The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Hodder): 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.



Honouring Newfoundland and Labrador's Heroes

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

At the outset today, I ask that we observe a minute of silence in honour of all those Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and their comrades, who have placed their lives on the line in defence of the values we hold most dear. This year, My Government will be creating replicas of the plaques at Beaumont-Hamel bearing the names of fallen Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, men without a known grave, and erecting those plaques here at home; and will, in this context, be exploring an appropriate way of honouring those who are serving so bravely in Afghanistan. Corporal Jamie Murphy, Sergeant Vaughan Ingram, Warrant Officer Richard Nolan, Sergeant Craig Gillam, Sergeant Donald Lucas, Private Kevin Kennedy and many others have made the ultimate sacrifice in order that we, and others, might enjoy the rights and freedoms that are fundamental to our human dignity. May we never forget the sacrifice they have made.

Please stand with me for a minute of silence.

[All Stand for a Minute of Silence]


A Proud Newfoundland and Labrador

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

The colony that John Guy established at Cupers Cove, or Cupids, nearly 400 years ago will, three years from now, become the focus of a Newfoundland and Labrador celebration of international significance. Preparations for Cupids in 2010 are currently underway, and My Government will be ready to invite the world to a celebration truly befitting the long, proud history and culture of Newfoundland and Labrador. There is much to celebrate, and we will not be shy in showcasing our very best.

Our best writers and musicians are showcased in many venues, most recently at the March Hare Festival in Ireland, where they regaled audiences eager to invest in our potential and promise.

We showcased our excellence on the national curling rink in February, where skip Stacie Devereaux, third Stephanie Guzzwell, second Sarah Paul, lead Julie Devereaux and coach Diane Ryan demonstrated true artistry in sport, bringing home our first Canadian junior women's victory. The Devereaux rink went on to win an impressive silver at the world junior curling championships.

We showcased our excellence on the rugby pitch as the Newfoundland Rock earned a second national victory to remain Rugby Canada Super League champions, securing their hold on the coveted MacTier Cup right here on home turf.

We also showcased our excellence in the pool as thirteen-year-old swimmer Katarina Roxon of Kippens broke yet another world record, this time in women's 1,500-metre freestyle in the S9 disability category, shattering the previous mark by nearly two minutes. Having represented Newfoundland and Labrador at the Canada Summer Games in Regina in 2005, she is now looking forward to representing Canada in Brazil in August at the Parapan American Games Rio 2007 and aspiring to compete at the Paralympic Games in Beijing in 2008.

In schools and arenas, in business circles and beyond, the secret is out. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have countless reasons to celebrate excellence in effort and achievement 365 days a year. The time has come to accentuate our successes and rejuvenate our pride as we set our sights on even greater victories ahead. There is no stopping a people whose hearts and minds are focused on success.

A Responsible Newfoundland and Labrador

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

Success does not come without struggle; but it is the hope of success that makes the struggle noble and worthwhile. My Government entered office four years ago with a directive from the people to take on significant fiscal, social and economic challenges. Although Newfoundland and Labrador had long been blessed with immeasurable resource riches and bountiful opportunities, great obstacles to self-sufficiency and prosperity stood in our way. These challenges required a bold new approach and real leadership to clear the way forward. The time had come to take our future in our own hands. The time had come to put all our strengths to work for Newfoundland and Labrador, and to unite in the drive for self-reliance.

My Government did not make irresponsible promises of overnight miracles, but pledged to focus realistically on the fundamentals and to lay a solid foundation on which to build a bright and secure future, brick by brick. Together, we drew a line in the sand. There would be no more giveaways, no more shortchanging our children's bright future for fleeting gain.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: With a clear mandate from Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, My Government moved ahead responsibly with an eight-year plan of action on which we have nearly reached the halfway mark. This plan was founded on a two-pronged approach to self-reliance: firstly, to spend more effectively the revenues we already receive and, secondly, to generate new revenues for sustainable social programs by fostering new economic growth through sound investments in infrastructure, a healthy business climate, resource development, innovation and skills. Guided by this eight-year Blueprint for Prosperity, My Government proceeded to develop a battery of strategic action plans to navigate sector by sector and challenge by challenge, past the obstacles toward a future of promise and success. Under the leadership of my First Minister, progress on this plan is staying, not just on schedule, but ahead of schedule.

The first challenge, restoring fiscal integrity, has been a difficult exercise; but together as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians under My Government's responsible leadership, we have worked to wrestle our public finances from the pull of decline and place Newfoundland and Labrador securely on the path to fiscal freedom. The public debt My Government inherited remains unacceptably high, but through sound financial management and bold negotiating with the Government of Canada, we have given ourselves the fiscal leverage to begin lifting Newfoundland and Labrador from debt to self-reliance. Public pension liabilities have been addressed. Last year, for the first time in our history, Newfoundland and Labrador budgeted a surplus on a fully consolidated basis. All three credit rating agencies have raised our credit rating to the highest since Confederation. We are on the right track, and we are beginning to reap the benefits of living within our means.

A Self-reliant Newfoundland and Labrador

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

Responsible management of fiscal power is indispensable to good government. It is indispensable to My Government. It establishes a foundation of trust that is at the heart of cooperation. When that trust is violated, cooperation suffers. The federal government has an obligation to ensure and promote equality of opportunity for all Canadians. Newfoundland and Labrador has been disparaged for accessing Canadian federal benefits and prevented from applying our natural strengths for full economic effect. We were offered new hope in 1985 when the Government of Canada signed the Atlantic Accord ensuring that Newfoundland and Labrador would become the principal beneficiary of the offshore resources we brought into the federation. The effect of this commitment was achieved two decades later in 2005 when My First Minister signed a renewed Atlantic Accord with the federal government of the day. It was an historic and defining moment in our history, which changed our course for the future. Between 2004 and 2006, the party now governing Canada promised to go a step further toward fairness by fully removing all such nonrenewable resource revenues from the equalization formula. This would have enabled Newfoundland and Labrador to convert nonrenewable oil, gas and mineral resource potential into fiscal power and to invest this one-time revenue in long-lasting growth initiatives such as debt reduction, economic infrastructure development, diversification and investment attraction, all without penalty. However, in its 2007 budget, the new Government of Canada reneged on this promise.

We as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians aspire, not to perpetual subservience, but to self-sufficiency. Our people are not content to tolerate a future of relying on others economically. However, our people have now also learned that we will achieve self-reliance economically only by taking charge of our future as a people. To that end, My Government will harness the desire among Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to cultivate greater cultural, financial and moral autonomy vis-B-vis Ottawa. Our priority is the well-being of successive generations of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, including those who live here now and those we welcome to join us from all over the world. My Government will affirm Newfoundland and Labrador's status as a distinct people, not uniform in lineage but multi-cultural, one nation inclusive of many nations living in harmony together. As equal partners, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal together, we shall write a new future for Newfoundland and Labrador, a future of our own design, where mutual understanding, justice, equality and cooperation are the order of the day. My Ministers propose a political approach that unites our Province rather than divides. They promote a positive and inviting political vision embracing all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, new and old. Our people are proud nationalists who believe it is only by affirming our identity as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians that we will realize our goal of economic equality within the federation. Our people are ready to take charge of our future and, under My First Minister's leadership, our Province will achieve self-reliance by becoming masters of our own house.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Through hard work over the past four years, Newfoundland and Labrador has generated the fiscal leverage and the self-confidence needed to take a bolder approach. Never before have we been in a position of such strength to take a strong stand on the national stage. My Government will continue to be assertive in holding the Government of Canada to its commitments and obligations to Newfoundland and Labrador, including its promises regarding 5 Wing Goose Bay and the Lower Churchill development. My Government will continue to remind federal leaders that Newfoundland and Labrador has fewer federal offices than any other province and incurs significant costs as the federal government leaves My Government to bear the burdens of important programs such as legal aid, early learning and child care, inland fisheries enforcement and support to advance the status of women. However, as every partner in the federation should, My Government will also move forward independently to strengthen Newfoundland and Labrador's financial autonomy and fiscal capacity to meet our own obligations by diversifying and growing our own economy, reducing Newfoundland and Labrador's burden of debt on our children, pursuing a fair fiscal balance between levels of government, and reducing our dependence on equalization payments. This is My Government's pledge: We as a people will enter into agreements only when they are in our own best interests. We shall set our own course. We shall define our own future. Our time has arrived, and we shall seize the day boldly, with confidence, conviction and a solid commitment to cooperate among ourselves in the spirit of harmony to usher in a new day of promise and prosperity for Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!



Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

The way forward for Newfoundland and Labrador requires an unyielding commitment to advance both economic growth and social development, the two pillars of a stable society. My Government will continue to move forward decisively and strategically on both fronts, building our economy while continuing to invest in the security and the well-being of our people. We will achieve sustainable economic self-reliance by continuing to invest wisely in the fundamentals: infrastructure, a healthy business climate, natural resource developments, innovation and the skills of our people. In the meantime, and increasingly as our economy grows, we will invest in facilitating self-reliance for individuals and families, advancing health care and wellness for young and old, and fostering public safety and justice for one and for all.

Investing in Infrastructure

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

Investments in infrastructure are investments in economic development opportunities. Beginning in 2004, My Government invested unprecedented amounts to repair and upgrade highway infrastructure throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. Roads left to deteriorate for too long are being renewed kilometre by kilometre under a long-term plan for infrastructure stability. My Government will continue to make major investments in road work this year.

My Government commenced and completed consultations on a transportation strategy for Labrador, the region with the greatest transportation challenges. Implementation and monitoring of recommendations from the Labrador Transportation Plan have been addressed in My Government's comprehensive Northern Strategic Plan for Labrador, an unprecedented undertaking to tackle multiple challenges and seize magnificent opportunities to advance economic development and social justice in Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Labrador is geographically, demographically, historically and culturally a distinct region that will play a pivotal role in shaping our collective future. We invite our vibrant Aboriginal communities to play a lead role, in partnership with all our people, in shaping a future for Labrador that truly achieves its extraordinary promise and potential. The Northern Strategic Plan has clear and achievable goals with focused priorities for Labrador over the next five years. These priorities are the products of extensive consultations and cooperation with many stakeholders, cooperation that we are eager to see continue and strengthen in the months, years and generations ahead.

