May 4, 1999                 HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS              Vol. XLIV  No. 17

The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

Statements by Ministers

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BETTNEY: Mr. Speaker, today I am pleased to announce that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is now ready to accept proposals for funding of the demonstration projects that support the Province's Strategic Social Plan. Members of the House will recall that when government announced the release of our Strategic Social Plan, it reserved a $1.2 million fund for this purpose.

This $1.2 million fund has been created to implement projects that are consistent with the plan's directions, including an emphasis on coordinated approaches on social and economic development, prevention, early intervention programs, and community capacity building. Preference will be given to projects that demonstrate innovative and effective ways of addressing social issues, using partnership approaches among community-based groups. Information gathered from these projects will be used to help improve social programs and services in the Province.

Projects can be proposed at a community, regional or provincial level. Funding will be provided up to March 31, 2000, with maximum funding per project not normally exceeding $25,000. Consideration will be given to a higher award, if the project is Province-wide in scope.

The Strategic Social Plan is an important initiative that affirms the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador's commitment to strengthening our social policies, programs and services. Today's announcement is the latest initiative in supporting the plan and government's desire to work cooperatively with community groups in achieving a prosperous future for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

Along with today's announcement, I would like to take the opportunity to also update members of the House on other initiatives associated with the plan. During the past eight months since the plan was released, we have made considerable progress in two key areas - regional implementation and the social audit.

Regional implementation has begun with the central region. On April 23 there was a very successful planning session held in Gander, and it was attended by approximately 100 delegates from all parts of the region. The purpose of the session was to begin the collaborative process between government and all of the boards and institutions - education, economic development. This early process will lay the foundation for a coordinated regional approach to social and economic development.

The session also provided an opportunity for participants to share information, develop ideas for community partnerships, and begin work on a regional vision and options for coordination. This session brought together boards members and executives of the regional board, members of the Premier's Advisory Council, as well as representatives from the provincial and federal governments.

Mr. Speaker, over the next few weeks the geographical boundaries for the other regions of the Province will be established so that we can begin implementation in these areas as well.

The second key area that I would like to speak about is the social audit. The entire process of the Strategic Social Plan is supported by the development of a public process for reporting on our social audit. This is to be completed at a five-year interval and will be a record of achievements and specific outcomes identified in the plan. Work on the development of indicators to measure progress is being done in conjunction with the Newfoundland Statistics Agency.

In the near future, we propose to make available on a pilot basis, initially in the central region, web site access to an information system of key social and economical indicators. Currently, this information system contains approximately 7,500 tables with information from a variety of sources, including Statistics Canada and provincial resources. This information will provide valuable information on economic and social trends both at the provincial and the regional level. Ultimately, 400 of the Province's communities will have access to research data concerning their local areas. No other jurisdiction has been able to do what we are now proposing.

This information system can provide regions and communities with an important planning tool to support evidence based decision-making. It will also form an important part of an information base required to build a social audit. In addition to statistical research, work continues on developing other approaches to assess our progress. The Premier's Council on Social Development is instrumental in advising on this.

Mr. Speaker, last week's session in the central region and today's announcement of support for demonstration projects indicates that the Strategic Social Plan strongly supports the development of new and collaborative approaches in addressing the needs and concerns of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. I look forward to continually updating everyone on the progress of our Strategic Social Plan in the future.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I thank the minister for providing me with a copy of her statement. I see terms in this like "early intervention programs", "sharing information", "access to information", "sources including Statistic Canada and provincial sources", and "new and collaborative approaches in addressing the needs and concerns of Newfoundlanders".

I can give you some statistics: 27,000 children in Newfoundland live in poverty - we already know that; these things have been studied to death - 72.1 per cent of the children living in single parent families live in poverty. That is the highest in the country. That is how we are assessing the program. This data is already available. We have had the Select Committee on Children's Interests, and we have ignored things in that like the children's advocate. We have had the Williams Report, and we have ignored things in that. We have had the Inkpen Report, which lay on a shelf for eighteen months while it gathered dust, while children were in trouble in Whitbourne.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS S. OSBORNE: We are talking about early intervention. I can give you a couple of examples. I had a person call me yesterday whose child was approved by the social worker and the psychologist and recommended for one-on-one daycare. That money that was announced last spring, I am sorry, is not available to that child. That child was put in daycare and kicked out, so to speak, because of his behaviour. He needs one-on-one. That is where early intervention becomes...

I have another person: a seventeen-year-old son who, after his mom has all the bills paid, has $29.88 per week. That is for everything. Early intervention is when a boy, seventeen years old, has enough money to participate in high school so that he is encouraged not to drop out.

These are the statistics. I think that things have been studied long enough and it is time for us to take action.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister's statement is full of lots of jargon like demonstration projects, regional vision, social audit, just like the Strategic Social Plan itself. When we have a situation with increasing stress on families with inadequate housing, single parents struggling to get an education, being forced to borrow money by this government, middle-aged women being forced to live in boarding houses as their children leave home, 30,000 children going to school hungry every day, according to the Chairman of the School of Trustees Association, and the vast numbers of people living in poverty, what we need is not demonstration projects. What we need is for this government to take the problems of people seriously and start doing something about them, not getting involved in these highfalutin types of investigations and have more reports to sit on shelves while people still suffer without having their problems adequately addressed by this government.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. LANGDON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

May 2 to May 8, 1999 is North American Drinking Water Week. The theme for this year is "Celebrate Water" with the focus on the universality of water.

To mark this week, representatives of the Provincial Girl Guides, the City of St. John's and officials from my Department join me in a ceremony to officially proclaim May 2 to May 8 as Drinking Water Week in Newfoundland and Labrador.

I want at this time to acknowledge the special efforts of the Provincial Girl Guides Association in promoting the importance of safe, clean and reliable sources of drinking water. Last night, I attended on Open House sponsored by the Girl Guides of Pouch Cove to celebrate water week. I believe the involvement of the Girl Guides organization contributes greatly to the success of this initiative and certainly it speaks to the importance of this special week.

I would also like to acknowledge the efforts of local municipalities. The City of St. John's, the City of Mount Pearl, the Town of Paradise and the Town of Conception Bay South have jointly sponsored a contest for grade IV children in the region. This initiative will promote the importance of safe and clean drinking water among our youth. In this regard, I have written to all mayors around the Province encouraging them to undertake activities which support and promote water week.

My Department is working hard with municipalities and stakeholders to protect our water supplies. The events and activities planned for this week will further promote public awareness of the need for safe, clean and reliable sources of drinking water. I ask that all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians reflect on the fact that the responsibility of protecting our drinking water supplies is a responsibility borne by all.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I would also like to commend the Girl Guides because they are doing far more than government are doing to protect our drinking water supplies.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. T. OSBORNE: The minister says he has been working hard to protect our water supplies, that it is a responsibility borne by all in the Province. Yet the only reason this government has not given away our water from Gisborne Lake, Mr. Speaker, is because the federal government put a ban on it!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. T. OSBORNE: It is time we started to protect our water supplies in this Province. The World Trade Organization and the international banks say that it is the commodity of the next century. When are the people in this House going to realize that our water supplies have to last for the people of tomorrow, not only to give it away today? Another resource given away for very little. We have to protect our natural resources to give maximum benefit to the people of this Province, and it is time that we started to do that. Jobs and royalties, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to thank the minister for an advance copy of his statement. I obviously support the need for safe, reliable, clean drinking water. I did not hear a word in the minister's speech about conserving water, about protecting the sources of water, about ensuring that we in this Province do not get into a situation where our water is being tanked away to other places. I did not hear anything about protecting the environment so that the water -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. HARRIS: - is clean and continues to be available for all of us forever in the future.

MR. SPEAKER: Before I call Oral Questions I would like to welcome to the gallery today the Mayor of Twillingate, Mr. Harry Cooper.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Oral Questions

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Yesterday in Question Period the Minister of Education, in response to questions from the Member for Harbour Main-Whitbourne, indicated she was not aware that her decision to cut 182 teachers from the system this year will have any impacts on programs and choices for students. In fact she said: "The decisions that were taken should have no impact on programming. She also said that "it certainly was not government's intention either, so if it is happening it certainly was not because of any direction taken by this government."

Isn't it the real truth Minister that you already met with school boards prior to the allocation formula? That the Newfoundland and Labrador School Boards Association made a presentation to the Social Policy Committee of Cabinet prior to the Budget coming down, talking about program reductions as a result of teacher allocations this year and what the impact would be? The truth is that you were aware, that you have been aware for some time. Why did you say in this House yesterday that you were not when clearly, Minister, you were?

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

MS FOOTE: Mr. Speaker, let me say again that if government had to follow the teacher allocation formula we would have removed over 400 teachers from the system. We chose not to do that. In fact, we kept in 236 of those 400 teachers trying to ensure again that there would be no detrimental impact on programming in the system. So every decision we have taken has been with a conscious effort to try and make sure there has not been an impact on programming, because at the end of the day that is what our concern will be as well for government.

Yes, I will admit that if we had removed over 400 teachers there may very well have been an impact on it, but when you look at declining student enrolment, when you look at losing 4,000 students out of the system, when you look at the consolidation that has taken place throughout this Province in terms of restructuring, there should be enough teachers in the system to deal with the programming needs.

If there are not - I reiterate, and I can say it time and time again for the hon. member opposite - we are meeting with the education directors to find out the impact, because of concerns that are now being expressed by parents who are being asked by principals and teachers to come out and talk about the impact of the reduction in teachers on programming.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, if it only was the truth. The minister was already informed. I can demonstrate it clearly here today; what is taking place now is a shameless exercise in public relations.

Let me ask her this. She was aware, for example, in discussions with the department officials - your department officials - prior to allocations being made for the upcoming school year: Director, Domino Wilkins and Assistant Director, Dennis Fewer, emphasized to your officials that the school board could not absorb in District 5 a loss of more than ten to twelve teaching units without a reduction - they emphasized to your officials - without a reduction in programs and other services to schools. Yet this minister, with that knowledge and her officials' knowledge, went ahead and made allocations, took away allocations of thirty teaching units, with the full knowledge that in doing so programs would be impacted.

The question is, Minister: Why did you not admit that yesterday? You were fully aware of it before the issue was brought to this House, fully aware of it before the Budget was brought down and before you made you decisions. Why won't you admit to that today, Minister?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS FOOTE: Mr. Speaker, when you look at the declining student enrolment in that particular district, we could have removed sixty teachers from the system. In fact, we chose not to do that.

It is one thing for a board to come in and tell us the impact if you remove ten or twelve teachers from the system; it is another for us to have a discussion with the board about how they are, in fact, allocating the teachers that the department is giving to the boards. That is what we want to find out: whether or not teachers out there are maybe getting three hours of preparation time a week versus five hours of preparation time a week. Those are the kinds the things we want to talk about with the boards.

I commend the particular board that the Leader of the Opposition has referenced. They have put in place a very good policy and we want to speak to them even further, and they have agreed to do that because they are as interested as we are in ensuring that at the end of the day we work as partners in this exercise to make sure that we have the best possible program.


MS FOOTE: I am not finished, if you do not mind. Mr. Speaker will tell me when to sit down.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS FOOTE: Mr. Speaker, we are very interested in working with all of the directors of education throughout the Province to again make sure that we do what is in the best interest of the students of this Province, and we are going to continue to do that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Which is it? If you are truly interested in it, when you are asked questions in this House, at least what is deserving is a straightforward, forthright answer.

Let me ask you the question very simply, so you can answer it: Were you aware that presentation was made to your officials, that removing thirty teachers from this district would impact on programming, yes or no?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS FOOTE: Mr. Speaker, let me say again that if we had followed the formula that exists, we would have removed sixty teachers from the system. We chose not to do that.

Let me say as well that anyone who is coming to this government looking for money, looking for additional resources, that has to be tempered with our ability to pay. It is very well and good for the member opposite to stand up and talk about promising because they do not have to deliver at the end of the day.

AN HON. MEMBER: Hear, hear!

MS FOOTE: For those of us who have to deliver it is a different story, so we work and we try and compromise. We could have removed sixty teachers from the system based on the formula - we could have done that - we chose not to do that because we did not want to see it impact on programming.

What we had hoped to be able to do with the numbers that have been removed is to work with the boards to see, in fact, how best those teachers could be allocated to not impact on programming. There are a number of factors that come into account here: Teacher preparation time is one of them; how much time the principal spends in their classroom teaching; how much time the vice-principal spends in a classroom teaching. All of these issues come into play -


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS FOOTE: - when you are trying to determine how teachers are allocated.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, there is a difference in what occurred in this House yesterday in the minister's statements and what her statements are saying today. Yesterday, the decisions that were taken should have no impact on programming. Now, it is based upon ability to pay.

I will ask you the same question again: Were you aware that the school board met with your officials and indicated to you and your officials that if you removed more than ten or twelve that it would have an impact on programming? Were you aware of this, Minister, yes or no?

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

MS FOOTE: Mr. Speaker, I am aware of all meetings that my officials have with board members. I am also aware of what takes place in the discussions.

