The House met at 1:30 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Hodder): Order, please!

Admit strangers.

Statements by Members

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

This afternoon we have members' statements as follows: the hon. the Member for the District of Topsail; the hon. the Member for the District of Port de Grave; the hon. the Member for the District of Windsor-Springdale; the hon. the Member for the District of Burgeo & LaPoile; the hon. the Member for the District of Exploits; and the hon. the Member for the District of Grand Falls-Buchans.

The Chair recognizes the Member for the District of Topsail.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I rise in the House today to recognize an outstanding young athlete from the District of Topsail. Ms Deborah Doyle is a twelve-year-old Second Degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do from Paradise who recently won a gold and silver medal at the U.S. Open Tae Kwon Do Championships in Orlando, Florida, this past February. Deborah competed in both Poomsae (forms) and Sparring - taking a gold medal in Poomsae and a silver in Sparring in her weight class.

Deborah is a student of the Newfoundland and Labrador Tae Kwon Do Academy and at the age of eight became the youngest certified female black belt in North America. She is also a multi-time Canadian junior champion and a two-time recipient of the Premier's Athletic Award.

As a member of the provincial team, Deborah consistently excelled with every challenge she has faced in the sport of Tae Kwon Do. Her accomplishments have demonstrated her commitment to her sport and highlight the incredible talent we have available in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, I ask this hon. House to join me in congratulating Ms Deborah Doyle on her outstanding athletic achievements to date, and in particular her gold and silver medal performances in the sport of Tae Kwon Do.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. BUTLER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise in this House today to extend congratulations to School Council President Denise Pike, who received the first Patricia Cowan Award. She became the first to accept the honour recently during the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers' Association biannual convention.

Mr. Speaker, named in honour of the NLTA's first and only female president, the Patricia Cowan Award was launched this year to recognize individuals and groups outside the K-12 school system for their outstanding support and promotion of education.

Denise has consistently been a champion for the cause of public education in Newfoundland and Labrador since the late 1990s, advocating tirelessly for the necessary resources, personnel and supports for the Province's K-12 education system, widely accepted by the media and public as the voice of parents on matters affecting K-12 education.

Mr. Speaker, long after she winds up her third and final term as President of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of School Councils at the end of this month, Denise will have plenty of reminders of her contributions to the cause of education in our Province. The latest one hangs on the living room wall of her New Harbour home. It is a reproduction of a painting by Ian Sparkes, appropriately called The New School. It was created exclusively to represent the Patricia Cowan Award.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this House to join with me in extending congratulations to Denise Pike, the first recipient of the Patricia Cowan Award.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Windsor-Springdale.

MR. HUNTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, hon. colleagues, I rise before this House today to congratulate Dorset Collegiate of Pilley's Island for being named the top school in Atlantic Canada by the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS). The school was the only school in Atlantic Canada to score an A.

I have had the pleasure of attending several of the projects prepared by Dorset Collegiate, their teachers and students. It is rare today to see young people take such pride in all they do regarding education. I think the teachers play a large part in keeping the excitement in learning experiences. I believe their motto, Keepers of Excellence, says it all.

I would like to thank the teachers, staff and students of Dorset Collegiate for a job well done. Once again, the most important people in our future, our youth who live in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, have come up on top.

My hon. colleagues, please join me in congratulating Dorset Collegiate for their outstanding performance and a well-deserved Grade A.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Burgeo & LaPoile.

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to congratulate Joe Lane, a Port aux Basques native who was honoured with the Royal Bank of Canada Hockey Leader Award recently. This is the fourth year for the Royal Bank of Canada Hockey Leadership Program. Winners are chosen based on guidelines that include dedication, leadership, commitment and impact on hockey and hockey players in their community.

The selection panel includes: Hockey Hall of Fame Director of Public Affairs, Ron Ellis; Chair of the Board of Hockey Canada, René Marcil; and 2006 Olympic gold medalists Jennifer Botterill and Jean Labonte.

Mr. Speaker, Joe Lane is the President of the Port aux Basques Minor Hockey Association, President of the Port aux Basques Referee Association, Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador referee instructor and supervisor for Port aux Basques, as well as coach of the local Bantam team. Mr. Lane was chosen as one of thirteen winning volunteers, out of more than 1,000 nominees from across the country. The win is also good news for the local Port aux Basques Minor Hockey Association, which will receive $10,000 in his name. He was also the recipient of a Merit Award from Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador for outstanding service to minor hockey in June of last year.

Mr. Speaker, winners receive special recognition in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, a signed Team Canada jersey and get to attend a special ceremony at the Hockey Hall of Fame unveiling a display honouring the 2006-2007 Leaders of Hockey in Toronto later this year. A banner recognizing this achievement will also be raised in the Bruce II Sports Centre at Port aux Basques.

I ask all member of this House to join with me in congratulating Joe Lane who has been honoured with the Royal Bank of Canada Hockey Leader Award.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of Exploits.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FORSEY: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the accomplishments of the participants at the forty-fourth Annual Fourth Degree Provincial High School Speak-off hosted by the Knights of Columbus of Bishop's Falls in the District of Exploits, which I had the pleasure of attending.

Mr. Speaker, these seven young men and women participated in the local competitions and advanced to the regionals, from there each one earned the right to represent their region at the provincials, which were held this past weekend on Saturday, April 28.

Mr. Speaker, these competitions provide a venue for our students to improve their communication skills and build self-confidence. Each participant is afforded the opportunity to speak on a topic of their choice. Although all seven students have the skills and talent to represent this Province, it was Katie Phillips of Blaketown who was judged as the provincial winner for 2007.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this House to join me in congratulating these young men and women on their performances.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Grand Falls-Buchans.

MS THISTLE: Mr. Speaker, over one million young musicians have taken part in 240 music festivals across Canada this past month. Today in this House I extend congratulations to 6,000 talented Central Newfoundland students, who participated in the forty-second annual Kiwanis Music Festival in Grand Falls-Windsor in March.

Mr. Speaker, it was a week of music and song as the area's young people participated in a number of voice, instrumental and speech competitions throughout the community.

Awards were presented to the participants during the closing ceremonies with Adriaan Mulder of Grand Falls-Windsor accepting the Bernice Edwards Memorial Award for best piano performance of the festival. As well, Adriaan was presented with the Cater Memorial Rose Bowl Award for the best solo performance senior competition, fifteen years and over.

Margaret Barker received the Effie Pike Memorial Award for the best performance in solo speech. Amanda Goulding received the Hennessy Memorial Rose Bowl Award for the best solo performance junior competition, fourteen years and under. Laura Woodworth received the Laura Blackmore Award for the best solo performance in Newfoundland music. The Maple Buds Choir under the direction of Mike Snelgrove was the recipient of the Bruce Reid Memorial Award for the best performance by a choir.

Mr. Speaker, during the closing ceremonies, Kiwanis Club president, Mike Mackey, thanked the community for their support of the event over the past forty-two years. He also threw a big bouquet to festival chairman, Walwin Blackmore, for his wonderful leadership during the festival, as was seen throughout the week.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this hon. House to join with me in extending congratulations to all participants and organizers of the forty-second annual Kiwanis Music Festival in Grand Falls-Windsor.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Before the Speaker calls Statements by Ministers, I have been advised that the former member for Fogo, Sam Winsor, is in the gallery and we welcome him to our House.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Statements by Ministers.

Statements by Ministers

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to inform my hon. colleagues that Mr. Haseen Khan, and Dr. Amir Ali Khan, water resource managers with the Department of Environment and Conservation, are participating in a European Space Agency Tiger Project from April 28 to May 9 in Egypt. They are joined by Mr. Thomas Puestow, C-CORE senior manager.

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Haseen Khan has worked in the department over fifteen years and has managed a number of water resource programs. He visited Russia in 1998 and Egypt last year as a part of a Canadian delegation on environmental governance capacity building. In February, he travelled to Belgium on an invitation from NATO under its Science for Peace Project.

Dr. Amir Ali Khan joined the department in 2000 and has been heavily involved in the application of geographic information system and remote sensing in water resources management. He has presented information about the Badger River ice monitoring service in England and Italy, and visited Egypt last year, in December, as part of a NATO Science for Peace Project.

Mr. Speaker, both gentlemen are recipients of the Public Service Award For Excellence.

Mr. Thomas Puestow has worked on a number of international projects in the area of satellite monitoring. His company, C-CORE, is a Newfoundland and Labrador corporation that provides worldwide innovative engineering services. It focuses on commercial research and development to increase operational efficiency and safety while reducing costs. C-CORE's investment in developing satellite surveillance expertise is placing Newfoundland and Labrador at the centre of several significant international programs.

Mr. Speaker, these three gentlemen will undertake field work, offering training courses to Egyptian participants, and share expertise in the application of satellite technology for water resources management in Africa. This is a water resources design capacity building project with the main objective to design, develop, and implement an earth observation-based capacity for the operational monitoring of water quality in Lake Manzalah, Egypt. Lakes are a precious source of fresh water in Egypt, and the use of lake water must be carefully managed to satisfy a variety of different, and often competing, domestic, agricultural and industrial uses.

The invitation to participate in a European Space Agency Tiger Project highlights the strong expertise in this department and is another illustration of government's success in using innovative technologies.

Mr. Speaker, I am confident that these individuals will provide valuable information and represent our department and Province well.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BARRETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I thank the minister for an advance copy of his statement. I, too, would like to congratulate the individuals involved in this worthwhile project, in terms of travelling to the developing countries and assisting in the water projects. I think it is great that we are able to share our expertise, and it is also nice to know that this expertise was built up under the previous Liberal government and now we are willing to share it with the rest of the world. I want to congratulate the former Ministers of Environment in terms of being able to attract these qualified people to our Province to share our valuable resources.

Thank you very much.

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I thank the minister for the prior copy of his statement.

I, too, am very happy to congratulate the individuals named in the minister's statement, and it is really wonderful to know that we have this expertise in the department and in this Province. I would hope, though, that this will also reflect the high priority in the department with regard to ensuring our rivers are protected from industrial pollution. We have had some decisions over the past couple of years that I know personally I have not been pleased with, like Trout Lake, so I hope that, with the expertise we have, we can stop pollution in our lakes and rivers and that our water quality monitoring will be adequately resourced.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Human Resources, Labour and Employment.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SKINNER: Mr. Speaker, on Saturday, April 28, government recognized National Day of Mourning by laying wreaths at a ceremony held here at Confederation Building.

National Day of Mourning is recognized across Canada as a day of remembrance for workers who have been killed or injured on the job. In 1984, the Canadian Labour Congress initiated Day of Mourning. In 1991, it was declared a National Day of Mourning at the federal government level.

In 1992, Mr. Jack Harris, the former Leader of the New Democratic Party and the Member for the District of Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi, provided the leadership in this House to ensure that National Day of Mourning was formally recognized and observed in our Province. Since its early beginnings in Canada, it is now observed in about 100 countries in the world.

Saturday was a solemn occasion when our thoughts turned to be with the families of those workers who have been killed on the job. In 2006, there were eighteen fatalities reported in Newfoundland and Labrador, in which eight were due to incidents in the workplace and ten were as a result of industrial disease.

While progress is being made to improve conditions in the workplace and prevent further tragedy, we still need to recognize that this task is not yet complete and that more work has to be done.

We must be vigilant and make certain that the health and safety of people in the workplace is not compromised or undermined. Safety on the job must be the number one priority.

Employers and workers, along with the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission, and the Occupational Health and Safety Division of Government Services must continue to work together to ensure our workplaces are safe, maintain a strong focus on prevention, and reduce the number of work-related fatalities.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this hon. House to stand and observe a moment of silence and remember those who are no longer with us as a result of a workplace incident, and reflect on the importance to continue to work for a day when every workplace is safe.

[A moment of silence is observed]

MR. SKINNER: Thank you.

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

MR. BUTLER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to thank the minister for an advance copy of his statement, and to say that it was an honour to represent our leader and our party at this ceremony on Saturday past, and to join the minister and the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi and various councils, unions and other organizations, during this solemn ceremony to pay tribute to those who have lost their lives on the job as well as those who have been injured.

I guess I agree with the minister when he said that it was a solemn occasion, in particular when the people there remembered all those who lost their lives during the Ocean Ranger disaster, and to say that eight people died this year from incidents in the workplace as well as ten others through industrial diseases.

We know that progress has been made, Mr. Speaker, but we, too, would encourage each and every individual to keep working so that the workplace will become a totally safe place.

Mr. Speaker, being a former contractor and an employee both in this Province and outside, I know full well what it is to see the dangers that sometimes our employees are encountered with, and we hope that the day will come when prevention will be the way that we will go, so that the workplace will be totally safe.

I want to say to all employers and employees, to the Workplace Health and Safety Commission and the Occupational Health and Safety, may we all continue to work together to see that happens.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


I, too, thank the minister for the advance copy of his statement.

I was quite impressed - and when I say impressed, I mean in a bit of a sad way - on Saturday with the increase in the number of people attending the event, because it was obvious to me that there were more families there. I guess as we have more workers die in our workplace - we have one of the highest rates right now in the country - we are going to see more families attending. I would like to see the day when people are attending, but not because of new deaths; that we can bring these numbers down.

While the minister does call upon employers and workers and the agencies of government, I think the administration of government and his department have a real responsibility to ensure that more measures are put in place, because I think consultations have shown that there are more measures that are needed in order to reduce the number of deaths in our Province in the workplace.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers?

Oral Questions.

