The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

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

MR. SPEAKER: Admit the Justices of the Supreme Court.

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

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


Mr. Speaker leaves the Chair.

His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor takes the Chair.

SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: It is the wish of His Honour The Lieutenant-Governor that all present please be seated.


Mr. Speaker, Members of the House of Assembly and the People of Newfoundland and Labrador:

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the Fifth Session of this, the 44th General Assembly. It is an honour to deliver my first Speech from the Throne in the people's chamber. And it is an honour to serve the people of this great Province as your Lieutenant-Governor.

Strength of Our People

In the few short months that I have held this office, the many people I have met have confirmed for me that the true richness, the strong character and the distinctiveness that defines and embraces our Province, is rooted in its people.

I saw it in the people of Badger when I visited that community a few weeks ago. The ability of our people to immediately band together to comfort, console and begin the arduous task of rebuilding was clearly evident. The response of the entire Province confirmed what we all know about the strength of our people.

I recall, in particular, the efforts of Joe Roberts, a former fire chief in Badger, whose leadership and compassion exemplifies the extraordinary work and spirit of those dealing with the devastation in that community. My Government assures the people of Badger that it will continue to work with them as they rebuild their lives.

As in Badger, the resolve and faith of the people of Musgrave Harbour was tested by the tragic loss of five lives from their community. Once again, we saw the strength of community and the solidarity of our people when faced with such a terrible tragedy. Draper Fahey, Roger Hann and Darren, Danny and Irving Faulkner will be remembered as sons of our Province whose lives typified our collective character formed by the sea and the rock.

Lieutenant-Governor's Recognition Awards

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians continue to excel in every conceivable walk of life. Such excellence deserves recognition; such achievement demands celebration. As the Queen's representative in this Province, I will ensure that citizens who make a difference are recognized through the Lieutenant-Governor's Recognition Awards.

These Awards will be a public tribute by the Crown to mark high achievement by Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. They will be a high honour and they will be a true honour. They will mark the achievements of those whom we know well and others, while not being household names, have made no less of a difference to our Province.

Reflecting Our Values

My Government strives to reflect the nature of its people. My Government shares the everyday goals, desires and aspirations of the people of the Province.

My Government has set a course to be open and accountable to all people. A government must be in touch with the priorities of all it seeks to serve. By being open, My Government welcomes the views and criticisms of each citizen. It is a government of inclusion, not exclusion.

A Government with a Plan

The hallmark of My Government is a commitment to a plan; a plan that sees a healthy, well educated people prepared to control their own destiny by seizing the opportunities that are now before them. This can occur when clear goals are established, agendas are set and commitments are delivered.

My Government reaffirms today its commitment to a long-term and consistent approach to strategic planning.


A Focused and Realistic Plan

Our plan is compelling and focused. It is not grandiose and unrealistic. My Government strives for: Excellent education for our children; quality and accessible health care; jobs to provide for our families; more money in the hands of our people to spend, save and invest; transportation and technology networks that conquer our geography; and, a true and equal partnership in the Canadian union.

These are some of the real benefits for people which My Government plans to achieve.

A Much Better Place

The outlook for our Province just over ten years ago loomed like a red sky in morning. The Northern cod fishery collapsed. Spending was not controlled. The Province had an archaic fiscal, regulatory and tax environment. Taxes were too high. We did not have Hibernia, Terra Nova or White Rose. Voisey's Bay had yet to be discovered. Many of our people did not have a reason to stay.

Setting Our House in Order

Yet, together, we have persevered. To set our house in order, My Government saw the need for a strong commitment to planning that would guide us. My Government developed a Strategic Economic Plan in 1992, and in 1998 launched its Strategic Social Plan. As a result, we are in a much better place than a decade ago, a much better Province than just two years ago. A new Newfoundland and Labrador.

Our Province is now growing. The economy has become much more diversified. More people are working than ever before. The trend line for all economic indicators is moving in the right direction. Social assistance caseloads have declined. Out-migration is slowing significantly. More people are moving to Newfoundland and Labrador.

Between July 2001 and July 2002, just under 12,000 people moved into the Province, the highest number since 1975. For the same period, net out-migration was 2,500 which was the lowest number in ten years. We welcome these people to our Province, particularly the thousands of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who have returned home.

Along with the commitment to an economic plan, My Government has embarked on an aggressive social plan. My Government had the courage to reform our school system, to undertake health care reform, and redesign our system of social assistance. We will continue to work towards the creation of a more just society for all our people.

Our Destiny

My Government believes that it is the hard-working and dedicated people of this Province who have turned it around. They will not return to a time when economic and social indicators consistently pointed in the wrong direction.

With a determined and calculated focus, My Government has set a course for a red sky at night. Our Province is on the verge of a new Newfoundland and Labrador. For the first time in a long time, we have the ability to control our destiny and by staying on course we will capitalize on this opportunity.

My Government is committed to a long-term social and economic growth strategy and will not be blinded or misguided by bright lights, quick fixes and grand schemes.

Making a Difference - The Last Two Years

The last two years have seen My Government embark on a more ambitious agenda.

My Government's philosophy is that it will make a difference in the lives of the people it serves by remaining true to its commitments. A commitment made is a commitment kept.

A Government that is Accessible

My Government has committed to bringing the institutions of government closer to the people so that they can play a more active and beneficial role in the mainstream of life in our Province. This can best be achieved by opening up government and increasing our accountability.

We now have in this Province a Citizens' Representative and a Child and Youth Advocate. In the coming months, we will see the appointment of the first Information and Privacy Commissioner, when the new Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act becomes law.

We also have the office of a Petroleum Products Pricing Commissioner, which ensures stability and certainty for consumers in petroleum pricing. With the uncertainty in the world, this office is meeting the important objective of providing stability in pricing.

Being Accountable to the People

My Government committed that all departments and agencies would be required to publish annual reports in 2003. In this spring sitting, annual reports for all government departments and boards will be tabled in this hon. House.

These offices and commitments provide real vehicles of communication and accountability between the people and their government.

A Strong and Secure Economy

My Government reached an agreement for the development of Voisey's Bay in Labrador. This 30-year project, which will contribute an estimated $11 billion to the provincial economy, is a major economic stimulus in our Province. The decision to move forward with the development at Voisey's Bay took courage, vision and a determination to find solutions, not obstacles.

My Government has also successfully negotiated our third major offshore oil project, White Rose. The $2.35 billion project now employs over 400 people in St. John's. One of them is Tony Mercer who graduated from Memorial University with an engineering degree, and after working for six years in Houston, has returned to Newfoundland and Labrador. In Marystown, there are now over 300 people working and the workforce in that town will peak at 600 people on this project alone.

With the newly established offshore boundary between Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, our Province gains control of 70 per cent of the area that was in dispute between the two provinces. This area, which has been under moratorium for 30 years, will soon be opened to advanced exploration for oil and natural gas.

An Aggressive Social Agenda

My Government recognizes that the challenge of growing the economy must coincide with the challenges we face as a just society. My government can best meet the needs of our people by ensuring that we plan for the future.

My Government implemented a Strategic Social Plan that is the preeminent model of social development in Canada. The plan ensures that policy and program development are based on evidence, reflect partnerships and are designed to strengthen our communities.

Challenged to Measure Up

Through the Strategic Social Plan, My Government envisions government, regions and communities working in partnership to improve the lives of the people of this Province. My Government is committed to the completion of a Social Audit in 2003. The next phase of the Audit will soon be released. From the Ground Up is a factual report on where we stand as a Province using key social and economic indicators.

A government must have the courage to challenge itself; to measure the work it is doing. Through the Social Audit, the first of its kind in Canada, My Government demonstrates again its commitment to the people it serves.

My Government has a new strategic health plan for Newfoundland and Labrador. Healthier Together sets out new directions for the health care system over the next five years and will result in higher quality and more accessible and sustainable health care for the people of the Province.

The dedication and commitment of provincial public servants in Newfoundland and Labrador continues to be critical to My Government's ability to serve the needs of the people of the Province. My Government currently has in place thirty-one public sector contracts; contracts which are fair to employees and are affordable to the Treasury.

Affordable housing for those most in need is a priority of My Government. In the coming weeks, My Government will enter into a multi-year, multi-million dollar bilateral agreement with the federal government that will stimulate the creation of affordable housing and maintain the existing housing stock for those most in need.

My Government increased the minimum wage twice in 2002, and the current rate of $6 an hour is on par with minimum wage rates in the rest of Atlantic Canada.

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

Many would say that the last two years constitute a solid record of achievement. For My Government, it represents a good start.

Education - The Foundation of Prosperity

My Government is fiercely determined to build a culture where education is highly valued and where our citizens are among the best educated in the country. All societies that prosper and all governments that reach their goals for social and economic development have one thing in common. It is a strong educational foundation.


It is well established that the first years of learning are critical to future success. My Government is committed to a strong program of pre-school and early childhood development initiatives. One component is Kinderstart, a province-wide, pre-Kindergarten orientation program aimed at preparing children to enter school ready to learn, familiar with the classroom setting and with a head-start in reading.

My Government has set a course to reverse the trend of low literacy and provided the strategic means to become a Province with students who are among the best educated in the country.

My Government is also committed to maintaining the best pupil-teacher ratio in Canada, currently at one teacher for every 13.5 students.

National and international testing results verify that our investments in education are paying dividends.

The Province's drop-out rate has declined sharply, from 24 per cent in 1991 to 11 per cent in 1999. This represents a remarkable 54 per cent decline over an eight-year period. It speaks to an increased awareness among young people of the importance of staying in school. It also speaks to the ability of our education system to provide students with the supports they need to succeed at the high school level.

My Government is very concerned about bullying in our schools. Through our new Safe and Caring Schools Action Plan, our children will continue to enjoy one of the safest and most nurturing learning environments in the world.

Increasing achievement in rural Newfoundland and Labrador will be a primary focus of My Government over the next five years.

Substantial progress is being made in the provision of on-line learning opportunities for students in Newfoundland and Labrador, particularly for those students who live in rural areas. Nancy Turner, a student at Holy Cross School in Eastport, is one student who is seeing real benefit in distance education. She says: "Distance education is a valuable part of my high school career, and I am thrilled to be part of something so remarkable."

My Government will place the entire high school curriculum in e-learning format, so that our high school program is available to students anywhere in the Province. My Government will ensure equality of opportunity for every student in Newfoundland and Labrador. This will ensure that students are fully prepared to participate at a post-secondary level without disadvantage.

My Government has set an education agenda that has, as its goal, the attainment of student achievement levels in Newfoundland and Labrador that match or exceed the highest performing provinces in Canada. In addition, by 2006, our students will rank among the best in the world and we expect this to be verified in national and international test results. This is a bold objective, but it is one we have made significant progress towards achieving.

Our Educators

If education is a basic tenet of our success as a people, our teachers are a vital link to not only the success of our students but to the success of the Province.

Andre Hudson, a chemistry teacher in Grand Falls-Windsor, is one of the teachers making a difference in the lives of our children. As an e-teacher with the recently established Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation, he brings his expertise in that subject area to students in rural and remote parts of the Province. This is just one of the innovative ways high calibre teachers and technology can be connected to bring quality learning experiences to students no matter where they live.

My Government is committed to finding new and innovative ways to ensure that teacher resources are used to promote the best possible programming and classroom experience for our children.

In 2000, My Government engaged two prominent educators to study how we could most effectively resource our schools in an era of declining enrolment. The formula subsequently presented in the Sparkes-Williams Ministerial Panel Report represented a fair and equitable means by which to address this issue. That said, the formula has not been fully implemented for the past number of years. As a result, more than half the teaching positions that would have been lost to enrolment decline have been retained in the system.