In Labrador, and also on the Island, hundreds of thousands of our people depend in one way or another on ferry services for transportation, business and basic commodities. The Gulf ferry service is a Constitutionally entrenched obligation of the federal government, whose recent decision to raise rates will affect all of us. My Government, by contrast, chose to reduce rates on intraprovincial ferry routes. Recognizing the critical importance of both the Argentia and Port aux Basques Marine Atlantic ferry routes, My Government will continue to press the Government of Canada to maintain these services with optimal schedules, modern amenities and fee structures that are reasonable, affordable and beneficial to tourism enterprises, exporters, importers and consumers. My Government, for their part, will improve reliability on intraprovincial routes by proceeding this year with the Vessel Replacement Strategy.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Economic opportunities are also advanced by improvements to infrastructure at the municipal level. My Government will continue to announce initiatives to advance rural and urban infrastructure development. A key component of such infrastructure is solid waste management; but regrettably, the provincial Solid Waste Management Strategy announced in 2002 was not funded at that time. Working with the federal and municipal governments, My Government successfully negotiated a plan to invest portions of gas tax revenues and municipal capital works funding to finance a new waste management system.

Investing in a Healthy Business Climate

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

Sound infrastructure is just the beginning of My Government's actions to promote a healthy investment climate. Last year, My Government successfully launched a new brand signature that will assist in positioning Newfoundland and Labrador strategically in the competitive global marketplace as a preferred place to live, work and invest. The essence of the brand reflects the creativity of Newfoundland and Labrador's people, cultural and natural environment. My Government last year also laid the foundation to develop a formal Provincial Investment Attraction Strategy. The Department of Business will soon lead a fresh new business attraction marketing campaign to raise the profile of Newfoundland and Labrador in global markets and to draw investment back home.

My Government pledged to improve the investment climate by reducing the impediments to doing business in Newfoundland and Labrador. The Red Tape Reduction initiative has already reduced regulatory requirements by 8 per cent and is well on its way to achieving the target of a 25 per cent reduction in red tape by 2009. As part of their thirty-fifth anniversary celebrations, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business presented My Government with an award in recognition of outstanding work to reduce red tape. My Government will continue to eliminate unnecessary, burdensome regulatory requirements and will continue to streamline and improve services for all clients and citizens.

Improvement initiatives being undertaken in information technology and information management within the Department of Government Services, in partnership with the Office of the Chief Information Officer, will help to strengthen and to streamline the administration of public services. The objective is to increase responsiveness to the needs of citizens and business enterprises in Newfoundland and Labrador and to expand the ways they can access information and government programs.

My Government will also enrich our investment climate by encouraging those from away, not only to do business in Newfoundland and Labrador, but also to make Newfoundland and Labrador their home. My Government this year launched a comprehensive Immigration Strategy to welcome people around the world to join us in making Newfoundland and Labrador a home second to none. Newfoundland and Labrador offers immigrants the best quality of life in Canada, freedom, security, economic opportunity and a sense of family. Immigrants, in turn, bring to Newfoundland and Labrador new ideas, new ways of thinking, strong connections to foreign markets and significant benefits for the local communities in which they establish businesses and employ their new neighbours. Our door to newcomers is open wide and our welcome is warm and sincere.

Investing in Resource Development

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

Our best prospects for prosperity for many generations have been our natural strengths, which give us advantages and niche opportunities that we must exploit for the maximum effect. Diverse in opportunities, rural Newfoundland and Labrador is an entrepreneur's dream. We must challenge ourselves to capitalize on these opportunities with even greater ingenuity and boldness and an even greater drive to succeed because there is so much more that we can achieve. My Government this fall will bring together all regional and provincial council members of the Rural Secretariat, the three orders of government and senior public officials for a fully-interactive conference under the theme "Visions to Action: A Roadmap to 2020". Together, those who know rural issues best will chart the best course forward, region by region, initiative by bold initiative.

Our fishing industry has long been a mainstay of rural Newfoundland and Labrador and, despite challenges in recent decades, it remains a beacon of opportunity. My Government participated with the federal government in a detailed review of key elements of the fishing industry in a concerted attempt to develop a comprehensive, ocean-to-plate policy framework aimed at reinvigorating this sector and placing it on a sound foundation for the future. Following extensive consultation with stakeholders throughout our Province, our governments have now identified and announced new policy directions for harvesting, processing and marketing under a coordinated Fishing Industry Renewal Strategy, one that charts a course for sustainability, financial self-reliance and global competitiveness. Provincial initiatives include a new processing policy renewal strategy, an enhanced fisheries loan guarantee program, a Newfoundland and Labrador Seafood Marketing Council, a voluntary fish auction, workforce adjustment, occupational health and safety initiatives, and R&D initiatives to develop new species, new products, new markets and new techniques to harvest, handle, process and market our fish resources. My Fisheries Minister's meetings with officials of the European Commission and the European Parliament and complementary interventions by the federal government and our fishing industry have already contributed to significant shrimp tariff reductions, which bode well for the ultimate goal of achieving market access equal to that of our key competitors. Efforts at home and abroad to promote our sealing industry factually in order to counter irrationality are working, as demonstrated by the European Commission's decision not to draft a ban on seal products.

Aquaculture has emerged as one of the fastest-growing sectors of the Province's rural economy. Newfoundland and Labrador has some of the best remaining sites available for aquaculture development in Eastern Canada, and less than 10 per cent of our Province's potential aquaculture space is currently being utilized. Upon hearing from industry leaders that increased availability of capital was the key to industry expansion, My Government responded with new loan guarantee and capital investment programming. As a result of the programs's success to date, our aquaculture industry is rapidly coming of age, creating 200 new direct full-time-equivalent jobs and an estimated 100 indirect full-time-equivalent jobs over the past year, with expectations that total salmon production will triple in the next two or three years and create 800 new jobs over the longer term. Further investments and growth are anticipated in both the salmon and mussel sectors.

Our agriculture and agrifoods industry is another with proven potential to create jobs and investment in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. Ongoing initiatives of My Government have increased the rate of growth in agrifoods production value from 1 per cent to 5 per cent since 2003.

Our forest industry is another mainstay in many rural communities; and although affected by industry pressures gripping forestry communities across North America, My Government will continue to work with the industry, its workers and our forestry communities to enhance our competitiveness in the face of these challenges and develop a forward-looking forest industry strategy for future sustainability. When the operation at Stephenville was threatened, My Government stepped in with a significant assistance plan. My Government also stepped forward to support mill workers at Grand Falls-Windsor by standing firm in linking timber licences to the continued operation to both of the mill's paper-making machines. To place this sector on a more-secure footing for the future, My Government commissioned a comprehensive Forest Industry Competitiveness and Strategy Study last fall, mirroring their earlier initiative to generate a Strategic Plan to Develop Labrador's Secondary Manufacturing and Value-Added Wood Products Industry. The industry's competitiveness has been strengthened by increased investments in silviculture, road construction, forest inventory and forest protection, and such initiatives will continue as My Government works to build upon Newfoundland and Labrador's century-old forestry legacy.

My Government will introduce a Sustainable Development Act and appoint a Round Table on Sustainable Development. My Government will also provide resources necessary to support related activities and develop a Strategic Environmental Management Plan within the next two years. Considering the magnificent natural heritage and resource base of the Corner Brook region, we fully expect the Grenfell Campus of Memorial University and the Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Science to take key roles in formulating these sustainable development strategies.

Our natural heritage lures numerous tourists to Newfoundland and Labrador each year and keeps them coming back. Non-resident visits increased 5 per cent last year as more than 494,000 tourists from away experienced first-hand the incredible gifts we have to offer. The value of their expenditures increased some 8 per cent to $365 million. My Government's investments of more than $30 million to market and support our tourism industry during the past three years have been dollars well spent.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: This year, My Ministers will build on those investments through a new tourism Web site, a new advertising campaign and a revamped Travel Guide that, together, will grab the attention of prospective visitors and further promote Newfoundland and Labrador on the national and international scene. My Government will also work in partnership with the Newfoundland and Labrador Outfitters Association to develop further this sector's unique niche markets.

Also building on our natural strengthens is our cultural industry. Having launched Newfoundland and Labrador's first Strategic Cultural Plan last year, My Government will fuel this momentum through additional investments in the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council, the Cultural Economic Development Program, a Cultural Export Strategy and an intangible cultural heritage preservation initiative. These efforts will be complemented by investments in infrastructure, such as the Mealy Mountain Auditorium in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

No industry offers greater promise for a self-reliant future than our energy sector. Through oil and gas, wind and hydro, we can provide energy opportunities for customers in other jurisdictions and for customers willing to grow opportunities here at home. To take maximum advantage of our energy strengths, My Government proceeded to develop a comprehensive long-term Energy Plan, a strategy that will position Newfoundland and Labrador as a warehouse of energy resources that will benefit, first and foremost, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. The Newfoundland and Labrador Energy Plan will soon be released and will mark a new era of self-confidence and promise for energy resource development in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Under the leadership of My Premier, who is Chair of both the Council of the Federation and its Energy Committee, Newfoundland and Labrador is currently working with other provinces and territories to produce a Pan-Canadian Energy Strategy. Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro have already developed, on My Government's behalf, a comprehensive Lower Churchill project execution plan to achieve a project sanction date by 2009 and first power by 2015. Members of the dedicated project team are now assessing energy markets, both domestic and beyond, with a goal of meeting the critical project milestones. Consultations with the people of Labrador will continue to be a priority.

In Newfoundland and Labrador's offshore oil and gas sector, massive energy opportunities are matched by My Government's confidence that further activity will soon be occurring at Hibernia South, White Rose and Hebron-Ben Nevis as exploration proceeds in other basins. My Government also launched industry consultations to develop an offshore natural gas royalty regime that will provide clarity to industry. This should facilitate the development of our immense natural gas resource potential in a manner that provides a fair return to industry and to the people of this Province.

Not only offshore but also onshore, oil and gas opportunities abound. My Government successfully negotiated with the partners at Garden Hill to recommence production in Western Newfoundland, and new entrants are also prepared to invest in drilling opportunities in rural regions.