Oral Questions

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

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, it now appears that the sale of FPI is just about complete, and in the coming weeks we will be asked to make amendments to, or abolish, the FPI Act. There are many questions that will be asked by the Opposition, and many questions that we certainly would like to hear the answers to, or about, before this actually becomes a done deal.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Fisheries is on public record stating that any sale of FPI would be contingent upon the quotas held by FPI becoming the property of the provincial government.

Can the minister tell us today if, in fact, the Province will own FPI's quotas?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, first of all, let me thank the Leader of the Opposition for his question.

We are aware, of course, that there are negotiations continuing between FPI and certain parties as to what may lead to a sale of assets, or certain assets, of FPI. I cannot confirm that these matters have been concluded at this point in time, but I do know that they are ongoing.

As far as quotas are concerned, Mr. Speaker, the Premier and myself, speaking for the government, both of us, on more than one occasion over the last several weeks, have made it absolutely and abundantly clear to anybody who has an ear to listen that if there is, if government is at all to consider any closure, with government approval, of a sale of assets of Fishery Products International Limited, then the quotas and the licences associated with FPI must rest with the Province or some arm of the Province in some form or other. That is a precondition to this sale, if it goes ahead, been finalized, and it is one that is absolute and one that the government is absolutely committed to, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. REID: I thank the minister for his answer, but it raises a few extra questions.

Have you talked to the federal government about passing over the quotas of FPI to the Province? If you have not, and if you are talking about the company passing over the quotas of FPI to the Province, then would that need the assent of the federal government? If so, what representation have you made to the federal government regarding the transfer of these quotas?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Yes, Mr. Speaker, we have made numerous pieces of representation over numbers of times, going back several months now, to the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, advising him on numerous occasions that there was a possibility that the Province would be approaching him and the Government of Canada for approval to transfer FPI quotas and licences to the Province or an arm of the Province in some form or other, whether it is a Crown corporation or a department or whatever it might be at the end of the day. So, the federal minister, Mr. Speaker, is aware of that. I have had conversations face to face with him on that. That has been put in writing on countless occasions.

The process, as I understand it, Mr. Speaker, will be a formal letter of request, if and when binding agreements are reached. There will be a formal letter of request from FPI to the federal minister asking that the quotas and licences be transferred, signed by FPI, the recipient party, whoever that might be. Let's say for argument sake it is OCI and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, signed by all three parties, asking that the formal transfer of the quotas and licences take place to an arm of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In talking with a member of the media this morning who had been in contact with the federal government, the federal Department of Fisheries, that individual was notified by DFO that no formal representation has been made by government pertaining to that issue yet. So I take it, that will be forthcoming, if a deal goes through. I cannot see how a deal can go through if you are going to abide by the words that you said, unless the quotas are transferred. So I think that you had better start talking to your federal counterpart.

Mr. Speaker, the minister has referenced as well in a letter, which I have here, written to an individual here in the Province, that FPI's groundfish quotas, which he knows is the least valuable of FPI's quotas, would be transferred to the Province in the event of a sale.

I ask the minister: Who will get the ownership of FPI's more valued quotas, those being the shrimp and scallop quotas?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, let me make it abundantly clear, in case it is not to somebody or other out there in the public. We have had countless conversations with the federal minister, Newfoundland's representative in the federal Cabinet, who also happens to be the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, regarding the transfer of FPI's quotas and licences to the Province or an arm of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, prior to and as a condition to any sale of the assets of FPI. Now, whether somebody in the federal bureaucracy knows about that or not, I cannot speak to that, but the federal minister knows it and I know it. It has been in writing, it has been face to face, it has happened on numerous occasions over the last several weeks.

As to the particular question posed by the hon. the Leader of the Opposition. Mr. Speaker, the groundfish quotas and licences are the object of a transfer to the Province. The other assets that the hon. member refers to, like scallop and shrimp, are part of negotiations. That has not been concluded yet. When they are concluded I will be able to say more about them, but I do know that these are part of negotiations that are taking place which may or may not lead to a binding agreement between FPI and some other parties at the moment. The party that we all know of, of course, is OCI.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

According to Mr. Risley, in a release that went out this morning, it looks like the deal is done, I say to the minister, and you should at least know. I am sure you have been in extensive discussions with both companies, or you should have been over the past few months since the announcement of the potential sale was ongoing, of where these quotas will actually be going. For example, the shrimp quotas held by FPI, I think they have some 8,000 tons of shrimp, which is an integral part of that operation, especially as it pertains to the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador and those involved in the two shrimp plants that FPI currently owns. Obviously, those quotas have to stay with the new company here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Now, as for the quota of scallops. Mr. Risley runs that operation today out of Nova Scotia. That is my understanding. That is where they land at, and it is my understanding as well that Mr. Risley wants to hold on to that lucrative quota himself. So, to suggest that you do not know yet where these quotas are going, I say to the minister, I think you should know.

Mr. Speaker, FPI currently operates eight plants, eight fish plants in this Province, namely Burin, Fortune, Marystown, South Dildo, Bonavista, Catalina, Triton and Port aux Choix. Can the minister tell us today how many of these plants will be operational if this sale goes through?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, I have certain constraints on me that are incumbent on me to be careful in what I say, in terms of leaving the people of the Province open to potential liability, in terms of shareholder value and so on in publicly traded companies. We are dealing with two here; we are dealing with FPI and we are dealing with Highliner. Of course, OCI is privately held. The legal advice is that I have to be careful on that score, but let me again make it abundantly clear, that in terms of groundfish quotas and licences, there has to be an agreement that that reverts to the Province or there will be no deal.

In terms of shrimp; Mr. Speaker, the shrimp that is currently held by FPI - if the deal that has been speculated in the media is consummated - if that is consummated that quota will be part of the company that we are talking about and that company is operating here in Newfoundland and Labrador. Let it be clear as well, Mr. Speaker, that that company is also dealing with FPI in terms of its scallop operations. The scallop operations are very important to the financial stability of FPI. They were put there to help make FPI financially stable back in the days when FPI was created from the remnants of a whole bunch of bankrupt firms several years ago.

In terms of the day-to-day operations of the plants in the communities referred to by the hon. member, those matters are still under negotiation. We know what the operational plans of OCI are - if they are, in fact, successful in this. At that time, when it is all concluded they will be made public, but there is a plan to operate all of those plants in all of those communities. We are constantly making sure that the best interests of the people and the communities where FPI has operated will be what stands at the front if and when all of this is brought to a successful conclusion.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. REID: The minister said that the Province will own - he has indicated that the Province will own the groundfish quotas of FPI. Yet, he just said that the shellfish quotas, which are the more lucrative ones, especially the shrimp, will go to the company that is going to operate in Newfoundland and Labrador. So I take it from your answer that the shellfish, mainly the shrimp that is held by FPI today, that will go to the new company; that the Province will not own the shrimp quotas like they are going to own the groundfish quotas?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, because of the situation, we are talking somewhat in generalities here today. Unfortunately, we have to keep it at that until matters are concluded. I have tried to be open and honest and above board as much as I can without boxing the people of the Province into any corners that could lead to any actions later on if something - I say here or outside - could be construed by shareholders of FPI as devaluing their shares and their assets. So, generally speaking, what I have said here, Mr. Speaker, is where we are at this moment.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

So, what the minister has said is that yes, indeed, the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador will own the groundfish quotas but he will not commit to the shellfish, namely the shrimp quotas that are held by FPI in this Province today.

Mr. Speaker, it appears also that High Liner of Nova Scotia is going to purchase the secondary processing and marketing division of FPI, which includes the secondary plant in Burin.

Does the minister have any guarantees from the new company that this plant in Burin will remain open, or if it would be closed and its equipment would be transferred to Danvers, Massachusetts, where they have secondary processing going on today, or in Nova Scotia where High Liner has other fish plants?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, let me say this for now: The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is aware that FPI and High Liner are working on an agreement. If that agreement becomes final then we have already had preliminary discussions with High Liner, which we will go into more detail on if there is a final agreement with FPI, on the operations as it affects Burin and other interests that High Liner would have as it affects Newfoundland and Labrador.

We are not talking to High Liner or anybody else about the closure of Burin or the transfer of equipment to somewhere else. We are talking about the future of Burin and securing the future of that community for the long term, Mr. Speaker, not closing it down.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. REID: I can understand where the minister is coming from. He is not talking about closing the plant, but what I asked is: What guarantees would be put in place?

You say you cannot openly discuss this until a final deal is done. I say to the minister, once the final deal is done it may be too late for the people who are employed by FPI to find the answers to these questions, and that is the reason I am asking them today.

Mr. Speaker, FPI is the largest employer in rural Newfoundland - the largest employer of any, that I know, who operates in rural Newfoundland and Labrador - and it employs, as far as I know, as well, over 2,000 people. Can the minister tell us today how many employees will have their jobs guaranteed if this sale goes through?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, let it be absolutely clear what I just said in my answer to the Leader of the Opposition. I did not say there had to be binding agreements. I said, as I understand it, there are still negotiations underway between FPI and in this case as it relates to Burin and other matters involving High Liner company. If they reach an agreement, Mr. Speaker, then we will - you know, we have already had discussions - we will have further discussions.

Let it be clear, Mr. Speaker, to anybody who does not understand: nothing, no asset of FPI, can be final until this Legislature pronounces on it, so the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, the people of Burin, the people of Port au Choix, Triton, Bonavista, Catalina, all of those places, Mr. Speaker, will know - they will know, Mr. Speaker, in spades - what it is that has been agreed to, if there is an agreement.

Now, I cannot speculate as to what might be - for example, it might all fall apart. It might all fall apart. It is not done yet. They are not signed off, but when they get signed off, Mr. Speaker, we will make sure that the best interests of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador are protected.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: In terms of how many jobs are going to be at the end of the process, Mr. Speaker, there is no discussion of any cutbacks. There is no discussion of any layoffs. There is no anticipation, Mr. Speaker. As a matter of fact there may well be more employment opportunities in that industry in Newfoundland and Labrador when this whole matter unfolds. That is where we will be wrapping our minds around, Mr. Speaker, for the future.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

When the minister says, let it be clear that the people of this Province will know all of these details, well, I say to the minister, that does not give me a lot of comfort when you consider that the Minister of Environment, the member who represents Burin and Marystown, the workers in both of those fish plants, he did not even know that FPI had sold a couple of draggers recently, and that had to be given permission by his own government. He sat around a Cabinet table where that was supposed to have been discussed and he did not even know, by his own admission on an Open Line show, that these draggers had been sold.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. REID: He did not know they were even being discussed, so that does not give me a lot of comfort and I am certainly sure that it does not give a lot of comfort to those 2,000 people who are currently employed by FPI.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, when this government - you are talking about commitments and about people knowing - when this government gave FPI permission two years ago to do the income trust, FPI gave a commitment to the people of Bonavista and that commitment was that they were going to build a new crab plant for that town and that construction would start in 2007.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. REID: I ask the minister: Will that commitment be honoured? Will there be a new crab plant built in Bonavista in 2007? If not, what will happen to that facility?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, I do not suppose that if I were struck with the Wisdom of Solomon, which I do not have and I do not expect I will ever have, but if I were, I do not suppose, Mr. Speaker, any word that would escape my lips would give any comfort to the Leader of the Opposition. It would not surprise me that it would not give him any comfort - or any word from anybody on this side of the House for that matter.

Let me say this, Mr. Speaker, to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador who are working in plants were FPI currently is in operation and who are dependent and have historically been dependent on FPI: This government and the ministers in this government, and this Premier, will ask every question. We will explore every possibility. We will leave no stone unturned. We will not leave one "I" undotted. We will not leave one "T" uncrossed -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: - to ensure that the best interests of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador are protected for the long term, Mr. Speaker.

We will not be -


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, is there something in Beauchesne that could be used from a parliamentary perspective -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

A question has been asked. The Chair gave some extra time to put the question, so the Chair would recognize the minister and ask him to finish up his answer quickly.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, I thank you for coming to my rescue from the terrible onslaught that was directed my way by the Member for Bay of Islands.

As I was saying, Mr. Speaker, unlike -

MR. JOYCE: Tell them about Harbour Breton!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, I do not know what the hon. gentleman had for lunch, but something is showing over there.

Mr. Speaker, what I was trying to say is that this government, led by this Premier, has the desire and the will and the focus to ask the tough questions, unlike the last government, Mr. Speaker, when they were dealing with FPI.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We heard that speech before, about no stone being left unturned, and we will stand shoulder to shoulder with you. We heard it in Stephenville, where they lost 901 full and temporary employees in the last two years. We heard it in Harbour Breton. We heard it in Fortune. We heard it from the pan of a truck on O'Leary Avenue, when you said: FPI broke the law, broke the law, broke the law, and they are going to be charged, charged and charged!

We have not heard anything else about it. Mr. Speaker, we have heard that rhetoric before. We are asking questions because we care about the workers of the FPI plants in this Province.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, last year, FPI purchased a seafood company in Great Britain to the tune of $50 million. Who is going to own that facility after this sale goes through, I ask the minister?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Yes, Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition and everybody else in Newfoundland heard me say from the pan of a truck that FPI would be charged, charged, charged, and FPI were charged, charged, charged!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Those matters today, as we speak, are before the courts of the land, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: No fear or no favour to anybody from this government. If they broke the law they will answer to the consequences. There is a right way for that happen and it will happen when the courts deal with the matter, finally.

In terms of the seafood company, Mr. Speaker, that is not part, as I understand it, of anything that is taking place today. We will deal with that matter as the universe unfolds.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. REID: So, Mr. Speaker, we are getting some information. We understand that the scallop quotas are not going to stay with the Province. We also understand that we are going to lose the secondary processing and the marketing division of FPI. Now we also learn that we are going to lose the seafood company, a $50 million acquisition by this company a year ago. We do not know where the shellfish quotas are going to go. We do not know if the shrimp quotas are going to be with the Province or with the new company.