Again - and the board will tell you - if we are to work as partners, you cannot have it all. We have to work to try and make sure that the decisions that we make are taken in the context of our ability to pay, and we have done just that.

Now we are hearing back from parents - again, I say, principals and teachers are telling them that programs are going to be cut. What we are saying is: Show us if that is, in fact, reality. Show us how the boards are allocating those teachers through the system so that there will be an impact on programming. If that is the case, we have to look at it. The boards know that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Yesterday, there would be no impact on programming. Today, the minister admits that she was aware that there would be an impact on programming. Did you purposely mislead the House yesterday, Minister? Is that what went on?

Let me ask you this question: In terms of what is happening with school boards across the Province - you can sit and laugh all you want, but the reality is that prior to the teacher allocation being assigned, two documents right here demonstrate clearly that the minister and her officials were informed of what her cuts to teachers in the Province would mean to programming. Yesterday, she would not admit it. I will give the minister an example.

The Baie Verte/Central/Connaigre Board: 758 teachers there in 1996-1997 and 620 in 1999-2000, a loss of 138 teachers. Translated, it means this: That has been a 20 per cent cut in teachers -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

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

- while there has only been a 10 per cent decline in students. Why did you tell the House yesterday, Minister, that there would be no impact on programming when you knew full well that the decisions that you took on teacher allocations would seriously and adversely affect the type of programming offered to our students in this Province?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS FOOTE: First of all, Mr. Speaker, let me for the record state that I would never come into this House and intentionally mislead the House. If the hon. member wants to suggest that, he can; but I certainly would not do that.

Again, let me say that when any board comes into the department looking for a certain allocation of teachers, we have to take that in the context of our ability to pay. Having said that, we also have to look at the programming needs out there and try and ensure that there will not be an adverse impact on the programming.

What I said yesterday was that, given the student enrolment in this Province - and we are down to 97,000 students - and the teacher allocation, there should not be an impact on programming.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS FOOTE: But, if there is an impact on programming we will certainly look at that.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: You can twist the facts, you can squirm; the reality is that the decisions that have taken have impacted seriously the programming offered to students.

Dorset Collegiate, for example, Minister, under the Baie Verte/Central/Connaigre School Board, has suffered a reduction in programming choices for students by twenty credits in the high school system. The board has declared a moratorium on Computer Technology all because of this government's cut to teacher allocations. They told you that this would happen weeks ago. You cannot stand in the House one day and say you do not know and then the next day stand in the House and say you did, and it is based upon your ability to pay.

The question is this: In the presentation made to you by the Newfoundland and Labrador School Boards Association, they presented to you, the Social Policy Committee, a recommendation to change the teacher allocation formula because it does not reflect the current needs of today, because all of the schools that will be closed have been closed. There are no more schools to be closed, essentially.

Minister, wouldn't you agree that the basis of this presentation on teacher allocations should have been followed by your department, and had you followed them we would not be looking at the severe reduction in programming, particularly in rural Newfoundland and Labrador?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS FOOTE: No, Mr. Speaker, I would not agree. Furthermore, the hon. member opposite knows I have agreed to review the formula for allocating teachers in this Province.

When the request came in from the School Boards Association we had already gone down the path of allocating teachers and determining, based on student enrolment, following the formula, how many teachers will be taken out of the system. We could not follow that formula because we did not feel it was the right thing to do as a government. We wanted to make sure that there would not be an adverse impact on programming which is why, Mr. Speaker, we chose to invest another $11.8 million back into the system by adding back 236 teachers.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS FOOTE: Mr. Speaker, however, I have agreed, at the request of the School Boards Association and working with the NLTA, to look at how teachers are allocated throughout the Province. In doing that, we may very well do away with the formula that presently exists, but you have to bear in mind that today, as a province, we spend more on education, given our ability to pay, than any other province in this country. Mr. Speaker, I think that speaks well of this government's commitment to education.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I will allow the hon. member one more supplementary. There are others who want to get up. There are others who want to ask questions.

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. E. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. A final supplementary.

The minister asked for examples yesterday. I will give her another one. Central West School Board has decided that because of your cut to teacher allocations they will have to alternate chemistry and physics, one course one year, the other course the next year. There will be no continuity in basic programming.

Minister, is this how you describe, as you did yesterday and as you did again today, that the teacher allocation formula they are using will have no impact on programming? Isn't it a fact, and won't you tell the people of the Province today, that the allocations that you have made for teachers this year will have a serious and adverse affect on programming for their children in the classroom, and that the type of reform that you and your government promised is not in fact the type of reform that the people of this Province are getting?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS FOOTE: Mr. Speaker, if you want to give examples we can all give examples. For instance, let's take student access to Biology 3201. In urban parts of this Province it was 99.7 per cent access in 1996-1997, today it is 99.9 per cent access; in rural Newfoundland it has gone from 86.8 per cent access to 90.8 per cent access. That is Biology 3201. Physics 3204 has gone in the urban areas from 98.8 per cent up to 98.9 per cent. Mr. Speaker, we are seeing more access to programming in this Province than ever before. Now I can only -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS FOOTE: Of course, if he does not want the facts there is nothing I can do about that. All I can do is give them as they are, but you can choose to ignore facts, Mr. Speaker. Yes, some of these courses are being offered via distance education and there is nothing wrong with that. It may not mean for the NLTA that they have a teacher in the system but it is being offered through distance education.

Let me say again, as I said yesterday, that if there is a detrimental impact on programming we will have to look at that and that is precisely what we are doing. We have given the commitment to work with the boards, to meet with the education directors, to try and determine the impact on programming. Mr. Speaker, we will have to deal with that if there is a negative impact.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

My questions today are about priorities. We know that government has a considerable staff allocation - for instance, welfare cops - to investigate potential abuse in the social assistance system, such as investigating the personal relationship of clients.

My question is for the Minister of Health and Community Services. It has come to my attention that child protection, because of lack of personnel, were unable to monitor a situation recently where a two-year old child was exposed to a person who had allegedly sexually assaulted the child. In fact, the court records show that the child was not to be in the presence of this person. Child protection did not have the personnel available to monitor the situation.

Why does the minister's department not have the personnel on staff to carry out this child protection duty? Why does this government have its priorities backwards by designating personnel for welfare policing but not for child protection?

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

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

I am shocked and overwhelmed that an issue about a child's safety would be raised in the House of Assembly without me as minister being made aware of it.

I know this member is referring to an individual case. I am quite overwhelmed that an issue around child safety would be brought up in the context of a question in the House of Assembly - forget the courtesy, Mr. Speaker - but without having the importance and the responsibility to report that kind of incident to me as minister. I cannot answer. I am overwhelmed with this type of questioning when a child is involved. I would urge the member opposite to please bring forward the information so that we can act on this immediately.

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

MS S. OSBORNE: I brought the matter to the attention of the people at child protection again and again, and then I reported the incident to the RNC. I am happy to report that the child has been moved out of the situation to prevent it from happening again. There were repeated calls to your department. If it is so important your department should have filtered the information up to you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS S. OSBORNE: There were repeated calls to your department reporting that the alleged perpetrator was in the presence of this two-year old child.

I was in conference with the social worker several times. I said to her: Why can't we monitor this? She said: We do not have the personnel. Does the minister not think something is wrong when the department responsible for child welfare and ultimately for child protection is unable because of lack of resources to protect our children? Is the minister really telling us that we should be satisfied with this state of affairs? Will the minister indicate what improvement has been made in the child protection-social worker ratio in the past year?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I am happy to hear the member opposite did report it and follow up, because I know the basis of these questions is around the safety of children. I have to be very honest, I am not aware when all of the boards get calls about issues of concern around children. They do not call me and let me know about every call they receive. I do have the confidence that they are following through on their process. If someone did not act upon that I would like to know more details about that. If you are telling me they had not acted upon it and she had to therefore go to the police to have it acted upon, I would like to have that information. I cannot speak to that specific case, and nor would I in any case.

We have moved forward in the last year with our Strategic Social Plan and with child welfare legislation. The member opposite knows we are still in the process of working with the staff about their new responsibilities. That is why it has not received royal assent as yet. Mr. Speaker, we have moved forward with a whole new process of prevention and early intervention on the recommendation of our front line staff. We are working with them to achieve those kinds of changes in the system.

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

MS S. OSBORNE: I can think of very little that would be more frightening than a child being left vulnerable to a potential predator.

My question is: Why doesn't the child protection department have these investigators, the same as the Department of Human Resources has investigators who check on the personal lives of their clients? Why doesn't the department of child protection have the same investigators that can go out and investigate what is happening with the child? The social worker clearly told me she had neither the time nor the personnel to dispatch.

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

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, I really take exception again to information that I am receiving, that a social worker would not choose to follow up on a complaint that a child was in danger and somehow re-prioritized her work to do something else. I find that very hard to believe.

I have to say that if the staff of one of the boards has made that kind of judgement then I think I need to be aware of it so that we can follow up, so I can deal with that through the community health boards. I need the information. I would ask the member opposite to give me the information concerning that particular issue. This is about protecting the children. If what I am hearing, what you are saying is that you have given me an example where a social worker, in your explanation, has chosen not to follow up on a child welfare matter but have re-prioritized something else.

Mr. Speaker, I think that is a very serious commentary. I think it is one that really does need to be looked in to. I really think it is important that I get the information -


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: - and that I am able to follow up on it with the appropriate people. This is a very serious piece of information, and I would like the information, Mr. Speaker, to properly follow up on it.

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

MS S. OSBORNE: Minister, I would like to make it very clear. The social worker did not have the time because of her caseload. Each of the clients in her caseload was probably as important as this one. What she was saying when I said to her -


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS S. OSBORNE: All of the people in her -


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

A final supplementary, the hon. the Member for St. John's West. I ask the hon. member to get to her question.

MS S. OSBORNE: I asked the social worker did she have somebody who could go out -


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MS S. OSBORNE: The social worker informed me they did not have investigators. Obviously a social worker cannot sit in front of a house all day to see if this perpetrator goes in and out. That would be impossible.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MS S. OSBORNE: What I am asking the minister is this. Why is it that there are not special investigators for child protection as there are special investigators to check on the personal lives of clients in social services?


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS S. OSBORNE: I will repeat the question. I am asking: Why doesn't the child protection department have investigators, the same as social services has investigators, to go out and check the private lives and the personal lives of their clients? Why doesn't child protection have special investigators to monitor what is happening in the lives of children in danger?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I think it is important to know the process that is involved when a social worker or some other official receives a complaint about a child in danger. A social worker will go and do an assessment. They will identify the level of risk to the child. They will make a professional decision based on what is in the best interest of the child, whether it is some form of intervention in the home or whether the child is best removed from the home.

I have confidence in the social workers. I do not believe they would sit outside the homes of a family. That is not their role. Their role is to make a professional judgement and then make the necessary course of recommendation so that that can be implemented.

There are children removed every day from homes where they are deemed to be in an unsafe environment. There are children every day that receive extra help, and families that receive extra help to keep those children in the home to preserve the family environment, if that is what is deemed to be in the best interest of the child, in the recommendation and the professional decision of the social worker.

That is the role, that is what they do. To try to give some impression that we need to have social workers parked outside people's houses. You have to use the resources you have and -


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MS J.M. AYLWARD: I think it is very important that whatever the ulterior motive of the question is, the real issue is child safety. I have full confidence in the social workers and I have full confidence in the system, that they are moving forward and doing what they are able to do in the best interest of the child to maintain their safety.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question is for the Minister of Education. It concerns the issue of school busing in the City of St. John's which has special rules associated with it in that they do not normally get provision of school busing.

I want to ask the minister - as a result of the school reorganization in St. John's, where students now have to travel farther - what provision has she made for school busing in St. John's for children? Is she prepared to guarantee that those who had received school busing, who now have to travel to different or farther schools, will continue to receive school busing? Will she initiate an effort to remove the discrimination against parents of children in St. John's who currently do not get school busing where they would otherwise qualify for it if they lived in Mt. Pearl, C.B.S. or Grand Falls?

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

MS FOOTE: Mr. Speaker, on the issue of school busing there has been representation made by the Avalon East School Board with respect to those areas where they have closed schools. There are schools that exist in some parts of this city where the public transit system does not run. That is obviously an issue of concern. By and large, the students in St. John's have access to a very good public transit system. Such is not the case in rural parts of this Province.

Having said that, what we have undertaken to do, especially for safety reasons, where students who may have to cross a lane of traffic, or four lanes of traffic, to get to a school, that is certainly something we are willing to take a look at. I have agreed to meet with the Chair of the Avalon East School Board to pursue that further.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am not talking about crossing four lanes of traffic. I am talking about five-year-old and six-year-old children being expected to travel on the public transportation system at the cost of their parents whereas, outside of St. John's and other places, children have the right to be transported to school at public expense by the Department of Education.

What is the minister prepared to do to ensure that parents of children in St. John's are treated fairly with respect to the cost of school bus transportation? Because, many parents cannot afford to either send their children on the school buses or, if they are young children, accompany them on a school bus to ensure that they get to school in safety.