Our people also welcome onshore value-added oil and gas activities, including proposals to build a new refinery in Placentia Bay and a Liquefied Natural Gas transshipment facility near Arnold's Cove. My Government will continue to work with communities and developers with the confidence to grasp hold of opportunities in petroleum resource development, not only on the Avalon Peninsula, but right across Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Rural Newfoundland and Labrador is ideally positioned to reap the benefits of growth in another natural resource sector: mineral development. The value of mineral production is projected to grow in 2007 to reach $3.3 billion, a 400 per cent increase since 2004. Employment is projected to grow from 3,200 in 2004 to more than 3,550 in 2007. Massive iron ore production at Labrador West is now being supplemented by nickel, copper and cobalt production at Voisey's Bay, where local discoveries have generated international attention. These are not our only mining successes. The first shipment of concentrate left the Aur Resources mine at Duck Pond in January. The copper, zinc, silver and gold operation is expected to provide jobs for some 192 people. There is also great excitement about new mining developments on the Baie Verte Peninsula, in Central Newfoundland and possibly in Eastern Labrador. The recent import of gold ore for processing near Baie Verte offers a new opportunity for our industry, which for so long has sent its products away for processing. Mineral exploration jumped 70 per cent from 2005 to 2006 and is expected to reach $100 million in 2007.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: My Government will continue to promote the growth of our mining sector through their Mineral Incentive Program and other strategic investments, recognizing that every public dollar invested in mineral exploration incentives leverages three from the private sector.

Investing in Innovation

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

Newfoundland and Labrador's greatest natural resource is our people -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: - and one of our people's greatest strengths is ingenuity, the capacity to create opportunity with the power of the mind. This past year, My Government released Newfoundland and Labrador's first Innovation Strategy, a carefully considered plan to increase the capacity for innovation in our economy and society to facilitate growth and prosperity. With our focus on high-growth sectors such as ocean technology, life sciences, environmental industries, and information and communication technology, My Government already launched two action initiatives under this strategy. The Commercialization Program is helping communities to transform ideas into products and services. The Innovation Enhancement Program is supporting public sector institutions, not-for-profit groups, community organizations and industry associations involved in activities that are enhancing the innovation capacity of the Province.

Newfoundland and Labrador is also demonstrating leadership in information and communication technologies. Recognizing the global importance of innovative technologies for future economic growth, My Government developed the Government Broadband Initiative to assist in creating a network of essential communications infrastructure to, from and through Newfoundland and Labrador, bridging the communications vacuum and linking us to the technological centres of North America. In November, under this broadband initiative, My Government announced funding for the installation of a fully redundant fibre optic link running from St. John's to Halifax along two diverse routes to connect to national carriers in mainland Canada.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: This fibre optic link will help to bring Newfoundland and Labrador's critical infrastructure to the level of telecommunications access and capability that already exists in the rest of Canada. It is My Government's firm conviction that it would be grossly irresponsible to leave Newfoundland and Labrador behind on this front, considering the increasing global reliance on telecommunications technology.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Faced with the choice between lagging behind and moving forward, My Government will consistently choose to move forward.

Through the newly-established Office of the Chief Information Officer, My Government took the initiative to bring the Newfoundland and Labrador public sector into the twenty-first century by implementing industry best practices in information technology by developing a legacy replacement strategy and by significantly upgrading information technology infrastructure and developing an e-government framework that enables more and more public functions to operate more efficiently through IT systems. My Government also established a new relationship with Nati and the local IT industry by entering into major contracts for government IT services that will extend benefits to eight local IT companies.

A key growth opportunity for research and development will be the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre of Excellence for Environmental Science, Research and Technology located at Corner Brook.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: This Centre of Excellence is an unprecedented collaboration among innovators who are ready to position Newfoundland and Labrador as an international leader in climate-friendly green technology. These forward-thinking innovators will identify niche areas in which Newfoundland and Labrador has a competitive edge, with a particular focus on forestry and freshwater ecology.

Investing in Skills

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

A fifth pillar of a successful economy in Newfoundland and Labrador is skills development in our people, particularly those already in our education system but also those who have moved beyond school. My Government, in March of 2006, commissioned a Skills Task Force which brought together business, labour, education and other community leaders to identify the skill sets we are lacking and to determine the best ways to ensure that our graduates and workers are ready to seize opportunities. The task force report will be released shortly and action to implement its recommendations will begin immediately.

My Government will work more creatively and intensively with young people on income support to identify their strengths and help to prepare them for gainful employment in careers that challenge and reward them. This past year, My Government successfully completed the implementation of a new province wide service delivery model with one of the objectives being to help clients make the transition from income support to work through access to education, training, career counselling and workforce assistance. My Government moved quickly to meet the needs of displaced fish plant workers through the establishment in Fortune and Marystown of career transition offices, which have served as single points of entry for access to accurate labour market information, career counselling, training and support for skills development. My Government also successfully launched a new Labour Market Division to help employers, workers, new and returning job seekers and students to make informed labour market choices. Together with the business and labour sectors, My Government will continue to find new ways to prepare young people in urban and rural centres to join the labour market and help employers train and upgrade their workforce for improved productivity and competitiveness.

The connection between education and economic growth is well established. However, many continue to face hurdles because of problems with literacy. My Government this year will enhance the Strategic Adult Literacy Plan, providing direction at the community, regional and provincial level, respecting community and cultural differences, and ensuring multiple points of entry for adults to access the support they need to master reading and writing skills.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Not only illiteracy but also innumeracy can serve as a major barrier to employment and career advancement. Advanced mathematics skills are prerequisites for many careers, particularly in the skilled trades and advanced technology sectors. Children must receive a solid grounding in math at school so they are prepared to apply those skills after graduation. The mathematics curriculum currently in our schools was introduced in Atlantic Canada beginning almost a decade ago. Our parents are saying that many of their children are experiencing difficultly in mathematics at school. Examination results confirm this. It is time to take stock of what we are doing and review the curriculum, student resources and the supports for our teachers and parents. My Government this year will undertake a comprehensive review of mathematics curriculum and will make changes wherever needed to ensure the curriculum and instruction are appropriate and effective.

My Government will also move forward early this year on the work of the Teacher Allocation Commission and the Individual Support Services Plan/Pathways Commission. My Government established these commissions to review issues identified by our teachers and parents as serious concerns. The Individual Support Services Plan/Pathways initiative in our school system is a valuable tool to develop appropriate programming to meet a student's goals and needs; but the administrative burdens on teachers have proven to be onerous. The commission is addressing ways the process can be improved so it is less burdensome while continuing to serve the needs of students. Funds will be allocated to ensure that students with special needs are identified in a timely fashion so they can receive the supports they need to succeed.

My Government appointed a Teacher Allocation Commission to address the limitations of the current Teacher Allocation Formula. The review will be completed this spring. In the meantime, My Government announced an allocation of teaching units in 2007-2008 to help reduce class sizes in urban areas and to maintain high quality programming in rural areas.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: No teaching units will be removed from the system in 2007-2008.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: In fact, despite declining enrolment, there will be more units in the coming year than in the past year.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Nearly as important as teachers and programs are educational infrastructure and technology. To ensure the school facilities our children attend are safe and functional, My Government will invest additional funding to address maintenance issues proactively. Furthermore, this year additional investments will be made in science infrastructure, resources and professional development to build upon the laboratory safety initiative introduced last year. In an age of rapidly changing technology, it is more important than ever that today's school system remain on the leading edge to ensure the success of our graduates. This year, My Government will invest in technology supports to ensure that our students have the appropriate skill sets to succeed.

Newfoundland and Labrador is fortunate to have first-rate post-secondary institutions which produce first-rate graduates. To keep and recruit skilled workers, creative measures are required. Ongoing tuition fee freezes at Memorial University and the College of the North Atlantic have been very effective in this respect. Newfoundland and Labrador has the lowest tuition rates in the country for Canadian students.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Of no less importance is the fact that our public post-secondary education system has received considerable attention over the last two years, first through investments included in the White Paper on Public Post-Secondary Education and then in Budget 2006. The Canadian Federation of Students recently invited My First Minister to address their national conference in May. Their letter of invitation stated: "Given your Government's impressive record on tuition fees and grants, we would be delighted if you were able to give the keynote address on May 24 or 25." This year, My Government will again increase operating grants for our post-secondary institutions and will continue the tuition freeze. My Government also began working with students and graduates to identify the best measures to address high student debt loads and will be announcing a new initiative in this year's Budget.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


Investing in Personal Self-reliance

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

Education is an economic growth issue, but it is a social justice issue as well. We as a society have an obligation to ensure that citizens have the opportunity to harness their individual strengths and to achieve their potential. Personal self-reliance is an issue of basic human dignity for young and for old. We must work collectively to empower our citizens to enjoy the rewards of self-reliance. My Government last year introduced a Poverty Reduction Strategy, only the second of its kind in the country -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: - to address the barriers to self-reliance and to enhance the quality of life of our most vulnerable citizens. The president of the National Anti-Poverty Organization publicly acknowledged the organization's appreciation of My Government's efforts on poverty reduction, saying that the strategy should be used as a model for a national anti-poverty strategy.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: The chair of the National Council of Welfare also indicated that My Government's strategy should serve as a model for the rest of Canada. This cross departmental priority initiative is a comprehensive, integrated and long term effort to transform Newfoundland and Labrador from a jurisdiction with the greatest poverty challenges to the one with the fewest. My Government, in this year's Budget, will build on the initial annualized commitment of $64 million to provide new opportunities for citizens to achieve a higher standard of living and a greater degree of self-reliance.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


Investing in Personal Health

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House Assembly:

A key determinant of one's quality of life is one's personal health. We owe it to ourselves to embrace healthy living and to support it as best we can. We should be especially cognizant of the importance of instilling in our young people an appreciation of the value of maximizing physical fitness. My Government already invested significantly in new physical education equipment for schools and, this year, will begin to implement a new Recreation and Sport Strategy to promote and support active living. A partnership with the Government of Canada will foster Aboriginal sport participation and promote healthy eating and physical activity. In support of our elite athletes, a new Provincial Training Centre will be completed this year to provide our best with the opportunity to train with the best and to compete with the best in the country and the world, building on the legacy of our Olympians. This Recreation and Sports Strategy, however, will promote physical activity among all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, whatever their level of skill or whatever their field of interest.

It is My Government's belief that the cornerstone of many rural communities is the local school. These facilities are often the only public spaces suitable for recreation and social activities. This year, following up on a Blueprint commitment, My Government will support the sharing of school facilities with community user groups while protecting these valuable resources for our children's instruction.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: It is not only how active we are but also what we eat that helps determine how fit we will be. Lifestyle choices made during our school years often remain with us throughout our lives, so it is important to instill healthy living habits in our students. Inactivity and obesity among young people are creating new health problems that are preventable through healthy living. To build on the decision last year to introduce new School Food Guidelines to promote healthy food choices, My Government this year will invest in equipment and training to further enable these guidelines to be implemented.

