacking litter and attacking people who violate our environment.

Within the act, an act regarding the waste disposal act, there are fines right now within legislation, such as $25 for anybody who is caught littering and that type of thing. I would suggest that instead of penalizing everybody by putting a deposit on tires, newspapers or whatever, that we look at putting greater penalties in place for the people who violate the environment; people who, while driving out the highway, throw a pop tin out their window, or throw a bag - a convenience store garbage type of thing - out their windows, which we see all over our roadside throughout the Province.

If there were much stiffer penalties put in place for those people who violate, not only would it be a deterrent to those who violate our environment but it would also provide some revenue to help in policing, to help with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary or RCMP, or even the St. John's enforcement agencies and so on, to police those who violate. That is perhaps a suggestion that we can look as opposed to putting in place deposits on almost everything we use.

Right now, while the numbers are increasing on beverage containers, there is still somewhere in the 50 per cent or 60 per cent range. There is some revenue still within government to put in place new initiatives and new recycling depots and so on.

There are arguments on both sides of putting deposits on materials - be it mustard containers, newspapers, tires or what have you - but it also leaves a very open window for government, without any consultation through the House of Assembly, only through Cabinet, to put such levies in place.

That is also a concern, the fact that the bill says that the minister, with the approval of Cabinet, can make such changes to programs without any debate or consultation with the House of Assembly, or without any consultation with the people of the Province.

For the most part, what is contained in the bill is something that we would agreed with. There are some very real concerns. Those concerns I will further discuss with my caucus on Monday, prior to this bill being read and debated in committee.

I would ask that the minister and government look at some of these concerns so that they can be debated in committee, so that there can be some answers provided and maybe some of our recommendations can be looked at seriously when it comes to the committee stage.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise to speak on the legislation before the House concerning the disposal of waste materials. I have a number of concerns about the process which government is undertaking through this Multi-Materials Stewardship Board.

The whole issue of the requirement for recycling, and the necessity to deal with the problem, arose a number of years ago - and (inaudible) I suppose. It arose because there was a challenge in particular to the soft drink manufacturers who were failing to use any conservation measures in the distribution of soft drinks in this Province. They were under a challenge because they were not using returnable bottles. The beer industry, for the most part, uses returnable bottles. They were getting a 97 per cent to 98 per cent return on beer bottles. There was one really good reason for that. Mr. Speaker, there was one very good reason for the 97 per cent and 98 per cent return on beer bottles that were going to be washed again and used again, and that was because they were worth ten cents each.

When you bought a dozen beer, $1.20 of the cost was the cost of the bottles, a deposit on the bottles which you would get back. Now the bottles obviously cost more than that, but they were reused a number of times. I am told fifteen or more times. There was some pressure, because this was the only province in Canada - and maybe still is - where there was not one single returnable soft drink bottle in existence, except souvenirs kept over from the days when they had them. Through successive years the soft drink manufacturers had convinced the Government of Newfoundland, one way or the other, through lobbying efforts or whatever, that they did not have to do that here.

P.E.I. could have a total refillable bottle policy and enforce it and preserve their environment, New Brunswick could, other provinces could but no, not Newfoundland. Newfoundland was open season for the soft drink manufacturers to have disposable bottles: one use, no deposit, no return bottles.

That has changed obviously, we are supposed to think. The policy has not changed. There is still not one single returnable bottle for refilling in this Province outside of the beer industry. The logic of it is totally amazing, but I hear people say: You can't do that. You can't require companies to have refillable bottles or they will move out of the Province. So does this mean you cannot buy soft drinks in P.E.I.? You cannot buy Pepsi and Coke in P.E.I.? I have had people from Browning Harvey say: We can't do that. They will move out of the Province like Coke did, if you force them to have refillable bottles.

The logic is amazing. I cannot understand it. Why would you move out of the Province because you are forced to have refillable bottles? You mean, you are going to abandon the Newfoundland market? You are not going to sell Pepsi in Newfoundland because you have to have a returnable bottle, like they do in P.E.I., like they do in other provinces? Is that what we are going to have?

So we have done nothing. This legislation was really promoted by the soft drink industry through their lobbying efforts. They shifted the whole debate away from them and shifted it into littering. They blamed Newfoundlanders for the problem, not them, not the ones which were producing the 13 million bottles per year that were ending up in our landfills. That was not their problem, that was not their fault. That was the people who left them on the highways or left them somewhere else. The problem was littering and we needed to have a $1 million fund, I think, to promote anti-littering.

That was what happened. This government was hijacked by the soft drink manufacturing council or soft drink industry into introducing this kind of legislation. Now we are into the solid waste management and stewardship and all kinds of wonderful euphemisms, but the reality is that we still do not have one single refillable soft drink container in the market in Newfoundland today.

What are we doing now? We had a deposit-return system, but the deposits are six cents and the return is three cents. Not really enough money to guarantee a return, and we have not even seen any report card on this. Where is the report showing the effectiveness of this program? We know we have a 97 per cent return on beer bottles that are being refilled, that are worth ten cents each. If you bring them back you get ten cents. That has not changed. So a ten cent bottle, because it gets brought back and gets refilled, goes back into the market. Does a three cent beer can? What happens to a three cent beer can or a three cent soft drink can? What are they worth? The six cents that you pay when you go to a store to buy other products, how many of them are returned? What happens to them?

We have not seen any report. We know that something is happening. We have not seen a full report demonstrating the value of this program. Now they want to expand it. Why is that? Are they building an empire there with this deposit money? We know they had leftover money last year, they had a surplus. Maybe they are looking for something to do with it to build their empire, without necessarily finding the best solutions to the problem. It is now out of the hands of government.

AN HON. MEMBER: Forty-nine per cent.