Is the minister prepared to end the discrimination against St. John's children and parents with respect to school bus transportation?

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

MS FOOTE: Mr. Speaker, this policy was put in place a couple of years ago in terms of the school busing issue. The same thing exists in Corner Brook, for example. There is no school busing provided in Corner Brook. It is not just in St. John's.

Where there is a very good public transit system in place, that is what the government is taking into consideration when it looks at its school busing policy.

In rural Newfoundland we have children who have to ride a school bus for half an hour to get from one community to the next to get to school. My concern would be in those areas where schools have closed and there is a safety issue, or where there isn't any Metrobus available for them to get. That is certainly the area on which I will be focusing.

MR. SPEAKER: The time for Oral Questions has elapsed.

Answers to Questions

For which Notice has been Given

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Yesterday, I believe, the Leader of the Opposition was asking some questions about the Immigration Investment Fund, and I said I would find some information for him. I did not obtain a copy of Hansard but with his leave I will answer them as I recall them.

At present - just to go over some details of the program - the Province originally raised $35 million. As my colleague, the Minister of ITT, said, it was fully subscribed. In fact, it was oversubscribed. The total subscription for the $35 million, for $250,000 each, would normally be 140 people. We take 160 because not everybody need be eligible, and this is common practice.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: No, I do not have it in table form but it would be on the record. I am just referring to some notes as we go.

It was oversubscribed at 160 but we would only sell 140. It is administered by the Hong Kong Bank of Canada. As my hon. colleague said yesterday, and I believe she might have said in the press release today, that was the group that was hired to really sell the fund in the Far East. As it turned out, they were slow for subscriptions early on and then when they had some deterioration in the eastern markets and a lot of capital was (inaudible), it sold out very quickly.

There was no problem initially with the subscription for the fund. The problem was that the fund had the following criteria - it seemed to be a single criteria - and that is that the money had to be used to, and I quote: establish, expand, purchase, maintain or revitalize businesses or commercial ventures, and that investment would be directed to government infrastructure programs with the privatization component.

The problem was that all the governments across the country - provincial governments who raised money - found it almost impossible to identify businesses that could essentially go into partnerships (inaudible) to provide public infrastructure.

We had some two years of discussions with Ottawa to find ways to develop and meet the criteria. The other provinces actually had a similar problem and frankly this Province, at one point, was the furthest advanced as of last December in moving some of the money out to potential projects.

We went out for some quotes. There was a tender last December, I believe. The hon. member raised questions in the House on a Monday and we met on it by Friday. We still did not believed that it had been done in a proper way so that we could have the necessary certainty with respect to what the cost and criteria would be.

Since then we have refined the process, we have consulted again with Ottawa, and we are at the point of calling tenders on some of these projects.

The project that was initially going to be funded in this was the Harbour Breton Hospital. Because of the necessity to continue construction, we decided to pay for that construction in the regular way. So, that is under the normal government capital works program.

At present, where we now stand with it is - and I can detail the process we will follow. What we need to be able to do in order to assess the relative merits of competitive bids is first of all to design the projects. What we expect to be able to do with the $25 million we have is to probably pay for the hospitals at Fogo - if and when the site is selected - Bonne Bay and Grand Bank. We expect that will take the majority of the $25 million.

What we are doing is the following: We have to identify, first of all - we have to do the functional program and the engineering so we know exactly what is going to be constructed in each location; then what we will do is call for tenders on it. What we will do is, we will identify an amount of money to flow out of the fund. We will take an example. Let's suppose -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: Since Neil Windsor.

What we will do is, we will identify a certain amount. Let's suppose, for example, we would say, going out to tender, that we want this hospital built at a cost of $8 million. We would flow the funds from it because we can identify pretty much what the cost will be. We will then ask any private sector company who is prepared to bid on it, to build a hospital, we will provide the money - we will specify what the interest rate would be and that would be equivalent to something close to the Province's borrowing cost at about $6 million or so; the fund is a little bit lower.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: Maybe not. It might even be lower because the cost of the funds is about 5 per cent. The actual express interest rate is about 2 per cent and there are some offsets because, in the meantime, we have the money we have invested and so on.

What we will do is, we will go out to tender with a defined project that has certain criteria. We will advance the monies to pay for the construction from the fund. What we will then require is for the group or person who is going to build it to give us a quote on the monthly amount that they will charge us for the operation of the facility and they will have to pay all of their own costs - servicing the debt and everything else - and also have to provide some minimal servicing that does not conflict with our collective agreement that we will identify. In some cases it may be cleaning, it may be heating, lighting, and this kind of thing. Where we will get - certainly we did not have the last time - is that at the end of a specified period, probably five years, we will specify that the Province will repurchase, say, for $7.5 million.

In other words, we will take the amount of - we will amortize it over a fixed period, have a concept as to what we would be prepared to repurchase it. The only variable in going to tender, so that we can meet the criteria, is what the monthly lease payments will be. The problem last time was that when we went out to tender they came in and they had variable repurchase options.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: Yes. What we do not want to do is leave it out there so that we have three or four different bids, having three or four different monthly lease payments, three or four different construction costs, three or four different demands for money to flow from the fund, and three or four different repurchase options with government buying or not buying at the end of fifteen or twenty years.

So if we tied down all those elements so that the only variable is the monthly lease payment, then we say with certainty that this is the lowest tender. The members opposite know the difficulties in trying to do these things in trying to use this money. That is going to be our approach.

The three hospitals I have mentioned (inaudible) because of the time limit of this, the Harbour Breton Hospital went ahead as a regular capital works project. What is happening right now is the engineering and functional plans are being completed on these hospitals. As you know, in Fogo there is some controversy about the location. As and when that is straightened away we will then put these out for tender, and we expect that we will be flowing monies from the fund hopefully sometime over this construction season when these go through the necessary engineering -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: Yes, I (inaudible). If there are any further questions I will try to get some more detail.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology.

MS KELLY: Mr. Speaker, I would like to table the information requested yesterday in the member opposite's question.


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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have a petition to the House of Assembly. It is a petition that is brought forward by students, this time, from Matthew Elementary. You can tell by the way they have their names signed and the careful way that they print that they are students in a very early grade. It reads:

To the hon. House of Assembly of Newfoundland and Labrador, in legislative session convened, the petition of the undersigned residents of Bonavista South, pupils and staff of Matthew Elementary School.

The condition of the road, Route 235, between Birchy Cove and Bonavista, has deteriorated to the point that it is a safety hazard for our school buses and our families who travel this road. In recent weeks this road has gotten much worse. Pupils travelling on the bus have hit their heads on the bus roof because of the bus bouncing on the bad sections of this road. As well, the buses have had several springs broken. Several of our families have had their cars damaged.

WHEREFORE your petitioners urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to upgrade and pave Route 235 between Birchy Cove and Bonavista in order to bring it up to an acceptable standard.

And as in duty bound your petitioners will ever pray.

Mr. Speaker, here is a petition signed by forty-five students of Matthew Elementary School, forty-five students who travel regularly on a bus between Birchy Cove, Middle, Upper, and Lower Amherst Cove, Newmans Cove, down to Bonavista, to attend school on a daily basis.

Those are the students who I have spoken about here in other petitions that I've presented. They have now started their own petition. They circulated it in their school and asked the people travelling on the bus to sign the petition whereby I might bring it to the attention of the House of Assembly again, to put forward the plea to ask the government of the day, and to ask the minister if he would kindly look at the five kilometres of roads between Birchy Cove and Bonavista, and to have it upgraded and paved.

The parents have asked that if the five kilometres of road cannot be completed then maybe the two-and-one-half kilometres of road might be completed. They are not asking for anything out of the ordinary. They are asking for a decent road to drive over. Those students a few years ago would not have to drive over this particular road on a daily basis because they were attending schools in their own communities. The parents agreed to have their schools closed. The parents agreed to have the children bused to Bonavista, five kilometres from Birchy Cove.

The least we can do, after having them give up their school, give up their right to attend school in their own community, and have them travel into another community, is to provide a decent road for the buses to go over. Some of those students live in a community known as Upper Amherst Cove. I might add that it is not uncommon in the wintertime for those roads through Upper Amherst Cove to be not ploughed for sometimes up to a period of three or four days. There is a steep hill going down into the community. The highways cannot plough it with a truck. They have to wait for a loader to do its work and then come out and go down over the hill.

It is not uncommon for those students to have to walk from their house, some of them for almost a kilometre, up to the top of a hill in order to connect with the school bus. They are not complaining about that. They are not saying: We want a loader with a plough on it stationed in our community. They are not saying: We do not want to walk to the bus. They are willing to do all those things, but what they are asking for is that once they get on the bus to have a decent road to travel over while they are going to and from the school.

The parents have raised their concerns. The business people in the area have raised their concerns. The school teachers have raised their concerns. The bus operators have come forward and said: We are not happy with this road situation because of the cost of repairs to our buses. Now the students are speaking out. They are asking and pleading with government to come forward and upgrade at least the worst section of Route 235 between Bonavista and Birchy Cove.

The parents are continually having regular meetings. They are starting a letter writing campaign now, I understand. They are starting to send letters to the minister's office, doing it very quietly. They are not going out and blocking the roads -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. FITZGERALD: - not obstructing traffic, Mr. Speaker, but putting forward their plea in a sensible, rational way.

I ask the minister if he would take this petition and seriously consider having this road upgraded and paved, and hopefully provide those people with a decent road to travel over on a daily basis.

Orders of the Day

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, he is back, is he? I would not want to start this unless he was there.

Mr. Speaker, Motion 1, the Budget Speech.

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

The hon. the Member for Waterford Valley.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I am pleased to rise today for the fourth day to continue my comments relative to the Budget. Now I hope that before this day is out I may be able to conclude. There are only two hours and three minutes left in the afternoon session. If I use the condensed version I may be able to get through it.

Mr. Speaker, I note that -

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

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

MR. TULK: When he talks about concluding, Mr. Speaker, is he talking about concluding his speech or his introduction? Because I pray it is his introduction.

MR. SPEAKER: No point of order.

The hon. the Member for Waterford Valley.

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, I admit to the hon. Government House Leader I am nearer to the end of the beginning than I was yesterday. I admit that the end of the beginning is now coming into focus, and I admit I still have some lengthy pages of outlined notes here. What I have said thus far is merely a prelude to what I shall be saying before this Budget debate is finished.

Yesterday in the House I was drawing some reference to the shipyard in Marystown. On tomorrow this House will be debating a motion put forward by my friend the Member for St. John's West. Or that is my understanding, that we shall be doing that, although I have not had that confirmed by the Government House Leader, but I know it is on the Order Paper. Because both she and I will be out of the House tomorrow on a personal family matter I wanted to -

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

On a point of order, the hon. the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi.

MR. HARRIS: I am sure the hon. member does not want the record to be inaccurate. I believe he intended to refer to the Member for Burin-Placentia West and he inadvertently said the Member for St. John's West. I think you are referring to the ship building resolution of the Member for Burin-Placentia West, are you not?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I did not hear the member.

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, if I inadvertently used the word St. John's when I should have been referring to Burin-Placentia West, it is because I was thinking about St. John's in terms of other matters and their ship building policies and that kind of thing. Also, of course, sometimes in the House we do say things, our mind just slips.

I want to get back to the issue and that is to talk about the shipyard in Marystown. The shipyard in Marystown was the concept of the Liberal premier of the day, Joey Smallwood. The whole idea of development of Marystown has a fairly lengthy history. As a matter of fact, in the 1930s a gentleman by the name of Thompson had done a great deal of work promoting a free port in Marystown.

Mortier Bay has probably some of the deepest waters. It is by far one of the best natural harbours in all Newfoundland and Labrador. That has been well researched. That particular harbour has tremendous potential. One of the first people to promote that potential was in the 1930s, a gentleman by the name of Thompson, who unfortunately on a trip to England during the Second World War died when the boat he was travelling on was torpedoed.

In the 1950s and 1960s Joey Smallwood came up with the idea that he would like to have a shipbuilding facility built in Marystown. It followed upon the former shipyards that had been in that particular part of the Province. There was one there built in the 1920s and that one unfortunately burned. One was built there in the late 1930s, and they built mine sweepers for use in the British Navy during World War II. Some of the leading boat builders in that particular enterprise came from the Monroe part of the Province. As I am saying to the Speaker at the moment, Henry Stone was one of the leading people in that ship building enterprise at that time.

Millions of dollars have been invested. Joey Smallwood, when he got the shipyard going, the steel facility that is there now, when we went to look for workers we had to go to all parts of the world. As a matter of fact, the great majority of workers in the 1960s and the early 1970s were not Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, they were people from England and Scotland.

Because after we had the shipyard designed and constructed we found out we did not have the skilled labour force in Newfoundland and Labrador required to be able to build the kind of ships that we envisaged would be built at Marystown. So in the 1960s and 1970s most of the work force there, a good many of them, of the leaders in that work force, were not people who had grown up in Newfoundland and Labrador. They were people from England and Scotland who came to Newfoundland, brought their expertise, and over time they trained the people of Newfoundland and Labrador to be able to learn the skills that would be required to make the Yard a success.