This investment in additional teachers, beyond that recommended in the allocation formula, will continue to allow schools and school boards to deliver enhanced educational opportunities for our students.

Educational Infrastructure

Over the past five years, My Government has invested more than $170 million in new school construction and upgrading existing schools, with more than $50 million in the past two years alone. This expenditure, made possible by school reform, has seen the construction of twenty-three new schools in communities such as Blaketown, Roddickton and Plum Point, and forty-nine major renovation projects. This represents the largest capital investment in our schools in the history of our Province.

My Government will make the necessary investments to ensure that, within five years, every school from Nain to St. John's is brought up to a level that meets or exceeds national standards.

My Government is proud of its accomplishment that computers are readily available in schools to all students, regardless of where they live. Our next commitment is to link every classroom to the Internet.

My Government has agreed to make a further $5 million investment in broadband infrastructure in the Province, through the Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation. We are awaiting confirmation of partnership commitments from the federal government and the private sector.

Supports and Services

My Government established a study group with NAPE and CUPE to examine the hours of work issue for secretarial, janitorial and maintenance workers. That report was publicly released earlier this year. My Government is studying the report and will work towards implementation with their union partners.

Textbooks are currently provided free of charge to students in Kindergarten to Grade 8. My Government currently provides a 40 per cent subsidy for textbooks to students in Grades 9 through 12. My Government will explore ways and means to further reduce the cost of textbooks in the high school program.

My Government's education agenda is ambitious and forward-thinking. It addresses our students, our teachers and the supports they require to achieve and to excel. My Government believes that, if our children are to reap the benefits of our vision and promises, we must be willing to sow the seeds today.

Post-Secondary Education: An Achievable Goal

My Government believes that students should graduate with the skills and knowledge they need to become productive citizens. They are committed to making education at the post-secondary level accessible to all who choose to pursue it. My Government is keeping that commitment.

Lowering Tuition

Today, more than 80 per cent of the high school graduates in this Province pursue a post-secondary education. In support of this, My Government committed to reducing tuition at Memorial University of Newfoundland by 25 per cent. They are keeping this commitment.

With a 20 per cent reduction over the past two years, tuition rates in our Province are the lowest in the country. Tuition rates at Memorial will decrease by a further 5 per cent this coming September. Newfoundland and Labrador stands alone as the only Province in the country that is lowering tuition for the benefit of its students.

Over the past four years, My Government was instrumental in the implementation of a tuition freeze at the College of the North Atlantic and the Marine Institute, making current tuition rates at these institutions among the lowest in the country.

Lowering Debt

My Government has made changes to the student aid program aimed at reducing student debt and making post-secondary education more affordable. These measures include new debt reduction grants and enhanced interest relief, so that students can shed their debt faster.

For example, a student who borrows at the maximum level of $275 per week for the length of his or her degree program is eligible for $15,000 in debt reduction. This means that students who borrow at the maximum level have no provincial student debt, and amounts to a 40 per cent reduction in the student's overall debt load.

With these measures to bring about low tuition rates, and with a revamped student aid program, My Government is making affordable post-secondary education available to the greatest possible number of students.

Youth Opportunities Newfoundland and Labrador

Youth out-migration, youth employment, student debt, rural revitalization and business expansion are all challenges that My Government is addressing. This year, My Government will commence a Youth Opportunities Newfoundland and Labrador program to provide incentives for post-secondary graduates burdened by student debt to stay and work in the Province after graduation. The finalization of program details will be a participatory process with students and other stakeholders in a roundtable convened for this purpose.

The All-Important First Job

My Government will also provide incentives to employers who hire cooperative work term students, and to those who hire new graduates in their field of study.

Youth Opportunities Newfoundland and Labrador will give graduating students a helping hand as they begin their professional careers and will encourage them to remain part of the social fabric of their communities and their Province.

Quality, Accessible and Sustainable Health Care

My Government is committed to providing a quality health and community services system that improves the health and well-being of individuals, families, and communities. My Government's resolve to meet this commitment is shown in Healthier Together: A Strategic Health Plan for Newfoundland and Labrador.

This five-year strategic health plan sets out the major long-term goals, and identifies the objectives, actions and targets, by which My Government will be measured. The directions outlined in the plan were a result of extensive consultations with the public and key stakeholders.

Delivering a Sustainable System

Each year, My Government spends $1.5 billion, or 42 cents of every program dollar, on health care. My Government increased health care spending by 50 per cent since 1994-1995. People, however, deserve more than increased health care spending; they also deserve a guarantee of excellent care.

Providing a Quality System

In keeping with My Government's commitment, a Health Charter will be released shortly. The Charter's purpose is to outline what people can expect from the health and community services system, and an understanding of our own individual responsibility in achieving optimal health and well-being. The Charter will reflect public input received during the current consultation process.

Healthy People

Wellness is an overarching theme of My Government's strategic health plan. To improve the health status of the people of the Province, a wellness strategy is being developed. Four key areas have been identified for immediate work. They are health promotion, injury and illness prevention, health protection, and child and youth development. My Government will take advice and guidance on our wellness strategy from the recently created Provincial Wellness Advisory Council, chaired by Dr. Catherine Donovan.

Physical activity is a major health determinant. Research indicates that 60 per cent of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are not active enough to achieve health benefits. To address this problem, My Government established a coalition of individuals from the fields of sport, recreation, health and education to develop a provincial strategy that will increase the physical activity levels of the people of the Province.

Tobacco control initiatives continue to be a key element of our wellness agenda. My Government's Teen Tobacco Team has been instrumental in promoting the "stop smoking" message. Since 2000, smoking rates of those aged fifteen to nineteen in Newfoundland and Labrador have dropped from 28 per cent to 22 per cent. My Government is committed to achieving an even greater reduction in smoking rates, particularly for those in their early teens. My Government will not rest until 100 per cent of teens stop smoking.

My Government believes it is time the tobacco industry accepted responsibility for the negative impact its product has on the lives of individuals. To this end, My Government has announced its plan to recover the enormous health costs associated with tobacco use through the courts.

Mental Health Strategy

My Government also recognizes that a new strategy is needed in the area of mental health. It is the lack of community-based services that is most obvious. My Government will formulate a mental health strategy leading to a more comprehensive set of mental health services.

Caring for Autistic Children

My Government has announced a further investment of $1.88 million over three years for autism services in the Province. Early intensive intervention services will be offered to pre-school aged children who are currently waiting for the service. This increased funding will also address the anticipated demand for new referrals to the program as they arise.

Accessibility for All Citizens: A Team-Based Approach

My Government's strategic health plan sets out a new direction for primary health care as the central focus of the delivery of health and community services. This represents a new direction for primary health care: a team-based, interdisciplinary approach where physicians, nurses and other health professionals cooperate in providing services twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

My Government's goal is to ensure that every region of the Province can avail of appropriate primary health care services on a twenty-four hour a day, seven day a week basis, within five years.

Enhancing the availability of diagnostic care, treatment services and equipment is critical to reducing waiting times and ensuring the quality of our health care system. My Government will make new investments, including support for specialized staff training and equipment, which will improve access to diagnostic services.

These initiatives demonstrate My Government's leadership in ensuring that our health care system provides quality and accessible care to the people of the Province.

Opportunity and Prosperity

A challenge we face as a Province is the belief amongst some, that Newfoundland and Labrador continues to be a place of little or no opportunity for our people, particularly for our youth. This defeatist attitude, and the myth that there are no opportunities in our Province, is being dispelled every day by citizens of our Province who are making a difference.

Small Business Grows the Economy

Small businesses continue to make a real difference in our economy. Almost 95 per cent of all businesses in the Province are small businesses. There are more than 20,000 small businesses in Newfoundland and Labrador today, creating 80 per cent of all the new jobs in our economy.

It is people like Lindy Rideout, the owner of Sea Knife Kayaks in Cottlesville, who are reversing the trends of the past and showing that a strong economy provides jobs and opportunities for our people to stay in our Province. His company is one of the largest kayak producers in Atlantic Canada. To market his high-end kayaks, the company has opened an office in Ontario and is setting up distributors across Atlantic Canada. This kind of thinking and creativity demonstrates that today's rural Newfoundland and Labrador is securing its future.

My Government has strengthened the overall small business environment in recent years to encourage growth and new jobs in this vitally important sector of our economy. This remains a priority for My Government. New measures and initiatives will be announced in the upcoming Budget to build an even stronger environment to help small businesses grow and succeed in all parts of our Province.

Regional Economic Development

My Government is committed to building stronger regions and stronger communities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. It is critically important that all regions of the Province share in our economic progress and that the overall economy develops more fully on a regional basis. The twenty Regional Economic Development Boards are providing leadership on this front and My Government intend to ensure that they remain an effective partner in moving the economy forward.

The Rural Development Associations throughout the Province also play an extremely important role in community economic development. My Government values their contribution and is committed to strengthening their capacity to help to implement the strategic regional development plans that have been prepared by the Regional Economic Development Boards.

Leading Economic Growth

Major Canadian banks, and organizations like the Conference Board of Canada, have declared our economy to be the fastest growing in the country. Our GDP growth has nearly tripled from 2001. More than 60 per cent of the 27,000 jobs created in the past several years have been outside the St. John's area.

A Climate of Investment

My Government have been successful in creating a climate for investment, jobs and growth that is showing a positive impact. My Government has an aggressive plan to achieve this objective. It is the Renewal Strategy for Jobs and Growth. It is, in large measure, a rural agenda reaffirming the commitment of My Government to rural Newfoundland and Labrador. It is working.

It is clear that we are on the right track in this Province.

Three Priority Sectors

My Government's Renewal Strategy for Jobs and Growth identified a number of priority sectors that could achieve great levels of growth if given the proper support. Three of these are tourism, aquaculture and information technology.


Newfoundland and Labrador is emerging as a tourist destination of choice. Our tourism sector has grown dramatically over the past decade, with marked, sustained growth over the last five years. Tourism continues to be a priority sector in My Government's economic plan and this approach is paying dividends. Spending by visitors in the Province reached an estimated $304 million in 2002, an increase of 27 per cent since 1998. When one adds resident tourist expenditures to non-resident expenditures, they are estimated to be over $620 million a year.

In December 2002, My Government announced the creation of the Newfoundland and Labrador Marketing Council, which is co-chaired by government with Roger Jamieson, a tourism industry leader. This represents a new opportunity for better industry involvement in tourism marketing. It is reflective of the mature state of the tourism industry, builds on the tourism momentum of recent years and allows industry and government to work together more closely in promoting the Province as a tourism destination.


The fishery endures as a cornerstone of our economy and our heritage. My Government remains steadfast in its commitment that the fishery should be a proud and viable part of our future. Our diversified fishery is reaching a record $1 billion in value again this year.

Aquaculture has become an important part of that sector and the economy of rural Newfoundland and Labrador. The Aquaculture Strategic Plan, developed by industry and My Government, has facilitated a focused effort to industry development. It concentrates on four established species: Atlantic salmon, steelhead trout, blue mussels and Atlantic cod.

Since 1999, the export value of the aquaculture industry has risen 13 per cent. It reached $20.5 million in 2002. Blue mussel production reached 1,700 tonnes in 2002, an increase of 18 per cent over the previous year. It is entrepreneurs like Juan Roberts, who produced 1.4 million pounds of mussels at his farm in Triton last year, who are making the aquaculture industry grow.

My Government's $1 million contribution towards construction in Bay Roberts of the first commercial cod hatchery in North America will make us world leaders in egg-to-plate aquaculture technology.

Information Technology

The information technology sector averaged more than 10 per cent annual growth from 1992 to 1997, and grew by more than 25 per cent in each of 1998, 1999 and 2000. Today, in our Province, we have more than 200 IT firms and 4,000 IT professionals, generating $600 million in business around the world. The information technology sector remains a significant generator of employment and we are proud of the contribution this industry continues to make to our economy.

