The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: Mr. Speaker, their Lordships, the Justices of the Supreme Court have arrived.

MR. SPEAKER: Admit their Lordships, the Justices of the Supreme Court.

SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: Mr. Speaker, His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor has arrived.

MR. SPEAKER: Admit His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor.


Mr. Speaker leaves the Chair.

His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor takes the Chair.

SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: Ladies and gentlemen, it is the wish of His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor that all present please be seated.

Thank you.


Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

Welcome to the Third Session of this, the Forty-Fourth General Assembly.

Work Plan of Action

My Government has a new First Minister and today, My Government is setting out a clear work plan which will affirm public confidence as it completes the mandate given in the General Election of 1999.

A Period of Change, Confidence and Challenge

The people of Newfoundland and Labrador are entering a period of change, confidence and challenge. It is imperative that we all work together to ensure that our hopes, dreams and aspirations are realized. Throughout this period, My Government will maintain and build on the trust that the people of our Province have placed in us.

We will keep that trust with a plan of action that delivers results.

Our plan is based on the input of our people, and recognizes and builds upon the significant accomplishments that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians make to their communities, their Province and their country.

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

The United Nations has declared the year 2001 as the International Year of the Volunteer. As we celebrate this year, it is appropriate that we acknowledge the individual contributions that volunteers have made to our Province.

My Government is proud that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are known throughout our country as caring, vibrant and compassionate people. Their efforts have truly made our Province a beacon on the shores of the North Atlantic.

My government wishes to recognize the immense talent, inspiration and ability of individuals, including volunteers, who make this Province a better place to live.

The Order of Newfoundland and Labrador

My Government will introduce legislation to create the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador. This Order will recognize individuals who have distinguished themselves by exceptional achievement and sacrifice, unique skills and talents, or by noteworthy contributions to their communities and Province.

I look forward to the Order being established over the next few months and to serving as the Order's first Chancellor.

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:


My Government is committed to making changes that ensure greater confidence in the institutions of government.

Greater Trust, Openness and Accountability

A key focus of My Government in this Session of the House of Assembly will be to create a greater level of trust, openness and accountability.

To ensure this, details of My Government's plan of action and accomplishments will be published and available to the people for their scrutiny.

Review of the Freedom of Information Act

My Government has already embarked upon an agenda of openness through the establishment of a review of the Freedom of Information Act. Once this review is completed, My Government will move expeditiously to bring forward changes to the current act.

Creation of the Office of the Ombudsman

My Government will introduce legislation during this Session to create the Office of the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman will be established as an Officer of the House of Assembly, and will have a mandate to hear public concerns regarding the administration of programs and services.

Timely release of Reports and Studies

My Government is also committed to the timely release of reports and studies prepared by or for government. The availability of such information will contribute to a greater understanding of any actions that My Government my take on behalf of the people of the Province.

Televised proceedings of the House

My Government believes that this Honourable House must remain visible and relevant to the people. To this end, My Government will make provisions to have the proceedings of the House of Assembly televised, commencing with the fall sitting.

New Focus on Issues Facing Youth and Women

My Government will embark on a new and focused plan to involve more youth and women in the operations and decisions of the government. It is time for real initiatives and meaningful mechanisms to be put in place to realize this objective.

Provincial Youth Advisory Committee

As part of our agenda of action, specific mechanisms will be put in place by the new Department of Youth Services and Post Secondary Education to encourage our youth to interact directly with My Government. We will listen and act upon the opinions and views put forward by our youth through the creation of a provincial youth advisory committee that will advise the new Department of Youth Services and Post Secondary Education.

Child Advocate

My Government will also be establishing a Child Advocate to advance the concerns and issues of our children. It is time that children had a real voice in government. The Advocate will offer advice on children's programs and services and will ensure that the interests of children are paramount in areas where government services impact directly upon the lives of our children.

Setting New Goals and Priorities on Women's Issues

My Government has embarked upon an extensive consultation process under the direction of the Minister Responsible for the Status of Women. This process will assist My Government in setting new goals and priorities on women's issues.

Empowering Rural Communities

My Government will also direct greater attention to empowering our rural communities. A key element will be the focus on investment and growth in all regions of the Province, most particularly those rural areas which have not fully benefitted from recent growth.

My Government will rely on the opinions and advice of our people throughout the Province. There will be a sharper focus on regional development priorities through a more proactive relationship with the Regional Economic Development Boards.

As a real demonstration of our commitment to promoting local initiatives, My Government will host a Rural Forum and Exposition in Gander, later this year. Rural EXPO 2001 will showcase business accomplishments in all areas of the Province and encourage further investment. The Exposition will also have a particular emphasis on our Province's young leaders and entrepreneurs.

My Government reaffirms its commitment to ensuring the availability of services throughout our Province. My Government will provide the tools for communities and regions to control and shape their own futures.


Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

The economy is stronger and more diversified than it was even a few short years ago. This has led to a "can do" philosophy which is becoming the norm. My Government will reflect this new confidence and attitude in its actions.

My Government believes that confidence is built when more people are fully aware of the plan of their government. My Government is committed to providing more opportunities for our people to participate in the development and implementation of this plan.

Agenda of Action and Results

My Government will be immediately and aggressively implementing a new agenda of action. My Government has studied and consulted and it is now time for an agenda of action and results.

Jobs and Growth Strategy

The hallmark of our agenda will be a determined effort to continue economic momentum and ensure that all our people share in our Province's progress. The strength of My Government's plan is based on the fact that it reflects the views of the people, and has the support of the public. This foundation was laid by My Government in 1999, with the release of a public consultation document on Jobs and Growth, 23 public consultation meetings and 10 sectoral forums.

Within the next few days, and in conjunction with the budget process, My Government will be articulating other specific Jobs and Growth priorities for action.

New Structure of Government

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

My Government has significantly restructured government departments to reflect the priorities of the people and the needs of our Province. These structural changes will be accompanied by sound policies which respond to challenges and take advantage of opportunities.

Youth Services and Post-Secondary Education

A new Department of Youth Services and Post-Secondary Education has been established with a mandate to assist the Province's youth in achieving their full potential and accessing opportunities arising from the new economy.

Student Investment Corporation

My Government will focus on creating opportunities for students to obtain meaningful employment that will facilitate their transition into the workplace upon graduation and enable them to contribute financially to their post-secondary education. A Student Investment Corporation will be established to develop a coordinated youth employment strategy.

My Government believes that a reduction of student debt must be a provincial and national priority. My Government has made a start. Timely completion of post-secondary programs results in almost no provincial debt. The only debt owed by a student is the Canada student loan portion. My Government will request that the federal government develop a similar loan remission forgiveness program.

Reducing Student Debt

To further address student debt, revisions to the Student Aid Program will be made. These revisions must take into account the specific challenges faced by students who must leave their communities in order to pursue a post-secondary education and who commonly have higher debt levels.

My Government has already frozen tuition for Memorial University for a three-year period, ending in 2001-2002. We will further reduce the burden on our students by reducing tuition at Memorial University, with the first reduction to commence in September 2001.

My Government has made it abundantly clear to the federal government that they must also ensure that post-secondary education becomes a spending priority. Throughout the 1990s, in the face of severe fiscal challenges, the federal government began to reduce financial transfers which could be used for post-secondary education. The change to the Canada Health and Social Transfer in 1996 resulted in a further decline in funding. Now that financial forecasts have improved, My Government continues to press the federal government to restore funding to levels that existed in the early 1990s.


Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

A new Department of Environment has been established to ensure environmental issues have a clear focus in, and remain a priority of My Government. The Department's exclusive function will be to provide sound environmental stewardship and regulation. As a priority, the new Department has been directed to bring forward a strategic plan of action to ensure public confidence in our water supplies.

My government is also committed to addressing the issues surrounding solid waste management and the new Department has been mandated to develop a long-term strategy in this area. We will be seeking the views of the people, municipalities and other interested parties on how the Province should move forward on this issue.


Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

My Government is also committed to renewing its relationship with labour, business and community groups through the creation of a new Department of Labour with exclusive responsibility for labour and occupational health and safety matters.

Taking the necessary steps with labour and industry to ensure a stable and productive workforce for future offshore fabrication and major construction projects is a priority of My Government. A comprehensive report on these issues was recently received by My Government and is now under review. Building on this review, My Government will examine the needs for amendments to the Labour Relations Act for presentation in this Session of the House.

Industry, Trade and Rural Development

A new Department of Industry, Trade and Rural Development has been established to bring together government's core business development functions in one department. It has a mandate to address business needs throughout our Province, with a particular focus on rural areas. The Department will play a major role as a catalyst for the implementation of the comprehensive report on the renewal strategy for jobs and growth.

