The House met at 1:30 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

Statements by Members

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for The Straits & White Bay North.

MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to inform Members of the House that the Conche Girls Broomball Team, participating at the National Broomball Competition Championship in Kitchener, Ontario this past week and weekend, won the Competition Sportsmanship Award.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: This was their first national competition and their first exposure to full body contact broomball. Their accomplishment is attributed, of course, to their school, the people of Conche and to their great teacher and coach, Ida Gardiner.

I would to ask all Members of the House to join me in congratulating the Conche team. Also, I would like to mention the boys team who also won the Sportsmanship Award from Stephenville, and pass on our congratulations to both teams and welcome them back home tonight.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Burin-Placentia West.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS M. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, a short while ago I advised this hon. House that a constituent of my district, Brian Francis of Burin, had been nominated as a finalist, as Junior Male Athlete of the Year.

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today in this hon. House and congratulate Brian on his naming as Junior Male Athletic of the Year at the 2000 Sports Newfoundland and Labrador Annual Awards that were presented over the weekend.

Mr. Francis received forty-seven votes to win the award. He had a stellar season in 2000 after playing with the Canada Games Team in the Burin Peninsula Championship and the Challenge Cup League. After his team won the Burin Peninsula championship Brian was named MVP and was also an all star in the Challenge Cup League. He is currently attending St. Francis Xavier University on a soccer scholarship and is a member of the university soccer team. I congratulate Brian on his victory and his achievement. This is another great example of the high caliber of athletes in this Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Harbour Main-Whitbourne.

MR. HEDDERSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to congratulate the school community of All Hallows Elementary in North River. Their principal, Mr. Peter Laracy, staff, students and indeed the whole community of parents for sponsoring the 2000-2001 Newfoundland and Labrador finals of the Great Canadian Geography Challenge this past Saturday.

I would ask the Members of the House to recognize and congratulate Ms Darcie Cohen of Prince of Wales Collegiate here in St. John's, who is the first place finisher; Mr. Allan Caldwell of MacDonald Junior High here in St. John's as the second place finisher; and Ms Danni Dickson of Musgravetown as the third place finisher. Both Darcie and Allan will travel to Ottawa in May to compete in the national finals hosted by Alex Trebek of Jeopardy! fame. The top finalist of that competition will join the Canadian team competing in the International Olympics to be held in July, 2001.

The challenge was organized by the Canadian Council for Geographic Education with the help of hundreds of teachers and volunteers. Corporate sponsors include Royal Canadian Geographical Society and the HSBC Bank of Canada. Some 250,000 students in 1,280 Canadian schools participate in this event. The challenge begins in the classroom with school winners going to provincials. This year, in Newfoundland and Labrador, there was a site at All Hollows in North River with something like twenty some odd students but also in Labrador - I believe in Churchill Falls, Labrador West and Goose Bay - there were also sites set up to accommodate those students.

Peter Laracy, provincial coordinator, was overwhelmed by the student participation and impressed with this knowledge.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. HEDDERSON: By leave, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. HEDDERSON: He said: "While literary development in math and language are important, geographic literacy is essential in a world where students can access that world at the click of a button." The contest is designed to generate an interest in geography among school-age children and to do so in a fun and interactive fashion.

I would ask that the members, and in particular the Premier, the Minister of Education, the Minister of Youth Services, to acknowledge the achievement of Darcie, Allan and Danni, and of the participation of all the students in this worthwhile educational activity, and certainly the host schools for doing a great job at it.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to congratulate the students and teachers of Gonzaga High School for their amazing production of The Music Man at the St. John's Arts and Culture Centre from March 29 to March 31.

They have taken this difficult and demanding famous Broadway musical and have given us a reproduction that can only be called remarkable. The audience was truly impressed.

Many students from Gonzaga, along with student from St. Pius X, St. Bonaventure's and MacDonald Drive Junior High, performed with a level of professionalism and charm that can only be attributed to expert direction, long months of preparation and a great deal of talent.

For this huge undertaking, congratulations are due to the director and vocal coach, Jacinta Mackey-Graham; musical director, Korona Brophy; choreographer, Mara Noftall; technical director for set design and construction, Ben Warren; and producer Tom McGrath.

I wish time would permit me to list all those in the cast, crew and orchestra for this production, because they really do deserve special commendations.

I congratulate them all.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Oral Questions


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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I want to give the Premier the opportunity today to answer this question: What efforts are being made right now by government to negotiate an end to the public service strike, by public servants in the Province, whose work obviously is so important to everyone in this Chamber and every citizen of the Province, so that there may be a successful conclusion to this strike so people can return to their jobs and continue to provide the essential and public services that are provided to the people of the Province?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

It is a very important question, a very serious one. Whenever the public services of our Province are brought to a halt it is a very important issue to all of us, particularly in light of what we are expecting this evening with respect to weather.

Mr. Speaker, everyone is on standby and as I understand, as we speak, there are some preliminary discussions occurring, not at our level, but with conciliators. That is as much as I can say at this point in time.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: I would like to ask the Premier a second question, Mr. Speaker. Will he confirm that although the negotiations which have been occurring between government and the public service sector unions since October 2, is my understanding, for a period of six months, that government put its first formal offer on the table late Saturday night directly before or just shortly before the indication for a strike mandate, which would occur one minute after 12:00 midnight on Saturday? Can the Premier confirm that, please?

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

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

No, that is not the fact in terms of a chronology of what happened. Formally, government placed the offer of 3-3-3 on the table on March 23. That offer sat with the union for a full week until five minutes to 12:00 midnight. The following Friday, when we got the first counter-offer from the union, at which point it included not only a counter-offer but a number of other outstanding issues added on to the money package, including pensions, reclassification, and a number of other outstanding items. It was a full week, Mr. Speaker, before we got the first counter-proposal to the formal offer we put on the table, as was requested of us by the negotiators.

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

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

This is an important question because there is a perception publicly - obviously, we are just coming to the situation in terms of being informed of what has taken place or what has not taken place. This is critical because it has been referenced this morning publicly that the government never put an offer on the table formally, a written offer on the table formally, until Saturday night at about 10:30 or 11:00. I wonder if the minister could elaborate on that? I am not standing here making an accusation, I want to be clear, because I see some members shaking their heads. It is an opportunity in this gallery to publicly set the record straight.

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

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

I look forward and take advantage of the opportunity to set the record straight, as I have been trying to do over the last number of days, particularly with respect to outstanding issues. The first formal offer that government put forward on behalf of the people of the Province was on Friday, March 23, when it formally tabled its 3-3-3 per cent offer. That offer was certainly out verbally but, as was pointed out correctly, according to our labour relations people, it had not been formally tabled. The first opportunity we had to formally table that was when we got back to the table after the strike vote was conducted on Friday, March 23.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: What the minister is saying, then, is that from October 2 up until March 23, there was no formal offer being put on the table and what was actually occurring was, through the media, a public negotiation and not a formal negotiation.

I would like to ask the Premier this question - and you would know it; you have been a former union leader, as has the President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance - what sort of strategy was involved in putting an offer down seven days before a strike deadline, so that people could negotiate formally? What was the strategy by government in not putting that offer before the negotiating table formally - because it is important that the distinction be made, formally - on the table so it could be dealt with? What was the strategy involved in that?

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

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

The Leader of the Opposition raises a concern that we also shared with respect to not getting a counter-offer for a full week after we had placed our formal first offer on the table. In fact, any number of times through our chief negotiators, not directly - because, as everybody knows, we were dealing through conciliation - we, on a number of occasions, went to NAPE and CUPE and said that we needed to have the remnants, the package, of what it would take to create a deal. It was not until the following week that we got that possibility to build from deal.

Both myself and the Premier have had union experience, admittedly. We all know that deals are generally made in the last week of negotiations and sometimes, as the saying goes, in the eleventh hour; but we, too, were extremely concerned. I mentioned it publicly, I mentioned it through the conciliators and through our own negotiators, that we needed to see what the union counter-offer was after we put our 3-3-3. Admittedly again, everyone was aware that we had approximately 3 per cent on the table for the first three years, everybody knew that, but technically and formally it was not tabled until March 23, when they returned back from conducting a strike vote in the Province; in fact, one in which they referred to throughout their strike vote but acknowledged as well that it had not been formally tabled. From our best advice, we had to formally table that offer before we could expect a counter-offer.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Given your background, Premier, and your Minister of Finance's background, surely you did not need advice from your own public servants that you would need to table formally an offer on the table a week before the strike deadline.

I ask the question again: What was the strategy? Why didn't you table the offer a month before, so that negotiations could have occurred in a more timely fashion, with a lot more time being given to everybody to negotiate it? It seems to me the strategy was that the gun was to everybody's head with a week deadline. The question I ask again is: Why didn't you, as Premier, as a former union leader who has negotiated contracts with government, as was the Minister of Finance - surely you did not need the voice of the public service to say you need to put something formally down, that a press release emanating from government would not be considered a formal offer. What was the strategy?

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

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, you have to be at the table to exchange the offer at the table. We put in writing - the member probably knows, but it was very clear - to both the union leadership of NAPE and CUPE what our offer was. They knew our offer; they knew it formally. Technically, which is an important part, it was not tabled at the bargaining table because they were conducting a strike vote. The first opportunity after the strike vote was conducted, they had the information. As the chief negotiator for government, I wrote both parties and informed them what the offer was. When we came to the table on March 23, we formally and technically tabled the offer that we had made, in writing and verbally, prior to that particular date, March 23.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition, a supplementary.

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, this is an important line of questioning in terms of strategy.

All that was known publicly - and this is the best that I can determine in speaking with everybody, including officials from Treasury Board and including officials who are negotiating on behalf of the union - that all they were aware of before a week ago was that it was 3-3-3. Nobody knew if that included indexation or not indexation, nobody knew if that included contributions to the pension plan's unfunded liability or not, nobody knew if sick leave was on the table or not, nobody would know any of that, Minister and Premier, unless a formal written offer, detailing all the components in that offer, from A to Z, was put on the table.

The question is: Why did government sit on its hands and on its seat until they delivered that offer? Why did they wait until one week before? Surely you must have known the contempt that would have been held in. Surely you must have known that would have inflamed the situation. The question is, Premier: Why did you wait to become the problem maker and not the problem solver?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I was waiting for the politics part of this, because this is a very serious issue.

Mr. Speaker, the offer was made very clear. If the member had not heard, like other members in the House, it was made very clear that we had made 3-3-3. Now, if the union chose to put that on salary, they could put it on salary, if they chose to put it on benefits, they could put it on benefits, if they chose to put it on indexing, they could put it on indexing, if they chose to put it on reclassification, they could put it there, but they knew the ballpark figure. Just like, Mr. Speaker, when we raised the offer from 9 per cent to 13 per cent, we said: You have 13 per cent, you can put it in your back pocket if you want or you can put it on pension indexing, put it on reclassification, you can put it on whatever you want, but that is the offer. That was the full offer. They came in, identified their issues, and it was done as a package offer, Mr. Speaker. The money that we have identified, both our first offer and our second offer, we have given the union the leeway to distribute that within the years allocated as they see fit, 5-4-4.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition, a supplementary.

MR. E. BYRNE: Well, people are left wondering. On the day of the Budget, the Minister stands up and says: 3-3-3. That is it, that is all we can afford. You know, it begs the question: Had your formal offer been delivered a month-and-a-half ago, would people be on the street today? That is the question that must be asked.

MS J.M. AYLWARD: You had to be at the table to get a formal offer.

MR. E. BYRNE: Well, from what I understand, no one knew what the issues surrounding it were. There was no formal offer from government, none whatsoever.

I ask the Premier this question: On Saturday night, the last-minute take it or leave it offer - in your view, I understand that you delivered the offer in person: How was it received and what was your reaction to the response that you got?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Just maybe a little bit of the history again, because it is critically important. Everyone who has done any bargaining for any of the public sector unions in Newfoundland and Labrador knows the system very well, and they know very well the best negotiators in Newfoundland and Labrador are in the public service unions in Newfoundland and Labrador because they have the most experience. They know the routine. They had no expectations, none whatsoever, that the government itself would say anything other than 3-3-3, unless and until they, themselves, defined the full cost of all other items in the package that were going to cost the Treasury of the people of the Province extra money. Because how much money any government, at any time - and there have been people from the Conservative administration, some of them sitting over there today who did bargaining on behalf of the people of the Province, who fully understand that you cannot determine, with any certainty, how much money you can offer your valued employees for their salary increase unless, and until, you also know each of the other items in the contract that they are asking for that also cost money, because it all comes out of the provincial Treasury.

They had items on the table with respect to maternity leave improvements. They had items on the table with respect to group insurance improvements. They had items on the table with respect to - for the first time in history - beginning an indexing plan for pensioners, all of which cost money. They fully understood that there could not be - not that there would not be, but that there could not be - another offer on the salary, the money that they would actually get to take home on their cheques until it was identified for everybody, what the cost of the full package was.

We sat there, Mr. Speaker, with a deadline that was imposed, not by the government because - by the way, the deadline of March 31, which was just a couple of days ago, is a completely unnecessary deadline. Everybody in this Assembly acknowledges and knows that. There was nothing magic about March 31. There is nothing magic about today. There is nothing magic about tomorrow. What is magic is trying to get the arrangement that we can live with, on behalf of the people of the Province, and that the workers deserve.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: Because they do deserve an increase. They are getting a substantial increase. As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, no matter how you cut it they are going to get as much of an increase in this one year as they have gotten in the last twelve years put together. Nobody can say anything other than that because it happens to be the truth.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: It happens to be the truth. So it is kind of hard to deny the truth.

For the first time in history - they have been trying to do this for over thirty years - they have an employer, a government on their behalf, willing to look at the issue of having indexing in the pension plan. It is something that every other jurisdiction in Canada has, except Newfoundland and Labrador; but it is not free. You can't just pluck it out of the air. Somebody has to pay for it. They know that.

The group insurance improvements that they want are in this contract.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. the Premier now to conclude his answer.

PREMIER GRIMES: The maternity leave improvements that they want are in the contract. They know that. This is, even as it stands today, the best contract that any public service union would have signed in its entirety in the history of collective bargaining in Newfoundland and Labrador, as it stands today.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, I assume by the Premier's comments, when he says that the best labour negotiators in the Province are those of public sector unions - I can only assume that he, as a former unionist and head of a union, and negotiator, that he must include himself in that process. Surely he knows. He has been told, for the past six months, that an April 1 deadline was imposed. The public sector unions involved - the Premier can confirm this or not - wrote, according to the legislation, that gave their weeks' notice to government. It just so happened that when they gave their weeks' notice that government said they were serious and that is when a first formal offer was laid on the table. That is one question I would like the Premier to answer.

The next question I would like the Premier to answer: When he gave the offer, did he request - in view of the fact that he just said that April 1 is an artificial deadline or whatever term he used - of the public sector unions that they not plan, or not go ahead with their planned activities for one minute after 12:00 midnight? Was that the request made by the Premier of the Province?

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

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

Again, I would say, we were equally as concerned when we had not received a counter-offer from NAPE and CUPE until one week past the first tabling of our 3-3-3 offer, because you need to know the makings of a deal before you can consider anything else. Those negotiators knew that and we knew that.

I think it is also important to note that when we made our counter-offer of 5-4-4 we were clearly given the impression that this was the basis of a deal. That is why we were in there, to talk about a deal and they were going to go back to their membership.