MR. HARRIS: The Member for St. John's South says 49 per cent of the containers were returned. That is not very good compared to 97 per cent of beer bottle returns.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: No, beer bottles get 97 per cent or 98 per cent. I guess it is breakage or people lose them, or whatever happens to them. They end up in someone's basement. Somebody is hoarding them for years and waiting till they get a million dollars' worth of beer bottles. I do not know.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) home brew.

MR. HARRIS: Or making home brew. I think that was the biggest loss. A certain percentage of the beer bottles end up in the home brew market, if you want to call it that.

Mr. Speaker, if we are only achieving 49 per cent for other containers, what is the reason for that? Where is the report analyzing that? Where is the accountability here in terms of whether these policies are working and whether they need to be amended and made to work first, or see whether they are going to work, before we start giving extra powers and new powers to this board?

Solid waste management is a very important thing. It is very expensive in this Province to maintain landfill sites and to make sure they are properly looked after, and to make sure they are not a threat to the environment. The least of amount of stuff or the lesser amount of stuff that goes on these landfill sites, the better.

I would like to see a better detailed report on how well this policy is working so far and what the alternatives are before we start giving this board more power and authority.

Yes, I would like to see a system which looks after tires. You know, there are lots of automobile and truck tires in this Province that get disused and disposed of annually. We don't really know what happens to them, whether there is any effective program to do something about it. Whether this stewardship board is the route to go on that has yet to be demonstrated. It has yet to be demonstrated whether they are the appropriate body to be involved in this, or whether there ought to be some other policy or some other approach.

I proposed a number of years ago that for automobiles there ought to be a system which would guarantee that they don't end up over cliffs or driven into the woods, auto wrecks. Some system which would guarantee their return could be done. It could be done by the government. Instead of going the punitive route of having $2,000 fines for people whose vehicles end up in the environment, another approach might more effective. That could be done through existing legislation, by changing the legislation instead of giving over authority to this Multi-Materials Stewardship Board, which is effectively dominated by people who have a stake in the recycling business, or in the case of the soft drink manufacturers, in the manufacturing.

I think there are no goals obviously being set to ensure an adequate mix of refillable and recyclable materials. We are at a disadvantage here in recycling. We are at a great disadvantage in recycling because of transportation costs and energy costs that would be used because of our geography. We are at a great disadvantage in terms of recycling programs and recycling availability. Instead of throwing all our eggs in the recycling basket, which is yet to be demonstrated is an effective way of dealing with the problem, we should still be examining the refillable container route, which has worked from a tourist perspective on Prince Edward Island. It seems this government has given up on any approach that would reduce the amount of waste, reduce the amount of materials that end up in the environment one way or other.

The recycling obviously can only look after part of the problem. We have not identified yet to what extent a refillable container program, vigorously adopted and enforced and promoted by government, would reduce the amount of wasted energy, wasted materials, and in this particular Province, a wasted use of transportation resources that makes our recycling efforts less economical than in other areas with more concentrated populations, more sophisticated recycling opportunities, and less transportation costs involved in taking advantage of it.

Mr. Speaker, I certainly support any efforts in reducing waste materials but I do not think government is properly addressing all the options that are open to it.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): If the hon. the Minister speaks now he will close the debate.

The hon. the Minister of Environment and Labour.

MR. LANGDON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to thank my critic from the Opposition, the Member for St. John's South, and the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi for their comments. We will look at some of the points they have said. I think suffice to say here, what we want to do, of course, is to clean up the environment. Through the different programs we want to initiate a cleaner, safer and healthier place for all of us to live.

With that I want to close second reading. I look forward to Committee stage to deal with some of the things from the critics opposite.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

On motion, a bill, "An Act Respecting The Management Of Waste Material," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 53).

MR. SPEAKER: Before I recognize the hon. the Government House Leader I want to rule on a point of privilege that was raised a few days ago. On Wednesday, December 9, the Member for St. John's West rose on a point of privilege relating to certain language used by the hon. Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs in a debate that was taking place on second reading of Bill 42. This debate took place on Tuesday, December 8.

I have reviewed the Hansard, the submissions made by the hon. Member for St. John's West and other members, and find that a prima face case of privilege was not established by the hon. member.

The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, I call Order No. 32, which is Bill No. 56, "An Act Respecting Home Support Services Provided To Persons In Self-Managed Care."

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act Respecting Home Support Services Provided To Persons In Self-Managed Care". (Bill No. 56).

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The bill is a simple one and quite straightforward. I should just give a little bit by way of background. As most people know, there has been a social policy in the Province over the last decade, I guess is about the time period, where people were de-institutionalized, people essentially with disabilities of various sorts. The prevailing social wisdom being that people would be better off in a home environment as opposed to an institution.

The government has been funding homes around the Province where these individuals now reside. Also, over the last decade, since about 1988, there has also been a greater emphasis on people staying in their own homes as they become elderly and infirm, and being looked after there rather than being moved into senior citizen homes and so on.

Of course, this often involves people coming in for a period during the day to help the family with the level of care. Also, where the person is essentially healthy but for various reasons it would not be wise to leave them on their own, there is also what is known as respite care, where a worker will come in and help out the family, and give the family a break in essence from what can be a difficult task of having to care for somebody on a continuous basis.

We have approximately 2,500 or so of these homes around the Island. The arrangement is that the Province provides a level of support to these homes, and each of them is administered by a group or by the family, and these are called self-care arrangements. The section of the act that deals with this and gives the definition is section 2. It essentially gives a legal definition that sets out what are essentially private living arrangements where individuals are looked after in their own homes.

There has been a legal issue that was brought to the Labour Relations Board, and was appealed to the Supreme Court, where a union that was attempting to organize all the homes asked the Labour Relations Board to rule that government was the employer. The Labour Relations Board said no, that was not the case. It was appealed to the Supreme Court and Supreme Court agreed. So the Labour Relations Board was right, the government is not the employer. In our view, that was the right decision in law because an employer is a person - government has very little to do with the direct management of these homes.