Trade Team Newfoundland and Labrador

My Government will give greater attention to trade and export development as a means of creating new jobs and diversifying our economy. Subject to federal participation, this will be achieved through a new initiative, Trade Team Newfoundland and Labrador, involving federal and provincial government departments as well as industry associations, regional development boards, municipalities and other key stakeholders.

Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

A new Department of Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs has been created to reflect a strengthened commitment in dealing with issues of concern to Labrador and Aboriginal peoples. A priority of the new department will be to ensure that the people who live in Labrador share in the development of the area's wealth of resources. It will also provide leadership in advancing major economic development opportunities in Labrador.

This new department demonstrates My Government's resolve to address Aboriginal issues. The department will be responsible for negotiating and implementing comprehensive land claims and self-government agreements with the Labrador Inuit Association and Innu Nation and it will act as the coordinating agency for My Government in dealing with all matters of concern to Aboriginal peoples.

My Government will continue to pursue federal approval for the registration of the Innu Nation. Land claim negotiations with the Innu Nation were postponed recently by the federal government in order to concentrate efforts on the registration of the Innu Nation as status Indians under the Indian Act, and on the solvent abuse problems in Sheshatshiu and Davis Inlet.

My Government has recently initiated a public consultation on the Labrador Inuit Association land claims position. Upon conclusion of this consultation process My Government will continue negotiations with the Labrador Inuit Association and the federal government.


Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

There is renewed confidence in the Province. We have made good progress in strengthening our Province. We should take pride in our accomplishments.

Challenges remain, and we still have critical choices to make. The right choices will propel us forward. The wrong choices will stall or reverse the gains that our people have already made.

Fuel Regulation

Legislation will be introduced in this sitting of the House of Assembly to regulate the price of fuel. The regulatory regime provided for by this legislation will assure the public that fuel prices are set in a rational and fair manner.

Realizing our Economic Potential

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

Economic indicators suggest that 2000 was our third consecutive year of strong economic growth, with real GDP increasing by about 5 per cent. This follows 6 per cent growth in both 1999 and 1998. The export sector accounted for about two-thirds of growth last year, spurred by increased oil and iron ore production. Record levels of newsprint production and non-resident tourism also contributed. The value of manufacturing shipments exceeded $2 billion for the first time ever. Most indicators of economic activity recorded solid gains for last year. Taken together, the last three years show the best three-year economic performance the Province has had in more than twenty-five years.

The outlook for 2001 and the following years is positive. Most private forecasters expect the Province to record strong growth again this year. Although some industries, such as the fishery, still face challenges, the continuing diversification of our economy gives reason for continued optimism in Newfoundland and Labrador.

My Government is committed to a growth agenda which develops a balanced investment prospecting agenda that reflects and matches the needs and opportunities of all regions of the Province. The EDGE program will be refocused and enhanced to target investment opportunities that would not otherwise be directed to our Province.

Small Scale Manufacturing Strategy

My Government has adopted a small scale manufacturing strategy that focuses on helping firms adopt the best manufacturing practices, team based management techniques, new production technologies, ISO certification, export marketing expertise, and e-commerce methods. The new Department of Industry, Trade and Rural Development will ensure that this strategy is a priority of My Government.

Renewed Information Technology Strategy

My Government will renew its Information Technology strategy to ensure growth, as our IT industry continues to mature. Specific objectives will be established in consultation with the private sector and other stakeholders that will focus on priorities such as accelerating the use of IT in businesses in all areas of the Province through e-commerce and addressing the human resource development challenges throughout the IT industry.

Cultural Industries

Newfoundland and Labrador has a rich cultural heritage that defines us a people and shapes our identity on the national and international stage. This uniqueness and creativity also provides new opportunities in an economic development context. My Government is preparing an overall development framework for our cultural industries that will be released this year.

Rising business confidence, oil industry development, and public infrastructure projects are spurring capital spending. Construction investment last year was the fourth highest on record at almost $2.1 billion. Total capital investment, including construction in investment, exceeded $3 billion for the second straight year.

After posting strong growth in 1998 and 1999, employment remained stable in 2000, at one of the highest levels in a decade. Lower employment in goods producing industries, such as the fisheries, offset job gains elsewhere. Personal income, however, increased by 3.7 percent while tax cuts allowed disposable income to grow at a faster rate of 4.9 percent.


Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

My Government will continue to argue for an equalization formula that is responsive to our growing economy and the needs of our people.

My Government will aggressively pursue the federal government to fulfill its commitment to work with the Province on a fairer equalization formula. my Government will continue to advocate for a long term and equitable revision to the current equalization program that includes the removal of the present payment ceiling and changes to the claw back rate. These changes are critical as they would have a substantial impact on the level of funding this Province receives from the Government of Canada.

Responsive Tax Regime

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

One of My Government's challenges is to maximize the benefits of our strong economy so that all regions and all residents share in the opportunities of this growth. One of the ways My Government is meeting this objective is through a responsive tax regime.

My Government has instituted tax initiatives to stimulate business growth. Our corporate income tax regime is among the most competitive in the country. In the last Session of the House of Assembly the payroll tax exemption threshold for businesses in the Province was increased from $150,000 to $400,000. This initiative alone exempted 1300 businesses from the payroll tax.

Another measure My Government has adopted in support of small business is the venture capital tax credit program. The Direct Equity Tax Credit and the Labour-Sponsored Venture Capital Tax Credit are designed to stimulate the growth of small business and new jobs in expanding areas of the economy, with a particular focus on the needs of rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

These tax measures and other initiatives such as the Seed Capital Equity Program and the Business and Market Development Equity Program address the challenges small business and entrepreneurs face as the pursue new ideas and opportunities.

Managing our Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

Our future prosperity is not only dependent on nickel, petroleum or hydro-electricity. More than at any time in our history, our economy is diverse and dynamic. Our future prosperity, however, will depend on what we secure from our resource developments. We must encourage the skills and technology of tomorrow, not of yesterday.

Hibernia has set records and exceeded expectations. Estimates of recoverable reserves have increased from 666 million to 884 million barrels. The annual production limit has been raised from 50 million barrels to 66 million barrels. An agreement secured by My Government ensures that Newfoundland and Labrador shares in the benefit of increased production. Terra Nova will achieve first oil in 2001, adding 115,000 barrels of oil per day to our total petroleum production. A development plan application for White Rose has been filed. If regulatory approval is given, first oil is expected by 2004. Hebron/Ben Nevis may follow shortly thereafter. Chevron is evaluating several development options. If economic viability is confirmed, front-end engineering could begin this year. Onshore, we have received an application for development at Port au Port.

The momentum we enjoy today is a product of yesterday's hard work. To lay a foundation for tomorrow, we must encourage further exploration and continue to develop our human resources and infrastructure. My Government will do this work.

Natural Gas

My Government has worked with industry, the federal government and other interested parties in studying the potential of our natural gas resources. Shortly, My Government will be releasing, for public comment, a comprehensive natural gas strategy. My Government will encourage early development, but not at the expense of our long-term interests.

Voisey's Bay

My Government sees opportunity in the development of the resources at Voisey's Bay. We have the confidence to move forward and will resume negotiations. We are not afraid to reach a deal because no deal will be signed that cannot be clearly explained and defended. My Government has one basic objective for the negotiations. Any deal must provide maximum benefits for Newfoundland and Labrador. This includes a processing facility which can serve as the foundation of an industry which will extend beyond the life of the mine.

Mining and Minerals Tax Review

My Government will undertake a comprehensive review of our mining and minerals tax. We will focus on changes that are necessary to encourage greater exploration investment in our Province while ensuring that the Province receives its fair share from the development of our mineral resources.

Lower Churchill Development

My Government remains patient with respect to the development of the Lower Churchill River. Disappointment and delay will not pressure us into a quick deal. New project concepts are being assessed. An announcement on the future direction of negotiations with Quebec will be made after this work has been completed.

Forest Resources in Labrador

The full-scale development of the forest resources in Labrador offers tremendous potential and benefits. My Government will actively pursue development of a forest products industry in Labrador in consultation with local communities and Aboriginal peoples. My Government's recently signed forestry management agreement with the Innu Nation is an important part of the development of a forest management plan that will advance to the development of the Labrador forest industry.

Growth and Diversification Investment Initiative for Agrifoods

Our agrifoods industry has been growing steadily in both traditional and new products over the past ten years. The value of primary agricultural production combined with foods processing is close to $500 million. The agrifoods industry in this Province has unlimited potential. Consumer demand is growing for high value speciality crops such as organically grown food and nutraceutical/medicinal products, some of which can be grown better in our Province than elsewhere. My Government will support the implementation of industry driven action plans for growth and diversification through a comprehensive Growth and Diversification Investment Initiative for Agrifoods.


Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

Great progress has been made in the recovery of the Province's fishery over the past few years, with the value of exports at an all time high in 2000.

Fish landings in 2000 were on par with 1999. In 2000, landed values increased to $585 million, up by $79 million or 16 per cent from 1999, due to higher prices for crab and increased landings of shrimp.

The level of cooperation among the key stakeholders is also high. My Government is committed to working with these groups and individuals to carefully foster greater cooperation.

My Government will need to increase our efforts to ensure that federal actions do not further jeopardize our historic access to our resource. My Government is committed to a vigorous examination of the adjacency principle to ensure our approach protects the viability of rural communities. We must ensure a regional balance is achieved within our Province, while maintaining the viability of the industry and continuing to address issues of over-capacity in the processing sector. My Government will review its present fish processing licensing policy to ensure that these objectives are being achieved. My Government will also encourage the federal government to do the same with regard to its overall harvesting licencing policy.

My Government will continue to work closely with industry to build on the significant progress made in quality assurance throughout the industry, as greater economic benefits can still be gained from the present fisheries if quality continues to improve.

Aquaculture Development Strategy

A more strategic focus will be placed on investments in our aquaculture industry. My Government has recently adopted a new Aquaculture Development Strategy which has, as its key policy direction, a focus on commercialization of four species - steelhead trout, Atlantic salmon, blue mussels and cod grow-out enterprises.


Tourism remains one of the fastest growing and exciting industries in the Province. Since 1997, visitations to this Province have increased by 32 per cent. In 2000, more than 415,000 people journeyed to this Province to enjoy our culture and heritage, the beauty of our coastlines and our friendly people. This increase is unprecedented and it is built on the achievement of entrepreneurs and government working together to promote and develop Newfoundland and Labrador as a premiere tourism destination.

Natural Areas System Plan

Recognizing that the natural beauty and pristine environment of Newfoundland and Labrador are essential to our tourism industry, My Government will be developing and releasing a Natural Areas System Plan for the Province. This plan will help to preserve representative samples of our Province's ecosystem and sensitive ecological sites.

We have made impressive strides in tourism in recent years. Awareness of the Province and its unique products has grown through our Special Celebrations.

Celebrating Marconi

In 2001, My Government has planned a year of celebration to bring global attention to Marconi's accomplishment and to Newfoundland and Labrador's remarkable history and participation in communications. My Government will also be hosting "Receiving the World: Celebrating Communications" an international communications technology conference. This conference and year-long celebrations will help us commemorate on December 12, 2001, the 100th Anniversary of the first transatlantic signal received by Marconi on Signal Hill.

As a priority in the coming year, My Government will review our tourism marketing strategy and develop a plan which allows the Province to build the recent successes of special celebrations into an effective longer-term marketing plan.

Health Care - Building a Strategic Plan

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

My Government is working toward building sustainable regions which have vibrant communities, and an important part of that strategy is having individuals who are healthy and well-educated.

My Government is continuing its commitment to ensure the people of this Province have access to services and programs enabling them to enjoy good health and well-being. In achieving this goal, My Government will strengthen partnerships with communities, have evidence-based decision-making, focus on the determinants of health in a holistic way, and integrate regional planning, delivery, and evaluation of programs and services.

My Government will ensure that these programs and services meet the needs of the people by stabilizing the operating budgets of our health care boards. My Government continues to regard improving the health of our people and the quality of our health care services as a top priority. In recent years, My Government has made significant financial investments in health care. Today, forty-two cents of every program dollar spent in this Province is invested in health care.

This year the Minister of Health and Community Services will play a lead role nationally as the Provincial/Territorial Co-Chair of Ministers Responsible for Health, to ensure that the federal government's commitment to health funding through the Canada Health and Social Transfer are fully met.

Early this year, My Government will bring forward its plans for spending on key elements of the federal/provincial agreement targeted at early childhood development, medical equipment and primary health care. Each of these plans will strengthen our approach to areas of strategic importance. For example, new medical equipment, with other provincial budget commitments in this area, will help reduce waiting lists for diagnostic services and reduce the length of stays in hospitals.

My Government is committed to having qualified people in the right place at the right time, so that our health care system can respond to the needs of our people.

Community Based Health

My Government will give greater emphasis over time to community-based health services and population health programs. This proactive approach to the delivery of health care will help ease the financial burdens that are associated with the institutional approach and give greater attention to the determinants of health in our population. In the last sitting of the House of Assembly, My Government tabled a report that addressed home support and home care issues. My Government will give priority to addressing these issues, such as the inadequate level of compensation that many of our home support and home care workers are paid.

Regional Health Forums

A major initiative of My Government in the coming year will be to build a vision for health care and community services for the future. The Minister of Health and Community Services will conduct a province-wide series of regional health forums where community partners can help government shape this vision. Future health care and community services must be based on shared values and approaches, and we are committed to finding the right balance among service delivery approaches which provide quality and accessibility.

Educating our Children

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

My Government has made significant changes in the structure and delivery of our education system. The restructured Department of Education is responsible for the provision of affordable, high quality primary, elementary, and secondary education to the children of the Province, including early childhood education. By placing early childhood education with the Department of Education, special attention can be focused on the conditions that contribute to high scholastic achievement and ensure our children's best chances at entrance into advanced studies, and the workforce.

The Report of the Ministerial Panel on Educational Delivery in the Classroom has presented us with an opportunity to renew and improve our educational system. My Government is proceeding to expeditiously implement the Ministerial Panel's recommendations.

My Government will also be implementing a long-term strategy to give real meaning to the Strategic Literacy Plan, "Words To Live By". An interdepartmental committee will be established by My Government to contribute to the implementation strategy and oversee its progress.

Distance education presents both a significant challenge and opportunity for meeting the needs of students in geographically dispersed areas of the Province. My Government is committed to the implementation of the new Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation. This Centre will provide many of our students with the tools they need to succeed.

Strategic Social Plan - A Proactive Approach

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

My Government continues to move aggressively in implementing its Strategic Social Plan, a proactive way to work with citizens to address social and economic issues together.

My Government will build on the critically important linkages between social and economic investments at the regional and community levels through improved integration of programs and services. Regional steering committees to foster long-term regional strategies and partnerships for social development are now in place.

In this International Year of the Volunteer, My Government will place a particular focus on strengthening our relationship with the volunteer sector which has played a strong and crucial role in improving the lives of the people

Ambitious Work Plan - Our Hopes, Dreams and Aspirations are to be fulfilled

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

My Government is committed to doing things differently. Today I have presented an overview of our work plan. It is an ambitious plan of action - one that will require a total commitment by all groups in our Province if our hopes, dreams and aspirations are to be fulfilled.

This is a bold and ambitious agenda, and one which we will achieve. The problems and difficulties we face as a people require leadership and fundamental change. We must address our challenges, as the alternative is simply not acceptable.

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

Estimates of Expenditures will be laid before you in due course and you will be asked to grant supply to Her Majesty. I invoke God's blessing upon you as you commence your labours in this Third Session of the Forty-Fourth General Assembly. May Divine Providence guide you in your deliberations.

His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor and the Vice-Regal party leave the Chamber.

Mr. Speaker returns to the Chair.

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

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, I give notice and ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, "An Act To Establish The Order Of Newfoundland And Labrador." (Bill 1)

Motion, the hon. the Government House Leader to introduce a bill, "An Act To Establish The Order Of Newfoundland And Labrador," (Bill 1)

On motion, Bill 1 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor has been pleased to make a Speech to the Members in this General Assembly. We shall take a few minutes to distribute the Speech to members.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Trinity North.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. ROSS WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker and hon. Members of this House, it is with great pleasure that I rise and respond to the Speech from His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor. It is also a privilege to be representing the District of Trinity North, and it is also an honour to be a part of a government that is putting forward a bold new plan of action as it carries out the mandate that it was given by the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

We are entering a period of change, confidence and challenge. It is difficult not to get excited about the potential in the future of Newfoundland and Labrador. The people of Trinity North are eagerly looking forward to being a part of that great future, and sharing in and contributing to the continued prosperity of this Province. It is important for all residents of Newfoundland and Labrador to have confidence in the people that they elect to represent them in the House of Assembly. It is important that government provide meaningful opportunity for public input in developing the policies that shape our future. It is important to ensure that the people of this Province have the opportunity to define the social programs that they have and how they are going to be delivered because that becomes a part of the fibre that holds the communities of this Province together.