I also think that in terms of the full package, and I say it again, as it stands today there is 13 per cent that can be added right to the salary, if this is what they choose to do with this amount of money. We stand by the offer and we do believe that it is a significant, substantial offer, and one that we hope the unions can come to work within that amount.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

It is clear, by the minister's and Premier's own statement, that the first time the public sector unions were given a formal written offer was a week before the strike deadline. They have failed to answer the question on: Why wasn't that done earlier? The issue remains and it begs this question: Had that been done four or five weeks earlier would people be on the street today?

Now, in terms of the offer, the minister indicated that she was given assurances that this was the basis for a tentative deal. This is obviously -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Well, that is what you just said. That indications were given to you that this could form the basis for a tentative deal. Those are your words, not mine. I would like the minister to elaborate, if she could, on what assurances were given that this would be the basis for a tentative deal?

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

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

I think it is important, because there is a play on words happening here. I am not sure where the member is actually going with this but I think it is important - while we technically tabled our offer on the first day after the strike vote, the first opportunity that we had after the strike vote, both union leadership was given a copy of the letter that I wrote concerning our formal offer. There was no waiting, Mr. Speaker. They knew what our offer was, around the 3 per cent. I know he is trying to make some sort of a political point about how it never happened. That is false. They were well aware of the offer. It was given to them in writing, and I can table the letters for the member if he has any difficulty accepting that.

The issue was: Formally, when we got back together, we laid the offer on the table; but everyone in the Province - perhaps except the member opposite - did not know what the offer was. We have been quite clear. The offer was 3-3-3, and then we would come back to the table - because they knew what the offer was for so long, we were so concerned that we were getting past the point of no return, so to speak, once we never had a counter-offer for one week later.

With respect to the time frame, yesterday was a day with twenty-three hours. We did ask, and we did make the point at the meeting that night that it was not necessary to go on strike at one minute after 12:00 midnight or one minute after 1:00, as it turned out to be. They had the full twenty-four hour period to exercise their right to strike without losing that for another thirty days. They knew that. We knew it. We had checked it with the Department of Labour and confirmed it.

So yes, Mr. Speaker, when we were discussing what was perhaps a remnants of a deal we asked them if they would delay the strike, if they would consider not putting up their picket lines so that we could continue into the night, which we did. We were still going on until 4:30 in the morning anyway, but it was a request that was made and we made it on the basis that it was not necessary to strike at one minute after the hour because they had the full twenty-three hours of that day to go on the picket line.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: What is clear, Mr. Speaker, is the contempt that government holds for the collective bargaining process. What is also clear is that in six months of negotiations it comes down to one week with the gun to people's heads to take it or leave it! That is what is clear to the people of the Province. That is what is clear, I say to the Premier. Let me ask you this question.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. E. BYRNE: I say to the Member for Bay of Islands, when you become a minister you will (inaudible) stand up and ask a question and respond to it. Now if you would like to do that now, I can ask you one as well. Would you like that?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. member now to get to his question.

MR. E. BYRNE: I would like to ask the minister this question: In terms of right now, today, are government and public sector unions, through their negotiating or conciliation process or the Department of Labour, still trying to find some common ground on which to bring a resolution to this issue that would be in the best interest of the people of the Province?

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

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Yes, Mr. Speaker, we are looking to find common ground and I think we have made our position very clear. Whenever you move from a position of 9 per cent to 13 per cent - the members know. They were briefed this morning. They know how much this costs. They know how much it costs the taxpayers of the Province. They know that we have moved significantly in terms of our offer. In fact, what we do today is not in any other way, other than out of concern for what is happening in the Province. We would ask the union to put forward the vote to its membership, to allow the membership to see what is on the table so that they can vote on the package. This is very serious. We have an offer which this year - whatever way you want to call it, 5 per cent of a new offer plus the 1 per cent that is currently on scale this year. However you look at it, is a 6 per cent wage offer this year; no other way to describe it. There is 4 per cent next year and there is 4 per cent the year after. We would ask that the union allow the membership to vote on that particular increase so that they can make the decision themselves with respect to that offer. We believe it is significant. The members opposite know - in fact, last week when we went through our discussion on the Budget the big discussion -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MS J.M. AYLWARD: - the big issue for them was our deficit, and it is for us. We want to do a fair deal. We want to be responsible. We want to maintain a solid credit rating. We want to be able to justify that we have been fair, respectful employers, but we have also kept whole the books of this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

My questions are to the President of Treasury Board. Yesterday, the minister put out a press release and, of course, she is doing her best and was doing her best then to put a positive spin on the government's 5-4-4 offer over three years for public sector employees. She refers to it as: better than any current offer in the country right now. So we can put that in perspective on this side of the House. Would the minister tell the House how salaries of our public sector employees, who are in bargaining units, compare to the salaries of public sector employees across the country, in particular, in Atlantic Canada and would she table her comparative analysis?

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

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

I was on the radio this morning saying that people in this Province, whether you are in the private sector or the public sector of government, generally make less than other places in this country. We have said it forever. We are not pretending that they are. What we are saying is that Mike Harris is on record saying he is offering his public sector employees 2 per cent. New Brunswick, on record, with an agreement of 2 per cent a year.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS J.M. AYLWARD: If you want to talk about Alberta, I would only be too happy to talk about Alberta if we could call an election on how we are going to spend our excess; spend all of the billions and billions -


MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, let me answer the member because it is an important question. What are people getting here? Let me tell you. The City of Corner Brook, unionized employees:1.5 per cent, 1.5 per cent, and 1.5 per cent a year up to 2004. The City of St. John's, Local 569, unionized employees: 2 per cent, 3 per cent, 2 per cent a year. The question -


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Abitibi-Price: 2 per cent a year for 2000-2003. Labatts -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

Labatts: 2 per cent, 2.02 per cent, 2.18 per cent; IOC: 1.01 per cent, 1.5 per cent and 1.7 per cent. That is the answer to the question. I know they do not want to hear it but that is the answer to the question.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

A final supplementary, the hon. the Member for Waterford Valley.

MR. H. HODDER: So the minister does not have a comparative study of the salaries that are paid across the country for comparable positions. Will the minister tell the House how much salaries have increased on a percentage basis for executive positions in the public service from 1989 to the current year, and how they would compare with what has been offered to unionized employees?

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

MS J.M. AYLWARD: No, Mr. Speaker, but I can tell you that last year when we did our reclassification numbers with respect to nurses and LPNs, our salary increased by 15 per cent instead of 7 per cent.

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

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. Knowing for many months that the 3 per cent offer was there, in fact the 3 per cent offer is what got a 97 per cent strike vote from NAPE, why did the Premier wait until the eleventh hour on the eleventh day to make an offer? The only offer that government made, knowing that the union could not respond by the 12:00 midnight deadline and knowing that there would have to be a strike. Did the Premier try to push NAPE into a strike, or do they want to have a reasonable settlement with these people? Is this a grudge match by the Premier, or does he want a settlement?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: Mr. Speaker, let me answer the question again. As I indicated earlier, some of the very best, if not the best, negotiators in Newfoundland and Labrador represent the public sector unions, a whole range of them. They fully understood and, as a matter of fact they concurred in the process and they knew exactly what was happening down at the Fairmont Hotel. They fully understood and concurred in the process that there would not be, and they knew in advance of the discussions at all that there would be no expectation of any change in the government's offer of 3-3-3 unless and until, at their fourteen tables, they got through all of the language issues and identified the total cost of all of the issues that they wanted resolved, such as the maternity leave issue, such as the group insurance changes, and those kinds of benefits, such as the pension issue which took them most of the full week to come to grips with themselves and they still do not have the full details of. There is a general framework.

They understand that, Mr. Speaker. There is nobody here looking for any kind of a fight or any kind of a confrontation. Unfortunately, we have a work stoppage which I believe everybody in this Legislature on all sides hopes that we can find a way, as the minister indicated, to find the common ground, because there is still some difference, so that the work stoppage can end as quickly as it started and we can get back to trying to rebuild; because the message that we are trying to send, as the government, in this round of bargaining, is that we do understand that the public servants in Newfoundland and Labrador bore a great part of the burden of restraint for the full ten-year period. We do understand that and we acknowledge that, Mr. Speaker, and this is the contract in which we are trying to recognize that and begin the rebuilding by, as I said before, offering as much of an increase in this one year as they have seen in the previous twelve years.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. the Premier now to conclude his answer.

PREMIER GRIMES: We do recognize the need to rebuild. We are not trying to fight with anybody. We are trying to restore and rebuild our public servants back to a level where they more rightfully and deservedly belong, than they are today, and this contract can be a very first big step in it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

A final supplementary, the hon. the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I find the Premier's remarks as conciliatory and, if that is the case, that it is possible that we may have a new era of cooperation and respect for the public service.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HARRIS: Will the Premier tell his President of Treasury Board not to make provocative comments like, take this offer to your members, but sit down with the bargaining committee in a spirit of compromise. The people of this Province do not want to see a major public sector strike in this Province of 19,000 workers for the sake of a 2 per cent difference. Is the Premier willing to compromise, talk about a new era of cooperation and respect, and stop the provocative statements like were just made by the President of Treasury Board?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would hope that the hon. member, in the spirit of trying to make sure that we resolve this rather than make it worse, would not use that kind of language outside the Legislature and publicly.

Mr. Speaker, the President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance said what she did about putting this issue to a vote only because we were both told, and it was said in the public, and we can find the clippings from the press if you want, that the leader of NAPE had indicated quite clearly that if there was a significantly different offer than the 3-3-3, that he would take it back to his membership for a vote.

What we are saying, Mr. Speaker, is we believe that a 5-4-4, with the maternity benefits, with the group insurance benefits, with an indexed pension plan all being possible, with shared trusteeship of the pension plan, something that the unions have been looking for, for years and years and years, and could not even get anybody to discuss it with them, that with this package, this is not significantly different but vastly different and improved than 3-3-3.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER GRIMES: All the chief negotiator for the government is saying is that, if the president of the public service union, who has said that publicly, is going to live up to his words, why wouldn't he - we are not trying to be provocative; we are asking - why would he not live up to his words which were: If there is a significantly different offer, he would put it to a vote.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. Premier now to conclude quickly.

PREMIER GRIMES: I am asking the hon. member: Is he suggesting that a move from 3-3-3 to 5-4-4, with the other benefits that I described, is not a significant move -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER GRIMES: - that that is insignificant? Mr. Speaker, that is the question. It is not intended to be provocative.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Question Period has ended.

Notices of Motion

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

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that tomorrow I shall move that a further estimate of expenditure related to a contingency reserve in the amount of $10 million be referred to the Committee of Supply.

MR. SPEAKER: Answers to Questions for which Notice has been Given.

The hon. the President of Treasury Board.

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

I seem to have missed the opportunity to table some papers. If I may revert, with the concurrence of the House.

MR. SPEAKER: Can we revert to tabling of reports? Is that agreed.


MR. SPEAKER: Agreed.

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

Pursuant to Section 28.(4) of the Financial Administration Act, I am tabling six special warrants relating to the 2000-2001 fiscal year. Particularly, Mr. Speaker, these relate to the $23 million associated with the reclassification for licensed practical nurses, social workers, selected classes of allied health and nursing; a special warrant of $8.8 million for additional funds for health care facilities equipment; a special warrant of $15 million for health care facilities equipment acquisitions and renovations; a special warrant of $3.7 million for the drug program for our senior citizens and income support program; and a special warrant of $5.5 million to provide additional funds for the detoxification treatment of the Innu children.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Orders of the Day

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

MR. LUSH: Order 2, Mr. Speaker, Committee of Supply Estimates.

On motion that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole, Mr. Speaker left the Chair.

Committee of the Whole


CHAIR (Mercer): Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Waterford Valley.

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

I rise today to make a few comments on the Estimates that are now before the House. We have been discussing these now for some days and I do believe there is still a lot of time left that we can discuss these Estimates.

I was rather surprised that the minister, in commenting on the collective bargaining approaches as she did a few minutes ago, did not answer the question when I asked her to compare the salaries that are paid to public servants in Newfoundland and Labrador with the salaries paid to public servants in comparable positions across Canada. Yesterday her press release which was, of course, an example of spin doctors at work on Sunday - if it had been put out in the morning, it would have made the April Fool deadline, but because it came out after lunch, it did not make the April Fool deadline of 12:00 noon - in this particular press release, she praises up the fact that they offered 5-4-4 over three years. She said it was a significant offer which members of NAPE and CUPE should examine with care. I asked her to comment on her statement where she says, and I quote: The minister pointed out this offer is better than any current offer in the country.

Well, if that is a better offer than any current offer in the country, why are our young men and our young women leaving this Province in droves? Because we know that 40,000 young men and young women have left Newfoundland and Labrador in recent years to find jobs elsewhere. Why are some of our best and our brightest leaving? It is because, if you compare what they can get paid in Newfoundland in the public service with what they are being paid in Alberta or Ontario or Nova Scotia, they would fall far behind if they stayed in this Province.

So, the minister is putting out a press release and, if you compare it with percentages that she is offering now, it may be technically correct, again, as the Premier made a point of saying many times, words are important. While what the minister says here is not technically incorrect, it certainly leaves an incorrect impression, because her point is, she says, and I quote: The minister pointed out that this offer is better than any current offer in the country.

Then she compares Corner Brook getting this wage or the City of Mount Pearl, or the City of St. John's, but what she does not say is that if you are a nurse in Newfoundland and Labrador, if you are a public servant working in a hospital in Newfoundland and Labrador, if you are responsible for ploughing the highways in Newfoundland and Labrador, or if you are working in any of the divisions of government in Newfoundland and Labrador, you are likely getting substantially less than you would in any other province or territory in the country.

Mr. Chair, I ask the minister, in my questions, if she would do a little sharing with us. We know that they have compared the salaries paid all across the country. I have talked to the young people who are leaving this Province and saying to me: Yes, if I have to go to Ontario, I can get this salary compared to what I am getting here. Most of them are getting a 20 per cent to 25 per cent increase in their salaries. Really, when you compare it, you are comparing the 5-4-4 as a base salary of what is paid in Newfoundland and Labrador, and then you compare it to what they would be paid in other provinces. The minister did not answer the question. I said: Would you please table in the House an analysis.

Let's take, for example, if the minister gave us a comparison of thirty or forty comparable positions. Take the position you have in Newfoundland in Labrador - it does not matter who occupies it - and you compare it with what is paid to that same position, the same experience, the same responsibilities, for Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Alberta, and the two Territories. We know that in this particular case, Newfoundland's public servants are grossly underpaid.

Mr. Chair, we acknowledge that negotiations have taken up an awfully long time. We were told today that the negotiations started on October 2, 2000. That is a long time. The first time that the government made a formal written offer was on, the minister said today in Question Period, March 23. That is four or five months later. What had happened in the meantime? There has been a great deal of public commentary. The minister had announced her 3-3-3, which simply infuriated the members of the collective bargaining units, NAPE and CUPE. Then, in the Budget Speech, the minister went and did it all over again; but, at no time did the minister put that in writing, which she could have done, I would assume, in January, or could have done in November. The minister who occupies that chair now couldn't have done it until after she had assumed that office, but the previous minister could have done it, but that did not happen. So, from October 2 until March 23, nothing happened except public grandstanding by the minister, being very provocative and saying: Here it is, 3-3-3. Take it or leave it. It is my way or the highway.

That kind of bargaining gets the results that we have today.

PREMIER GRIMES: A point of order, Mr. Chair.

CHAIR: On a point of order, the hon. the Premier.

