The House met at 1:30 p.m

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

Before we begin our routine proceedings today, I would like to welcome to the gallery four students from the newly-elected student council executive for the Newfoundland School for the Deaf, accompanied by teachers: Ms Linda Clarke, Principal, Ms Irene Barnable and Mr. Chris Jackson, Vice- Principals. Along with their teacher's aids, two interpreters: Sheila Keats and Marguerite Peddigrew from the District of Kilbride.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: As well, I would like to recognize today, the former Member for Conception Bay South, Ms Patricia Cowan, who is in the gallery.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Statements by Members

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

MR. MERCER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I wish to inform hon. members that the Newfoundland and Labrador Organization for Women Entrepreneurs - NLOWE - has named Tina Stewart, of Corner Brook, this year's western region woman entrepreneur of the year.

This award recognizes outstanding contributions by women in the advancement of business and community economic development.

Tina is the owner and chief executive officer of Notable Images, a Corner Brook based note card company that showcases photographs and original artwork focused on Western Newfoundland images.

In addition to her Entrepreneur of the Year award, NLOWE has also recognized Tina for her community work as an educator, as an administrator, and as an interpreter for the deaf.

Included in her many activities, Tina recently spearheaded the highly successful Women, Age, Grace and Laughter calender project to raise $100, 000 for a palliative care unit at Western Memorial Regional Hospital.

I ask all members of this hon. House to join with me in extending congratulations to one of Corner Brook's newest business women and a very community-minded individual, Tina Stewart.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to ask the hon. members of this House to join with me in offering congratulations to Ms Betty Ann Kennedy of Conception Harbour, a recent winner of the Fairfax Scholarship, a national award.

Betty Ann is currently enrolled in a Tourist Studies Program at the College of the North Atlantic, Bay St. George Campus, Stephenville. She is one of only twenty-four students across Canada to be awarded the $3,500 scholarship.

Just getting to be the sole nominee for a college the size of CONA, thousands of students spread out over eighteen campuses in this Province, was indeed a great accomplishment. As reported in The Compass, a local newspaper, one of her instructors, Ms Donna Pippy, described Betty Ann as a very mature student with a positive attitude, high personal standards, many admirable qualities that will be assets to her as she pursues a career in the tourism industry. The Fairfax Scholarship is a prestigious national award. It is the third time the college has applied and submitted nominations, but it is the first year a student from this Province has won.

Betty Ann remarks the scholarship has given her lots of motivation and confidence going into her second year of studies and the $3,500 certainly will help out with the expenses. Ms Kennedy is the daughter of John and Betty Kennedy of Conception Harbour, Conception Bay.

I am sure I speak for all members of this House in offering Betty Ann congratulations for winning this prestigious award and wishing her well in all future endeavors.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Port de Grave.

MR. BUTLER: Mr. Speaker, recently the Avalon North Wolverines Search and Rescue building in Bay Roberts was officially named the Frederick R. Bowering Memorial Building.

This tribute was a fitting one to the entire Bowering family. All four children of the late Mr. Bowering have devoted at least part of their lives to either rescue or firefighting after their father's death in 1970 from exhaustion and exposure after two days and nights lost in the woods.

The Bay Roberts Ground Search and Rescue team was organized in 1994 and certified the following year. After its coverage area was expanded, the name was changed to the Avalon North Wolverines. Today, the Wolverines consist of seventy members and the group is on call twenty-four hours a day. The new building is a result of the Wolverines fund-raising efforts and, to indicate the effectiveness of this organization, I inform the House that this beautiful new building is completely debt free.

Mr. Speaker, I ask members of this House to join with me in commending the Wolverines Search and Rescue on the work they do and for the fitting tribute they have paid to the memory of the late Mr. Bowering.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, on Friday, November 16, I had the pleasure of attending, in my district, the official opening of the newly renovated Carew Lodge, providing independent housing units for otherwise homeless people.

With its refurbishment, Carew Lodge now provides fourteen self-contained apartments that will help address some of the needs in our community for safe and affordable housing.

Less than one year ago, Carew Lodge was a dilapidated building, close to uninhabitable, barely offering shelter to its tenants, much less a supportive and secure environment.

I want to commend Executive Director Jocelyn Greene of The Stella Burry Foundation, Geraldine Lush, the Superintendent of Carew Lodge, and Mick Newchurch, who runs the resource centre, for their work in securing funding and succeeding in this transformation, and for involving the tenants who had input into the process.

Safe and affordable housing is not only vital to improving the health, social and economic well-being of homeless people; it is a fundamental right of all people under the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

This project stands as a beacon of hope that government commitment and community action can make an important difference in people's lives.

We hope, Mr. Speaker, that this work will continue.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Carbonear-Harbour Grace.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SWEENEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise in the House today to extend congratulations to the St. James Anglican Church Heritage Committee of Carbonear on their efforts to have St. James Anglican Church designated as a heritage site. Their efforts paid off recently when the church received its designation from the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador.

St. James Anglican Church was completed in 1864 and was noted for its unique design. The absence of pillars was unusual for that period and it was noted that the people admired the design because it caused no interruption in sight or sound. Many of the original features of the church can still be seen, as well as other features such as a barrel organ that was brought to the church in 1904 and on display at the head of the church. The church is currently undergoing renovations to its bell tower and there are some other projects in the works to preserve the unique character of the church.

The St. James Heritage Committee has put forth an effort that clearly demonstrates their commitment to preserving one of the many great churches that are a defining part of the history and culture of our Province. Therefore, I ask all Members of the House of Assembly to join me in congratulating the St. James Heritage Committee and the Town of Carbonear on the recognition of St. James Anglican Church as a provincial heritage site.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Placentia & St. Mary's.

MR. MANNING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to take this opportunity today to send congratulations to a very special couple in my district, John and Helen Hennessey, of Branch, St. Mary's Bay, who will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this Saturday night, December 1.

John and Helen will be joined by family and friends in the Branch Community Centre on Saturday night for a coming together to celebrate this very special occasion.

John was a long-time employee of the Department of Works, Services and Transportation. His years of operating heavy equipment, especially clearing Branch country after a snowstorm, have produced many stories that have become folklore on the Cape Shore. Helen is a remarkable woman who is well-known for her ability to carry out any task with commitment and passion.

I would ask all Members of the House of Assembly to join with me in congratulating John and Helen Hennessey of Branch on their golden wedding anniversary this Saturday, December 1.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Statements by Ministers

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


MR. REID: Thank you.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to inform this House that the Special Panel on Corporate Concentration in the Fishing Industry has completed its deliberations and has submitted its final report to me.

As promised, when this panel was convened on September 6 of this year, and in keeping with this government's policy of openness and accountability, government will release this report today.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend the panel, which was chaired by Mr. Les Dean, along with panel members, Mr. Sam Walters and Mr. Harold Wareham. These individuals were asked to take on an enormous and complex task in a very short period of time.

I would like to thank the panel, on behalf of government and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, for their important work.

Mr. Speaker, we are now in the process of completing a thorough review of the panel's report and evaluating the implications and feasibility of implementing these recommendations. I am confident that this report will be a great asset in the future fisheries policy framework.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Last spring when we raised concerns about the change in the Board of Directors of FPI and the concentration of ownership in the industry, this government saw nothing to ask questions about. When we filed a submission to the Competition Bureau, they saw nothing to ask questions about. When finally FPI made a bid to take over Clearwater, the minister was shamed into taking action and establishing this panel.

Mr. Speaker, we look forward to reviewing the panel's report, we look forward to discussing it in this House, and we look forward to the review of fisheries processing policy in this Province that the minister committed to last winter.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Corporate concentrations for many years have been a concern. Communities have had plants closed that were perfectly capable of operating, due to ownership issues. Fish harvesters have had prices suppressed because of concentration, and there is a need for this. I hope the report has positive recommendations that can be addressed by this government to correct some of the problems.

Oral Questions

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WILLIAMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions today are for the Premier. Bill 49 is intended to protect the privacy and personal information of residents of our Province. Personal information is defined under section 2 of the act as recorded information about an identifiable individual, and not only includes name, phone number, address and age, but also includes religious beliefs, political beliefs, sexual orientation, fingerprints, blood type, medical status or history, including physical and mental disability, financial, educational, criminal or employment status, the individual's personal views or opinions, and other persons' views or opinions about that individual.

Would the Premier not agree that this constitutes very detailed and personal information about residents of this Province?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: Yes, Mr. Speaker, what he just described does constitute very detailed information.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WILLIAMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank the Premier for the answer to that question.

Mr. Speaker, section 38 of the bill sets out nineteen circumstances when this information may be disclosed, and one of those circumstances is to collect a debt owing to government. Does the Premier think it is appropriate to use the fingerprints and blood type of an individual to collect $100?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: No, Mr. Speaker.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WILLIAMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank the Premier for that straight answer to that question.

Mr. Premier, do you think it is appropriate to disclose the complete medical history of an individual to the Department of Justice for use against that individual when he decides to sue the government for negligence?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: Mr. Speaker, I assume he will get to the point of his question some time soon and I will answer it then.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WILLIAMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will continue with my questions. Mr. Speaker, does the Premier think it is appropriate to disclose the complete financial, educational and employment history of an individual any time it wants to enforce any right under any law of this Province?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is not that I am not giving my usual lengthy answers today just because I have a sore throat; it is that I really would like to know what the point of the questions is. There is no intention under any piece of legislation to do the kinds of things that the Leader of the Opposition is referencing at this point in time.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WILLIAMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, to clarify the point for the Premier, under section 38 of the act, it gives the government the power to disclose this information under these circumstances: the lengthy list of information that I gave you in the initial question. I will ask you another question.

Mr. Speaker, does the Premier think it is appropriate to disclose the religious beliefs, the political beliefs and the sexual orientation, to an MHA who is investigating a problem for a particular individual? That is what the act says, Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

With respect to the issue that we have been discussing for some three days now, the new Freedom of Information Act which is before this Legislature for full debate, as I have indicated, if the Leader of the Opposition or any other member of the Opposition, or any member in this government for that matter, has a concern they would like to raise during the debate, please raise the concern and we will deal with it.

Mr. Speaker, what we are seeing again is a consistent approach by the Opposition which is usually inconsistent. The consistent approach is to misrepresent information that is there, to suggest it means something it does not. Last week, Mr. Speaker, there was a misrepresentation, a gross misrepresentation, of the word "concern" in the Auditor General's Report, that everybody in Newfoundland and Labrador knows was a misrepresentation of the concern of the Auditor General.

Mr. Speaker, today, for the third day in a row, the number one issue on the minds of the Opposition in Newfoundland and Labrador is the new Freedom of Information Act. There is nothing else of importance to them. This is the most important issue in the Province today, the most urgent issue.

The Leader of the Opposition is trying to suggest that there is going to be a piece of Freedom of Information legislation, that has been researched to be consistent with everything else that is in Canada, that allows for the kinds of things that he is suggesting in his questions. It is not allowed elsewhere in the country. That is not the intent of the act. He knows the difference, Mr. Speaker, and he should not be trying to misrepresent what the piece of legislation says.

Let's have an opportunity, Mr. Speaker. Let him stand and take his hour, which he refused to do on the Voisey's Bay debate, where he didn't stand at all and debate his concerns about the bill.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. Premier now to take his seat.

A supplementary, the hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WILLIAMS: Thank you in particular for that answer, Premier, because it shows the contempt that you have for the rights and privileges of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. WILLIAMS: In a question yesterday by the Member for St. John's South to the Minister of Environment, we showed that you are violating the Charter of Rights of individuals in this Province. That is what you are doing, Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, would the Premier not agree that the protection of privacy under this act in fact protects the government and not the residents of Newfoundland and Labrador?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the record will show, in the some twelve-and-a-half years that I have been here, that I don't have contempt for anybody. In fact, I have total respect for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, all of them, including the Leader of the Opposition who is trying his best to do a tough job. Mr. Speaker, it is not for me to pass judgement as to whether he is doing a good job or not, but he is trying to do a tough job.

Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is, if he wants, we can have the Government House Leader call the bill on freedom of information today, and debate it in its entirety. He can speak for an hour, as he is entitled to do, Mr. Speaker, about his concerns with respect to freedom of information.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: Because it is very unfortunate, Mr. Speaker, that he is trying to suggest that there are things in this piece of legislation that do not exist; this is not the norm across Canada. The committee researched freedom of information right across North America. These are standard pieces and clauses and things that are contained in freedom of information in other jurisdictions, including the Government of Canada, and they do not lead to the kinds of things that the Leader of the Opposition suggested today, Mr. Speaker. They do not lead to those kinds of actions.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, my questions are for the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board. The net deficit of the Province as tabled in the Public Accounts report yesterday show wide variations between the Budget Estimates as communicated to this House and the actual expenditures. For example, for the year 1999-2000, the budget deficit was estimated to be $33 million but the actual deficit as recorded on page 12 of the Public Accounts report yesterday was nearly $269 million. In the following year, 2000-2001, the budget deficit was estimated to be $34 million but the actual deficit was nearly $350 million.

I ask the minister: Why have your good news budgets had such an underbelly of consistently poor estimations, and why have your budgets been so out of touch with the real financial situation in our Province?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I am pleased to answer the question because the information put forward by the member opposite is not accurate. Mr. Speaker, our budget -


MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, I listened attentively to his question and I would appreciate an opportunity to explain because it is a very important issue to the people of the Province. It is important to set the record straight.

Mr. Speaker, in fact we did better than we predicted last year by coming in $6 million less than our projected deficit.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: That is a fact.