An employer in any situation is the person or the group that hires people, that directs the workforce, that disciplines them, that decides what the hours of work are, what the benefit levels will be and so on. There are many aspects of the employment relationship.

Of course, what the Labour Relations Board and the court does in these matters is determine who, in effect, is the employer. I guess the union's argument in this case was that because of the mere fact that the government provided money, it was a background employer; and the issue was that we should accept that, which, of course, we do not.

What this bill does is, it removes any uncertainty that may exist in the community as to who is the employer. Now, why would we do that? Well, the matter has already been heard twice - by legal entities, the Labour Relations Board, as I have mentioned, and courts - and we have been approached, over the last while, by groups that represent individuals in their home. Their concern is that, where an individual is being looked after in his or her home, the home, in many respects, is the most private place that we all utilize. Their concern is that they need certainty, they need to know that their living arrangements will be subject to their own governance. The people who look after and look out for the welfare of those that they love - be they children, parents, brothers, sisters, as the case may be, grandparents in some cases - are concerned because they do not want government to be the employer. They do not want government to be held the employer. They do not want government deciding and doing the hiring because the most fundamental choice we have, as human beings, is who will look out for us in our own homes when we get to that stage in our lives, please God, should be live that long.

One does not want to be too graphic, but if you know the situation, some of this care is of the most personal nature. People are incontinent, people are in beds, people need to be taken to the bathroom, people need to have dressings changed. It is probably the most personal sort - certainly among the most personal sorts - of care that a person can be given. Of course, the fundamental right you have is to choose who will assist you with that because you need a level of comfort not only with the person's political skill but with their gentleness, I suppose, your ability to be able to accept them as a proper caregiver. That is perhaps the most fundamental decision that would affect it. Then, of course, people want to decide when people will work there, and how, and at what time, and what they do, and when they should do it, so that the direction of the workforce in a case like this is very important.

In response to that concern, groups who are very concerned about their families, essentially, have come to us and said: Look, we want this uncertainty removed. Will you please ensure that we can continue to make these decisions, that we can continue to be the masters and mistresses in our own homes? This is what this bill does. This ensures that every person in this Province will have the right, in their own homes, to govern this particular task; that the people come into your home, you will be able to tell them what to do. There may be many cases where government provides virtually all of the assistance. In some cases families do much of it. What this will do is, if any of us, any person in this Province, reaches a point where you need care and you want to stay in your own home, this will ensure that you have the right, either directly or through your relatives or a group, in some cases, from a community, to ensure that you have the fundamental choices that we all, I am sure, as members of this House, will want to exercise in the domain that is most precious to them, and that is in their own home.

Mr. Speaker, that is the rationale behind the bill. I think members opposite are probably aware of the situation. I may have given them a little more legal background than maybe public but we believe this is not only necessary, it is advisable. We are responding really, to a public concern that has been expressed to us by the groups that are most affected. Associations for Community Living, for example, and other groups have come to us repeatedly and we have struggled with this, but at this point we believe it is such a fundamental right that we have to remove the uncertainty that exists in the community because it is unfair to anybody in this circumstance to worry that the control over these tasks that need to be done for them is going to be stripped from them, taken away, and given to some group that does not have the immediate knowledge and experience that comes from being with the individual in what is approximately 2,500 different circumstances around the Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: I am not going to get into it. I am not getting into it today. The decorum of the House has been restored this morning and I am not going to do anything that will take away from it by engaging the Minister of Fisheries. We will wait until Monday, I say to the minister.

MR. SULLIVAN: He is also the minister of aquaculture, now.

MR. E. BYRNE: The Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, and Minister of Development and Rural Renewal, the member of the House who should have that portfolio, who understand it more clearly than anybody on that side of the House, I say, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: I heard he got into trouble this morning with some of his colleagues.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to make some comments with respect to Bill 56. The Minister of Finance and Treasury Board, in his opening comments, has provided government's assurances of what this bill is all about, government's spin on what this bill is all about. He talks about being given choices, and I understand that. He talks about groups like the Association of Community Living who have repeatedly made representations to governments.

It is my understand, and I stand to be corrected, but the Association of Community Living are only now aware that the legislation came forward today. They are having their own legal council look at it, from what I understand, to see what the implementations and the ramifications of this particular piece of legislature are.

Mr. Speaker, it changes somewhat fundamentally. There are fundament changes here. While the minister is right in terms that it addresses the fundamental needs of people in terms of who want care, who expect care, and the choice of how they want to get care in their own homes, the issues surrounding this piece of legislation have been debated publicly. We have seen government on the one hand funding agencies, where we have workers' rights, workers who are providing personal care in homes, who are working at much reduced wages as compared to government providing the service in its own institutions to individuals providing the same level of care, doing the same job in different places but receiving higher benefits.

This act being tabled today requires public debate. It requires public input. It was only this morning, for example, that many people who are going to be impacted and affected by this is just getting the first glimpse of what this legislation will mean, a week or two weeks before Christmas.

This is a significant piece of legislation. It is about the care of those who need care. The minister is right; I agree with him in that case. At the same time, it should be about those who provide care. Because while the independent people who need care in their own homes, if the level of care in terms provided to individuals, or individuals who are providing care, if there is a discrepancy in terms of benefits, wages or modifications that are wide and varied, which they are right now, I say and I would propose to the minister that, as a result of that discrepancy, as a result of the imbalance, that the type and nature of care that people expect to receive could also reflect that imbalance.

The points made this morning by Federation of Labour president, Ms. Elaine Price, had some legitimacy. It needs to be balanced in terms of - we need more insight into why this piece of legislation is so absolutely necessary, and what fundamental changes are going to incur as a result of it. My own suggestion would be this particular piece of legislation be sent to a Legislation Review Committee -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. E. BYRNE: - so that we can study the impact of what this will mean to those who vulnerable - most vulnerable.