My Government looks forward to partnering with Aliant over the next three years on a $1.5 million Near Shore Development Initiative to aggressively establish the Province as a recognized centre for information technology development.

Business Attraction Agency

The attraction of new investment, new companies and new industries to our Province is an important part of My Government's plan for economic growth and job creation. In 2003, My Government will establish a new Business Attraction Agency for the Province to capture growing national and international investor interest in Newfoundland and Labrador, working in partnership with the business community and with regional and municipal economic development organizations.

Labour Market Development Strategy

Newfoundland and Labrador, like other jurisdictions nationally and internationally, is being challenged with labour market issues such as changing demographics and skill shortages. My Government is continuing its work with the Labour Market Development Council, a government-established advisory group of employers, labour, post-secondary and student representatives, to develop a provincial labour market development strategy. This strategy will be designed to assist in responding to current and future labour market challenges and to strategically position the Province in an increasingly global economy.

Ex-Patriate Labour Registration Desk

Local employers say that, more frequently than ever before, they cannot find employees in our Province to satisfy new or growing operations. Many of our people also wish to return home to work. My Government is interested in facilitating the return of these skilled workers by establishing an ex-patriate labour registration desk, to match Newfoundlanders and Labradorians wh live outside the Province and want to return home, with employers who can offer them a job.


The richness of Labrador's resources is well know, and the prospects for that part of the Province shine bright. In order to provide a greater level of understanding and service to the people of Labrador, My government has, for the first time in its history, two members representing Labrador in the Cabinet.

My Government will continue to work with the people of Labrador to promote the development of Labrador's resources in an environmentally responsible manner. And it will do so with the best interests of the people of Labrador, and the Province generally, foremost in our minds.

My Government will complete Phase III of the Trans-Labrador Highway between Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Cartwright. While this commitment is not conditional on federal funding, My Government has proposed a partnership approach to the Government of Canada and would welcome federal participation in this important project.

My Government has been able to reconfigure the Labrador Marine Service so that communities on the North Coast have a more frequent ferry service than they ever had before. For the people in Labrador West and the Happy Valley-Goose Bay area traveling on the ferry to the Island via Cartwright, costs and travel time will be reduced. Southern Labrador will become the main transportation route for entry into and out of Labrador and connections to the rest of the Province, which will in turn provide a great deal of potential for future economic growth in this region.

Partnerships for Success

My Government believes in working in partnership with people throughout the Province. This approach demonstrates our commitment to dialogue and openness. It is a way to ensure that the people's priorities remain the government's priorities.

Strategic Partnership Initiative

In January 2002, My Government announced a Strategic Partnership Initiative of government, business and labour. The objective of the Partnership is to advance the Province's overall economic agenda. An early priority established by the Partnership was to identify and to address key issues that need to be tackled together by government, business and labour to improve the Province's productivity and competitive position in an increasingly global economy. My Government is committed to working with business and labour as equal partners in dealing with these and other strategic challenges to advance our economy.

Community Partnerships

My Government acknowledges the valuable role the Premier's Council on Social Development plays in providing advice on key social policy issues, most recently the new Income and Employment Support Act.

Last year, My Government asked the Premier's Council to provide advice on ways to strengthen and develop the voluntary, community-based sector. The Premier's Council recently submitted its recommendations and, in the coming weeks, My Government will be announcing a comprehensive action plan focusing on how government and the voluntary, community-based sector can work more effectively together to achieve our common goals.

Partnership with Women

While gains have been made towards gender equity, more work in this area still needs to be done. My Government's commitment to advancing the status of women is reflected in its establishment of a Women's Policy Office to provide an essential link between women and government decision makers, and to facilitate gender inclusive policy development. It is also reflected in the sustained support of the Provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Women and Women's Centres through the Province. These commitments will continue.

The problem of reducing violence is not one which government can solve on its own. My Government established the Violence Prevention Initiative, a government-community partnership, to work with key groups on a regional basis and together, to make communities safer for everyone. Through this Initiative, My Government has committed funding through fiscal year 2004-2005 to improve coordination of services for victims, to increase public awareness and to support community mobilization on issues related to violence.

Partnership with Aboriginal Peoples

My Government's relationship with the Aboriginal people of this Province has never been stronger. This past year saw the conclusion of agreements with the Innu and Inuit to enable the Voisey's Bay development to proceed, in a manner consistent with their priorities and objectives.

Negotiations with the Government of Canada and the Labrador Inuit Association on the first land claims and self-government agreement in this Province will be completed in the coming months. Progress is also being made on the Innu Nation land claim. It is My Government's sincere hope that, with a fresh start, the Mushuau Innu will find a better life in Natuashish than the one they left behind in Davis Inlet.

Partnership with Municipalities

Strong local governance is essential to the social and economic growth of communities. My Government will continue to expand and enhance the infrastructure which is so essential to the growth and health of our communities. Communities throughout the Province will see an investment in municipal infrastructure exceeding $300 million over a three-year period. Through its Debt Relief Program, My Government has reduced the debt load of many rural communities by a total of $47 million and created the financial stability for continued growth.

My Government has committed $31 million to the clean-up of the St. John's harbour.

Democratic Reform

My Government believes in basic democratic principles that maximize the opportunities for inclusiveness and fairness in the electoral process. Public service is an honourable profession. My Government is dedicated to strengthening and building the integrity of our public institutions.

Campaign Financing

My Government plans to strengthen the rules pertaining to campaign financing in advance of the next general election. Legislation will be introduced shortly to provide for limits on campaign contributions to a party or candidate during an election campaign. We will provide for limits on third party spending if the third party is acting independently of a registered party or candidate. The rules will be more transparent with respect to the amounts which individuals and parties can spend during an election.

Size of Cabinet

The Electoral Boundaries Act establishes the review process which must be undertaken every ten years respecting electoral districts. Later this year, My Government will receive a report from a commission setting out recommendations concerning the number of seats for this hon. House.

My Government is of the view that the size of the Cabinet should be a fixed percentage of the total number of seats in the House of Assembly. Following the determination of the number of seats, My Government commits to a Cabinet size of no more than one-third of the number of districts.

Election Dates

After full public consultation, My Government will introduce legislation to require that provincial elections be held on a set date every four years. This will provide a greater degree of stability and certainty in the electoral process.

Our Relationship with Ottawa

It is very clear that our relationship with the federal government is an issue of great interest and concern to the people of our Province. While the Province is a partner in the Canadian federation, My Government shares the people's view that we are truly an equal partner. For a partnership to be truly equal there must be respect on both sides.

Unfortunately, at this time, the level of indifference, disinterest and disrespect towards provinces is increasing. This was quite obvious during the recent First Ministers' Meeting on health care. It was also clearly evident in recent decisions taken with respect to divestiture of the port facility in Stephenville, and the virtual closure of the weather forecasting office in Gander. The federal government has failed to respect the people of this Province and this must change.

All-Party Committee on Cod Fisheries

Last November, without any consultation or warning, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans announced through the media it was contemplating closing cod fisheries beginning with the 2003 season. In response to a resolution passed in this House of Assembly, an emergency meeting took place in Ottawa on December 2, 2002 resulting in the formation of an historic All-Party Committee to present a united provincial position on this serious issue. My Government is pleased with the cooperation and collaboration on this matter.

My Government calls on the federal government to respond positively to the recommendations contained in the report of the All-Party Committee, which was publicly released on March 17th, to help rebuild and protect the Northern and Gulf cod stocks, and to assist those who depend on these renewable fish resources for their livelihood.

Foreign Overfishing

The issue of foreign overfishing and the exploitation of our fishery resources is one of profound significance to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. My Government has established the Provincial Advisory Council on Foreign Overfishing to provide advice on how we can work to resolve the issues related to overfishing on the Nose and Tail of the Grand Banks. We have proposed the concept of custodial management to the federal government.

My Government will continue to press the federal government to live up to its responsibility of protecting our fisheries resources.

All-Party Symposium on Equalization

The leadership of all provincial and federal elected officials in this Province is required to effect a change in the relationship between Newfoundland and Labrador and the federal government. To this end, My Government will expand on the success of the All-Party approach initiated to respond to the troubled state of the Northern and Gulf cod fisheries by convening the first annual symposium of all Members of this hon. House and all federal Members of the House of Commons and Senate from Newfoundland and Labrador.

This will be an annual event, held each fall, to tackle a priority issue of importance to the people of the Province. The issue My Government is proposing for the first symposium will be Equalization, a timely one given the review of the program which is scheduled to be completed in 2004. Business and labour will also be invited to participate in this symposium on Equalization through the Strategic Partnership Initiative.

Lower Churchill Development

Canada's increasing need for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions raises the importance of the Government of Canada's potential role in facilitating development of the Lower Churchill. Now that the federal government has ratified the Kyoto Protocol, My Government will continue to explore with Ottawa, over the next several months, the role which this clean, renewable energy project could play in reducing Canada's greenhouse gas emissions.

My Government remains firmly committed to developing the Lower Churchill with partners that are committed to maximizing the returns, benefits and opportunities for our people.

Canada/Newfoundland and Labrador Economic Development Board

As of March 31, 2003, the last of the existing federal-provincial, cost-shared comprehensive economic development agreements will expire in Newfoundland and Labrador and in the other Atlantic provinces. My Government has proposed to the federal government a new model for economic development programming in Newfoundland and Labrador, namely the establishment of a Canada/Newfoundland and Labrador Economic Development Board.

This board would bring together most of ACOA's provincial office and most of the business lines of the Department of Industry, Trade and Rural Development. This pilot project would have the goal of eliminating the overlap and duplication which currently exists, and pooling the collective resources of the two orders of government in support of common economic development objectives and priorities.

During the period of time needed to fully operationalize this model, My Government has proposed to the Government of Canada that the current Comprehensive Economic Development Agreement be extended by one year to March 31, 2004. This would allow for an orderly transition.

My Government remains convinced that much more can be achieved if the voice of Newfoundland and Labrador is better respected in Ottawa.

Royal Commission on Renewing and Strengthening our Place in Canada

A centerpiece of last year's Throne Speech was the announcement of the Royal Commission on Renewing and Strengthening our Place in Canada. The degree of public interest and involvement in the Commission's work to date speaks volumes about the importance of this initiative. My Government looks forward to receiving the final report of the Commission by June 30, which, in many ways, will chart the future course for Newfoundland and Labrador.

The People's Congress

In recognition of the importance of this initiative to the people of the Province, My Government will organize a People's Congress within sixty days of receiving the Commission's report. The People's Congress will bring together elected federal and provincial officials from all parties, municipal leaders, Aboriginal leaders, representatives of the social, business and labour sectors, with representations from women, youth and seniors. The intended outcome will be an action plan flowing from the recommendations of the Commission report.

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

My Government will continue to engage the people of Newfoundland and Labrador as we advance our agenda, as we further our ability to seize the opportunities before us to control our destiny. The strong spirit and determination of the people of the Province carries us through challenges and leads to prosperity. It will serve us well, as together we build the new Newfoundland and Labrador.

A Vision for this Province... A Plan We Will Achieve

My Government's agenda is large and ambitious.

It is an agenda that is practical and affordable. It demonstrates a government of energy, of vision, of ideas, and of leadership.

It is an agenda for the people. An agenda to be delivered in partnership with the people.

It is because of My Government's commitment to a structured long-term approach to strategic policy planning that it is able to govern effectively and deliver on its commitments.

While My Government recognizes that the challenges are great, it also recognizes that our opportunities are even greater.