Mr. Speaker, it is also important to note that every year in this House of Assembly, in addition to tabling a budget, at the end of the year we table, on the recommendation of the Comptroller General, a recording, a record, of all of our Public Accounts for the whole year. Mr. Speaker, we have done this every year, every single piece. There are four volumes. Volume III accounts for the cash statements, which he is trying to refer to in his comparisons between the two years, but there are four volumes. One is on the cash basis, and the others refer to the accrual basis. I will be happy to go into each of the four volumes in detail, but the point is that it is inaccurate what he said. We had a better than projected outlook last year. We came in $6 million less than projected in our deficits.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Waterford Valley.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I can just quote to the minister, on page 12 it says: Net Expenditure over Revenue. Now, in my world, that is a deficit.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, that clearly shows that in 2001 there will be a $249 million deficit.

Madam Minister, it is time to tell the truth about the real financial situation in this Province. You say we are expecting an $80 million deficit. You were off by $230 million in 1999-2000. You were off by $300 million in the next year.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the member now is on a supplementary.

MR. H. HODDER: Will you not be off by another $350 million this year?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to invite the acting finance critic to come and join myself and the Comptroller General to go through a good briefing of the four volumes because what I tabled yesterday - and it is important for the people of the Province to realize this. He is comparing a budget that we have not event laid down for next year, to the one that I tabled yesterday; not the budget but the actual Public Accounts for the whole Province ending March 31.

Mr. Speaker, what the member opposite is neglecting to say - because again it is always about inferring the wrong information in this case - it is important to note, I put out a press release yesterday. I hand delivered these documents to the media. They were delivered in the House for all to see. In the figure to which he refers, the amount that is included includes the interest payments on our unfunded pension liability.

Mr. Speaker, when you go to the grocery store to buy your groceries, you do not go and say: Sir, I have no money but I have a house. You have to have cash. You have to know how much cash you have. You have to know what expenses you have to pay out.

Mr. Speaker, our cash sheet is a reflection of our expenses and our revenues for the year. They are accurate and they are contained in Volume III of the records of the Public Accounts report.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions are for the Minister of Mines and Energy. This government is negotiating with Husky Oil and Petro Canada to have most or all of the work on constructing the topside storage and offloading vessel for the White Rose project done here in this Province. My question for the minister: Can the minister tell us if there is an agreement at this point in time to have any of that work completed and done at Bull Arm?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The hon. member, I believe, can appreciate the fact that the White Rose Development Application is going through a process that will lead to either sanction and approval of a project, or no project. Once we arrive at that position, the proponents will know whether or not they can do a project. It will not confirm whether or not there will be a project. When I announce on behalf of government inside of thirty days whether or not we approve the Development Application and/or the Benefits Plan, that will not trigger automatically a project. That will be the ultimate decision of the corporate boardrooms of the proponents, Husky and their partners.

At what point they determine whether or not they are going to proceed with the project, then the issue of level of benefits really becomes important and critical as a matter of full public disclosure in terms of what their intent is versus what we would like to see.

The standard that I have laid down to the proponents in this project on many occasions in my own boardroom is this: We want to see, for this project, no less than 100 per cent of all of the benefits that can accrue to Newfoundland and Labrador and/or Canada delivered as benefits accruing to this Province. That is the standard that we have laid down.

The standard to which we subscribe is maximum and full benefits. The extent to which that is practical and a realistic expectation will be determined when the Benefits Plan is finally revealed.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. the minister now to conclude his answer quickly.

MR. MATTHEWS: I can tell the hon. member this: He can rest assured that tonight he can sleep well, knowing that this project will yield up more benefits than any project heretofore.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: The President of Friede Goldman Newfoundland, which operates the Marystown Shipyard, admits his company cannot bid on White Rose work. My question for the minister is: If Marystown is not sold or leased to a company that can successfully bid for major components of the White Rose work, is it possible that some or much of the work will go outside this Province?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The answer to the question is this: It is possible, but I have to say to the hon. member that it is so highly, highly unlikely that will happen, he has no need to worry about that issue today. We will achieve, on this project, the highest level of benefits that has ever been seen to accrue to this Province from any of the previous two projects. The third one will be better than the first, it will be better than the second, and we hope that the fourth one will be better than the third, as good as the third will be!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Mr. Speaker, is it possible that either Husky or Petro Canada could be looking for concessions from this Province in exchange for guaranteeing that all or most of the work on the FPSO topside storage and offloading vessel is possibly being done, even in part, in the Province?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is no secret that in the corporate world in which the companies operate, they obviously strive to achieve the best possible deal in the interest of their shareholders. That would be the norm. They would be derelict on behalf of their shareholders if they did not do that. But, equally as strident, equally as committed, equally as forceful, and equally as firm as any corporate individuals are with respect to this project, we, on this side of the House, are just as firm, just as strident, and just as hard bargainers as they are on their side, because we want to ensure that our shareholders, the people of the Province, get the absolute maximum level of appropriate benefits from this and every other project that we are negotiating.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question is for the Minister of the Environment. The five-year logging plan for forest management, District 16, which includes the main river watershed, was registered October 31 by Corner Brook Pulp and Paper with the commencement of the plan proposed to start January 1, 2001. As the minister well knows, the Environmental Assessment Act regulations require that such a plan be registered no fewer than 180 days before the proposed commencement.

I want to ask the minister: Given the fact that the time for the commencement of the plan is only sixty days from the registering, has the minister told Corner Brook Pulp and Paper that they are going to find a way to waive the regulations, or has he told them that they have to comply with the act?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RALPH WISEMAN: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

What the hon. member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi failed to mention was that the minister also has the authority, with the agreement of the proponent, to change that time frame. There was a request to change the time frame. He also knows that the proposal is now in the environmental assessment process. As regards to the time frame, the minister, in agreement with the company, can change that time frame upon a request of the company.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

On November 14, Abitibi Consolidated registered six five-year logging plans, two of which specify commencement on January 1, 2001. Does the minister also feel that the regulations should be waived for Abitibi Consolidated? Is it true, Mr. Speaker, that this minister and this government have consistently over time done this type of thing, preventing the public from having full access to these plans and the opportunity to comment on full environmental assessment to take place? Hasn't this been the consistent practice of this government and this minister under the environmental protection for the forestry and logging and other areas in our Province?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RALPH WISEMAN: The short answer, Mr. Speaker, is no. This government has not changed the time frame under which an environmental assessment can be registered. The hon. member knows full well that there is a forty-five day period for the environmental assessment process and at the end of the forty-five days the minister has to give a decision.

So, Mr. Speaker, no, we have not violated the legislation in any way.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker under section 71 of the new Environment Act, where the minister is of the opinion that the disclosure of certain documents or matters is not in the public interest, the minister may decline to disclose those documents or matters. This decision, to release information, is completely at the discretion of the minister. Another example of government's new openness and accountability policy.

Doesn't this clause permit the Minister of Environment to circumvent the Freedom of Information Act?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RALPH WISEMAN: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

The member opposite has a tendency, from what I have gathered in the last 2 days or so, of picking out certain clauses of the acts that are in first reading here in the Legislature and putting them in a place to somehow justify the argument that he is putting forth, confirmed, of course, a few minutes ago by the Leader of the Opposition. I understand now that he is his legal advisor. He wouldn't do that this morning on the Open Line Show when he was asked the question. You have three lawyers in your caucus and they are advising you and you would not admit it. But he did today, and the Leader of the Opposition has confirmed that.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. RALPH WISEMAN: What the hon. member failed to read, Mr. Speaker - he mentioned section 71, but what he did not read by section 70. It is a condition, Mr. Speaker, of every license and permit issued under this act that the holder shall immediately, upon request, allow inspectors to carry out inspections authorized under this act of a place other than a dwelling place to which the licence or permit is issued.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. T. OSBORNE: Mr. Speaker, that was feeble attempt at yesterday's answer.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. T. OSBORNE: Mr. Speaker, not the answer at all. Clause 4 of the new environment act states that in the event of a -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member is on a supplementary, he ought not to be quoting from documents or bills in the House. I ask him to get immediately to his supplementary. It should be a follow up from the original question.

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

Is the minister aware that under clause 4 of the new environment act, that in the event of a conflict between this Act and another Act, the Environment Act will prevail?

Mr. Speaker, why would the Minister of Environment wish to override the Freedom of Information Act and not disclose information to the public?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RALPH WISEMAN: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

Yesterday it was the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, that he was adamant that this government and this legislation was violating the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Well, Mr. Speaker, he is absolutely wrong. This legislation that we are putting before the House does not violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, there are three acts that have been approved by this House that use the very same clauses, the Liquor Control Act, the Tobacco Tax Act and the Wildlife Act, that have been approved by this House. Also, Mr. Speaker, there is legislation across this country using the same clauses. I also want to say, Mr. Speaker, that the Legislative Counsel here always checks legislation to ensure that it is not against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

So the hon. member should do his homework a little bit better and probably, Mr. Speaker, get better legal advice.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

Mr. Speaker, this government and the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation are again planning to weaken the Public Tender Act through the passing of Bill 25, An Act To Amend The Public Tender Act.

Mr. Speaker, will the minster explain what he is really trying to accomplish with Bill 25 when he must know that sections 3(2), (d), (i) and (j) of the existing Public Tender Act give government the authority to purchase goods and services without going to public tender in an emergency situation?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, I am glad to get up to respond to my hon. critic. The bill is on the Order Paper for debate because the Auditor General recommended that we bring this legislation forward.

I guess the whole answer to the question is: When you have a ferry that services some of the islands in Newfoundland and Labrador, I guess the Official Opposition would like the vessel to be tied up for four or five weeks until we go to public tender to get emergency repairs done. That is what the Official Opposition is saying to me today. Is that the approach that you want to take as an Official Opposition? If we get a breakdown on the Flanders this afternoon, for example, the Official Opposition says that we should go to public tender which would take six to eight weeks, and that ferry won't be operating? Is that the approach of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, I suggest that the minister read the existing Public Tender Act.

Mr. Speaker, who is really going to benefit from these unnecessary changes to the Public Tender Act, when the Auditor General in her 2000 yearly report, section 3.26, confirms that government can do the very thing they are looking for in Bill 25, if they follow proper procedure?

Mr. Minister, are you planning to purchase another rust bucket like the Ahelaid without going to tender? Is that your plan?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. BARRETT: The hon. member in his question said: Who is going to benefit from this amendment to the Public Tender Act. I want to remind the hon. member that last year we carried 750,000 passengers on our ferry service; 750,000 passengers will benefit from this legislation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Question period has ended.

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

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, I want to submit to Your Honour that the procedure being used by the Opposition in the last couple of days about asking questions about legislation that is before the House is quite out of order, out of order in the sense that the rules and procedures of our Question Period do not permit that kind of questioning. Your honour had to bring a couple of members to order a couple of times for citations, for reading from the legislation. As hon. members know, that is not permissible and when we get into that kind of questioning that it permits or promotes, I should say, and encourages long answers on this side of the House which again is not permitted.

Mr. Speaker, the questions are not permitted primarily because when you get into legislation one is getting into detail and that kind of detail is not permitted in Question Period. Mr. Speaker, we have a place for that in the House, a place to debate. Again these types of questions promote debate. Question Period is not for debate. We have a place in the House for that, Mr. Speaker, for detailed questions separate from Question Period.

I suggest that these questions ought to be ruled out of order and not permitted in this House, Mr. Speaker, in the intensity, the way that they have been permitted over the last couple of days, because there is a procedure, there is a process in this House for these types of detailed questions.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

The Government House Leader either knows or ought to know the ruling that you provided, Mr. Speaker, some time ago.

Now, he has referred to the purpose of Question Period. The purpose of Question Period is clear. I quote: " The primary purpose of Question Period is the seeking of information and calling the Government to account." and any government to account, and that is exactly what we did today, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. E. BYRNE: Secondly, the Government House Leader knows, Mr. Speaker, that your ruling is clear, that we are allowed to ask, as an Opposition, a question on any piece of legislation before this House that is not being called to debate on the day we ask it. The Government House Leader also knows that, on this day, Thursday, November 29, 2001, all of the legislative questions that we had today none of that legislation will be debated. It is clearly within the ruling that you provided.

My suggestion to the Government House Leader is simply this; that if you want to make a point of order in terms of how we conduct ourselves, look yourselves in the mirror, look at the speaker's ruling, and then conduct yourselves accordingly.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The chair will certainly take the matter raised by the hon. Government House Leader under advisement. Just one comment: Questions that are asked in the House - and I illustrated this yesterday when I made a ruling on a previous point of order - ought to be of an urgent and important nature. Question Period ought to be an opportunity for members to ask questions that otherwise they would not have an opportunity to ask in the House. So, I want to take the points raised by hon. members under advisement and will get back to members.


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

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, I stand today to present a petition, and it reads:

To the House of Assembly of Newfoundland in legislative session convened, the petition of the undersigned residents of Newfoundland;

WHEREAS the roads in the area of Jamestown and Winter Brook are in very poor condition and are in desperate need of paving; and

WHEREFORE your petitioners urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to pave approximately 1 kilometer of road in Jamestown and approximately 6 kilometers of road leading to and including part of the community of Winter Brook, and as in duty bound your petitioners will ever pray.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, this a section of road - I say to the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation that this petition is certainly current. Last year there was 2 kilometers of pavement laid through part of the community of Winter Brook and 1 kilometer through part of the community of Jamestown.

Mr. Speaker, I stood here on different occasions to talk about this particular section of road, and if anybody listened to the petition, you did not hear me ask for the road to be upgraded and re-paved or recapped. Here is a group of people, two communities - one recently celebrated their 100th anniversary - asking for their road to be paved for the first time. For the first time! Never has the road been paved leading into this community of Winter Brook and parts of the community of Jamestown. On this particular stretch of road, on this particular 6 kilometers of road, Mr. Speaker, there is one of the biggest employers on the peninsula, I say to members opposite, Jamestown Lumber. The owner of that particular sawmill has raised the issue with me and other members, and with other ministers on the opposite side, of his concern. This particular individual has paved his parking lot in order to be able to carry out the business of saw milling, so he can go there and not have to close down his mill every half-hour or every hour to sharpen his saws and sharpen his knives because of dust. It is the only section of dirt road that his lumber goes over from the time it leaves his mill until it gets to the markets in the United States. The only section of dirt road is the section of road leading into the community of Winter Brook.