Not only young people but also older residents and seniors can fortify their health through the choices they make. My Government consulted with over a thousand Newfoundlanders and Labradorians in the process of developing a Healthy Aging Policy Framework and Plan to promote physical health, social health and self-reliance. Newfoundland and Labrador's seniors have provided the building blocks for the society in which we live today. The Ministerial Council on Aging and Seniors has been instrumental in identifying ways and means to make My Government and our society more responsive to the needs of seniors and more appreciative of their role.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: It is My Government's conviction that seniors should be able to retain their independence to the greatest extent possible. Recognizing that seniors require various degrees of care, My Government will move ahead strategically to establish and maintain long-term care facilities where our seniors can find the supportive care they need in a welcoming environment.

Collectively, we have an obligation to care properly for those among us who are ill or specially challenged. Over the last three years, My Government invested significantly to improve access to health care services in all regions. In the year ahead, My Government will continue to make strategic investments in diagnostic and medical equipment, health care services and health human resources initiatives in order to ensure that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have access to quality care, regardless of where they live. We will build on investments that have already reduced wait times for cardiac procedures, radiation treatment, sight restoration and hip and knee procedures.

Every year for the past three years, My Government increased the budget for the provincial drug program, adding effective new therapies while expanding the number of people covered through the introduction of a new low-income drug program. My Government will also continue to press the Government of Canada for a National Catastrophic Drug Program that will provide equal access to drug coverage for all Canadians so that no Canadian has to be denied drug coverage because he or she cannot afford prescription drugs.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Newfoundland and Labrador's investment in health care last year approached $2 billion, nearly half of all program spending. One of the challenges driving increases in health spending is the dispersal of our people along thousands of kilometres of coastline and hundreds of thousands of square kilometres of land. Investments in transportation infrastructure and services will improve our ability to serve the needs of people in remote areas while advances in information communications technology will allow health care professionals to share critical diagnostic and treatment information in real time with others many thousands of kilometres away. Our geography may be a challenge, but for My Government it will not act as a barrier to hinder the provision of health care to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Investing in Personal Security

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

There are vulnerabilities in our society other than frailty and illness that jeopardize the personal security of our citizens. My Government will act this year on the recommendations of Dr. Peter Markesteyn and the Child and Youth Advocate with respect to the tragic death of Zachary Turner, and the recommendations of the Right Honourable Antonio Lamer with respect to wrongful convictions. These initiatives are among My Government's highest priorities this year.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: The Department of Justice will also provide leadership in enhancing community protection and safety. The proposed Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods legislation will establish a mechanism for My Government to respond to complaints and to put an end to illegal activities that adversely affect or harm a neighbourhood. My Government will also continue to invest in the strength of our police forces, to which we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude for their tireless efforts to promote safety and security in our communities.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Last year, My Government introduced a Violence Prevention Initiative to reduce violence against women, children and other vulnerable populations in every region of Newfoundland and Labrador, including our rural communities. My Government will enhance their commitment to violence prevention by increasing their investments in public awareness, education and training, research, sexual assault, community services, and rural regional committees; and will also fight violence against Aboriginal women and children in Aboriginal communities. The Department of Justice clearly understands the importance of responding more appropriately and effectively to the need for proper policing and justice services in Labrador. The Department of Justice will take concrete steps to improve access through developments in interpretation services, policing, family justice services and public prosecutions in Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Remembering the floods at Badger and Stephenville and the events of ‘nine-eleven', our people expect their government to be ready to provide assistance when emergency or disaster situations overwhelm the capacity of individuals or communities to respond. Beginning immediately, My Government will commence implementation of an Emergency Management Strategy designed to develop and maintain a modern and robust emergency management system in collaboration with other levels of government, Crown corporations, the voluntary sector and the private sector, all of which have crucial roles to play in planning against, preparing for, responding to and recovering from emergencies and disasters.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!



Mr Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

The initiatives and investments outlined today and detailed in the days and weeks to come will build on My Government's past investments to promote economic growth in our communities and social justice among our people. Challenges face all who would make a home in Newfoundland and Labrador, but more impressive than the challenges are the opportunities and rewards that make the struggles worthwhile. It is in our lineage to be bold, for it was the bold before us who embraced the struggles and made Newfoundland and Labrador a society of which we can be truly proud. We as bold visionaries owe it to our children to build, upon their grandparents' daring legacy, a bright future of promise and productivity, of prosperity and self-reliance, of economic progress and social justice for one and all. We as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians share one path as joint heirs of those who started out before us; so together, with one vision to unite us, let us resolve to stay the course, to keep the faith and to keep our eyes fixed on the future that, with boldness and confidence, we are beginning to usher in throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

* * *


Personal Reflections

Mr. Speaker and Honourable Members:

Please grant me a personal word as I conclude. This if the fifth Speech from the Throne that I have read to the House of Assembly. In all likelihood, it will be my last. The Constitution sets the term of a Lieutenant Governor at five years, an anniversary which I shall reach on the first day of next November.

I thank the Premier for his steadfast support and repeated courtesies. He and his colleagues have made my job much easier, and much more pleasant. I am grateful, too, to them and to every Member of the House for the support you have provided to Government House, the institution and the building. The building and the grounds are a national treasure, one to be cherished. Government House has been at the centre of our political and social history for nearly 180 years. It has been maintained lovingly and carefully and remains today - as it has been since 1829 - a place of which every Newfoundlander and every Labradorian can be proud, and where every Newfoundlander and every Labradorian should feel welcome. Eve, my wife, and I have worked hard to make this so.

Lieutenant Governors are a uniquely Canadian institution. We represent the Queen, personally. We also embody the Crown, an inseparable and invaluable part of our heritage. The Crown represents all Canadians and is a symbol of our national identity - as Canadians and as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. I have greatly enjoyed serving as the Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador. I have travelled widely throughout the Province, and have met many thousands of people in their own communities as well as welcomed many thousands more to Government House. My respect and admiration of our people has deepened and become ever stronger. We are a vibrant people, a nation with a strong and proud history and glorious prospects. Any Newfoundlander, any Labradorian would be proud and honoured to hold this office. I have been, and I am.

One more thought, if I may. Our fellow citizens can confer no greater honour upon any of us than to send us to speak for them in this House. I served here for twenty-three years. This is known as the people's House, where the voice of anyone and everyone can be heard. I have always admired those who seek election, and those who serve as Members. There are many ways to serve our country and many ways to serve our Province, but there is no finer way than to be a Member of this House. Do so with pride, and be forever grateful that you have been given the opportunity to do so.

* * *

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.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker returns to the Chair.

MR. SPEAKER (Hodder): Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act Respecting Fishery Products International Limited. (Bill 1)

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that the hon. the Government House Leader shall have leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act Respecting FPI Limited. (Bill 1)

Is it the pleasure of the House that the hon. the Government House Leader shall have leave to introduce said bill?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.


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

The motion is carried.

Motion, the hon. the Government House Leader to introduce a bill, "An Act Respecting FPI Limited," carried. (Bill 1)

MR. SPEAKER: When shall Bill 1, An Act Respecting FPI Limited, be read a first time?



CLERK: A bill, An Act Respecting FPI Limited. (Bill 1)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 1, An Act Respecting FPI Limited, has now been read a first time.

When shall this bill be read a second time?

MR. RIDEOUT: On tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: On tomorrow.

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 of this General Assembly. We shall take a few moments now to distribute the Speech to the Members of the House.

[The Pages distribute His Honour's Speech to all members]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for the District of Topsail.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS E. MARSHALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is an honour to stand here among my colleagues in the House of Assembly today and speak to the Speech from the Throne on behalf of my constituents in the District of Topsail. I would like to thank His Honour the Lieutenant Governor for his delivery of this important Speech here today.

This year's Throne Speech highlights many of the positive developments underway in this Province. Good things are happening in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS E. MARSHALL: In the District of Topsail, which I am very proud to represent, there has been rapid growth in recent years. The population of Paradise and Conception Bay South has increased significantly, and most new residents are families with young children. Many new homes have been built and new neighbourhoods now exist in areas which were vacant five years ago. In fact, the 2006 Census reflects an average increase of 26 per cent in housing starts and a population increase of 21 per cent.

Topsail district has also witnessed a tremendous increase in the commercial sector, with many new businesses establishing or expanding in the district. Inherent in this prosperity is the need to upgrade and expand our infrastructure: our roads, our water and sewer services, and our recreational facilities.

The increase in our youth population requires improvements to our existing roads, our schools, additional education facilities and other educational resources. This government has provided the financial resources for these services, Mr. Speaker, and I look forward to this government's continuing support to the residents of Topsail District, which will include a portion of the City of Mount Pearl as a result of the new boundary changes coming into effect in the fall election.

On October 21, 2003, the voters of Newfoundland and Labrador elected this government with a strong mandate to pursue a new approach to governance and economic self-reliance in our great Province. People voted for change, and we have delivered.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS E. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, during the past three-and-a-half years our Province has progressed significantly in terms of our financial position. While it has not been an easy task, we have turned the corner and are well on our way to establishing fiscal stability, ensuring a bright future for families and communities and a prosperous future for Newfoundland and Labrador.

For the fiscal year ending March 31, 2006, this government recorded a $200 million surplus, the first surplus in the Province's history since Confederation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS E. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, this is the result of sound fiscal management and the wise choices made by this government. In addition, all three credit rating agencies have raised our credit rating to the highest since Confederation.

As was stated by His Honour, we will set our own course. It is the duty of our government to protect and plan for the future, and to manage our resources responsibly and enter into agreements that are in the best interest of this Province. We will continue to honour this commitment to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS E. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, our Province has an abundance of renewable and non-renewable resources, which hold great economic potential for our future.

Over the past three years the agriculture industry alone has grown 11 per cent. This bodes well for rural Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as for the entire Province.

While our fisheries has faced many global challenges, the fisheries and aquacultural industries still remain significant contributors to our provincial economy. 2006 was a tremendous year for the seal fishery, with the production value reaching $55 million, and shellfish landings and the seafood production value remained near historically high levels.

The value of the Province's mineral shipments is expected to reach a record $3 billion this year, a 400 per cent increase in just three years.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS E. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, the potential in our oil and gas fields has had, and will continue to have, a tremendous impact on our Province's economic future.