I will ask the minister another question. We all know that FPI recently sold two of its new draggers. I ask the minister: How many vessels does FPI currently own and who will take control of these vessels if FPI is sold in the coming days, weeks or months? I also ask the minister: Who will own the new scallop dragger that FPI has?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, it seems to me that the Leader of the Opposition has a terrible case of selective amnesia. He was over there on his high horses around this time last year, or a few months just before that, pontificating about FPI spending money to buy this terrible company in Europe. Now, Mr. Speaker, he wants to know who is going to end up with it. This company that FPI, by the way, bought for $40 million, it is my understanding they can unload today for double that amount of money. That was a terrible investment, according to the Leader of the Opposition a few months ago. It should have been stopped. The Government of Newfoundland should have stopped it. We should have stepped in there and not allowed it to happen. Now, Mr. Speaker, he looks through the glasses and he sees shades of a different colour.

Mr. Speaker, look, on the matter of the vessels, the company that is in negotiations with FPI at the moment has plans to utilize those vessels. That is about all I can say to it at the moment, but the details will be made available if there is a deal. If there is not a deal, we will be told there is no deal, but if there is a deal, the details will be made available.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. REID: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I stood here a year ago and I asked the question: Who is going to benefit from the purchase of the seafood company in Great Breton? Not the people who work for the plants, not for the people who built FPI off the sweat of their own brow, that is who paid for the acquisition.

Answer the question that you just posed yourself: Who are they going to unload it to? Who is it going to benefit? Is it staying with the Province? Is it going to stay with FPI, whoever buys FPI in the Province, or is John Risley going to pick it up for a song, the fellow who bought it off the sweat of the taxpayers' brow?

Mr. Speaker, my final question for today, and I saved it for today because there are going to be lots more to come. I ask the minister a simple question: What will become of the FPI Act?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, the hon. the Leader of the Opposition, in his various rants over the last several minutes, has also made reference to the marketing arm of FPI. Mr. Speaker, this government and this Premier sat down - I know of three occasions where we sat down with the representatives of the industry, the union and the processors, and offered it to them. We said we will provide the financing for you to buy the FPI marketing arm and you operate it. We will provide the money for you to do it. Did we get an agreement from the industry in this Province to do that? No, Mr. Speaker. They did not see the value in having it. Therefore, the Premier and the government made that offer to them, we made the offer to them, we offered to provide the financing and that did not happen.

Mr. Speaker, in terms of what is going to happen to the FPI Act. Who knows? Mr. Speaker, I gave notice of amendments to the FPI Act as our very first order of business - which tells you the determination and the focus of this government on that particular matter in the fishery - on the first day that we started this new session. If there is an arrangement and a deal that is binding, it may well be that the act will have to be changed or repelled, that we do not know today. It may well be that if there is no deal nothing will happen to the FPI Act, Mr. Speaker. All I can say, Mr. Speaker -


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, there has to be something in the rules -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There are certain protocols that we should observe. I ask members for their co-operation.

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


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question today is for the Minister of Human Resources, Labour and Employment.

Mr. Speaker, the report of the 2006 Statutory Review Committee on the Workplace, Health, Safety and Compensation Act was released to the public last June. At that time the department said it would take the rest of 2006 to determine its response to the recommendations. Then on November 10 the then minister made a statement to the public that the response of government to the recommendations would be released by the end of February, 2007. It is now April 30.

My question for the minister is: When does the government intend to inform us of its response to the recommendations contained in the statutory review report?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Human Resources, Labour and Employment.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SKINNER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I thank the hon. member for her question. Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member knows, I was appointed minister in late January, mid-January. That report was one of the first items of business that I dealt with. I wanted to familiarize myself with the work that had gone on. There was extensive consultations done, extensive recommendations made. That report is now being put through the normal process and I expect in the very near future we will have something coming forward on that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS MICHAEL: Mr. Speaker, there is urgency around those recommendations. Nine of the eighteen work-related fatalities in this Province last year were due to industrial diseases. The Statutory Review Committee recommended the creation of an occupational disease advisory panel with health professionals, workers, employers and government in order to improve our poor record in dealing with occupational disease.

I would like to ask the minister: Can he at least give us some idea today with regard to the government's response to this recommendation, and is he considering putting this advisory panel in place and when?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Human Resources, Labour and Employment.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SKINNER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, there were forty-four recommendations that came forward. All of them are under active consideration by government. There was a fair amount of impact on government operations that would have to be considered by implementation of all of these recommendations. That information has been gathered. It is being studied by government and we will, as I indicated, be coming forward with a response to those recommendations in the near future.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions are for the Minister of Natural Resources.

The energy plan has been in the works by the government for the past three years. There is over $3.5 million invested and yet we have no plan. I would like to ask the minister when she is going to table the energy plan for the public in the Province? Because, as you know, there are investors who are wanting to invest in energy developments in Newfoundland and Labrador that have been turned away simply because this plan is not in place.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will certainly pass along the question to the member, but as it has being relayed, and as she said, the plan is presently being developed and we intend to have that released within the coming months. That is where it is, Mr. Speaker. We will just release it when the time is ready and it is fully developed.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The time allocated for Question Period has expired.

Presenting Reports by Standing and Select Committees.

Tabling of Documents.

Notices of Motion.

Notices of Motion

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Terra Nova.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. ORAM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to give notice of the following private member's motion.

WHEREAS this government is committed to providing the necessary resources to ensure a proper education for students in rural and urban Newfoundland and Labrador; and

WHEREAS for the first time in our Province's history government's investment in education will exceed $1 billion; and

WHEREAS education is a key to accessing opportunity and self-reliance;

BE IT RESOLVED that all Members of the House of Assembly support and endorse initiatives brought forward by this government for the betterment of our children and their education.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Does the Chair understand this will be the motion for Wednesday, two days hence?

MR. ORAM: That is correct, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will ask leave to move the following resolution:

BE IT RESOLVED by the House of Assembly as follows:

WHEREAS section 4(1) of the Elections Act, 1991 provides that the Office of Chief Electoral Officer will be filled by resolution of the House of Assembly; and

WHEREAS subsection 34(2) of the House of the Assembly Act provides that a Commissioner of Members' Interests be appointed by the House of Assembly, on motion of the Premier following consultation with the Leader of the Official Opposition and representatives of other registered political parties having representation in the House of Assembly;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that Mr. Paul Reynolds be appointed Chief Electoral Officer and Commissioner of Members' Interests.

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

Answers to Questions to which Notice has been Given.



MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Burgeo & LaPoile.

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I appreciate an opportunity to deliver a petition on behalf of the residents of LaPoile and Grand Bruit in my district on the South Coast of Newfoundland, and it is in regards to the lack of restroom and waiting room facilities in the community of Diamond Cove, which they might be able to avail of as they await the ferry service.

We went through this last year quite extensively with the porta-potty debacle, we called it, in Burgeo, for the users in that area, and Ramea, and I have no problem or no hesitation in thanking the Minister of Transportation and Works that, in this year's Budget, I understand, the money has been allotted to do that in Burgeo to the tune of about $350,000. It took a lot of pressure, it took a lot of petitions, and it took a lot of speeches here in this House to bring the point home to the minister that it needed to be done. It was a health issues, a safety issue, and it needed to be done. It is a dignity issue, and it is being done now, thank God.

We have the same identical type issue. We have two communities of Grand Bruit and LaPoile. They come up the coast when the want to do their shopping, their banking, their health care needs and so on, and they get off in a place called Diamond Cove, or nearby Diamond Cove. It is actually surrounded; there is Diamond Cove, Rose Blanche and Harbour Le Cou. When they have to wait for the boat, there is not a home, there is not a facility, there is not a washroom, within five kilometres of where the boat ferry is. You cannot go on board the boat, if the boat is not there, to use their washroom, and they are left there. If they travel down from Port aux Basques, for example, and park their car and the boat is late, they could be waiting hours and they have nowhere to use a washroom.

We are just asking that the minister again apply the same common sense, and the same reasonable forces be brought to bear in the case of those users in LaPoile and Grand Bruit to put some kind of washroom-restroom facility in that area so the users of it - because it is not only the residents. The Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation often talks about our tourist industry. We want to bring people in and get them going down the South Coast and visiting our rural areas. They do not have it; I have heard it from them. I have been there myself on the wharf listening when people ask for washrooms and I do not even have a porta-potty to direct them to. That is very embarrassing. That is not good for our Province, either for our residents who use it on a year-round basis, or for the tourists who come to this area.

We are not asking for any big visitor information-type centre that costs millions of dollars. We are asking for a common basic decency of put a little building there that has washroom facilities so that someone can at least use the washroom facilities, have a place to wash their hands, and if they do not want to be sitting in their cars for hours on end they can sit down in a heated place and at least keep warm while the boat is coming.

Not everybody, as well, who uses the ferry has a vehicle. If they take a bus, for example - because they do not own cars, many of these people. They live in Grand Bruit and might not own a car. You come up and you catch a taxi or the bus that picks you up and takes you up to Port aux Basques, for example, to do your hospital stuff and your banking and your groceries, and when you go back the bus drops you off and leaves. You could be sat there in January or February month with nowhere to go. There are no homes. There are no hotels around. There is nothing. They are just asking for some place that they could have so that the basic human needs of safety and health and dignity will be looked after.

I implore the Minister of Transportation and Works again if he could apply that to that area, like he did in Burgeo, it would certainly be appreciated by the residents of those two communities.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Further petitions?

Order of the Day.

Orders of the Day

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

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, Motion 1, which was the motion put down by the Minister of Finance, that the House agrees in principle with the budgetary policies of the government, commonly known as the Budget Speech.

We will now sit back and look forward to several hours of interesting debate from the critic for the Official Opposition.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Grand Falls-Buchans.

MS THISTLE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS THISTLE: Mr. Speaker, I am looking at a lot of smiling faces opposite. They are wondering, how long am I going to stand here today and talk?

For the benefit of the viewing audience today, I actually have available to me three hours and four minutes. Whether I will use all of that, I will have to wait and see as I go along. It depends.

I am delighted to stand here today. I must say, the Marshall plan turned out to be better than the Sullivan plans.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS THISTLE: Now, if I were you, I wouldn't wear out my desk yet because we are just starting out.

I have to say, there are certainly a lot of good features to this Budget and a lot of people will benefit, particularly in the social sector.

I had a good read of the Budget over the weekend. Of course, I listened attentively to the Minister of Finance when he delivered his Budget on Thursday, but there is nothing like sitting down with the Budget in your hand and having a chance to really digest it.

I know a lot of groups around the Province can be congratulated because I know one thing, that this government does not like to be criticized. This government does not like to be criticized, so anyone who had a issue, whether they were a minority group, a special interest group, any member of society who had an issue and wanted it addressed in this particular Budget, I would think that most of those groups that made their voices known, whether it be through petitions, directly with government members, but particularly those who made it public, had the best chance of getting money in the Budget.

We all know who the winners were. I am glad for all of them because when it comes to health issues I do not think there is anyway that we can refuse when we have money to do so. I would think that would have been health and social policy issues which were the ones that were looked after the most.

I had a good read of the Budget over the weekend and I wanted to bring to attention some of the issues that the Minister of Finance brought forward. I know the Minister of Finance went out and bought a new pair of shoes. He bought a new pair of shoes because he said he needed a new pair of shoes. He was not frivolous and just went out and bought a pair of shoes for the Budget only. This is the kind of a minister that says that this is an indication that he is only going to spend money if it is needed to be spent.

When you look at the weather today, it is a rainy day outside this building and all over the Province mostly, but this Budget is not a rainy day Budget. It is a fine weather Budget. That is one thing that I am concerned about, whether or not we are looking to the future.

The minister outlines in his Budget - and you have to look at where we came from. How did you arrive at this place four years later? How did you arrive at that place and where does our money come from that we have to spend all over our Province?

I remember 2003 very well. That was our first year of what we call accrual accounting, where you put all the expenditures of every agency of government - no matter who they are, whether they be hospital boards or school boards, or whatever. Every cent that government was liable for came under one umbrella called accrual accounting. That gave everybody here in government, and everybody across the Province, a big fright. We had to include - for the first time ever in our history we actually seen, for the first time, what government was liable for, because it was always held in two separate pockets.

In addition to that, it was a time when we had to take over the student loans, the Newfoundland and Labrador Student Loan portfolio. The banks did not want it anymore. All of that combined gave people a huge shock, but it was the perfect storm. It was the perfect communication storm because it gave this new government a tool that they could use to their communication advantage. The fright that they put on everybody, including the public service, worked; because there is no way that you could be saying that the Province had a debt of $1 billion and then today, four years later, you are able to spend this kind of money and predict a surplus for this year of $261 million. So, it was a great communication spin. Everything lined up perfectly to give that information out, and people bought into it.

I want to start off by saying: Where does our money come from here in this government? Where does it come from? Today we have a Budget of almost $6 billion. That is a lot of money when you consider our small population. Our population now is 505,000, which we are not very proud of - when you look at the fact that we are a population 505,000 people.