Mr. Speaker, those people are asking to be brought up to the year 2001. They are not asking for anything that they should not expect. I have stood here and I have delivered petitions with attachments on them here in the House, tabled documents from clergy, from people who go to the small stores in those communities, supporting the individuals who are trying to get the minister's attention and the government's attention to get this section of road paved.

I say to the minister, and I suggest to him, it is probably the cheapest pavement that he will lay in the Province. Back some four or five years ago, the road was prepared to be upgraded and paved. At that particular time the upgrading was done but the pavement was never delivered.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. FITZGERALD: I say to the minister, that I certainly support this petition and I ask if he would consider it when he puts forward his budget for road paving and upgrading in the coming fiscal year.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Orders of the Day

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

MR. LUSH: Two or three first readings, Mr. Speaker.

Motion 2, first reading of Bill 59 under the name of the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board, An Act To Amend The Public Service Pensions Act, 1991 And The Uniformed Services Pensions Act, 1991.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The Public Service Pensions Act, 1991 And the Uniformed Services Pensions Act, 1991," carried. (Bill 59)

On motion, Bill 59 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MR. LUSH: Motion 5, Mr. Speaker, Bill 48.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Justice and Attorney General to introduce a bill, "An Act To Remove Anomalies And Errors In The Statute Law," carried. (Bill 48)

On motion, Bill 48 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MR. LUSH: Motion 6, Mr. Speaker, Bill 54.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Labour to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The Labour Standards Act," carried. (Bill 54)

On motion, Bill 54 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, Order 16, second reading of Bill 46.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act Respecting The Child And Youth Advocate." (Bill 46)

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BETTNEY: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to stand today to introduce the second reading for Bill 46, which will see the establishment of a Child and Youth Advocate for the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

When established, the role of this advocate will be to act, of course, in an advocacy manner for the interests of children and youth, both individually and collectively.

This legislation reflects a commitment that was made by our government to establish an effective and transparent system of advocacy for children. The establishment of a Child and Youth Advocate is another important step in recognizing the United Nations Convention on children and the rights of the child.

Mr. Speaker, Bill 46 shows our continued and ongoing support for our Strategic Social Plan in this Province. With our Strategic Social Plan, we commited ourselves to lining government policy in the interests of early intervention and prevention. We recognize the need for integrating services across government departments, and in this regard we recognize that establishing our Child and Youth Advocate will help to make our systems work better around children. It will allow for continual review and improvement of programs and services available to children and youth in this Province.

While I was asked, as Minister of Health and Community Services, to lead the initiative to develop this piece of legislation, I received considerable input from various other departments in government, and various other individuals. There has been an extensive consultation process to develop this particular piece of legislation. The bill reflects the recommendations arising out of a community consultation process which occurred last March, Mr. Speaker, and it also includes a review that we did of other relevant legislation right across the country and many other national documents. This included a review of legislation in the seven jurisdictions within Canada who currently have advocacy legislation.

The advocate will have a mandate to provide support to children and youth who receive services from any government department or agency. The primary responsibility of the advocate will be to assist children and youth to resolve the issues in relation to the services that they receive. In this regard they will work with the department or agency, and with the child, to try and bring a successful resolution to any concern or issue that may have been brought forward.

This ensures that they have a voice - that children will have a voice - and will be supported where there is not a natural support system available, or where the natural support system that is available just has not been successful and it has not worked for the child.

Of course, in addition to that, this legislation provides an additional scope of mandate. The advocate will also have the ability to conduct investigations where he or she is unable to resolve the matter through advocacy, perhaps through mediation or through other less adversarial approaches.

The mandate of this office will include children and youth up to the age of nineteen years. This is generally, of course, seen as the age of entering adulthood, the natural school-leaving age for young people as well, when we recognize them as having that level of independence. However, recognizing that in some cases children who are in the care of the Director of Child Youth and Family Services, or in custody under the Young Offenders Act, the bill also provides services to be extended to those individuals until their twenty-first birthday, or until they are no longer receiving these supports.

Mr. Speaker, the advocate has authority to respond to systemic policy issues related to the Department of Education, but it will not have the authority to provide individual advocacy services. This approach is consistent with that of every other jurisdiction in the country.

This legislation, in fact, goes further than the legislation in most other jurisdictions. For example, in Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario, their advocacy legislation for children only addresses matters of child welfare. In Quebec and Nova Scotia, these provinces include in their legislation child welfare and youth corrections only. Our legislation goes much beyond that.

The advocate, as prescribed in the legislation, will be an officer of this Legislature and thereby be independent of government. When the legislation has been proclaimed, there will be an open recruitment process for this position and the structure will meet government's commitments of developing systems which are open, transparent and objective.

Again, this legislation will place our Province among the leaders in this country as it relates to child and youth advocacy. With successful passage of Bill 46, we expect that the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate can be operational in 2002. Once in place, then, we would expect the advocate to bring forward an operational plan to the Commission of Internal Economy for its consideration.

Mr. Speaker, Newfoundland and Labrador is pleased to join other jurisdictions in Canada which have child and youth advocates and to once again recognize, in a very meaningful way, the importance of children and youth in our society and in our Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am very, very pleased to be bringing this forward now for second reading.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I am very happy to be standing here today to speak on Bill 46 as well. The Opposition have been pushing for a long, long time for the establishment of a Youth Advocate. It was the primary recommendation of the Select Committee on Children's Interests and when that report was released in June, 1996, five-and-a-half years ago, we began asking for the establishment of a Child Advocate.

Interestingly enough, while we were asking for the establishment of a Child Advocate to look out for the best interests of the children of our Province, that was back in the 1990s, this government saw as its priority at that time the appointment of a Consumer Advocate to take care of people who were power consumers. That was a worthwhile venture, of course, but the priorities were not right at that time and I am glad to see that we have finally gotten around to the establishment of a Child Advocate.

New child welfare legislation at the time, when we were asking for a Child Advocate, did nothing more than set up an advisory committee which had no independence, no research capacity or funding, no authority or power to review documents or call witnesses, and no specific mandate other than to submit a brief review every two years. That legislation saw devolution of ministerial powers to boards which made the establishment of a Child Advocate even more important.

A couple of highlights outlining our quest for the appointment of a person to advocate on behalf of our children, the House of Assembly Select Committee on Children's Interests comprised of: a Chair, the present Minister of Human Resources and Employment; Vice-Chair, the present Member for Waterford Valley; the Member for Burin-Placentia West; and the original Chair was Ms Pat Cowan.

In this House on November 18, 1996, the Member for Waterford Valley called on the government to appoint a Child Advocate. The Minister of Social Services at the time said the government was not ready to act on this recommendation. On November 19, 1996, the PC Party released its platform on Children's Interests, in which it called for a Child Advocate. On November 19, 1998, here in this Legislature, I called on the government to appoint a Child Advocate. The Minister of Health and Community Services at that time said the government had undertaken many initiatives for children since the Select Committee released its report. Unfortunately, a Child Advocate was not one of those initiatives.

In this House on November 26, 1998, speaking to the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, the Opposition Leader at the time, the Member for Kilbride, called on the government to appoint a Child Advocate. The Health and Community Services Minister said, "...we have not said no to a children's advocate, but if this government is going to spend money creating a systems approach, a high-cost bureaucracy, it has to be something that is proven with evidence-based decisions which is the direction we are trying to go, and then we will consider it." She wanted to wait and see if the new child welfare legislation would address the problems.

In an endeavour not to set up a bureaucracy, the Child, Youth and Family Services Act provided for a provincial director, six regional directors who would report to their respective boards, and so on. That was, I guess, another form of bureaucracy.

Then, the one proven way to get this present government to act, the PC Blue Book in the February 1999 election campaign stated, "Children frequently find themselves at the mercy of the system, sometimes as wards of the state; but there is no office of government dedicated to looking out for their best interests. It is time to establish an Office of the Children's Advocate, as recommended by the House of Assembly Select Committee on Children's Interests, whose sole purpose is to advocate for the rights of children and to ensure children's best interests are served when they are at the mercy of one part of the system or another. A PC Government will immediately establish an Office of the Children's Advocate."

That was one of the things in our Blue Book that it took them a little while to get around to. I am happy to be here today speaking on this legislation and to say that they have finally gotten around to another piece of our legislation.

AN HON. MEMBER: Congratulations!

MS S. OSBORNE: Yes, congratulations!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

AN HON. MEMBER: You are learning.

MS S. OSBORNE: You are learning.

Almost six years after the release of the report and almost a year since the present Premier promised in his leadership campaign to establish a children's advocate. Obviously, it was not a priority then either, or it would have been done in the spring sitting. However, we are here and I would like to congratulate the government for it. We are glad to part of it and have input into it.

The committee recommended that the advocate report to the Legislature as opposed to the minister. This reporting structure would be similar to that of the Auditor General. It is gratifying to see that section 5 of this bill states that the advocate will be an officer of the House of Assembly.

The committee also recommended that the advocate be a system's advocate, but one with access to the type of information one can only get from case advocacy. Section 21 of the bill does seem to address that. An ideal situation, of course, would be a case advocate, but it is reasonable to suggest that financial limitations certainly preclude that happening at this time.

I would like to propose another recommendation that the select committee put in at that time, and that is towards a child advocate. That is the creation of a House of Assembly standing committee on children and youth. This standing committee would facilitate the exchange of information between the advocate and members of the House of Assembly, who many times, by virtue of their role as an MHA, find themselves advocating for their constituents, and they would assume the position of quasi-advocate. It would be nice to have a standing committee of this House of Assembly that could act with the children's advocate on behalf of many of the children who are marginalized out there and whose families do approach the House of Assembly members for advocacy on their behalf. The creation of this standing committee, together with the system's advocate, would be effective, not perfect, but, I would suggest, very effective.

The committee has, therefore, recommended the following safeguard protocols be established: The advocate accept individual requests for assistance, but be empowered to act only upon those cases determined in his or her professional judgement to be of sufficient importance to require individual advocacy; that legislation affecting children in closed custody or otherwise in care of the state, be amended to ensure that government officials are required to make these children aware of their right to appeal to the advocate for assistance; that the advocate be mandated to carry out an ongoing public awareness campaign, a campaign designed to inform the public, and especially children and youth, of the role and mandate of the advocate; and that the advocate provide a means for young people to contact the advocate's office, for example, a well publicized 1-800 number. That was one of the recommendations that was also in the Report of the Select Committee on Children's Interests; that there be a hotline established so that people from all over the Province would have access, at any time, to a person to advocate on their behalf.

Many times in small communities there are families who have something that is going on and the mom's or dad's or somebody in the family or the children themselves, are looking for somebody to talk to, but because some of these communities are so close-knit and because they are afraid of bringing forward things to somebody in the community, in case of rumors, gossip, etc., many times problems are kept within the families. If there is a hotline or a 1-800 number that children and families can access, with some sort of anonymity or at least privacy outside of the community. That, I would suggest, would be very valuable on behalf of the children.

The objective of the advocate's office should be twofold. Firstly, it should provide constructive advocacy that will assist government with the direction of social policy to ensure that it is child friendly. That is very important. Many times there are policies and legislation that come before the government, legislation that the government is bringing forward, and it is not always child friendly. So a grid of some sort to put down, to ensure that the legislation that we are bringing forward would be friendly to the children.

Secondly, although this would appear to be contradictory to the first, the advocate must be independent of government. In other words, the advocate must be seen as a useful instrument of governance by government, while at the same time, not appearing to be, or in fact to be an instrument of the government.

The government's mandate should empower the office to review and comment on the operations, programs and mandate of all provincial government departments, as I have said, and agencies, and to comment on the approach of municipal governments towards children and youth.

The minister inferred that the advocate would have some powers in terms of education, but glaringly absent from this bill is provision for educational advocacy.

Article 23 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child recognizes that children with disabilities have the right to enjoy full and decent lives. This research indicates that this opportunity is not fully enjoyed by all children with special needs.

What I would like to zone in on at this time, in particular: A school in my district, and that is St. Matthews, has a developmentally delayed unit, and the children who attend that school, who attend that unit, are very severely physically and mentally challenged. I understand that the Minister of Education has not closed down that unit, however, I think that there are no new children being accepted to that unit. The parents of those children who, unfortunately, are unable to speak for themselves, have called me and I have met with them many times. They are very, very concerned about this. I am sure that they, along the way, when the Office of the Children's Advocate is established, would certainly like to bring their concerns on behalf of their children to a children's advocate, to ensure that a unit like this does prevail. I realize that it is important to have inclusion, but when the parents of children are saying that they want the children to remain in such a unit, they figure that their children are doing better by being in such a unit, I think that that need should be recognized as well.

The advocate should not be limited to an in-house role within the bureaucracy. Rather, it should have a broad mandate and the capacity to focus on concerns raised in the community, the media and by individuals. The advocate should be able to commission research into given areas affecting children and youth, monitor ongoing research and publications, both academic and governmental, and tailor them to the Newfoundland and Labrador context, make them fit the children of our Province, and monitor departments and agencies to ensure they are aware of this material and not commissioning duplicated research needlessly.

An ideal children's advocate office would serve children indirectly in other ways. At present, there is no avenue for social workers in the child welfare system to voice their grievances about matters of policy within their department.

How often have I been dealing with social workers out there, and they are frustrated by the policy, but they also realize that they do not have any place to go to discuss that. In some instances there still exists an atmosphere of fear amongst the social workers, that if they speak up against policy there will be retribution. A child advocate should be a vehicle for social workers to bring failures in the policy to the attention of a person who would actually be able to do something about it. I have seen that so often in dealing with social workers who are dealing with children. They are dealing with children and they feel that there is a frustration there because they can see a policy, they can see that policy is not working for the child, but where do they go? The Office of Children's Advocate should have an open door for social workers and, in fact, any government worker within the system who sees that legislation is putting children at risk.