Thank you, Member for Cape St. Francis. I say to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, I have been chastised now for using words.

A Legislation Review Committee would allow those groups or individuals to clearly understand what the impacts of this legislation will mean, and it is in government's best interest to send it to a Legislation Review Committee.

If what the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board has indicated, in terms of what the impact and ramifications of this bill will be upon the issue of home care, home support services, giving those who want to have choice in terms of the type and nature of care they want to receive, if government is right, then let the legislative review process on this particular piece of legislation bear it out. That is what is required and that is what I would submit to the minister.

I know that this afternoon and over the weekend we will have more of an opportunity to discuss with the community groups, individuals involved, representations made by workers, and in particular those workers, those people who are providing the care, to get their sense of what this piece of legislative will mean; how it will impact and affect the lives of people providing care on the one hand but also how it will affect and impact the lives of those who are receiving care on the other hand. There must be a balance. Ultimately, the paramount concern should be the type of care that people receive. That is where our first priority must lie; I understand that. At the same time, in providing that care it cannot be at the expense of those who will provide it.

There are legitimate concerns surrounding this particular piece of legislation which we are just starting to debate today. First reading, it was introduced, we have a chance today - the Minister of Finance, only in a few minutes, articulated what his point of view was. Again, I reiterate that it is in government's own interest, governments self-interest. They wanted to be selfish about this particular piece of legislation. If they were convinced that what is in it is true and that the impact that it would have upon those who need care, those who expect care, those to whom government must provide care, that it will be in their interests and that it is a positive piece of legislation - if they are convinced of that - then a Legislation Review Committee, I think, is absolutely necessary.

This is a piece of legislation that I do not think we should pass without enough debate to clearly understand what the ramifications are. Generally, that is where I am coming from.

As I said, throughout the weekend I will have an opportunity to get, I guess, a more accurate sense, a more detailed sense, of the issues surrounding this particular piece of legislation by those people who are involved and are going to be impacted themselves; those who need it, those who will provide it, and what direction this will set for home care and care in the Province for vulnerable people and those who need it until this legislation is either struck down or (inaudible) stands.

With those few opening comments I will sit down and let my other colleagues in the House, or in the Official Opposition, or other members of the Opposition, have a chance to have their input into this piece of legislation.

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member says, I suspect there will be quite a few people who will want to speak in this motion. Therefore, to assist people who want to express their point of view I would move that this House not adjourn at 12:00 noon.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that this House not adjourn at 12:00 noon.

All those in favour, `aye'.


MR. SPEAKER: Those against, `nay'.


Motion carried.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you Mr. Speaker. I would like to rise and speak to Bill 56, An Act Respecting Home Support Services Provided To Persons In Self-Managed Care.

I want to speak in opposition to this bill. This has been sprung on this House in the last forty-eight hours without any warning or discussion. It has not been reviewed by a Legislation Review Committee. It has not been given any public discussion or debate and it is designed to have the effect of further marginalizing women in the workforce. This is a bill that will have the effect of further marginalizing women in the workforce.

We went through, in this Province in the last two years, a lengthy strike by home care workers on the southern shore of this Province. For six months or more they were out because this government would not provide funds to ensure that these people could be paid properly. The government's line at the time - repeated day after day by the minister now responsible for the Status of Women, the current Minister of Human Resources and Employment who was in another job at the time - was that the government is not the employer, the government has no responsibility, it is not our problem. We do not pay these people; we just supply the funds.

Women demonstrated on the steps of this House of Assembly, in the lobby of this House of Assembly, at the tea party that the minister held for women about the status of women, because they were not being recognized. Their status was not being recognized by this government. Their role in providing home care services to the public of Newfoundland was not being recognized by this government, and they were not being given the dignity of a proper collective agreement with proper remuneration for their service.

There is a major debate under way in Canada about whether or not the next step for health care ought to be a national home care program. What is that going to consist of? The trickle down of some money so that women - because there are very few men who are going to be in this business, in this activity - can be further marginalized with minimum wage rates, with very little control over their employment.

Now the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board gets up and talks about the personal nature of the service, et cetera. That goes on in nursing homes, it goes on in personal care homes, it goes on in hospitals, and it goes on in a situation where government paid workers are paid properly, they are properly supervised, they are properly trained and they are properly remunerated for their services.

What we are doing through this bill, Mr. Speaker, under the guise of something else, is guaranteeing that the women who work in this particular job are going to be marginalized. We just celebrated yesterday the 50th anniversary of human rights. We did that, and stood and expressed our great concern for human rights, et cetera. Nice platitudes to say on such a day, but the Universal Declaration on Human Rights talks about the dignity of work and the ability to have some control over your work, and working conditions that are acceptable.

What we have in this particular area, what the minister is talking about, are choices, and what choices might be: choices that would involve workers being expected to work, to be on call whenever a person calls them in, or a committee of a person calls them in; working at split shifts, various hours here and there, a couple of hours here, a couple of hours there; at the behest and call of somebody without necessarily proper remuneration.

The Minister of Finance and Treasury Board got up in this House two years ago and talked about an extra $4 million being devoted to increase the salaries of home care workers. We just had a company go bankrupt - we are not even sure if it is a company - a couple of weeks ago, leaving sixty or seventy people without wages, and these people were being paid the minimum wage. Where did this money go to increase the home care workers' salaries? Where did that money go?

The minister also talked, at the same time, about making sure that home care workers were covered by workers' compensation. That has not happened. Call up the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission and ask them whether or not home care workers are covered by workers' compensation. What kind of working conditions do these people have who are working in providing basic personal home care services? What kind of working conditions do they have now?

Let me ask the rhetorical question: Why are they seeking to be unionized and represented by unions, and why are they going to the Labour Relations Board? They are going because they are obviously not satisfied with their working conditions. They want to be able to engage in collective bargaining and to conduct collective bargaining so that they can be properly represented.