Last year the government sold the Marystown Shipyard for $1. That was what Friede Goldman paid for the Marystown Shipyard. A few weeks ago the owners of the shipyard, Friede Goldman Newfoundland Limited, announced that they were going to be closing up the Yard and they would be moving the facility to Cow Head. That has caused great concern for the people in the Marystown region and for all those people who depend on that Yard for a living.

This consolidation of operations has caused great anxiety to the people who live in that region. The union president, Jerome Walsh, who also serves as the Mayor of Marystown, has called it a move that is causing anxiety and fear, it is causing apprehension, causing concerns about the very future of the Marystown Shipyard.

Probably very few people can speak as well, and with such authority, for the shipyard and for the people of Marystown as Jerome Walsh. He was born in the area, he has worked in the area all of his life, he has been a dedicated community volunteer, and he certainly has a great deal to offer to this government when it comes to giving them advice on the community of Marystown and also on the shipyard itself. At the moment Jerome Walsh serves as the president of the union local in that area.

Jerome Walsh says that the move to Cow Head will all but make the original shipyard facility a repair operation at best. Of course, it also brings into question the long-term commitment of Friede Goldman Newfoundland to the ship building industry in Newfoundland and Labrador. There is no doubt that the Cow Head facility is the primary interest of Friede Goldman Newfoundland Limited. That is their primary concern. They make no question about their primary interest; it is indeed the Cow Head facility.

In the interest of trying to get the issue addressed the union president and others in the Marystown area ask for a meeting with the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology, and also with the other government representatives from that part of the Province. It certainly was of great concern to Jerome Walsh and to the union membership that they felt that the hon. the minister did not seem to understand how serious this particular move from the present location to the Cow Head facility would be on the Marystown labour force and on the future of the shipyard in general.

While Friede Goldman Newfoundland Limited are saying that this move is a temporary measure, certainly that is not the opinion shared by the workers, by the union, or by the community. While we take at his word the company president Bob Shepherd, when he says that the original purpose of the Yard will still be served, there is great concern that this might be the beginning of the end for the Marystown Shipyard. It is a case of where we acknowledge that these short-term measures are the opinion of the management down there, but we also know that if we are going to attract industry and we are going to attract new buildings of ships at Marystown we have to make sure we have a trained workforce in place.

Again I quote the former union president, Wayne Butler, who is now the Friede Goldman Newfoundland employee heading up a union committee lobbying for a national ship building policy. He said: It is a very serious situation that they are facing in Marystown.

One of the concerns that the union has is that the Terra Nova offshore development project (inaudible) full speed. The workers in Marystown are asking the very serious question: What is the benefit of Terra Nova and its development to the people in Marystown? It is a case of where a lot of the work for Terra Nova is being completed in Korea, in Scotland, and some of it is also being completed in Bull Arm, but there is very little that has come to Marystown because of the Terra Nova development. So Wayne Butler and others who are trying to encourage the federal government to develop a solid ship building policy are expressing concern about this government's commitment to Marystown.

This government has to acknowledge that when you have a workforce that dropped from 1,000 down to around 300, when you have trained workers leaving the shipyard - some of them are leaving because they have lost their jobs, some more are leaving because they are anticipating the closure and they want to leave now while the writing is on the wall, as they would say - that these people are very concerned about the commitment of this government to the ship building industry in Newfoundland and Labrador. We acknowledge that if the Yard is allowed to close, and if this temporary move to the Cow Head facility is allowed to go ahead, we will lose a great deal of expertise, and that is the threat to Marystown.

I bring this matter to the attention of the House because this is a very serious issue affecting one of the primary sources of employment on the entire Burin Peninsula. Now we know as well that the federal Government of Canada has been asked by the unions represented in this Province, by the Canadian Auto Workers Union, by all of the other locals - as a matter of fact, on this very day there are meetings taking place in other parts of this country encouraging the federal government to become more proactive in their ship building policies.

We know as well that the Premier of this Province has been written to by the union representatives and has been written to by others connected to the ship building industry. He has been asked if he would intercede with the federal government to make sure that some of the commitments that were made by the federal government to the ship building industry of Canada would be acted upon by the Prime Minister and his Cabinet.

I want to review for a few moments some of the alternatives that are open to the federal Government of Canada. We on this side of the House want to make a point that there are things that can be done to help Marystown. There are things that can be done to help the ship building industry in all of Atlantic Canada. There are things that the federal government has said it would do. We know that the federal government has made commitments. For example, in 1993 the Liberal Government of Canada, in their Red Book, made commitments. They said that funds would be accorded to the Canadian ship building industries to help with the upgrading of the military components and with the military boats. We want to ask the question: Why haven't the provisional funds been accorded to the Canadian shipbuilding industries to help passage from the military industry to the private sector as promised in the Red Book in 1993?

There were commitments to the ship building industry in the federal Liberal Red Book in 1993 and we ask why they have not been acted upon. We want to say to the federal Liberal Government as well, and I say to the government opposite, that these messages have been delivered to the Premier of this Province. We are asking him to also act on behalf of Newfoundland and Labrador, to encourage the Federal Government of Canada to do something about the national shipbuilding policies.

In fact, in 1993 there was a commitment to have a summit led by Ottawa on the future of the shipbuilding industry in Canada; that summit bringing together labour, industry, the military, whomever was interested. That summit on a national shipbuilding policy has never been held.

We ask the government opposite to talk to their federal cousins, to say to them that in 1993 the federal government gave a commitment that they would have a summit on shipbuilding policies in Canada. That has never ever been lived up to, never been acted upon. That is the kind of thing calling upon this Premier who was in that Cabinet back in 1993 that gave that commitment that they would have a summit on a shipbuilding policy for Canada and it has not been acted upon at all, and we are saying, why not?

Then we can jump to 1997. In 1997, the Premiers of all of Canada met at St. Andrews in New Brunswick. We note that at that conference there was a unanimous recommendation of the provincial Premiers to help the Canadian shipbuilding industry to become more competitive on the international scene.

That was important enough in 1997, in August of that year, for all of the provincial Premiers of this country to put on the agenda of the St. Andrews Premiers' Conference. I believe that the Premier of this Province in 1997 would have been a person who would have wanted to have that particular issue placed on the agenda.

There was a unanimous recommendation from the Premiers to encourage the federal government to help the Canadian shipbuilding industry become more competitive in the international scene. That has not, to date, received any action from the federal government. The Premier of this Province has a responsibility to follow up on the commitments that he made and that he encouraged the federal government to make in August of 1997.

We know as well that there are other things that can be done. We know that in some other areas there have been differences in the way in which some governments are acting. We know, for example, that there is a difference in the way in which the United States treats its shipbuilding industry and the way that we treat them in Canada. We know that the Americans are a lot more aggressive when it comes to looking after their own interests, when it comes to the shipbuilding policy, than are the Canadians.

We say on this side as well that there are alternatives and some of them have been well-known, or should be well-known, to members of Cabinet. They would be well-known to my colleague from Burin-Placentia West. Some of the issues are well-known to my colleague from Burin-Placentia West because she probably has much of the same correspondence that I have on this issue.

There are some strategies. There can be loan guarantees given to the shipbuilding industry. For example, internationally some of the loan guarantees will guarantee up to 87.5 per cent of a project's total cost. If we are going to be competitive, we have to do what others are doing; and most every single yard of any size in this world today operates on some kind of government guarantees.

In Canada, we had intended to go away from that but that means our industries are not able to compete with the others in the world. So, while we do not have an aggressive policy in Canada we find out that the yards in Korea, the yards in Scotland and other parts of the world, are going ahead and doing better than we are doing.

Canada has to match the loan guarantees that are offered to other yards that compete with the Canadian yards. We have to get into, as well, refundable tax credits. There are a great variety of measures that can be taken, and we are calling upon the government to look at these matters, to try to make sure that the Canadian shipyards are able to compete internationally, and that the Marystown Shipyard is able to be the yard it was intended to be, it can continue to be a proud resource of employment for residents who live on the Burin Peninsula, and that we can look forward to some of the other spinoffs that come from employment in this kind of industry.

If I could, just for one moment, I just wanted to note that in 1990 there were 12,000 workers working in the shipyard industries in Canada. That has now dwindled to less than 5,000 workers. That is a drastic reduction. In other words, a few years ago - eight or nine years ago - we had 12,000 skilled workers working in the shipyards in Canada, but because of things that happened, some of it due to free trade... Of course, we have the argument that NAFTA has not treated Canadian yards well. Why is it that the Americans are able to exempt their shipyards from the NAFTA agreement but in Canada we did not make the same provisions?

We have to look at the loss of those thousands of relatively well-paying jobs, most of them concentrated in the hard-pressed areas of Canada, the Atlantic Canada area, the areas in the Quebec part of the province. We have to go as well and look at what the impact, the loss of these jobs, has on these areas. We know that for every lost job in shipbuilding there is a loss of two or three other jobs in spinoff industries.

It is not that just in Marystown where we have a reduction of about 700 jobs lost in the last two or three years, but it is a fact that for every one of those jobs there are other spinoff jobs that are being lost as well.

We on this side of the House want to join the government, we want to join the Member for Burin-Placentia West, we want to join her and to say to her that we want this government to take seriously the loss of jobs in the shipbuilding industry in Newfoundland and Labrador. We want this government to impress upon the federal government the fact that these industries, the loss of these skills, not only just affects the Burin Peninsula part of the Province but has an indirect effect on the whole economy of our Province.

Nationally we have to say as well that when you are losing these kinds of jobs - because the average wage in a skilled shipbuilding trade is well above the average for the Canadian society - these are very highly skilled jobs. Even the loss of the tax revenue can be significant to the Province and to the federal government.

We want to say to the government opposite that there is a great reason for this government to go back to its basics when it comes to its shipbuilding policies. It is a case of where they should examine again what they should be doing. We ask them, when the motion is brought forward, hopefully on tomorrow, that the comments that I have made here will be seen to be part of the package that will be agreed upon by this House and will encourage this government to look again at its policies, and hopefully we will do more to make sure that the Terra Nova project has more spinoff positive effects on the shipyard in Marystown.

We certainly want to encourage the government to work with the federal government to adopt a very aggressive shipbuilding policy for all of Canada, because in Atlantic Canada that is the core of many of the skills that we have in many of our communities.

If we look at Marystown, it is basically from a rural part of the Province. The shipyard in Marystown is the core of what makes that part of the Province work.

I speak as a person who has had some background, through my family, in shipbuilding over the years. I suppose it is fair to say that I am perhaps the first one in my generation of Newfoundlanders - it goes back 150 years - who has not worked in the shipbuilding industry. I want to encourage the government to be very proactive on this matter.

Before I move along, I want to as well make a few comments on a couple of other topics. I want to make a few comments relative to the Churchill Falls development. We, on this side of the House, have listened carefully to the Churchill Falls debate.

Certainly, I do know that the leader of this party has had a great deal of interest in the entire Churchill Falls proposal and has prided himself -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. H. HODDER: Well, I do not want to go down that far. There is a limit.

I want to say that the leader of this party has encouraged all of the caucus to become very familiar with the Churchill Falls development. We have had many a discussion on that matter.

We want to say as well that we believe that all of the Churchill Falls proposals should be thoroughly and completely analyzed by experts. The development of the Lower Churchill is an integral part of this Province's hope for financial security in the years to come. We do not want to spend useless time casting blame as to what happened to the original agreement. That has been well spoken about and researched, and it does not lead us anywhere.

Every Newfoundlander and Labradorians, of every political stripe, wants to see the potential benefits of the Lower Churchill Falls filling our own Treasury in Newfoundland and Labrador rather than the Treasury of any other province.

We want the Lower Churchill Falls development to benefit this Province primarily and we encourage the government, in their negotiations with the Province of Quebec, to always keep that foremost in their mind.

Mr. Speaker, we admit that the inequities of the Upper Churchill agreement came about as a consequence of the failure of the federal government to secure for this Province wielding rights across Quebec so that Churchill Falls power could be sold in the United States marketplace.

We know that the federal government at the time did have and should have used a different strategy. Newfoundland and Labrador was not strong enough then, in the 1960s, to guarantee the required finances to go it alone. We know that today the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador is not strong enough financially to be able to finance the development of the Lower Churchill Falls agreement.

These two facts, the wielding rights and our poor financial pace, forced us to deal with Quebec in the 1960s and in many ways it is forcing us to deal with Quebec in the 1990s.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: I get more information from him than any other constituent.

MR. TULK: Are you telling me that (inaudible) are living in the same district?

MR. E. BYRNE: I said, you are my constituent. The constituent in the Goulds and Kilbride area that causes me the most grief and looks for the most help is the Government House Leader, all the time.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. H. HODDER: I say to the Government House Leader that, when the former Government House Leader was redesigning the boundaries, one of his priorities was to make sure that you and I would be separated.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. H. HODDER: True. I should say to the Government House Leader, he also redesigned the boundaries so that where I live in Mount Pearl would not be in my district as well.