Mr. Speaker, it is important that all the hon. Members of this House be accountable to the people who elected them. The agenda put forward by this government outlines its commitment to an open and transparent government and is fully accountable to the people of this Province. Government intends to make public all reports and studies. An Office of the Ombudsman will be established. The Freedom of Information Act will be reviewed and amended to ensure the improved access to information. The House of Assembly will be televised. These actions, I believe, will bring about greater confidence in the institutions of government.

The Speech from the Throne highlights a very ambitious agenda and comments on many important aspects of the Province's future. However, I would like to take a few moments to focus on some of those things that are important to the District of Trinity North. In this Province we have a very rich history and a worldwide reputation of being a friendly and hospitable people. Our communities have been enriched by networks of dedicated, hard-working volunteers who are committed to improving the quality of life in the communities that they serve, and I want to take this opportunity to thank the many volunteers of Trinity North for the contribution they have made to the communities in which they live. There will be many, I suspect, who will be worthy nominees for the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador.

In this International Year of the Volunteer we celebrate the work of volunteers. This past weekend I attended a charter night with the Lions Club in Trinity. That club was celebrating over twenty-two years of service to the communities that they serve. Not just to highlight one particular service organization, but within Trinity North there are five Lions Clubs and this year, in the International Year of the Volunteer, they are celebrating, collectively, 130 years of volunteer services to the communities that they serve. Mr. Speaker, it is important to recognize that it is the people who make this Province the great place that it is and a great place to live. We all benefit from its oil, its fish, its forestry and its gas resources but it is the people themselves who are the most valuable resource. It is that belief, in our people, that is reflected in the new structure of this government.

The creation of a new Department of Youth Services and Post-Secondary Education, as well as the new Department of Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs, are but two examples of missions of this government to reflect and focus on our people. We have heard many times a reference to our youth as being our future but this time, with this plan, with this government, we have outlined today a major commitment and a major investment in the future, by investing in our youth. The establishment of the Provincial Youth Advisory Council will provide a forum for the young people of Trinity North, and all parts of this Province, to provide input into the decisions that are going to affect their futures. The establishment of a Child Advocate will greatly enhance the quality of life for our children. This position will have an impact on the future development of policies and programs.

Mr. Speaker, and I am sure I speak for all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians when I say it is great to see an initiative that will make post-secondary education more affordable for our young people. The reduction of tuition fees at Memorial University, and taking initiatives to reduce the debt load of students graduating from post-secondary institutions, will indeed be welcomed relief for those students.

As an MHA representing a rural district I want to say thank you to a government for recognizing that students who have to leave their communities to attend post-secondary institutions in another community incur a greater cost than those who live in communities where those institutions are located. I am proud to be part of a government that has taken action to deal with an issue that has crippled many graduating students from our post-secondary institutions, and that sometimes have been a major obstacle for some of our young people pursuing post-secondary education.

For many years the Province has boasted of its pristine landscape and clean, healthy environment. Generations of Newfoundlanders have assumed that we would always have a safe, secure drinking water, and the residents of Trinity North are no different. Many of the forty communities in my district are served by community artesian wells, and I am extremely pleased by the priority of the newly established Department of Environment to bring forward a strategic plan to deal with the Province's water systems.


Mr. Speaker, as we reflect on this government's action plan it becomes apparent that it is focused on its people and improving the quality of life of those people, and creating a better and brighter future for the communities in which they live. As we continue to reflect on this government's plan, as outlined in the Speech from the Throne, we see continued emphasis on health care and education.

The Speech from the Throne also made it abundantly clear that the health care system remains our top priority. We will continue to invest in new technologies and improve the quality of our health care services, while at the same time foraging stronger partnerships with community levels, which are so necessary to the future survival of our health care system. When we see that there are forty-two cents of every program dollar spent on health care you have to acknowledge that that reflects a major commitment, by this government, on what has been identified by many people in this Province as its number one priority.

The people of Trinity North have had the good fortune to have improvements in their health care system. This past year we have seen the introduction of a new CAT Scan unit at the Dr. G.B. Cross Memorial Hospital. We are about to see the introduction of kidney dialysis units in Clarenville. We have seen the expansion of our home care programs in that area, but there is still one glaring gap in service in health care in that area. The people of Trinity North have asked me continuously to make representation in this House to ensure that the long-term care needs of the residents of Trinity North and area are dealt with, and that this government move forward in establishing a new long-term care facility in that community. The communities of Trinity North, and indeed, all communities in rural Newfoundland, are pleased to see that this government is acknowledging the need to enhance educational opportunities throughout the very geographically dispersed communities in the Province. This requires new and innovative approaches, and we welcome the establishment of a centre for distance learning and innovation.

Mr. Speaker, literacy is a key educational issue in this Province. Last week I had an opportunity to see how at least two schools in my district have been challenged by the government's new literacy program. I had an opportunity to present two cheques to two schools, one in Random Island and one in Port Rexton, for $2,500 for their participation in a literacy campaign undertaken by the Department of Education. As I talked to these students last week about their reading initiative in those two schools - and these are two small schools in rural Newfoundland who are participating in an initiative and a campaign to promote literacy. The principal of one of those schools said: The kids in this school are turned on to reading. I think that speaks highly of and reflects the kind of emphasis that this government has given to improving literacy in this Province. That is one school's response to that challenge.

The District of Trinity North represents a very diverse rural economy. I think it points to the potential that exists in many parts of rural Newfoundland to have a blending of the new and old industries. The district has three fish plants. It has a concentration of people who continue to have a career in the fishery. In Old and New Bonaventure, areas of Trinity Bay, in the Southwest Arm area and on Random Island, many people pursue a career in the fishery. Successful fishplant operations exist in Hickman's Harbour, Clarenville and Trouty. We have small scale manufacturing operations. They are manufacturing and exporting fibreglass boats and industrial equipment, together with some foundries; manufacturing and exporting precision parts to the U.S. We have successful tourism initiatives, and most of us have experiences in visiting Trinity. Trinity has become one of the most successful destination points for tourism in this Province.

The Town of Clarenville, which this year by the way is celebrating its 50th Anniversary as an incorporated town, probably one of the oldest incorporated towns in the Province, has developed into a service centre for the region. Recently, through initiatives of discovery of regional economic development boards, there have been a cluster of IT companies who are starting to set up in the Clarenville area. The District of Trinity North is a neighbor to the District of Bellevue and shares with that district the economic benefits of the industrial developments of Bull Arm, Whiffen Head and the oil refinery at Come by Chance. None of these strategies would be possible if government did not, through its strategic economic and social plan, provide the network of infrastructure programs to make that area a quality place in which to live and which to do business.

I am pleased to see the reflection in the Speech from the Throne today that government has continued to be committed to rural Newfoundland and Labrador. We are acting on the messages heard during the Jobs and Growth consultation by delivering the tools communities and regions need to control and shape their own destinies.

Regional development is sharply in focus for this government. The new Department of Industry, Trade and Rural Development will play a significant role in assisting communities to seize and build on their opportunities. A competitive tax regime, programs that simulate investment, and initiatives that support rural economic developments, are all essential ingredients in building on the promise of our future.

I think the Trinity North area is an example of how sound government policy and government working together in partnership with community groups and the private sector can create a successful, diversified economy within a particular region of the Province.

I am proud to be part of a government and to represent a district that has demonstrated that when communities work together and when government creates a supportive economic and social environment, the end result can be a successful, economically viable region.

Mr. Speaker, in conclusion, I would like to thank His Honour for his attendance here today. I move that a Select Committee be appointed to draft an Address in Reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JONES: Honourable Members of the House, it is indeed a privilege for me to stand today to second the motion that has been put forward by my colleague for Trinity North.

On behalf of the people of my district, Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair, I would first of all like to congratulate our new Premier and his new Cabinet. This is a time for continued renewal and change. This government will focus the priorities of the people of the Province and will do so with experience and with knowledge of our past. The new structure that this government has taken, and the action plan that has been outlined today, indicates the renewed vigor and renewed enthusiasm.

There are two clear themes that are emerging from this new government: listening compassionately to the concerns of the people of this Province, and tackling the problems with decisiveness. This new Premier and this new government does not shy away from change nor challenge in society, but rather addresses the issues and the important concerns that face our people head on.

This government has commited to increased openness and accountability. It is based on the underlining belief that people have the right to know how their government is being operated. It is also based on confidence in the people of this Province, the belief that if people have access to information and there is free and open debate about public policy, then better decisions will be made. A big part of this is the decision to televise the proceedings of the House of Assembly. This will make the operation of government more accessible to the people of this Province. It is a major step, and its impact should not be minimized.