The public service collective bargaining act, for example, does include these people as employees - within the broad definition of employee - because it includes a person employed by either the government of the Province or an agency, board, commission, corporation or other body that may be designated by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council and paid a wage or salary, in whole or in part, from money voted by the Legislature. These people are being paid, in whole or in part, by money voted for this Legislature, and upon the designation by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council these people are in fact employees within the meaning of the public service collective bargaining act.

Now the fact that the Cabinet chooses not to designate these workers is a conscious policy decision by this government because it wants to make sure that these people have difficulty organizing themselves, that they have difficulty fighting for a decent wage, and have difficulty preventing themselves from becoming one more group of marginalized workers in this Province who are almost entirely women. I say this looking directly at the Minister Responsible for the Status of Women because this is a women's issue. This is an issue about the dignity of women. If this government thinks it can disguise this bill as something else then it is not going to be allowed to happen by this member, if I have any ability to have any influence on the public debate, because this is a bill about the marginalization of women workers.

Now we had a debate about this in the House the other day as a result of comments of the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs. I am not going to go back into that, but I want you to know that I regard the fight for equality of women and anti-discrimination against women as not being over. This bill is going to contribute to the further marginalization, the further discrimination in working conditions for and ability to have a say over their conditions of employment, because they are going to spread out.

Twenty-five hundred different employers, we are going to have now. That is what the government is proposing. The minister said so himself: We will have 2,500 employers -

AN HON. MEMBER: Actually higher than that.

MR. HARRIS: - or more who have no idea how an employer ought to behave or what an employer ought or ought not to do, what the Labour Standards Act says or does, how to fill out all of the forms for unemployment insurance and Revenue Canada and all this stuff. They have no idea how to do all of that. This is a policy decision by this government that is going to make all of these people employers, at least on paper. No doubt it will be somebody coming in to do services for them and set up operations where: We will provide this and you just -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: The court's decision is a different matter. The court -

AN HON. MEMBER: The court interprets the law.

MR. HARRIS: The court interprets the law. The Lieutenant-Governor in Council, all they have to is say: We hereby designate the home care workers of this Province to be employees within the meaning of the Public Service Collective Bargaining Act. Period, full stop. It is not a legal problem, Mr. Speaker, this is not a legal issue. This is an issue about the dignity of workers in this Province. This an issue about whether or not home care services are going to be provided on the basis of women working at minimum wage and under conditions that are not governed by collective bargaining, because it is going to be almost virtually impossible for it to be done.

This is what we have here. We have the government aiding a process, in fact directing the process, that is going to have this result. I think if we are going to be doing that, well, let's do in the full light of day with a full public debate. Not Friday. This is the first of the pre-Christmas attempts. Now, okay: Guys, if you are going to debate this bill, if you guys are going to talk about this bill, we won't let you go home. We are going to stay here till 5:00 o'clock p.m. to debate it.

This is the first of the pre-Christmas tactics of the government. Pile up the legislation, pile it up. I don't know how many bills came out in the last few days. I have a pile on my desk now that never saw the light of day. We have a legislative review committee process being totally ignored, a legislative review process is not being used to look at legislation. Here we have the pre-Christmas rush: We want to get out of here. What day are we getting out of here, folks, it is Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or is it Christmas Eve?

This is the usual game that we play. We are starting it today, now, Friday morning. They think nobody is watching, nobody cares, but I will tell you something. I am going to make sure the women of Newfoundland know about this bill. I am going to make sure that this is an anti-woman bill. It is a bill that will have the affect of marginalizing women workers in this Province, because it will prevent them from having any effect -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. HARRIS: This legislation will have the effect of preventing women from ensuring that they have adequate working conditions.

I am not going to support it, Mr. Speaker. I am going to speak against it, and I hope all hon. members will consider this bill and speak against it, whether here publicly in the House - I would invite some members from the government to get up and stand behind the women of this Province who are going to be affected by this bill. I invite them to get up and recognize that this is a bill that will marginalize women workers in this Province, providing a valuable needed service, a home care service, a home support service.

We laud and praise any policy direction that is going to assist people to live in their homes and to continue to live in their homes despite disability, despite advanced age, because that is the place where people want to live. They want to be able to live independently, if they can. Government should do what it can to provide the services to allow that to happen. It cannot be provided in a circumstance where you have workers without any effective means of exercising their rights of collective bargaining, any effective means of assuring they have adequate working conditions, any effective means of ensuring they are going to be able to advance their own circumstances.

There is a woman who has been calling my office for the past few weeks. She has been in the media. She lost $2,000 when the agency that employed her, at the minimum wage to provide personal care services, just disappeared. It went under, it does not exist anymore. What recourse does she have? The Labour Standards board people tell her that she has no recourse, that our legislation is inadequate to protect her, that other provinces have directors' liability for employees' wages, but not here. If she was in New Brunswick, fine, if she was in Manitoba, fine, if she was in some other province, fine, but not in Newfoundland because there is no liability of directors for employees' wages.

She is a home care worker. Not covered by Workers' Compensation, despite the comments of the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board in March 1996 when he said an additional $4 million would go in to home care to make sure that peoples wages would go up and to provide for workers' compensation.

We are dealing with people who will have no benefits, no benefits of employment. If they manage to ensure that the employer meets the minimum wage standard of the minimum wage legislation - and there is no guarantee of that either - it meets the minimum wage standard, it meets the obligation to pay vacation pay, that might be it. There is not going to be any pension for them. There is not going to be any pension or pension credits. There is not going to be any workers' compensation benefits unless something changes in the legislation. They are not going to have any effective right to collectively bargain. If they manage to find three or four people working for the one person, they can be gone tomorrow. They are going to turn all the disabled and senior citizens in this Province into employers to be engaged in going before the Labour Relations Board and decide whether these people should be able to collectively bargain or not.