PREMIER GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I think again, because of the sensitive nature of what is occurring in the Province today, that for a member of the Legislature to repeat that language - because the words were never used. I know that. I did listen this morning to a presentation made by a leader of the public service union who is heading up the strike and doing what he has to do on behalf of his members, but the idea of my way or the highway, and that kind of language, was never, ever used by anyone representing the government, and certainly not by me. That is not our style and approach. I believe that if he is really - because I do have great respect for the hon. member - trying to be helpful in resolving this issue, I understand the point that he is trying to make in terms of comparative salaries and so on, but to use that kind of inflammatory language in here, as if it actually was spoken by someone on behalf of the government, let the record show that it was not said. It never occurred. That is not the way that we do business.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Waterford Valley.

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

I am delighted that the Premier stood in his place and said what he had said, because I listened on several occasions now to commentaries which would lead me to believe that these words, indeed, had been used. I am sure that the Premier, in making his statement, will perhaps cause some of us to have some more refection, because we certainly want to do what we can to make sure the public servants are duly recognized for the work that they do, but in doing so we want to say that the process by which we have arrived at where we are today leaves an awful lot to be desired.

We know that collective bargaining is a difficult process. The Premier is an experienced negotiator, he has been an employer and also he has been an employee. He has extensive bargaining experience, as do some of the members on this side of the House. It is never an easy process.

The point that we were making is that you have to compare apples with apples. When you are comparing salaries in Newfoundland, as the minister, by inference, was doing yesterday, with salaries in other parts of the country, then you have to be very careful that you say what you mean and that you do not use words unless they are very precise. In this particular case, to compare what is being paid in Newfoundland with what is being paid in other parts of the country, we just ask for the comparative data to be tabled.

I also ask today for a comparison of other data that we wanted to have tabled as well. Basically, what I had said was that I asked the minister if she would table how much the salaries have increased on a percentage basis for executive positions in government compared with unionized positions in the public service. I wanted to do that because my understand is, if I were to, just for a moment, take a second and do some comparisons, if you were to take the Estimates and the Salary Departmental Details for 2001-2002 and compare them to the same data for the year 1989-1990, you come up with some glaring examples of where there is great discrepancy.

Mr. Chair, I just wanted to note a few of those. For example, in 1989, the Secretary to Cabinet was paid less than $100,000. In fact, the salary in that year - and I had that here just a moment ago - the salary for that particular year was $98,355. In the current departmental salary estimates, the salary for that position is $125,537. That means, over that eleven year period, the Secretary to Cabinet has had an increase of $27,182. That is a 27.6 per cent increase. What I am saying is that when the Secretary to Cabinet is paid a salary increase that is -

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. H. HODDER: By leave, Mr. Chair?

CHAIR: By leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

CHAIR: By leave.

MR. H. HODDER: We are comparing salaries here, and if you have the Secretary to Cabinet in the same time frame getting a $27,182 increase from 1989 to the current year, for a 27.6 per cent increase, then you have to wonder, why is there not some consistency?

An even more glaring example is the incident of the Private Secretary to the Lieutenant-Governor. We know there are circumstances in all of these decisions of government, but let me compare. In 1989, the Secretary to the Lieutenant-Governor was paid $51,136. That compares to $101,389 today, for an increase of $50,253. That is a 98.2 per cent increase in the salary paid to the Secretary to the Lieutenant-Government, comparing 1989 with the current year.

Mr. Chair, we could go on and compare, for example, the Secretary to Treasury Board. That salary went up in the same years from $87,935 to $106,749 for a 21.3 per cent increase. My question today - and I know the time had been allocated but it is only thirty minutes. The Leader of the Opposition today had some very good questions. Of course, the responses were longer than normal because it is a very important issue, and we were very tolerant of the minister today in letting her have as much time as we could, and we did not raise any fuss about that. It was a very serious Question Period today, and we are glad that the minister was forthcoming with some answers. Not always did she give us all we wanted in terms of answers, but she was more forthcoming than usually is the case in Question Period. We thank the minister for that.

Mr. Chair, if you look at some of these positions, what I was trying to point out in my questions today was how come, over the same time frame, the public service was not treated like the executive branch of government? That certainly was a comparison that we wanted to make and, of course, that was the theme of what I wanted to point out today in Question Period.

Mr. Chair, thank you very much.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Harbour Main-Whitbourne.

MR. HEDDERSON: Thank you Mr. Chair.

I stand today, of course, to look at some of the Estimates for Executive Council. When looking at the Estimates of the Executive Council, I certainly reflect back upon my own district in looking at the needs of that. When I compare the money spent in some of the areas of Executive Council and I look at the needs of my particular district, I cannot help but bring to the foreground the tremendous need that needs to be addressed, I guess not only in my district but certainly in the many districts throughout this great Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

One of the more serious difficulties would be the roads, I say to you, Mr. Chair, in my particular district; and when I say roads, in particular a number of them. At this particular time we have one section of Marysvale, called the English Cove Road, that is rather impassable. The parents, the school children, commuters who use this road, are finding it extremely difficult to navigate. It is an unpaved road that has been unpaved for so many years now, it is unreal. Houses on this particular section of road are owned by young families building a life here in Newfoundland and Labrador. There is a hope with this Budget, as it was presented - because they have been after this road for about seven or eight years - that this year might be the year that this road can be taken care of. That is only one road, Mr. Chair, in my particular district that needs to be looked at.

Once we go beyond the roads, and there are some main roads, and I am sure that the minister will be looking at the priorities, I certainly hope that he can see that my particular district - in particular some of the roads in my particular district - absolutely need to be taken care of at this particular time. That part of the Budget certainly is an important one to my district and one that will have to be looked at as we look at allocating funds for particular needs, for particular situations.

In the district as well, we are having some difficulties with some of our water systems, and I was very pleased to see that it is going to be addressed. Whether it is local services or municipalities, whatever situation they are in, they are going to be able to avail of some sort of funding, I believe up to 100 per cent funding, up to $100,000, to address the situation of poor water, poor water supply, poor quality of water, in my communities. I look forward to them, these municipalities, addressing this particular need through this particular Budget.

That is encouraging, Mr. Chair, to see those sorts of incentives placed into it. It is my hope, during this particular fiscal year, that roads like English Cove, that the water system such as in Marysvale, that they can avail of the necessary funding to bring the water system and the roads to a standard that is applicable to this particular time, to the people, to the system itself.

The Estimates in other areas, as we go through the Estimates Committee, certainly will be addressed; but I move from my district to the critic area of which I am a part, namely the education. Looking at the Budget and the Estimates for the various departments, it was certainly encouraging to see that this government is trying to recapture a focus which has been neglected since the early 1990s. This is a focus, if you want to call it a focus, an emphasis, a focus on the education system of Newfoundland and Labrador.

I was surprised that they called it a new focus; because, if you are looking at a new focus, it means that you are changing something. I suppose I am encouraged because in the mid-1990s the focus was there but it was a focus that was not a positive focus in many ways, to move along educational reform in the manner in which it was intended to be moved early in the 1990s. So, if this Budget is indeed a new focus, and if the objective is to give quality education to the students of Newfoundland and Labrador, to give them equal opportunity, equal access, then this new focus is certainly a welcomed one.

I noticed that the Premier, in setting up the Cabinet, split the Department of Education into the K-12 and, indeed, the Youth Services and Post-Secondary Education. I find this different because, I guess it was only last year that myself and a colleague of mine spilt up the duties of the Department of Education.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HEDDERSON: No, I didn't split up with anyone, I say to the Member for Harbour Main-Whitbourne. No, we never split up on that.

It is interesting that our direction on this side was to split off into two critic roles and, lo and behold, it wasn't long after that when the department split off into two different directions.

AN HON. MEMBER: They have been following us (inaudible).

MR. HEDDERSON: I wonder. Again, I know it is a stretch. I know the Minister of Education is not here today, but I have been accused of stretching things before so I am being very, very cautious as I speak to that. It is a stretch, but we were there before and they followed us.

AN HON. MEMBER: You are beginning to sound like Harvey.

MR. HEDDERSON: Oh, if I thought I was putting you to sleep over there, I say to the member -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HEDDERSON: Oh, I shouldn't say that. To the Member for Bellevue, I will try to change my style, so I will have my own particular style. I should move my hands, I suppose, and look alive.


MR. HEDDERSON: Would that be different?

AN HON. MEMBER: Be more of a Loyola Sullivan. (Inaudible).

MR. HEDDERSON: I am sorry, the speed of my colleague from Ferryland I could not keep up with. I cannot keep up with his thoughts.

I say to you, Mr. Chair, that I would just like to return to an earlier thought that, with the division of the Department of Education, there seems to be a more intense focus on the K-12, literacy, libraries and early childhood education. Again, I have to say that during the late 1980s and early 1990s it was clearly established by the Williams Report that this should be the areas of intense focus. The directions were already given in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but somewhere along the line, from that time until now in the year 2000-2001, this government has gotten off track with regard to educational reform.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HEDDERSON: Maybe I am putting the members on this side asleep, I say to you. I can't see the members down in front, so please advise if anyone is yawning, would you? I can see you people yawning, but I cannot see my side.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HEDDERSON: Okay, as long as my colleagues on this side are still with me.

We just go back again to the new focus on education and youth. I suggest to this House that that focus -

AN HON. MEMBER: Change to page 2, now.

MR. HEDDERSON: Page 2? No, I am gone back to page 1.

This new focus on education and youth is a new focus that was absolutely necessary, because it was lost during the 1990s. The thing that was done during the 1990s was restructuring: restructuring in closing schools, realigning, reconfiguring; but, with regard to inside the schools, once again the focus was lost, the intensity was lost.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. HEDDERSON: By leave?

CHAIR: Does the hon. the member have leave?


AN HON. MEMBER: No leave.

AN HON. MEMBER: Harvey is getting up if (inaudible).

AN HON. MEMBER: Harvey is not getting up.

MR. HEDDERSON: By leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

CHAIR: By leave.

MR. HEDDERSON: I thank you very much. I have my ace in the hole here. I have my ace here. All I have to do is point, I say to the Member for Bellevue.

The Budget direction for the Department of Education in this fiscal year, certainly it contained some positive points. I give credit where credit is due, and perhaps it is credit they will be looking for to take care of these needs, but it is important that we understand, as members of this House, that the education of our youth, especially with regard to K-12, there is no doubt about it, is a prime, prime concern.

I notice in the booklet here that there is a section where it says: the people of Newfoundland and Labrador have told us - I assume the government - to focus on. I say to the House and I say to you, Mr. Chair, that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador have been telling governments to focus on the education of our youth from as long as I can remember, and certainly long before my time. If we look at the cultural development in Newfoundland in the last century, and even back into the previous century, I would say to you that education always was front and foremost in the minds of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and all of us, as members here, can remember vividly our parents telling us -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HEDDERSON: I hear strange sounds here in the back row. I don't know where they are coming from. I might get Mr. Chair to check it out. We have some strange sounds coming from the back row.

To get back to the importance of education, we do not need a booklet to tell us that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador value our youth, value their education. When we talk about valuing the youth, I would say to you, Mr. Chair, I don't know if the horse is gone out of the barn, but a lot of our young people have left this Province. The 1990s have been a terrible time for the youth of this Province in trying to make the transition between secondary and post-secondary, and in making the transition from post-secondary to the job market. It has been a terrible, terrible time.

In the year 2001, here we are saying, we have to refocus now. We have to get back to it. We are going to put the necessary finances in place to make up for, I guess, the sins of the past. When I say the sins of the past, these students in post-secondary - and again it is common, you know it - when you are talking about debts of $40,000 or $50,000 and more, and you are talking about the difficulties that they have in trying to address that awful amount that is staying with them as they try to move from the post-secondary into the job market.

When we go back to our famous little booklet here, it is a given - I don't know why these things are said, because it is a given - that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador have told us to focus on building a high quality education system. That is a fact, and it has been told not only this year. You do not have to go around looking for people to tell you that. The message has always been there and will always be there, to focus on educational achievement. My heavens, if the children of this Province are involved in learning, if they are involved in education, naturally we want them to achieve at their highest potential. It is a given. It does not need to be said, but it looks good, that we must focus on literacy. Once again, literacy has been focused on in people's minds, but whether it transfers into actual action, again I say to you, that is a different story.

We must focus on opportunities for students in rural schools. That has been said time and time again, that the students in our rural areas find themselves, whether it is through geography or otherwise, at a disadvantage. If they are going to post-secondary, they find themselves at a disadvantage because they have to, more than likely, move the furthest distance and they incur the most expenses.

We must focus on the transition from school to work. Again, this is something that has been bred into us as young people coming up and looking to go from post-secondary into the job market.

The last one, we must focus on student debt. Unfortunately, there was a focus on student debt in the 1990s by this government, because that is what the problem is right now. So you focused on it in the rising tuition rates, in the elimination of the grant system, in putting our students certainly at a disadvantage. Having said that, what has happened now is that we have split the departments; and it is important now because there is no greater investment we can make than in our youth.

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible).

MR. HEDDERSON: Oh, yes. A well-educated population is essential to economic prosperity and social well-being. Investment in education, skills, and training yields large payoffs not only for individuals but for whole economies.

MR. SULLIVAN: Who said that?

MR. HEDDERSON: That is coming out from the government.

MR. SULLIVAN: Are they practicing that or just (inaudible)

MR. HEDDERSON: This is the question, I say to my colleague for Ferryland. Words are important, as our Premier has constantly reminded us, right?

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible) high school. In grade ten we had the book, words are important.

MR. HEDDERSON: Yes, in grade ten, we were often shown that book. I tell you, words are important, and these words are important. Don't get me wrong. I say to the House, I say to the minister, that words are important and these statements are important, but it is nothing new.

This government has been presenting us with these statements since the late 1980s and early 1990s on into now, the year 2000-2001. We do not mind listening to them, if indeed by saying the words it means that some action is going to take place. That is the key to it. We can talk all we like, we can say all we like, but it is the actions as a result of those words that we are judged on.


In this particular case, I am glad to see them there. Yes, we should be building high quality education programs. We should be cutting down on the student debt. We should be involving the system in early childhood education. These are great platitudes or ideals or whatever you want to call them, but you have to be able to back those words up with action; and the action is where I find the problem. The action is slow in coming, if in coming at all.

We turn the page and it says - again tooting their own horn - our Province has seen significant improvements in K-12 education, including the ratio of teachers to students, graduation rates, teacher qualifications, per student expenditures and educational attainment levels.

The pupil-teacher ratio, I hate to even bring it up. Every time I see this, it just rattles me; because what you see in statistics on this piece of paper is not the reality that you see in the schools of our Province. Many of the members here have children or grandchildren who are in the system right now. We are supposedly not too long through it ourselves so we know, as we go around, as we visit these schools, as we talk to teachers, as we talk to parents, as we talk to students, there is no reality in these statistics of what is happening in the schools.

When you talk to a teacher who has twenty-nine or thirty in Grade 2, this is not in an isolated area anywhere. When you talk about class sizes in high school of thirty-plus. When you talk, as I talked, to a Kindergarten teacher with twenty-plus in Kindergarten, you ask yourself: What are these statistics? How come, if we do have a ratio in this case, and I hate to even quote it -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HEDDERSON: Yes, I hate to even quote it, we have one teacher for every 13.3 students. Let's round it up to fourteen. You would think, if that is the case, if I said that to anyone, they would say: Sure, what a wonderful system we have!

MR. SULLIVAN: Sure, there would be no classes with thirty students (inaudible)

MR. HEDDERSON: No, absolutely not. What a wonderful system we would have.

I understand, too, that perhaps they have taken this ratio when they are starting to build schools; because, if you look at the schools today - I am just getting off on a tangent, I say to the -

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible) playing games with the figures.

MR. HEDDERSON: Oh, they are, because the classrooms they were building are built for thirteen to one.