Mr. Speaker, I was very pleased to see the focus that has been placed on children and youth in this Throne Speech. The commitment to establishing a Child Advocate to advance the concerns and issues of children is something which I feel very strongly about. I will be working very closely with the Minister of Health and Community Services to see that this position is put in place in a very timely and beneficial manner, to ensure that the rights and interests of our children are protected.

There should be no doubt about this government's commitment to the youth and the future of our Province. As was already indicated, the creation of the Provincial Youth Advisory Committee which will advise the new Department of Youth Services and Post-Secondary Education, the creation of a student investment corporation to develop a coordinated youth employment strategy, and addressing the problems of students debt and reducing tuition fees at Memorial University, these are all investments in our youth and in our Province, allowing our youth to have equal opportunities in society and equal input in government.

Mr. Speaker, I am also very pleased with the focus on Labrador in this Throne Speech. The new Department of Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs will play a very critical role in the development and delivery of public policy initiatives designed to maximize the potential of Labrador. This renewed focus on Labrador is a signal that this government recognizes the very critical role that the region has played in the past and will continue to play in the future of our Province.

We intend to pursue the development of major resource projects like the Lower Churchill and Voisey's Bay, but not to the detriment of the region or the Province. Resource development must be managed so that everyone benefits and all regions, and all residents, share in the opportunities of developments.

I believe that this new focus on Labrador bodes well for the settlement of land claims agreements with the Aboriginal groups. Land claims settlements are essential if the benefits of economic and social development in the region are to be shared fairly amongst all our residents.

Mr. Speaker, the fishery is an industry of great importance to the district that I represent. I am also pleased to hear in the Speech from the Throne that there is a commitment to very vigorously pursue the adjacency principle, to ensure that our historic access to our fishery resource is not jeopardized. The adjacency principle is an issue of great importance to everyone in this Province. It is what allows our communities, from one coast to the other, to create economic renewal.

Labrador's strong stand on adjacency has allowed us to bring our shrimp resources onshore for processing. This year we will open the first ever shrimp processing plant in Charlottetown, creating employment for approximately 120 fishers and fish plant workers.

We must work together to achieve a regional balance while maintaining the viability of the fishing industry. I believe that we can do this. We can achieve it by following the action plan that has been outlined today.

I represent a rural district of our Province, and I am very pleased that this government is committed to ensuring the availability of services throughout the Province. It is important that communities and regions be given the tools to control and shape their own future. The area that I represent has experienced a period of economic optimism. With the opening of the new highway, the road into Mary's Harbour this year, and the continued construction of a highway through Labrador, we are allowing our communities to be independent and to be innovative in achieving economic diversity.

Again, the Speech from the Throne has demonstrated that this government is prepared to lead by delivering straight answers and real solutions on issues that concern the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is evident that now is the time for proven leadership, someone who has served in more Cabinet positions than any other Member of the House of Assembly and has never refused the tough assignments.

This new Administration will develop realistic and achievable solutions. This government will be known for its reform, for its innovation, and for its implementation. We have many challenges and, as a government, we will continue to meet those challenges head on.

Newfoundland and Labrador has a promising economic future, and we have to make sure that all share in the Province's economic wealth. I am confident in the future that we will continue to be a very diverse and progressive society, and this Province and our new Administration will bring a new approach and a renewed vigor to governing.

It gives me great pleasure today to second the motion that has been put forward by my colleague, the Member for Trinity North.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I thought the closing of the Christmas session would be my last speech as Leader of the Opposition, but apparently it was not. I can only hope that in the near future, and I think it will be -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: No, it will not, I say to the minister. This will not be my last

I want to say to the Premier, first of all, congratulations on assuming the role of First Minister. I can assure you, on this side of the House, of our continued desire to work in the best interests of the Province, and where we see that government is doing that we will expedite those decisions that you make.

Before I move on, I would like to welcome also the guests in the gallery to yet another Throne Speech. This is my ninth Throne Speech, since first being elected, and each one brings with it, or tries to capture, a flavour of the political environment of the time that it is given. This one certainly tries to do that, and I will expound on that in a few moments. I want to assure you first of all, this is not my speech today so I am not going to hold people up too long.

My next task certainly is to congratulate two new members of the Assembly: Mr. Trevor Taylor, the Member for The Straits & White Bay North, and Mr. Wallace Young, the Member for St. Barbe. Congratulations, and welcome to the House of Assembly.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. E. BYRNE: We have an interesting role in this House, and this afternoon is not an opportunity for partisan shots. It never has been. It is an opportunity to respond to government's stated objectives or goals, or possibly their legislative agenda. The details always come after, in the Budget, and the devil is always in the details, but we will see and we will hold government accountable. Our role - we have a dual one. One is that we are the Official Opposition for Newfoundland and Labrador. In that role, in every piece of legislation, every Question Period, we stand up and ask ministers questions and hold them accountable. Our role is to do exactly that, to hold government accountable for their actions or lack of action. There is an old adage, and I believe it to be true, that government is only as good as the Opposition that sits in the House with them. We will strive to ensure that this government is as good as it can be, by being and striving to be better than they will be, and that is one of the roles that we have.

The second role that we have, which is equally and some people might say more important, is the role to be an alternative government; an alternative government to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, so that at some point, whether that is next month, next year, or two years from now, that we put forward an aggressive agenda, a forward-looking agenda, that people may see in us an alternative to the present Administration, and that is what makes this House of Assembly work. That is what makes it ideal. That is what gets issues debated, and that is what we will do as well. We will affirm today again that, as a party and as the Official Opposition, we will continue to work to the best of our ability to be that alternative.

I want to say, first and foremost, that this Throne Speech has some new elements to it. There have been some changes since this Administration's mandate in 1999. I just want to read for the record for a moment, because it is important, that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians expect their government - and this was under the theme that has been put forward today by government under accountability, trust, openness, transparency. I want to read just for a moment, if I may: Newfoundlanders and Labradorians expect their government to manage their public affairs in a transparent manner. People demand to be consulted but, more importantly, they expect to have their interests actually reflected in public policy. People demand accountability, responsibility and openness, principles that will guide the action of a PC government.

For the record, we said a PC government will release to the public, within thirty days of receiving it, every government commissioned report by a panel, review committee, task force, consultation process or commission, and will indicate at that point what our course of action would be.

We went on to say a PC government will mandate that all Cabinet Ministers must prepare and submit to the House of Assembly an annual departmental report. We said a PC government would establish a new Freedom of Information Act to reduce the cost of assessing information, to reduce the wait for information, and to ensure ministers actually provide the information requested where that information belongs in the public domain, and we will strike a committee of the House of Assembly to solicit public input and make recommendations regarding the content. A PC government will create a new privacy act that protects citizens and consumers against the unwarranted collection and use of information on citizens. A PC government will immediately reinstate the Office of the Ombudsman, eliminated by the previous administration in 1989. A PC government will restore the integrity of the Public Tendering Act, which the government has recently weakened. A PC government will restore the integrity of the public service commission as an independent body mandated to make impartial recommendations on the hiring and promotion of the public service.

This document was released during the last election. I do not raise it to say: me too, and you are taking that from us; because such childish behavior does not belong here. I say it in this regard, as I mentioned just a few moments ago, where this government moves in a direction that we have already established as a party and we believe is in the best interest of the people of the Province, we will immediately endorse it.

When you talk about the Freedom of Information Act, as you have talked about in the Throne Speech, we look forward to the legislation. We look forward to seeing the details of it because we all must acknowledge today that the act is not necessarily the problem. The act today, as it exists right now in body, in law, in regulation, allows for the timely release of all information requested. What needs to change is the attitude on the release of information. If we can strengthen that, and it provides government some solace - strengthen that so information we seek can be provided to them, then we will do it.

We talked about the Office of the Ombudsman, and I look forward to the legislation that reinstates that. One of the huge and most important questions of that office will be: Who does that person report to? Does it report to this Legislature? From what I read and from what the Premier and the Speech from the Throne has said, it seems that it does. That is important, that it reports to all of us, not a line department.

The introduction of a Child Advocate is extremely important. I believe that all members and government have come to that conclusion. We came to it some time ago. What is important about that office as well: Where will that office report to? Will it report directly to the House of Assembly as the Auditory General does? Where the Auditor General's report - there is no screening aspect to it. It is what it is, and it is tabled in this House for all to see what it is. That is very, very important.