An ideal child advocate should also be cognizant of the rights of children and parents. At present social workers have tremendous power. They even have the power to overrule the decision of a judge of the Family Court, and it is supposed to be in the best interests of the children. If a judge in the Family Court makes a decision and then the social worker goes against it, it will be good to have an office of the advocacy there so that the parents or the caregivers for the children themselves could go to the advocate and say: I am not happy with this, this is putting me in a position that I do not want to be in. There is seldom an opportunity for the parent or the child to learn of their rights.

Social workers, as well, are many times put in the awkward position of, in an evening, having to go in and apprehend a child and then the next day having to go back and work with the parents whom they have apprehended the child from. That presents a very awkward situation for the social worker, for the parents and everybody, because immediately there is a defensive there. So an office of children's advocate, if it is open to the parents, open to the social workers again, it would certainly alleviate some of the frustrations and other problems that arise from a situation like that.

As I said, when I stood, I am really delighted to be on my feet here today. I am glad that the government has decided to bring in the office of child advocate. Unfortunately, we are not leading, but rather following the lead of others who are today realizing the benefits of having a children's advocate in place. In Canada, there are currently six provinces and one municipality that have children's advocates: British Columbia; Alberta; Saskatchewan; Manitoba; Ontario; Quebec; and the City of Vancouver. I understand that Newfoundland and Labrador became one of the first jurisdictions, if not the only one, in the country to disband the Office of Ombudsman that was already up and running. It was a shameful decision and it was taken for all the wrong reasons, and hopefully one which it looks like will soon be corrected.

As I have just stated, we are followers not leaders in the establishment of a children's advocate. I welcome it, I say to the minister and to the government. Better late than never and certainly, in this instance when the legislation is passed, rather sooner than later.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is a real pleasure for me to be able to rise today in this hon. House and speak in debate on this particular bill. I think this is a memorable day in the history of this Legislature. I think it is a day that will be recognized right throughout the Province. As the hon. Member for St. John's West has pointed out, this is something that her party has advocated for. I must say to her, that really the genesis for this in the beginning goes back to the Report of the Children's Interests Committee which was struck in 1994 and was charged to go across this Province to examine what the needs of our children were and to report back to the Legislature.

I see my role here today, Mr. Speaker, in addition to supporting the legislation that has been brought forward, is to also take a few moments to put this historic legislation into an historical context. As I indicated, this select committee of the House which was struck in 1994 - and two of the original members still sit in this Chamber, I am pleased to point out, my hon. friend for Waterford Valley who was a member of that committee and myself, and I noticed earlier today Ms. Patricia Cowan who was here in the gallery. She was the original chair who did much of the work.

The committee traveled extensively, with the support, I also note as well, of Miss Elizabeth Murphy from the Clerk's Office and Mr. Richard Abraham who now, I understand, resides and works in England. These were all people who traveled with us and worked with us on carrying out this important piece of business on behalf of the children and the people of this Province.

Mr. Speaker, when I was approached at that time and asked if I was interested in getting involved in that piece of work, I must say I was very glad to accept the appointment. I came in from a career in education where I worked, for most of my career, at the primary and elementary level. I was a principal of an elementary school for twenty-two years, and in that capacity, working with primary children, as well played an active role in trying to introduce many of the things which we were able to bring forward later as recommendations within our report.

One of the things that we had been able to do, back in Port au Port when I was principal of the school, was to introduce pre-school programs and to bring in universal pre-school whereby children in that area were getting to school a year earlier, because we recognized the tremendous advantages of having that early intervention.

Mr. Speaker, I guess part of my motivation goes back to then, because I can remember back at that time, back in the 1980s, when we were developing an initiative on the Port au Port Peninsula, an initiative that we had approached with so much enthusiasm and an initiative that we saw as having so much merit to the people and children of our area. We did up a presentation, traveled to St. John's, met with officials of the Department of Education at that time, and made the presentation. I will always remember the response that we received, because to me it spoke volumes as to where we were in terms of our thinking. A senior official in the Department of Education at that time, after we had made the presentation, his response was: What if this works? I mean, we were absolutely flabbergasted. We had a senior official within our bureaucracy, who presented with an novel idea, the first thought was: Well, we cannot even think about this. This is going to cost us so much money, that is not where we can be. It really caused me concern, Mr. Speaker, because it does not cost anything to be visionary.

We all recognize that at some point in time somebody has to make hard decisions. I guess what we are seeing here today, when the hon. Member for St. John's West pointed out the delay in bringing about this piece of legislation, is that unfortunately governments and elected officials do have to deal with the reality, but that does not stop us from being visionary. As the hon. member concluded, better late than never. I am certainly pleased today they were able to participate in this hon. chamber in a debate that will see this legislation come to reality.

Mr. Speaker, this particular committee, as I mentioned, traveled extensively across the Province. It sat for fifteen months. We met in some thirteen sites. The response was overwhelming. We had a total of 215 briefs and we heard from some 600 people; I think a consultation that is certainly comparable to anything that has ever been undertaken before or since in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, the thing that I remember today, as we sit in this House, is the many emotional presentations that we were party to, especially when we sat - I think back to the times that we met in closed sessions, with children and youth in care. It was so moving and heart wrenching to sit down and talk to some of these young people and to learn of their experiences.

I am so proud today to be able to rise in this Chamber and to participate with this government and all hon. members present in delivering on a commitment that my hon. friend opposite and I and the other members of the committee made at that time, that we would endeavour to make a difference, that we would make sure that their concerns were heard. I think today, in moving forward with this important and historic piece of legislation, we are delivering in large part on that promise which we made to those young people way back when.

As the hon. member opposite pointed out, the final report was submitted in 1996, and in the report itself there were a number of points that anyone who goes back - I reread the report, just to goes back and look through it in preparation for my brief comments here today.

The main points that came out of that report - first and foremost, what we heard in talking to the people of the Province way back when, is that there was a tremendous interest, not surprisingly, with regards to the issues related to children. We also recognized, Mr. Speaker, and noted that there were reasons to be concerned, and that there were some serious problems which existed throughout this Province, but we also recognize, as is evidenced in the recommendations which we brought forward, that something could be done to improve the situation.

We also pointed out in our report that society has to realize that it makes more sense sometimes to make that commitment and investment right now, because otherwise you will be paying for it year over year over year. The investment that you make now will pay off in spades, and we will all be winners because of the interventions that are made early on.

Many of the recommendations did carry a price tag. One of these, the Child Advocate, carries a price tag and we, as a committee - and the hon. member will remember our final deliberations with regard to that, and trying to draft our recommendation - we recognized that there was going to be some difficulty in getting the government of the day to accept and go forward with that, but we also felt so strongly about it, that it had to go there, it was needed, and it is so nice today to see that we are finally moving on them.

A number of the recommendations, as I have pointed out, I think there were some sixty-four in total, were wide-ranging. They covered the whole spectrum. Over the intervening years, many of them and most of them have been addressed in one fashion or another, but this was certainly one major piece that had been waiting to be acted upon. This is one important piece, as the hon. member who spoke prior to me pointed out, that I think was recognized throughout the Province. It was necessary and it was an idea that, in time, we knew would happen, and I guess it is an idea whose time has now come.

Personally, Mr. Speaker, if I could say, I am proud to be a part of the government that is bringing forward this progressive piece of legislation. The hon. members opposite obviously, I know, have been supportive of this and they have pushed for this. In doing so, they have been saying as well to the people of the Province that they recognize that this is an important thing to do on behalf of our children.

Mr. Speaker, I want today to commend the minister. I also want to commend her parliamentary assistant, the hon. Member for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair, who did a lot of the work in consulting with groups and actually in drafting the legislation that is before the House today.

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that I recall from the report as well, and I read with interest in re-reading the report - and I would say to the hon. member opposite that maybe it might do him well to read it as well; maybe he might learn something about the subject. One of the comments from the report, it was a quote that we used in the report, and I remember at the time our discussion on it, that I had actually read the quote in another publication. As a matter of fact the author was unknown, but the quote goes: Children are the messages that we send to a time when we will not be there.

I thought that was so profound in terms of what it says about us as a people. I think history will judge us on how well we treat this precious resource. History will truly judge us on how well we treat our children; because they are indeed the message that we will send to a time when we will no longer be there.

With this legislation, Mr. Speaker, that we are about to adopt, it is my hope that no child in this Province will ever again need to feel alone or abandoned. I hope they will now feel that there will always be a place to turn, and there will always be someone to listen.

How many of us here in this hon. Chamber today, if you take time to reflect of what you are and who you are, how much of it is just purely by chance? None of us had any control over the circumstances of our birth. A lot of the young people we have encountered in our lives, and a lot of the young people that we encounter on a daily basis, young people with problems, if you look at it, it is a circumstance of birth, pure chance. They were born in a circumstance when they did not have the opportunities that those of us who sit in this Chamber did.

I think it is incumbent on us, especially people who have been elected to represent, and to sit in this Chamber, to make sure that we move forward to try to fill that void, to be those significant others for those young people who are disadvantaged and need someone to stand up for them. That, Mr. Speaker, I suggest and submit to this House, is what we are indeed doing here today.

Given a choice, no one would choose to live in poverty or to live with abuse; yet, we know that is the reality for so many of our children not only in this Province but indeed throughout the country and throughout the world.

The Office of Child Advocate will not solve all of the problems facing our children, but I have absolutely no doubt that it will make a significant difference.

Mr. Speaker, in conclusion, I am confident, and I submit to this hon. House, that years from now we will look back at this piece of legislation as a defining moment in our political careers.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I am very pleased today to participate in debate at second reading of Bill 46, An Act Respecting The Child And Youth Advocate.

This Legislature has had several defining moments since I came here in 1993. Today is one of those days. I am hoping that when this bill is eventually passed, you will have the absolute, unanimous consent of every member in his House.

Mr. Speaker, in speaking today, I acknowledge with respect all those many individuals and community groups whose wisdom and years of experience were shared with the Select Committee on Children's Interests. That committee was appointed in December of 1994, and after extensive consultations submitted a report to this House in June of 1996, entitled: Listening & Acting: A Plan For Child, Youth and Community Empowerment.

Mr. Speaker, as my colleague said a few moments ago, it was my privilege to serve as Vice-Chair of that select committee. It is with that specific background, in addition to my nearly thirty years as a teacher and as an administrator in our school system, that I want to comment on Bill 46 today.

Mr. Speaker, we, the members of this House, must never forget that family is the most natural and nurturing place for a child. Most often, parents are the most obvious and usually the most dedicated advocates for children. That is why parents and guardians are called the natural advocates. However, Mr. Speaker, we must admit and acknowledge the limitations of resources faced by parents in dealing with frustrations and in dealing with family conflicts and in dealing with the problems of raising that most precious gift of all, a child.

Mr. Speaker, regardless of their physical, of their mental, of their social strengths and abilities, every child deserves love and respect because they are children, and for no other reason. All children deserve respect from family and they also deserve respect from their government and from the bureaucracy, from the educational system and every individual who interacts with a child.

Mr. Speaker, the lack of an effective mechanism to represent the interests of children is one that the Select Committee on Children's Interests heard from many of the presenters at the time of our public consultations.

Mr. Speaker, I vividly recall many of these powerful presentations, often made by parents with tears streaming down their faces, frustration in their eyes, and also made by social workers who were obliged to work in a bureaucratic structure that they found to be excessively rigid as well as process and crisis oriented. Mr. Speaker, these parents and these social workers told the committee that they wanted change in how our Province delivered services to children and to youth.

Mr. Speaker, frustrations caused by bureaucratic red tape and a feeling that nobody cares about individual situations was a common reaction of many who shared their experiences with the select committee. The voice of children and the concerns of children do not always find a listening audience and a caring response from those who work in the bureaucratic systems of government. Mr. Speaker, some people call it the bureaucratic jungle.

Yes, Mr. Speaker, we have many caring and nurturing social workers and we have many caring and nurturing teachers. Some of these people find the bureaucracy itself the most serious impediment to solutions involving children and their issues.

I am reminded, Mr. Speaker, of the comments of Bruce Rawson, the former Deputy Minister of the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, in a 1991 article in which he criticized the modern government bureaucracy. He said, and I quote, "...the system is not built to serve. It is built to avoid error, deflect criticism and justify action." That is a terrible indictment of any bureaucracy.

Suffice it to say, Mr. Speaker, that many people who have had interactions with government and the bureaucracy in this Province on children's issues share Bruce Rawson's assessment. Our bureaucracy was not designed to serve the best interests of children and, Mr. Speaker, in this case, both those served and those who offer the services know the priority has often been focused on avoiding errors, on deflecting criticism and justifying actions taken, regardless of whether they serve the best interests of children or not.

Mr. Speaker, I recall the comments made by Trudy White of the Straits Area Child Protection Team. She summarized the feelings of many of the presenters who spoke strongly in favor of the creation of an independent child advocate. In our hearing on September 14, 1995, in St. Anthony, Trudy stated the following, and I quote, "Children need someone to speak up for them: they are too scared to speak up sometimes. An advocate who has the responsibility and is specifically empowered to deal with children's issues can focus his/her time exclusively on these critical matters. I think it would be great if we had a child advocate in Newfoundland and Labrador."

Mr. Speaker, Trudy White is one of those front-line workers in our bureaucracy. She works every day with young people and youth. Her comments were echoed in every community that the committee visited, and in many of the consultations and in the written comments that were received by the committee as well.

Mr. Speaker, through the creation of a Child and Youth Advocate, parents and teachers, children and youth in care, as well as social workers and clergy, school guidance counselors and many others, hope to facilitate a permanent mechanism for ongoing input into the development and delivery of social policy.

Mr. Speaker, in the nearly nine years that I have been privileged to sit in this House, I have spoken positively and encouragingly when legislation serves the public good. Today, Mr. Speaker, is such a day.