MR. SULLIVAN: A smaller classroom?

MR. HEDDERSON: Oh, absolutely. If you go into a school now and you look at the classrooms -

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible).

MR. HEDDERSON: What is that?

MR. SULLIVAN: Is that all they are putting in there?

MR. HEDDERSON: Oh, I do not know. We will have to see, but the schools are being built for thirteen to one. Then you are going and putting thirty students in there.

MR. SULLIVAN: What? No wonder they have air quality problems.

MR. HEDDERSON: Well, that is in the new schools. In the old schools it is not too bad because you have bigger classrooms, more window space.

MR. SULLIVAN: Leakier windows so you get air circulation.

MR. HEDDERSON: Well, the wind blows through it so they do not have air quality problems in a lot of them because of that.

Getting back to the pupil-teacher ratio, you would assume, when the minister comes out with these types of figures, that she talking about the people who are directly involved with the children of this Province across the desk, as we said, in classes that would be about fourteen to one, and what a situation; but that is not true. Because, in order to get this ratio, every person on the roll, every person employed in the schools as an educator, is included in that; plus, not only in the schools but even in the board offices. Everyone. I do not want to go to the bargaining units or anything, but anyone in the bargaining unit of the NLTA is indeed included in these statistics and therefore the reality is that it is not thirteen to one. It is not even close. In some of the smaller schools out around where you do not have the population, even then you will probably get multi-grading. To back up, we have come a long way simply because of a statistic that shows the lack of understanding in looking at the realities of what is happening in the classroom.

I won't get to the expenditures and whatever, but let's go to the new school facilities. The new school facilities, to look at it, I must say, there is nothing that can make an community or an area more proud than to be given the opportunity of a new school. I mean, it is absolutely phenomenal to take on that sort of a task, the teachers, the students, the parents coming together in a new facility, coming together to build a new school community. I say, looking down through, I do not doubt it was absolutely necessary to have these schools. I am not getting into that, but what I am getting into is that there has been a change in constructing schools. There really has, and a change has taken place that is worrisome to those who are getting the school. Because, if you are getting a new school, sometimes you cannot speak up as much as you would like to, because if you speak up you might put the project in some degree of jeopardy, so there is an acceptance of new schools that ordinarily would not be accepted, not even tolerated.

The planning that is going into these schools has been, for the most part, a one-shot deal, and I say a one-shot deal because on paper now you have the specs - so many of this, so many of that, so many classrooms - you look at how many students are there, and someone does it from afar. They do not go in and say: My heavens, what type of community is this? What type of people do we have here? What type of traditions do we have here? Is this a school that is heavy into the theater arts for example? Is this a school that is heavy into athletics? Has this been the way - I say to the Member for Ferryland, schools up in your district, I would say, basketball would play a big part in most of them?

MR. SULLIVAN: You look at Trepassey, Mobile, traditionally (inaudible).

MR. HEDDERSON: Absolutely, and I remember a year or so ago (inaudible) begging.

MR. SULLIVAN: And St. Kevin's is the top team in the Province now, basically.

MR. HEDDERSON: Absolutely begging, pretty much begging to get facilities that would support the traditional emphasis that those students and that school community had on a particular area. We are getting - not only are we, but I personally have seen schools newly constructed in the last year or so that have missed the mark tremendously. I bring into question the school in Blaketown for example. I know the school in Blaketown because it serves my constituents in the Whitbourne, Markland area. It is a beautiful looking school. When you look at it from the outside it is a beautiful looking school. When you go in and look around it looks like a beautiful building, but then you start to look at the number of students who are in there, you start to look at the programs that are being offered, or not offered I should say, and you start to wonder how anyone could design a school so blindly.

We have washroom facilities that do not cater to the number of students in that building because there was a scramble to put on extra space to that building. The classrooms were put on but the washroom facilities were not altered to address the increase in the number of students who were coming in. It is pretty bad. Recess time, dinner time and other times you have lineups in the washrooms because there are simply not enough to go around.

The biggest error in that particular school has been - I guess years ago we called it the gym. We want a gym and an auditorium so you often see the word gymnatorium. Now the catch word is multipurpose room. Madam Chair, I say to you that the catch word these days is multipurpose room. In other words everything; everything from cafeteria to music. In some cases phys.ed. activities. Everything goes in this particular part of the school.

In Blaketown you have the kitchen workers in preparing meals for 600 or 700 children while the music teacher is out, separated by a curtain, trying to teach a music class. Now just imagine that! They built the music room next to the cafeteria. That school has to be revisited. As well, that school has only been in operation this particular year and yet, there are going to be an increase in students this September or the following September, depending on when the board closes out the Holy Trinity system. You are going to have another influx of students into a building that was not built to accommodate them. It just was not there to be accommodated.

It is most important, if we are bragging about the schools completed and the schools being completed, that we have to be absolutely sure that what we are building are schools for the future; that the classrooms are an adequate size; that they have to be built for a particular area; that we cannot have these schools as clones - I suppose, if you want to put it that way - throughout this Province; that we need to make sure that the school fits the situation; that the classrooms are there; that the washroom facilities are there; that the music facilities are there. Then again, when we look at music I wonder when we construct schools are we constructing it for a program of the future that, perhaps, does not include the possibility of music? That is a question that, I guess, only time will tell.

The other thing, as I look on this page - this is their little Budget. I am getting through it. I am on the middle page now and I am trying to get through it as best I can. There is a lot to say and there are a lot of things going through your mind. Again, air quality testing - this is an interesting one now. It shows up again - I say again because it showed up in 1998. Was it 1998? Air quality testing, about ten million in 1998.

MR. H. HODDER: I asked questions by leave. I asked question after question.

MR. HEDDERSON: My colleague from Waterford Valley was the one who asked the questions on it.

So, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001. The interesting thing here, if you read it, is that quality testing on 225 schools, some of which now are closed down - but it begs the question, if we have 337 schools in operation today in the Province - some of these schools are closed down out of the 225, so let us say 200 - there are at least 100, 130 or 150 schools that have not had air quality testing or any renovations or alterations to address the air quality in these schools. The 225 that led to approximately $10 million being spent for air quality improvements in over 200 schools, most of these schools simply were cleaned up. They went in and cleaned the schools, basically to improve the air quality. Some of these schools have not had a good cleaning.

AN HON. MEMBER: They are not done by professionals, are they?

MR. HEDDERSON: No, that is true enough. They are done by board personnel who go in with a lot of Lestoil or whatever, put a nice smell to the building. They try to get rid of all the mould but the problem comes back, and it comes back, and it comes back. I suggest that if $10 million was spent in 1998 and nothing since, I dread to think what the next round of testing is going to show up. When we look at schools and say: What is the problem here? What is the problem with air quality? We have to go back, Madam Chair, to the maintenance on these particular buildings. We are down to a little over 300 schools. Come on! Three hundred schools in this Province and yet, I say to you, there are children in this Province who are in learning environments - if you want to call them that, I would have to put them in brackets - where there are leaks, where there are windows with the wind blowing through them, and where there are dangers around a particular school. I do not have to go too far because I am looking at my colleague from Windsor-Springdale, whose latest report is shocking. I believe the school is the Green Bay South Academy. Just before Christmas there were a lot of problems there and, I might add, there was some reconciliation in an attempt to bring the school up to certain standards. It is a losing battle because the problems keep coming back.

If you have buildings where you are not addressing regular maintenance, if there is a leak in the building and you are letting it go for two years, you are asking for serious, serious problems. It is most important that the emergencies which develop in our schools are looked at immediately. If there is one thing that I would like to see done - if there is a report that there is a roof off a building, if there is a report that there is a leak, for heaven's sake, get out, get to that school, get that leak repaired and let the children in our Province be in schools where you do not have to worry about the rain coming down all around them. The importance is that we take seriously the needs of the children of this Province because if we do not take seriously the health and safety concerns of our children, what are we doing? I can assure you there are situations in our schools today where if it was a workplace and Occupational Health and Safety could get in there, these buildings would be closed down until such time as the renovations or alterations were carried out to make it a safe environment. So we are building.

The K-12 system needs focus. There is no doubt about it. If it is a renewed focus for whatever reasons, I welcome a focus on the K-12. When you look at the K-12 there are so many things that I could talk about. One of the things - and every year I get up and mention it because it is most important. That children coming into this K-12 system need readiness skills in math, in language, in other areas, in sociability, and you can go right down the line but the readiness is not there for all. We have to find a way to extend our K-12 system back into the pre-school ages. There is absolutely no doubt whatsoever, that has to happen. It has to be done and the sooner we do it the better all the way around, without a doubt. We have to do it. That is on that level, from Kindergarten to Grade 12, but we would like to see something substantial done from birth until grade Kindergarten. Most important.

The primary curriculum - and I must say to you, Madam Chair, that I was involved in the primary curriculum in the late 1980s, early 1990s, mid-1990s, and the most impressive thing with regard to the primary grades, to me, was the ability of primary teachers to bring those children out of the home into the school system and engage them. They did not exactly take the part of parents, but certainly to young children in the primary grades it is most important for that relationship, for that bonding to be there, in order to engage the children so that learning can take place.

The elementary, junior high, on into the high school, curriculum developments there are as important as the primary grades, but let me tell you, the amount of money that you spend on pre-school and the primary grades, the more that you can put in there, the more dollars that are going to be saved down the road. The K-3 is most, most important.

Now, as we get to Grade 12 and into the post-secondary, I say to you, of late there has been a debate about the ability of our students here in Newfoundland and Labrador to enter into post-secondary and be successful. There are professors at the university who are pointing fingers back at the teachers, at the curriculum, at the Department of Education, indicating that our Grade 12 students have been babied, that the standards are gone, that they cannot add two and two, that they cannot read, that they cannot write, and there is a big panic because we do not have faith in our secondary teachers; but when a professor speaks, it seems like it is gospel. I say to you that I stand behind the K-12 system. The curriculum is there. The resources is another story, but the majority of our students coming out of Grade 12 are prepared but they run into roadblocks in post-secondary, especially at the university. These roadblocks need to be addressed and there has to be better liaison between the first year at university and the final year in the secondary system.

I speak from some degree of experience. My daughter is in her first year of university and let me tell you, what a struggle she has had in this first term; a struggle to understand how the post-secondary system at university works. She is now half-way through her second term and the lights have gone on. She is now much better prepared. She had to live through it because her expectations were not what they should have been. Maybe I am to blame for that in not preparing her well enough, but I stand by our graduates from Grade 12. Not everyone can go to university. Not everyone can go to a program at the public colleges or the private colleges. Students have to be matched up with their programs, but when you get into university and you go into a science course in the first year, and students have come out, not necessarily out of a class of thirteen to one, but maybe a class of twenty to one or twenty-five to one in high school and get into a class of 200, or get into a class of 150 where the professor comes in and goes up and does whatever needs to be done on the board, or overheads. Then you have graduate students who are giving exams and correcting exams, the personal touch is gone and it appears that maybe the only thing they are doing is being done on a bell curve. So, it most important that students in Grade 12 be given an understanding of what to expect in university or post-secondary, and that both the post-secondary institutions and the Grade 12, the secondary, are talking, that they are together on it. That is the most important; very important.

This is why there is a little bit of concern when the post-secondary moved away from the K-12. I hope there is not going to be a gap there. I know both ministers and I am certainly confident in both the ministers, that they will continue to work closely together to make sure that the K-12 and the post-secondary are in touch with one another, in communication with one another, because that is most important. That is a crucial year. If we look at crucial years, I will tell you, entry at Kindergarten, without a doubt, is number one; but we have to look at the exit from the secondary as well because that is a key area as well. If the students exiting from Grade 12 are given the right guidance, if they are given the right, I suppose, instructions, if they are given the right degree of support, they can be, and are I might add, very, very successful in post-secondary.

We look at the post-secondary and there is a problem with the post-secondary as well, and I am sure the ministers are aware. It is most important because again, from my experience in graduating students from Grade 12 and into the post-secondary, almost to the student they sign up for either the university, for the public colleges, CONA for example, or for some of the private colleges. They have a plan and they leave Grade 12 with a plan. The numbers that are going into post-secondary are the highest in the country, and that makes you so proud, that they are the highest in the country.

When you look beyond the entry, then comes the problem. In the past twenty years we have gone successfully from a 58 per cent in the old Grade 11 classes - and I suggest that should be higher because many of them would go back for supplementaries and get their Grade 11 at the time. It has gone almost the reverse, from a 58 per cent to an 85 per cent. According to these statistics, we have a high graduation rate.

The post-secondary, on the other hand, has seen a dramatic rise because it has gone from 27 per cent to 58 per cent. Again, what are we saying? These students who are going into the post-secondary, a lot of them, higher on the average than any other place in Canada, only 58 per cent of them are completing their programs. That is a problem. We are getting them in there but something is happening that they are not coming out. Now, people are blaming it on literacy, that they cannot read or write, that they don't have the work skills, they don't have the habits, whatever the case might be, and that is disturbing, because there is more to it than that. We have to delve deeper, because our numbers of youth are declining. We don't have the numbers we once had. We don't have them. We don't have the job markets that were once here. Because, regardless, thirty years ago if you came out and you didn't go into post-secondary, nine chances out of ten you picked up an apprenticeship with somebody, you found your niche, but the niches are getting harder and harder to find, and it must be.

We ask ourselves, when we look at 58 per cent completing them: Is it academics that is limiting the graduation rate at post-secondary? Because when we look down at the bottom of the page it talks about increased affordability. So, there is a recognition on the part of the government and the people who put the Budget together that we have to make sure, in small or great ways, that our youth are given the opportunity, that finances do not prevent them from entering into post-secondary; but I don't think it is the entry. It is not the entry that we are concerned about, it is the graduation rate of 58 per cent.

Is it that the young people cannot finish their programs because they are forced out to work? Is it that they see the need to quit and move on? These are the questions, Madam Chair, that we have to be able to answer, as again our numbers are getting down in youth. We have a bright future ahead of us in this Province and we have to make sure that our youth are a part of it.

If that is what the focus of this Budget is, on assuring that, I say it is about time. It is about time that we got moving forward to make sure that the youth of our Province get at least two years of post-secondary. They have to get at least two years of post-secondary. That is as much equivalent to Grade 11 or Grade 12 as ten, fifteen or twenty years ago. They have to get at least two years before they are even looked at with regard to further training or whatever. It has to be done. We have to put the mechanisms in place to ensure that is going to happen.

There are some initiatives coming up: The new Department of Youth Services and Post-Secondary Education will establish a Youth Advisory Committee as a forum for youth to communicate with the government.

I think the youth of this Province are speaking. This might give them a formal means. I have no problems with a Youth Advisory Committee, if indeed there is somebody listening, and not only listening but acting. This gets back to the wonderful words that we can speak. I can get up and speak wonderful words of praise or whatever, but it is most, most important that we act, that we just don't talk about it. Talk is cheap, but action is what is absolutely needed.

The youth of this Province, I can tell you, I was at The Great Canadian Geography Challenge down in North River on Saturday morning and I sat back and watched twenty-one students from all parts of the Province. They came from Flowers Cove and different areas. There was just too many of them, I am not going down through them, but they were from every nook and cranny - Green Bay - and the parents were there. Just imagine, traveling from Flowers Cove on Friday to be in North River, Conception Bay, on Saturday morning to allow their child to be part of a competition in geography. I tell you, I sat down, and the minister knows what I am like on spelling, I don't have to talk about spelling, and anyone who spells half decently -

MR. SULLIVAN: Can you spell a good (inaudible).