Our Budget is almost $6 billion; B as in billion. One-third of that money comes from the federal government. Almost $2 billion comes from the federal government, and that comes to us in the form of equalization and offsets health and social transfers, the Atlantic Accord and other federal sources. Now, I guess this has changed considerably over the past few years because I can recall ten years ago when 60 per cent of our Budget was coming from the federal government and only 40 per cent from our own sources, but over the years we have generated revenues basically because of our oil and mineral resources that have put us in this position today. When you look at that, you know, our natural resources put us exactly where we are. Now one-third of our Budget comes from the federal government and we generate two-thirds ourselves. What we generate ourselves comes from taxation, investments, fees and fines, and I will talk about these in few moments. That is where it comes from. Of course, the biggest chunk of our money - how we spend it - is always spent on social issues. That would be health, education and anything that is connected to social policies, like Income Support and actually the running of government administration. It is a simple method but it is nice to know where our money comes from and where it goes.

Now, when the Minister of Finance got up last Thursday and talked about the Budget, I thought to myself: well, he has only been in the portfolio a few months and he has had the good fortune of being able to stand up and spend money that will suit almost every sector of our society and also declare a surplus. So that must have been a good feeling as the Minister of Finance, for sure. I am sure it was quite a different feeling than the former Minister of Finance had when he stood up for his first Budget in 2004.

The Minister of Finance had the luxury of having all of this money to work with, which was great. I remember when I was the President of Treasury Board, and I know my deputy minister at that particular time, Peter Kennedy - I think he might be just recently retired. He was working for Newfoundland Hydro after he left government here. He always outlined to us as a Cabinet that there would be structural deficiencies with the Treasury for about two years. That would be, generally, 2004 and 2005. In 2006 things would turn around. We kind of did not believe him at the time, but actually what he predicted was right on the mark. He knew accrual accounting was coming and every province in Canada must adhere to it. He understood that there would be a structural deficit, but he also told us that in 2006, 2007 things would turn around based on the new royalty regime that our previous government had put in place for the new developments offshore. They were true words, because right now we are seeing the benefits of that investment offshore.

The Minister of Finance in his speech said we have an eight-year blueprint. Well, I must remind the Minister of Finance, an eight-year blueprint is four years beyond this term. I think one of the key things that this present government talked about was a strategy, a plan for rural Newfoundland. I will go into that deeper as we get into this Budget, but as of today it is quite apparent we do not have one. Now the Minister of Finance, in his own words, did say that we have a large reliance on oil and gas. He said: the most significant fiscal challenge facing Newfoundland and Labrador is the burden of debt we inherited. Well, I would think the best advantage that you have as a new government is the inheritance of natural resources that are generating the revenue today that you are able to spend. That would be one thing that you have not acknowledged.

When you look at the Province's overall Budget and you look at the fact that our economy here in this Province is not really that diverse - and the Minister of Finance will agree to that himself. He said: Achieving the surplus took careful fiscal management. Revenues for the year were down overall primarily because of longer-than-expected shutdown at Terra Nova.

Last year when I got up to speak, I said: Thank goodness we are surrounded by oil. You know, oil has been the mainstay of the economy of this Province for several years now since our first Hibernia development and then the others came on stream. Hibernia, of course, was our first development and, after that, a former government changed the royalty regimes so, in fact, this year we will collect $1 billion in offshore royalties and mineral royalties. One billion dollars, one-fifth of our whole Budget, will come from offshore royalties. When you look at that, everything is riding on our offshore oil industry.

Now, the Auditor General outlined in his report this year some key pieces of information that I think are worth sharing. I think what you have to look at is, he is saying we need, as a Province - if we do not generate any more new activity by way of a large project or anything else - a $300 million surplus every year for the next forty years to eliminate our current debt of $11 billion.

Now, we are looking out for the next year. When a Budget is brought down by a Finance Minister of government, he is really just looking out to the next year. Based on the spending and the revenues that he knows he is going to have in the Treasury for this coming year, he can already tell there is going to be surplus money at the end of the year of $261 million. Now, that is predicting that oil prices stay the same. If oil prices drop, well, naturally, we are going to have to do some belt tightening before the year is out.

Of course, the Auditor General says that the Province has the highest net debt of any province in Canada per capita, $23,000 for every Newfoundlander and Labradorian, so that figure has not changed. There was a small amount of money put on our debt, I think about $70 million, but that is nothing in relation to the big picture of what we owe.

I do not know what the former Finance Minister would have done with his spending, knowing he had a big surplus. I do not know if he would have spent it in the same direction or whether he would not have, but that is immaterial at this point; we know where it is going to be spent.

I think what is important to note as well is that economists all across the country are telling us, as a Province, that we have to watch what we are doing here. Two thousand and ten is going to be a year when it is crunch time, because if we do not have any large projects that are coming on stream by that time we will be in a declining mode - a declining mode - which means that our revenues will start to dry up because our natural resources will be starting to wind down.

As I said, the only amount of money that was put on the provincial debt this year by the government, although they had a surplus, was $70 million, so putting $70 million on a debt of $11 billion is just like a drop in the bucket.

MR. DENINE: What about the pension liability (inaudible)?

MS THISTLE: The Member for Mount Pearl is saying: What about the pension liability? Even with the money put on, the $2 billion put on the pension debt, we still owe $11 billion.

Now, that was a good thing, looking after the teachers' unfunded liability. I do not know if you got the rewards of doing that, because I heard Kevin Foley, when I was out there last week in a scrum. In fact, the Member for Mount Pearl was there and he gave up his chair to me so I could have a few words to say, but I do not know if you got the bang for your $2 billion bucks as you thought you were going to get. He outlined publicly that there is still a shortage of teachers and he is not satisfied, as the President of the NLTA, that this government, although they have addressed textbooks and school fees and maintenance and new school construction, they still have not addressed, to his satisfaction, the number of teachers who are going to be left in the system to teach our children. I don't know if you got the best advantage for the $2 billion you spent. You will have to decide that yourselves.

MR. DENINE: We have already decided that, and the answer is yes.

MS THISTLE: You already decided that, did you?


MS THISTLE: So, you are satisfied with what the President of the NLTA said?


MS THISTLE: No. Well, how could you be satisfied that you got the best advantage? I think he is confused. I think the Member for Mount Pearl is confused.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS THISTLE: You didn't miss it. You missed it alright.

What we have to look at is: We have $2 billion that has to come from Ottawa in order for us to balance our budget and give us a surplus. Now, it is clear that our Premier had more luck with Paul than he is having with Steve. Now, you know, we have always been at odds with Ottawa, because when the former Premier, Roger Grimes, was here sitting across the way Paul Martin could have settled up that deal on the Atlantic Accord with Roger Grimes. He chose not to do it. Now, we are into a situation with the Prime Minister of Canada and our Premier at odds. What is new? Nothing has changed. It doesn't make any difference who is at the helm in Ottawa, generally speaking Newfoundland and Labrador are generally at odds with them.

Maybe if you wait a few months, he will be able to deal with Stéphane instead of Steve. Who knows, probably you will have more luck convincing him.

There are all kinds of variations of the equalization. It is so complicated, even the Chief Economist, Wade Locke, had problems with the figures that he got, trying to work out whether or not we had a good deal or a bad deal. We know that we have a deal that was signed in 2005 that is still on the books, and we have a choice: We can stick with that deal or we can go with the new deal. I am sure there has to be a lot of toing and froing before this government decides whether or not they will take the new deal.

Mr. Speaker, economists across the country are saying that, right now, next to Alberta, we are actually leading the way across Canada with our growth and GDP. Ours is set at 2.8 per cent and the closest one to us - of course, well, Alberta, I mean, you are never going to reach Alberta. Theirs is 6.8 per cent and we are next at 2.8 per cent. What they are saying, Stats Canada tied Newfoundland's improvement to the first full year of production at the Voisey's Bay nickel mine and the offshore White Rose oil field. Now, this is what Stats Canada are saying.

I remember when our current Premier was in the Opposition and he always talked that he could drive a Mack truck right through the legislation for Voisey's Bay. Now, as far as I know, I have not seen that Mack truck go through the legislation. The only thing I seen the Mack truck do so far was deposit money in the provincial Treasury.

I know the Minister of Finance agrees with me, that the Mack truck comes up to the Confederation Building every two weeks and they deposit money in the public Treasury, whether it be in the form of taxation, taxes on goods and services they purchased, or personal income tax by the employees who are working there. So the Premier was wrong in making that statement. He is actually very grateful, I am sure, that there was a project for the Voisey's Bay and he and his government are now the recipient of new revenue that they have not created.

Stats Canada economists all across our country are warning this government that we have an artificial economy that is built only on our natural resources. We have not diversified as this new government said they would do. The Minister of Finance is saying: We are forecasting that total direct revenues from offshore projects will be over $1.25 billion this fiscal year. I believe I already alluded to that.

This is going to be one of the greatest returns on our oil investment and mineral royalties this particular year coming up. Now, it was nothing that this particular new government did to enhance that figure. It was a new royalty regime that our former government struck and, as a result of that, we are now getting more revenues for our offshore oil and also for our minerals.

Of course, I am going to have the advantage and the opportunity next week to actually attend the official opening of the Duck Pond Mine in Millertown. Now that dream is a reality. Whoever thought that we would be having a new mine in Millertown? When the mine closed in Buchans, in 1982, I do not think that anybody ever thought that Central Newfoundland would come on the map again when it came to mining. Although there are lots of people in Buchans area, Millertown, who said, you know, we have not even scratched the surface of the motherlode yet.

I know that next week will be a milestone for sure, because I remember several mayors of the community of Millertown and they all seemed to be optimistic and say yes, I believe that mine will actually happen, and it has. They went into production, actually, in January of this year. So, next Wednesday, May 9, I will have an opportunity to actually be in Millertown for the official opening.

That has been a wonderful boost to Central Newfoundland and it is a private concern, Aur Resources, that did not have any government involvement, a private company that decided to put a mine in Millertown, Duck Pond. That particular mine, during the construction phase, hired as many as 300 people to work on the site, and now that they are up and running they will have roughly 200 people, full-time jobs. Can you imagine what 200 full-time jobs are doing to Millertown and surrounding area? In fact, I know that the Member for Windsor-Springdale is glad because a lot of the people from his district, and also the Member for Baie Verte, a lot of people from their districts, are currently employed because they had mining experience.

This is a underground mine, and I had the opportunity last year, with my colleague from Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair, both of us visited the mine site last summer and we went underground. At that time it was four kilometres of underground mining in place. A wall, a tunnel, had been built four kilometres underground. It was my very first time that I had been underground, and I wondered what it would be like, but I was pleasantly surprised that it was very, very nice. The air was fresh, and it was quiet, and I could understand how people would actually like to work there. Of course, they have every piece of modern technology to ensure that worker safety is adhered to and so on.

In fact, what is different about this is that we have been able to attract a number of females. A number of females have actually come to work at Aur Resources on the mine site. They have been trained for work underground at Corona College in Grand Falls-Windsor, and I am proud to say that the owner, the President of Corona College, Ms Bernice Walker, was just named the Entrepreneur of the Year for Central Newfoundland, so congratulations Bernice.

One of the programs being offered by Corona College is underground mining, so that has been a huge benefit. The lifespan of this particular mine is expected to be anywhere from eight to ten years but, from all indications that we are hearing already, that could be much longer because they are a lot of junior companies in the area that now will be feasible because of the mill at Duck Pond being able to refine their ore.

Currently, the ore from Aur Resources Duck Pond Mine is being shipped to Turf Point - that is out around Port au Port - and they go over the Millertown road to Buchans Highway and then over the Trans-Canada out west until they reach Turf Point.

I had the advantage of going up to Millertown about four weeks ago and I saw that double hauler truck about eighty-three feet long that hauls the ore out right to Turf Point. It was a bit of an issue at the time that they started out because they roughly have ten trucks a day, a double belly hauler that is hauling this ore to Turf Point.

Of course, that is why I was so insistent talking to the Minister of Transportation and Works, that he improve the road up there so the safety issue would be addressed; but, you know, he did give me some money. Not nearly enough. The only amount of money that was given to improve or repair the road on the Buchans Highway was $600,000. We all know that, with the price of asphalt today, you can basically only pave about one kilometre of asphalt highway for about $130,000 to $150,000, and with the repairs on the shoulders what do you expect to get from that?

Now, you see, that is where this government falls down. There is a mine up there in Millertown, as I just said, putting all kinds of money into the government coffers, and the government is supposed to be shouldering up rural Newfoundland. Well, this is one time that they are not doing it. They should be improving the highways so people can get to work and school children can be safe riding on their bus from Millertown to Buchans. Government has seen, in their lack of wisdom, not to invest any more money in this highway. So, that is wrong.

I looked on the weekend in The Telegram and I saw "Summer work - winter work". It was a story of a fisherman from Port Union who left his home on Boxing Day with two others and headed to Alberta. Now, these are fishermen who were fishing crab. They left on Boxing Day to go out to Alberta to work. They are going to come home this summer to work if prices are good and they see that it is going to work out. This is a typical family that always worked at the fishing industry and now are going to find that in order to sustain themselves and their family they are going to have to head out to Alberta in the winter and come back and fish in the summer. Now how long are they going to do that? Once they realize that it is a huge hardship to be away from their family, more than likely they are going to end up taking their family out to Alberta and there will no fishing done in the summer. As a result of that, there will be the loss of another family from that community.

Last night I saw on TV, fishing for stamps. I think it was something like that. It was put off by Global TV. A stamp factory - maybe it was, I did not get the title. It was heartbreaking to see. A fisherman from Placentia Bay, I think his name was Johnson, and they had been fishing for almost 100 years, passed down from father to son and so on. It was a typical family that had very little education. As soon as they were old enough to go in a boat, they were in a boat. It happened that way from father to son. He was saying that his son would be the last generation who would ever step foot into a boat. He said his youngest son, Curtis - I think his name was - did have his Grade 11. So he was in a much better position, education wise, than his other family members, but we all know today that Grade 11 does not get you very far. He started to fill up, last going off on the show. He said he expected his son to be the last generation of fishermen. It was interesting, when the show was over there was a little excerpt that came up on the screen, sort of an update as to what these individuals had done since. What was said about his son - his son decided not to go fishing. His son decided to go to Alberta. There you go, the one hope that he had left for his son to pick up the slack and carry on the tradition of fishing in a boat like his father and his grandfather did not happen. The writing was on the wall. The son decided that he would go to Alberta.