Mr. Speaker, since 1981, when the first child advocate was appointed in Norway, there has been a growing awareness that the rights, views, and aspirations of children and youth are, at best, under-represented in our government structures, including our parliamentary system.

One of the best pieces of research consulted by the select committee is a book written by Martin Rosenbaum and Peter Newell, published in 1991 in London and appropriately entitled Taking Children Seriously: A Proposal for a Children's Rights Commissioner.

Mr. Speaker, Bill 46 reflects the general principles outlined by Rosenbaum and Newell for the creation of the Office of a Child and Youth Advocate. Mr. Speaker, I would also want to recognize the consultations that our committee had with Professor Alastair Bissett-Johnson, a renowned, internationally known legislator, a law professor. He had worked in Nova Scotia. He had worked also in London. He drafted some wonderful pieces of legislation involving children. He currently resides in England.

Mr. Speaker, it was people like Professor Bissett-Johnson who encouraged the committee to move forward and to always have as our focus the best interests of children. Mr. Speaker, I note positively the commitment of government to keep the office an independent officer of the Legislature. In other provinces, I will note, where the office was mistakenly answerable to a line ministry, there has been a history of frustration, and in some cases a history of absolute intimidation.

The Child and Youth Advocate must not have its primary focus as the facilitator or as the apologist for government's action or government's inaction. The mandate must be to comment freely on all government policies, to review and comment on all of its operations, its programs, and all departments of government, or any of the government's agencies. The Child and Youth Advocate will abrogate his or her responsibility to children and to families of this Province if the office becomes an echo that repeats unquestioningly the policies of government. However, that is not to say, Mr. Speaker, that the only role of the advocate is to be critical; far from that. Mr. Speaker, the role is to look independently at situations, independently at problems and policies, and feel independent, absolutely independent, to comment thereon.

The future credibility of the Office of Child and Youth Advocate will depend on how successfully the advocate is able to evaluate programs and policies as well as offer reasonable criticisms without causing the office to become solely focused on the presentation of negatives. In our services to children, there is the good, there is the bad, and there is the ugly, Mr. Speaker. The advocate must carefully navigate a course for the office that reasonably assures continued respect from the clients, the agencies and public servants who offer services to children and from those elected to public office, whether they serve in this House, in our municipal councils, in our communities, on our school boards or wherever. There are people who have interactions with children.

Although I have indicated general support for Bill 46, there are several concerns I want to share with members of the House. Although section 32 of the bill gives the Cabinet the authority to add or remove associations, commissions or other groups from those listed in the schedule, it is regrettable that the bill does not give the advocate access to child and youth files or other relevant documents that may be held by school boards or any of the other associated agencies. While the legislation permits a systemic commentary on school board policy, it does not permit the advocate to be directly involved in many of the issues that concern children in our educational system.

Mr. Speaker, every child of school age has daily interactions with teachers, with administrators, with guidance counselors, with therapists and many other specialized professional personnel who work at the school level. To omit school boards from the schedule is, in my opinion, a very serious weakness of the legislation.

The second commentary I want to make deals with the definition of youth, in clause 2(g). It is very restrictive. While the definition of youth includes those persons between the ages of sixteen years and nineteen years and may be extended to age twenty-one, it particularly refers to youth who are in care or custody. The bill, by its very definition, excludes all other young people who may wish to avail of the services offered by the advocate. Unless you are in care or in some form of custody, I fear you will have very little interaction with the advocate. This is very regrettable, Mr. Speaker, and it is incumbent upon me to ask the minister to look carefully at that kind of definition and what it is means for the children of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, fundamental to the successful operation of the Child and Youth Advocate is a commitment to be pro-active and to seek ways and means to engage in early intervention in situations before children and youth are placed in foster homes, group homes, or in some form of custody. The whole commitment of research that we found when we did the select committee studies is that we have to be commited to early intervention. I do not see that commitment coming through in this particular piece of legislation.

I must again refer to the comments of Bruce Rawson in his assessment of the modern bureaucracy. The office of the advocate must do more than deflect criticism, must do more than avoid errors, must do more than justify actions. The best interests of the children, as Professor Alastair Bissett-Johnson would say, must be served.

This legislation is designed to look after those children primarily in the care of the state. I do believe that this is a serious weakness. In other words, unless your child is already in serious trouble or unless the children have been taken from the parents and placed in foster homes or other form of care, the advocate's office will do little to offer them the kind of attention they might need and the kind of attention they might deserve.

A much broader scope of authority should be given to the advocate if this legislation is to assure that all children and youth have adequate access to the services, and if their complaints and the complaints of their natural advocates, that is their parents, are to receive appropriate attention.

Mr. Speaker, I draw to the attention of the minister as well, that Bill 46 gives no direction and is silent on the relationship between the Child and Youth Advocate and the Office of the Citizens' Representative. The minister may wish to address this particular issue when she closes debate at second reading, or during our deliberations at the committee stage. If there is a potential, any potential at all, for a jurisdictional issue between those two offices, it may be appropriate to have a clearly defined protocol as soon as possible. Children and their issues are too important, Mr. Speaker, to become victims of ‘turfism' or victims of a lack of protocol between two very, very good offices of this Legislature.

Mr. Speaker, while the regulations that will eventually be adopted may address the issues of communications and regional access, the bill as it now stands is silent. Will the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate function only from Confederation Building, or is there is a commitment to having a number of offices in other parts of the Province? How will a family of a child in Labrador, for example, or a family or a child in Little St. Lawrence on the Burin Peninsula, have access to the child advocate? How will these children and these families find out about the services that the office fo the advocate might offer in the first place?

Finally, Mr. Speaker, I note that the proposed legislation does not guarantee unfettered and unmonitored communications between a child or a youth and the advocate. While I have great respect for those persons who operate foster homes, group homes, and those who care for youth in custody, I must share with the select committee some of the comments made to the select committee by children and youth who avail of these services.

The committee held three sessions in private with children who were then living in foster homes or in group homes. They were the most heart-wrenching sessions that I have ever witnessed in my many years as a teacher, as an administrator, or as a member of this House. Mr. Speaker, they shared their concerns, especially of intimidation, if they spoke up. They told us that they were mistrusted even by their social workers. They feared that if they stood up and spoke up, they would be moved yet another time to another foster home, et cetera.

Mr. Speaker, I draw the minister's attention to section 9 of the British Columbia legislation in which there is guaranteed communication between the advocate and any child or any youth in the Province. I will quote that particular section of the British Columbia act, sections 9.(1) and 9.(2). Section 9.(1) reads, "If a child or youth in a foster home, group home, facility or other place in which designated services are provided asks to communicate with the advocate, the person in charge of that place must immediately forward the request to the advocate. Section 9.(2), "If a child or youth in a foster home, group home, facility or other place in which designated services are provided writes a letter addressed to the advocate, the person -

MADAM SPEAKER (M. Hodder): Order, please!

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

MR. H. HODDER: By leave, for a few seconds?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. LUSH: Madam Speaker, I think the hon. gentleman (inaudible).

MADAM SPEAKER: Leave is granted.

MR. H. HODDER: I thank the Government House Leader. I will conclude in about two minutes.

Madam Speaker, section 9.(2) of the British Columbia legislation reads, "If a child or youth in a foster home, group home, facility or other place in which designated services are provided writes a letter addressed to the advocate, the person in charge of that place must immediately forward the letter unopened to the advocate."

Madam Speaker, this is protection for children who live in foster homes, group homes, or any other care facility. They have an unfettered access to the advocate. I do not see that in this legislation. I would like to recommend to the minister, that you consider section 9 of the British Columbia legislation as a very good recommendation, and it does reflect some of the real concerns that we heard from people when we attended hearings at the submission stage.

Madam Speaker, in conclusion, Bill 46 is an important piece of legislation. We have to ask the question: Is it built to serve the best interests of children or is it built, as Bruce Rawson would say, to avoid error, to deflect criticism, or to justify actions. If the government is seriously committed to protecting the best interests of children and if this legislation is going to be anymore than sounding cymbals, anything more than political window dressing, this House must be committed to a broader scope than the mandate. The government will need to give the advocate the legislative authority to intervene positively and effectively before situations reach a crisis level.

Madam Speaker, I will vote for this bill. It is a wonderful bill in spite of its constraints and obvious limitations. Maybe, just maybe, Madam Speaker, the advocate's office has been established to serve the best interests of our children in this Province and for no other reason.

Thank you, very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JONES: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

It certainly is a pleasure for me to rise today, Madam Speaker, and speak on Bill 46, An Act Respecting The Child And Youth Advocate. This is a very important piece of legislation for the children and the youth of our Province, and I am very proud today, Madam Speaker, to be part of a government that is implementing such an important piece of legislation to protect and to advocate on behalf of the children and the youth in our Province.

Madam Speaker, this is one of a number of initiatives that have been put forward and undertaken by this government in recognizing and supporting children within our Province. In the past three to four years we have had the opportunity to embark on a number of initiatives under both the National Child Benefit and the Early Childhood Development Program and now, today, the child advocate.

I listened with great interest to the previous speakers today when they talked about the Select Committee on Children's Interests, and certainly that initiative was undertaken in 1995 and it was before my time in this particular Legislature. I have read the report and I certainly listened with great interest to their experience in meeting with the various groups and organizations as they traveled around this Province listening to the many groups that advocated, at that time, on behalf of children and youth, requesting a number of initiatives be undertaken including establishing the Office of the Child Advocate.

Certainly, in our own deliberations in establishing this particular piece of legislation, we took the opportunity to meet, once again, through consultation with a number of groups and organizations from across the Province. In March of this year we held a consultation in St. John's in which we had eighty-five represented groups and organizations participate in that particular consultation. As well, Madam Speaker, we did do a particular consultation in Labrador, because at the time a lot of the people in that area were unable to participate, in which we were able to consult directly with the Aboriginal organizations in that particular area and the health corporation. We did do some fairly extensive work, and certainly the legislation that is presented today is the results and the recommendations of the combined perspectives of all of these particular organizations and groups.

Madam Speaker, in recognizing the importance of children and youth in our Province it was certainly necessary for government to establish the Office of the Child Advocate. This office will be broad in scope, extending beyond the role of most offices that presently exist within the country today, because most of the offices that are existing across the country only advocate in terms of child welfare cases or in terms of youth corrections. This particular office will look at much more than that. It will look at children as it relates to all aspects of government and government systems. As well, it will look at case advocacy in most all areas with the exception being in education, as was already indicated. Obviously, this leaves a very broad scope within our Province to be able to do the things that need to be done.

Madam Speaker, under the National Child Benefit , I guess, this government has undertaken a number of initiatives and then, as I said, has followed through under the Early Childhood Development Program. Obviously, these initiatives are all impacting the welfare and the well-being of the children within our Province. One of those initiatives we looked at was under the Family Resource Center, and just this year I visited a number of these centres around the Province, in Grand Falls, Gander Bay, down in Robert's Arm, St. Anthony, Sheshatshiu, and West St. Modeste. Madam Speaker, what these offices are doing is they are providing the programs and services right in communities to help nurture our children and to help give them the kind of early development and early learning that they so require.

We also, Madam Speaker, were able to set up youth centres across our Province. I visited youth centres in Springdale, St. Anthony, Flowers Cove and a number of other locations where, again, programs and services were available right in communities for youth, to be able to help them through some difficult transitions within their young lives, within their community, and finding a place for them to belong.

This is the next logical step in terms of the Child and Youth Advocate. Our children need to feel that they have the safety and the security of having a place to turn to in some of the most difficult times in their lives. Children, in the past, within the systems of this particular Province, have not had that opportunity, and I am very pleased today to be a part of legislation that does allow them to have that particular opportunity along with other advantages.

I think none of us have to look very far to find very good reasons why this needs to be done and why the timing of it is so important. I want to not only applaud the many people in our Province, some of whom have spoken here today, some of whom have been a part of this from the beginning, but to applaud their efforts, their continuous efforts, their continuous advocating on behalf of the children of our Province to have this particular office implemented.

I think that all too often we have seen many situations and cases within our past where children and youth have not had a place to turn in some of their most difficult times. I think we have read many books that have documented case after case, within our history in this Province, of children who have been part of the systems of governments and have not had, I guess, the opportunity to be able to have a place to turn and somewhere to go to further their cause, to help them out of some difficult and pressing situations within their young lives. That is what we are doing through this legislation, Madam Speaker. We are recognizing the importance of the children and the youth of our Province, we are recognizing that they need to have this type of support and this type of mechanism in place to help them through those difficult times.

I think that this legislation speaks again of the extreme openness that this government is showing. The transparency that this legislation provides is a reflection of the dedication of this government to be able to provide this type of advocacy on behalf of our children.

Our initiatives, Madam Speaker, support the many children and families of our Province and allow them opportunity to have access and to be able to have a part in changing policy, in changing the way we do things within the government system and also throughout the Province.

This legislation does not just affect children who may be children of our child welfare system, or children of our youth corrections system, but affects all children of our Province. No matter what aspect of service delivery they are receiving, they are still able to use the services of this particular office.

There have been a number of comments made with regard to the omission of education within the case advocacy aspect of it. I do not think that this should be seen as a limitation of this particular bill, because really what it is, is a recognition of the fact that there are other mechanisms in place and processes in place to address these particular issues. The advocate will be able to address the education issues which are systemic in nature through discussions and through cases that will come forward and be able to do this through the Department of Education. I do not think it should be seen as a limitation to this particular bill. All other cases certainly will be able to be addressed under this particular office.

Madam Speaker, my only other comment, I guess, would be, that this is obviously a very progressive piece of legislation to be brought forward in our Province. It is something that, I think, a lot of us have welcomed and waited for, for a long time and, as I said, have advocated for on behalf of children. Going back even before the Select Committee on Children's Interests, many groups out there around the Province were making representation to governments at that particular time, outlining the importance having of this particular office established in Newfoundland and Labrador.