My Government believes that together we are building an education system that will enable our children to seize any opportunity that the future will offer.

My Government believes that together we are building a health care system that provides quality and accessible health care that is sustainable.

My Government believes that together we are building a society that allows people to have the quality of life they want and deserve.

My Government is driven by a firm commitment to our children that the Province they inherit from our generation will be a better one.

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

Estimates of expenditure will be laid before you in due course and you will be asked to grant supply to Her Majesty.

I invoke God's blessing upon you as you commence this new Session.

May Divine Providence guide you in your deliberations.

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

Mr. Speaker returns to the Chair.

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

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I shall ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, "An Act To Incorporate The Newfoundland And Labrador Centre For Health Information," Bill 1.

Motion, the hon. the Government House Leader to introduce a bill, "An Act To Incorporate The Newfoundland And Labrador Centre For Health Information," carried. (Bill1)

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

MR. SPEAKER: His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor, has been pleased to present a Speech to the members in this General Assembly. We will now take a few moments to have the Speech distributed to all hon. members.

The hon. the Member for St. George's-Stephenville East.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I would like to congratulate His Honour on delivering his first Speech from the Throne to the people's Chamber. He has done it elegantly and with sincerity. His Honour continues to make a great contribution to public life in the Province and is committed to the people of the Province.

I would also like congratulate the MHA for Burin-Placentia West on her recent election as Deputy Speaker for the House of Assembly. I would also like to congratulate the MHA for Port de Grave on being elected Deputy Chair of Committees, to the new members of Cabinet on their appointments, and wish them well in their duties.

The Throne Speech outlines a variety of priorities which the people welcome. The Strategic Health Plan will help our people. The Minister of Health and the MHA for Port au Port and I are delighted that the new hospital for Stephenville will be opening later this year, again showing our commitment to the people of the region.

I want to thank my constituents for the continued support they have shown me during the past twenty years. It has been a privilege to serve the people of the great District of St. George's-Stephenville East.

The district has much potential and has seen progress. The beautiful Codroy Valley has seen new tourism development and Stephenville has grown into a regional growth centre. The Abitibi Consolidated paper mill is the most important economic engine for the region and present challenges will be met, working together. We need to concentrate on solutions which will ensure a long-term future for the workers and the town, and I am confident that those solutions will be found.

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the announcement of the People's Congress resulting from the Royal Commission on Renewing and Strengthening our Place in Canada. We must be realistic about our place in Confederation, and our people have attempted every diplomatic approach to the upper Canadian government and bureaucracy. Prime Minister Chrétien said in a speech to the Board of Trade at St. John's on May 6, 1984, as the then federal Minister of Mines and Energy, he committed that we would: receive the benefits from the offshore until we were in a position to share the future prosperity with the rest of Canada.

I have a copy of the speech. I will table it here. The Atlantic Accord is not fulfilling its commitment. We are supposed to be "the Principle beneficiary".

The federal government is receiving more revenue on all our resources than we are because of the financial arrangements Ottawa has dictated to this Province. My comments are not a lament but a demand that the potential of Newfoundland and Labrador, and its people, be allowed to be realized. Our people are talented and have a spirit that is strong and willing, but the shackles must come off, the straight jacket that Ottawa has put on this Province has to be removed, and we have to regain the ability to develop ourselves.

This Province is just not seven seats in the House of Commons of over 300. It is much, much more and has brought much more to Confederation; yet, because of negative impacting policies by the federal government, we have difficulty moving forward. This week the federal government announced a decision to cut out most of Environment Canada's presence at Gander and are attempting to privatize the port of Stephenville, potentially impeding and impacting hundreds of jobs in the future. The airports have been downloaded and one has to wonder what the words "federal presence" means anymore.

The Throne Speech highlights economic development and it is impressive to see the projects that this government has been able to develop and bring forward, such as Voisey's Bay mine, the White Rose Oil development, and the Boundary Decision win. These are more reasons for economic optimism than every before; yet, the financial benefit that should flow through the Province is held back by a federal government that believes it is doing us a favour with the so-called equalization formula. With the Upper Churchill power development plus offshore oil flowing, even now we are an energy powerhouse and we should be having larger benefits from Ottawa for these resources.

The Royal Commission on strengthening our relationship in Canada will report soon, and I am hopeful that it will highlight some new angles to pursue and how to pursue them. It will be up to this House of Assembly to decide the next moves and also how we gain and use leverage to get the central government to pay attention.

Mr. Speaker, the Speech highlights democratic reform and we must appreciate that democracy should not be taken for granted. As we sit here today, we are on the edge of a military conflict in a location of the world where democracy is only a wish. The world of 2003 is more volatile and we are all very appreciative of the great society we have built here in Canada.

To all Members of this House of Assembly, I wish you well and I thank the Premier and Cabinet for the co-operation provided to me as a member of the Executive Council for the past nine years.

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

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Gander.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS KELLY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is a great honour to second the motion that a Select Committee be appointed to draft an Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.

The Speech from the Throne offered us a review of many of the initiatives this government has undertaken, and shows how these are linked to future directions we will be adopting. This year's Speech from the Throne certainly demonstrates this government's record of achievement and it also presents an exciting vision for the future.

The hon. Member for St. George's-Stephenville East talked about the work of the Royal Commission on Our Place in Canada and federal-provincial relations as the most important issue for the future of this Province.

I agree with this point of view and I want to support his comments by talking about a timely example of the problem we are having with federal-provincial relations, an example which illustrates the federal attitude towards this Province. I want to talk about the cutbacks by the federal government at the Weather Centre in the district that I represent, Gander.

Mr. Speaker, the recently announced cuts to the Gander Weather Centre are simply unacceptable. The weather office provides a vital service to the people of this Province and the people of this Province, maybe more than anywhere else in Canada, depend on accurate weather reports. Fishers in this Province make decisions based on the weather forecast.

We decide to go on the highway based on weather forecasts. The thousands of calls this Weather Centre receives demonstrates that the service is needed and valued by the citizens of this Province.

Weather forecasting is also very important to the development and safety of several sectors of our economy. The aviation industry, highway transportation, fishing, shipping, and our developing offshore oil and gas sector all depend on reliable weather forecasting. The 103 Air Search and Rescue unit, at 9 Wing Gander, which has saved many lives off our coast, depends on accurate up-to-date weather forecasting. There is no denying the importance and value of this service.

Mr. Speaker, the way this announcement was made deserves some comment. When the federal Minister of the Environment made the announcement he tried to characterize it as good news. The news release, said the minister "announced an Investment of $75 million over five years that will allow the Meteorological Service of Canada to improve the quality of its forecasts and its services to Canadians in all regions."

Mr. Speaker, I want to make a few things clear here today in case anyone is confused. I want to be clear because it is important that the people of this Province know exactly what is happening. We are not getting any improvements in weather forecasting. Despite the ten positions related to marine and ice service being located in Gander, the people of this Province will not see any of that additional $75 million invested here. There should be no confusion, this is a cutback in the amount of money being spent here in our Province. The $75 million will go to other provinces.

There should also be no confusion on another point as well, it is also a downgrading of service. Meteorologists have been providing weather services from Botwood and Gander airport since the late 1930s. With forecasts for this Province being done from Halifax, local knowledge will not be included. The people developing the forecasts will not have the provincial awareness and expertise, and consequently the interpretation of the data will not lead to the high quality forecasting of weather we have grown to depend on.

Mr. Speaker, the cutbacks at the Gander Weather Office are not just about jobs involved and the impact that their loss will have on Gander. It is not just about the level of service that will be provided. These issues are of critical importance but there is another aspect to this as well. This issue is also important because it is part of a larger trend. It is part of a larger problem. That larger problem is the way we in this Province are treated by the federal government. This is an issue which demands the attention of every Newfoundlander and every Labradorian.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier and I met with the federal Minister of the Environment earlier this week and he agreed to look at the facts and figures again in light of our discussions. My government will also prepare a report to present to the federal minister outlining how forecasting can stay in this Province in a cost-effective manner. Through the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, and the Minister of Environment, the Premier and myself, as MHA for Gander District, this government will leave no stone unturned when it comes to fighting to have this decision reversed.

Mr. Speaker, there are some other issues in this year's Speech from the Throne which I am very impressed with. They include health, strengthening democracy and economic development. But in particular, I want to talk about something that is very dear to my heart, this government's education agenda.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to give a very quick review of this ambitious and forward thinking education agenda that includes: the best pupil-teacher ratio in Canada; new initiatives for pre-school and early childhood development; a sharply declining drop out rate; a New Safe and Caring Schools Action Plan; substantial progress in provision of online learning; exceeded recommended teacher allocations; a new educational program enhancement initiative that will see additional school based teachers in music and the arts, also promoting healthier lifestyles, and improving student achievement in specific program area; a plan that within five years every school in our Province will meet or exceed national standards; ensuring every classroom has a link to the Internet and computers; post-secondary initiatives such as decreasing tuition by 25 per cent with the last 5 per cent coming this September at Memorial with a tuition freeze continuing at the College of the North Atlantic and the Marine Institute; a new student loan program put in place last year and now further action on student debt with upcoming roundtable consultation and providing incentives for employers who hire new graduates in their field of study; two years ago the Premier put in place a Youth Advisory Committee. Today, His Honour unveiled Youth Opportunities Newfoundland and Labrador: a major new policy thrust focusing on building opportunities for our future - which is our young people.

This is a Record of Achievement and a Forward Thinking Education Agenda.

There are some in this Province who would say that we should never, under any circumstances, run a budget deficit. They would say we should always balance the budget no matter what we have to cut to make that goal a reality. Those people are focused purely on financial management while not concerned about the health and social needs in our Province. I am pleased to see that this government is willing to take initiatives to address social needs and to invest for the future. All the while, of course, recognizing that we have to have a fiscal plan that addresses the issues in the near long-term.

The focus on education in this speech is something I am especially pleased with, and governments' record in this area should be emphasized. This record provides a solid foundation to continue the vision His Honour outlined to us today. We have a government and a Premier with a Record of Achievement and a vision for the future. I think we should start referring to our Premier as the Education Premier. I am confident when it is time to choose, the people of this Province will choose the clear record, the clear plan for the future, and the party that cares about people.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WILLIAMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am certainly honoured this afternoon to present the reply to the Speech from the Throne for the second year as Leader of the Opposition.

On behalf of myself and the entire Opposition, I would like to thank His Honour, the Lieutenant-Governor, for a very well presented Speech - no surprise to anyone I am sure - from the Throne outlining the plans of this government for the upcoming year, or at least until a general election is called.

I would also like to extend a warm welcome to our invited guests; some familiar faces which I do not get to see as often as I did in my previous career. Welcome to the Chief Justices and fellow honourable Judges of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Court of Appeal and the Provincial Court; to our esteemed Heads of Church and State, to the leaders of our Armed Forces and police forces who keep us safe and secure in these times of grave and imminent danger. Let us all hope and pray for a speedy resolution to the pending conflict overseas, and may God bless the men and women of our Armed Forces who serve around the world in these very difficult times.

Mr. Speaker, we also welcome our labour leaders, our business leaders and our municipal leaders. Also a warm welcome to other distinguished guests, including former Lieutenant Governors, members of this hon. Legislature, and former premiers. A warm welcome to members of the media and most importantly, to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador who are with us in this Chamber today or viewing us through the televised proceedings.

Mr. Speaker, this year's Speech from the Throne is indeed a very special occasion. The current government is now in the last year of its maximum five-year term of office. By law, they will soon be obliged to call an election. That makes for very exciting times in provincial politics as it will not be long now before parties begin to present the people with their election platforms, their plans for the future. It will certainly make for lively debate, not only in these chambers but in kitchens and cabins across our Province. I look forward to that debate with great anticipation.