It was so pitiful to see the people from Harbour Breton, the women moving stones from one location to the other. It was heartbreaking to see a proud community that always worked full time - the plant was open all the time. Here the women and men were involved in make-work, moving stones from one location to the other. I mean it was pitiful, actually shameful, and we are in a Province with a surplus this year of $261 million and to see women doing make-work jobs like that.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance says that over the past three years an estimated 3,400 person years of employment have been created in Newfoundland and Labrador. That is not much, 3,400 jobs over four years. Where are those full-time jobs? I wonder, can anybody name up where those full-time jobs are? I looked at the government's own information in the back of their Budget book and they are saying that the population in 2003 was 518,000 people. The population as of July was 509,000. Stats Canada is saying it is 505,000. So, there is a difference in numbers there. Even that, that is a difference of 9,000 people gone, by government's own information. That is not propaganda. If it is, government printed it. From 2003 to 2006 there were 9,000 people who left our Province to seek work outside. This government says that they have created 3,400 person years of employment.

A couple of weeks ago I was talking to a young fellow who says that he goes out to Alberta for three weeks at a stretch and then home for two and back again. One thing I would like for the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to do is tell me: How do you count the person who is out in Alberta working, his wife and children are home here in Newfoundland? How do you count him? Is he considered to be on our payroll; not on our payroll, on the list of people here in our Province working? Is that particular individual counted as working in Newfoundland, because he is paying income tax here and because he is paying property tax here? I would like to know where that invisible workforce is? Are they connected to Alberta or are they connected to Newfoundland and Labrador? Are they an invisible workforce that sends their money back home but are not living here? Are they considered to be part of the people who are working here? I would like to have that question answered; I really would.

With 9,000 people leaving our Province in three years, more than likely 90 per cent of them are in Alberta. Some of them have their families here, and a lot of them, of course, after a few years decide; well, we are not putting up this, we will bring the family out as well. There are a number of people, you only have to go out to the St. John's airport - now, of course, thank goodness, Air Canada had decided to fly out of Gander two or three times a week to Halifax, so we will be seeing more activity through Gander. I know there is a lot of activity in Deer Lake, people from the Northern Peninsula using Deer Lake as the airport where they fly to Alberta.

Of course, those companies in Alberta have hired chartered planes to actually come and pick up our people from Newfoundland and Labrador and bring them out to Alberta and bring them back. Now, it is not unusual - I have a book, I have it with me here somewhere, that was published by a group of companies from Alberta, that they are putting in mailboxes everywhere in Newfoundland and Labrador trying to take our skilled workers who don't have a job and bring them out to Alberta. They will give them a signing bonus, they will guarantee to look after their housing, and they will fly them back and forth. Now, can you imagine how much demand there is for skilled workers across Canada?

When the government, this new government here in our Province, says they have created 3,400 person years of employment, when I think back to the numbers of people employed, I know that with the Voisey's Bay they have an extra 600 people they have hired. The expansion of IOC in Labrador City and Wabush, Voisey's Bay, as I said, the White Rose project and also Aur Resources in Millertown - can you tell me: What did government have to do with that, creating those person years? Would someone tell me? Government had no involvement in creating any of those industry jobs, but they are saying that they did. I would like to know what the Minister of Finance means when he says there are 3,400 new jobs created.

I do agree with spreading the wealth and making sure the economic pie reaches further than the Avalon. A lot of people on the Northeast Avalon have always felt the advantage, the benefit, of our oil industry, whether it be in housing, sales, new infrastructure going up. Look at the box stores on Stavanger Drive, and look at what is happening around town and so on, and there is new business created because of it.

For the people in Buchans Junction and on the Northern Peninsula and everywhere else, they have not felt the benefits of our oil industries, so I must say I would compliment the minister on the fact that he decided to give everybody a break on their income tax. At least the benefit that we are receiving from our oil industry will be felt by everyone who is working. That is one of the advantages that, it is clear, we are glad happened.

In fact, when you talk about the people who will benefit from this tax reduction, there is an indication, too, that the highest income earners in our Province who make over, say, $65,000 or $100,000 or $150,000, they will have the greatest gains, more so than the one at the bottom of the scale. So, I do not know if it was necessary to provide the greatest tax advantage to the ones who are earning the most money. We have to look after the ones in our society who are not able to provide for themselves. I do not know if there is anything in that tax advantage that will keep anybody actually here in our Province. Number one is that they need a job.

We all saw the direction, of course, last year, the lineup on Kenmount Road for the Capital Hotel, 9,000 people. I am sure the Member for Mount Pearl must have dropped into the stadium last week at the Glacier in Mount Pearl and seen 5,000 people lined up for a job. I am sure he did that. To hear people who were out at the Glacier in hopes of a job, and the companies that were here were hoping to sign up 1,000 people to go out to Alberta to work. Imagine, they were going to sign up 1,000 out of 5,000 who happened to turn up at the Glacier for work.

You know, tax decreases are good. It puts more disposable income in the hands of people so they will go out and they will buy things they would not normally buy, and eventually the money will end up in government coffers anyway because they will collect it through retail sales tax and other means, fees and so on, that they would normally get.

Let's talk about fees. This new government, the Williams government, in 2004, their first Budget - and, of course, the Minister of Government Services will know this - they put forward I think it was about 170 new fees that they would collect $26 million on annually. Now, everybody complained about those fees, because prior to 2004 they were paying $140 to get your driver's licence renewed and they were paying $85 to get an ambulance; but government this year decided, with the heat of everyone complaining about fees, they would drop some of them back, but they did not touch the driver's licence. You are still going to have to pay $180 to get your driver's licence renewed and you are still going to have to pay $115 for a one-way trip if you get an ambulance.

You know, when I looked in the paper this weekend, I saw that the Premier's executive staff, some of them got as high as between 8 per cent of a raise right up to 17 per cent. The Director of Communications, her salary was $89,000 and now it is $102,000. Can you imagine that? Twenty-three thousand dollars of a salary increase in the one year for the Director of Communications. Do you know how many ambulances you can get, or how many road trips you can do, for the $23,000? Roughly two hundred ambulances can be called at $115 each for the Director of Communication's increase in her salary.

Tell me, what is the Director of Communications doing to earn a salary of $102,000? For anyone to go from $89,000 in one year to $102,000 the next year - the same year - tell me. The Premier says, in the interview he did with Rob Antle on the weekend, he defended the additional cash for the senior staff, saying the bigger amounts reflect the actual responsibility of the position.

Now, is he the only one who ever had a Director of Communications? Every Premier in this Province had a Director of Communications when they were Premier. "I'm very demanding," Williams said - I am reading right off the paper - "I'm not easy to work for...." I think we know that. He said he is a workaholic. I would say every politician here in this room is a workaholic. You ask any politician here if they are not a workaholic. Every one of us here is a workaholic. If we get a phone call at 11:00 o'clock or 12:00 o'clock in the night we answer it. If we are invited anywhere, we go, so everybody here in this room is a workaholic.

He said, "So you can't pay people enough to work for me, I suppose, for want of a better term." He said, "They're special staff."

My goodness, even if you are getting the minimum wage you are special staff. I would say there are a good many out there today, across our Province, getting the minimum wage who are doing their utmost to please their employer and doing everything they can for that $7 an hour.

He said, "I know. And they can make that argument..." - he is referring to the Public Service - but these staff, my executive, he said, "They're special staff. They're a staff that are my senior advisers, that are running a $5 billion corporation...." So, the Premier looks at the whole government, which is almost $6 billion, as his own personal corporation, and he has his executives to run it.

Well, let me tell you, the bureaucrats around this government in every department are the ones who run the government. The Cabinet ministers and the Premier give directions, but I can tell you what: the bureaucrats actually run the government. Whenever there is a change from one stripe to the other, government does not shut down. Government does not shut down when there is a change in the political stripe from the Liberals to Tories. It doesn't change. Maybe the next time it will be from Tories to Liberals. The government will not shut down. It will keep in operation and everyone will get their cheque on time and every inspection will be done and so on.

The Premier thinks that this special group here are the ones, his personal staff, that are running a $5 billion corporation.

He has a Chief of Staff, can you imagine - everyone has a Chief of Staff, as Premier - and his salary this year is going from $121,000 to $131,000. Now, that is 8 per cent.

AN HON. MEMBER: How much?

MS THISTLE: One hundred and twenty-one to one hundred and thirty-one thousand. Now, I do not know of anyone around the Province who is going to get an increase like that.

The biggest increase goes to the manager, percentage wise not dollar wise. The Manager of Community Outreach, that is a new position. I never heard tell of that before. Instead of making $68,000, that person is going to make $79,000.

AN HON. MEMBER: That is organizing campaigns.

MS THISTLE: That is organizing campaigns. That is that person's job; 17 per cent, mind you. Director of Operations, going from $69,000 to $82,000. A 17 per cent increase in one year. Boy, they must be good.

Now, what is this? A principal assistant. That is an assistant to the principal, is it? I guess that is the first assistant to the Premier. That salary is going from $83,000 to $90,000, an 8 per cent increase. Then they have a special advisor on top of that, going from $85,000 to $92,000, another 8 per cent. Then there is a brand new position, a Deputy Chief of Staff. We have a Chief of Staff making $131,000 and now we have a Deputy Chief of Staff making $95,000. The Director of Communications, she is going to get a big raise, 14 per cent in one year, from $89,000 to $102,000.

This government, the one who has a surplus of $261 million, could not see their way clear to put the ambulance fees back to $85 like they were when they took over the government, but they can pay all these increases in salaries. I bet these people never came up to the Premier and said: I cannot do my work, I need this increase in salary.

AN HON. MEMBER: They are afraid of him.

MS THISTLE: No, he said he is hard to work for.

AN HON. MEMBER: So they are afraid of him.

MS THISTLE: So, they are afraid of him. They never came up to the Premier and said: Now, Mr. Premier, if you do not pay me an 18 per cent increase on my salary I am leaving. They would not say that to the Premier because they said he is very demanding and he was not easy to work for. So none of them asked for that raise, but the Premier decided he would give it to them.

As I said, the Director of Communications got an increase of $23,000 on her salary. That is enough money there to call up 200 ambulances at $115 a trip. There are seniors out there today afraid to take the telephone and call an ambulance because they do not have the $115 to pay for it. They figure that if they wait until the morning they might be better and they will not need an ambulance because it is $115, but the Premier got lots of money. He decided to increase her salary by $23,000, enough to call 200 ambulances.

Anyway, let's move on. There is $21 million in new fee money that could have been given back to the people of this Province because we do have a surplus. The Minister of Finance said that probably a dozen times during his speech, we do have a surplus, but he could not find it in his heart and soul to say to anyone out there who is driving a car, you are still going to have to pay $180. There is something sneaky about all of this, because they are saying that if you go online, use your computer and pay your driver's licence online, you are going to get a 10 per cent reduction. Now I figure that is the only job creation they are going to have. There is somebody out there listening to this and they are going to go and use their computer and everyone that is in the community, they are going to say: Well, George, boy, come on up to the house and pay your driver's licence on my computer. I will get the 10 per cent reduction and we will split it. Now, that is the make-work; that is the make-work they are coming up with. Yes, there is somebody in every community in Newfoundland and Labrador today saying they have a computer and there is going to be 10 per cent off that $180. That is $18, and that is easy money. You come on up to the House, boy, no need to go to the bank. Come on up the House, boy, I will do that for you now. Listen, it is going to cost you though. You are not going to get that 10 per cent back and put it in your wallet. I wants $8 or $10 for doing that.

How much is a case of beer now, boys?

AN HON. MEMBER: I don't know.

MS THISTLE: You don't know? Eighteen dollars they are going to get back. They are going to say: Well, all right then, maybe we will have a celebration, or maybe I will charge $8 or $10. There you go now.

There is another motive behind that 10 per cent. The Premier is dead set on putting forward the fibre optic deal. The Premier is dead set on putting forward the fibre optic deal. He wants everybody around Newfoundland and Labrador to be hooked up to an Internet system. He wants everybody to be online. Maybe this is a way to sell fibre optics to everybody in the Province because when they go to pay something online they will get a 10 per cent discount. Maybe there will be more people signing up for fibre optics. When I saw the 10 per cent reduction for paying online, people are still not getting the advantage of the low - it is not the low fee; $140 is not low to renew your driver's license. Check anywhere across Canada, we are the highest. Now, they are going to take off eighteen dollars, 10 per cent, if you go in online and pay it. Now, how many seniors, can you tell me, or the Minister of Government Services, how many seniors have a computer?

MS WHALEN: You would be surprised how many have them.

MS THISTLE: You would be surprised how many haven't. I don't know too many seniors in a lot of parts of my district who have - now, they might have them in yours, but there are a good many seniors in rural Newfoundland and Labrador who do not have a computer. They haven't got a computer and you haven't dropped $100 for them to go out and get their medicals. That is another charge you brought in that you haven't changed.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS THISTLE: Twenty-seven million, yes, and they took off $5 million, so there is still $21 million you are getting every year over and above what the fees were in 2003.