So, I certainly want to compliment all of those people today and to say that, no doubt, this office will provide a tremendous benefit to children and youth all across our Province, and that, as we progress with the establishment of this office and being able to deal with some of the cases and some of the situations that will be brought forward, I am sure that the advocate will, at that time, be able to assess further what the need will be, how we can continue to reach all the areas of the Province in terms of the delivery of this particular service. Those things, no doubt, will all be considered and all be looked at as we move forward with the establishing of the office, and establishing the presence within the Province.

Madam Speaker, as Parliamentary Secretary to the minister, and responsible for children, I want to compliment the many groups that represent children across the Province who have worked with me to bring about this legislation, and to certainly establish the scope and the mandate that it entails. I want to certainly compliment the officials within the department who have put a great deal of time and consideration into preparing this legislation, and did thorough research with all legislation across the country in terms of what is available in all the Provinces, and have been very thorough in their work in preparation of this particular legislation.

I also want to say that I am very pleased that the children in our Province will have such an opportunity, and I think that our priority always has to be our children. We have to ensure that they get the level of nurturing from governments and from society that they require, not just from their families and from their communities. I think we have a responsibility to our children to ensure that those mechanisms are in place. That is why we come to this House and we take on the responsibilities that we do. This, Madam Speaker, is obviously a great day for children in our Province as it allows them a voice, a very active voice, and a voice that will make this government and all governments in the future accountable to them, as children. I think that is the objective that we are trying to achieve here, that we will achieve as we move forward.

I ask that every Member in this House support this legislation, do so very proudly and do so with the interests of all of our children in mind, and protecting them and their interests first.

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. HARRIS: I thank you, Madam Speaker.

I rise to speak in second reading on Bill 46, An Act Respecting The Child And Youth Advocate. First of all, let me say, I support the legislation and in doing so have to, however, say that this legislation comes five years after a select committee of this House recommended it.

The legislation is good in that it provides, for the first time, for a special person who will act as an advocate for children in general and for individual children or young people in particular. I will talk about some of the things that, I think, are weaknesses in the legislation itself a little later on in my reports.

I want to say, first of all, that when we talk about a child advocate, we are essentially talking about a person who can respond to complaints made to him or her in respect of a problem that a child is having with services or bureaucracy or, presumably, with life in general that the child advocate may be able to intervene in, make a recommendation to a department, or a minister, or a government, do an investigation or, it seems, act in an individual advocacy capacity on behalf of that person. I think that is a good thing. There is often a situation where children or young people have nowhere to turn and do not know where to go to get the kind of help they need.

I do not envisage this advocate as a kind of one-stop shopping for any child or individual looking to get access to the government. I do not think that should be what we want this person to do. This is a specialize individual who will have only a certain amount of time to do the work, that important work, that has to be done.

I hope this is not an excuse or a way of putting off requests or concerns, where we could say: Well, we have the child advocate, so you go to that person and see where that goes. In fact, in some other provinces the mandate of the child advocate is not to directly have a complaint system but also to monitor whether or not the government is effectively responding to complaints about services or activities, and whether or not the government itself is responding properly to the needs of children. I think that is probably more important a role than seeing this as a sort of entry point for child services in government. I hope that does not happen.

The second issue that I want to deal with here is: The scope of the child advocate is really going to depend to a considerable degree on two things. Number one, the person who is appointed may take an individual advocacy approach as a priority or that person may have a broader systemic approach as a priority. I think the approach that particular advocate wants to take will make a big difference as to how effective this position is going to be.

The child advocate can act, just as it says, as an advocate, you might say as an individual advocate, like a lawyer might act, a legal aid lawyer, or a person speaking on behalf of someone in a board or at a hearing, the way MHAs may do, for example, in a social assistance appeal, or going to a Workers' Compensation review hearing or those kinds of specific advocacy roles, or the person may see themselves as having a much broader mandate to concern him or herself with all of the issues that are affecting children.

When I say that, I do not see and I did not hear, in the minister's remarks today, any indication of what level of support this position might have with respect to conducting research or doing an analysis of government policy or an analysis of the circumstances that young people find themselves in. I think there are always individuals who may not be serviced adequately by whatever government services might be put in, and an advocate for that person is a valuable tool.

To some extend, more important than that, because more people are affected by it, is the broad range of things that act on the child and on the rights that child has, as defined in Human Rights Codes or in international obligations that Canada has taken on - the International Convention on the Rights of the Child - to a safe environment, to adequate housing, adequate food and nourishment, to a proper education, all of those things that Canada, as a country, has undertaken obligations in international law. I propose that this advocate should be one of the persons in the forefront of suggesting or saying, on an annual report basis, to what extent the government is measuring up to the needs of children in this Province, not only in terms of dealing with complaints. That is kind of like an Ombudsman sort of role. We had a complaint; the minister did or did not deal with it. That is the advocacy side of things. A particular person was treated this way in the correctional service and we think that is wrong, we made recommendations to the minister and the minister has made the changes. These are advocacy kind of things. These are the kind of things we are going to see in the Ombudsperson's or Parliamentary Commissioner's reports. I am sure we are going to see them in the child advocate's report. That is an important function.

If the child advocate limits himself or herself to that particular function, I think that the welfare of children and young people in this Province will not be well served. If the child advocate is not given the resources to take on the broader advocacy role on behalf of all children, in terms of assessing whether or not the government has measured up to the expectations and obligations to ensure that children in this Province are adequately fed, housed, clothed, schooled, then I think we are going to have a much less effective position and a much less effective legislation than we have.

The situation we are facing in this Province today is that one in four children live below the poverty line in this Province. Forty per cent of the recipients of food from food banks in this Province are children. Time and time again, it is said that in excess of 25 per cent of children in this Province go to school hungry. If a child advocate cannot comment on, or deal with, the consequences of that and the reasons for that, then I think it will be a failure.

Let me talk for a moment about what kinds of things I am talking about here. It is not enough just to give an annual report on statistics on poverty. We get that from Statistics Canada. We get that from the National Council on Welfare, who give out reports every year, but they also do some analysis as well. What is interesting to note, Madam Speaker, is that when you talk about children being poor, we are not talking about a whole mass of 25 per cent of our population of young people wandering around the streets by themselves, being poor. We are talking about children who live in families, children who live in homes and communities throughout our Province, who, along with their parents, along with their families, are poor. They have inadequate income, inadequate means to provide themselves with the necessities of life.

Let's not talk about children in isolation. Children do not exist in isolation. My three children do not exist in isolation from the home environment and the income and the house itself. All of the things that are available to my children are what determine, in many respects, along with their abilities and what nurturing and attention and education they are getting, their outcome. When you are looking at children, you cannot look at a child by itself. You have to look at the family, you have to look at the community, and you have to look at the social circumstances.

The National Council on Welfare says, quite rightly, there is no one single defining portrait of child poverty. They live in two parent families and they live in single parent families. In fact, half of poor children live in a family where the major income earner works. One half of the poor children live in families where the major income earner actually works, has a job, so they are not necessarily people all on social assistance or people who do not have any access to employment or any ability to work or any willingness to work. Fully one half of the poor children in this country are in families where there is a major income earner in fact working. Working poor families are struggling to meet their needs. That is a reality, Madam Speaker, and we have to see, when we are trying to address the needs of children, addressing the needs of child poverty is a primary goal and one that can be measured by the effectiveness of measures brought about by governments to bring that about.

We all know, it has been repeated again and again throughout this country, that in 1989 a resolution in the House of Commons presented by the then Leader of the federal New Democratic Party, Ed Broadbent was presented to the House, asking a commitment from the House of Commons, a national commitment, to end child poverty by the year 2000. In fact, what happened in the next ten years is that child poverty in Canada increased by 50 per cent. It actually got worse. Why did that happen, Madam Speaker? That happened not because the government decided they were going to specifically, consciously, make children poor, but they decided to tear the guts out of the programs that prevented them from becoming poor, Madam Speaker, by reducing support to the provinces for social assistance, by taking the guts out of the unemployment insurance program to the point, in1989, that 88 per cent or 85 per cent of people who were unemployed could collect unemployment insurance and now it is less than 36 percent. By reducing the benefits, by making families poorer, they made children poorer.

That happened in this country, Madam Speaker, to the great shame of the Governments of Canada in the last ten years. Instead of reducing child poverty, we increased it by 50 per cent. At the same time, Madam Speaker, other countries - because this is a about choices, we have to remember- other countries facing the same kind of international pressures and financial pressures did not do that. You have a country like Denmark, for example, whose child poverty rate runs around 4 per cent. They had the same economic pressures, the same financial pressures, but they did not do what Canada did. They did not make their children poor or make their children pay for the deficit. That is what we did in Canada, Madam Speaker, and that is a shameful act.

When we are dealing with trying to help children, we have to help their families because they are the ones who are on the front line. The parent in the home is on the front line. When the parent does not have food to feed the children, that child is not achieving the rights of children in our modern world, in this Province, in this country. What we do need, both on a national level and a provincial level, is a serious commitment to eliminate child poverty. How are we going to do that? We are only going to do that by having good family policy, an integrated system of good family policy throughout all of our policies and all of our departments in all areas of government.

When you look at issues of labour, you have to look at whether or not the minimum wage is adequate to raise children, because we have a very high percentage of our workforce dependent upon the minimum wage for family income. It is not just young kids looking for a bit of extra money while they are living at home and paying no board. A good percentage of our working population has to support a family on a minimum wage work, so we have to ensure the income levels are high enough to make sure that children are able to adequately eat.

We need income support payments that are not at the starvation level. We have to recognize that in many cases the rental component of the income support that individuals receive is not adequate to pay their rent. So what happens? We all know what happens: the rent gets paid, the $100 or $200 more that is needed to pay the rent comes out of the food budget, comes out of the budget for other things that are necessary for the healthy development of a child.

We need employment equity because so many people, mostly women, are paid inadequately based on the work that they do. We do not have employment equity programs in the private sector in this Province. We have them in the public sector and we saw how long it takes the government. They are still fighting decisions that were made to guarantee employment equity in the public sector. We saw how long the Government of Canada spent: fourteen years. Fourteen years the Government of Canada took to pay a judgement that was made against them, that they had violated the federal Human Rights Code in paying women less than men. Many of these women were, themselves, single parents who were looking after children, children who were harmed by the fact that their parents were not paid properly.

Employment equity is a child poverty reduction program, I say to hon. members. We have to look at education policies. I know the minister is interested in early childhood education. I know the minister is interested in making sure that we have adequate preparations for children going to school, but we have to ensure that these programs are adequate to try and eliminate some of the consequences of child poverty that we have every day.

The School Lunch Program, another one of the issues that I have been very much interested in because we all know - and I am going to read from one of the recommendations of this committee, one that I disagree with wholeheartedly. There are only two sentences on it, in fact. Here is what it says, "A hungry child is a child unlikely to learn at his or her full potential." I completely agree. "If that child is provided with a breakfast and lunch each day during the school week, his or her chances of reaching his or her full potential will be greatly increased." I totally agree. In fact, I would go further. The research is much, much stronger than that. The teachers will tell you, each and every day, what a difference these school meal programs have made to individuals' attitude, to individuals' success, and to individuals' ability to participate in school.

Here is what the committee recommends, "The Committee recommends against government directly establishing and running school breakfast and lunch programs. The Committee recommends that government provide funding to not-for-profit community agencies to establish and run these meal programs where there is sufficient demand and community support."

Madam Speaker, what is the result of that five-year-old recommendation? Five years after that, while admittedly the government put some money into school meal programs, what do we have? Fourteen per cent only, of the children in this Province, have access to a school meal program. Seventy schools have been identified by the Kids Eat Smart Foundation as being in desperate need of a school meal program, and they do not have the money to provide these programs.

In fact, the real problem and the reality is, in those areas where those programs are perhaps needed the most because of the circumstances of the communities and their families, the community does not have the support, the community does not have the ability. I think they call it community capacity these days. The community does not have the capacity, whether through its not-for-profit sector or its volunteer sector, to raise the money. We have showcased programs, and I do not want to name any program and blame it for being that, but they are great programs. Some of them exist in the City of St. John's where they get all sorts of food donated to them because the corporations want to participate and have their names associated with the program. It looks good, and it is good for community relations for these businesses. The reality is, in many parts of rural Newfoundland they cannot have a program because they do not have anybody willing to donate, or organizational effectiveness from a Rotary Club, a Lions Club, or a Kiwanis Club that can provide that service.

We have to get away from this model. There is nothing wrong with volunteers participating. I think any kind of program can have that. I know the Minister of Education encourages parents to get involved in helping out at schools, working with children in schools, doing extra-curricular activities and all that sort of thing.

I believe, Madam Speaker, that we have to have, as part of the core function of our school program, a meal program, one that can be added to by a volunteer effort and assistance, but one that guarantees that there are no children in this Province who go to school hungry, and does it in a way that is non-stigmatizing and makes it available to everybody.

My child goes to a school here in St. John's with a School Lunch Program, and my child participates in that program in the same manner as every other child who goes to that school. That is the way it should be, because no child should be singled out as someone who is in need of a school meal program. That is the model that has been developed, that has been promoted and expanded on by the Kids Eat Smart Foundation as a school meal and nutrition program. We could make it part of the curriculum. We could have children learning about nutrition while they are getting a healthy meal. They can perhaps even participate in helping prepare the meal. It can be an experience.

MADAM SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. HARRIS: If I may have a couple of minutes to clue up, Madam Speaker?

MADAM SPEAKER: Does the hon. member have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.


MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

I got a bit carried away on the school meal program because I believe in how important it is, but we have to have that. We have to have childcare programs that allow parents to work, and provide good quality education and care for children, and we have to have, as I mentioned, early childhood education.

These are programs that are so important to the well-being of young people that if we do not have, as part of the mandate of the child advocate, that type of role, and I think it comes in the recommendations of the committee, to ensure that the child advocate, in addition to its independence, as part of its mandate, in addition to it being independent of government, have a very, very important role in terms of research and analysis, and I will include with that promotion of and monitoring whether or not and to what extent government programs actually help with the reduction of child poverty and provide a means for a child reaching its full potential, and monitoring to what extent we, as a Province in this country, are meeting our obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and whether we are, in fact, doing the job that we should do for young people in this Province, and children in particular.