Mr. Speaker, as you are aware, government has once again elected not to present the Official Opposition with an advance copy of the Speech from the Throne. Therefore, rather than attempt to respond to government's message in an ad hoc or off the cuff manner, we will take the necessary time to review it in some detail and will put forward our thoughts on particular issues over the coming days and weeks.

That being said, Mr. Speaker, there is nothing like an election to prompt political parties of all stripes to make promises and commitments to the electorate. That certainly happened in today's Speech from the Throne. You can be certain that as soon as we walk through the doors to this Chamber, party leaders will be asked if they will honour the election promises made by this government.

I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that our party has its own thoughts and plans as to where we want to lead this Province. Those ideas will be the basis of our election platform and will be the primary focus of our communications as we head into the election. But, while we will be concentrating on our proposals, because that is what the people expect of us, I am certain that both members opposite and the NDP caucus will also bring forward suggestions that may have merit. Not unlike the government in today's Throne Speech, we will consider and adapt worthwhile policies from other political parties if they have merit and if it is appropriate to do so.

But, let's be clear, regardless of when the election is called, it is quite obvious that all parties are now in full election mode. Promises are being made by government that require a significant financial commitment without a parallel plan to ensure that our sparse financial resources will be able to honour these obligations. I, for one, and my caucus, won't be bound by the political commitments made by a government in the last days of their electoral term without first evaluating them through a comprehensive due diligence process. It is nice to tell people exactly what they want to hear, but such action would be totally irresponsible without a thorough analysis.

So, Mr. Speaker, with those ground rules now in the public record, I would like to use today as an opportunity to discuss some of the problems we see facing this Province and outline our plans for correcting those problems.

But before I do that, Mr. Speaker, I would like to publicly thank several members opposite for their years of dedicated service to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. For their own reasons, the Members for St. John's North, Lake Melville, Burin-Placentia West, Gander and St. George's-Stephenville East have decided to bring an end to their political careers.

Mr. Speaker, I have come to learn that political life requires enormous personal sacrifice and commitment. Those who give their heart and soul to public life, as I am sure these five individuals have, know full well of the sacrifices to which I am referring. Although we have exchanged political barbs in the past, I would like for these individuals to know that their contributions and efforts are greatly appreciated. On behalf of our entire caucus, and indeed the entire Opposition, if I could take the liberty, I would like to thank them all for their services and wish them well in their future endeavors.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WILLIAMS: As we all know, departures in the political world mean new opportunities for those who decide to stay. I would also like to wish the government's new and expanded Cabinet great wisdom in their decisions and the best of luck in their new portfolios.

Now, Mr. Speaker, we must turn our attention to the matters at hand.

Given that an election will soon be legally required, this is a good time for all parties to highlight areas and issues that are of concern to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and identify policies and procedures for addressing those concerns.

As I see it, Mr. Speaker, one of the greatest challenges facing this Province involves the way in which our resources are managed. Resource mismanagement is one of the main reasons why I chose to get into politics. When I look at our Province, I see so much opportunity, so much potential and so much promise. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, we have never been able to successfully capture that opportunity, that potential, and that promise.

Mr. Speaker, I am not here to assign blame for that. Winston Churchill said: If the present tries to sit in judgement of the past, it will lose the future. We must look to the future and not the past. We must not fall into an abyss or remorse and self pity but view our Province as a land of opportunity. However, the squandering of our resources is clearly a matter of fact. When we entered Confederation in 1949 we brought to Canada vast resources of iron ore, enormous hydroelectric power generation potential, high quality timber, a world class fishery that had supported our people for generations, and a proud and hard working people who have a work ethic second to none.

We brought all of those resources to Canada and believed that we would become a meaningful partner in our federation. We expected to benefit from the development of our resources. We asked for nothing more and rightfully expected nothing less.

However, Mr. Speaker, expectations have not been met. It is our opinion that our resources have not been managed properly and that we are not benefitting from their development as we should. Our history, before Confederation and after, is to negotiate agreements that see benefits accrue to other parts of Canada and, indeed, other countries in return for marginal long-term benefits for Newfoundland and Labrador. In many cases, our resources have been exploited without proper negotiation. Let's consider a few examples.

Our iron ore is shipped to Quebec and other countries for processing. Our cheap hydroelectricity from the Churchill is sent to Quebec, where it is used as an enticement for economic development and job creation for Quebecers. Our oil is sent to the United States. The only jobs Newfoundlanders and Labradorians receive from its processing is by working on the tankers that steam to and from refineries in the United States. Our fish has been caught by many vessels carrying flags from many different countries all around the world, and soon our nickel and our copper and our cobalt will be shipped to Manitoba and Ontario where it will create jobs for Ontarians and Manitobans.

What few benefits we receive in the form of royalties from our natural resources are almost entirely clawed back by a government in Ottawa that seems only interested in taking jobs from us rather than creating new jobs with us. Just last week, as has already been mentioned, instead of creating a Regional Centre of Excellence for Weather Forecasting in Gander, the federal government elected to move that service to Halifax. That is indicative of a trend that has emerged with the federal government in which federal jobs and projects are given to other provinces instead of our Province, Newfoundland and Labrador. If the technology allows weather forecasting to occur from satellite weather stations in other provinces, then let's build that Centre of Excellence in Gander instead of Halifax. There is no reason why that cannot happen. Satellite signals do not have to cross on an expensive ferry ride to get to Newfoundland and Labrador. I happen to know because I used to be in that business.

Mr. Speaker, my point is that too many of our resources are used to benefit people outside of Newfoundland and Labrador. That is wrong and it must be stopped.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WILLIAMS: A lack of benefits from the development of our resources is one of the primary reasons why so many of our young people have left this Province for opportunities elsewhere. Over the last ten years, our population has decreased by 10 per cent. Of greater concern, the rate at which people are leaving is increasing. Our population dropped by 7 per cent over the last five years.

Our government boasts that we have led the country in GDP growth in three of the past five years, but what do Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have to show for it? They had the highest rate of unemployment in the country, at 18 per cent. They have among the highest per capita debt, the highest out-migration and tax burden in the country, and they have among the lowest per capita income, birth rate and fiscal strength.

These facts are stated on page 3 of the document entitled, What We Heard, by the Royal Commission on Renewing and Strengthening Our Place in Canada. This is not only what the Commission heard. This is what we all are hearing every day in our Province, this is what we know, but the important question is: What are we going to do about it?

One student, when asked by the Commission what picture reflected what was happening in our Province, she suggested a U-Haul, which was a prevalent sight in her own community.

One woman told the Commission, "It breaks your heart to see your children leave, but it breaks your heart even more to see them stay in an environment where they have no opportunity."

I cannot help but notice the sharp contrast between what we heard from government today and what the Royal Commission heard from our people. We must indeed practice what we preach.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, we need to start creating some meaningful opportunities for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, or hearts will continue to be broken.

That strong desire to create long-term opportunities for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians is why our party took such a strong position on the development of Voisey's Bay and the Lower Churchill. It is not that we were anti-development, Mr. Speaker. Quite the contrary. We want to see these resources developed, but developed in such a way that maximum benefits accrue to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. By taking a strong stand on key issues, and offering constructive suggestions as to how negotiations can be improved, it was our intention to strengthen government's negotiating position and perhaps gain some concessions that would otherwise not have been possible. Our Province has learned before, that without the appropriate safeguards and guarantees, we are not protected.

Mr. Speaker, if our Province is to have hope for a bright future, we need to start creating job opportunities. It is our party's position that small and medium-sized businesses will be key in creating these opportunities. Small and medium-sized business enterprises are by far the major employer in this Province and create 90 per cent of all new jobs. I spoke with two of those entrepreneurs, a husband and wife in Rocky Harbour last Friday, who employ eighty-four people in our Province in the tourism industry.

Over a month ago, I visited a steel fabrication centre in Bishop's Falls, which employees approximately fifteen people and services niche markets. I visited a glove factory in Point Leamington, which employs over sixty-five people and, in fact, provides goods for the military. I spoke with an entrepreneurial young man in Sunnyside who employs four people by recycling old clothing for industrial rags.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WILLIAMS: I spoke with an entrepreneur in Hawkes Bay in the lumber industry, who hopes to double his workforce in the near future from twelve to twenty-four. I spoke with an entrepreneur in St. Anthony on Saturday who has a successful snowmobile business, and I counted over 700 snowmobiles at the Grenfell Run in Main Brook. These are just some of the 20,000 small businesses that are the real backbone of our economy.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WILLIAMS: We have to hear what some of our entrepreneurs have told our Royal Commission in its report. Some of our entrepreneurs have told our Royal Commission that government officials do not have a good understanding of the support needed for development of business in this Province.

That is why earlier this year our party announced policies intended to facilitate small and medium-sized business development. For example, it our intention to reduce barriers and restrictions that prevent or impede the establishment or expansion of businesses and create an investment climate that will stimulate economic growth.

We will address the payroll tax because it discourages businesses from expanding their operations. Rather than providing a $20 million dollar tax cut to the owners of the largest nickel, copper and cobalt deposit in the world, we would like to provide tax cuts to those businesses that in fact need it most.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WILLIAMS: Businesses that do not have $10 billion worth of revenue, businesses where a tax break could mean the difference between a healthy bottom line or foreclosure, the difference between hiring a new employee or laying off an existing employee.

We will look for ways to facilitate access to venture capital and funding for research and development in order to help small business mitigate risk.

We will create a new arm of government that will report directly to the Premier's Office and be responsible for business development within the Province. This department will also oversee the business of government and ensure that government tendering and business opportunities are in fact above board and in full compliance with the laws of the land, creating a level playing field for all.

It is also our intention to introduce leading edge lobbyist legislation so that businesses can have open access to the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. The days of influence peddling and hired guns will soon come to an end.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, it is our firm belief that by creating an environment in which businesses can flourish, we will create new job opportunities for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. In a Province with an unemployment rate close to 20 per cent, and much higher in rural communities, new job opportunities are greatly needed.

What is more, we need to find new and different economic opportunities for our people. We need to become more aggressive in pursuing business opportunities. We should not limit ourselves to what other people tell us we can do. We need to put in place the basic infrastructure and technologies that allow industries to develop. If we are missing basic requirements for economic development in a particular industry, we must find ways of filling that gap. That will not happen with a complacent mindset. It will require an aggressive can-do attitude. Any government that we form will have that winning attitude.

Mr. Speaker, out-migration, economic diversification and the proper management of our resources are three of the most important challenges facing this Province, but indeed there are others.

People in this Province, as in every other province in the country, are entitled to certain essential services, basic services, Mr. Speaker, such as health care, education, roads, and water and sewer; services which many people in other parts of Canada take for granted. However, they are the basic necessities of life and our people deserve to have them.

Indeed, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador deserve timely access to doctors and nurses, access to hospital beds and diagnostic services, and they should not have to pay for these services out of their own pocket.

The children of Newfoundland and Labrador deserve schools that do not have air quality problems, or water fountains that are not usable because of boil water advisories. They should not have to travel to school on unsafe roads, on buses that are in need of maintenance to such a degree that they have to be taken out of service.

Communities should not have to choose between water and sewer service or a recreational facility. Such choices pit our people against each other - those who already have the services against those who do not.

How do we change that, Mr. Speaker? How do we find the money to provide people with these essential services? It comes down to sound management practices. While that obviously includes our natural resources, it also includes our fiscal resources.

The Public Tender Act and the Financial Administration Act are regularly circumvented, which leads to the potential of contracts being awarded at an inflated cost. It can also result in lawsuits and the acquisition of sub-par goods and services. These laws were created for a reason, and the governments of the day should comply with them.