We are going to see a whole lot of new businesses springing up out around rural Newfoundland and Labrador now. Maybe you will be able to add them into the jobs you created; who knows.

We are moving along through the Minister of Finance's speech, and we are seeing that the Minister of Business is going to put $25 million into a business attraction fund. I had the opportunity of looking at the minister's business plan a while ago. We all know that the new government, the Williams Government, has not really addressed the out-migration problem in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. It was interesting when I looked at the Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development and I saw that everything with this government is based on a strategy; a strategy for this and a strategy for that. As long as you can say you are doing something, and you don't have to show the results, it looks like you are doing something. I counted up in the book last night for Innovation, Trade and Rural Development, and how many strategies do you think the Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development had? They had eleven. I thought they were going to have one for every month, but I guess there was one month they decided to take a holiday. They had eleven strategies.

Now, the Minister of Business - that was a department that was supposed to be the Premier's shining department. He was going to be the minister, but last year he gave it over the Member for Gander. You know, the funny part about this is that every minister in the Cabinet had to produce a book telling the world what their plan was to develop within their own department and how they were going to run it and so on. I was very critical of the Minister of Business booklet that he put out because, you know, it basically said nothing. It just said what the policy of the department was, and what they were planning to do. It said nothing about how many jobs he was going to create, where he was going to create them, and when we could look forward to seeing jobs on the horizon. The only thing he did say, and I thought it was kind of funny because I looked at the Office of the Executive Council and that is one that the Premier himself - that is his own plan, and he said: as Premier, I am accountable for the preparation of this plan and for the achievement of its goals and objectives.

The Premier said there is no gender bias with Executive Council, and I am glad to see this. I do not know what this has to do with it, but the Premier said: the Office of the Executive Council has a staff complement of fifty-six, approximately 71 per cent female and 29 per cent male.

Okay, that is fine. I am sure women and men have the same expertise when it comes to running a business and running the department.

I guess the Minister of Business, in his wisdom, wanted to copy off the Premier and he says: the Department of Business is located on the sixth floor of the Confederation Building, East Block, and they have a budget of $4 million. They have a staff of thirty-five people, and 67 per cent, mind you, 67 per cent of the positions filled to date are occupied by females.

Now, what does that have to do with the price of tea in China? Now, what has that to do with the price of tea in China, that the Minister of Business- I am glad that there is no gender bias with the Minister of Business, but why would you have to point out how many women are working and how many men are working? Is it because the Premier decided to do that with his Executive Council? It has nothing to do with developing business. I am glad women are employed, but why do you need to make a special statement about it? It seems odd to me.

I think the most telling thing about the whole book is this: the minister's strategic directions. Now, mind you, the Minister of Business has a working budget of $4 million and he has eleven on staff. Now, he has four ideas that he is going to create businesses around this Province. One is business attraction, the other one is business support, the next one is marketing, and the other one is regulatory environment reform. Now, according to him, where the Xs are marked there are three blocks. One is for a business plan, one is for an operational plan, and one is for a work plan. Guess where all the plans are? Has anybody across the way any idea where all the Minister of Business plans are?

I heard he was out talking about all the business he is going to create. Well, you know, all of those plans are in a book like this one. They are in a book like this. The Minister of Business has all of his plans in a book like this. Not one of them are in operation, and not one of them are in the working stage. Can you imagine?

This Department of Business was created in 2004 with the first Budget. There have been millions of dollars put in that department, and any plans they had for developing new business are still in a book like this one. There is not one of those plans in operation, and there is not one working plan in place.

Imagine, the Premier let him publish this book for all to see, for all the world to see; but, you see, he can take comfort that he is not the only one who did that. The Minister of Business does not have to be embarrassed too much about that because one of his colleagues did the same thing.

The Minister of Business really does not have - he says he has twenty-five working files of new business opportunities coming to this Province. Well, I guess they have been on his desk for four years because we have not seen anything happen.

Now, don't be embarrassed too much, Minister of Business, because the Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development did the same thing. He did the very same thing. I do not know how the Premier actually let him publish the book, because if the Premier ever knew that this book was going out for the public to see he would have put a halt to it right away.

Here you have a strategic plan. It is all about strategies, you know. Now, you cannot eat strategies in the hungry month of March but this crowd, the new government, has a strategic plan for every department.

The Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development apparently has eleven strategies in this book, of what he is going to do to create employment in this Province. Do you know something? He has the biggest budget that you could ever see in this book; it is called Estimates 07. The Innovation, Trade and Rural Development budget - can you imagine this? - $58 million. That is $58 million. He has 154 people on his staff, going around the Province thinking that they are going to be creating new businesses. They have been four years in the works and what did they create? Nothing. I could not believe it. Here is a book, an activity plan, that was put out by the Rural Secretariat, Executive Council. It says, strategic directions of Minister Taylor. This is what it says on page 9, strategic directions of Minister Taylor. I cannot believe it. Isn't it the government, the Williams' government? Isn't it the strategic directions of the government? No, this is strategic directions of Minister Taylor.

Now, out of this strategic plan that rural development has here, they have eleven strategies, and they have charts just like the Minister of Business, in his booklet as well, and there is not one of these plans in the working stages. Not one. They are still on the shelf. They are still being worked on by the staff, and we have 154 people there employed at a cost of $58 million a year and not one of these plans is in operation.

I do not know how the Premier let this publication pass by and did not do anything about it, but it is there for the whole world to see and there is not one thing being done.

When I looked at the Rural Secretariat, I could not believe what I saw. In April, 2005, they formed nine regional councils across the Province. All of these people have to find a way to get together and talk about how they are going to improve the well-being and the economy of our Province. Now, they had 350 people wanting to get in on it, but they only accepted 133 because they wanted them to come from different sectors, cultural social backgrounds and so on. Do you know what? Each of those councils meet twice a year, and who pays the tab? The government.

This is a picture here of 133 people doing what they call having a gathering for dialogue day - now mind you, dialogue day. One hundred and thirty-three people went to that. This dialogue day right here was in Steady Brook in Marble Mountain. They had all the regional council members, 133 of them; they had the PC caucus; they had the deputy ministers; they had the chair of the provincial council of the Rural Secretariat. They had all of these people, 133 of them, plus all the bureaucrats with them over at Marble Mountain. This is October, 2005. These groups, they meet twice a year and the government picks up the tab.

After that big famous meeting they had, the Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development and the Minister of Business comes out with their new book, and not a thing in it, empty. After having these dialogue days with 133 regional councils, government picking up the tab - all over the Province. Sometimes they met in Burin, other times they went to Marble Mountain. They pick a different place every time they have a meeting. Then after all of that ‘chaw', all of that chatter and everything that goes with it, the Cabinet ministers came back and they said: Oh, we have a strategy. They published these books for everyone to look at. Guess what? Not a thing in them. Not a working plan in place. Anything that they talked about is still on the shelf, and no jobs created. No jobs created. How could they get away with that? What they did, they decided that they would name every strategy a new one to give the impression that they were developing something new and wonderful. Yet, for all of that, nothing comes out of these strategies. You have all of these diversification funds, you have a huge budget for rural development but there are no jobs.

I would like for someone to stand on their feet now and tell me how many jobs you created over the past four years. I would like for someone to stand up and tell me how many jobs you created over the past four years. I know what you created in make-work, I saw that. The Tories topped the list with municipal spending for make-work.

The Member for Baie Verte, I think was the prize winner, even in government times and Opposition times. He was the prize winner. The Member for Baie Verte never lost his touch in getting money for make-work. Even in Opposition times he always topped the scale and even when he is in government he did the same thing.

AN HON. MEMBER: The crowd in Baie Verte are going to miss him.

MS THISTLE: Yes, the crowd in Baie Verte are going to miss him. No more make-work for sure.

MR. HICKEY: They are not going to miss you though, from Grand Falls, I can tell you.

MS THISTLE: Oh, they are, and I am going to miss them too because I enjoyed every moment.

Well, there is one thing about me, Minister of Transportation, I do tell the truth. When I get up to speak I will be fair and I will give credit where credit is due, and I will talk about the good things that are in this Budget. I will not try to be negative about those but it is my job, being the critic, to also indicate where you might have fallen down on the job or where you could improve spending and having the money to do so. That is constructive criticism, it is not negativity. That is my job to do, as long as I am the Member for Grand Falls-Buchans. So, you can put any name you want on these strategies and unless you produce results, you can call them whatever you wish but they do not mean anything.

It was very enlightening when the Auditor General - because we always heard the Minister of Transportation and Works get on his feet and talk about all the spending that is being done on provincial roads in our Province. He was always giving the indication that this particular government was spending more on roads and transportation than any previous Liberal government, but now the truth came from the Auditor General in his report this year. Do you know that the Auditor General said? He said actual expenditures incurred by the department on road construction activity has decreased significantly from 2001 to 2005. It said the Province's road construction expenditures decreased by 55 per cent, from a high of $80 million in 2002 to a low of $36 million in 2005. Which proves that you cannot believe all the propaganda you hear, but we can depend on the Auditor General to give us the facts.

What the Auditor General is saying is that it is all about a communication spin that this particular minister put out. It was incorrect. The Auditor General is giving us the facts here in this Auditor General's book. He is saying that there was actually a decrease in road construction, road maintenance, since this particular government came into existence. You have to realize, for the past two years this new government had a surplus to work with. What we heard from the minister was basically incorrect. The figures that were given, funding for maintenance of the Province's roads excluding snow and ice has remained relatively constant between 2001 and 2006, at an average of $20 million annually - what we heard from the current minister was, I guess, an exaggeration, to put it mildly.

Now, there is no doubt about it that our roads need attention, and all of us who live in rural Newfoundland and Labrador are on the highway every week and we know that a lot of them are in hard shape. I don't see anything there, in big measure, that is going to help rural Newfoundland infrastructure; I really don't. Sometimes you can look after a school that is dilapidated and put a new one in place, but what we are seeing in recent years is that our school children are having to travel further to get their education. I know there is a huge issue on the Eastport Peninsula where children from Salvage are actually having to travel to Glovertown. A lot of kids are on the bus an hour and a half and two hours a day. That is not a healthy situation, and it is still not a safe situation either.

I don't know how you can expect children to be ready for school, ready to learn, when they have been on a bus, shook up over the highway, for probably an hour or an hour and a half before school starts; and the same thing in the evenings. Sure, when they get home they only want to flop in front of the television and get their supper. You talk about trying to be involved with school activities in the community! That is impossible.

Our population, the way it is going now, with no help for rural Newfoundland, I don't know how we are going to end up.

Look at our oil industry. The big question on people involved with the oil industry is sustainability. The money we are seeing now is like a flash in the pan. For the next several years we will have basically the same revenue, increased revenue actually. As more oil production is put out we will have greater royalties. But without another new project to fill the void when Hibernia runs out, and the others, where are we? It is key, as the oil community are saying, that we need another project. We need our Premier to be able to actually sit down and negotiate another project. Without that, we are going to be in hard shape. All the predictions are there.

If you look in The Economy book this year you will find out that we have some lean times coming up unless we can develop a new project. The government are saying it themselves. It is not something that I am dreaming up and I am actually saying. The government is saying that the value of manufacturing shipments deceased by 10 per cent in 2006 due to a decline in the value of fish product, newsprint and fabricated metal shipments. Newsprint shipments declined by 22 per cent in 2006 to 594,000 tonnes due to the closure of the Stephenville mill; and, of course, we all know right now that the price is down for newsprint across the world so that is going to have a huge impact.

I was very pleased to see that our own mill in Grand Falls-Windsor were able to find their $10 million that they had to find in order to continue on as they are. That was met by the employees of the mill in Grand Falls-Windsor and voted on by the end of March and that looks good for this year; however, prices are expected to decline by 7 per cent this year so that is an issue that we will have to take into account as well.

I think the big telling item here is the capital investment. That is the investment that companies, private groups, invest in our Province. Take, for instance, a new retail outlet probably by Costco or Kent or Home Depot, or a car dealership or a hotel or a resort or whatever. These are private entrepreneurs that see this Province as a good place to invest and a good place to start a business and grow a business and where they can expect to make a profit.

The Premier, I guess, and his government are saying that next year capital investment is projected to decrease by 7 per cent. Now, that is really significant. When you look in The Economy book for this year and you see that capital investment is roughly $8 billion, that is a lot of money. Anyone who is doing any kind of renovations or extensions or new construction or whatever - and a lot of this, of course, is government's own source of investments where they are going to be building schools and hospitals and clinics and road work and whatever. Government's own investments account for a lot of that. When you look at the fact that government has stated in their own publication that 7 per cent is going to be reduced this coming year in capital investment, that tells a different story. That says that people do not have the same faith in this Province as they once had, and for that reason they look at the financial future as being uncertain.

Most people today, that you talk to about this Budget, they are happy with it. I would think probably in excess of 90 per cent of the people are happy with it, but it is a flash in the pan, because if we do not sustain that revenue regeneration through oil and minerals, because this government has not diversified our economy one bit, where are we going to be in the years to come? Of course, everyone is saying that 2010 will tell the story. Unless we have some unusual new activity, an injection of new business, a new project, in 2010 it will be crunch time.

Government are also saying that housing starts are expected to decline by 8 per cent, or almost 2,100 units less will be built this year. Twenty-one hundred homes that would normally be built in Newfoundland and Labrador will not be built next year.

Now, here we are with a surplus here in this Province of $206 million, after this government has made strategic investments, particularly social, and we have a surplus, but yet the business community are saying that there is going to be a 7 per cent decrease in investments in new construction in this Province, and there are also going to be 2,100 less houses built.