MR. HEDDERSON: I can spell a cord of wood on a couple of trips now, but when it comes to actually spelling them...

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible) a cord of wood on a couple of trips.

MR. HEDDERSON: A couple of trips, that is on a pickup.

To get back to it, the Member for Ferryland is putting me off here now. I had a good thought in my head at that moment and now he has me in the woods spelling out a cord of wood. I understand that my colleague down on the end there is the man who can get up and talk about camp fires.

AN HON. MEMBER: He is a real Boy Scout.

MR. HEDDERSON: He is a real Boy Scout down there, right?

MR. SULLIVAN: He went fishing and left his pole behind.

MR. HEDDERSON: Exactly. I don't want to go there with my colleague.

To get back to it, and the youth, we must talk about the youth of the Province. Madam Chair, I was very, very proud to see these twenty-one young people - and there were a couple up in Labrador. I think there was one student up in Churchill Falls who had a co-ordinator up there just for that one student, because of transportation problems. I think there was another one in Goose Bay and, I believe, another one in Labrador West. There were five students in all, I think, up in Labrador. There were about twenty-six or twenty-seven students, and these ranged from Grade 7, I think, to Grade 10. Boy, was it impressive! They sat down just like Jeopardy! and they were asked questions. It is bad enough asking, but you had to copy down the answer, raise up the answer and say it.

I tell you, I checked the spellings and I was very, very impressed that these twenty young students could spell words that I couldn't, that I couldn't even dream of spelling. The knowledge that they had was again phenomenal: talking about the different countries, the cultural things in those countries, the physical characteristics in those countries, and they came up with answers that were just unreal. I was very proud, because I know that in the classroom they had competed against, more than likely, twenty-five, thirty, or thirty-five people in the class and they had won with a written exam, they had gotten top marks which allowed them to come on down to North River then and compete at the provincial level. What an exciting trip these two young people are going to have. They are going to Ottawa. It is a game show much like Jeopardy! Alex Trebek is going to be there. They are the toast of the town for a couple of nights. If they win or if they place in the top two or three, I believe, they are going to be able to go on an international competition. What a tremendous - to see those parents there backing up there children, traveling across this Province, it was just unreal. I have to mention that because -

MR. SULLIVAN: Where you are it?

MR. HEDDERSON: I was at it.

MR. SULLIVAN: Where did that go ahead to?

MR. HEDDERSON: Down in North River, in All Hollows down there.

AN HON. MEMBER: Are you sure?

MR. HEDDERSON: Oh, yes, absolutely. I am very familiar with that school.

I have to say, as well, that I know we have gotten sponsorship from some of the members here as well. The Member for Conception Bay South was a good supporter of that challenge. Who else? I believe -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HEDDERSON: Yes, the Member for Bonavista was a good supporter of that.

Again, we cannot underestimate the power of our youth. We see now that the new minister of the new Department of Youth, Services and Post-Secondary Education will put a Provincial Youth Advisory Committee as a forum for youth to communicate with the government. This has to be an ongoing thing. Hopefully, this is not going to be a one shot deal. I hope it goes deeper than just these statements that come out-front here that we want to build a high quality - not that I do not want this, I want this, but we have to flesh out from the youth what are the issues out there that we need to address, especially in our school system, to make sure that every child that goes to our schools is safe, secure and able to realize their particular potential.

I say to the minister, who is not here today, that one of the areas I would like - and I know the youth are going to bring it up because it is a very serious one, and one that I am very nervous about, and that is the violence in the schools. This is not bringing out that we should be fearful of sending our children to school, but let me tell you, Madam Chair, that it is an issue that has to be tackled head-on. I tell you, there are situations in this Province, even as we speak, where there are children who are very nervous about going to school. They are not sharing it with others, but they have been bullied and they have been uncomfortable in the classes. Hopefully, someone in the school system, some adult, picks it up. It is an issue that we cannot turn a blind eye to. This is one of them that I hope -

AN HON. MEMBER: Withdraw leave.

MR. HEDDERSON: What is that?

AN HON. MEMBER: We are going to withdraw leave.

MR. HEDDERSON: You are going to withdraw leave. Oh, I have got the people on this side -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HEDDERSON: Oh, okay. Whenever you feel, Sir, just let me know and I will -

MR. SULLIVAN: No, you are doing a good job.

MR. HEDDERSON: Okay. You are after throwing me off again. I have to go back over what I said in the last hour now. I have to go back over it.

Bullies - this is probably a case too, Madam Chair, where I felt a little bullied by my colleague here because he turned around and he said: You have been speaking for an hour

Not to make light of bullying, bullying can be of different degrees, but the violence in the schools is something that we must be aware of and we must get out front on the violence to make sure that we are heads-up on it. That is not to say that the Youth Advisory Committee are not going to bring up a lot of other things. In this age of technology, we can have contact with the youth of our Province literally at the click of a button. The technology is there. We must use that technology now to address the concerns of the youth. We have to make our youth feel part of what is happening in this Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. We certainly have to do it.

MR. HARRIS: Point of order, Madam Chair.

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

MR. HARRIS: I understand that the hon. member is speaking on leave. I do not wish to interrupt his chain of thought, but perhaps if he could finish that particular thought that he is training on now that would be an appropriate time for another speaker to get up. I know the Minister of Education had been listening intently to the hon. member's speech.

MR. J. BYRNE: Are you withdrawing leave?

MR. HARRIS: What I am trying to say, politely, Madam Chair, is that leave will not last very mush longer, so if he wants to finish that sentence, we would be very happy.

MADAM CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Harbour Main-Whitbourne.

MR. HEDDERSON: Madam Chair, do I have to go back to the bullying? Now I got it from the Member for Quidi Vidi.

AN HON. MEMBER: Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi.

MR. HEDDERSON: Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi. I am sorry about that.

It is just that I feel under so much pressure now to clue up, that I (inaudible).

MR. LUSH: On a point of order, Madam Chair.

MADAM CHAIR: On a point of order, the hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. LUSH: The hon. the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi was on a point of order. I believe he was. The point of order he raised, I would like to comment on because I think people know that I feel strongly about it. When leave is given, normally it is not given forever. The person is generally cluing up their speech. I know that we have had indication from members who have carried on.

For all members, who may not know, I should tell them that leave can be withdrawn at any time. If leave is given to a member, a member can withdraw that leave at any particular point in time.

MR. J. BYRNE: We know that.

MR. LUSH: The hon. member might know it, but I can tell him that there are some members here who are not as well versed in the parliamentary procedure as he might be. So, I want for people to know that leave can be withdrawn at any time. I ask the hon. member to continue.

MADAM CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Harbour Main-Whitbourne.

MR. HEDDERSON: Again, I feel under so much pressure here, Madam Chair. I have so many things that I want to say. I do not get up very often, and when I do get up, first of all, they are giving me leave to go ahead and then hauling me back.

AN HON. MEMBER: Go ahead and back up.

MR. HEDDERSON: Go ahead and back up.

The only thing is I can get the Member for Waterford Valley back and we will see if he can perhaps help me out.

Having said all that, and in light of the fact that I have spoken for a period of time and feel that I have adequately covered the topics that I wanted to cover with regard to the Budget, and I know there will be ample opportunities in the future to continue on, I will clue up be saying that this Budget is a start, not an end. Madam Chair, I am hopeful that the initiatives that obviously have been put into education will blossom, that will carry forth the true nature of our education system, which is to focus on our youth to make sure that our youth are fully prepared to go on in life, as lifelong learners, taking in all that this Province has to offer.

Again, I thank you for your patience and leave it at that, Madam Chair.

MADAM CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. LUSH: Madam Chair, I just ask for leave of the House -


MR. LUSH: I promise hon. members that I will do it discreetly.

Madam Chair, in the motion that I moved a little earlier this afternoon, I have talked to other members and asked that we be able to debate that or refer it to the Committee of Supply today. I have the concurrence of members to do that. The motion that I moved re the Contingency Resolve be moved to the Committee of Supply for debate today.

MADAM CHAIR: The Government House Leader moving that a further estimate of expenditure related to the Contingency Resolve in the amount of $10 million be referred to the Committee of Supply today.

All those in favour, ‘aye'.



Motion carried.

The hon. the Member for Labrador West.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. COLLINS: Thank you, Madam Chair.

I would like to welcome the opportunity to have some input into the great debate.

AN HON. MEMBER: Labrador West, isn't it, not Labrador City?

MR. COLLINS: Labrador West.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) Churchill.

MR. COLLINS: Churchill is in the minister's riding.

I welcome the opportunity to have some input and make a few comments on the debate that is taking place here today.

I would like to start off, Madam Chairperson, by talking about things that are important to Labrador West, particularly in the area of transportation. I would like to say that I hope the minister during his visit to Labrador West, just a short time age, certainly paid attention to the comments that were made to him by the municipalities and other civic leaders as they went about discussing the business that was taking place in connection with the symposium on transportation .

Madam Chairperson, the highway, if you are leaving or coming into Labrador West - first of all, if you are coming from the Quebec side you drive in through the Quebec highway system. Once you cross the border, ending up past Fermont, and you start taking the highway system that is part of our Province, you will notice a significant difference in the condition of the roads. Most people say they need to take Gravol if they are going to drive from Labrador City, Wabush up to Fermont, Quebec, only a distant of about seventeen or eighteen miles. That road is full of ruts, and it is very dangerous, not only in the wintertime but in the summertime as well.

I am sure the Minister of Labrador Affairs, across there now, is well aware of the condition of that road, Madam Chairperson, because he has driven it on many occasions and he cannot deny that that highway system has been there for many years with little work done on it in terms of upgrading or necessary repairs.

I would also like to talk about the Labrador Highway, Madam Chair. In the Budget in general, as it applies to Labrador, by and large is really what I would call a regurgitation of monies that have been allocated over the past number of years. Right now we are looking at phase two being completed on the Trans-Labrador Highway. The symposium that was held in Labrador West a short time ago talked about how we were going to get funding to complete phase three.

I seem to recall that the federal industry minister, former Premier of this Province, stated about three years ago, when they received the $340 million from Ottawa, that the interest that would be generated from that $340 million would be kept separate and used to complete phase three, which he said the Province would assume responsibility for doing.

Right now, Madam Chair, there is no money allocated to phase three. There is not any money allocated to do the study that needs to be done before work can commence. We are sort of in a tizzy wondering where the money is going to come from to complete it. It only makes sense to me and to other people that I have talked to, that if you divide a highway system up into three phases and you complete phase one and phase two, then phase three should be automatic. It is like starting the Trans-Canada Highway on the Island portion of the Province and building the road from Port aux Basque to Grand Falls and from St. John's to Clarenville and not bothering to commit the funds necessary to connect up the two. I don't think that would go over very well, and I don't think it would be very smart. Certainly, for that network to be complete in Labrador it has to be a priority with this government, who said three years ago that they would assume the responsibility for doing that.

I would also like to talk about the Gateways project, a project, Madam Chair, that is crucial to tourism. In Labrador in general, Labrador West in particular, tourism is becoming increasingly more popular. In the area right now, there is not even a tourism centre where visitors to the area can come and see what is available in the area, look at the local crafts. Right now, it is being farmed out of the Arts and Culture Centre. There have been plans and projects submitted to government that the people whom submitted them had all indications from the people they talked to in government that this would indeed happen. That has been in the works now for approximately three years and nothing has happened.

The other problem on the social end of things, Madam Chair, that we are and will be experiencing in Labrador West is the need for a family crisis shelter. I do not have to suggest to anybody in this House the importance of having a family crisis shelter in their area. I think this government has gotten a good deal over the past number of years because they have had a facility to use that was rent free and provided by the Iron Ore Company of Canada. That arrangement, I am sad to say, is going to come to an end this year because the building that it was being operated in is being sold to someone in the private sector and, hence, that arrangement will have to cease.

Again, there is a proposal in to government for the construction of a new family crisis shelter, and I understand that government has met with the people who are responsible for administering the shelter and who run the shelter, and they are looking at a quad house under Newfoundland and Labrador Housing that we really have some concerns with. The engineering study to see what it would take to put this building up to scratch and up to par has not been done and we are hopeful that will take place in the near future; but, having said that, there is still a lot of concern in the area by the people who are involved in these organizations as to the adequacy of the building itself, should it even deem to be appropriate, because of some of the physical problems in terms of security.

Again, we are seriously lacking in that area and I think for a government who says that their focus is on women and children in this Province, then I would suggest that more than band-aid attention be paid to this problem and that the funds be made necessary to construct a facility that will meet the needs in the area for the women and children who need to avail of this service and this protection when they need it the most.

I would also like to talk about our health care system and how it falls short in terms of what we are able to deliver. Most of the serious health care problems in Labrador need - it is necessary to travel either to Corner Brook or St. John's, with St. John's being the site that most people have to choose. It is very expensive, as the Chair, I am sure, is well aware, the cost of traveling to Labrador in terms of anything that you may have reason to travel for. When a person is sick, and particularly if there are young people involved, that necessitates one of the parents accompanying the young person, and that can add up to be very expensive. Even though there is a program in place that helps to alleviate some of the costs, it is a $500 deductible program with only 50 per cent of some of the other related costs being covered. That, in our opinion, needs to be revisited. That formula was put in place many years ago and the cost to the people who have to use that program now is far greater than when the program itself came into being.

I would also like to talk a little bit about the situation that is happening in the Province today in terms of the strike in the private sector. When the minister responded to some questioning today, she talked about the percentages. If you are going to compare, then you have to compare apples with apples, not apples with oranges. She talked about the percentages lower than those offered by government to their employees that were offered and accepted in the private sector at Abitibi-Price and at the Iron Ore Company of Canada. I do not think you have to be a financial wizard to figure out that 2 per cent of a large salary is a much greater benefit and increase than 5 per cent of a very low salary. If we are going to compare, I think it is wise to compare apples to apples.

The other thing that puzzles me about this strike, is that we have a difference of 2 per cent that is keeping the parties apart. Two per cent from where the parties started to where they have evolved, to me, does not seem to be enough that would warrant a strike of this magnitude to be allowed to happen.

One of the things that we have to recognize as well in labour relations is that it is very important that a healthy labour relations environment be maintained in any workplace, whether it is the private sector or the public sector, because that is very important to the well-being of the workplace and it is certainly critical when you get into a stage of negotiations.

I think government has fostered and created -

CHAIR(Mercer): Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. COLLINS: By leave, Mr. Chair?

CHAIR: Does the hon. member have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: No. We have a member here who wants to talk.

CHAIR: No leave.

The hon. the Minister of Justice.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. COLLINS: A point of order, Mr. Chair.

CHAIR: On a point of order, the hon. the Member for Labrador West.

MR. COLLINS: I would gladly sit down and let someone on that side stand up and have their say. It is not very often it happens. If I can facilitate that, I certainly welcome it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: There is no point of order.

The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I certainly hope I can start my comments on a more positive note rather than the -

AN HON. MEMBER: Speak up. We can't hear you.

MR. PARSONS: I am sure I have a very attentive audience over there. I would like to preface my comments by saying that, even after being here two years, I am not used to speaking to a group of people like this. My training comes from a background, of course, of speaking to one person who usually is paying attention to me when I speak. I am sure I cannot expect a courtesy from that side in that regard.

Anyway, Mr. Chair, I think it is time we heard from members on the opposite side. I think it is time to bring some rational thought to this matter of debate, some common sense, and certainly some balance. Of course, one has to be focused if you are going to make some comments. We have seen here today the spellbinding performance of the hon. Member for Harbour Main-Whitbourne, and we have heard the comments of the Member for Labrador West. Again, there is a phrase that lawyers sometimes use, and I am sure the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi would be aware. In law, it says, justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done. To put a different spin on that phrase, one should not only talk, one should make some sense and have some rational comments when they do speak.