MR. E. BYRNE: It didn't work, though, did it?

MR. H. HODDER: That did not do him much good. I cannot get off my street without going into my district, but my own house is not located within my own district.

Mr. Speaker, returning to the Churchill Falls agreement, we on this side of the House say that we have to get the best deal we can out of the Churchill Falls negotiations. We also say that this process has to become more transparent.

MR. E. BYRNE: Open, that is all.

MR. H. HODDER: Open it up.

Our policy on this side of the Legislature is to say that the whole process of Churchill Falls has to become more open, more transparent, so that all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians can participate in the decision-making.

Thus far, we must ask that the government improve its communications with the people on the negotiations with Quebec and the federal government on the development of the Lower Churchill. Full disclosure of the final contract is important. A complete and independent analysis of the final contract are vital aspects of the Lower Churchill Falls negotiations. We do not want to make the mistakes of the past.

The multi-million public relations fiasco that happened last March does not bode well for the Churchill Falls agreement. It causes us all concern when we have information coming out, like was in the paper recently, of a major disagreement between Lawrence O'Brien, the federal representative, and our Minister of Mines and Energy. As you know, there was a major public discussion of the differences between these two representatives, most of them representing the same brand of political persuasion.

There are many more aspects that I will get a chance to debate. I have other things that I would like to talk about. I wanted to have a discussion about the minimum wage, and the fact that you have increased the minimum wage from $5.25 to $5.50. I wanted to have a comment on that. I also wanted to talk about the Low Income Seniors' Benefit which is announced in this Budget. I wanted to talk about municipal operating grants which got very little attention in the Budget. Also, things with the tax climate and the commitment to change the payroll tax. We want to talk about rural renewal. I want to talk about the mining industry. I want to talk about the IOC in Labrador City. I want to talk about the pelletizing plant decision. We could talk about health care for a while.

I do have a lot of information that I want to share, but I do understand that my colleague the Member for Baie Verte is ready. He wants to get a chance to get in some discussion before the day is out. So with these few comments I am going to conclude my introductory comments because throughout this process all of us on this side will have a chance to rise again and to participate. All my colleagues here will be using their maximum time because we want to offer the government constructive suggestions on how to run a province.

We want to let the people of Newfoundland and Labrador know that when the time comes we on this side will be ready and prepared to move to the government's side of the House. We know that will occur at the very earliest opportunity when the people of this Province get once again a chance to vote. We will introduce measures that will talk about government accountability. We will introduce measures that will make sure we live within our means and make sure we stop measures that essentially subsidize corporations at the expense, in some cases, of small business people. We want to make real change happen.

With these few comments, Mr. Speaker, I will yield to another speaker who I am sure will bring further enlightenment to the government on this particular matter.

MR. SPEAKER (Smith): The hon. the Member for Baie Verte.

AN HON. MEMBER: Hear, hear!

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

First of all, on behalf of all people on this side of the House, including my friends to the right, I thank the member for an exemplary job, a stellar performance. So far. I took notes as I listened to him. He gave -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: No, Mr. Speaker, I say to the minister. I was taking very good notes.

AN HON. MEMBER: Let me see your notes.

MR. SHELLEY: Right here, look.

AN HON. MEMBER: Tell me one thing he said.

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, it made a lot of sense, including this whole Budget Speech, of the fraudulent Budget that we saw before us. He gave examples after examples. It was a stellar performance from the Member for Waterford Valley. He talked about the -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) one thing he said.

MR. SHELLEY: I just told you.


MR. SHELLEY: I said the government had a fraudulent budget, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: He didn't say that.

MR. SHELLEY: Yes, he did. Didn't he?

AN HON. MEMBER: No, you made that up.

MR. SHELLEY: He gave example after example of incompetence, of whitewashing the Budget, Mr. Speaker. He went on and on. Don't forget, I say to the minister, that he gave us a condensed version. He is going to stand again in this House of Assembly. That was a condensed version of the introduction to the points that the Member for Waterford Valley is going to make on this particular Budget. That is what he is going to do.

All members on this side, including my colleagues to the right, have taken notes on the points that our hon. colleague has raised here today on this Budget. He made some very good points. He is a man who follows it very closely and can give you detail at any given moment on any part of the Budget because he knows it so well. I congratulate my colleague on getting us started and giving us a platform to build on as we make our comments on this particular Budget, as we head into the next few hours and few days of debate that is going to go on about this particular Budget.

We all take opportunities when the Budget debate is on to zone in on a few of the issues that we think are important to the Province as a whole and also to our districts. That is what I like about the Budget Speech, it gives you a chance to zone in on particular issues that are a concern to your own district, but in fact a concern to the entire Province.

I have just written down several of the issues I am going to hit on over the next twenty or twenty-five minutes and try to make the best use of my time, such issues, of course, as the education issue, the health issue, the Budget overall, resources in the Province, and such things as the forestry, the fishery and the seal industry. I am certainly going to take some time to speak on the seal industry, something that we have heard a lot about as of late, and basically give my report of what I think should happen to that particular industry and what happened in Ottawa.

Another very important issue that a lot of us, especially the rural members in this House of Assembly, on both sides of the House, hold very dear to them is out-migration and the problems in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. I did say to some constituents just a few days ago that when I did get a chance to speak on the Budget, which is a far ranging debate, that you can take that time to talk about some issues that affect your district, affect the Province as a whole, and affect people in this Province.

What is happening for the rural members - even in the last days and weeks; I am not talking about over the last two or three years - is that if you have good, wholehearted conversations with people in rural Newfoundland and Labrador it seems like the time is drawing near. I mean by the time of what the questions that must be answered as they respect rural Newfoundland and Labrador and where we are going to see ourselves in the next few months, in the next few years.

As we speak, even my district last month, in one community alone - Ming's Bight, a population of some 300 to 400 people - thirty-eight people up and left that small community. That is just one example. I know there are members in this House, on both sides, for rural communities who can tell you the same thing. They have talked to people in some of the small communities that have made a decision to leave the Province. One time we could get up in this House and say that the young people are leaving, the brain drain and so on. That is true. There are a lot of young people leaving, but there is a new aspect to this now.

I've talked to an older gentleman in the District of St. Barbe. It was a few months back now. We always talked about the young people that are leaving but I will give the minister this example. I will not use the person's name because I did not ask him if I could.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: Yes, I always do. I talk to many people in St. Barbe, Mr. Speaker. That elderly gentleman said he was about to leave the Province. We are not talking about a younger person but an elderly person. I was curious to find out about why he would be leaving the Province.

This type of person is a person who has been in this Province for years. He is from a fishing community, was a fisherman himself. He said he is leaving for the simple fact that all his family has left. The main love of his life now is his grandchildren. His two grandchildren had just left the Province with his son and his wife and gone to Fort McMurray. He said he never thought he would see the day when he would say he would be leaving. He figured he would be here till the lights were turned off. That is what he thought.

I know there are people in this House that can relate to what I am talking about, anybody with grandchildren. I do not have grandchildren yet, but if anybody has grandchildren they can relate to what I am talking about. This man said he never thought he would see the day when he said: I am leaving this Province.

He is leaving because the love of his life that are left now, his grandchildren, are leaving with his son. They are moving to Fort McMurray and he says: I have to go. He said: I cannot see myself living here. His wife was dead, and his son was moving with his two children, his only grandchildren.

I do not know if the member or the House Leader have grandchildren or not. Do you have grandchildren?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: No, I do not have any grandchildren. Not yet, Mr. Speaker. I do not know if the minister knows how young I am, I say to the minister. No, I do not have grandchildren, but I am sure there are lots of members in this House who have grandchildren.

The point is that we have said for years that it is the brain drain, the young people are leaving this Province, but in fact we are at a stage now where the elderly people who have family, the only family they have left, are about to leave the Province. They are not going to stay in this Province as long as their family are moving away, so they have had to make that heartfelt decision of having to leave this Province.

His quote was: I thought I would leave when the lights were turned out but I have to go. I do not know to date if he has left, that is some three or three-and-a-half months ago that I spoke to him. I do not know if he has left. The point I am making about rural Newfoundland, and any member in this House can make it - I am not holding monopoly on what people in rural Newfoundland and Labrador feel - but I am telling you now that thirty-eight people left a small community in my district last month.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, you see it happening all the time and it is a real sad time, but the time is drawing near. It is not something that is going to be dragged over the next two or three years even. It is not even something that is going to be dragged over the next year. I am hoping I am wrong, but I'm predicting that next year's out-migration number is going to higher than it has been during the last three consecutive years.

I do not have the numbers in front of me again today but I am sure many members here have seen it. I think it is something in the range of 40,000 to 42,000 people who left this Province since 1991. That is the population of Corner Brook wiped off the map, gone, wiped off the map, the equivalent.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: It could be, I said, with the number of people that have left.

Can you imagine that, Mr. Speaker? The difference when you do the calculation on the transfer payments - is it right, I ask the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi? - is $7,000 per person in transfer payments. I think I am in the right area, $7,000 to $8,000 per person. That is 41,000 people left this Province since 1991. That is the statistic. I can be corrected on that maybe, but it is in that ballpark. That is $7,000 per person.

I just had a recent visit to Ottawa where I've talked to several Liberal MPs and got some more information. I found out that when the Premier jumped up and lambasted the federal government on their Budget, on their transfers, and of course their equations for allocating the transfers to this Province, that the Premier, in his former life as the federal MP who sat around the Cabinet representing this Province, in those years when they came up with this formula, that this Premier now, in his former life as an MP, was one of the people who sat around the Cabinet table.

Sure enough, when he publicly lambasted the federal government for their Budget and their transfer allocations and so on, within days the Prime Minister, the boss himself, comes to the Province, takes the Premier aside, and you know what he said to him? He passed him a text, and the text was a speech that he made as a federal MP supporting the allocations, supporting the cuts. That is what he did. The Prime Minister, the boss - this is what I was told - passed our Premier the text and he said: Now, Mr. Tobin, read that and be quiet. Read it and be quite, that is what he said to him.

Lo and behold, if you think back - because it is not that long ago when the Premier got up, and then the next day the Minister of Finance said it was laughable, and all the criticism came flying from the provincial government - within one trip and half an hour after the Prime Minister arrived, there was not one more sound from the Premier. Because we know what was happening. They call it the woodshed.

That is exactly what happened. He passed him a speech -

AN HON. MEMBER: What happens in the woodshed? (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: What happens in the woodshed, Mr. Speaker? We can understand what happens at the woodshed. You know when you come back out of the woodshed you have a different attitude than when you go in.

MR. HARRIS: I'm a townie. Tell (inaudible) what goes on in the woodshed (inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: What happens in the woodshed, Mr. Speaker, is this. The philosophy behind the woodshed is that once you go into the woodshed and you are taught a lesson your attitude changes when you come out. It is as simple as that.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: No, as a matter of fact, I probably even agree with the minister. I do not think he made it to the woodshed. I think it happened before he got there. He was on his way to the woodshed when it happened.

The truth is the MP - I will not use the MP's name because he told me not to say it and I won't, I won't even hint at it - said the Prime Minister passed the Premier his own text of supporting these same transfer equations, what he supported when he sat around the federal Cabinet in Ottawa. He said: Brian, read that and be quiet.

Sure enough, lo and behold, it was the last word you heard. You would not find it on a bulletin board, not in an R and B paper in this Province, no radio station. Nothing was ever said after that. We know what happened. The truth is that this particular Budget that was brought down, that had a standing ovation, that everything was wonderful in it - this is what people in this Province are asking today. People in this Province are saying: Hold on a second now. Two months ago we had a standing ovation for a budget in the House of Assembly and today, this very day, we have a crisis in health care and we have a crisis in education.

They are crises. The reality of what is happening in the education system is fast coming upon us. Every single person in this House of Assembly will stand, if they were asked the pointed question: Why did you vote for education reform?, would answer as simple as this: So that my son or daughter, or your son or daughter, could have a better education. It is as simple as that. It was not complicated. There was nothing to it.

Even the people who did not vote for education reform were saying, once they lost the referendum and when the referendum went for educational reform, with the changes, people who even voted against it will at least get a better education system.

I listen to the minister when she answers questions here in the House using statistics and, she says, using facts. That is fair enough - we all have to use facts - but then we have to come down to the reality of it. The minister and the government of the day have to be able to look at each parent of this Province and say that your child will get a better education because of this pain.

Mr. Speaker, I will give you this simply analogy that was used by a gentleman in my district just a few days ago. He said: Everybody hates to go to the dentist, but you do not mind going to see the dentist and getting your tooth pulled if you know the toothache will not be there afterwards. You would put up with the pain for an hour in the dentist chair and a little while after. You do not mind putting up with that as long as you know the pain will be gone after. The people in my district and around this Province have put up with a lot of pain in the past little while.