Now, the greatest indicators of an economy in this Province, or anywhere in the world for that matter, is generally new housing starts and car sales, but there was a reduction, actually, in car sales last year of 2 per cent in this Province. These are the two greatest indicators, because we have all watched it ourselves and the oil industry people are telling us that things are going to dry up. The warning signs are out there. A lot of businesses, particularly around the Northern Avalon, Northeast Avalon, that had been geared up for another project have locked their doors and moved out. There are a lot of companies around this community here that are out a lot of money, that were gearing up for a big project that did not happen.

Right now we are wallowing in all this extra cash, and I have to say that it was not generated by this particular government, but they are finding the benefits of it. It was all done by a previous government, but right now you have cash that you can spend on different parts of society; which is a good thing. As a result of that, a lot of people are going to be looked after, but there is a huge problem facing this government which they do not want to even look at close to an election. This is an election Budget. They were fortunate to have all this money to play with. They addressed a lot of needs around the Province, and I am glad that a lot of groups and people were able to benefit from this Budget.

In fact, I looked through the Budget again and I saw that there is going to be a new investment in tourism. It was interesting, the Finance Minister said there is going to be $1 million extra for tourism marketing. I had this e-mail the same day that the minister stood on his feet. It was addressed to the Premier and copied to me. This is something that the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation should look at. It says: I am wondering when the comfort station will be built at Sir Richard Squires Memorial Park. My family and I have been camping there for the past twenty-five years and I was very excited to hear that a comfort station would be built. It was supposed to be ready for the 2006 camping season, but was not. Now I have heard it will not be ready this year either. The funding has already been announced and re-announced. This person is wondering what the problem is.

According to - not the Minister of Tourism - the Member for Mount Pearl, who has a handle on everything, except a Cabinet position. He says: So I can take it to the bank, can I? For the Member for Mount Pearl: Can I take this to the bank, that the comfort station is already under construction? Is that already under construction? The Minister of Tourism is not saying anything.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS THISTLE: Oh, yes.

Anyway, the Member for Mount Pearl who knows everything, but he is still not in the Cabinet, he says it is going to be done. So, I can say to the constituent from Grand Falls-Windsor, if you are out there for May 24 weekend, come back and give me a report.

MR. DENINE: (Inaudible).

MS THISTLE: Oh, I do not know if you are or not. I have experienced it and you have not, ha, so there.

MR. DENINE: (Inaudible).

MS THISTLE: The Member for Mount Pearl says he is a lot closer to the Cabinet than I am. Well, I can tell you, I was in the Cabinet for five years. If you think you are closer to the Cabinet than I am, let me know how you know. In the meantime, what goes around comes around. Our time will come again. I know that you are interested in what I have to say because whenever I say something that hits a chord, you can hear a little bit of opposition there on the other side.

Now, the issue of education. All of a sudden there was an announcement that came out that the Sir Wilfred Grenfell college is now going to have university status. Now there is a bit of confusion about that. I think that is a good thing, but apparently the president of Memorial University is quite unaware of this. It was in the Budget but there were no details on how it was going to happen or if there was any consultation with the president or the Board of Regents. I do not know if this was an eleventh hour idea that the Premier decided he would put in this book and give the details later, but there seems to be no details as to how this is going to happen, or when it is going to happen, or what it is going to cost, or any involvement. So, it is probably a good thing. They have had a successful run. They have been in operation for about twenty-five years and there has been all good reports from Corner Brook.

MR. T. MARSHALL: (Inaudible).

MS THISTLE: Oh, thirty-five. There is a correction. I thought it was twenty-five years, but the Minister of Finance tells me it is thirty-five years.

There has been nothing in this to enhance or improve what is going on in Central Newfoundland in our college. We are bursting at the seams. We always have a full number of students in every program in our college. Of course, we are into second year university studies. We have had one study after another saying that there is definitely a need for Central Newfoundland, but it looks like - well, if the Premier's district is Corner Brook, so naturally I suppose they are getting whatever is in the Budget to get. Still, for all of that, you cannot overlook the college in Grand Falls-Windsor that has a huge number of students. Every program is full and they have had great results in first and second year university, and it could become a specialty study university. I am hoping that they will take all of this into account.

It is interesting how times change in the matter of a couple of years. I remember Loyola Sullivan when he would stand in his place and he would argue black and blue that - I used to be saying when I was the Minister of Post-Secondary Education that we had the lowest tuition in the country next to Quebec which gives favoritism to its own residents. He would stand here on his feet for hours on end and he would argue that we didn't have the lowest tuition in the country. Now, the shoe is on the other foot. The Minister of Education says we have the lowest tuition in the country next to Quebec, which I used to say for years. Tuition hasn't changed, it has been frozen for all these years. That is what happens when you move thirty feet across the House.

I am glad we continue to have the lowest tuition across the country, next to Quebec, and I am also glad that students will now be able to have the benefit of paying low interest on the portion of their Newfoundland and Labrador student loan, and it will be a prime. That is good. That is all good.

Now, there haven't been any details announced on the grants program. I know it was announced that there is going to be a grants program, but we don't know who will qualify for the grants as opposed to student loans. There are no details on any of that. We need to know that, because if there are going to be the same conditions that are on student loans there won't be too many qualify. We all know that trying to go to university in St. John's or Corner Brook, if you are from rural Newfoundland and Labrador, is very, very costly. There should be special provision for people outside of St. John's who need to come to urban areas to go to university.

I think we could almost make our own rules. I know the rules now are dependent on the parents of the student if they are under twenty-one, but maybe need to look at those guidelines and we need to be more aggressive in going to the federal government and saying: You know, you have to take away those guidelines of the parents' income. The parents' income is the hinging point where government decides whether or not a certain student qualifies for a certain loan. We need to take away the parents' income and let the students be able to borrow based on their own merits.

That is a bigger picture question that could be developed further and changed if our government were to negotiate it with the federal government. Then, again, you have to be able to sit down and negotiate those changes. Whether or not that is going to happen is a different matter.

I am so glad that government decided to extend the Prescription Drug Program. I have to compliment groups such as the MS Society. What an effective campaign they led with their Valentines and with their St. Patrick's Day and with their Christmas - everything. What an organized lobbyist group they are. They really outdid themselves and, as a result of that, they reaped a lot of benefits for 600 patients across our Province who are suffering from MS, and I know several. I know several right in my own district who have MS, and it was huge concern whether or not they would have to sell their homes and go on welfare in order to be able to get the medication they needed. I can tell you that there would be no excuse with a government declaring a surplus of $261 million if they did not include those groups that needed it.

Now this government still have the financial capacity to look after others in our society who need help with medications. I look at the fact that you have been able to help young children who need an insulin pump for diabetes. Now you have to turn your attention to the adults, because adults have the same needs. I know it is important to look after children - very important - and I know that adults can probably adapt to diabetes a lot easier than children, but then there is the issue of ostomy supplies for those people who have not been looked after. These need to be looked after, and also we need to look at the issue of home care workers. These home care workers do such a valuable job and they are left out in the cold.

All of us, I am sure, as we get older, will probably have the need of a home care worker and, you know, that group of people are shrinking. That group of people are actually shrinking because generally the person who is a home care worker - not in all cases - is probably the second income earner in a family. As a result of that, if the main breadwinner cannot find work in this Province they are leaving and they are probably taking the home care worker with them. So, that is an area that government needs to turn their attention to and look at improving the working conditions when it comes to payroll of home care workers. They have not been as vocal as they should have been.

I think the ones that have been the most vocal in home care have been the VON workers over in Corner Brook. I cannot get that out of my mind, and I am sure the Member for Topsail cannot either. They were the ones that had the greatest effect on government, the VON workers in Corner Brook, when there was a golf tournament taking place in Corner Brook and the present Premier decided he would go write the cheque. He would write the cheque and settle the ill will and the strike. He decided to do that before the golf tournament started, but there is one thing he forgot to do. He forgot to tell his minister.

His Minister of Health at that particular time was really, really upset, and she said: I don't like the way you are running things here in this Province and, as a result of that, I am quitting. He said: Go on, get going. Since then, she has been sitting in the back benches. She has so much talent and she is wasting her talent in the back benches. The Premier never, ever, gave her the second chance to take on another portfolio. I wish he had, because he lost a fine individual with the Member for Topsail. She has so much talent, and just because she was a bureaucrat and she spoke up and said: You know, you just cannot operate a department like that, not knowing - you cannot go and overrule things in my department without telling me what is going on and we talk about it.

As we learned on the front page of The Telegram, the Premier has his special people who run this corporation. Not the ministers, mind you, not the ministers. He has his special staff that he decided to give a raise to, without them asking, so he doesn't care if he consults with the ministers but he has to pay this special staff, give them an increase of 17 per cent this year.

AN HON. MEMBER: He is hard to work with.

MS THISTLE: He is very demanding.

Of course, the Member for Topsail said that, because I still have her interview that she did with The Telegram. I still have that in my briefcase. She did not like the way that he was running the government and she wanted consultation, with her, because she was the minister of that department.

Of course, there was another, not a fall guy, a fall woman, when that happened. She was the chief clerk of the government, of the council, Ms Debbie Fry, who lost her job, too, at the same time because there had to be someone who would take the rap. Debbie Fry was said to not have spoken to her minister, which she had to take the rap for. Someone had to get the blame. As a result, a woman with such a distinguished career lost her job with this government, and she was at the top of the scale, on a pedestal as being the first female to be the Clerk of the Executive Council. She lost her job when she was the Deputy Minister for the Minister of Health because she was accused of not telling the minister about the situation in Corner Brook.

Two wonderful people are out of the workforce. I cannot say that the Member for Topsail is out of the workforce. She is still a politician, but she is not in the Cabinet where she should be. She knows everything that is in this Budget that was announced on Thursday. She could look at that with her eyes closed and she knows whether or not things are done right or things are done wrong, but she does not have the opportunity to be exercising her knowledge; she is on the back benches. I do not know what is going to happen in October, whether she is going to run again or if she is going to try - I do not think she will run for the federal Tories, not with the situation they are in now. I do not think she would have much luck there. Anyway, that will be a saga that will unwind, I am sure, when the time comes.

Now, there was a lot of new money put into the Department of Justice, and all needed. I was very glad to see that every recommendation in the Lamer Inquiry Report was addressed, and every recommendation was taken into account and seen to, every one addressed, and that is a good thing. There were more people hired for RCMP and RNC duty across our Province. All of these are good things.

As I said before, my job as the critic for Finance is to point out the good things, and point out the things that are not so good. When I see a booklet like that, Work in Alberta, being printed, I think one of the most important planks - I guess two of the most important planks - in the Blueprint for the PC government in 2003 was to develop and implement a plan for rural Newfoundland and Labrador so that our people would not have to leave and look to Alberta for a job. As we know today, four years later, there is no plan for rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

Can anybody here in this House of Assembly tell me any community in rural Newfoundland and Labrador that has increased their population since 2003? I can. I have one rural community in my district that has increased their population since 2003, and it is the community of Millertown. I wonder, out of the forty-eight members in this House of Assembly, can anybody stand who is representing rural Newfoundland and Labrador and tell me that the population has increased in any particular community? If they could do that, that would be a good thing.

The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board allowed an increase in production to White Rose and Terra Nova projects. That is a good thing for the provincial Treasury. What is happening is that there is more revenue being generated and there is more money going into the public purse. There is also a disadvantage with that too, because it means that our natural resources are drying up faster. The lifespan of a particular project is going to be shorter than we expected.

Of course, then there is the issue on equalization. We are okay for today but we have to decide when the Atlantic Accord comes up for renewal, whether or not we want to take the new option. That is an issue that has to be negotiated with the federal government.

MR. HICKEY: (Inaudible).

MS THISTLE: The Minister of Transportation and Works, I do not know what he is saying over there now but he is mumbling something under his breath.

The Atlantic Accord right now - our Prime Minister has reneged on what he said he was going to do for our Province. As I said before, it is puzzling a lot of people; even people like Wade Locke, the economist with Memorial University. Of course, that is an issue that you just do not fix by this constant battering around in the public with what is happening right now. So, I am sure that in order to get this issue fixed the Premier is actually going to have to sit down and make sure that things are negotiated around the table because we are not getting anywhere like we are.

When you look around rural Newfoundland, this is the problem that I have. The Budget that was put out by government -


MADAM SPEAKER (S. Osborne): Order, please!

MS THISTLE: When you look at the number of people working -


MADAM SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS THISTLE: When you look at the number of people working, our labour force, 215,000 out of our population of 505,000 are working. Our civil service here in this Province, the average age is forty-nine years old. Now what does that mean? That means we have an aging population. Our young people are headed to Alberta. All of these services that we have around our Province, what is going to happen to them? Who is going to be around to pay for these services in the future? Who is going to be starting a business and everything else that goes with it? These are the issues that are facing - I think the largest issue right now and the big downfall of this government is the fact that out-migration is rampant and there is no plan for restoring or renewing rural Newfoundland. That is the biggest problem at hand for this government. They have not created a large project to pick up the slack from our oil industry and our mining industry. Of course, until - you can name up all these strategies, as the Minister of Business did and the Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development, and nothing is happening.

Look at equalization. Right now we have equalization coming into this Province and it is done in two separate blocks. One is called the Canada Health Transfer, and that is to be used really only for health issues. The other one is the Canada Social Transfer, and that one is the transfer of support for post-secondary education, social assistance and social services, early childhood development and learning, and child care. So they have defined areas that you can use this money and spend it.