Mr. Speaker, that is not what we want to have happen - total chaos before the Labour Relations Board if this carries through. At the same time, a lack of effective ability of these individuals to bargain collectively, because in order to do that there has to be an effective means whereby it can take place.

This is being snuck in the week before Christmas. We are going to be here all day debating it. I do not know how long the government members are committed to staying after 12:00 noon. Normally that is the deciding factor here. I know that I am prepared to stay and debate this. I am speaking now, so I guess I won't be able to debate it much more after this, but I hope that the Official Opposition can keep this issue alive enough for the public to hear about it today - what is going on today, on a Friday morning, at 11:30 a.m. - introducing a bill that they hope to get second reading on, a day after it was distributed. Forty-eight hours ago no one knew what was in this bill except some government members. No one knew what was in this bill.

Mr. Speaker, that is what this government is doing, introducing legislation. It is anti-women. It is anti-women because it prevents women from having an effective influence on and say in their working wages and working conditions. It is designed to do that. We know that, because we know the position that this government took when the home care workers on the Southern Shore went on strike a year-and-a-half ago. We know the position the government took. They left them out there on the steps of Confederation Building for months and months - six months, seven months - left them out there.

At the same time another group went on strike. Another group represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers' Union went on strike. They went on strike for several months, and what happened there? The employer just closed his doors, disappeared, closed shop.

AN HON. MEMBER: Down on Barter's Hill.

MR. HARRIS: Down on Barter's Hill, that is where their offices were. They just closed shop.

Now the government has a new solution, Bill 54, the solution to the problem: Oh, here is what we will do. We will ensure that they have no means of collectively bargaining. We will have them all spread out with 2500-plus different employers.

MR. EFFORD: If I had a peashooter now I would sit you down.

MR. HARRIS: Well, I am glad you don't have a peashooter. The member wants to shoot me down with a peashooter. I don't know about that. I guess I am safer than some of the other targets of the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture who want to do damage to another species. At least I may be safer than them, if all the minister is threatening me with is a peashooter.

Mr. Speaker, perhaps the minister will speak on this bill and defend the women of this Province who are being marginalized by this act, who are having their ability to negotiate their wages and working conditions taken away from them; instead of this government saying, we are going to have a home care program on a sound footing that is going to ensure proper home care and at the same time ensure that not only is quality home care going to be provided but it is going to be provided on a basis that can ensure that the people who are providing that care are going to be able to work in conditions under which their rights to collectively bargain, their rights to have some influence on their working conditions, are going to be protected.

Mr. Speaker, there is no good reason that we have to support this legislation at all. There is no good reason at all. Government is not taking any steps whatsoever to ensure that home care workers are adequately treated. They are doing nothing to deal with the problems that could arise if a large scale employer was designated by government and any of the problems that the minister mentioned in terms of who is providing the service, et cetera. These are all matters that can be worked out. They can be provided for easily through proper regulation, through proper collective bargaining and proper agreements. It is not an issue in nursing homes, it is not an issue in hospitals, it is not issue where personal care homes which can be effectively organized in a way where people can effectively be represented in collective bargaining to achieve some control over their working conditions.

What we are doing here is using government funds in the same way that government funds are used for other public services, through any other agency, board, commission or corporation. Government funds are being used to provide the service, and government employees or employees with standards that can be governed by collective bargaining to provide the service. This is effectively a privatization of a public service. It is a privatization of a public service by taking and putting out of the hands of government and public responsibility, responsibility for the standards and working conditions of people paid for with government funds. It is wrong, Mr. Speaker. It is legislation that discriminates against women. We are talking about - the phrase `pink ghetto' gets used when we talk about particular occupations. It is called the pink ghetto. I know the Minister responsible for the Status of Women is very familiar with the term pink ghetto. If she is not she should be.

What this legislation is doing is creating another pink ghetto. It is the pink ghetto legislation of 1999. The Minister of Health and Community Services should be ashamed of being a part of government that is introducing legislation to create another pink ghetto. She should be ensuring that no policy of this government, that no bill and legislation before this House, would be designed to, or have the effect of, creating a pink ghetto in this Province, where women workers will work for very low, if not minium, wages and in working conditions over which they can have no effective control.

It is wrong legislation, Mr. Speaker, and it ought to be stopped, it ought to be fought against. Any man or woman in this House should recognize what is happening here. Any man or woman should recognize that what we are doing here, if we pass this legislation, is creating another pink ghetto of underpaid women workers in this Province. That is what is happening here. If government fails to recognize that then they will be taking another step backwards in the status of women in this Province, another step backwards. It would be a disregard for the direction and the efforts that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which we praised yesterday in this House but are defying by introduction of this legislation, which will have the effect of ensuring the creation of another pink ghetto in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

I hope that the women's groups of this Province, that the women's centres that are supported by this provincial government with $30,000 grants, I hope that they will not except that a $30,000 grant from the provincial government means they cannot criticize legislation to create a pink ghetto for women workers in this Province. I hope that they will speak out on this. I hope that the Women's Policy Office will have a look at this legislation and advise the minister that this is legislation that hurts the women of Newfoundland and Labrador. I hope that the women of Newfoundland and Labrador themselves speak out and oppose this legislation, because it is creating a pink ghetto for women workers who are going to be working at very low or minimum wages, in conditions which don't give them any effective means of having control over their working conditions.

This is not something that is just a technical amendment to the law. There was an interpretation placed on law by the House, by the Labour Relations Board, and the decision was upheld by the Supreme Court because they did not over rule them. That does not mean that we are required to create a pink ghetto. The government has the - and not only the government. It does not even have to come to legislature. All the government has to do is invoke section 2(1)(i)(ii) of the Public Service Collective Bargaining Act to ensure that all of these people are considered public servants under the Public Service Collective Bargaining Act and declare that there is one employer. One employer who is going to establish the working conditions and negotiate appropriate safeguards for disabled people or senior citizens, or people who have to have services through a committee because they are not mentally competent.