Mr. Chair, this is about the Budget and I have spoken in this House before on issues of concern particularly to my district, the Marine Atlantic issue in Port aux Basques, the fish plant issue in Burgeo. I heard comments in this House coming from the other side. The Member for Bonavista South, on occasion, has mentioned the Town of Burgeo and the devastating situation and so on. We have a new member in the House from The Straits & White Bay North. I have heard him make mention of some of our devastated communities. I am going to save that speech because that, in and of itself, is a full endeavor that I would like to do justice to when I do address it.

We are here today debating the Budget. The Budget is more than a document that is full of figures. Once implemented, this document here is going to affect the lives of every person in this Province. We can't just single out whether it is a certain male population or a female population or an adult population, seniors or youth. It affects everybody, so we can't treat it lightly. We can try to pick holes in it. We can be critical of everything that is in it, as we wish.

The hon. Member for Harbour Main-Whitbourne is great at picking holes in things and saying what is not good about it and what is negative about it and what we should do -

MR. HEDDERSON: A point of order, Mr. Chair.

CHAIR: On a point of order, the hon. the Member for Harbour Main-Whitbourne.

MR. HEDDERSON: I don't know where the member is coming from, because I got up and acknowledged that we are moving forward in education and moving forward in a manner that there may be some things that need to be addressed; but if you are standing up and saying there is nothing wrong with education, I have a big problem with that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: There is no point of order.

The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. PARSONS: Mr. Chair, again I will take the optimistic approach here rather than the negative approach.

The document that we are debating here in this House, this Budget, is indeed a very positive and optimistic document. In fact, there have been three very positive and optimistic documents and developments that have occurred in this Province in the last sixty days. I would like to refer to some of those, because some of us would like to confuse the public as to what exactly is happening and what is going on. As I say, one should remain focused, one should be informed so you can come to a proper conclusion as to what a particular situation is.

With those three documents, or occurrences, that I refer to, I will spell them out. They are quite simply with this new Administration that has been in effect for the last thirty days or so. One only needs to look at what those three are. First of all, you have witnessed several major departmental changes that have taken place in the structure of government. I will come back to the details on each of these. Secondly, we have had the Throne Speech that was in this House on March 13. Thirdly, you have the Budget document itself.

Now, when it comes to changes in the administration, this Administration showed right off the bat, right off the mark, that adaptability is crucial to anybody if you are going to succeed. You cannot take a hard and fast approach and never be prepared to change that approach if circumstances change. As circumstances change you must, of course, adapt. That is one thing you witness in this Administration, adaptability.

With regard to the departmental changes, one of them is the new Industry, Trade and Rural Development Department, where, from experience, it has been observed that you ought not or you don't function best when you have these two departments separated. We now have placed the financial resources that are available with the various development agencies in the same bailiwick as we put the technological expertise and the advice, again looking for maximum benefits and maximum production from these two facets, i.e. industry, trade and rural development.

Secondly, we have seen the creation of the new Department of Youth Services and Post-Secondary Education. Some people might wonder why you would put both together, but it doesn't take a big stretch, of course, of the imagination to see why. We can talk about the Voisey's Bays, we can talk about the Lower Churchill, we can talk about the fishing industries of this Province, all of which are indeed very important and very crucial to the existence of this Province and the future of this Province, but the best resource we have, the best resource we will ever have, is our youth. In order to maximize the benefits that those youth can bring to this Province and the maximum benefits to the future of this Province, we have to ensure that we do everything humanly possible to give our youth every advantage. That is what you are witnessing when you see this Youth and Post-Secondary Education Department being combined.

You also saw the separation of the Department of Environment and Labour. Some may think it is insignificant, but if you notice what has been happening, not only in Newfoundland but in this country and indeed in this world in the last several years, the significance and importance of the environment has gradually increased. How we manage our water resources, how we manage our waste management, how we dispose of it, how we look after the air that we breath and so on, how we manage our water filtration systems and chlorination, are all crucial issues. This government, again showing its positive direction and focus, has given it the impetus and importance that it deserves and hence it has its own department with its own minister to see that what is a priority item is dealt with in a priority fashion.

The Department of Labour: probably the timing could never be more important in terms of having a Department of Labour where you have trained conciliators, trained negotiators, who are, in these very trying times we are experiencing today, trying to resolve the situation. It shows that it is a department that is crucial to the employment, employer and employee relations in this Province and deserves to be on its own.

Besides these departmental changes, the second occurrence that we have seen in the last thirty days I referred to, was the Speech from the Throne. All of this is going to tie in and culminate with my comments on the Budget, because it shows a plan, a work plan, that this Administration ha and that it intends to implement and carry out in the next two years. You cannot simply sit on your duff, you cannot rest on your laurels, you have to be persons of vision, persons of focus, and a government and administration of action. This is what you are seeing in this Throne Speech of March 2001. Again, the focus is on youth and women; on openness with our Freedom of Information review; our Ombudsman creation; our Youth Advocate creation; solid plans with regards to the environment and waste management; student investment opportunity and corporation funds; a continued freeze on the College of the North Atlantic tuition; and a reduction in tuition at Memorial University. We can talk about: it's a good start, but it is more than a good start. This is putting down a very solid foundation, in this Throne Speech, as to where this administration intends to go. We (inaudible) a situation two years time when the people of this Province have to wonder what it is you plan to do.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

Does the member have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Labrador West.

MR. COLLINS: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

CHAIR: No leave, sorry.

MR. COLLINS: To continue on, where I was so interrupted and denied leave. I would like to carry on where I left off, and that was talking about the labour relations in the Province today.

One of the things the previous speaker mentioned was in terms of the relocation of departments. From the people that I have talked to this has caused a lot of problems in labour relations in the Province, not only for the employees directly affected but for other employees who are witnessing what is considered to be a very unfair, callous move by government that did not take into consideration any of the employees concerns. It was done without any input from their elected representatives. Just because government had the might to do it they felt they also had the right to do it, and that is wrong. That is why, when you get into negotiations, all of these things are compounded and can create problems where none should exist if things were done right and appropriately.

I also want to say that the past twelve years have been lean ones for the employees of government; not even keeping up with the rate of inflation. The rollbacks, the wage freezes, the negotiations that were successful with good wage increases but were suddenly wiped away with the stroke of a pen, certainly has done very little to restore or encourage good faith between the two parties. When we look at the pensioners, past retirees of the pension plan who are out here now on a weekly basis having their silent vigils to try and get some sort of increase which would at least take care of the inflation that is happening around us for the last number of years. When we look at that - and we can see and we can point to successive governments of this Province over the past number of years that the pension plan was used for political purposes. It was not used for the intent that it should have been used. The pension plan, if it had to adhere to the same rules as pension plans in the private sector, this pension plan would not be the problem that it is today. Indeed, there could be enough money in that plan to provide increases for past retirees and to meet the needs of future retirees when they retire, and should be able to retire with the financial security and respect that they deserve as long-term workers for the people of this Province.

To get back to the Tourism sector again, Mr. Chair, and the importance of that to Labrador. If we look around at what is happening throughout all of Labrador we will see that we are starting to develop a great skidoo trial system with groomed trails. A lot of people have taken a lot of pride in what has been happening there over the past number of years. It is also important that the work that people put into it on their own initiatives are supported by government as well. It is not very encouraging when you see people who are working very hard in their communities and do not have support from government for the infrastructure that is needed to facilitate the increase that is happening in respect to tourism throughout the different regions in Labrador.

I think, Mr. Chair, that there has to be a greater commitment to the area in terms of transportation, in terms of health care, in terms of the students from Labrador attending the different educational facilities around this Province at great costs, that are over and above the cost of tuition itself. Also, we have to recognize that the high cost of airline travel, which is the only reasonable alternative when you have to leave in the winter months, in particular, is atrocious really. When you look at a full-fare ticket from Wabush to St. John's return, it would be in excess of $1,500 if you have to travel on the spur of the moment. I think anybody in this House would agree that for $1,500 from St. John's to Toronto or Montreal, you could almost pick a point on the map that you could travel to spending that kind of money.

The young people of Labrador need employment opportunities. We have to work as government, as leaders in the community and in the private sector, to encourage the type of economic development that will lead not only to menial jobs but to long-term good employment opportunities that our children are training and studying hard to become qualified for.

I believe, Mr. Chair, there is a lot of opportunity to do good things if the political will to do them exists. I think it is also fair to say that the municipalities - I know in Labrador West, for example - have been working hard and doing their share to stimulate economic development in the area. They have been working hard and doing their share to try and bring to the area things that will attract visitors from all parts of the world and capitalizing on what probably is our biggest natural resource, and that is the snow that we are bound to get each and every year. It creates a lot of opportunity for tourism and I am sure that there are many people from the conference - that was held in Happy Valley-Goose Bay last week on eco-tourism, which is becoming one of the largest and biggest growing sectors of the entire tourism industry. In Labrador we are certainly poised and on the doorstep of great natural wilderness areas that people would certainly want to come and see, and take advantage of, if it were developed properly. There is a lot of potential but it is going to take, like I said earlier, the commitment of this government. It is going to take the political will of the people in this House and the elected representatives in Labrador to make that become a reality.

I will close my remarks with that, Mr. Chair. I am sure there are many hon. members on the other side of the House who cannot wait to get to their feet and have some input with their comments.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR (Mercer): Order, please!

I ask the Clerk to call the heads.

On motion, subheads 1.1.01 through 3.1.09, carried.

On motion, Department of Executive Council, total heads, carried.

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader, call the first head on the Legislature Estimates please.

MR. LUSH: 1.1.01.

CHAIR: 1.1.01.

The hon. the Member for Baie Verte.

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

I want to rise today to have a few comments and specifically talk about roads in this Province, as I have done many time before, and at this particular time, to talk about something that I tried to raised in the House of Assembly today. Of course, with the timing of Question Period I am not always able to get questions in, but I will use this time, with the minister here today, to talk about something that needs attention drawn to immediately. That is the roads and the conditions -

CHAIR: Order, please!

Could I draw the member's attention to the fact that we are debating the Legislative Estimates.

MR. SHELLEY: Yes, Mr. Chair, I understand that, and I am going to relate that to the fact that we have to drive here in order to get to the House of Assembly. As a matter of fact, it is a point well taken today because it is going to relate exactly to my point I want to make on transportation.

As we talk about the current time of the strike and so on, we talk about the emergencies with hospitals, we talked about the situation with school boards, when we talk about all of those issues, they are all related to transportation. Sometimes it is something that is a given and we sort of take for granted, but we forget that it is all related to transportation. As a matter of fact, almost every single issue we discussed in this House of Assembly has to do with transportation. A lot of times it is almost like electricity, we sort of take it for granted. We forget so quickly that with a Province like Newfoundland and Labrador transportation is so vital to every single issue.

MR. SULLIVAN: Sorry, go to it, Paul.

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Chair, that is why it is so important and vital that we talk about transportation in every issue that we discuss here in this Province when it comes to a Province that has an Island portion and also a vast land mass like Labrador. Transportation relates to every single issue that we raise in this House and every single issue when it relates to the economy of this Province. I want to be very specific in my comments today on transportation. These are questions that I was going to raise today, and it is not done very often but I did say to the minister just a few minutes ago that I would use my time in debate today to address questions that I would have asked him today in the House of Assembly if there was time. As I looked at the clock and was on my feet hoping to be recognized, of course, time ran out in Question Period which often happens in this House. I will use my minutes in debate today to ask specific questions relating specifically to the strike situation in this Province when it relates to roads.

Yesterday, we had what most would call, some modest weather conditions. Nothing too dangerous compared to some of the storms we have had throughout this winter. This is probably one of the harshest winters on record. Yesterday and last night, in some parts of the Province, we did have some modest weather conditions which left some snow, some sleet, freezing rain and so on. Even this morning, with those small amounts of - the weather conditions, we did have some treacherous and even dangerous road conditions around the Province.

What I want to raise with the minister and ask in questions here today - and I hope that he responds to me some time in debate today, or even talk to him some time throughout the day because it is very important. Every single member in this House is concerned about it, every single person in Newfoundland and Labrador is concerned about it, and that is that we have safe road conditions all the time, but more specifically that we have good road conditions while this strike is ongoing. We do not know how long it will be ongoing, whether it will be a day, a week. We all hope that as soon as possible we can solve this dispute and have a safe Province again, when it comes to transportation in this Province.

My question's, which were to be for the minister today: Is the Province prepared? Does he feel the contingency plan is put in place for transportation? I know the former minister knows that when a situation like this arises government and the unions get together and decide what is needed. Government has already responded in public by saying that the most important thing is that the public is not put at risk. Therefore, each department, be it Health, Education, social services, whatever it may be, they have to have a contingency in place so that people are not put at risk.

When it comes to transportation it relates to all the other departments, because if an ambulance has unsafe driving conditions in getting to a hospital, if school children on their way to school have unsafe conditions, then it reflects on every single issue. That is why I am asking the minister these questions and I hope he will respond to them some time today, the reason for me asking those questions today is quite simple. The forecast does not look good for the next twenty-four hours. I am very -

MR. J. BYRNE: It is snowing heavy out there now.

MR. SHELLEY: It has been reported already that it is snowing very heavily now. We have a weather report. The snow is already started.

I do not want to make light of this today, and that is why I want to make sure I say for the record that the snow has started. For the next twenty-four hours the forecast is not good for the Province. The combination of that forecast and the combination of a strike currently on in this Province, I am very concerned that the Department of Transportation has the proper procedures put in place to make sure that they can adequately ensure the safety of people in this Province.

I think that is a very important question. It cannot wait until tomorrow; I needed to ask it today. I will use debate time now today to ask the minister those exact questions. I am wondering. At the best of times in this Province, road conditions are not great, I know, certainly in many parts of rural Newfoundland, with the number of personnel and amount of equipment that is used to clear the roads and make them safe, the salt and sand and whatever needs to be done. I think it is a genuine question; it is something constructive that needs to be asked. A lot of people are concerned about it, and I say to the minister that I would like to hear him address that concern, that tonight, tomorrow morning as people go on about their daily life as normal as they can under the circumstances with the strike that they can go on with their life in the usual manner, but in the safest possible way.

I especially say that today in concern for students who are still traveling. Remember, the school boards have asked that parents get their children to school, so parents are traveling with children over longer distances now to get their children to school. I am very concerned that between tonight, tomorrow, and the next couple of days, with these adverse weather conditions, that we have done everything possible by the department, by the government, by the department that is responsible for transportation in this Province, that we have done everything possible to ensure, to the best of our ability, that there are safe road conditions in this Province for people to use our highways and roads.

I think it is a legitimate concern. I wish we could have gotten to it in Question Period today, to raise it. I am certainly asking the minister that now. I am raising it as a press statement that I will be issuing today also, because I have gotten calls already today. I had them last night, of some close calls with, like I said before, just in some modest weather conditions yesterday as compared to a storm that we are predicting, some twenty to twenty-five centimeters in some parts of this Province tonight. It is going to have a crippling effect on this Province, I believe, like I said, in the best of times; but now we are faced with the strike situation and the contingency plan put in place by the minister.