The Lower Churchill project has great potential as a long-term, reliable, clean, electricity supply that can contribute to a made in Canada solution to meeting our nation's clean energy requirements. The potential energy to be generated from the proposed 2,800 megawatt development is enough electricity to power close to 1.5 million homes.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS E. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, these are only a few examples of the riches found in Newfoundland and Labrador, and our government continues to ensure that the people of this Province reap maximum benefit from these assets. There will be no more giveaways.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS E. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, the introduction of a new business attraction marketing campaign by the Department of Business will raise the profile of Newfoundland and Labrador in global markets and draw investment back home. This, along with initiatives such as our Red Tape Reduction initiative, will help to enhance the investment climate by reducing the impediments to doing business in Newfoundland and Labrador.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS E. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, as our economy grows, our government will be capable of increasing our investments to facilitate self-reliance for individuals and families. As a result of the hard work and patience of the past three years, this year's Throne Speech has set the tone for many initiatives that will benefit the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. Our future will be as bright as we make it. This government is creating an environment of opportunity.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS E. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, this government has invested significantly in the Province's education system and will continue to do so to ensure our students have the knowledge and skill they need to become not only contributing members of society but leaders in our community and the nation.

This government will continue to find new ways to prepare young people in urban and rural centres to join the labour market and help employers train and upgrade their workforce for improved productivity and competitiveness. We will continue working to attract new investment, build industries, harness our resources, diversify, modernize, innovate and grow and ensure that we have the skilled people who can take these opportunities to the next level.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS E. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, this is the ideal mix of circumstances that grows opportunities and creates jobs. This is the right approach and I am proud to be part of a government that is doing what needs to be done to usher in a new era of prosperity, sustainability and self-reliance in Newfoundland and Labrador.

I proudly move, on behalf of my constituents in Topsail, that a select committee be appointed to draft an Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for the District of Ferryland.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased to rise, representing the people of the great and historic District of Ferryland, to second the motion that a select committee be appointed to draft an Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.

I would like to thank His Honour the Lieutenant Governor for eloquently delivering the program of action that will guide our government's actions over the coming year.

I, too, am excited about the positive and constructive things that are happening in Newfoundland and Labrador and the renewed confidence in our Province.

In my district, for example, government and the various departments have continued to support entrepreneurship with investment in small and medium-size business which, as we know, is the largest overall employer in Newfoundland and Labrador, and so vital to rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HUTCHINGS: Government has continued to invest in highways and community roads and recognize the vital importance of these investments for economic development and the maintenance of basic infrastructure in our communities.

Government has identified the needs of young families and has invested in upgrading both our primary schools and high schools over the past three years, and in fact, the building of a $9 million state-of-the-art high school in the district is ongoing today.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HUTCHINGS: We are indeed making tremendous progress on our eight-year blueprint, but there, as always, remain challenges that we are prepared to address.

In my district, for example, while we have begun the process of rebuilding our infrastructure in our communities with bridge and road enhancements, we need to continue the rebuilding process in the years to come. More is required to meet our full potential.

We need to continue to invest and enhance our tourism industry and exploit the role our rural communities have played in settling not only Newfoundland and Labrador, but North America.

We need to provide appropriate services for our youth and ensure they are on the right track at an early age; and access to recreational facilities that leads to a life of healthy living and learning.

This year's Throne Speech includes a wide range of initiatives that will go a long way in addressing the challenges and promoting the growth of opportunities in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Representing a district with twenty-seven rural communities, I know the challenges first-hand that these Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are facing. The growth and success of rural economies have been a priority for this government over the past three years, and will remain so in the future. While a great deal has been accomplished, there is still much more to be done. Our government will continue to work tirelessly to create real opportunities here in Newfoundland and Labrador. We will continue to work with individuals, businesses, communities and regions and their community leaders and volunteers, to identify opportunities, to secure investment and to secure our future.

This government is committed to exploring tangible ways to diversify regional economies. We are focusing on building on our strengths as we work to identify economic development opportunities. As the Member for Topsail indicated, we have such a tremendous amount of potential available to us, some tapped but much untapped. We will look for innovative ideas to build upon these strengths of individual regions to create real economic opportunity.

Our government listened and is listening to the people of rural Newfoundland and Labrador, who have expressed their desire to become directly involved in shaping their futures. They wanted to work with government to ensure the long-term viability of their communities in the Province. From this input evolved a plan, known as the Comprehensive Regional Diversification Strategy, that draws upon regional strengths and is complemented by government programs that will help develop those strengths that will result in long-term, sustainable employment for the people of the Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HUTCHINGS: Since government announced a Comprehensive Regional Diversification Strategy last year, we have provided over $11 million in assistance to companies and economic development organizations.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HUTCHINGS: Since November 2003, the Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development has provided almost $17 million in support to companies and economic development organizations to develop sectors such as agrifoods, manufacturing, value-added resources, tourism, culture, and knowledge-based services. Initiatives such as the Skills Task Force, the Immigration Strategy, along with the Comprehensive Regional Diversification and Infrastructure strategies, work hand-in-hand to develop rural areas and help curb out-migration.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HUTCHINGS: Attracting new business to our Province is a priority for this government, and is equally important to municipalities. The Regional/Sectoral Diversification Fund is a $5 million fund of the Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development and a component of the Province's Comprehensive Regional Diversification Strategy. The fund provides non-repayable contributions to economic development agencies for initiatives that address regional and sectoral development and diversification.

Also, under the umbrella of the Comprehensive Regional Diversification Strategy, is the Small and Medium-sized Enterprise Fund, which provides term loans and equity investments to small and medium-sized businesses in strategic growth sectors. Special emphasis is placed on value-added manufacturing, information technology, aquaculture, biotechnology, marine services and agrifoods and tourism, where local competitive impact is not an issue. The fund also targets businesses that have export potential and need assistance to enter or expand in external markets.

Tens of millions of dollars were invested, in the last Budget alone, in agrifoods and agriculture, the fishery, transportation and municipal infrastructure, mining, tourism and aquaculture. Further investment will come in this year's Budget, being delivered in two days from now.

A great deal of work is being done every day by this government, in conjunction with businesses, communities, and economic development and industry associations, to strengthen and diversify the economy of this Province. Work in manufacturing, aquaculture, tourism, agriculture and agrifoods, information and communications technology, marine technology, for example, is happening in communities all throughout this Province. There are many good things happening in this Province, and this government is committed to continuing to work to ensure a bright future for rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HUTCHINGS: Once again, Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to represent the people of Ferryland. 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.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

First of all, I would like to thank the Lieutenant Governor for gracing us with his presence today to read the Throne Speech. I am sure that he was delighted to do it, and it is always a pleasure to see and hear him in this House of Assembly.

I would also like to welcome our special guests, members of our judiciary, members of the clergy, members of our Armed Forces, the RNC, the RCMP, and I would also like to welcome special guests to the galleries of the House of Assembly.

It is certainly a pleasure, Mr. Speaker, for me to be able to stand and give some comments or reply to the Speech from the Throne. I have done it only twice, but I have listened to some twelve Speeches from the Throne. I am glad that we have some distinguished guests on the floor of our House of Assembly today because they certainly add to the decorum of the House, and our speeches will probably be shorter as a result of you being here. They probably will not be as boisterous or vociferous because you have a way of calming - in fact, Mr. Speaker, I will not be speaking that long because what has happened to me over the course of the last couple of years is that when I give a speech in the quiet, I cannot do it anymore because I am not being heckled. So, I thank you for your presence on the floor of the House.

Mr. Speaker, as I said, I have heard now a total of twelve Throne Speeches. This is the fourth presented by this government. For those of you out watching in television land, or those of you who are in the gallery who have not witnessed this before, a Speech from the Throne basically is a speech prepared by the government and the Lieutenant Governor presents it. It is sort of a touchy-feely speech, a feel-good speech. Undoubtedly, what I have seen in those speeches over the last twelve years, it is an opportunity for government to pat themselves on the back for things they have accomplished and also talk about what they are going to accomplish in the coming year.

Mr. Speaker, pardon me if I sound a little cynical but I could say that I heard a lot of it before. I only hope, for the sake of the people involved, for the sake of the people in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, and Newfoundland and Labrador as a whole, that some of the things that were outlined in this Throne Speech today actually happen.

As I said, I have been here before and I have heard a lot of it before. In fact, Mr. Speaker, I will read you a few lines from the first - it is a summary. It is in the concluding statements read by the Lieutenant Governor just four short years ago, the first Throne Speech by the government opposite. In closing, it says: In the year coming, this government will accomplish - "Firstly, to get our economy growing in a way that generates more jobs, investment, diversification and revenue here in our own communities;

"Secondly, to use those revenues to finance low-waste, high-quality social programs; and

"Thirdly, to improve federal-provincial relations...."

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. REID: We will talk about that one last.

Mr. Speaker, I want to start by talking about growing the economy.

It is not a surprise today to see the Member for Topsail rise first to give a response to the Speech from the Throne by His Honour the Lieutenant Governor; because, if you stop to think about it, what district in the Province has seen any more economic growth and expansion than the Member for Topsail, if you look at where it is located in the Province? As she said, I think, in her statement, not only is the economy looking well out there but Topsail is actually growing and new families are actually moving in there, and because there are youth coming into the area with these new families there is a need for an expansion of schools and things like that. In listening, that fit in perfectly with the positive things that the Lieutenant Governor read in the Throne Speech, that will be happening and have happened in the last four years.

Mr. Speaker, following right behind her was the Member for Ferryland, and I think he could not stand and talk about a growth in employment and a growth in the population in his area because, if I am not mistaken, I think the hon. Member for Topsail is probably only one of two MHAs who sit in this House of Assembly who have seen an actual growth in the population in the last five or six years.

Mr. Speaker, what I would like to do today, in talking about the growth in the economy, I would like to take you on a trip around Newfoundland and Labrador. I would like to start on the Port au Port Peninsula, and Stephenville in particular, and what has happened with the economy, keeping in mind the statements that were made in the first Throne Speech by this government four years ago when they talked about growing the economy.

Let's start in Stephenville, because four years ago the Stephenville mill was open and that area was, for the most part, generally prosperous. Not everybody was employed in that region but, according to the previous Minister of Industry, he said here just a couple of short years ago that there were 901 jobs, either direct or indirect, associated with the Stephenville mill. In the last four years, and more particularly in the last two years, we have seen that mill close and we know what has happened to the economy of Stephenville and the greater Port au Port region.

It is not the rosy picture that we heard from the Member for Topsail. It certainly is not. We have seen families leave that region. We have seen people have to close their doors, bar up their windows and move to the mainland. That is just in Stephenville and the Port au Port Peninsula alone, 901 direct and indirect jobs gone. Maybe there have been half a dozen or as many as twenty jobs created in that region in the last two years but I do not think there were any more than that.