These problems can be resolved through collective bargaining, through negotiations, or through regulation. If the government wants to have regulations which establish the basic standards for the relationship between people who are recipients of service of this nature and those who are providing it, then that can easily be done. There is no difficulty in doing that, none whatsoever. The government is choosing not to do that. The government is choosing instead to try and play a Pontius Pilate-type role in saying: We are not involved, we are not the employer. We were not the employer of the Southern Shore home care workers, we were not the employer of the company that went bankrupt on Barter's Hill when the women were unsatisfied with their wages and working conditions, and wanted to get them bettered.

Now they are gone. That company is gone, and now the government says: Okay, the blind person who is receiving services, that person is the employer. That person has to fill out the forms, become an employer, get an employer's number from Revenue Canada, read all the brochures and make sure they deduct the right amount of Canada Pension Plan, the right amount of unemployment insurance, deduct the right amount of income tax, make remissions annually or monthly to Revenue Canada, do all the paperwork. Be an employer. That is what this government is imposing on people in those circumstances.

Why? One simple reason. They are not prepared to stand up for the dignity of the workers in that situation who are women. They are not prepared to stand up for the dignity of the workers in that situation who are women. They are not prepared to recognize that their dignity is being affected by this legislation. They are not prepared to recognize that women who work in those circumstances need to have some control over their working conditions, need to have the ability to organize and bargain collectively over wages and working conditions. They are trying to effectively allow these women to be marginalized.

I oppose this legislation. I hope all hon. members will speak against this legislation. I hope there will be an outcry against this legislation in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, because it is the pink ghetto legislation of 1999. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER (Penney): The hon. the Member for Waterford Valley.

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

I want to rise to express some concerns with this particular piece of legislation. As my colleague the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi just mentioned, there are some real difficulties with what government is doing.

I listened this morning on CBC radio to a conversation with the President of the Federation of Labour, Elaine Price. She was commenting on this particular piece of legislation. Her position is that this does very little to advance the cause of women in this Province. That is a viewpoint that has been articulated again in this House today by the previous speaker.

We saw in the Legislature in the last couple of years people who came to this House day after day to present their case. They sat in the galleries. They looked to the government for answers. They wanted to have some solution to their difficulties. They were primarily from the District of Ferryland, although there were some others from other parts of this region as well. I do not see this legislation addressing their issues.

While I tend to agree with most of the comments made by the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi, I want to make the point here that government essentially has not solved the problem at all. They really have washed their hands. They have simply said: This is not our problem. We have been told by the Labour Relations Board that we are not the employer. If they are not the employer and there have been difficulties with appeals and through the court system, then as the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board knows, in his capacity as a member of the legal community, all you have to do is change the law. That is what has been put forward by this side of the House. We believe there is some risk here, not only to the people who are receiving the service. Because we are afraid that we are putting responsibilities on these people that they shouldn't have to carry.

It takes a lot of expertise to be able to know all about filling out pay stubs and deducting amounts for Canada Pension, workers' compensation, income tax, and all of these various things. You have to have some bookkeeping expertise. If the individual family or a family member is going to be the employer, there has to be some way in which we can support that person. The real danger here is that people who need this home care service will potentially go without the service because their family, or they themselves, will not be able to do all the bookkeeping that will be necessary.

Also, there are problems here with insurance. You are asking these 2,500 or 4,000 families to assume responsibility for insurances. We know that when people come into your home you are the employer. You have to be willing to take on the responsibilities that go with that. When your home is a place of employment for the care giver, there are all kinds of liabilities attached to that. We have the potential of seeing some very ordinary Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who are going to find themselves in all kinds of disputes, and we don't see government willing to participate in a dispute mechanism arrangement.

We see government washing its hands and saying: Sorry folks, you have the problem, you have the injured person, you have the elderly person, you have that child who needs help, you have that spouse who needs care and protection, and they are saying: It is not our problem. Under this legislation, we have washed our hands. While I agree with the member who just spoke before me on the issues that focus on the caregiver and the women's issue, I also have great concerns about the person for whom the care is going to be given. If I could have the comfort of knowing that this government is going to have a dispute mechanism available, that they are going to have some support for people out there who need help with the bookkeeping which is necessary, that we are going to have some comprehensive insurance policy whereby the people who find themselves, where there is going to be accidents in the homes - and we know, when you are lifting people and helping people in the home, there are all kinds of difficulty. We know the injury rate for that kind of job.

I think it is a tragedy that we move in this direction without having all these other issues addressed. I make the plea to the government, if you are going to move in this direction - and I tend to believe that we could have some kind of a medium here, some kind of middle ground, whereby people who want to have this arrangement could indeed move in this direction. Maybe the people who are involved in the various community living associations, they may be ready to move in this direction. That may be possible. However, we also look at the person living out in a small Newfoundland rural community, or people who do not have the experience with all of the rigmaroles and the bookkeeping and the red tape that is required. We have to make sure that these people do not go without services because they are afraid to take on either the legal liability that goes with the injury in the home, or they do not want to take on responsibility that comes along when we have people who do not want to be an employer.

When you are seventy-five years old and your spouse is ill, and you are told: Now, you have to go out and find a person. You have to do the interview. You have to make sure you get the right person. You have to do all this bookkeeping necessary.

There are people who simply cannot do that. They need the help but they cannot do that kind of thing.

My plea this morning with the government is - first of all, I do not believe that this is the only alternative that is available to you. The law can be changed. In fact, it should be changed. There should be a more compassionate approach adopted by government. I do not see any compassion here. I see more an approach of: Let's get rid of this problem.