In the community of Seal Cove for the last several months, or a year, they have been lobbying and putting forward to the board their reasons why their small school in their small community should stay open.

A board member told me today, upstairs in this building, that it tore the heart out of that community. It was not just a building. When that school closed down, it was not just the school that was gone, it was a centre for their community.

Anybody who has been around small-town Newfoundland knows what I am talking about. They know that right now if you go into a community of 300 or 400 people, and there is a school building there with a gymnasium and an auditorium, there are functions - Christmas concerts - everything happens in that school. That is the centre of that community.

Mr. Speaker, he said to us today that it tore the heart out of him to have to vote to close that school, and they had no other choice as a board. Now, he says, he has to turn back to those same parents - he voted to close the school - and say to them: By the way, the reason why we closed your school, of course, was to better the education system. Well, I hate to tell you this, but your little boy or little girl is not going to get a better education system. After all the pain you have been through, it is not going to happen.

You can imagine a board member having to tell a parent that. That district board office that we met with today is saying exactly that. They are out there running front-line for the government of the day. They are out there to tell people and point at them and say: We had to close your school, we had to take the heart out of your community but, by the way, I forgot to tell you something else: Your little girl or little boy is not going to get that great education system that was promised.

That is what the argument is here today. That is why the minister is going to give statistics and facts. I do not dispute the facts and statistics that she has given, but what parents are asking me is: What is going to happen next year? What is going to happen in September? Fourteen schools have closed in that district; 138 teachers out of the system.

Another point on the teachers is that the morale of the teachers in this Province is at an all-time low. If the morale of the teachers is at an all-time low, how is that going to affect education in this Province? How is it going to benefit children in this Province?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: As a former teacher, I can tell the members opposite that if the teachers are not enthused, if morale is low, then the child is the one who suffers. He is the one who suffers.

When I talk to principals these days, even as early as this morning, who say: We are going to have to look at program cuts for next year. When they talk about program cuts, they are talking about music, art, and physical education.

I will tell you today, and I am sure there are a lot of people involved in sports in this particular Chamber, if you touch physical education in some schools you will see increased dropout rates in the schools. If the programs deteriorate, you are going to see a bigger problem with dropouts. I say that from a point of view of a former coach in school, a teacher who took most evenings to coach teams, who took many weekends to go on school trips. That is what education is.

Yes, we need the math and science and so on, but if you take away those extracurricular, if you take away what a lot of children come to school for, I can tell you - because you are looking at a student right now, and it is the same with a lot of us - one of our biggest rewards for going to school was being involved in the basketball teams, the hockey teams, the drama clubs and the science fairs.

We are all kidding ourselves here today if you think our children - and I have two children in school now - are going to go right through school because they are going to be perfect boys and girls and they are going there for math and science, you are kidding yourself. Yes, I hope that my children are going to continue to be interested in math, science, history and geography and so on. I know they will - I hope they will - but those extras, the team sports, the science fairs, the drama clubs, the trips, the field trips, that is what keeps children interested. It is not the fifty minutes you sit down to a biology class. It is not the fifty minutes you sit down at math. It is certainly not the fifty minutes you sit down in history. Some are interested in history, I say to my colleague from Lewisporte, who was a former history teacher, I know.

AN HON. MEMBER: And a good one.

MR. SHELLEY: And a good one at that; but I am sure, as a former history teacher, he can tell you that the twenty or twenty-five students he had sitting in front of him, fourteen, fifteen or sixteen years old, going through those changes in their lives, were not that excited about sitting down and listening to a history lesson for fifty minutes on world history, Egyptian history. Yes, he may have held their attention for ten, fifteen or twenty minutes, if you are a good teacher - and that is if you are interested. That is going back to the other point I am making. If you have morale so low in the school system these days that teachers are not into their job, they are not enthused - and how can you blame them?

What teachers are being told in their staff room now is: By the way, you are going to have more students in your classroom. You are going to have a heavier workload. You are going to have less prep time.

How can you expect that teacher to get up from his desk at 3:00 p.m. and go out to the principal and say: Listen, I will coach the basketball team for you, two days a week, and take them on four or five trips a year. How can you expect that teacher to do that?

The blunt reality that it is coming down to in this Province is that our education system is going to need a major boost. It is going to need a major boost or we are going to tip on the other side and it is going to be a negative trend in the coming years unless we act upon it.

The minister can use all the statistics and facts she wants. The reality of it is that right now students in this Province are going to be jammed into smaller classroom sizes, they are going to have less programs, and they are going to have - the main tool of education, the main resource, is teachers. You can talk about buildings and gymnasiums and computers as much as you want. I thoroughly believe in computers and technology and how they are going to progress. You can talk about all of them, but they come behind the teacher. The teacher is the main resource. Like a leader of this country said to me one time, Mr. Jean Charest: Imagine - also, as parents, we have all done it - when you take your six-year-old...

The first day of kindergarten is a day we always remember. I remember my two children, the first day of kindergarten. You bring them down to that school, some of them do not want to stay in school, they are crying to go home, and you take their little hand and you pass it to a teacher. That teacher is going to influence that student, in a lot of cases, more than the parents because they are with them six hours a day, seven hours a day. Sometimes it is more if they start to coach them and do other things. That teacher in a lot of aspects influences the child as much and sometimes more than the parents, especially if they have working parents these days, two of the parents working, which is the case all around this Province. That teacher has to have high morale. He has to have enthusiasm. I suppose a simple line is: That teacher has to want to do a good job.

Of course, we know statistically that most teachers now in our system have been there anywhere from fifteen to twenty-five years. That is a lot of time teaching. Imagine being in this House of Assembly that long. It is hard to keep your enthusiasm up. It is hard enough as it is at that age to be teaching and to try to have the enthusiasm to do the extra things that make education what it is. It is hard enough to do that but now they are going to be told, as a teacher, that you are here for twenty-five years. By the way, next year all of your class sizes are going to increase. Next year your prep period is gone. Why would he go out to the principal and venture to say: I will take the students on a science fair, I will take the basketball team, I will take the volleyball team. It is not going to happen.

I am telling you now, Mr. Speaker, and I know members in this House - and if you have not done it you should do it - walk into a staff room in the next little while, like I have done. Walk into a staff room and talk to the teachers. They are almost too tired to talk to you, too tired to talk about the issue. They sit there now and they do not know where they are coming from. They do not know where they are teaching next year.

A good friend of mine is in a teaching position in La Scie this year, well involved in extra-curricular, coaching teams and so on. As a matter of fact he is preparing for a tournament this weekend. He has two young children of his own, and it is hard to punch that type of time in. Next year he does not know where he is teaching. He does not know if he has a job. We have not even seen the worst of this whole effort yet.

The district that we spoke to today, District 5, the Baie Verte/Central/Connaigre District, are on the lead end of the education reform. They have 90 per cent of their physical reform done, the closing of schools. I have been there in meetings with them. They have taken the heat. They have closed down the schools. Like the school in Seal Cove, just a little while ago, you had to feel for the people there.

I made comments in this House of Assembly with the minister and the Premier present to tell them how I felt about it. I supported them on keeping their school open, because it was not just for the sake of a school. It was the good job that they had done and what they put forward. The board, just a little while ago, called a meeting to let the public have another shot at it.

I say to those people and I say to this House of Assembly that the truth is that the fate of that particular school was set the day the education reform referendum was over. That was when it was set - a lot of schools.

For those people in Seal Cove, it is only one example of many places in districts across this Province - Seal Cove, White Bay.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: No, I say to the minister, in all different ones. I am glad that the minister is here. I just make the point of it. I am hoping that her facts are statistics are going to bear fruit at the end of the day so that I can go back to the people in Seal Cove and say: You took a lot of pain, your school is closed, you are looking up at windows that are barred up in that small school down there.

We gave hundreds of examples of the good things they have done over the years - Rickett's Elementary - we have given lots of examples. What a good group to put forward the recommendations for keeping their school open. But, I want to be able to tell people at the end of the day, in Seal Cove: Yes, you have to bus your little six-year-old now fifteen kilometres to another school. They could handle that if I could honestly look them in the eye and say to them: Don't worry, because your child is now going to have more programs, better resources, and they are going to have a better education. If I can do that honestly, there is not going to be a problem; but we have to find out at the end of the day that child is going to get the education system that was promised.

Don't forget - we are always losing this fact - if we invest, because it is an investment, we are not talking about spending. I do not refer to spending in education. I am talking about investment in education. It is not spending in education; it is called investment. Do you know why? It is for the economy of this Province so that people are going to be educated and hopefully stay here in this Province.

I know it is a new portfolio for the minister and it is a learning education for the Minister of Education.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) learning education.

MR. SHELLEY: Yes, it is a learning and it is an education for the minister of this Province.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: Learning and education.

We will have to see if the Member from Bellevue wants to buy a ticket on a hearing aide. He cannot hear very well.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, it is a learning and an education for the new minister in her portfolio.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: Yes. Would you like for me to repeat that once more, seeing it is only four times I have said it so far? I could say it once more.

AN HON. MEMBER: He is a slow learner, I believe.

MR. SHELLEY: You are a slow learner. The Member for Bellevue is a slow learner, or he does not listen well or something. I am not sure.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: Repetition. I have done that before. I am a teacher too, I say to the Member. I was a teacher - former Member for Bellevue - and was lucky enough, by the way, in four years of teaching, to teach from kindergarten, junior high, senior high, and adult education in four short years. I dealt with people in Adult Basic Education at the College in Baie Verte who did not do so well.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: No, I did not teach at university. I was heading there until I got caught up in this. I was heading for that. I would like to do that someday. I did like every aspect. Some people ask me: Which one did you like teaching most? It is hard to judge that.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: Pardon?

AN HON. MEMBER: If you liked teaching, you would still be at it.

MR. SHELLEY: Oh, I did not like teaching; I loved teaching. Absolutely. I taught at all levels. If you had been listening, like a good student, you would have heard what I was teaching. Like so many students in the back row do not listen, the Member for Humber East was not listening. Now he is going to have to get his notes from the person next to him.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: You should not point. What the minister said is right, you should not point.

Education has changed so much over the years, when you talk about discipline and so on in the classroom. I did my student teaching here at Brother Rice, a fairly big school, and Regina in Corner Brook.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: Learning? Learning is always the same.

Yes, Sir, I did my student teaching at Regina and was offered a job to come back and teach there, I say to the Member for Humber East. I was offered a job in Plum Point that I had to turn down, and ended up in Baie Verte teaching.

The point that I am making, for anybody who has been a teacher, if you covered all realms of teaching from primary to secondary and right on up into adult education, you get a good view of the whole process. I went right from starting kids in school to teaching people at adult education where you find out why the system failed them or why they did not make it through the system. You learn a lot from them.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: Yes, Tom was a teacher. Yes, the Member for Lewisporte was a former history teacher, a vice-principal. It is quite an experience.

MR. RIDEOUT: Did I teach you?

MR. SHELLEY: No, you did not teach me. I was too young. I was in elementary school, so you did not teach me.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: He was not there long enough. I do not think you can make it after two years of teaching. I think that you have to teach a little bit longer.

Mr. Speaker, I did enjoy it. I say to the Member for Twillingate in all honesty, whether he believes it or not, I loved it. As a matter of fact, my job that I had was the ultimate of teaching. The school where I was teaching was across the street from my house. I had just moved back to Baie Verte, and my wife was teaching in the high school. My two young girls, six and nine years old, were in the elementary school, so it was a perfect situation. Great staff, good student teacher ratio, excellent principal, all the conditions were perfect.

I just happened to look at the political horizon at the time when the Small brothers were in competition for the seat and had been there for two years. Let me just say this: I was not satisfied with the representation that we were getting, and neither were the people.

Very simply put, I used a small amount of money, which any member can find for themselves, to run a very simple campaign. I lost a lot of weight, like I know a lot of people -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) simple person, right?

MR. SHELLEY: Why, who is a simple person? Are you making accusations or what?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) simple campaign.

MR. SHELLEY: A simple campaign, I said.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. SHELLEY: Is my time up?

MR. SPEAKER: Your time is up.

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I stand today to say a few words on the 1999 Budget. It is unbelievable when you see -

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

On a point of order, the hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

MR. EFFORD: Yes, a point of clarification. The hon. member, my colleague, stood up on this side of the House before the member stood up over there, and it is understood it is back and forth.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

On that point of order, the Speaker looked to the left and the only person standing at the time was the person to the right. I recognize the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. EFFORD: So you are not going to allow back and forth; you are going to take your position?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. EFFORD: You can give leave.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I say to the Minster of Fisheries and Aquaculture that I am not the one who decides who speaks in this House. I only stand in my turn. There will be lots of time. We are here for awhile, I say to the minister, take your time. We are going to be here for awhile.

AN HON. MEMBER: Take another seal capsule.

MR. FITZGERALD: Take another seal capsule. Rub a little bit of salve on your elbows, I say to the minister. Take it easy. You will have lots of time to speak.