We also need to put in place greater measures of accountability and control on the expenditures of public funds and decisions regarding public resources. Our party announced a plan to do just that when we unveiled policies on accountability and transparency early last year.

We will also require all government departments and agencies to submit business plans with clearly identifiable performance objectives and strategies outlining how those objectives will be satisfied. This will eliminate the needless waste that occurs through inefficient management and will put fiscal resources where they can be of the most benefit to the people.

Next, Mr. Speaker, there is a strong need to reunite our Province. Nowhere is that more prevalent than in Labrador. Many Labradorians view their relationship with this Province the way most of us view our relationship with the federal government. So much is taken, with very little being put back. They do not believe that they are receiving a fair return on their resources given their enormous contributions to the provincial economy. This has resulted in strong feelings of alienation, distrust and dissatisfaction.

We need to work with our provincial counterparts in Labrador to ensure that they also receive a fair return on the economic development of that portion of our great Province. They are concerned about the high cost of transportation, the completion of the Trans-Labrador Highway, the high cost of electricity on the Coast, and a general feeling of not being appreciated. They must be reassured and they must be convinced that they are an important and integral part of a Province in which we can grow together in a true partnership.

Mr. Speaker, we are also facing a critical crossroads in the history of our fishing industry. Myself and several of the Opposition members, including the Leader of the New Democratic Party, just returned from a presentation in Ottawa, together with government members and Senators from the provincial and federal Legislatures. We jointly compiled a report with a comprehensive set of recommendations to provide certainty, stability and sustainability for our Northern and Gulf cod stocks. We have provided a blueprint for the Government of Canada to work with us to restore our fishery and safeguard our rural communities. As a result of this effort and our party's leadership in setting up the Coalition for Custodial Management, I am confident that by working together as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and putting aside our partisan differences on major issues, we can bring diverse and conflicting groups together to further the objectives of our people.

But we must, Mr. Speaker, present a united front and cast aside petty and personal agendas. Our fishery is critical to the future of rural Newfoundland and Labrador and we cannot and we must not accept a demographic change in our Province whereby half of the people in Newfoundland and Labrador must live within an hour of the capital city. Proper management of our fishery, stimulation of our tourism industry and diversification of our economy should help to reverse this trend and revitalize the rural areas of our great Province.

Mr. Speaker, it its preliminary report, the Royal Commission reported what it has heard from the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and confirmed what we all know. We have a vast, beautiful Province, with a rich and diverse culture and a passionate, warm, open and determined people who want to make Newfoundland and Labrador an even better place for their children and for their grandchildren.

But the Commission also reflected the strong sentiment in the Province and listed six major areas of concern: 1) The unbearable loss of the fishing resource; 2) High rates of unemployment, out-migration and the lowest birth rate in the entire country; 3) The weakened state of our provincial finances; 4) Our inability to utilize our oil revenue for economic prosperity; 5) The extraordinary losses of windfall profits to Quebec from Churchill Falls; 6) The failure of the federal government to treat the Province as an equal partner in Confederation.

Mr. Speaker, the problems which I have outlined earlier, together with those identified by the Royal Commission, reflect failure in public policy at both the federal and provincial level.

These failures were succinctly captured by the Royal Commission on Renewing and Strengthening our Place in Canada; findings that come directly from the mouths of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. The document reads, and I quote, "There was a strong consensus that there is something wrong with this picture." I agree, Mr. Speaker, there is something wrong with this picture.

The problems facing this Province are not new. They have accumulated over the years and have culminated to the point where many have become systemic. And just as these problems did not occur overnight, they cannot be fixed overnight. It will take time and it will take a comprehensive strategy but, Mr. Speaker, these problems can be fixed and they will be fixed.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WILLIAMS: Our party will tackle each of these problems one at a time in a priority manner, and by working with the people we will bring about meaningful and positive change. That is the promise that we make to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I would like once again to refer to the Royal Commission's document, What We Heard. In that document, a post-secondary student said, "We must take charge of our own future. No one else will."

That is what it means to have vision, Mr. Speaker. A vision means that we will not be complacent and do things the way they have always been done. We will look for new and creative ways of doing things. We will look to solve problems instead of creating them. We will think outside the box and adopt innovate solutions, some of which have been successfully implemented and adopted in other provinces and countries. We will seek to create meaningful benefits for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and we will do so in an open and a fair and an accountable manner.

Mr. Speaker, to close, we must build on our greatest strength, and that is the belief of every Newfoundlander and Labradorian that their Province is the best place in the world to live and raise a family. We all believe that. We believe it because it is true. We have a passion for our culture and our heritage, and we are proud and we are determined and we are resilient. We owe it to past generations, we owe it to future generations, and we owe it to each other. As Loved Our Fathers So We Love.

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.

I rise to make the traditional few remarks on the Speech from the Throne, that are made on this occasion. I have to confess that I did not, unlike the Leader of the Opposition, write my own throne speech so I will just -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HARRIS: Although I may touch on some of the same topics that he related to, I will try to respond to the remarks so well presented by our new Lieutenant-Governor, his first job and first time as our new Lieutenant-Governor. Traditionally, it is a time we recognize and acknowledge, having the presence of our Leaders of Church and State, the Supreme Court Judges, who have now departed, and guests in the gallery who take an interest in every nuance of what happens when a government gives a Speech from the Throne, acknowledging its plans for the year, announcing part of its vision, some more of which we will get in its Budget, and generally setting the tone for the coming session of the House and the coming year.

It is, of course, slightly different this year because, as has been acknowledged, I think, by the Premier to the media earlier today, and clearly in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, this is an election year and we anticipate the kind of program that this government presents now, and the comments made by opposition parties, both the Official Opposition, the Progressive Conservative Party and our party will be watched very closely by people in the Province for signs of what we stand for, what we would do, how we criticize, what government's program is and the alternatives that are presented. In that light, Mr. Speaker, there are a number of themes that emerge from the Speech from the Throne.

I want to acknowledge, first of all, that I certainly agree with the sentiments that we are living in a different province today than we were ten years ago. The last decade has seen an enormous amount of change in this Province. We have seen it in education reform, a whole set of changes to our school system. We have seen oil development to the extent that we are now the producer of approximately one-quarter-plus of the needs of Canada on a daily basis for oil. We have seen significant - and I accept that this has been very positive to date - significant development in our relationship with the Aboriginal people, although there is a lot more to be done particularly with respect to the Métis and with the Mi'Kmaq Off-reserve on the Island portion of the Province. That is a significant change that has happened. We have seen great changes in our fishery. The significant and devastating results of overfishing by the nations of the world, including Canada, have resulted in a moratorium of our cod with devastating results to communities and individuals around the Province.

These changes have brought us into the new millennium with a smaller population, unfortunately, where far too many people have had to see their future not in this Province despite our vast resources, our quality education system and the opportunities that are here, but to see them leave this Province to seek their future and their fortune for themselves and their families elsewhere.

So, it is in that context that in the new millennium we also have significant changes in communications. The Internet was almost unheard of ten years ago and we are now a part of the wired world where things are totally different in terms of people's understanding of what is going on in other provinces, in other countries and in other parts of the world where developments are taking place.

It is in that context that the current measures being proposed by government in the Throne Speech are being evaluated and, in fact, are being evaluated, in a new change, by people across this Province in all of Newfoundland and Labrador, live on television, as we speak today and as we debate in our Legislature every day that the Legislature is open. So, that is another significant change, where the people's democracy in the House of Assembly is available to the public and the citizens on a live basis. Perhaps that is why the Speech from the Throne, and the government in the Speech from the Throne, talked about reforms of democracy as being necessary and perhaps urgent.

We will debate all these measures in the House of Assembly when they come about, but I think opening up this debate should open up the debate even further. Yes, we may consider whether there should be four-year terms. Yes, we should look at election financing and ensure that the control over parties and over policies is not left to those who can afford and who will use their influence to influence party decisions and decisions of government. When we start looking at changes in democracy we should also look, clearly, not just at the size of Cabinet because that is something government could change, up until now, anytime they want and justify if they wish. Perhaps rigidity in that particular area is of no real significance. Perhaps we should go further and start looking at the whole idea of representation itself and consider - as is being done in Prince Edward Island right now - the form of democracy known as proportional representation that exists in virtually every country of the world, save two or three; one in which every vote counts so that every person who goes to the polls has their vote counted in the type of representation and the level of representation in the House of Assembly.

We should go further than just say we should have a certain size of Cabinet or the vote should take place in a certain period of time. We should look at the idea of representation itself. That is a way, Mr. Speaker, to also deal with an issue that we have been struggling with, I think, individual parties struggle with, some more successfully than others, in the issue of gender equity. We need to achieve gender equity in representation in the House of Assembly. It is very difficult, if not impossible to do, in this so-called first past the post system that we have.

If you look around the world, Canada is in thirty-sixth place in terms of representation in our House of Commons. Those countries which are achieving very close to gender equity are those countries which have proportional representation and a high degree of respect for equality in how the party is put together, their platforms, their candidates and their list of candidates for election.

If we are going to have electoral reform, if we are going to reform democracy, then we should reform it so that it is more representative of our parties, more representative of what our voters choose and more representative of the men and women in our society who are our citizens, who equally are under the rule of the laws that are passed and the measures that are taken by governments.

A very important theme in the Speech from the Throne today was that of education. Education is one of the most vital measures that government provides for its citizens and in this Province, very vital to our well-being, our economic and social development, both as individuals, for families, for our children and for our Province as well. I am pleased to see that government will continue its promise to reduce tuition at Memorial University by a further 5 per cent. That is out of step with the rest of the country. I have to say, Mr. Speaker, I think we should go further. But, whether we are out of step or not we do, and we may, have to go it alone on this issue because of the vital importance to this Province of having a highly educated workforce.

We have serious skill shortages, as have been noted. I think, Mr. Speaker, that is as the result of a failure of our post-secondary education system, on the non-university side, to properly offer training opportunities for young people; to leave it to private colleges to support opportunities at very great expense to students who then have burdens of student loans. In some cases we have seen a great failure in the private college system to deliver quality education. We have to revitalize and re-energize the College of the North Atlantic to ensure that not only does every student coming of age have an opportunity for post-secondary education, either at the university level or at the college level, so that we encourage students to get the kind of skills that are in demand and give them equal importance in terms of providing, not only for our Province's future but for their families as a university education provides.

In the area of post-secondary education, we have also seen changes. The government deserves credit for recognizing the inadequacies of the Student Loan Program as they exist and significant changes have been made, but they have been made on a go-forward basis, Mr. Speaker, and there is a decade, or nearly a decade, of students who have endured the highest rate of cost of education, a burden on individuals, than we have ever seen in our history. Those students are still there. Many of them have been forced to leave because the burden of that debt required them to go for the highest paying job that they could get, regardless of where it was. Many of them are, unfortunately, gone.

That decade of students is a cohort of young people who deserve some consideration as well. We should look at how we can alleviate the burden that has been placed on them as part of trying to bring some of these students home to work here in the Province. It is no good to be able to have a job after graduation if the level of income that you make is not going to allow you to see the light on a $30,000 or $40,000, or in some cases a $50,000 or $60,000 debt that students may have.

I know of one young person, for example, in excess of a $50,000 debt to achieve her nursing degree. She went to California because there she could get enough money to be able to somehow or other see the light of beating back this enormous debt so she could start living her life as a normal person, to achieve the kinds of things that she and everybody else wants for themselves and their families.