Lastly, on the notion of accountability and openness, I applaud the government for the introduction of televising the House of Assembly. It is time. Every other jurisdiction in the country has moved on that and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador deserve no less in terms of seeing what their members actually do, what we debate, and how we hold each other accountable. This is the forum to do it. I am not sure, Premier, if we are going to be able to live up to CBC radio's billing of XQP, their own self promotion, but we will see.

On the social side of the agenda we have moved into an era where there is recognition. Again, we will see in legislation because the goals that have been outlined here with respect to post-secondary institutions are something that are inarguable. They are self-evident, but the legislation will tell us. Will it apply only to certain people? Will it apply equally across the board? Will all young people, irregardless of where they live or where they might be from, have equal access to a post-secondary education? That's the details, I suppose, that will be tabled in this House through government's legislation.

With respect to government making a further commitment to ensuring that women in politics and throughout bureaucracy play a greater role - again, it is a notion that - who could argue with it? We can only applaud government. I will say again, that as we move along the legislative agenda and we hear what government has said - and will they, in fact, deliver? That will be our role. I commit to that today, to performing that role to ensure that the commitments that this government has made on the social side of the agenda will be lived up to.

I am somewhat saddened though. I expected, on the social side of the agenda, something else that I feel strongly about, I feel passionate about, that government - and I urge them today to consider, in a very sincere way, a recommendation that I will make. We live in a Province where the population is aging. We live in a country where the population is aging, but never more severe than in this Province. What is lacking, I think, in this Throne Speech is the attention given to seniors. I would like to recommend, and say again for the record, that seniors in this Province face special challenges, unlike any other group. Many are faced with special expenses and are struggling to live on fixed incomes. Many face abuse and neglect that often goes unnoticed. Many have special health care needs, special diets. Seniors must, in my view, be reassured that their government will be there to help them in their times of need. Our population is aging. We recommended this in the past and I recommend it again, that we give greater attention to seniors' issues, that we shine a spotlight on the special concerns of seniors in this Province by establishing a secretariat responsible for seniors' issues alone. Our seniors need, in my view, an identifiable agency within government to research, to plan and coordinate innovative programs and activities on their behalf.

Let me say on the resource side of the agenda put forward - and this is where I am somewhat concerned. I would like to quote for you from the 1999 Throne Speech immediately following the last general election. I have the actual copies here, and I will refer then to what was said in this year's Throne Speech because this is a new government, in a sense. It has a new mandate, it has a new Premier.

In 1999, when the general election was called, then Premier - now former Premier Brian Tobin - went to the polls and the people, and sought a mandate on this question: Who do you wish to negotiate? He asked the people of this Province: Who do you wish to finish the job on Lower Churchill negotiations and Voisey's Bay? During the election there was some speculation about ore being shipped out of the Province, speculation about the then Mines and Energy minister, that the government policy would allow ore, probably, to be shipped out of the Province. The then Premier, in the opening of a candidate's headquarters in Gander, when asked the question directly, replied: It is our policy - meaning government, this was in the middle of the general election - to have all of the ore processed in the Province, but beyond that we are not prepared to discuss any alternatives or options with Inco or with anybody else until, first of all, Inco formally moves away from the position that they took earlier this year - last year in fact - when they said that their position was for a project that would see a mine/mill operation in Labrador and the ore shipped out of the Province entirely.

In the 1999 Throne Speech - because this essentially is the hub of this government's mandate. When you talk about having the legal right to form your mandate or to opt it out, yes you do. I believe the moment that we start stepping outside of what the mandate was sought for and what it was given, then we have other questions that we must ask each other in this House and in this Province. I will quote directly from the 1999 Throne Speech: "A loud and clear message has been sent to INCO by the people of Newfoundland and Labrador: there will be no mine at Voisey's Bay unless the ore is processed in this province. That is the choice. It is INCO's to make. My Government's position - the position of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador - will not waver."

Mr. Speaker, we have done our homework on this issue, as we have done with all others. I want to say clearly to the Premier, and to the government, that you have every right to make a deal. You have every right to enter into negotiations, but I will put you on notice today that if that deal falls outside the parameters on which you, your former boss, the former Premier, and this government have sought a mandate and received it, then Sir, in my view, you and this government will have a choice to make. Either they can proceed in this Assembly, which they have every legal right to do - if it falls outside those parameters, even if they have no political right to proceed - or you can take that negotiated deal, if you have one, that falls outside those parameters, and take it to the people of the Province and ask them to comment on it. Essentially, that is the hub of the position of your government. That is the one that you lived with, as a former minister in a number of capacities. It is a commitment made by this government to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador; and in that regard, I can assure you here today, we will indeed hold you accountable to that.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Let me first of all welcome our guests who are joining us here today.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. LUSH: I just want to ensure that the hon. member has leave of the House because, if not -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. LUSH: He has leave? Fine. Okay.

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

MR. HARRIS: I would like to welcome our guests here today, to join with us in hearing the Speech from the Throne. I was reminded by the Leader of the Opposition that it was his ninth speech. I think this is my twelfth opportunity to listen to the Speech from the Throne, read by the Lieutenant-Governor in this House. This is also my first opportunity publicly to congratulate the new Premier on taking on the new role as Premier of this Province. Also, may I say by way of compliment to him and his government, it is very good to see a strong group of women both in the front benches of this House and in Cabinet, and in fact in the senior levels of government.

Mention was made in the Throne Speech of the role of women in politics. It is something that our party has been very interested in. We, in our own political parties, have responsibilities to promote equality of women and put forth strong women candidates, and find ways of promoting equality of representation in bodies. I think we, as a Legislature, should also consider ways that can be done. I know a number of years ago a motion was presented to this House to try and see whether the electoral system could promote greater equality of women in public life.

I want to compliment the speakers, the mover and seconder of the motion, who, before this House, set up a committee to respond to the Speech from the Throne, as is the tradition of the House to do that. Both members gave a very fine speech in recognition of the importance of their own districts and how they have a responsibility here to fight for them. The Leader of the Opposition talked about the role of the Official Opposition in holding government to account and in preparing for government. We, too, in the New Democratic Party, have a strong role to pursue vigorously and vigilantly in this House the questions that need to be asked, the positions that government has taken on issues of the day, and put forth our alternatives, our solutions and our challenges to the problems of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

There are some very positive aspects of what has been presented here today. I want to especially note the appointment by government, the establishment of a ministry for Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs, with a minister in charge of that department. It is an important step. Not only is it an important step but also a very significant and vital role to play in government and in this Province. There are many issues, complex issues, related to Labrador affairs, and in particular with our Aboriginal communities, problems to be solved, fairness to be adjudicated, issues such as land claims, resource development, and a fair role in all of that is a most important aspect of what we are going through in this Province today.

The important areas of resource development, of course, have been touch upon. I say to you, Premier, and to your government, that you can expect vigorous debate in this House and from this quarter on issues of resource development in the Province. We have already had some public words about the negotiations over Voisey's Bay, and the consequences to this Province of a deal that might be very advantageous to certain parties outside of this Province but not as advantageous as it ought to be to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and equalization is only part of it. Clearly, the issues of royalties, taxes, resources and processing are at the top of the list as well.

On the issue of our offshore oil and gas development, the Speech from the Throne mentioned that the Hibernia field has exceeded expectations. It has certainly exceeded the expectations of the people who are the primarily beneficiaries of the Hibernia field, but it has not met the expectations of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, particularly with respect to the kind of royalties that we might receive.

We need to start on the road to redress some of the inequities that exist in our resource development, and I welcome an opportunity to see the review of the mining and mineral tax legislation and regime that has been initiated in the Throne Speech and mentioned here.

I would like to see, and given that the Child Advocate and other social issues that have been brought forward have been debated in this House for a number of years since I have been here, it is worthy of recognizing that the Child Advocate notion was the product of a select committee of this House looking into the children's interests and came forth from that committee as a unanimous recommendation to be brought forth, and I welcome its adoption by this government.

I would like to urge the Premier and the government to also consider that all of the members of this House, in addition to playing a role in representing their individual constituents, have an important role to play in the shaping of legislation and policy, and the review of such an important issue as the Mining and Mineral Rights Tax Act should be something that should be reviewed by a committee of this House as was proposed, in fact, back in December of 1995 when certain revisions were brought in at that time. I would urge the government and this Premier - I would agree that the Speech from the Throne is an ambitious one, it is an ambitious plan, but I would urge this government, as part of its changing face that it is trying to put on government, that it also see the role of the Legislature and the individual members improving and being an important part of that.