Mr. Speaker, that is not what I believe government should be doing. Government should not be focusing on getting rid of a problem. They should be focusing on a people focus. If we have one role in this Legislature, it is to make sure that we do not lose sight of ordinary people. I see this policy as losing sight of the most vulnerable people, people who have the need for help now, and we are putting barriers up to them. This law imposes a legal barrier to the help that is required by many Newfoundland families.

Mr. Speaker, before this, people tended to think that they had protection of their government and what I see here is government simply saying: We are going to get out of this. We are not going to be responsible for this, and I think that is a very big step backwards. I also wanted to make note here as well that we had commitments made here last year that home care workers would be covered by workers' compensation. That has not happened. Part of it is because of the wage rates and the hours that are there.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, we have the lowest minimum wage in Canada, lowest by some significant amount. I know that there are amendments now, at this very time, that are going through several Canadian Legislatures on minimum wages. In fact, an amendment was passed a few days ago in the Province of Manitoba. At the moment now our minimum wage in this Province is the lowest in Canada. The data that I have in front of me here gives me all the minimum wages for every province in this country and every territory.

What we are really saying here is that we are going to be continuing to - again, as the member who spoke before me said, most of those workers are people who are women, and most of them will be paid at the bare minimum wage. There is something wrong.

I say to the government two things: (a) we should be referring this particular piece of legislation to a Legislation Review Committee. There are people out there who want to advocate for the people who are in need, the poor, people who have had injuries, people who want to keep their spouse in their own home.

Mr. Speaker, it is so important for people who are older to be able have their own family member, their spouse, stay in their own home. We are supposed to be promoting that. My fear here is that this pushes us away from that, and that causes me great concern. That is not progressive; that is regressing. It is kind of putting blinders on and simply saying: Well, we do not want to take on the big responsibility, so we will not take on any responsibility.

What I would like to see in this legislation is: (a) that we would refer it to a Legislation Review Committee; (b) that we would make a kind of a halfway here for people who want to take this on - community groups that want to be the employer. I have no difficulty with that, but I have great difficulty saying to an elderly person that the only way you can get help is, if you or your family member will take on the responsibility of being the employer.

I will just tell you one story of one of my constituents. It is about a lady and her husband. They have two children; one is in Texas and the other is in Alberta. They have no other family members in this area. If they need help in the future, they have nobody to turn to who would take on this role, and they themselves will not be able to do this. Therefore, what I am saying to the Minister of Finance is that we have to make some provisions somewhere, whether it is through the community health group or somewhere else, whereby we can make sure that we do not put barriers up here that let more people fall through the cracks.

When we talk about elderly people, vulnerable people - sometimes they are elderly and sometimes they are not. You can be very young and need this kind of help as well. I want to ask the Minister of Finance: What is he going to do to make sure that there is a universal application that is fair to everybody? What is he going to do to make sure that we do not adopt this program and expose some of the most vulnerable people in our society to greater levels of vulnerability?

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have just a few comments. The hon. member makes a good point, and I just point out to hon. members that a lot of the issues that were raised are issues of legitimate consideration, and the government shares some of the concerns.

I find the NDP Leader's comments somewhat sexist, I am afraid. Using terms like pink ghetto and so on, I think are insulting to the workers in the House, and I don't really think that helps. Frankly, the only pink ghetto I know is the one that he generally sits in down there with the NDP.

Having said that, Mr. Speaker, there are issues here that are substantial ones and that need further debate. The hon. member makes a good point, there are a lot of elderly people and as our society ages, of course, we have to look for appropriate living arrangements. This is one that I think is probably critical and is going to become much more prevalent. I think his points were well made.

In terms of the legislation, I just want to make the point that this addresses only one matter. The other aspects that he raised are ones of funding. You know, we share his concerns with pay levels, for example, and these are matters that one hopes to address over time. The critical issue that is before the Legislature, and one that has been raised by the people in their own homes, is that they want control over them, and I think that is something that we understand. The hon. member can put himself in the position that, if he were in his own home and in need of that type of care, I don't think he would want someone else to be taking over all of those services, taking away his freedom of choice to choose who would be there and what the circumstances would be. I don't think so. I read from what he said that he supports the bill, however he might like to see other things done to accompany it or other issues resolved, and we share that view with him.

What I say to members of the House is: This is an issue that has matured, it has been through the Labour Relations Board, it is before the court, and it is really a decision the House has to make on what is a fundamental human right; and that is whether or not we support the right of individuals in their own homes to govern their own lives. I think this is what this bill speaks to, and I think what is perhaps the loudest and most eloquent in its support is that the very people themselves, in their homes, and the very people who help them with these arrangements to order to provide that care are the ones who are crying the loudest for this particular measure, and that is the reason we support it.

I am disappointed with the comments by my colleague from Signal Hill- Quidi Vidi that seem to place a priority on unionization above the rights of individuals. Mr. Speaker, maybe it is a collective view he has but certainly not one that we subscribe to in this House. I say to the hon. member opposite, that we take his comments with the usual good grace and the thought that we know he always gives them, as did the other members opposite, and these are issues we hope to address in the future.

I therefore move second reading.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

On motion, a bill, "An Act Respecting Home Support Services Provided To Persons In Self-Managed Care," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 56)

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, before I call the motion to adjourn, I would advise hon. members that on Monday we will be discussing Bill No. 57; from 57 we will be moving on to Bill 52 which is Order 30 on today's Order Paper; from there we will be going to Bill No. 50 which is Order 25 today; from there we will be going to Bill 47 which is Order 23 today; from there to Bill 51 which is Order 27; and from there we will be going to Bill 48 which is Order 24 today.

Now, did I get it right, Opposition House Leader?

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes you did.

MR. DECKER: I thank hon. members for their cooperation. We have had an extremely busy morning and have made a lot of headway. We will have a rest for the weekend and come back and get at it again on Monday.

I move, Mr. Speaker, that the House at its rising would adjourn until tomorrow, Monday, at two o'clock.

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