We cannot just talk about children in isolation, but this obviously is the focus of this legislation. The Child Advocate, to do a proper job, has to broaden his or her focus to ensure that the environment in which the child grows up, the environment in which the child lives, is adequate to nourish and protect and provide for the opportunities that every child deserves to have in this Province of Newfoundland and Labrador in the year 2001. As we move into the third millennium, this is an opportunity for us to ask this advocate to do that work too.

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

MADAM SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Education.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS FOOTE: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

As the Minister of Education, it is my pleasure to speak in support of this particular piece of legislation and to congratulate my colleague, the Minister of Health and Community Services, Minister Bettney, and her Parliamentary Secretary, Yvonne Jones, the Member for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair, who took the lead in the consultation leading up to this particular piece of legislation.

Without question, Madam Speaker, our children and our youth are our greatest resource, and I think we all recognize that in this hon. House. They deserve our undivided attention and certainly our respect. As the Minister of Education, I can only speak from experience about the need to ensure that our children are treated in such a manner.

Whenever we hear horror stories of abuse of our children, or our children being denied whatever, it begs a question: Why? I think we all have experience of being exposed, in one form or another, to some child not being treated fairly. I think we always have to reflect on that and say: What can we do to make a difference in the lives of these children? I think this piece of legislation will do just that.

I know that the school boards are not included in this particular legislation, and that is standard practice across the country, Madam Speaker, wherever this legislation exists. The school boards are not covered under the legislation, but I think we need to recognize that school boards are people and that, in fact, the school boards are comprised of trustees who have offered themselves for elected office. They know that they are there to do a service. They are there to represent the children and they are there to act in their best interests. Therefore, they are there to respond if there are any issues within the system that need to be addressed, and I have every confidence that these elected trustees will do just that. This is nothing new, as I said, this is standard practice across the country. These trustees are there because they want to make a difference. As I said, I have every confidence that they will act on any issue that will be brought to their attention should there be a concern.

I am also pleased, Madam Speaker, to say that, as the Department of Education, we would welcome the input of a child advocate, to look at the education system as a whole and to see where improvements can be made, and I would welcome that kind of input. I think, in the opinion of the child advocate if it were to be decided that there are things where we need to make changes in the Department of Education, we would certainly act on that advice.

Again, I think we have to recognize that we all have a responsibility here and, while we are talking about a child advocate, I think an earlier speaker made reference to the fact that we should not look at this position in isolation, that we need to look at all the other mechanisms that are in place, all the other vehicles that are in place, to address issues of concern that come up that pertain to our children.

When we talk about the Department of Education and we talk about our school boards, we also have to bear in mind that we have school councils. We have 343 schools in the Province, all of which, or the majority of which, have school councils in place, and these are parents of children and they are very much involved in the school system today just as our school boards are. So that is another mechanism that is there in the education system to respond to the needs of our children.

I think, Madam Speaker, we have to really recognize that this is a terrific piece of legislation, one which I support and welcome and, as Minister of Education, want to give assurances that we will do everything we can, as the Department of Education, to comply with the legislation even though it does not pertain to our school boards, but certainly to welcome any input from the child advocate in terms of anything we can do, where we can make a difference and address any needs that are being raised.

We also recognize that there are any number of programs out there that we need to move forward with. I think the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi just mentioned a number of them, early childhood education being one. Again, this is the kind of initiative that this department, the Department of Education, is very keen on moving forward with. We are doing some of that under the National Child Benefit where we are introducing some pre-school sessions within the education system.

These are things we want to do more of and, as resources become available to us, we will do more of it. Again, it is working in concert with parents. I think that is what is key here for our children, is that all of us recognize the importance of working in partnership with the parents of our children, to try and make sure that we address any concerns that are there, but more importantly, I guess, to prevent issues from arising, to try and deal with matters before they become issues of concern for all of us. Certainly, early childhood education is very, very crucial, I think, in this as we go forward in terms of dealing with the needs and concerns of our children.

We talk about literacy, and that is something that is very near and dear to my heart, and again an initiative that we have undertaken in the Read and Success campaign, where again we are looking at trying to ensure that our children are put front and center in terms of making sure they have all of the support that they need to make sure that they are well prepared before they even enter our school system.

There are a lot of things happening which the Department of Education has been taking a lead on, and that I would like to again refer to and suggest that anything we can do in terms of additional programs and resources being available to us, we will certainly do that.

This is an important piece of legislation. This is groundbreaking legislation for this Province, something that I certainly concur with, and again congratulate the minister on. I am pleased to say that I am a member of a government that is bringing in this legislation, because it is so important to all of us. I think that sometimes we forget that we were all children once, maybe many years old. Clearly I think we have all had experiences or have memories of experiences of other children having been denied or having been abused, and wondering whether or not they ever received the proper attention or the kind of supports that they needed.

I think with this legislation there is a guarantee there that we will not have to wonder anymore. There will be a mechanism in place, in fact, to respond to issues as they come up. We will have something in place to deal with concerns and that, Madam Speaker, is what is crucial about this piece of legislation, that while in the past we may have had issues arise and you wonder whether or not they were addressed, whether or not it was something to do with the government, or whether or not it was something to do with some other entity, now we will have a piece of legislation that we should have confidence in, a child advocate who will act on behalf of our children, and I think that is crucial.

Madam Speaker, I stand in support of this legislation and also to pass along my assurances, as the Minister of Education, that while it does not cover school boards, I have confidence in the trustees of our school boards, who are elected people, to act on behalf of our children, and also to say that I welcome any input from the child advocate into the whole approach that is being taken by the Department of Education.

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

I rise today, as well, in support of Bill 46, An Act Respecting The Child And The Youth Advocate. Madam Speaker, indeed it is a beginning, a starting point of, I guess, a situation that has been brought about by a lot of lobbying on behalf of many different parties, on both sides of the House, out in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador addressing issues involving the children and the youth of this Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

In my experience in working with the children and youth of this Province for some twenty-five years, I have to say to you, Madam Speaker, that I have seen the need for this type of an office for those twenty-five years. Madam Speaker, I have seen first-hand children and youth of this Province - and excuse the cliché, Madam Speaker - slipping through the cracks, and slipping through the cracks because the safety nets, the social safety nets that are there, do not catch these children, these youth. Because they are slipping through the cracks, there is certainly a need for a child and youth advocate to speak on behalf of these children.

Members on both sides of the House today have gotten up and talked about the child poverty, the statistics, and the various difficulties, the issues involving the children and youth of this Province. I have heard them state an understanding of the problem and to support - every speaker that got up today, Madam Speaker, I say, supports this particular bill, as I do.

Not to belabour any points that have already been made, I rise today in, I guess, my role as an education critic in the Opposition ranks, and I would like to concentrate on the aspect of the child and youth advocate and the schools of this Province, because I do have some concerns and I have to voice those concerns. I am in need of some clarification from the minister as well, and I am certain that she will bring forth clarifications. There are some things that I have to go through in my mind to make sure that the children and the youth of this Province in our schools are getting the services of the advocate and that the advocate is there for them during that part of the day that they are in schools, and to make sure that there issues and concerns are certainly brought forward.

When we talk, Madam Speaker, about the rights of a child - and this has been articulated and written down in many documents, international documents, national documents, provincial documents and in different mission statements of different groups - but the rights of the child are what is at stake right here when we talk about establishing a child and youth advocate. The rights of the child make sure that there is a safe environment, that there is adequate nutrition, that there are basic freedoms, of speech, of the right to an education, of equality, and I could go on and on, Madam Speaker. I think the House realizes what I am trying to say in the sense that the rights of the child are most important and no different from the rights of any individual in any situation.

When we get to the rights of the child with regard to schools - and we have to be clear here, Madam Speaker - there are certain basic rights that I feel the child and youth advocate has to stand up for. There are a number of examples. The aspect of accessibility: It is very, very important that the schools of this Province be accessible in a number of different ways, in all ways I should say, Madam Speaker, to children and to youth of this Province.

Lets just take physical accessibility. That is a right that has to be protected and children have the right to be able to access the schools which they attend, not only basic accessibility of getting into the building but they have to have accessibility, as well, to the various parts of that building. Now, Madam Speaker, with regard to accessibility, that is not always true. I talk about physical accessibility because there are children in this Province, even as I speak, who cannot access the cafeteria.

MADAM SPEAKER: We will recess for a moment because all of the mikes are on.

MR. HEDDERSON: Thank you, Madam Speaker.


MADAM SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Harbour Main-Whitbourne.

MR. HEDDERSON: (Inaudible) physical accessibility to schools indicating to you, Madam Speaker, that there are some children in schools, even as I speak, that don't have accessibility to all parts of the building and, oftentimes, have to simply eat their lunch in a particular area away from the rest of the children or youth who may be in the cafeteria.

This physical accessibility - there are labs, there are learning resource rooms, again, that are not accessible. The question would be, of course, do these children have any recourse to, I suppose, have that issue addressed if indeed the youth and child advocate cannot, basically, enter into the schools? It might be just an individual, I say, Madam Speaker, I guess, looking at the whole system, it may be just that one individual been denied access to a part of the building, to the whole building itself, having to transfer to another school, because there is not accessibility. Again, as a basic right of the child to accessibility, does that constitute an investigation on behalf of the child advocate for that individual.

Accessibility I say, Madam Speaker, is not only with regard to the physical accessibility, but we also have to look at programming as well. The question is: Can the youth and child advocate look at an individual's situation where they may be denied, I guess, accessibility to a particular program? Again, maybe it could be very simple, that they cannot get into a lab, they cannot get into a part of the building, therefore, they can not participate. It could be with regard to phys. ed., that they again, can not be part of that particular programming, not having access to it and that's just been very, I guess, simple. Again, it begs the question: Can this legislation, can this bill, ensure that the right of the child to a basic education - can the advocate intervene on behalf of the individual or individuals who may find themselves in this particular situation?

Bus transportation is yet another area that we must look at. When we are talking about bus transportation, Madam Speaker, again it involves children on a bus, traveling roads. You have to look at different things, especially the safety. When you look at bus transportation, again accessibility to bus transportation is yet another one. Again, if an individual, a student in one of our schools, is denied bus transportation for whatever reasons, or is on a bus that he or she feels is not safe, can the child advocate be part of that investigation, be part of that individual's need at that particular time? Once again, it is a basic right that they have safe transportation when needed in order to get to a particular school. Accessibility, again, I say to you, Madam Speaker.

With regard to health - and we know, looking around over the last number of years, that air quality has been a topic that keeps rising, I guess, its ugly head, if I may put it that way, Madam Speaker. We have had some differences of opinion as to whether these standards or whatever standards - but that is the situation, again, where a child maybe because of a medical condition or otherwise, cannot literally be in that type of environment because of the air quality. Would that be a situation perhaps, where the child advocate, the youth advocate, could be involved in ensuring that the child is learning in a safe, healthy environment?

With regard to gender equality, we had a case not too long ago where a young lady in this Province wanted to play, I believe, soccer. There was a situation where there was no female team at that school or indeed in the area. She petitioned to play on the boys team. Again, Madam Speaker, is that a situation whereby the Child and Youth Advocate could be involved?

There are questions. The fact that the advocate cannot sort of go beyond the boundaries of the school because it is, I guess, legislation that is across Canada and is the general rule, I agree with the minister that, when you look at elected trustees, I would be the first to say that I would certainly trust them to make sure that the children under their care would be well taken care of; but with regard to the children and youth of the Province, oftentimes there are situations that may arise that may need the services of the Child and Youth Advocate. What happens in those cases? What happens when, for whatever reasons, maybe the elected trustees do not have the resources to address accessibility in the schools, for example? What happens then? Because again they are governed by the rules of the Education Act, they cannot go into debt, and so on and so forth. Again I agree and, I say to the minister, these are ifs, but I just need some clarification as to some of these situations that may indeed come up.

There is, right now, a lot of inter-agency, especially with the individual services that are offered to children and youth in the school. There is, I guess, co-operation between the Justice Department, the Health Department, the Education Department, and issues come up during those meetings that it would be very important that the child advocate perhaps be present. There have been cases where I, personally, have been asked by a constituent to be present at these ISSP meetings to basically help the parent and the child get through the process. To say that the schools are off limits to the Child an Youth Advocate, again it gives me some concern.

These are concerns, and I am sure they are going to be addressed. Not only that, but it is groundbreaking and the advocate who is given this job certainly will have the time to put together a plan and to unveil that plan as they get accustomed to their duties and responsibilities.

Having brought up these concerns, it is the children's rights, it is the youth rights, that we need to look at, to make sure that this legislation does not put up any barriers. I will go back to where I started and say that I would not want to see barriers put up that again will allow children and youth in our schools to slip through the cracks and to not have their rights protected. This is most important.

In cluing up, again I give credit to the minister for bringing forth this bill, for bringing forth this legislation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: It is badly needed. It is a great starting point. I hope the concerns that I put on the floor of this House today, that you realize the reason that I put them forth is that I need clarification, and I will depend on the minister to give me that clarification. I certainly wish the advocate who is selected, all the luck in the world as he or she moves forward in dealing with the rights of the children and the youth of this Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

I will leave it at that point, again just asking clarification on some points from the minster.

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

If the hon. the minister speaks now, she will close the debate.

MS BETTNEY: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

I would like to thank all of my colleagues on all sides of the House who have spoken so eloquently in support of the Office of the Child Advocate as it is represented in Bill 46. I am very pleased to have such resounding support for a bill of this nature. I think it really goes to emphasize the value that all of us place on our children here in our Province and within our society. It also goes to show that, on all sides of this House, we can come together on significant social policy issues when they are advancing the interests of something that is so vital to all of us as the best interests of our children.