I am very pleased to know that this government wants to move ahead as quickly as possible with televising the debates of this House. It is something that I have advocated and supported for many years. It is something that we have all, I think, wanted to achieve, but I think it is also important, if we go forward with this, that we ensure that we have full coverage of the House of Assembly so that we can have gavel to gavel coverage available throughout the Province wherever cable television is available, so that the Member for Lake Melville or the Member for Labrador West or the Member for Burin-Placentia West can speak in this House and be seen and heard directly by their constituents when they speak, and not just have a feed from this House that the media may use from time to time as they see fit.

I think it is very important that we establish, as a principle for this, that it ought to be access to this House of Assembly by people throughout Newfoundland and Labrador in their communities so that they may see what goes on here and perhaps get a greater understanding of some of the problems that we face in trying to make legislation and deal with the issues of the day. That is not problems that we face as a Legislature; it is the problem that government faces, the problems that we all face. I think that would be an important step forward.

There will be lots of opportunities throughout the session to debate all of the matters that were raised not only in the Throne Speech but also the ones that were left out. The Throne Speech talks about the prosperity in this Province but, of course, we need to be reminded that there are too many people in this Province who are wondering when this prosperity will hit them; when they will get to benefit from the prosperity that is hinted at in GDP rates that sounds good when government pronouncements are made but makes no difference to their lives.

I want to point out that the Throne Speech did not talk about some of the major issues that we are dealing with in terms of child poverty, in terms of inadequate programs for people who are disabled, in terms of a lack of sufficient programs for people who are in need of hospital - in particular home care - and those who work in that industry. It was mentioned in the Throne Speech. What was not mentioned, of course, is that government itself has played a very strong role in keeping the home care workers in, in fact, a disadvantaged position. That is something that we would hope to raise and, when the measures are brought forward, to vigorously analyze and advocate on behalf of those working in the home care industry in this Province.

We did not hear about one problem that we are going to be facing very shortly, and that is the important public sector negotiations that are ongoing and may reach a crisis point in a couple of weeks if government does not respond in a positive way to the crisis. We did not hear about the public sector pensioners who today, once again, have been demonstrating and pointing out that they have been left out of any increases since 1989.

There are many things that have to be raised in this House and that we all, as members, have a responsibility from our own political points of view to bring forward. Please be assured, Mr. Speaker, that we will continue to do that as vigorously and with the strongest level of advocacy, within the rules of this House, that we are able to do.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I must say, it is a great privilege and honor for me today to rise as the Premier and the leader of this particular group in the government to make some comments - some brief comments today, you will be pleased to know - because I know members opposite and colleagues in my own caucus do understand that when I say I will take a few minutes, they used to start setting their watches but now they turn over the page on the calendar. I promise I will be brief today in a few comments that I did want to pass along at the opening of this Session of the Legislature.

I would like first and foremost to thank His Honour for being here today and being most gracious in presenting the Speech from the Throne, and also, of course, to our mover and seconder, the Member for Trinity North and the Member for Cartwright - L'Anse au Clair in moving the motion that we strike a committee to have an Address to this particular speech presented on our behalf at some appropriate point in time in the future.

I note that there were some comments from my two colleagues, the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the NDP. It sounds like it is going to be too chummy in here for my liking, Mr. Speaker. I know they tried to raise a few things that they thought were omitted, but I sense that they were agreeing with just about everything they saw in this version of the Red Book.


PREMIER GRIMES: That is a little better. I like the tone a little better already, Mr. Speaker.

We do invite accountability, openness and so on, because that is really what we are all about; that is what this particular House of Assembly is about; that is what this Legislature is about. That is why we are here, to do the business on behalf of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador in an open and transparent fashion so that everybody, as they should, will judge us based on what we say we are going to do, what we say we believe in, and then what we actually do and what we actually deliver.

We would invite total inspection at all times. There was reference made today to the Red Book of 1999. We invite everybody in Newfoundland and Labrador, not only members in this Legislature, to challenge us on the platform statements that we ran for as a team two short years ago, and supplemented by the plan that we outlined today for the second half of that mandate. We would gladly open ourselves to constant inspection by the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, an assessment and an analysis on a regular basis, as to whether or not we are being true to the commitments, to the platform that we ran on, and to the plan and the mandate that is laid out here today in this particular Throne Speech. We invite it, we would welcome it, because we plan to live to our words and to deliver, and we expect that we are going to hold ourselves to that standard. We know the opposition parties will hold us to that standard here in this Legislature, and we invite everybody in Newfoundland and Labrador to hold us accountable for what we say we will do as their government.

I would like to thank as well the Justices for being here today, and our dignitaries representing other governments and the churches. I might make a note today, too, that one of my own brothers, who is in another more noble calling, I would suggest, even than politics - not that we are not noble - is here representing the clergy as a leader in his own right with the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador. I do note that when the members of the clergy come to these official functions, it is not just for show; it is because they really do believe, as political leaders in Newfoundland and Labrador, that we are elected, that we hold high office, and that they share with us - and they pray for us, actually, every single one of them, that we will have the divine providence and the good grace and the judgement given to us, that we would need to make good decisions on behalf of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

I am delighted to see the whole group here today, and particularly my brother as well. It is always a pleasure to have you back. As a matter of fact, one of the issues we were talking about, and it was mentioned several times already, was televising the Legislature. Now you notice today is one of the days that we televise the Legislature. For those - because there are some in the galleries today who are regular and frequent visitors to this place, I think they are noticing today a slightly different level of behavior and decorum. Maybe it is the television cameras, I do not know. Maybe it is our special guests.

One of the things we have to think about is not only televising the Legislature but possibly inviting our special guests to come into every single session, every single day. I am sure they would find other reasons to be busy about the work that they are engaged in, rather than want to come here every single day that the Legislature is open, but we do appreciate your presence here today.

I have one other point, before I make my few brief comments. One of the things - I do not think there is any time limit today. Sometimes we are restricted to ten minutes, or twenty minutes, or so on. One of the things I have tried to do, without success I must say, in this Legislature, is to extend my speaking time by suggesting to the Speaker, who is in charge of all of us and the whole operation, that I have not really started my speech yet, Mr. Speaker, so could you restart the clock? I know it does not work. Hopefully, I will not need to beg for mercy today.

Before the few comments I wanted to make, I would also like to take just a minute to sincerely, on behalf of all of us, welcome our two new members to the Legislature: the new Member for St. Barbe, and the new Member for The Straits & White Bay North. We recognize this, and I think in this Legislature we recognize it more so than anyone else: it is a very small, select group. There are only forty-eight seats in this Legislature, and only forty-eight people in Newfoundland and Labrador who can gain the right to come and sit in this Legislature and speak on behalf of the people of the Province.

The other piece is this: For each one of us, and for each one of the two new members, in your own riding there is only one person who gains the right to come to this Legislature to speak for the people of St. Barbe and to speak for the people of The Straits & White Bay North in this House of Assembly.

I think, when we remind ourselves of that, we should remind ourselves constantly of what a great honor and privilege we have been given, each one of the forty-eight of us, to come in here and to stand here and speak for our constituents and then speak collectively for everybody in Newfoundland and Labrador.

We do sincerely welcome you. We do know that we will have differences of opinion but it seems like, again, from today, they will be very few and far between this time around, because there seems to be almost unanimous approval for this document already. I am delighted to see the indications of that at this point in time.

Noted as well is the notice of motion today given by my good friend and colleague, the Government House Leader, for Bill 1, An Act To Establish The Order of Newfoundland and Labrador. Again, I think nothing could be more fitting and appropriate for this government as a symbol of something significant and meaningful that we want to do in the International Year of the Volunteer, because all of us recognize that Newfoundland and Labrador is the great place that it is largely due to the contributions of volunteers in every single community throughout the Island and in Labrador. We want to recognize that kind of contribution. We look forward to debate on the bill, the introduction of The Order of Newfoundland and Labrador, so that on an ongoing basis, year in and year out, we will have a mechanism and a vehicle by which we can recognize significant contributions to the Province by volunteers from all walks of life in all parts of this wonderful Province that we live in.

Mr. Speaker, just a couple of things with respect to the comments from the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the NDP. We, too, Mr. Leader of the Opposition, thought that you might be speaking to us in that role the last time at Christmas. Not that we are disappointed to have you back, but one thing for sure, I think, if the leader of your party does not soon take some opportunity to come into the Legislature, we might be hearing a lot more from you for a long time into the future yet.