Let's move from Stephenville and head down to the southeast, Mr. Speaker, and ask what has this government done in the last two years to help the communities of Ramea and Burgeo that were decimated by the collapse of the cod stocks in the late or mid-1990s, and what has been done in that region over the past four years to stimulate the economy. Because that was the promise four years ago, to stimulate and grow the economy. What is happening in that region? I know that the member who represents Burgeo talks always, or quite often, about what the people of Burgeo do. What I have found and what I have learned is that many of them leave each year to seek employment on the mainland, whether to work in Alberta or to pick apples in Nova Scotia. In Ramea, a community that was also devastated by the fishery, who are currently seeking a licence, a groundfish licence that they held for some 400 years - they have always processed groundfish in Ramea. That was Ramea's raison d'Ltre; that was their reason for being. They have been waiting now for months to hear from the Minister of Fisheries, if indeed a groundfish licence will be granted to that community, so that at least they could process the fish that they are themselves catching, and to provide a bit of income to the few people who are left there. That is in the Burgeo and Ramea regions, Mr. Speaker.

Let's head to the east and let's talk about the prosperity that we witnessed in that area in the last few years and compare it to the Topsail district. Let's go to the Connaigre Peninsula, and more particularly let's go to Harbour Breton, a community that four years ago had 350 full-time employees working at the FPI plant in that community. What has happened? What has happened to that community, and where is the economic growth and the in-migration in that community? Not only that, but Harbour Breton, because it is the largest town on the Connaigre Peninsula, what happens in Harbour Breton has a tremendous impact on what happens on that whole Connaigre Peninsula. Mr. Speaker, we have all seen the anger turn to tears as people left that region in the last two years and moved to the mainland to find employment. I will not get into some of the comments that they made about the government, because we have all heard them on Open Line shows and we have seen it in the media. That area, 350 jobs gone.

Let's move to the east even further, slightly to the southeast, and visit the Burin Peninsula where we saw Fortune and a fish plant, again owned by FPI, closed just about two years ago or over two years ago. Three hundred and fifty jobs gone out of that community. What is happening down there? We hear about the government initiatives and the investments in the economy. What is happening? Three hundred and fifty people. I had the occasion to have a conversation with the head of the FFAW in that community last Friday. He told me that as we speak there are thirty-five families, or thirty-five individuals, preparing to leave that area to go elsewhere to find employment. While thirty-five does not sound like a lot, that is just the most recent out-flux of people there. You have to remember that Fortune is not a large community, and thirty-five families leaving that community are indeed a lot of people.

If you move up the Burin Peninsula just slightly you will find Marystown. I drove through it last Friday, actually, Mr. Speaker. That plant, another FPI plant, was the largest one in the Province, employed 650 people year-round - 650 people!- and today they have not seen a day's work for about, what? Seventeen or eighteen months. Seventeen or eighteen months and they do not know what the future holds for them. I will tell you what the future does not hold for them: 650 jobs in that fish processing facility, whether it is sold or if it is not.

Why did it happen? Why did it happen? Because I think, Mr. Speaker, we saw a government that sat idly by and bought into the argument that FPI presented: that it was their need to close down these plants because we could not compete with China and because of the high Canadian dollar which prohibited us from putting our fish products into the United States.

I have never bought that argument, Mr. Speaker, and I never will. I think that the government was not diligent enough in dealing with FPI. They dropped the ball and, as a result, we have thousands of people in this Province who were at one time employed by FPI who are now finding themselves without work.

Look at the Marystown Shipyard. Four years ago there was full employment in that yard. In fact, there were people who were on social assistance living in apartments and houses in the Town of Marystown who were asked to leave those houses because the owners of those houses and apartment buildings could get more money from skilled workers who were moving into Marystown to work on projects associated with our offshore. Today, there is no one working in that facility.

Move just up the road from that and look at the Cow Head facility, a state-of-the-art facility that we built there some years ago; nothing happening there. That is the Burin Peninsula.

We have come off the Port au Port Peninsula, we have hit the South Coast, we have hit the Connaigre Peninsula, we have hit the Burin Peninsula, and what do we see besides destitution and devastation? You can talk all you like and wax eloquently about what you are doing for the rural parts of this Province but we need more action and we need more than words.

Let's talk about the Northeast Coast. If you are talking about the need to grow our economy and generate more jobs, what has been done there in the last four years? What has been done on the Bonavista Peninsula in the last four years to create employment? Maybe the member from there, from Bonavista South, will get up later in our debate and our discussions as this session of the House of Assembly unfolds and tell us what is happening there that is keeping all the people there, and the economy and the population is growing as it is in the Topsail district.

Let's move a little further north and the recent announcement by the company that used to be called Lewisporte Wholesalers, closing down in Lewisporte, seventy full-time jobs gone. Again, while seventy full-time jobs might not sound like a lot in Topsail or on the greater Northeast Avalon area, seventy full-time jobs in Lewisporte are going to be hard to replace and it is certainly going to have a devastating impact on that community.

You move a little bit further to the northwest there and you are going to find an island called Little Bay Islands, that was just recently notified that the crab plant there will not be opening this year; an island community with no other way to generate economic growth, their plant is closed. We hear nothing of it. I got an e-mail from an individual who works there. I have not heard anything about it from any of the government members opposite, or the member who represents that community in the House of Assembly; have not heard a sound from that individual.

Then we go back to the Northern Peninsula, and I am going to end with the Northern Peninsula, because that is where the Premier started back in 2001 when he campaigned on the Northern Peninsula, as the Opposition Leader, and told the individuals in the districts up there: No longer will you be up to your knees or up to your waist in a make-work program in the middle of the winter, in snow, if I am elected and this government is elected.

What do you see happening on the Northern Peninsula? Where is the economic growth on the Northern Peninsula? Is it in Raleigh? Is it in Englee? Is it in New Ferolle? Where is the new economic growth? I will tell you, there isn't any. The sad thing about that, Mr. Speaker, is that the most vocal advocate for the rights of rural Newfoundlanders and the people living on the Northern Peninsula has been silenced. I think we all know who I am talking about. We are talking about the past Mayor of Bird Cove, Augustine Rumbolt, who, any time we were in government - and I met her many times - she used to look at me and say: Gerry Reid, if you don't do anything for us we are getting our bulldozer - because she was the mayor - or a front-end loader and we will dig up the Northern Peninsula Highway. Where is she, Mr. Speaker? Where is that strong voice that resonated from the West Coast, the Nor'West Coast? Where is it today? Where is that voice? She left. She is working in Fort McMurray. That is where she is, and blamed the provincial government for having forced her to leave.

Mr. Speaker, we can talk about Labrador. There are bright spots in the Member for Torngat's district; one in particular is Voisey's Bay. I heard it mentioned in the Throne Speech today, how that was going to contribute to our economy this year. That speech was prepared by a government, members of which, when they sat over here, said there were more loopholes in that, and more off-ramps than there are on the 401 in Toronto, and if they became government they would scrap that deal. Well, we have not heard anything about Voisey's Bay since then, only on a positive note.

What is happening in Goose Bay? Where are the commitments? I am not blaming the individuals opposite for this, but where are the 600 troops that the federal government promised in the last election? I was expecting to see in months, in the first couple of months, 600 paratroopers land in Goose Bay. Again, nothing has happened.

If you go to the South Coast of Labrador, you certainly do not have employment levels in southern Labrador in the industry, the only industry that they have, in the fishery, that they had four years ago. In fact, last year up there, those involved in the fishery - a lot of them, plant workers - had to rely on make-work programs so that they could get their EI to take them through the winter. In Lab West, I am glad to hear today, it looks like they have a tentative agreement and that the people there will be going back in the mine and mill there. I am happy to hear that, but none of us can take credit for that, Mr. Speaker. That mine and that mill were built long before some of our times, long before any of us in this House of Assembly became members.

Mr. Speaker, what I am saying is that we hear these speeches but do we see the fruits of these speeches? If I sound a little cynical, someone has to because someone has to speak for the people of the rural parts of this Province, rural Newfoundland and Labrador. We cannot be left with the impression that everything is fine as it is in Topsail district.

Mr. Speaker, there is an attitude that I have noticed lately that is permeating society on the Northeast Avalon. It was brought to the front last week by a political pundit on the CBC Morning Show. That individual talked about: Let's forget rural Newfoundland and Labrador. Let's not fool ourselves. There is nothing that can be done to save it. Don't invest in infrastructure, don't invest in highways, don't invest in water and sewer, don't invest in any infrastructure that is going to keep them there.

That individual said there is only one thing that we should do for people who live in rural Newfoundland and Labrador: give them a good education so that they can leave it.

That is a sad scenario and I hear more and more of that, Mr. Speaker.

As I have said in this House many times, it reminds me of a novel, A Tale of Two Cities. Many of you have read that, a Charles Dickens novel that was written shortly after the French Revolution, in which he compared the lifestyle of London, England, to the lifestyle in Paris, France, during the French Revolution. That is what I see unfolding in this Province. There is A Tale of Two Cities. We have, on the Northeast Avalon, an economy that is growing. Our numbers, I say to the Member for Topsail, our population increase, is not as large as you think it is. In fact, I think if you look at the last census you might even notice that even a city like Mount Pearl has shown a drop in population and that St. John's is stagnant. While you might see a population increase in that other city called rural Newfoundland and Labrador, none of them have seen it. On the contrary. To hear individuals talking about there is no reason for rural Newfoundland and Labrador to exist is a sad scenario.

You keep talking about what you are doing for it. You are talking about the investments that you are making, and the employment that you are increasing in there, but me, personally, representing Twillingate & Fogo district, soon to be the Isles of Notre Dame - great name, four islands on the Northeast Coast of this Province that is composed of thirty-nine communities. We do not see the growth in the economy. We do not see an increase in our population. We do not see the need to build new schools because we have more youth coming to them, I say to the Member for Topsail. In fact, we see the exact opposite. We see people leaving on a daily basis. We have seen schools close. We have seen hospitals partially open. We have seen highway depots close in the summertime. We have seen courthouses close. We have seen as much as the social services office close. So when I talk about the tale of two cities, that is what I mean.

Mr. Speaker, while I know that sounds negative, someone needs to put forward that side of the story, because if you listen to Throne Speeches you would certainly believe that everything is rosy in this Province, but it is my sense that rosy Province they are talking about is on the east side of the overpass here.