I say to the Member for Humber East that he will certainly have time to stand in his place and speak. All I can do is stand in my place, go by the rules of the House. He has as much right to speak in this House as me or anybody else, but he has to be recognized by the Chair, I say to members opposite.

I stand today to say a few words on the 1999 Budget. When it was delivered back a few weeks ago, three months or so ago, when the Budget was delivered it was a great celebration. People ran over to the Minister of Finance and shook his hand. One of the authors of the Budget, I would assume, sits at the far left of the Premier, down at the other end. One of the authors of the Budget was the first to run up and shake the minister's hand and talk about what a wonderful Budget it was.

We now have a surplus, the second time since 1955, I think the minister said. It was a great day. All of a sudden, when somebody comes looking for something, when you see petitions presented here in this House, or when you see members rise to ask that dollars be put back in health care, or when you rise and see members rise and ask that dollars be put back in education, members opposite, including the President of Treasury Board, stand and respond almost like we are living in a Third World country. We are down at debt's door; we do not have any money. We cannot respond to that, we have to be responsible.

What a difference a day makes. When the Budget was delivered, we had lots of money. We were in wonderful shape; we were leading the country; we were setting the pace here in this Province. We were the envy of every other province on Budget day. The next day after, we were the poorest province in Canada. We had no money. There was nothing we could to do to respond to the commitments that were made during the election.

There was one good thing about the election. When the election was called, it caught a lot of people by surprise and we were all wondering how we would ever go out and knock on doors and campaign right in the middle of winter. We know what the weather can be like in certain areas of this Province in January, February and March month. We were all very apprehensive on what would happen if the weather got bad and how we would communicate with people.

I went out and carried out a campaign of knocking on doors. It was the only way I knew to campaign. In fact, I knocked on just about every door in my district. The doors that I did not knock on, my wife knocked on, I say to the members opposite. Every door was touched. The sudden shock that I got - and I am a member who spends a lot of time in the district. I am a member who at least -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: Yes, I am sure you do, I say to the President of the Treasury Board. That is why you got reelected back into the House, because people knew what kind of a member you were and they knew what commitment you brought. I think we all do that.

I was not prepared for the shock that I got when I saw the number of homes closed up in my district. I was not quite prepared for it. It was unbelievable when you go to places like King's Cove and Duntara and Plate Cove and see the number of houses that were vacant, the number of windows boarded up, the number of meter bases pulled from the sockets, people moved away. It is a sad story when you see people having to leave their homes, leave their life inheritance behind, and move to other places on the mainland in order to access jobs and earn an living.

A lot of those people are middle-aged people. It is not like it was years ago. Part of our heritage, I think, part of our culture as Newfoundlanders, is that - I think there is a little bit of gypsy in us - we all had to travel. In fact, you were not a Newfoundlander until you went to Toronto back in the 1960s and 1970s. Part of growing up in Newfoundland meant going to Toronto, and I was no different.

As soon as I got out of high school - I think I worked for a year and then I was off to Toronto. I spent eight years there, but it was a situation that I wanted to go. I had a job. I quit a job to go. I wanted to go there. I wanted to see how the other half of the world lived. I suppose you like to go to another area, with the sense of adventure, to be on your own and earn your own way in life, be independent, but today you are seeing people who do not want to leave this Province having no other choice but to pack up and leave.

I have a daughter up in Fort McMurray right now. In fact, she graduated the year before last and now she is teaching up in Fort McMurray. My wife went up at Easter to visit with her and she went down to the local store in Fort McMurray, and she indicated that she saw more people that she knew there than she did at the local store in Clarenville where she sometimes goes to shop; so many Newfoundlanders are there from around our own areas, so many Newfoundlanders who have had no other choice but move away, close up their homes, move to other places in this country, in order to make a living.

Some people might say there is nothing wrong with that. What is wrong with going to Alberta to go to work? What is wrong with going to another part of this wonderful country in order to live and raise your family? I say to members present that there is probably nothing wrong with it if that is what you want to do. There is probably nothing wrong with it but we, as Newfoundlanders, seem to hold this place special in our hearts. A lot of people may not understand why we want to live here when you look at the road conditions and the weather conditions and what we have to sometimes sacrifice in order to be Newfoundlanders, but I have never seen other people when they speak, speak about this Province and how it comes from the heart when they talk about a place called Newfoundland and Labrador.

I see the Member for Bellevue looking over. I remember being in his presence, and he in mine, on a couple of occasions when we talked to some people down in Washington on a parliamentary trip. There were people there from all over Canada, there were people there from the United States, and every day at the conference somebody had to either open the conference or close the conference and talk about where they were from and just give a simple address. There was nobody there who spoke any more compassionately - in fact, there was nobody there that came close - than the three Newfoundlanders who were there; that was the Speaker, the Member for Bellevue, and myself. There was nobody else who spoke so compassionately about where they were from, what it meant to be there, and to encourage people to come and visit this Province.

Even the people present at that time, I say to the Member for Bellevue, used to come over and say to us: We have never been to your Province but, by God, we are going to make an effort to come. That is what it means to live here.

When you see people having to leave this Province, not wanting to go, I think we all feel it and I think we all saw it during the election. We all saw it when we went out knocking on doors, if the doors were not vacant, by other people telling us the story.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: That is right, I say to the member.

Mr. Speaker, you hear the Prime Minister talking about all the money that is in the EI account, talking about the surplus that he is hoping to achieve, talking about how far he has brought the federal government. Well, I say to members present, we have all paid a price. We have all paid a price to balance the Budget.

Newfoundlanders up in Alberta do not get any satisfaction in hearing that there is $30 million in a surplus in this year's 1999 Budget. People unemployed today get no great feeling or make themselves feel more Canadian by finding out that the federal government may balance their books in two years' time, I say to members opposite. There is a tremendous sacrifice made by Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and by Canadians, when you look at the number of people today who are unemployed and you look at the number of people today who cannot access the EI program that was put in place to help Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, as well as other Canadians, to tie them over from one job to another.

It is shameful, Mr. Speaker, that there is $20 billion sitting in an EI account in Ottawa today, that I am sure will be spent to solve the problems in other parts of this country and in other sectors of the economy, taken out of the pockets of unemployed people, and those people unable to feed their families. It is shameful, I say to members opposite.

Then you go and what happens? The HRDC people get a letter from Mr. Pettigrew, telling them that they have to meet commitments, they have to meet certain guidelines, and they have to meet certain deadlines in order to achieve the savings that they want to achieve in the EI account. It is a terrible price to pay. And who pays it, I say to members opposite? The poorest people in the Province. There is nothing like kicking you when you are down. There is nothing like taking it from you, or giving it to you, when you can least afford it.

The EI account was put there and paid for by the taxpayers and the working people of this country, and it should go back to those people - not by taking a dollar a week off the premiums that they pay. Nobody is asking for that. The dollar a week that comes off the employees' and the employers' submissions to government is not going to get the economy moving. It is not going to boost the economy in certain areas of this country. What they are asking for is to be able to access the program.

Now that they have changed it from weeks to hours, some people are helped, there is no doubt about that. Some people are helped when they could only go out and their hours were spread over a certain period of time.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: Sure, it is terrible, I say to the minister. The minister knows it because he is dealing with it on an ongoing basis. His district is no different than my district, I say to him.

I have people in my district who qualify for EI, and they are getting as low as $9 a week unemployment insurance. It is disgraceful. Because they are getting the $9 a week, that again disqualified them from getting a job on some of the projects that were brought forward because they were in a lower priority, and they were getting unemployment insurance.

I remember meeting with the manager of the local HRDC office in Clarenville. I said: This has to be changed. I had several meetings. He said: What can you do? How can you change it? They are getting EI. They are either getting an income or they are not. I said: Sure, they are getting unemployment insurance or employment insurance, but should $9 a week be considered the minimum or maximum amount? Or should it be a guideline as to somebody receiving an income? He said: Where do you draw the line? You have to draw the line somewhere. My answer was: I suggest you draw the line by taking into consideration what they would make on a project, and what their EI income would be from that particular project.

It is simply enough. If they were getting $8 an hour, 55 per cent of their annual wage, and that should be where you would draw the line whether somebody should qualify or not, by looking at what people would benefit from once they finish the program.

Mr. Speaker, those are the kinds of things that are happening, and people expect us to be happy, proud and glad because we may be balancing the Budget. It took us 500 years to be where we are today. Nobody feels proud about being there, by owing billions of dollars.

I do not think we should be expected to solve all our financial problems and to balance the Budget in five or six years, as governments of the day are trying to do. We should take our time. Sure, we have to be fiscally responsible, but we have to live as well.

If you are going to go out today and mortgage a new car or truck, you do not have to go home and lock the fridge door and say that you are not going to eat anymore until the truck is paid for. You still eat, you still pay for the truck, but you do it over a period of time. That is what we have to do right here in this Province. We have to help our people survive.

You can call it make-work projects, I don't care what you call it, but if it means spending a few dollars to help Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, help our own people, help our own constituents live in their own homes, live in their own communities, maintain services, they why shouldn't we do it? What is so wrong about that?

Health care is another department of government today where we have terrible problems. I say to the minister yesterday three doctors left the town of Bonavista. There were five doctors in the hospital there; three of them left yesterday. Why did they leave Bonavista? They left because they arrived and they were so disenchanted with what they found was there for them in benefits, working conditions and working hours, that it was completely different from what they were told they were going to receive. That is why they left. They stayed four months and now they are off to another position in Alberta.

We met with the hospital board. We put up the flag, we told them what was happening, we told them and reminded them of what the doctors said they were promised. They were promised that fees were going to be paid for them, they were promised the hours they were expected to work. When they arrived here all that changed. All of a sudden they went back looking for what they were promised and the answer came back: We do not recall saying that, we do not recall making those promises. If you do not want to pay, Madam Minister, then somebody else is willing.

Yesterday the three doctors left. We have one doctor in Bonavista now, fee-for-service, and we have two salaried doctors there. What I understand now we are going to go back to is the locum practices again where there is going to be no doctor-patient relationship. Instead of parting with a few dollars in order to make the three doctors who where there happy, now we are going to go and pay out $550 per day that we are going to pay the doctors to come to Bonavista as locums. Now we have to come up with the money. We are going to pay it now. Is that fiscal management? Is that the way we expect our health care dollars to be spent? Is that good money management? When we hear the minister talking about the money that is needed and we have to be responsible, and we have to be forever cognizant of the amount of money that comes out of the budget and where it goes, is that a wise spending of money?

Those doctors, when I talked to them down there, I think they needed - something like $15,000 would have made them happy. It was not extra money, it was money that was promised to them where their fees and their licenses were going to be paid for. Then all of a sudden that changed, the doctors are gone now, and we are going to end up paying $500 a day for locums to go there.

Some time ago they classified hospitals. They called some hospitals a class (a) and other hospitals a class (b) hospital. The hospital in Clarenville, in your district, I say to the Speaker, the Dr. G.B. Cross Memorial Hospital, is a class (a) facility. In Bonavista it is class (b). One of the differences is that a doctor serving in the emergency room there, attending and doing emergency duties, in a class (a) hospital gets $80 an hour. In the class (b) hospital, in Bonavista, the doctors on the emergency floor there get $10 an hour. Just imagine. What is the difference in an emergency in Catalina or Port Union and an emergency down in Little Heart's Ease, I ask the member? Where is the difference? An emergency is an emergency, a doctor is a doctor.

They have the same qualifications, but because they work in a class (a) hospital they get $80 an hour, and because they work in a class (b) hospital they get $10 an hour. That is the difference. I brought it up to the administrator of the hospital in Clarenville, talked about the unfairness of it. He said: You know, there is one thing you have to remember here, that the doctor that is fee-for-service is on his own and we allow him the use of the hospital.

I asked: What do you mean, you allow the use of the hospital? He said: We allow him use of the lab there where he can get blood work done and where he can get x-rays taken. I said: My God, we aren't talking about an automobile here. Should you go and not allow a doctor to have his patients access to hospital and have blood work done and have x-rays taken just because he is fee-for-service? Should we now go and back charge that doctor? It is not the doctor that is getting it done. The doctor is attending to his patient who pays taxes, who has as much right to health care and medical care as a person who is going to see a doctor that is a salaried doctor working in the hospital.

This is the kind of mentality we are dealing with, I say to members opposite. I do not think much will change until we start electing hospital boards. The first step in solving the problems in health care in rural Newfoundland and Labrador is to start electing hospital boards. Until we have elected hospital boards it will never be any different. What we have now are appointed hospital boards. The appointments are done by the minister and the appointees carry out the minister's wishes. It is as simple as that. Until we get people to go out and offer themselves for election, like we do in school board offices - and I think that works fairly well. The Minister of Education, I guarantee you, will not come out and put forward a proposal to go back to having her appoint school boards. I can guarantee you that.

The minister will not go and bring forward a Minute to Cabinet and ask Cabinet to support her in dissolving all the school boards and let her go out and appoint them, but you have the Minister of Health who wants to maintain the way it has been. Not willing to allow people to come forward and offer themselves, become elected and represent the people rather than represent the minister. That is what is wrong. Until we deal with that, until we deal with hospital boards, we will never solve the problems in rural Newfoundland and Labrador as it relates to the deliverance of health care.