Since my election to the House of Assembly, nothing has given me more pride and more satisfaction than some of the great pieces of legislation and the great initiatives that we have been able to put forward in advancing the interests of children.

When I think, too, of initiatives like the National Child Benefit, like our early childhood development initiatives, when I think, too, of significant pieces of legislation like the Child, Youth and Family Act, and the Child Care Services Act, our Adoptions Act, these are all very, very significant pieces of social policy which all center around children, and children in this Province.

Now, as we move forward through second reading of Bill 46 today, we add to this impressive list the Child and Youth Advocate Bill.

I think, as members have seen in the review of the legislation that I have put forward, the powers that are proposed for the child advocate are very, very broad. When you refer to section 15, you see that the advocate has the power to receive and review matters relating to children or youth, whether they are referred to them or not. They have the power to advocate or mediate on behalf of children, the power to investigate further; but, as you go on, perhaps the ones which are also very significant are referenced in (f) and (g) when it indicates that the advocate will have the power to: (f) "inform the public about the needs and rights of children and youth including about the office of the advocate; and (g) make recommendations to the government..." and its agencies.

As I indicated in my introductory comments, the Child and Youth Advocate will have the power to look at systemic policy issues with respect to the Department of Education, but the schedule does not include the actual school boards themselves, and therefore does not extend to individuals cases. Again, as the Minister of Education has indicated, there are many mechanisms existing, starting with, of course, the elected representatives, the trustees who make up the school boards; subsequent to that, the school councils who serve to advocate on behalf of children and, of course, we respect and recognize the valuable contribution that they all play.

In closing my comments, Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all of those who have provided such significant input to this piece of legislation. As my colleagues have mentioned earlier, this has received input back from 1994, from a time when a select committee of this House started to first address the interests of the children in this way. There has been significant public consultation and eighty-five groups and individuals who have participated in forums to give us direction on the needs and the requirements of a piece of legislation centred around a child advocate.

I would particularly like to thank the Member from Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair who, as the Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Community Services, really provided the leadership on consultation throughout the spring and summer in developing this legislation, and has served to provide very valuable input in her own right. I certainly want to thank her for that.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I will close the debate on second reading.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, by leave of the House, I would like to table some information on the number one television show in Newfoundland and Labrador.

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

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. BARRETT: I have a list of all of the communities in the Province, and the channel where this number one program is being seen and heard throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. I think hon. members might be interested in being able to tell their constituents on which channel they can see them. There are 250-odd communities now receiving this channel. I will table the document so hon. members can have the information.

On motion, a bill, "An Act Respecting The Child And Youth Advocate," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill 46)

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

MR. LUSH: Order 10, Mr. Speaker, second reading of Bill 21.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Teacher Training Act." (Bill 21)

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS FOOTE: Mr. Speaker, legal counsel has advised the Department of Education of a need to amend the Teacher Training Act. The current legislation requires a teacher certification review panel to recommend to the Teachers' Certification Committee the suspension or cancellation of a teacher's certificate or licence following a review of the case. The Teachers' Certification Committee then decides the action to be taken with respect to the teacher certification. Upon an appeal by the teacher, the Teachers' Certification Committee has to defend its decision, without the benefit of all the information of the review panel. Through this amendment, the review panel will render the decision respecting action against the teacher's certificate and, upon appeal, defend its action.

Mr. Speaker, all this means essentially is that instead of having the Teachers' Certification Committee having to get the information from the review panel, the review panel can in fact make the decision whether or not to cancel or suspend at teacher's certificate.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to speak on Bill 21, teacher certification. It is a change, a change that I understand is necessary, that all parties agree to, and that it was recommended that this be brought forth.

Certainly, teacher certification is a very, very important part of maintaining a teacher workforce that can, I guess, take care of the needs of any particular time. With regard to the certification of teachers, this committee, I must say to the minister, I am not sure they will be very busy over the next little while.

The situation that is developing in this Province, and that has developed in this Province with regard to teacher supply and demand, needs immediate attention. When I say immediate attention, I should qualify that and say that it needed past attention because the situation that is currently unfolding with regard to the demand and supply of teachers in this Province of Newfoundland and Labrador is certainly reaching a stage where we are going to be hard-pressed. I say we; the department, this Province, this government, is going to be hard-pressed to make sure that the teachers in this Province - first of all, that there is enough of them for the requests of the different boards around this particular Province. This situation did not develop overnight, Mr. Speaker.

Throughout the 1980s, without a doubt, there was an oversupply of teachers in this Province, and that in the 1990s this oversupply dwindled as a lot of these teachers, who certainly could not get jobs, who could not get employment in this Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, went elsewhere. They migrated from this Province to somewhere else, or they changed careers. Now we are into this particular situation today where we do not have an oversupply, where we need to get a handle on what needs to be done to ensure that not only the quantity of teachers is there but the quality of teachers. That is important. That is very, very important.

Up to this point in time there has been a lot said that if there is a decline, as there is a decline, in the number of students, naturally there should be a decline in the number of teachers. I know that, I guess, since the mid-1990s, this government has been reminded, or was reminded, by members on this side of the House that if you were not careful, and if you kept laying off teachers, if you kept looking at simply matching up the number of teachers with the number of students, that you were going to find yourself into difficulties with regard to teacher supply and demand. Lo and behold, it happened. I say to you, Mr. Speaker, it happened.

I know that in 1999 there was a committee from this side of the House that went around the Province and lobbied - after listening and consulting with the parties - and brought back to this House, and to the Minister of Education, that you could no longer look at just declining numbers and matching up teachers with declining numbers. You had to look at needs, and you had to take on the chin the fact that there were some schools out there that, regardless of the numbers that you had in there, you had to have a certain number of teachers. The demographics certainly indicated that, less students, less teachers, but when you looked at the number of schools and the programming in those schools, the realization was there that you had to have a certain number of teachers.

Again, the Ministerial Panel, Drs. Williams and Sparkes, followed up after demands and requests from this side of the House to look at the whole allocation situation, and they came back with a formula that looked at the needs rather than just the population.

Mr. Speaker, we are here in 2001 and we still hear declining students, declining teacher numbers, but what is happening now is that the number of teachers out there is still pretty high. If you look at the number of teachers, you would say we have no problems, but when you delve a little deeper, what you find, Mr. Speaker, is that there are other factors that simply go beyond the numbers. We have to look at geography, and we know on this side of the House, as you know on that side of the House, that even as we speak there are positions of teachers in this Province, in certain parts of this Province, that cannot be filled because they cannot find the teachers. They cannot find the teachers, not because there aren't teachers in the Province who are not qualified, but they are not going to go to a particular area.

When we look at teacher certification, Mr .Speaker, again I have to express my concerns that we can, I guess, change the legislation to deal with it, but I will get back to my original thought, that I do not know how busy they are going to be. I do not know how busy, Minister.

I mentioned geography. You have to take that into account. You also have to take into account the number of teachers who are going to be retiring in the next number of years. It is hard to look at it now. If you did not look at it four or five years ago, as it should have been looked at, now you find yourself in the crunch. There is going to be a fair number of teachers retiring over the next four or five years. That is going to have an affect on it.

With regard to the teacher education graduates, our Faculty of Education at MUN, we look at the faculty and we say: Well, things must be going okay because in the 1980s we had an oversupply and in the 1990s, well, a lot of them would move on but still, looking at the numbers, you would still think you would have enough. It is sad to say, that is not necessarily true because it is not the number of teachers but the quality of the teachers and the qualifications they have. Mr. Speaker, it is very, very important that we look specifically at qualifications. We had to get ahead of it because now it is getting too late, if it is not already too late, that we are looking at certifying teachers and they may not have the qualifications that are necessary now to fill the jobs of the retiring teachers. So we have again, and I say we - I am including both sides of the House, namely government, as decision- makers - you have to get out front on this. We are now into a serious crunch.

Another factor with regard to certifying teachers or getting teachers at a point where they can be certified, is there seems to be a general lack of interest in pursuing teaching as a career. You ask, why would that be? I say the lack of interest is there because of the high demands that are being placed on teachers as they fulfill their duties, and those demands are ever increasing. I know there was a time, and I am looking at the Government House Leader because I know you were a teacher back in the early 1970s -

AN HON. MEMBER: Sixties.

MR. HEDDERSON: I say 1970s to the House Leader, and there was a different outlook when it came to teachers, and there was a great deal more respect for teachers, and people certainly were not reluctant to go into the teaching profession.

Another factor, Mr. Speaker, is the high demand out there now from other than Newfoundland and Labrador for teachers. You can look at the rest of Canada, you can look at the United States, you can go to New Zealand, Australia. On the international scene, teachers are a commodity now that are in great demand. So, we are looking at a situation whereby the teacher certification may again be a situation where the teachers are simply not there.

I call upon the minister, that in looking at certification to look at - the areas of this Province that are going to be the hardest hit first, and are being hit first, are the rural areas, the remote areas. We just finished looking at a bill of the child and the youth advocate and we must be sure that we are willing to do everything that is necessary to get the quality of teachers into the classrooms of this Province of Newfoundland and Labrador to ensure that we move forward, not only in education but in all other areas, because education is, I guess, the cornerstone of any progress that we may embark upon.

I will leave it at that. I may have another opportunity to rise and talk further on the necessity of this government to look at the situation, take into account all factors, not simply declining enrolment - that does not hold water anymore. You have to go beyond, I say, Mr. Speaker, simply just looking at declining numbers, you have to go beyond just managing decline, and we have to take bold steps to make sure that the quality of teachers in this Province is second to none.

I will leave it at that, Mr. Speaker, and beg to sit down.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to speak briefly on Bill 21, An Act To Amend The Teacher Training Act. Although it is called To Amend The Teacher Training Act, the actual bill deals with the provisions for suspending, canceling or otherwise, a certificate of licence of a teacher who is guilty of gross misconduct, incompetence or other just cause. It is not really about teacher supply but, of course, at second reading members can talk about anything within the overall framework of the bill that they wish.

What I want to talk about, and I want to ask the minister if she could respond to this in her closing remarks, is an issue that I have a great deal of concern about, and that is about what happens - these are teachers presumably who have already been fired. They have either been fired for gross incompetence or gross misconduct or other just cause, or are people who have been identified as people who are not deserving or worthy of having a teaching licence. Unlike some of the other professions that we have recognized in this House, including the massage therapist, for example, the teaching profession is not a self-governing profession, and they do not decide who is licenced or who is not licensed to teach. So we have a provincial legislated provision for granting or withholding or removing licences to teach in this Province.

We have these across the country, Mr. Speaker, and we have had experiences in the past where teachers have been convicted off crimes involving children, such as sexual assault, who have left this Province and gone teaching somewhere else. For some reason or other, the school in the other province of Canada took the person to teach who had been convicted or plead guilty or was discovered to have been involved in crimes of sexual assault amongst children in school.

I want to ask the minister two questions really. We have also seen situations where persons found guilty or pleading guilty have ended up teaching in other school districts where they have been removed from a particular school, because they were reported, or there were complaints of sexual assault or other impropriety, and end up teaching in another school in the Province. I am not just talking about the well-known incidents involving the Christian Brothers that have been the source of much ligation in this Province. I am talking about teachers in schools, and I would say in a number of school boards, in a number of denominations in this Province, so I am not isolating any one particular group or one particular group of offenders.

What I want to know from the minister is: What provisions are in place, or what mandates are in place, to ensure that teachers who have been in our schools, who have been guilty or have been fired as a result of the gross misconduct we are talking about, or incompetence or other just cause, what provision is there to ensure that the licensing board is made aware of the circumstances so that the teacher's licence may be dealt with? I am not saying automatic response no matter what the circumstances are. What provision is in place to ensure that, when a teacher is fired or indeed not hired because they may become aware of circumstances which justify that a teacher should not be hired, is there an obligation on a school board, or on a school principal, to ensure that the Teachers' Certification Board is made aware of circumstances which might lead to the suspension or cancelling of the licence or certificate of a teacher so that the process may be engaged and that the board may look into the circumstances or through a proper procedure? I do not want to suggest that the person whose licence we are talking about has no right to defend themselves, or the rights of natural justice that go with that - we have to have a proper procedure - but what provisions are in place to ensure that this board gets to see it? And what provisions are in place to ensure that other boards across the country may be aware that a teacher has been suspended? Do we have to wait for them to ask? Is there a provision whereby a person who might have teacher training, with a licence to teach, where it has been removed or suspended, is there an automatic provision for other similar boards across the country to be notified when such a licence has been suspended or cancelled?

That is all I am going to say, Mr. Speaker, on this bill. As the minister has said, legal counsel have advised that it is necessary to make these changes, but I want to know, for the protection of not only our school children but school children across the country, whether these protections are in place so that a person who is teaching school, who is engaged in gross misconduct of the nature I talked about, is there a provision that automatically makes sure the licensing board knows, and if a person's licence is suspended or cancelled are other boards across the country notified? Is there a registry that is available to ensure that people who should not be teaching children in our schools are not, in fact, doing so because they are able to escape and get a licence somewhere else?

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MS FOOTE: Mr. Speaker, with the time left on the clock, I guess there are a number of issues that I could respond to but I think I will wait and raise them in Committee.

Mr. Speaker, with the comments that have been made, I close second reading of the bill.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Teacher Training Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill 21)

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

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, for Monday, I want to move the motion under Standing Order 11, that the House not adjourn at its normal time but carry on into the evening.

Mr. Speaker, just as a matter of interest to hon. members, the Member for Gander passed this note to me today. I think this might be of interest to a lot of members. The member was informed by the Mayor of Gander that ABC Prime Time will be airing their story on Newfoundland tonight at 11:30 p.m., on the September 11 events, when all the people came into Central Newfoundland.

MR. TULK: What time?

MR. LUSH: It is airing tonight on ABC at 11:30 p.m. Newfoundland time. Mr. Speaker, hon. members as well as other people might want to watch that.

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

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