Mr. Speaker, we will have lots of time and lots of opportunity to debate this as we get into the Budget Speech tomorrow and we resume our normal proceedings next week. I would just, again, like to thank His Honour the Lieutenant Governor for gracing us with his presence today and reading the Throne Speech.

Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

It is a real pleasure and an honour for me today to be speaking to the motion before the House to draft the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne. It is an honour because it is my first time as Leader of the NDP doing this and as Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi; not my first time listening to a Speech from the Throne, but it is my first time getting an opportunity to be involved in the discussion and that is the honour.

I would like to thank the Lieutenant Governor, in his absence, for delivering the speech and for being with us today. I would like to welcome our guests on the floor, all our dignitaries, our guests in the Speaker's gallery and those in the public galleries. Because it is my first day back in the House for a while, I would like to welcome my five new colleagues. I will not say all your names, we all know who you are. It is very nice to have you here with us.

Speeches from the Throne are very interesting, as my colleague, the Leader of the Liberal Party, has indicated. They are visionary, and they should be visionary, but they also should indicate to us action. We should be able to look at the Speech from the Throne and in two days time, for example, when we hear our Budget, see a Budget that flows from the Speech from the Throne. I have some hopes that will happen, I have some fears that it will not. Maybe we will all have our own interpretations of whether or not the Budget actually flows from the Speech from the Throne because we may have different interpretations of what is in the Speech from the Throne.

I would like to just take a couple of examples. For example, in the section Investing in Personal Self-reliance, the Lieutenant Governor, on behalf of the government, says, "...this year's Budget, will build on the initial annualized commitment of $64 million to provide new opportunities for citizens to achieve a higher standard of living and a greater degree of self-reliance." I applaud the government's vision of self-reliance. It is something that I have believed in for an awful long time in my life.

The vision of self-reliance and self-sufficiency is a wonderful vision, but when in the Speech from the Throne - the government's Budget has said that it will bring a greater degree of self-reliance because of the Poverty Reduction Strategy. I say: Well, what will bring self-reliance to people who are living in poverty? The answer that comes to me is greater income, having more money in their hands, so that they have a freedom to make choices that we take for granted. I say we deliberately, because those of us in this room do take for granted the privilege of having adequate money to live on. I read that and I say: Oh, good, this must mean that the Budget is going to deal with minimum wage and we are going to see a plan to increase the minimum wage more quickly. Well, I will find out on Thursday whether or not that is true. If it isn't, it is because the government and I may have a different definition of what self-reliance is for people who are living in poverty. That is what happens when we read the Speech from the Throne and build up our expectations because we are reading the Speech from the Throne coming out of the lenses that each individual is wearing, and those lenses say something quite differently.

Another example. Again, I do not know what it means, and I hope it would mean what I think it means. This had to do with seniors. It says here, "It is My Government's conviction that seniors should be able to retain their independence to the greatest extent possible. Recognizing seniors require various degrees of care, My Government will move ahead strategically to establish and maintain long-term care facilities where our seniors can find the supportive care they need in a welcoming environment."

Now, coming out of my own personal experience and my own interpretation of that, I am saying: Well, if seniors are going to be able to retain their independence to the greatest degree possible, does this mean that the long-term care facilities are going to become the centres from which a massive home-care program is going to be developed so that seniors can live and die in their own homes? That is my interpretation of this. I have to wait until Thursday to find out what the government's interpretation is, and if the government does not interpret these two examples, for example, the way I am, then in the discussion of the Budget I will have my opportunity to speak to that. This is what we have to be aware of when we listen to the Speech from the Throne. It is visionary and it may build up expectations, and we have to be ready for those expectations not to be met when we hear the Budget.

What I would like to do today is take the short time that I am going to take - I will try not to be too long - to share a bit of what my vision is when I hear the words self-reliance and self-sufficiency. What does that mean to me and what does that mean to the party that I represent? Well, again, I am going to call on my own life experience. I think it is where we should always start from.

I have a strong background, as I have said many times in the House now - even though it has been a short time, I still have said this many times - I have a background in community economic development. That is where I come from, as an educator and as a person who has done community economic development with many communities in Newfoundland and Labrador, and communities which are communities within larger urban communities and communities which were rural communities. When I think of sustainable development - and I am really glad to see that the Speech from the Throne says we are going to have a sustainable development act to discuss. When I hear the words sustainable development, and when I hear the words self-reliance and self-sufficiency, what I come out with is: How do we help communities, not just individuals, but how do we help communities work together to create growth within their communities based on the needs of the communities? We have some tremendous examples in Newfoundland and Labrador of that, some of them are older and some are newer.

I do not know how many will remember in the House, but what happened on Fogo Island many years ago, over thirty years ago when they formed the Fogo Cooperative? It became the life of the island. It created an industry that helped everybody on that island, both harvesters and plant workers in the fishery industry. It was a tremendous effort that went on to form that co-operative. It was a community economic development effort, which means more than just putting economic things in place. It means a whole process of the community working together in coming up with their economic development.

We had some wonderful things going on in Newfoundland and Labrador in the 1970s and 1980s that helped communities like Fogo Island and all the communities on the island, that helped a community like Bell Island, that helped a community like filmmakers, because they are a community, when they formed NIFCO, the Newfoundland Independent Filmmakers Co-operative.

What did we have here that we do not have now? We had a belief in this Province, and that belief was based in our post-secondary institution. It was based in government. It was based in non-governmental organizations. We had a belief that small is beautiful. A lot of us were trained out of a mentality that came from the theories of E.F. Schumacher and George McRobie from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s that small is beautiful. We believed that resources should be put into working with people, so that when I went, for example, to Bell Island and worked with Bell Islanders on their community economic development, and when they formed their community development co-operative which created small industries and jobs on the island, I did that because there was an agency paying for me to go work with them. The people knew on Bell Island that they could come to the agency I worked for, they could go to MUN extension, they could go to rural development, the rural development department of the government, and there were actually people trained to work with the communities in doing their process. It was not automatic. It was not magical. It was not, oh, it just rose up. A lot of hard work has to go into community economic development.

When I see the government saying that they are really committed to self-sufficiency, that they are committed to self-reliance, and they are saying in the vision paper that they are committed to developing rural Newfoundland, I would have to agree with my colleague again, the Leader of the Liberals, that I think we are in a desperate strait in this Province when it comes to the life of rural Newfoundland.

Well, if we say we are committed to that, and if the visionary paper is saying that, then I am expecting to see millions of dollars going into having resources to help communities develop their ideas, to help them develop not just the economy of the ideas but being able to work together, learn the skills together, of how you can make small is beautiful work. Because, Members of the House, small is beautiful does work and there are examples all over the world where small is beautiful works, in rural communities, in urban communities.

Last week there was a meeting of the Community Economic Development Network of Canada. Once upon a time I was a member of that network, and some of my colleagues called me and I went down to the Delta just to socialize with them. I got so excited being there with them, because I remembered all of the great things that I had been a part of over the years in working with community groups, and here were my former colleagues still doing that work, a lot of them still doing it for a pittance, because you do not earn a lot of money doing that work, some of them working for governments, most of them working for non-governmental agencies, but immersed in working with community groups in urban and rural settings.

As we continue this discussion, and there will be a lot of discussion going on around this, I think we do have to look at: What are things that work? We do not have to invent something new. There are all kinds of examples from the past and the present of what can be done. I appreciate that we need the oil and gas industry, and I appreciate that we need the exploitation of minerals, and certainly that is where large income is going to come from, for this Province, so that the Province has money to go into small is beautiful. I appreciate all of that; however, for me, my vision of Newfoundland and Labrador is not because of the oil industry, you know, huge buildings in the heart of St. John's, skyscrapers in the heart of St. John's. I hope nobody has that vision, but that is something that goes with the oil and gas industry. It is flashy. Small is beautiful is not flashy. That is the thing, it is not flashy. It does not look spectacular.

I was talking to somebody the other day from a community in Trinity Bay and he was saying to me that he is coming up with a whole lot of ideas of things that could happen in his community. He is talking to somebody who is in the town council about it, and some people are saying to him: You are only talking about four or five jobs here, four of five jobs there. He said to me: But, if twenty of these projects happen, four or five jobs becomes eighty to a hundred jobs in this community for whom eighty to a hundred jobs is really, really significant.

For me, the vision is wonderful. I notice that the Speech from the Throne also talks about a vision of us working together, and I want us to work together. I would really invite the government to look at the skills that we all have in this room and, as the government moves forward in looking at some of the ideas it has here, I would hope that it would enlist the participation of people on this side of the House in exploring the ideas, because a lot of us on this side of the House have quite a bit of experience around doing the kind of work that I am referring to. I am not the only one, my colleague to my left is one who has similar experience. So don't waste us, don't have us just standing up here at Question Period shouting at one another, and sitting and talking to empty walls when we are discussing bills. Use our expertise. I think if we started working together on some of the projects then perhaps we would not have to shout as much at each other when we are here in this Chamber.

Mr. Speaker, thank you very much for the opportunity for my first response - and I emphasize first - to a Speech from the Throne. I plan on there being many more.

Thank you so much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, hon. members, guests in the House of Assembly, and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador who are at home viewing us today.

First of all, I rise this afternoon to thank His Honour the Lieutenant Governor for his usual impassioned and eloquent delivery of the government Throne Speech today. This, of course, marks his final Speech from the Throne and I would like to thank him and congratulate both he and Mrs. Roberts on their exemplary service as representatives of the Crown of Newfoundland and Labrador and for, in fact, bringing the people to Government House, which they have done so very well.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: I want to extend my personal thanks to the mover of the motion to draft an Address in Reply, the Member for Topsail, and the seconder, the Member for Kilbride. These two individuals are representative of all members of this hon. House who work tirelessly, tenaciously and effectively on behalf of their constituents.

I want to thank the Leader of the New Democratic Party for her gracious and constructive remarks, and I welcome your invitation to co-operate. As you are aware, your predecessor and also the former Member for Labrador West made constructive commentary, asked good questions in this House, made suggestions to this government from time to time, and I am sure they would acknowledge that we have delivered on a lot of those suggestions.

I would also like to thank the Leader of the Opposition for his comments. He and his colleagues in the Opposition have a very valuable role to play in this House. While I do not share his bleak outlook, I do acknowledge that we will all get the opportunity to place our views before the people prior to October 9, our first ever fixed date election. As always, the people will decide their own course.