Mr. Speaker, we have made enormous progress in development in this Province. In oil and gas, for example, we are now capable of producing 300 million barrels of oil per year; an enormous quantity of oil. Yet, despite the advances in our gross domestic product that that brings about, we are still clearly unable to say that oil and gas development and that oil and gas production is, in fact, bringing prosperity to our provincial Treasury and to our people. There is something clearly wrong with the way that has developed, the way that has transpired, whether it be through the Atlantic Accord, or whether it be through constitutional changes, or court challenges. In fact, I believe very firmly that the oil and gas off our shore ought to belong to Newfoundland and Labrador constitutionally. Just as Canada was built over a period of 100 years, by adding oil and gas rights to the Province of Alberta, adding most of Northern Quebec to the Province of Quebec in the late 1900 century, the oil and gas resources that we brought to Canada with Confederation should, in fact, be transferred to Newfoundland and Labrador as part of our constitutional right as a Province of Canada.

We have seen in the Speech from the Throne an emphasis as well on some programs to be put in place. Affordable housing has been mentioned as one which a federal and provincial agreement is expected to be signed in a few weeks. I have to say we certainly welcome that, but it is one that we have been trying for a year-and-a-half to get this Province to sign on to. It is clearly very important that we see affordable housing developments take place in this Province. We have a great need for more affordable housing throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.

To go back to the education issue for a moment, Mr. Speaker, there is clearly a need, not only at the post-secondary level, but also at the K to 12 level, for advances to be made. We have to ensure that all of our young people are educated, both at the K-12 level, at the post-secondary level, and ready to do what we need to do to ensure that more and more educated young people are here to build our future and to challenge the realities that some of us and some of our past generations have been unable to solve.

It was mentioned that the cost of high school text books is going to be addressed a little further. Well, I want to mention two issues that affect an enormous number of families in this Province, Mr. Speaker, and these are not necessarily every family, but a large number of families in this Province are seriously affected by these issues.

I am talking, first of all, about the fact that we have a child poverty rate in this Province of approximately 25 per cent. We have children going to school hungry throughout this Province on a daily basis. That has been recognized and acknowledged by the School Trustees Association, by the Kids Eat Smart Foundation, by politicians, by petitions in this House. Yet, we spend in excess of $300 million a year on teachers' salaries in this Province to provide the best quality of teachers that we can for our students so that they can learn better. When it is acknowledged that hungry children cannot learn very well, then perhaps we should spend some more money, enough to ensure that children in schools are not hungry. We want to see a universal quality school meal program delivered on a stigma-free basis to every school child in this Province.

We also have the issue of school fees where each year, despite the fact that government has made available budgets for school boards, schools require families to come forward with money to provide extra things in the classroom, for materials for each child. In some cases, where there is three or four children in the family, it is an enormous burden on children and families who cannot afford to pay it. We would like to see the elimination of school fees and ensure that the materials and what is needed to provide that education is available in each school for each school child.

Mr. Speaker, one of the most fundamental concerns that people in Newfoundland and Labrador have has to do with the Churchill Falls agreement, with the Lower Churchill proposal that was debated last fall, and what in fact is going to happen to the future of hydroelectric generation in this Province. As part of the vision, I would have expected and I would certainly want to see, as a vision for this Province and for any future government of this Province, a greater role for Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro. We talked for months and months in the debate about the privatization of Hydro as to role that Hydro-Quebec played in Quebec - the engine of economic growth for that province. We have, in Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, a public organization that has the ability, the size, the strength, the resources, with what they have in Churchill Falls, both Lower and Upper Churchill, and the ability of that organization to transform parts of this Province and they play a significant role in our own future and control of our own future.

The Speech from the Throne mentioned that the Kyoto Accord offers some opportunities with respect to the Lower Churchill. I will say first of all, of course, it was this government that opposed the Kyoto Accord in the first place. Our party, nationally and provincially, fought very hard to get the Kyoto Accord adopted. One of the reasons is that the Kyoto Accord actually offers opportunities to this Province, not threats and not anxiety; in fact, opportunities for us to - as was mentioned in the Speech from the Throne - involve perhaps the Government of Canada in some alternate energy or cleaner energy policy with a national grid. It certainly offers us opportunities in this Province to look at alternate energy options, for example, replacing our diesel generation with wind generation, which we are touching on but not doing to a large enough extent. We are burning enormous quantities of Bunker C oil in Seal Cove as part of our provincial-wide grid when there are opportunities to replace that through perhaps support from the Kyoto program protocol and other opportunities that are there, development of our gas resources, and start talking about bringing gas onshore with new technologies. We have opportunities in retrofitting houses that should be part of any response to the Kyoto obligations that are undertaken by provinces and by the country. There are many, many opportunities that could be part of a new vision for Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro.

The lack of extreme reference to Labrador in the Throne Speech, aside from the fact that we now have two members from Labrador in Cabinet, does not deal with the enormous problems that are still experienced in Labrador by the people who need desperately better air and road transportation links both within Labrador and to this Province. The availability of air services to Labrador has been diminished considerably in the last little while.

There is the high cost of access to health care and medical services as a result of the cost of air travel from Labrador. We have seen the Province with actual participation by the people of Labrador in developments such as Voisey's Bay where the adjacency principle, although talked about, is not easily enforceable and not easily monitored. So, there are many improvements that need to be made, Mr. Speaker, in bringing the people of Labrador into full partnership as part of our economic development and activity, not only for the developments in Labrador but developments in other parts of the Province.

There has been a significant breakthrough, Mr. Speaker. I will say that last fall the historic meeting in Happy Valley-Goose Bay of leaders from the communities in Labrador to discuss the possibilities of a hydro development on the Lower Churchill was, in fact, in my view, a defined statement that for the future there will be no major development in Labrador involving Labrador resources without the full consultation, consent and participation of the people of Labrador in that development. I think that is a very positive step, one that any future Government of Newfoundland and Labrador will have to build on to ensure that is always a part of making development happen fairly for all of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

A further theme, and the final theme I will refer to, Mr. Speaker, with respect to the Speech from the Throne obviously relates to the federal-provincial relationships that we are so bound by, so affected by, perhaps more so than many other provinces, and ones that define obviously our relationship with Canada going back some fifty years.

We certainly supported and are on record as supporting the creation and the work of the Royal Commission on our future in Canada and we look forward to the recommendations that will come out of this. I, myself, had a session with the commissioners last week to talk about the various aspects of our relationship and the things that concerned us most about what has happened and what can be done about it.

We certainly have to look to the past, to the things that were done, some of which we helped to do ourselves, that have put us in the place that we are right now, in a high unemployment situation, despite the fact that the Canadian Bankers, the Conference Board of Canada, the Government of Canada, all the banks will tell us that Canada is not enduring a recession, we are doing very, very well. Yet, here in Newfoundland and Labrador, we are still suffering with the highest unemployment rate in the country.

What we have seen with the federal government over the last number of years is downgrading, downloading, privatizing, deregulating, closing, whether it be services, whether it be airports, whether it be airlines deregulating. The most recent examples people have mentioned already today, the virtual closure of the weather office in Gander, the privatization of a port in Stephenville without any consultation, and six months ago indicating that they might close the fishery in the Gulf and on the Northeast Coast as an inevitable thing, without any consultation with the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

That is not new, Mr. Speaker. When the fishery was closed in 1992, that was announced by the federal Fisheries Minister of the day from this Province without any consultation with this Province either. So we are used to not being consulted on some of these issues, but I do not think, Mr. Speaker, that it can be resolved on a one issue basis, on an issue by issue basis. As we have seen in the last number of days, these issues keep coming day after day where the federal government is doing things that have enormous consequences to this Province and we are left to try and field the inequity one issue at a time in a manner that we are really not capable of responding to. I think the question is: Do we get any respect? Well, I guess it is not a question of respect. It is a question of whether or not this Province's place in Confederation is properly recognized. Whether the government of the day gets any respect or not is perhaps irrelevant in the long run. We need to ensure that the measures that are in place, constitutional or otherwise, ensure that we are full participants and people of this Province are full participants in the measures that are available from Confederation and available to citizens of Canada generally.

Our fishery, of course, has been, for generations, for centuries, our most important resource and we have an obligation, as individuals and as people in this Province, not only as leaders but every person in this Province from the fishermen, the fish harvesters, the plant workers, people in the communities, young people, children, people who have an interest in the fishery from a recreational food fishery point of view, we all have an obligation, and if we do not take it on ourselves, we do not have the right to insist that the Government of Canada take it on. But we have an obligation to do everything we can to rebuild that fish stock off our shore. The Northern Cod in 2J+3KL was the largest single marine protein resource in the world. We have an obligation, as citizens of this planet, to take on our part to rebuild that stock, and if that means sacrifices in the short term, we have to make them, but we have to do everything we can to put that stock back in shape. We have presented, as an all party committee of this House, all parties in this House, the House of Commons and the Senate of Newfoundland representatives, a comprehensive, unanimous report of great historical importance for the fact that it was done that way. Never before since Confederation.

We really believe that the Government of Canada has a duty to respond to that level of unanimity in our Legislature and amongst parliamentarians from Newfoundland and Labrador. I look forward to a positive response on that, and if we do not get it then I think that will speak volumes about the concern that we have and has been expressed by others through the Royal Commission in this House for many years. We are at a crucial point when we are looking at issues like that, Mr. Speaker, and I think there are opportunities for all parties to work together.

I note the Speech from the Throne mentions the possibility that other opportunities might work on issues of great - I was going to say national importance, Mr. Speaker, because we think of ourselves still as a nation - importance to all of our citizens that are not merely of a partisan nature and not necessarily determined by whether you are a Social Democrat, a Conservative or a Liberal; issues that are common to all of us, that we think we need to work together to ensure we have a common front on.

I think that is a positive statement. I think we have worked positively on this particular issue with respect to the Gulf and Northern Cod, and I think we can work in that way in the future. We will, of course, in the coming weeks and months, debate in a more partisan way because today's debate normally is treated as a non-partisan event where you can, in fact, compliment the government on things that they have done in a good way without suggesting that you are not going to challenge them the next day in Question Period, or the day after that in an election, in terms of their record, in terms of what they propose and what you propose as a party. There will be plenty of time for all of that, Mr. Speaker. No doubt you will see that and the people watching at home will see that in the days and weeks and months to come.

Having said that, Mr. Speaker, I think we have a very interesting time ahead of us over the next few months. Each party will do their very best to present their vision for the future of this Province and their representatives who they propose to enact that vision, and I think the people of Newfoundland and Labrador will be the better for it.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I feel like a teacher teaching a class at the end of the day, the long day, but in any event, I do want to thank His Honour for being here today. I hope people did not miss one thing that will probably be historic. His Honour today was showing a dash of Trudeau, I believe, with the rose in the lapel. I hope someone in the media takes note of that because I don't believe we have had a Lieutenant Governor adorn himself in such a fashion in the past.

I know when the swearing in was done, His Honour made a difference, too, by having some Patsy Cline played here in this Chamber. I guess every time he comes here we should get used to seeing something a little different or unique from this particular honourary figure in our Province, the head of the government.

Again, thank you to our special guests here. I almost feel like asking if you want to take a break and stretch, but I know if you do that you will probably leave. So hang on for just a few minutes and we will finish the day's proceedings.

A couple of things, Mr. Speaker. I think it is helpful and useful and I appreciate the participation by all the speakers today, the Mover, the Seconder, the Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the NDP, in terms of this being more of a formal perfunctory day, because we do have hours and days and weeks and months for us, as forty-eight elected politicians, to debate the pros and cons, the merits and demerits, of what was read today in a Speech from the Throne that lays out the plans for the government that I lead and am so proud to lead at this point in time. There will be different points of view on various issues, as the Leader of the NDP just pointed out, that we can deal with. We have lots of time to do that, not necessarily to try to do all of it today.