I would like for the minster to respond some time today: who he has in place, what equipment is ready, and what personnel are ready, and I am hoping that he can tell me above and beyond what he has had in place for the strike. Keep in mind that this time of year in Newfoundland, winter is far from over. You do not look out in Newfoundland and Labrador in April month and say that is the end of the snow. I always remember - if my memory serves me right, maybe some member can remind me - I think it was three years ago, on June 14 - I remember the date because I was heading to a graduation in Brent's Cove, La Rochele Academy - I left St. John's that morning, and that evening I was in a blinding snow storm, on June 14, three years ago, 1997 or 1998; I cannot remember the year. So we all know, I do not have to tell members in this House, that winter is not over in Newfoundland until you see the grass growing and the tulips up. Even after that you can get a snow storm in Newfoundland and Labrador, certainly in northern parts of Newfoundland and certainly in Labrador.

I am asking the minister if he can respond to that sometime today that, in fact, besides the contingency plan, and I know that is in place - I think it is a serious enough question, I say to the minister, that he respond to it today. I would like him to respond to it today. I will repeat it, in case the minister did not hear the entire thing. I will capsulize it and say this: Today, I was about to ask questions of the minister, and I will say it today - it is very unusual for me to do it like this because it is a debate but it needs to be raised today. As the minister knows, if he has listened to the reports, it is already snowing heavily outside. In the next twenty-four hours it should be fairly blizzard conditions they are reporting. I wanted to ask the minister, with the contingency put in place for works, services and transportation, I know there is an agreement between government and the union usually to make sure that the safety of people is utmost in the department and we can do our best to do that.

I am wondering if the minister could respond in the debate today and answer those questions. Are we ready? Will it be safe for people who are bringing their children to school, for ambulances that are heading to hospitals, for everything, for the general public to go about their normal day's life, and do their usual things in face of the strike, and to go on with life as normal, as normal as they can get? Most importantly, the question is - don't lose sight of the question, Minister - is it safe for the people who have to go on the highways and byways, for medical emergencies, from ambulance drivers to school children attending school, right up to people doing a normal day's routine? Right though the whole gambit, is it safe for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador to be on the road tonight, tomorrow, and as we go through the storm, and maybe another storm after that? Who knows how many storms before this strike is over? Are we going to be safe enough on the roads for all people involved? Could the minister respond to that in debate today and tell us how he feels? Is his department ready, and can they handle the situation that we see before us?

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. PARSONS: I will take this opportunity to finish what I had originally started here.

As I pointed out in my first comments, there have been three major changes that the people of this Province have witnessed in the last thirty to sixty days with the advent of this new Administration. One of those I have already alluded to was the departmental changes that have occurred; secondly, the very focused, positive, deliberate, work plan that is outlined in the Throne Speech; thirdly, the Budget document itself which we are debating here today.

I have already commented in detail on the departmental changes and the Throne Speech. I will go on now to the third item, which is very, very positive, that being the Budget. The Budget is the instrument which shows where the cash is coming from and where the cash is going to go. It gives cash life to the pronouncements that were made in the work plan. It is no good to have a plan if you don't know how you are going to fund it and you don't know how you are going to carry it out. The Budget document is a major step in, some might say, putting your money where your mouth is. Actually, that is not correct. Actually, it is not a case of putting your money where your mouth is, because it is not the government's money to put there; it is the people's money. When you are spending someone else's money, similar to being a trustee, you have to be wise in your expenditures, you have to be careful in your expenditures, prudent, and you have to be balanced. That is exactly what you are witnessing in this Budget.

The Member for Harbour Main-Whitbourne acknowledged that there were some positive things contained in the Budget and he restricted his comments to the educational field. Instead of mere generalities, I would like to take this opportunity to comment on some of the specifics that are in this Budget. For example, in the K-12 system, 218 teaching positions that would have been eliminated if you were to apply the enrolment statistics have been retained in this Budget. Two hundred and eighteen additional teachers have been kept in this system, and they haven't been laid off as the statistics for enrolment would have required, at a cost of $11 million.

Utility costs, which is a major concern to school boards, for example, $3.5 million being put into utility costs that the school boards have incurred.

Capital costs, $23 million. Maybe we might only get the windows repaired, but at least it is positive action. This government wants to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. That is where this Budget is focused. We intend to be part of the solution.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. PARSONS: For the information of the hon. Member for Harbour Main-Whitbourne, $23 million into the capital funding needs of the schools in this Province. Not mere words. Action, positive actions, wise use of the money that the Treasury of this Province has.

Five million dollars allocated to the implementation of the Sparkes-Williams Ministerial Panel; $4.4 million for teacher professional development; $800,000 for school busing in the St. John's area; $800,000 for the recruitment and retention bonuses for teachers in coastal communities in Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. PARSONS: I made a comment earlier that we can have all the natural resources you want in Voisey's Bay, in Labrador and the Lower Churchill. The best and most important natural resource we have is our youth. This next item again, $1 million into new library books for the public library system in this Province.

Focused action: $500,000 to support the literacy program in this Province, all very positive initiatives to head to that very valuable, most important resource: the children, the students, the youth of our Province, and probably the most significant step we have seen in post-secondary education in this Province in quite some time. Again, it is on that road to being pro-active, to being part of the solution rather than part of the problem, and that is the $3.3 million in funding towards Memorial University for the 10 per cent reduction in tuition. We also have the freeze on tuition at the College of the North Atlantic; $4 million to create a new Student Investment and Opportunity Corporation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. PARSONS: Now, Mr. Chair, that is not mere generalities of what someone might do. That is fact. That is backing up what your intentions were in the Throne Speech with dollars for wise initiatives.

The other thing here is, after you have seen these three major changes happen with the departmental structure, the Throne Speech and the Budget, the people of this Province will see that there is a plan. There is a work plan. This is not a wish list. This is a detailed work plan that the people of this Province, similar to a teacher reviewing a student's progress or reviewing a report card, the people of this Province will have an opportunity to see this work plan implemented, to see the progress that it brings, and I have no doubts whatsoever that, at the end of the day, when the public exam on this work plan is done, when this report card is reviewed, there is no doubt that the people of this Province will give this Administration an A grade.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. PARSONS: I will not belabour the point any further, Mr. Chair, other than to say it is nice to see, for a change, a very positive, go-forward, focused approach to things, and that is what you are seeing in this Administration. You can try to derail the situation, you can try to fetter it in some way, you can try to give incorrect information, you can try to shade what is happening, you can try to spin what is happening, but the bottom line is, the people of this Province are not fools. The people of this Province will evaluate themselves, and the people of this Province know when people are committed to being focused and to working, and that is what you have over here. As I have said from the first instance, you have a work plan.

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Baie Verte.

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

This is really getting interesting today. I have to make a few comments back on roads again in a second but before I do that, I cannot help but at least rebut a few of the things. It is funny how you watch the members stand and talk about all the positive things -

AN HON. MEMBER: Don't go talking about (inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: No, I am not going to. As far as that goes, Mr. Chair, the member is trying to talk about positive things, and I agree with a lot of points he made, but here is what I am interested in. Here is what I say to the member that I am interested in: What is different? I mean, he just said: Now is the time for a real change and a different approach.

I have to remind the member that it has been twelve years of this Administration. What do you mean, we are just realizing now? We are just going to change? What is he talking about? Now the other great minister, the former Intergovernmental Affairs Minister, who we could not get a job description for, now he has a lot to say all of a sudden. Perception changes, Mr. Speaker. Now he has a lot to say. Mr. Chairman, I am not going to deny the spirit of the intent of the member by saying he positive things to talk about. I am just saying that a lot of people are wondering, if you are talking like that - and you are not the first member to talk like that - what has changed? We are not talking about small issues, we are not talking about a Throne Speech that got something different. We are talking about major policies. The Premier got up a couple of days ago and he talked about the Red Book and how: no, we did not say anything on Gisborne Lake in our Red Book, we did not say anything about Voisey's Bay in our Red Book, and we never said one single word about FPI, not even mentioned, he said.

I understand that, Mr. Chairman. None of us are fools. We understand that it was not printed in the Red Book in big black letters. But, Mr. Speaker, the mandate they are sitting in right now - this is what they all have to get into their heads - that the mandate they are sitting in right now included a Premier who is now in Ottawa, the man who got you there. It is almost like everybody is denying he even helped. I understand that, and I respect what somebody said here the other day, by the way. The member is a big part of getting elected, each and everyone of you. I have respect for that, that you have all played your part in being elected, but you have to understand and believe in your heart and soul and guts, except for the member from Trinity North -

AN HON. MEMBER: Hear, hear!

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Chairman, I do not really mean that. The Member for Trinity North is a good member and that is the reason why he got elected. But, I have to make the point: We all know that the former Premier, the politician of mainland, Canada, Captain Canada, the Tobinator, you name it, had a little bit to do with it. He had something to do with you sitting as a mandate unless you are all going to deny that.

Although, Mr. Chairman, it was not in the Red Book -

AN HON. MEMBER: ( Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: It was not in the Red Book, Mr. Chairman, I say to the member, about Gisborne Lake. It was not in the Red Book about FPI. But for anybody to stand in this Province as an elected Liberal and say - and how they thumped their desks on Gisborne Lake. Whether it is for or against Gisborne Lake, or they are standing on FPI, these are the same members, because I was here. You can get it in Hansard. There is a lot said in Hansard that is not in the Red Book. When the Premier, their hero at the time - it changed but their hero at the time - when he said, and he made the final statement, we will not export bulk water, what happened in this House of Assembly? [ Member bangs on desk] That is what happened in this House. It was not in the Red Book.

AN HON. MEMBER: All except the Member from Bellevue.

MR. SHELLEY: All except the Member from Bellevue. You are absolutely right, I say to Member from Labrador. That is what is strange. I do not have a Red Book. We have our Blue Book, so I will just have to look through our Blue Book and we will get what was in the Red Book plus. When they took the Red Book, Mr. Chairman, and the Premier slapped it down, there was nothing in there about Gisborne Lake, nothing in there on FPI. Between the Red Book and getting elected and two years in office, your Premier , your hero who is now gone to greater things, did stand in this House and make it very clear on those issues. They were not just tiddlywinks. It was not something he flipped outside that he made a stand on. He stood, it was debated, and they said they investigated the federal laws and regulations. They were worried about NAFTA. All those things were said. Get the Hansard. I read some of it the other day again, Mr. Chairman. Get the Hansard and read through it.

All of a sudden, Mr. Chairman, the same group that applauded when the Premier finally came in and gave them all a little bit of relief and said, we are finally going to make a stand on Gisborne Lake - who applauded? We all did. Every single one of us, both sides of the House, we agreed upon it. We were all slapping each other on the back and we were all really huggy-kissy. Everything was going perfect on Gisborne Lake, FPI, and all those different things. I say we exaggerated and embellished a little bit.

All I am saying to the member who spoke earlier today is things have not changed that much. Things have not changed that much, I say to all the members opposite. All of a sudden, Mr. Chairman, we have gone through metamorphis, complete change over there. We do not stand for that anymore. We are in a different tank now, but you are all in the same boat. You might have changed the fellow at the stern, who is steering it, but you are still in the same boat. You got elected in that boat and you have to ride in that boat until the next election.

Actually, Mr. Chairman, it was not a boat at all, it was a train, according to some members, that was coming down the track, and told everybody to get out of the way. The now Premier elect was one of the ones who, may I remind the members, decided to go south and give up, because he had planned to be the leader the last time when Mr. Tobin came into sights. Once Brian made the big move and made the announcement, after he went out to Marble Mountain and spoke to the Mountain and so on, the now present Premier decided to step out. The Minister of Fisheries, at the time, decided to have a press conference and say he was not running. Everybody got out of the way. For the last two years, including the last election, we saw some of the most important decisions on policy in this Province, probably in this history; two or three, maybe four major issues if you look at them, but Voisey's Bay certainly. That certainly was in the Red Book. They were major, major policy decisions that everybody stood up and applauded. There was lots of debate. Now the Premier says we are going to have a second look at it. Then the member gets up today and says that everything is changed now.

Mr. Chairman, all I can read from that combination of a group of people who supported this particular Premier and the fellow who supported Premier Tobin - just making the point, Mr. Chair, it has to be one way or the other. You just do not slash off your leader and send him on to Ottawa and forget about all the positions you took. We still have the same consistent positions. They have not changed.

MR. JOYCE: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: That is the difference, I say to the Member for Bay of Islands. That is the exact point I am making today. I am glad somebody finally brought it up and said it because I was waiting for you to say it, and the Member for Bay of Islands said it. You just went through three leaders, six leaders, but the difference is we have stuck with the policies that we started with. We did not change it for anyone. When our leaders changed, we did not change on Voisey's Bay, we did not change on Gisborne Lake.

Now it is different, Mr. Chairman, if you were going to change a few regulations on moose hunting or something. We are not talking about moose hunting regulations. We are talking about Voisey's Bay, export of bulk water, our stance with the 15 per cent with FPI. Mr. Chairman, they are all over the place.

What is going to happen, I say to the Member for Bay of Islands? Let's take a scenario here that is not out of the woods yet. Lets take the scenario that we change the leader again before the next election. How about that? We change our leader again before the next election.


MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Chairman, what is going to happen then? So, we changed the leader. This is a possibility, just a possibility, that the people, the public, who have already debated Voisey's Bay, Gisborne Lake, and FPI, those three issues, the people in this Province changed positions -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: I will talk about that, too, if you want to.

The leader beforehand agreed on three different issues and it was unanimous among the caucus, unanimous during the election. It was a stance of the election. If the public in this Province decide to speak out loud enough, lo and behold -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: It worked for me, I say to the hon. member.

If the pressure is on, and the public of this Province decide that the Premier is not taking the right stance, then I wonder what the position of all the team is going to be. Will he stick to his decision? I would ask today - I know nobody is going to tell us, Mr. Chairman - but I would like to ask today, and you can raise your hands or just say nothing: Do all members agree on the three positions taken by the current Premier that are so opposing to their former leader? I wonder can every single caucus member say honestly today: Yes, I agree with the export of bulk water. Yes, I agree with the changes in FPI. Yes, I agree with exporting ore out of Voisey's Bay. I wonder if they would say they agree with all of it. Explore the options, the Member for Bay of Islands said..

CHAIR: Order, please!

The member's time is up.

MR. SHELLEY: What the members opposite are doing is exploring their options.

CHAIR: Is it the pleasure that we call the Heads inclusive?

On motion, subheads 1.1.01 through 3.1.01 carried.

On motion, Department of Legislature, total heads, carried.

CHAIR: Contingency Fund.

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Contingency Fund, $10 million. Blank cheque, $10 million. Spend it where you like, that is basically what it is. It was $30 million last year, down to $10 million, which tells us that the new Premier must not be as extravagant as the previous Premier. That is the only conclusion. I mean, God help us, it must be a tough job trying to control the expenditures with that former Premier. Let's hope the guy who came through, a union leader, knows what it costs to scratch and save and try to have some accountability in the Budget.

AN HON. MEMBER: He has nothing on Frank Moores.

MR. SULLIVAN: I don't know anything about him. I was too young then to remember. I just know I voted around that time. It must have been almost the first time. I think I voted for him. Yes, we voted for a change then after twenty-two or twenty-three years. We voted for a change.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: No, I didn't, but he did come up to Ferryland district and he said: if you don't elect Greg Power, I will sit on the Treasure Chest and one red cent will go into Ferryland district.

AN HON. MEMBER: Not one red cent.

MR. SULLIVAN: Not one red cent!

Do you know what the people in Ferryland district said? They went to the polls and they did not elect Greg Power. They said: Keep your money, we will elect whomever we want to up in Ferryland district. That is what they said. They are a great bunch of people up in Ferryland district, I say to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: No, they didn't. They defeated him. They said: We are not going to listen to you. We are independent. We don't want to be dictated to about who to vote for by anybody. We want to make up our own minds and we want to vote for somebody who we want to represent us.