It was negativity that got us where we were when people took a closer look at the government of Mr. Reid the last time around.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, I can assure you that it will be a positive attitude and optimism that will carry us forward from here.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, let me begin, as His Honour did, by paying tribute to our fallen soldiers and all others who serve their country so bravely. They are bringing opportunities for peace and freedom to the people of Afghanistan and elsewhere. As heroes and role models to us all, our sons and daughters in the Forces are protecting our freedom and our security here at home. We truly celebrate their courage and will always remember the priceless sacrifices that they make.

Mr. Speaker, the key theme of this year's Throne Speech is our desire and determination to "...achieve self-reliance by becoming masters of our own..." destiny.

I am inspired by the words of William Jennings Bryan who said, "Destiny is not a matter of chance; but a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved." And we are on our way, Mr. Speaker, to achieving that destiny. In the past three-and-a-half years we have made extraordinary progress in this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, we have taken what were projected to be billion dollar deficits and we have become a Province with three surplus budgets in a row. This has not happened magically or without hard work. It has been the direct result of tough negotiations with the federal government on oil and gas revenues, health care, and equalization. It has been the result of responsible, fiscal management after years of disgraceful mismanagement, and it has been the result of putting our revenues to work in strategic and meaningful ways.

At the core of our success is our new confidence and, more importantly, our new attitude. Our people are tired of having bad policies and bad deals, and we are tired of others criticizing us for standing up for what we deserve, for trying to work to protect what we have worked so hard to accomplish.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: We are tired of being criticized for demanding that we are given what we have been promised. I will never apologize for defending our rights, for protecting what we have fought for and for demanding that promises be kept. That is what the fine people of this Province want us to do and that is why they have instilled confidence in our government.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: We are not prepared to tolerate a future of relying on others economically or having others manipulate us into selling ourselves short on resource benefits because we have all seen where that leads. Our people have learned that the best way to achieve self-reliance economically is to achieve self-reliance politically, by taking charge of our future as a people. I do not mean this in any separatist way. People should not read anything into that, because we are all strong nationalists and we are proud Canadians.

Political self-reliance simply means that we cannot rely upon those elected to offices outside of this Province to deliver what is in our own best interest. We must achieve that on our own. Self-reliance will not come by depending on others to achieve it for us. That is a lesson we have learned year after year, generation after generation. So we will harness the desire among Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to cultivate greater political, financial and moral autonomy vis-B-vis Ottawa. As a distinct people and as equal partners, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal together, we will write a new future for Newfoundland and Labrador; a future of our own design, where mutual understanding, justice, equality, fairness and co-operation are the order of the day.

As the Throne Speech states, we will define our own future. We will strengthen our financial autonomy and our fiscal capacity to meet our own obligations by diversifying and growing our own economy; by reducing Newfoundland and Labrador's burden of debt on our children; by pursuing a fair, fiscal balance between levels of government and by reducing our dependence on equalization payments.

We now have the ability to aspire to something better for Newfoundland and Labrador. We have the natural resources. We have the human resources and the opportunities that will enable us to achieve self-reliance on our own steam and on our own terms. Even though the federal government will not assist in the way they promised, we will continue to put the resource revenues we are permitted to keep to work for our people.

The truth is, that despite the federal government, never before have we been in a position of such strength. Revenues are strong. Our fiscal position is strong. Our record of expenditure growth has been responsible and strategic. Our standing before our credit rating agencies has never been better. Our resource portfolio is increasingly strong and very attractive to investors, and our collective political will as a people has never been stronger.

We have the financial leverage to accomplish things that are in our Province's best interest and the fiscal means to stand firm before those who are pressuring us to sell ourselves short. We are negotiating from a position of strength. We can afford to say no to bad deals and hold out for agreements that will result in long-term gain for our Province, not just short-term band-aid solutions, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: We will proceed responsibly from a position of strength to develop our tremendous opportunities for economic growth in the best interest of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. From the Lower Churchill to Hebron-Ben Nevis, from tourism to our cultural industries, from mining and the fishery to agrifoods, we have the opportunities before us to provide the economic foundation for a sustainable self-reliant future.

Our government's approach has always been responsible and accountable and transparent. We have always said that the way forward involves doing a better job of putting our Province's strengths to work in bolder more strategic and more innovative ways for the principal benefit of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

Our unyielding commitment was to advance both economic growth and social justice, the two pillars of a stable society. We have always said that to secure social programs we would need to generate sustainable revenues through economic growth. We have successfully brought all these elements together and harnessed them in a single coordinated effort to get our economy's engine churning. We did not promise overnight miracles and we still face challenges together, but the foundation has been laid and the confidence throughout the Province is palpable; you can feel it, you can sense it, you can see it. We have accomplished that through strategic planning.

From the outset, we knew we would first have to understand each economic sector's circumstances and opportunities and disadvantages individually. So, sector by sector, we brought together knowledgeable people and developed sector-based action strategies with a thorough understanding of the challenges and a solid grasp of the opportunities and how best to tap into them. This is a comprehensive approach to mastering Newfoundland and Labrador's destiny and it is an approach, Mr. Speaker, that works.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Together, all of the initiatives outlined in today's Throne Speech and complemented by past and future initiatives are positioning us to take advantage of unprecedented economic growth opportunities. We are charting our own course as masters of our own destiny. We are not relying on others to make the choices for us. Our future is ours to determine, and we will move ahead accordingly. That does not mean we are going to sit back and let Ottawa off the hook for its responsibilities and obligations, whether constitutional or moral. I think we all know that I am very, very disappointed in our Prime Minister. Politically and philosophically he led us all to believe that he was in favour of enabling provinces to stand on their strengths. Indeed, I am convinced he truly did believe this until the quest for votes got in his way. I believe he needs to do some soul-searching and find his way back to his philosophical roots. Surely he remembers Ottawa's national energy program in the 1970s, and how angry it made Albertans to see federal policies work against the province instead of for it. You would think that he, of all people, would see the parallels between Alberta in the 1970s and our Province right now; except, of course, our Province only has seven seats in the House of Commons.

He repeatedly promised in writing to remove all non-renewable resource revenues from the equalization calculation. That would have enabled us to convert all such revenues into growth initiatives such as debt reduction, infrastructure development, innovation, social measures, diversification measures, and to reach a new plateau economically, fiscally and socially.

He said he believed leaving those revenues with the provinces would enable us to attain true self-reliance over the long term. Instead, he broke his promise. He made significant amendments to our existing Accord, and allowed his Department of Finance to provide incorrect and misleading information to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, this is conduct unbecoming a Prime Minister of this great country.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Now, Mr. Speaker, faced with the breach of his trust we must, as a Province, make the decision to move on boldly and confidently in the absence of what Prime Minister Harper promised us. We will make investments into our own future and move boldly ahead with some wonderful initiatives in our upcoming Budget in just a few days. In the meantime we will take the initiative on our own, as masters of our own house and our own destiny, and we will use every tool and opportunity at our disposal to nurture success in our communities.

We are excited about opportunities not only in oil, gas and hydro, but in mining, the fishery, aquaculture, tourism, cultural industry development, innovation, et cetera, region by region, sector by sector, large and small, all of them contributing to growth and optimism.

Even in anticipation of economic growth we have invested in stronger social programs and social justice initiatives. We are continuing to make major investments in health care services, including increased access to medications. We are leading the country with our Poverty Reduction Strategy, and continuing to strengthen our police forces and justice system.

We are investing in education and training for young and old alike. We are taking seriously the challenges faced by post-secondary students and we are growing our reputation as an innovative and technologically advanced society.

Mr. Speaker, mastering our own house means working together as a people. We are prepared to work together as one team - government, communities, business, labour, our volunteer sector, students, seniors - all of us pulling in the same direction and co-operating for success. That does not mean that we will not disagree on the details from time to time, but on the fundamentals of putting our strengths to work to achieve self-reliance we must be united.

As a government, we have built a strong record of progress over the past four years in laying a solid foundation to build upon. More will soon be unveiled in our Budget 2007. This fall we will stand before the people of the Province and ask for their support and participation as we work to build on the foundation that we have laid over the last four years.

Mr. Speaker, these are exciting times in our Province, and we are moving in the right direction. There are only two paths to choose: backward to decline or forward to self-reliance, and the choice could not be clearer. In the words of George Bernard Shaw: People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. The people who get on in this world are those who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can't find them, make them.

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are people who will make these opportunities, and this government will make them happen, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that a Select Committee be struck to draft an Address of Thanks to 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 Topsail, the mover of the motion; the Member for Ferryland, the seconder of the motion; and the Member for Humber Valley.

All those in favour, ‘aye'.


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

The motion is carried.

Motion carried.

Notices of Motion

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I give notice that I will move the following motion: That this House approve, in general, the budgetary policy of the government.

I further give notice that I will move that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole on Supply to consider certain resolutions for the granting of Supply to Her Majesty, Bill 2.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Under rule 63, notice must be given on a Monday, actually, for the private member's motion, but given that this is the commencement of a new session I have spoken with the Government House Leader and we have agreed that it be given today, Tuesday, for private member's motion tomorrow by the Opposition. That motion will now be given by the Member for Grand Bank.

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair understands that leave has been granted under the circumstances.

MR. RIDEOUT: Agreed, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Grand Bank.

MS FOOTE: Mr. Speaker, I move the following motion, seconded by the Member for Fortune Bay-Cape la Hune.

WHEREAS many municipalities in this Province are currently experiencing severe financial difficulties; and

WHEREAS many young people have already left rural communities and out-migration from the Province has increased by thousands this past year; and

WHEREAS the unemployment rate in many communities is at an unacceptable level; and

WHEREAS the present government has taken action which hurts the economy of rural areas of this Province; and

WHEREAS despite the promises made during the last election the current government has not taken the actions necessary to deal with the immediate crisis which exists in rural parts of this Province; and

WHEREAS the situation in many parts of this Province could get even worse as a result of an expanding crisis in the fishery;

BE IT RESOLVED that this House of Assembly condemns government on its failure to deliver any comprehensive actions to deal with the crisis situation in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I move that the House now adjourn until tomorrow, Wednesday, at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that this House do now adjourn until tomorrow, Wednesday, at 2:00 o'clock in the afternoon.

Is it the pleasure of the House that this House adopt that motion?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.


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

The motion is carried.

This House now stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2:00 o'clock in the afternoon.

I invite members of the House and our guests in the various galleries to join us for a short reception in the lobby.

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