We can only encourage, through you and to him, that he would want to join the club of forty-eight and look for an opportunity to come into this Legislature to take a rightful and meaningful role in the Legislature as well as being the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party; because we do appreciate your efforts as the Leader of the Opposition, and I do thank you again for outlining the reasonable and responsible approach that you plan to take, because you have demonstrated that. I say that for everyone here to recognize and to know, you have demonstrated that in your time as the Leader of the Opposition, as has your colleague to your right, that you have taken the challenges, you have agreed with the government when it has been something that has been good for Newfoundland and Labrador, and you have resisted and opposed and pointed out flaws where you thought flaws existed in actions and initiatives being proposed by the government. We do recognize and appreciate that.

You talked about some ideas that we seem to maybe have borrowed from another party. Let me tell you this: that is the real advantage of being a Liberal. That is the real beauty of the Liberal Party.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: That is what it is all about, Mr. Speaker. We do not feel and we have never, ever, felt constrained by any particular point of view. We have always been a party that has been open to any good idea, any good suggestion, any good initiative, no matter where it might first ever come from. The origin of a good idea, a good thought, a good concept, a good program, a good service for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, is not what is important. It is a government just like this one, a Liberal government, that will take the idea, the notion, the concept, whatever it is, wherever its origin, and say: Let's debate that. Let's determine whether or not that is for the betterment of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador; and, if it is, guess what? Let's do it. Let's make it happen.

Mr. Speaker, we are delighted to be moving forward with these initiatives and we are delighted that they have actually shown up in other documents other than Liberal red books and Liberal platforms, because they have also shown up - I guess you fellas have an orange book, do you?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


PREMIER GRIMES: It has shown up in the orange or yellow books, too, Mr. Speaker.

Not to take it lightly, but the ideas happen to be good ideas that have broad-based support in Newfoundland and Labrador, and we are just absolutely delighted to be a government that is in power, in government, in control at the time when we can do something about it and can take the initiatives, because they are good ones, and proceed with them and make them happen on behalf of everybody in the Province.

I do concur that there are two or three matters that have been raised with respect to our seniors, with respect to some poverty issues, with others that are not specifically mentioned in this Throne Speech. It is fairly comprehensive and wide-ranging as it is, and we do expect to deal with other issues than those that have been articulated in the written print today, and we know that we will be challenged to do so by the members of the Legislature as we go through this session.

Let me make these few brief comments, then, of my own, because those were from someone else, the ones I made before. We have talked about change, confidence and challenge in this particular Throne Speech. I have spoken publicly on a couple of occasions about the new structure of government that has been articulated in this Throne Speech. We will speak about it in this Legislature again. We will speak about it publicly as people explore what it really means to the young people of Newfoundland and Labrador to have a new Department of Youth Services and Post-Secondary Education. Is it more than just structure, organization, a department, words? Is it something meaningful for young people? We know that time will tell that it is something meaningful for the young people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and we look forward to showing that and demonstrating that over the next months and years.

The separation of the Department of Labour: The Leader of the NDP brought out today the whole notion that we are going to be challenged by a particular labour issue in the next three or four weeks. The whole notion that we will pay specific and deliberate attention to the labour relations issues, the labour climate in Newfoundland and Labrador, is more than just a symbol, more than just a signal. It is real that we do have to dedicate resources, time, energy, effort, through a department, through a ministry, through a minister who will take the time to make sure that we are exploring anything and everything with respect to labour relations in the Province so that we are on a better standing and footing than we may been in some years in the past.

The same thing with respect to environmental issues, and dedicated attention to those issues that impact upon every economic development opportunity in Newfoundland and Labrador, but also on many social development issues that also have environment impacts of one description or another. We will see what the benefit is of having a dedicated, stand-alone department.

We are looking forward to the work to be done by the Deputy Premier in his Department of Industry, Trade and Rural Development, as we marshal all the possible forces and sources of help and input from the government in terms of those people who have a good idea for a business development enterprise in all regions of Newfoundland and Labrador, because we do accept the challenge. We do accept the challenge that prosperity in a region or two has to be spread and shared on a broader basis throughout the Island and into Labrador, and we look froward to trying to meet that particular challenge.

Mr. Speaker, all of us recognize, and it has been said many times, that there are issues that are specific to Labrador but have an impact not only on Labrador and Labradorians but on everybody in Newfoundland and Labrador, and the focus of a new Department of Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs would be to make sure that we pay the necessary attention to all of those particular issues.

We have talked about the whole notion of openness and accountability. We have seen some of it already. Even in the last few days we have had reports and studies that have been commissioned for the government that, unlike times in the past, as soon as they have gotten to a minister's desk, and in some cases even before they have gotten to a minister's desk, they have been released to the public of Newfoundland and Labrador so that everybody can study the issue together. I still absolutely remain firmly convinced, as do the members on this side of the Legislature, that even the opposition, even in the darkest days when they do not want to agree with the government because it is just not what they want to do - that does not happen very often, I understand - even when you just don't want to agree for the sake of not agreeing, if you have the same studies, the same reports, the same information, the same options, the same recommendations that we are confronted with as the government, nine times out of ten, if not more often, you would come to the same conclusion that we do, because all of us are very much alike. We are Newfoundlanders and Labradorians from all walks of life, from all parts of the Province, and we learn from what people recommend to us and suggest to us. We get the best advice we can, and we try to do what is in the best interest of the people of the Province. We will continue to do that.

We have had examples with the home support study report. It was in hands of everybody in Newfoundland and Labrador. We will see in the Budget, in a week or ten days or so, whether or not the Minister of Finance can spell out for us which parts of that we might be able to implement on an early and timely basis.

We have had recommendations with respect to the Workplace Health Safety & Compensation Commission, very important recommendations, that the Minister of Labour has in her hands, but it is also in the hands of everybody in Newfoundland and Labrador, so that they can see them as we work towards and before we make any final decisions that might require the work, effort, and attention of this Legislature. Those kinds of things happen regularly.

We just signed a new contract with a 130 megawatt recall of power from the Upper Churchill. It is in the hands of everybody and anybody in Newfoundland and Labrador who wants to examine the details of it, because we are convinced it is a good deal, and we are convinced that anyone else that would study it and examine it would also conclude that it is a good deal for Newfoundland and Labrador. We are proud to make those kinds of documents and that type of information available to everybody as we live to the whole notion of openness and accountability rather than just talk about openness and accountability.

Other issues have been mentioned here today. We look forward to the debate on the proper reinstatement of the Ombudsman, or Review Commissioner. We look to a debate on the proper establishment of a Child Advocate office for Newfoundland and Labrador, and we look forward to the input and the suggestions and the ideas from members opposite because we do not claim to be the possessors of all knowledge, all good ideas, and all the information. We will gladly accept input because, more than anything else, not only do we want to do those things, we want to do them in the best fashion to serve the interest of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, not to serve the interest of the elected government; because an Ombudsman isn't for the government, a Child Advocate isn't for the government. These officers, these offices, these institutions, are for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and we are charged with the responsibility, all of us, to make sure that we institute them properly and appropriately if we are going to do so.

There will be a number of challenges ahead of us, Mr. Speaker, and we look forward to being challenged in this Legislature at every opportunity as we make decisions on behalf of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and we will gladly hold ourselves up to the light of day, every day, to defend what we do, to explain where we are and why we are there, and to do that for the full period of time; because our intention with that kind of approach is to very proudly go forward in a couple of years' time and knock on the doors of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, saying: We said we would do some things. Judge us on our record.

We intend to provide good government for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. This Throne Speech today, along with and as a supplement and a complement to the platform of 1999, will be our commitment to what we plan to deliver before we go back to the people, looking again to have their trust and confidence so we can continue to provide government for them in a manner they want, need, respect and deserve in Newfoundland and Labrador.

We do look forward to the debate in the days ahead. We do again thank His Honour for delivering the Speech from the Throne today, we do thank the mover and the seconder, and I am grateful for the participation of the Leader of the Opposition, the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi, and we look forward to a very productive session in this Legislature.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that an Address of Thanks be presented to His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor in reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne with which he has been pleased to open the present session of the House of Assembly.

The members of the Select Committee will be: the Member for Trinity North, the Member for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair, and the Member for St. Barbe.

All those in favour of the motion, ‘aye'.


MR. SPEAKER: Against?

I declare the motion carried.

Notices of Motion

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

MR. LUSH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Seeing that there are no Notices of Motion, I will give the motion that is generally given at this particular time after a Throne Speech, and that is that the House not open the next day. The reason for that is to give hon. members sufficient time to study, evaluate, analyze and synthesize this rather progressive, forward-looking Liberal document.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. LUSH: Having said that, Mr. Speaker, I will make the appropriate motion. I do move that this House adjourn until Thursday at 1:30 p.m.

On motion, the House at its rising adjourned until tomorrow, Thursday, at 1:30 p.m.