AN HON. MEMBER: You are overheating the economy. Have a drink

MR. SULLIVAN: No, Sir. The previous premier overheated the economy. It went wild. It went out of control. It was the best economy in the whole world, but when it came to contract negotiations, we can't afford it. That is what he said. We are too poor, we owe too much money. Then, all of a sudden, when a Budget comes down, we lead the country in economic growth, 5.2 per cent last year, over 5 per cent the year before. With all this growth we have been wondering what has happened to provincial sources of revenue. Shouldn't they be going up?

AN HON. MEMBER: Speak up. Speak up.

MR. SULLIVAN: Speak a bit louder. No, my friend is not here today.

Some members here have very serious hearing problems, and the ones that do hear don't do what they are supposed to do. That is my strategy. People say what you don't hear won't hurt you.

AN HON. MEMBER: Loyola, can you go ahead of the ambulance tonight?

MR. SULLIVAN: No, I cannot. They have been chasing me for the last several years, the ambulances have, and I am not going ahead of them anymore. It is your job to get in a plow and get ahead of those ambulances and clear the roads.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: That is your job, not my job.

God help us if we have to depend on that minister to get out on a snowplow on the roads and ensure people are going to get safely to there places of destination.

I drove in yesterday, we had no snow basically up my way yesterday, and when I got to the Goulds Bypass Road, I drove from the Goulds Bypass Road till I got to the intersection of Commonwealth Avenue on the Works, Services and Transportation road and it was deplorable. There were about 10 centimeters of snow. You had to pull in when you met a car. It was difficult to get moving. I decided to come off the bypass road instead of going on the Pitts Memorial and the Outer Ring to come in. I went through Commonwealth Avenue, out Kenmount Road, and I went on the city cleared roads so it would be safe to get here in the city.

AN HON. MEMBER: Andy had it plowed.

MR. SULLIVAN: Andy had it plowed, I guess. That is probably it. He probably did. I can tell you one thing about it, and I will say this for the record, that the city streets and the city roads don't compare with the job in my district. When you hit the city limits the roads are way worse than they are under the Works, Services and Transportation in my district this year. I can say that for the record.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: They are sanded better, they are plowed better, they are wider, they are safer and when you get to Middle Pond coming out - that is very rural, just outside of Bay Bulls - it is like night and day. I phoned Andy Wells on it. It is no secret. I called him and I told him the roads are not being ploughed as well in there. I brought it up with the ward councillor and he said: Let me check it out. If they are no better within the next few days, you call me back. The next few days they were better. We had no snow though. A few weeks later - and I could not call him back and say: Andy, they are better now because it did not snow.

One thing about Works, Services and Transportation, I cannot speak for other districts but I can speak for mine, they are out on the road early in the morning. The city ones strolls in that area in Middle Pond after everybody has gone to work. That's right, when everybody has gone to work and they go in and decide to clear it. When you get there, the Works, Services and Transportation road - we will call it, the provincial road - you can see the asphalt. It is sanded down and you have to drive over hardened up old snow surface when you are coming out through Middle Pond. I have said that to many people. I have complained to the city about it and many others have called me and I said: Call the city yourself too. Everybody who drives over it and has a complaint, call the city and tell them. That is basically a major concern.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).


AN HON. MEMBER: They have been really good since February 13.

MR. SULLIVAN: I think the reason it got better - here is probably why it might have gotten better up there. In the last election, in 1999, the former Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, who was the former Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, the hon. Member for Port de Grave, spent as much time campaigning in my district and the district of the Member for Harbour Main-Whitbourne as he did in his own. Because we had a candidate who went in there from outside who ran against him. He spent at least a week up in my district campaigning. He did not even dent it.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: I am getting to that. The candidate got 100 less votes than the one before him, and he spent over a week up there; but he got the delegates at the convention because that is what he was doing, and he got the delegates from Harbour Main-Whitbourne. He was campaigning since 1996 to get delegates to Newfoundland and Labrador.

Anyway, the point I am getting to - it does not have to do with that. I just got off the road a little bit on the issue. When he was rushing home from a fishery meeting up in Ferryland - people were there representing fishermen, fishery issues and so on, and I was there. The minister at the time, the non-minister of today, the non-team player member was there and he left it kind of late because he was getting a bit of heat. I said: That is a provincial responsibility up there. That is not a federal thing. The member here has to answer for that. Anyway, he rushed off - I think he was in a van - down the highway out the Witless Bay Line, and guess where he ends up? In a ditch. Out comes the call! Get every truck you can up here on the road to Witless Bay Line! The minister is down in a ditch there! There were trucks that came out of highway depots - trucks going, sand going everywhere out over the Witless Bay Line! I can tell you, it was just like somebody pulled a switch and everything got activated there. Since that day, I said they should use some drano. I said give him some drano if he is going down in the drains and ditches that often. Give him drano, it might get him out of there. Anyway, he was late getting out to his meeting. He made no impact on where he left, none whatsoever. I told him that too. I asked him if the next time he could come up for two weeks and campaign but he declined the offer. He decided that he had those delegates sewn up. He was going to go to some other districts where he was not as successful probably and try to get an extra - one more is all he needed. One more district and he would have been there.

MR. MANNING: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: As the Member for Placentia & St. Mary's said: the other Danny, the one who is going to make a pitch for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair the next time, would have been selecting the Cabinet. Can you imagine the trouble our Province would be in today? Can you just imagine the trouble we would be in today if he had to be out picking a Cabinet for this Province? God help you, I say, and God help us.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).


AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Listen here, you are probably right. The Premier should not have said it. It was not a nice thing to say but it is hard to hide your true feelings on times. We know what that member is like. He was in the House before, I can tell you. He worked himself out of a job. He was right up there where the Member for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair is now. He was there first when I came in here in 1992. He never got out of there for about two years or more until he got parliamentary assistant to the Premier, and that was the death knell for that member. That was the end of his political career. He sat there and was the person best known for walking the Premier's dog. That is one that killed that man. Don't get too close to the Premier of this Province, that is the lesson. If you get too close to the Premier of this Province you are in big trouble, I can tell you. Distance yourself as far as you can from the Premier of the Province or you might have trouble come election time, I can tell you.

This brings us back to a $10 million blank cheque. Now that blank cheque of a $10 million Contingency Fund, well that got patterned after Ottawa basically, when the Premier came down on the big train that was coming down the track. I cannot see how a big train was coming to Newfoundland when the tracks are all gone, the trains are all gone and they gave you $800 million for roads! That is what they gave you. All that political $800 million for roads you are doing right now. You gave away the ferry service. We have to pick up the cost of ferry service. That is why we are seeing special warrants tabled here in the House today to pay for other numerous costs you that did not allow for in last year's Budget because of those things. We still do not have a Trans-Labrador Highway. I would not want to drive between Goose Bay and Cartwright in another year or two. It is a long tough drive. There is no road. We still have ferry service.

We gave up the South Coast service and the Works, Services and Transportation Minister at the time, who is the Member for Port de Grave now, said: we are going to take that $55 million and put it into a fund. The interest on that fund will come at, let's say 8 per cent, 10 per cent, or whatever, $4.5 million a year, in that range. That was enough to run the South Coast ferry service in White Bay, but what did they do? They did not do that, and I asked questions at the time. They did not do that. They took the fund and spent it all. They spent the whole fund over a two-year period. They might have used a bit in the third year. Yes, a little bit for the third year. They spent it all. Where are we now? We have to pay for the service out of our operation funds -

CHAIR (Ms Hodder): Order, please!

Could I remind the hon. member that his time is now up.

MR. SULLIVAN: By leave, Madam Chair.

CHAIR: No leave granted?

MR. SULLIVAN: I am making too much sense. They want me to sit down. I will have to get up again. Oh, leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes, by leave.

CHAIR: Leave granted.

MR. SULLIVAN: Okay, thank you.

AN HON. MEMBER: No, Loyola, stay up.

CHAIR: Leave has been granted.

MR. SULLIVAN: I will wrap it up in a minute or two if the member wants to speak. I do want to say for the record, there is one other heading to be done within the time limits, and that is the Consolidated Fund. With the minister tied up in negotiations, I suggest that - we will want to ask questions of her on another day. Our time is limited. Only a few minutes, I think so -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, that is why. I am going to take one minute and I will wrap it up.

A lot of that money has been spent. We have taken a chunk of money. One other thing, we have taken a chunk of money on other funds. We have a big chunk of money under transitional assistance when we eliminated the RST and got the HST. We were told all the other provinces were going to come in on it. Only two others did. The one that did in Atlantic Canada is the one which got all the jobs up in PEI. So if you do not get a part of it, you get the jobs. We spent all that money. That is gone now. There is nothing left. Where is our revenue? We are still $86 million less that we are collecting under sales tax than we did then. We said the economy would grow and more money in people's pockets; it did not happen.

I am not going to belabour the point. The Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi wanted to have a few comments so I will sit down.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Madam Chair.

I just want to speak for a few minutes on the issue of the Contingency that we are now having a separate vote on in the House. I think it is a good idea because it allows us to talk about what they did with the Contingency in the past and what kind of things this government seems to do.

MR. J. BYRNE: What did they do?

MR. HARRIS: Well last year, for example, they discovered there was an emergency. They had to layoff a whole bunch of people who happened to work at the Public Service in St. John's. They said they were going to move them to rural Newfoundland, like Corner Brook, like Grand Falls, like Gander. Now we are building a new hanger. Who is building that hanger out in Gander I want to know?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) had water, there would not be one.

MR. HARRIS: Speaking of water, who is building and doing all the repairs to the hanger out in Gander to provide for the air services? It is not one McCurdy by any chance, is it?

AN HON. MEMBER: How much?

MR. HARRIS: We hear millions of dollars - $14 million, is that the figure? - being used to refurbish a hanger out in Gander so that the government air services can operate out of Gander instead of operating out of St. John's. They are having trouble, Madam Chair. They cannot get the people who do these jobs to move to Gander because of the fact that they are leaving to go somewhere else. I understand McCurdy Construction is doing that work.

MR. J. BYRNE: Who are they?

MR. HARRIS: Who is McCurdy Construction? The Member for Cape St. Francis is like his new leader, he is into cross-examining. I am being cross-examined. Who is McCurdy Construction? Well I understand that McCurdy Construction is actually owned by a fellow by the name of White, that would be Gerry White. Gerry White who has a connection with a certain lake in -

AN HON. MEMBER: Not Gisborne Lake.

MR. HARRIS: Osborne Lake. No, I do not thing it is Osborne Lake. I think it is Gisborne Lake. The McCurdy Construction, McCurdy Company, they are refurbishing a hanger out in Gander so that we can move government air services from St. John's to Gander. I do not know where they are going to find the people to service the planes there because all the people who service the planes cannot go to work in Gander, either because they have family commitments or because they choose not to move.

In fact, what they are saying, is if they are being forced to move it will not be to Gander they will move, it will be the Mainland. This is a group of people who are in short supply. We are finding that the government is using the Contingency Fund for hair brain schemes like that.

AN HON. MEMBER: Like what?

MR. HARRIS: Like what? The Minister of Fisheries wants to know: like what? How many of the relocated public servants are going to his district? The true rural Newfoundland. How many are actually being put in your district?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) move outside St. John's.

MR. HARRIS: This government had a proposal. The Member wants to stand up and point fingers. Well I can point fingers at him and tell him that the public sector union, NAPE, made a proposal to this government not to move 250, but to move as many as 500 positions out of St. John's, really into rural Newfoundland, and do that without a cost of $20 million or $30 million.

MR. J. BYRNE: Did they have a (inaudible)?

MR. HARRIS: The question, Mr. Chair, is whether or not they had - they had a Contingency Fund, but did they have a contingency plan? The answer is no they did not. They had no plan. They took this money and decided to spend it on that.

The real problem with this government is that there is always money to do what they want. Always money to do what the government wants. If they have an idea and they want to do something, they will find the money for it but when somebody comes knocking on the door and says: we need money for this project or that project. The Minister of Finance will get up and the current Minister of Mines and Energy who used to be there: We just don't have the money. But, when they have a Cabinet meeting and there is some pressure on the government or they feel some pressure to spend some money, all of a sudden they have the money. They find the money. They have a contingency plan or they have more revenue that they did not tell anybody about or: We just got a readjustment in the transfer payments. All of a sudden there is money there to do it.

Mr. Chair, we had an example this last week. The Minister of Finance; President of Treasury Board goes on the public airways, goes into the Budget process and says: Look, we just do not have the money; 3-3-3. That is our final offer, our only offer: 3 per cent, 3 per cent, 3 per cent. We just do not have the money. Did anybody believe that? Did the minister herself believe it? Nobody over here believed it, and I suspect nobody over there believed it either, because what did they do last Saturday? Last Saturday they said: 5-4-3.

MR. J. BYRNE: Who?

MR. HARRIS: The government.

The government all of a sudden: No, we don't have any more money; but now, from one day to the next, all of a sudden, they got money for 5-4-3; not just 3-3-3. So does anybody believe them now when they say there just is not any more money? I don't think so. What we have right now

AN HON. MEMBER: 5-4-4, Jack.

MR. HARRIS: No, they just found another percent. So there they go!


MR. HARRIS: The government with no money just found another $18 million, if you listen to the minister. If you listen to the minister, the new minister, the minister of water, we would believe that each point cost $18 million.

MR. J. BYRNE: Not true?

MR. HARRIS: Of course it is not true, that each percentage point costs $18 million and they came up with an additional 4 percentage points, supposedly $72 million.

The numbers that the government is using for that are totally out to lunch. I do not even know if they know how much an extra percentage point would cost, because instead of using the bargaining units that are at the bargaining table, they are using the entire public sector, the $1.8 billion annual budget for salaries for government, and saying that a 1 per cent increase in that would be $18 million. A totally unrealistic figure.

The reason that the contingency fund should be there is to deal with things like negotiations, when we have, as we do have now, a situation where, for the sake of being 2 percentage points apart from each other, the public sector unions and the government are 2 percent apart, and it does not appear that really serious negotiations went on about money.

At 10:30 on a Saturday night, all of a sudden the government comes up with an offer that they knew they would have to make, and they made it when? They made it at the last minute, knowing that there was nothing that could be done about it.

What is irresponsible, I say to the minister, is this government taking the position, starting off with the Board of Trade and the Chambers of Commerce, speaking all around the Province, then putting in the Budget 3-3-3 and saying there is just no more money, then going into the first day of negotiations, after the 3-3-3 had been rejected by 97 per cent of the public sector workers, and saying: Here is our offer, 3-3-3. That is what I would call irresponsible. If there is any serious attempt to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement, that is not how you do it.

I do hope, and I hope that the hon. minister hopes too, that there will be a resolve to this dispute -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: I might be willing to report progress if I thought we were getting anywhere with the hon. minister over there, but he seems to have taken on a bitter pill. Somebody gave him a bitter pill this morning. There was something in his porridge this morning.

MADAM CHAIR: Order, please!

Could I remind the hon. member that his time is up.

MR. HARRIS: Madam Chair, perhaps I would take this opportunity to move that we rise, report progress, and ask leave to sit again.

MADAM CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. LUSH: Madam Chair, I move that the Committee rise, report progress, and ask leave to sit again.

On motion, that the Committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again, Mr. Speaker returned to the Chair.

MR. SPEAKER(Snow): The hon. the Member for Burin-Placentia West.

MS M. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of Supply have considered the matters to them referred and have passed the Executive Council and Legislature heads of expenditures, and ask leave to sit again.

On motion, report received and adopted. Committee ordered to sit again on tomorrow.

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

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.

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