From time to time, Mr. Speaker, it is useful that when a statement is made that is incorrect, it does need to be corrected. The inference was given by the Leader of the Opposition that it was customary to have a copy of the Speech from the Throne in advance so you could prepare your remarks. That is not the custom anywhere in the British Commonwealth. It has never been done. No member of the House of Assembly anywhere, in Newfoundland and Labrador, in Canada or elsewhere, gets these particular copies, not the members on any side of the House. It is not a tradition or custom that has ever been used; just so the record is clear.

If it is an excuse someone wants to use as to why they didn't want to talk about the Speech, well that is an excuse they can use, but it is not because there is a custom of giving somebody a copy of His Honour's Speech in advance so they can get their speech ready. That never happens, never has happened, is not a custom and doesn't occur.

Mr. Speaker, in this particular Legislature, too, there are a number of us gathered here today, our special guests, the people in the Gallery and the people watching on television; an initiative of this government, to have a televised Legislature. I will talk about the Leader of the Opposition again, just one other small political point, talking about the fact that there should be an election soon. The fact of the matter is, there is no election required by law in Newfoundland and Labrador until February of 2004. I don't believe there is anybody else in this Province, let alone in this Chamber, who would describe February 9 of 2004 as being soon. That is not the kind of date to be talking about as being right around the corner or soon or upon us and so on, Mr. Speaker. I just want to make those particular points.

It is instructive to hear people speak. Today we have heard some five speakers, including His Honour, and a sixth with myself. I think that is what people want to see, people express their views so that they can form their own opinions as to who it is has what kind of a vision for the future of Newfoundland and Labrador and to make some judgements about that. It is very instructive when people speak, because usually they say what they believe, they say what they feel, and then people can start forming some opinions and making some judgements.

I think today, in the notice we were given by the Leader of the Opposition - and then I will get on to the few comments I want to make - it is quite clear that Mr. Hanlon was right a week or so ago when he said: Nobody is safe in Newfoundland and Labrador, nothing is safe in Newfoundland and Labrador, no commitments of this government will be honored by them if they ever form the government. He said it today and now we have a written record of it. Last week, when Mr. Hanlon was speaking about it, as a union leader in the Province, the member who made the speech was sending out copies saying: I didn't say it. The Leader of the Opposition who sat in the audience and heard him say it was saying: We didn't say it. All of the sudden, a week later, he came here and said it. He said exactly what Mr. Hanlon said in the public of Newfoundland and Labrador a week or so ago, that if that crowd ever forms the government nothing is safe, nobody is safe, look out, because there will be no commitments from us to anything.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: Mr. Speaker, there was one other phrase used: To practice what you preach. I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, we practice what we preach. First of all, we do preach, we do actually say something.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: We do actually say something contrary to others in other parties who, even today, said there are four or five things but we are going to do something about them if we ever form the government. Now, "something" people would like defined a little better. Well, we defined it today in a Throne Speech, Mr. Speaker. We actually put definition to it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: In talking about practice what your preach, let me mention just a couple of things. He talked about creating jobs. To use his own language: practice what you preach. He was a businessman in this Province who came to this government and talked about getting a contract to save jobs in Newfoundland and Labrador. The ink was not dry before he sold the companies and the jobs disappeared to other parts of Canada and the United States. Practice what you preach, Mr. Speaker, is a phrase that was used.

One other one, on taxes, they talked about taxes today, Mr. Speaker. In the last session of the Legislature they were here talking about taxes for large companies. His finance critic got up day after day after day and wanted huge tax breaks for Archean Resources, one of the richest companies in Newfoundland and Labrador, and today they are trying to sing a different tune altogether; but that is not what I came here to talk about today.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: We can talk about that, as I said, for days and weeks and months into the future.

Let me mention just four things, Mr. Speaker, in terms of a plan and a vision that was laid out here today, because we do not have the time to speak about all of it today but we do have a full legislative session which we can explore it fully and completely. We talked about today accountability and we talked about real measures. Not we might do something, but real measures that are to be implemented and were spelled out today. All departments and agencies of the government presenting reports to this Legislature this year in 2003, not sometime into the future. This year in 2003 it is going to happen.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: We talked about the Royal Commission: What We Heard. Well, there is another document out there: the Social Audit, From the Ground Up and it is great to have these documents out there because they give us some reference points. They do let us know what the people of Newfoundland and Labrador are saying and feeling and thinking and believing. They do - in the work done through the Social Audit in From the Ground Up, which will be released shortly - present some statistical verification of it because we have to have the facts before we can have a real debate and make some decisions. Those things are out there. We will have an annual symposium this time about equalization because the program is up for review in 2004. It will start in the fall of this year. We are inviting everyone to get involved, collectively together, in having a real push to try to get some real changes in terms of an equalization program that we all know is deficient, and we will have a peoples' congress with respect to the Royal Commission so that there is no fear of it sitting there collecting dust. They have done a great piece of work. We are looking forward to their recommendations and these are some real things on a public accountability side that are committed to by this government that will happen in this year, guaranteed, not maybe.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: Not if something else happens, not if we get a look at the books, but guaranteed to happen, Mr. Speaker.

The other thing is with respect to electoral reform. I know others have other agenda items that have been spelled out here today. This year, and right away, we will talk about spending limits and contribution limits prior to the next election so we are on a par with national averages with respect to those issues. We will talk about fixed terms so that we do not have to stand here and talk about maybe the election should be this week or next week or next month. We will focus on doing something for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador once we are elected instead of talking about whether or not there should be another election. We should know when the election is, Mr. Speaker, and we are going to make that happen as a government. It said so in the Throne Speech today.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: Mr. Speaker, we will take the lead in terms of the size of the government. When we get through the reforms there will be rules that we will look at, the size of the Cabinet, the size of the Legislature and the government structure itself.

Mr. Speaker, with respect to jobs and growth and opportunities in Newfoundland and Labrador. There are definitive actions - the Leader of the Opposition talked about all these things in rural Newfoundland and Labrador that he had visited and witnessed and seen. Well, guess when they happened? In the last ten or twelve years while we have been here.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: With our cooperation. It is a result of our Strategic Economic Plan. These are people who have partnered with us so that they can employ people in all the regions of Newfoundland and Labrador. These are bonafide success stories, and we are committed to having more of them through a Business Attraction Agency.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: We are not going to stop or rest because there is more to be done. We have announced a Business Attraction Agency that will do the work so that there will be more of those stories to tell next week and the week after and the week after. We will have more and more success. We are going to try to match that labour force through the ex-patriate labour registration desk because everybody here has heard the stories of people who are away and who want to come back. We have also heard the stories of companies and firms here who are saying we cannot get the skill-sets that we need today. We know that we have relatives somewhere else in the country who have those skill-sets, who would gladly come back here if we could make the linkage. That is what is going to happen. Real commitments, real initiatives that are spelled out in the Throne Speech today, Mr. Speaker, that we will deliver on in this year.

Then, Mr. Speaker, the thing that I do want to spend just a couple of more minutes on - education. We have heard it today and you will hear it again and again and again because for the short term, the immediate term and for the long term it is absolutely the answer. We must make the investments in education. It is not a matter of getting up and saying: nothing is safe, no one is safe, we will have to review everything first. You have to believe in something. You have to stand for something. One of my friends told me a week ago, and I say it again, he said: well, you have to stand for something, Roger, because if you do not you are likely to fall for just about anything. We stand for investments in education and we are going to continue to do it, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: We are going to commit, absolutely commit, to having the best pupil-teacher ratio in Canada, bar none, absolutely. Not if we can afford it, not if something else is more important. It is going to happen because we are going to make it happen and make sure it happens, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: We have already had the record in Canada - the first Province in Canada - of having all our schools have access to the Internet. Now we are going to make sure that every single classroom in every single school has access to the Internet. We are going to make a commitment to it and make sure that it happens. We are going to have more distance education capabilities to complement the course options for those people who cannot come to the larger centres because they would have to leave home, go out on bursaries and things of that nature. We are going to look at reducing the cost of textbooks in the high schools to make education more affordable because we are, by the way, the only jurisdiction in Canada that charges for textbooks anywhere in the K-12 system, right here in Newfoundland and Labrador. I bet most members did not know that, but it is a custom that has been here ever since Confederation. Liberal governments have moved the free textbooks up and up and up to Grade 8, and a Liberal government that I lead is going to take it right through to the end of high school because it should be just like everywhere else in Canada.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: We are also going to commit, Mr. Speaker, to the right support services in the school. We had a huge and disruptive strike a year or so ago with secretaries, janitorial and maintenance people and so on. It did not happen in St. John's so it did not get the media attention, but in the regions of the Province we had a strike that lasted for almost nine weeks. We had a report done, and we will commit to putting the right, proper and appropriate support services in the school as well so that the students and the teachers with the right supports can get the right job done and focus on education opportunities.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: Mr. Speaker, as has been acknowledged, we lead the country, and rightfully so, with respect to post-secondary initiatives on tuition rates, loan reduction and remission. The best program in the country, bar none, exists right here in Newfoundland and Labrador. Now we are going to build on it because again we have that Catch-22 of people who are starting now to come out with less debt. We have to try and find a way to address the people from the mid and early 1990's who still have huge debt. We will work at that in our consultation to see if the resources that we bring to it can make a real and meaningful difference to those people who now have the diplomas. They now have the degrees, they now have the skills, they now have the capabilities, they now have the debt. We want to try and alleviate that debt even further so they will not have to go to Alberta to get a job that pays 30 per cent more just so they can pay their loans. They will not have to run off to the United States for a job that pays 40 per cent more so they can pay off their student debt. We want them to be able to stay right here in Newfoundland and Labrador, and we are going to put the plans together to see that it happens, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: Mr. Speaker, let me say again that I am delighted to hear his Honour do such a great job of reading his Speech from the Throne today. I must say, I am delighted to have our special guests here and hope that you found it informative and enlightening in terms of what is likely to happen in the next months and years ahead in Newfoundland and Labrador as we all continue on to try to make sure that we do something on any day to try to improve the lot of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians; and, I can tell you, the commitments made in this Throne Speech will be kept and delivered by a government that I lead.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

The members of the Select Committee will be the Member for St. George's-Stephenville East, the Member for Gander, and the Member for Conception Bay South.

All those in favour, ‘aye'.


MR. SPEAKER: All those against, ‘nay'.

I declare the motion carried.

Notices of Motion

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will on tomorrow move that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole on Supply to Consider Certain Resolutions for the Granting of Interim Supply to Her Majesty. (Bill 2)

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. George's-Stephenville East.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

WHEREAS Transport Canada has failed to seek local input before proceeding with the divestiture of Port Harmon at Stephenville; and

WHEREAS the operation at Port Harmon is a critical part of economic development in the area; and

WHEREAS there is significant opposition to the privatization initiative currently being undertaken by the federal government;

BE IT RESOLVED that this House of Assembly calls on the federal government to put in place an open public process to decide the future of Port Harmon at Stephenville.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Gander.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS KELLY: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that on tomorrow I will present the following private member's motion:

WHEREAS quality weather forecasting is a very valuable and necessary service for the Province and its residents; and

WHEREAS the cutbacks to the Newfoundland weather centre will mean a regional forecast from Halifax and the elimination of local weather forecasting from Newfoundland and Labrador at Environment Canada; and

WHEREAS people working in the fishery, aviation, highway transportation, shipping and our developing offshore oil and gas sector rely on accurate weather forecasting; and

WHEREAS the 103 Air Search and Rescue Unit which has saved many lives depends on accurate weather forecasting; and

WHEREAS this latest cut in service to Newfoundland and Labrador is continuing a larger trend of this Province being mistreated by the Government of Canada;

BE IT RESOLVED that this House of Assembly calls for a reversal of the decision by the federal government to cut weather forecasting services at Gander.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

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