Now I will talk about roadwork. This year in the 1999 Budget there was something like $16 million. No, in fact, it was $12 million, because $4 million of the $16 million that you announced came from the federal government as a freight rate subsidy. There is something like $12 million brought forward by this government in 1999 for roadwork in this Province.

The Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture always wants to refer back to how bad things were in 1989. In 1989, I say to the minister, there was $49 million brought forward in the budget for roadwork. Sixteen million dollars, and $4 million of that is from the federal government, paid for completely by the federal government as a freight rate subsidy where they did away with the subsidy. That is what we have this year for capital works in doing roadwork.

At one time the Department of Works, Services and Transportation could also do a fair amount of work from a maintenance budget but that is not happening any more. Now the maintenance budget is cut down to the bare minimum and about all they can do is supply a little bit of calcium chloride where we have dirt roads where houses are built, supply snow clearing and ice control, and that is about it. In fact, there is no money under the operating budget any more to do any amount of road upgrading and repair.

As a result, this is why you are seeing petitions continually brought forward in the House with people putting up a plea to have their roads upgraded and paved, to have their roads brought to a suitable standard.

Winter Brook is a place where they have never ever seen pavement. It is about five or six kilometres from Jamestown to Winter Brook. People there get up every morning - Winter Brook is probably a community in my district where there is - I do not if there are three people there. There are not a lot of people live there, there are probably sixty-five or seventy people living there, but I would venture to say that there are no more than two or three, at the most, who are even unemployed there.

It is a little community that is very independent. They get up in the morning and they go to work, and the only request I have ever heard from them is to see if we can get some pavement so they will not have eat dust year after year. The only request I have had come from them is a situation where the mothers are saying: We would like to be able to hang out our clothes and not have them taken back in dirtier than when we put them out. They would like to be able to open the windows in the summertime to be able to let some fresh air blow through the house. They are not looking for water and sewer, they are not looking for curb and gutter, they are not saying we want sidewalks or street lights or anything like that. All they are saying is: We would like to have our road paved.

A couple of years ago the Department of the Works, Services and Transportation went down to Winter Brook and they upgraded the road there. If they had the courtesy of going and consulting with the people there and being up front with them, they would have found out at that time that the money they spent for upgrading that particular road, they could have paved it the way it was with a few turns and a few small hills and the people would have been satisfied with that.

Instead, they went down and upgraded the road and did away with all the turns and cut off all the hills. They defaced a lot of people's property. They have this beautiful road going down through the community now but it is a dirt road and they could have had the road paved. It would have been a road that would have served them well for the next thirty years. The people there would have been happy, but nobody was consulted.

That goes back to this Budget again that we are talking about here today, when the Minister of Finance talked about going out and listening to people. Remember the big consultation process. Maybe the President of Treasury Board was involved in it as well. I am not sure. I know the Member for Conception Bay East & Bell Island was involved in it. They were going to have this big consultation process. What they did not tell you was that the Budget was already written.


MR. FITZGERALD: Sure it is true, I say to the Member for Conception Bay East & Bell Island, and you know it is true. It was already written. The script was complete. They went out and tried to make the people believe they were having this big conference where: We are going to listen to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. Bring forward your suggestions. Let us know what you think of new taxes. Let us know where you want taxes reduced. Let us know where you want your money spent and we will listen.

What a farce, I say to members opposite.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. FITZGERALD: There was no consultation.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. FITZGERALD: By leave, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: No leave!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Humber East.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MERCER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) going to hear a speech.

MR. MERCER: Yes. I would not bet on that.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MERCER: I had it last Thursday, Harvey.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. MERCER: Just to inform the Member for Waterford Valley, that same meeting that he is referring to, I met with the school board last week. I am fully aware of the issue and when I go back to my district, as opposed to living in it, I will have a meeting with them this weekend.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)!

MR. MERCER: Mr. Speaker, I think we have listened to the hon. Member for Waterford Valley for much too long. We have listened to him for four days. I think it would be nice if he would now sit back and try and be a good student and listen to the teacher.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MERCER: We will get into that on another day.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. MERCER: Mr. Speaker, I would just like to say a few words in the Budget Debate. I would just like to add my words to the official record.

The issue that I would like to first say a few words on is the whole issue of health care, an issue of some importance and one which has been somewhat in the media in recent weeks and days.

One of the comments that I frequently hear, particularly from the members opposite, is that this government - meaning the party which I represent - should pay due diligence to health care and recognize it as a number one priority. Well, I find that a rather curious comment because one has only to look at the Budget document, whether it be this year's, last year's, or the year before, to find out what we are actually spending in health care.

If you would care to take a look at the Budget for last year, for 1998-1999, there was something like $1,080,000,000 projected for expenditure. The revised estimate was something like $1,154,000,000, an increase of $74 million over what was projected.

Now, Mr. Speaker, just to put that in -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) we took in on the payroll tax that they want to wipe out.

MR. MERCER: Well, that could very well be. That is one of the taxes that they want to wipe out, plus the $100 million or so that they promised in the election they were going to knock out of the system in terms of taxes. I do not know where they would have found the money to fund health care, but those are the things they have been advocating.

Keep in mind also, Mr. Speaker, that the total provincial Budget, the total amount of dollars in this document - and the document for last year and the year before were somewhat similar - was in the order of $3 billion. In other words, the total expenditure in this Province, on all services, is about $3 billion. This year it is up around $3,300,000,000, which means to say that health care and community services account for one-third. One third of every dollar that we spend in this Province is spent in health care. Now, if that is not a number one priority I am not exactly sure what is.

Just to take a look at some of the expenses that are in that Budget - and the hon. member, as I was rising to my feet, made some reference that there are a whole bunch of programs in the total health care envelope, and he is quite correct.

Health care and community services, let's see what is in community services. The total budget for community services - which is a program which I personally support because it puts a lot of emphasis on preventative medicine, lifestyle, and to do things that would eliminate more use of the medical system - that particular element of the Budget this year is about $178 million, a lot of money, but in relation to the $1,159,000,000 it is still leaves about $1 billion that we are spending each year on health care; $1 billion.

If you just take a quick look at some of the items which are being supported by the $1 billion, if you just take a quick look down through, for argument's sake, you will find that in terms of the subsidized drug program we are paying in the order of some $35 million annually. This looks like a number which has been fairly consistent from year to year over the last several years; $35 million in terms of drugs for those who are less fortunate in our society.

In terms of other matters like subsidized drug programs we are spending in the order of $700,000, but for the total bill for the drug subsidization program in this Province, dealing with our seniors and indigents, we are dealing with something in the order of $61 million.

The Medical Care Commission, which is basically the cost of the drugs which are picked up by the Province when you and I and everyone else go and avail of the services of our medicare system, it is costing this Province somewhere in the order of $170 million a year.

When you look at all these numbers, and you look at things like the operation of our health care facilities, our hospitals, a number which basically shows up in the Budget as one line - Grants and Subsidies - because in this Province we do have the health care boards, and it is they who have the primary responsibility for those expenses; a one-line item in the Budget for $650 million a year to take care of the operation of our health care facilities.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to preface my remarks by citing these numbers just to indicate that, yes, health care is a number one priority. It is a number one priority of this government. It is now, it has been, and it will continue to be.

I was reported as saying recently in a newspaper on the West Coast that money is not necessarily the issue in the health care system. The problem still remains of wise expenditure.

Mr. Speaker, I would just like to make a few comments with respect to the expenditure of dollars within the health care system, and to make some reference as to whether or not these dollars may or may not be expended properly.

At one point in this Province's history we, from a central source, did all of the administration of the health care facilities from St. John's, or with the aid of some independent boards. More recently, the Province has embarked upon a system of health care boards, which I know the members opposite like to say are nothing but a bunch of Liberals who are serving at the pleasure of this government, and who have been appointed and so on.

I am sure, Mr. Speaker, a lot of those people who sit on those boards would take a great deal of offence to that. Many of those people are very fine people; they have nothing but the best of intentions for the public, their communities, and the health care of the communities in which they live.

To hear members opposite speak of these as Liberal (inaudible), at the beck and the whim of the minister, I think is a great insult and a great disservice.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MERCER: I am quoting, and if you wish I can quote from some individual members of the House that I cared to make some notations on during the debates of the recent troubles with the health care professionals in the nursing profession. If the Member for Waterford Valley wishes me to cite members and to state very precisely what they said, I can do that, but that is not the point.

The point I am trying to make is that the health care system in this Province is a major, major undertaking. It requires tremendous sums of money and, in this Province, the government's up to this day and previous administrations have made it a number one priority. Let's not quibble with words. Health care, in this government's mind, is a number one priority. We can quibble about whether or not the monies are being well spent, spent most efficiently; those are all good and valid points.

I would just like also to make a few comments relating to the recent disputes that we have been having with the health care professionals, primarily the nurses in this Province, and to speak about it from a West Coast perspective as opposed to an East Coast/St. John's/Avalon perspective.


MR. MERCER: Because I want to.

Mr. Speaker, on the West Coast, during the election which was recently held, I must say I had a lot of up-front and, shall we say, personal, encounters with members of the nursing profession. I would say that when I left the West Coast I came to St. John's and I had a very clear impression of what the issues were; at least the issues as were represented to me by my constituents during a heated election campaign.

Three points kept coming up repeatedly, and I will say them in the order in which I perceived them to be. I do not think I will be very far off the mark.

The number one condition on the West Coast is, and was, working conditions - working conditions in our health care - primarily at Western Memorial Hospital. The issue came back time and time again. It was not a matter of the eight-hour shift versus the twelve-hour shift. It dealt with rather everyday, mundane things: insufficient nurses on shifts, insufficient support staff on shifts.

Take a simple example: Last week I had a call from a constituent who indicated to me that a particular nurse was coming in to change a dressing. She came to the door three times. Each time there was a telephone ringing. Of course, there being very few support staff on the floor, she had to backtrack, go up, sit down and answer the phone. After three such attempts finally, over a period of perhaps twenty minutes, a half an hour, that lady was able to come into the room and change the dressing of my constituent.

So these are things that are being referred to as working conditions. Also, there is the issue of overwork, insufficient nurses on the floors, and so on and so forth. I am not sure where all of these problems generated, where they came from in the first place. I do know one thing. From a West Coast perspective, the Western Memorial Regional Hospital has, in the last number of years, perhaps not been the most efficiently run operation. For years, and I do not say this with any particular malice, but I say it as a matter of fact, several election campaigns for the party opposite were being run out from Western Memorial Regional Hospital.

Friends of mine that I know were asked to become involved in campaigns to do work while in the employ of the Western Health Care Corporation. We know ourselves that that is not a legitimate role for any publicly funded institution, to have individuals in that institution managing, manipulating, directing, election campaigns, whether they be for parties represented by the members on this side of the House or the members on that side of the House.

It is a well known fact in Corner Brook that that has been going on or was going on for quite some considerable time. I can only assume that if people are spending their time running election campaigns from a health care facility they are not doing the job they were hired to do in the first place. So the issues at Western Memorial Regional Hospital go back a long way. They are not just last week, last month, or even last year. When the Atkinson report comes out I am sure it will tell you and demonstrate to you the things which I have just said. The management at the Western Memorial Regional Hospital have not been doing due diligence. They have not and were not doing the job for which they were being paid.

That is why when the Public Accounts Committee and the Minster of Health went looking for records they were two years out of date, three years out of date. The hospital, the administration and the staff involved at that time could not even provide you with the most rudimentary records of where dollars were being spent.

A good friend of mine who works in the community mental health had told me two years ago that she had gone a full year and a half managing a program without any knowledge of how many dollars she had in her program, having no idea of how much was being spent, except by her own personal record keeping. This is just symptomatic of what had been going on at Western Memorial for many years, years that predate 1989 and, I am afraid to say, years that came after 1989.

I am pleased to say however that the administration and the staff now at Western Memorial are slowly but surely getting a handle on the administration of that particular institution. I think, under the leadership of Dr. Eric Parsons and the gentleman who is now in charge at the administration, I think we are getting timely records and timely reports on what is being expended at that institution. I really do believe that with time the fruits of their labour will show forth and there will be better working conditions at Western Memorial Hospital. Let no one be under any illusion. There are problems there. They are being addressed and they will be taken care of.

I would say, Mr. Speaker, that the second biggest issue I noted door to door was the whole issue of casualization, the business of bringing in nurses on the spur of the moment.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MERCER: In a second.

AN HON. MEMBER: Adjourn debate.


Mr. Speaker, I am advised that it is now appropriate that we adjourn debate for the day. I will rise in my place tomorrow to continue with my discussion.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

Before we do, I think we are debating the resolution put on the Order Paper by the Member for Burin-Placentia West. I understand she has asked one of her colleagues - and (inaudible) because of a personal thing, a personal problem, a death in the family, I believe - she has asked if some other person could introduce that resolution. I think we have all agreed that would be the case.

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