Another issue with equalization, too. It is based on the number of people in our Province. That is a huge issue because as our population declines we are going to get less money in equalization. So that is a huge problem that we are facing. It is easy enough this year, with all the money coming in from oil revenues, to be able to come up with an election budget, but really, when you look at the underpinnings of what might happen in two years time, what plan is there in place to address that? No plan.

Here is a quote from the Premier himself. It says: Without new job opportunities we will never turn things around in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. The Premier said that in 2003. If I asked the Premier today, what jobs have you created since you came into power four years ago, I think he would turn over the question to one of his ministers. I am sure he would turn over the question to one of his ministers, and they would have to begin to answer that question. That is, I am sure, a haunting prospect for this government, that they have not, even though they have had surpluses with the past two budgets, been able to revive the economy of rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

Of course, while we were the government we didn't have that kind of money to work with, and we had the downsizing of the federal government when they were trying to recover from their debt of $42 billion, and they were cutting the funding to every province in Canada. We didn't have the luxury of having all this cash coming in. If we were the government now we would have the same revenue as currently being shown on the books, because this is revenue that has been created from mineral and offshore oil royalties.

If you don't diversify your economy, what do you have in the case of a situation where you have a few lean years? We have seen that in the fishery already with the Raw Material Sharing. That was a bad year. Of course, pricing has a lot to do with it and markets and the upheaval of what is actually happening now with new buyers, and so on, for the current FPI.

We had a promise a couple of years ago that there would be new plants built in Bonavista and Burin. That didn't happen.

When you look at the money that was spent in branding, putting out a new official symbol that represents our Province, which is now the Pitcher Plant; there was about $250,000 spent on designing a symbol that would be reflective of the people of this Province. This is now the symbol that is used on every piece of stationary that is in this Province and used by the government. That is the Pitcher Plant. One would think it would have to be something to do with the fishery, the reason we came here, the new discovery of oil which is sustaining us right now, our forests, our mining or something. But it was the Pitcher Plant that was decided to be the official logo of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is now on every piece of stationery, and we are supposed to look to the Pitcher Plant as being the past and the future for us. In other words, we have turned our back on the fishery, our mainstay.

When I look at the Budget right now, everybody knows it was an election Budget. It could be called an election kick-start Budget and not an economic kick-start Budget because there is money in there for the Department of Rural Development and the Department of Business to use to try to stimulate growth in our economy. They have had four years to do it, and they have had millions of dollars to spend, but what are the results?

The results are in those two books that I talked about first when I got up here today. There are working plans on the shelf, there are none in operation, and there are no results that you can say that there are X number of jobs created in Triton, for instance, or there are X number of jobs created in Catalina. Even Augustine Rumbolt, the mainstay on the Northern Peninsula, Augustine Rumbolt, had to give in her own self and say that she could not make a living and she had to leave and go away. She was the one who was trying to hold the community together, trying to think that there was a bright future, just keep on and we will do it, we will survive on make-work grants, and then things will happen. She herself had to give up and head off to the mainland.

Next week there is going to be a job fair here for teachers, trying to attract our teachers away to the mainland. You know, we are putting a lot of money in education. Education now makes up over $1 billion of the $6 billion of our Budget, so we are going to educate our young people and we are trying to attract international students to be part of that complement. We are going to provide the best education we can for the young people of our Province, and what is going to happen at the end of that time? There is no job here that they can step into, so the wonderful education that the taxpayers of our Province are paying in providing an education to our young people, as soon as they graduate from post-secondary education they are on a plane to Alberta.

There is something wrong with this picture. Aren't there enough brilliant minds in this government? You have the tools to work with. You have the surpluses, the revenue from the offshore that you did not create yourselves. You have the money to work with. You have the people employed, and still, for all of that, you have not been able to create any jobs. What is the problem?

Your Budget talks about vision and action. Well, what is your vision? Is your vision to have a self-sustaining Province and be masters of our own house? That is what you are saying is your vision: to be masters of our own House and have a self-sustaining and self-relying Province.

You have the money to work with. You have the tools to work with. What is the problem? You don't know how to create jobs in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. If you were able to create jobs, you would not have the lineup at the job fairs. You would not have the lineup at the airport, and you would not have the charter planes coming in here and picking up our staff. Our people, I meant to say, who will be staff for somebody else.

Next week in our Province there is going to be a job fair to attract teachers of our Province. We have already had a job fair for skilled trades, or two of them, in fact: one last fall and one again last week. Now, we do have a job fair for nurses. What kind of a message is that sending out? We have a job fair for skilled trades. We have a job fair for nurses. We are going to have a job fair for teachers. For every category, I suppose, of labour in this Province, we are going to have a job fair.

Next week, how many of our young teachers are going to be disillusioned and sign up with some other province that is here soliciting them? It will give them a chance, although I am sorry to say it, it will give young people a chance to get a sign-on bonus. Some are so desperate for teachers and workers that they will probably pay a portion or all of their student loan in order to entice them somewhere else to work for a certain period of time.

Kevin Foley, President of the NLTA, says that you have addressed different things in school. You have addressed school maintenance, you have addressed textbooks, you have addressed school fees and maintenance of school property - in fact, you are now going to pay the insurance so groups around the communities can now use the premises, the school gym, the school cafeteria or whatever they want for after-school activities in the evening and so on - but what you have not addressed is the fact that the teachers who are being trained right now at Memorial University, there is no job for them when they come out of Memorial University. That is the hard part.

It does not matter where you are getting an education; you still have to have the basic core curriculum. The government has an obligation to be able to present that core curriculum program to every child in our Province. Children do not want to have to get their education in front of a computer screen. They want real teachers in their classroom. They want interaction so if they have a problem with a certain area of their study they want to be able to ask a teacher how to solve that problem. They do not want to have to deal with it by dealing with someone on a computer screen probably miles away. That is not the way to get an education.

What we are seeing now, because government has not addressed our rural economy, we are seeing a cluster of schools being built in regional locations so that children from all over a certain region will be bused into that main location, travel hours on a bus, and then try to get home the same way in the evening, and they are not ready to take on any activities after a long day like that.

One thing about losing a school in your community, it is almost like the heart is torn out of the community once the school is gone. It almost defeats the purpose of living in a community, because the school is supposed to be a integral part, like a church, like a bank, like a community centre, whatever; it is all part of one community spirit, everything that happens together.

You will find that when children have to travel a long distance to be part of a school group, probably miles and miles away, they do not have that community spirit, they do not have that association with their peers, because there is nothing happens once you get out of school, get on the bus and come home. Where do you hang out, if you are in a rural community? Where do you hang out? What do you do? Because everything you ever did was all happening at the school.

Then, of course, when people leave a community, what about the fire department? They are all volunteers. We have over 200 small municipalities in our Province. I think it was only 167 of those communities that managed to have a full election in 2005. Now, what does that tell you? That there are not enough people left in a community to actually put their names forward to run for election. I think it was 270 communities, and we had about 167 communities where we could not have a full election of council members.

Now, being a council member in a small community is a hard job. Number one, you are not getting paid any money to do it and you have to take a lot of abuse. You might be the person who is a next door neighbour to someone and you will have to say to them: Either you pay your taxes or I will have to go over and turn off your water. That is a good way to end a friendship.

Then, of course, money is not being put out to those small communities in the manner it was, say, five years ago. People are asked now to fend for themselves. One time - and I remember it well, small communities within my district that could not afford to pay their, probably, 40 per cent or 30 per cent of a capital works project - we would be flexible and probably, in some cases, government would pay 100 per cent, if they were into a situation where they needed clean water, or water and sewer or something like that. If they were into a lifesaving situation and they couldn't pay their 20 per cent or 30 per cent we would always be flexible.

What I am hearing from communities now is that in most cases they can't afford to take on any new projects because they can't afford to make their commitment to repay them. What is going to happen to water and sewer infrastructure throughout rural communities? What is going to happen to roads, what is going to happen to fire departments, what is going to happen to stadiums and community centres? It is going to be a sad looking thing.

Now, the Minister of Tourism is trying to showcase our rural communities, our outport communities, but I don't think it is going to be very good when there is nobody in those communities and he has to go around and do a model, perhaps, instead of a real live community; a model of what our rural communities were in their heyday. That would be an awful disgrace. Who wants to go around and look at boarded up windows?

There is a larger issue at play here. If we do not have a fire department or someone who is going to look after those rural communities and provide fire service to them, you have the issue of insurance on those properties. What insurance company is going to provide insurance on properties that do not have access to a fire department in the event of an emergency?

Now that brings me to another issue. This government did nothing about the 15 per cent tax on any insurance policy that is sold in this Province. All of us, or most of us in the Province drive a car and we have to insure our houses for fire insurance and so on. This government decided to do nothing about taking the tax off insurance. Sometimes the Minister of Government Services gets up and she says what kind of deal everyone had a reduction in their automobile insurance. I do not believe that is true because I hear talk of lots of people who had increases, not reductions. Why are we in this Province paying tax on insurance? We have a surplus. That is one area that everyone can relate to, insurance tax. Look at businesses around this Province, what they are paying out in insurance and tax on insurance. You know, it is pretty hard to stay in business knowing all of that.

If this government wanted to do something for seniors, why don't they remove the tax from funerals? Seniors, all of us, citizens in this Province pay tax our entire life from the time we start work until we die. Tax on funerals, that is a bit ridiculous. That is the last tax that will ever be paid by a resident of this Province, or anywhere else for that matter. That is one way that this government could have served our seniors well, by removing the tax from funerals. There should be one tax break in this life, even if it is on your way out, there should be one tax break. I do not see any reason why this government did not remove the tax on insurance, and also funerals.

I do not know what is going to happen with the negotiations in Ottawa. Everything that we do here as a Province - one-third of our budget money comes from Ottawa. Every policy, everything that is done here in this Province - when you look at mining, offshore oil, everything, it all depends on the federal government. Our relationship now is at an all-time low. I guess we can wait them out until they change, which will probably be next year. Between now and then there will probably be no progress made on anything that is Ottawa connected.

The issue of this fibre optic deal, it is still not settled in the minds of people in this Province. Fifteen million dollars of taxpayers' money is going into fibre optics. We still do not know, at this point, whether or not it is a good deal or a bad one. It is interesting, our Premier made a statement about giving money to large corporations. He said: I stated several weeks ago that I don't think it is right for the Government of Canada to give $100 million to Inco, a multi-billion dollar - a multi-national corporation. I know that there is no comparison from $100 million to $15 million, but when you think of the size of our Province as compared to the budget of Ottawa, it is very much like it.

We have a situation now where the Premier of this Province has agreed to give Persona Communications $15 million to develop a fibre optic cable system across our Province with nothing that we can look at here in this House of Assembly. There is nothing here, even the size of a matchbox of information that we can look at and say: Well, my goodness, this is a good deal or it is a poor deal. There has to be due diligence on every amount of money that is given out from the taxpayers of this Province. We do not know if that is a good deal or a bad deal. One thing we know is that if you pay your bills online, any money that you owe the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador for fees, they will give you a 10 per cent reduction. A 10 per cent reduction if you go online and you pay your bill.

When the Minister of Government Services decided to bring in that, I do not know if it was her idea or if it was the Cabinet's idea, or if it was the Premier's idea, but it gave the illusion that you are saving money by going in online and paying your bill. You are getting a reduction of 10 per cent, but what people should remember is that they are paying more, no matter how they cut it. They are paying more because it was only $140 to licence a car when we were the government, it is now $180. Do you think everyone in Buchans Junction, all the seniors have access to a computer to pay their driver's licence online? I don't think so. Do you think anyone who is now in a seniors' home and drives their own car, do you think that they actually have a way to go and pay that online? I do not think so. They do not have a way to pay it. Most people who are going to pay those bills are going to do it through their bank account and they are not going to get any reduction by doing it there. They will only get a reduction of 10 per cent if they sit down at a computer or get somebody else to do it for them and go in online and pay it. So, I am sure there will be little businesses springing up all around rural Newfoundland and Labrador. I can see somebody in a community providing that service for a fee. The 10 per cent you are going to save you will probably pay it out in the community to get someone to do it for you.

Well, it is just like today. How many seniors across the Province actually do their own income tax? Not too many I would not think. They will either go to a volunteer agency who will do it for them free or they will go to some other group, a bank or a credit union or a tax return agency, who will do it for them. Now the same thing is going to happen with paying your driver's licence. Would you expect someone who is currently on Income Support through the Department of Social Services to have a computer in their home and be able to pay for their driver's licence online? I think that is a bit discriminatory, because what you are doing, you are going to give a 10 per cent discount to anyone who has a computer and you are not going to give it to the ones who do not. I do not know if you followed that through when you were making up your minds on that.

I am looking at the RBC Economic Group that just gave an economic forecast for our Province. They are saying that Newfoundland and Labrador's economy will trail the country in growth in 2008 at 1.5 per cent. The reason for that, they are saying, is that it will be a retreat by capital investment - which I just spoke about - a retreat by capital investment, which means that there are going to be no big projects underway. There is going to be no private money. Business entrepreneurs who are willing to take a risk and invest money in large projects, whether they be hotels or (inaudible) stores or car dealerships or apartment buildings or condos, or whatever. The Royal Bank of Canada is saying that there is going to be a retreat by capital investment. That is next year. It is not two or three years down the road, it is next year. They are saying, Newfoundland and Labrador will be the only province in Canada to experience a decline in capital investment. That is why the money people, the movers and shakers of this Province and outside, are saying: No, we are not going to build anything new in your province next year. That construction that would take place next year is going to decline by 7 per cent. That is a lot. Seven per cent on a billion dollars is a lot.

Of course, in government's own review, the economic review, they are saying that mineral exports are tapering off next year, the price of paper is going down and newsprint shipments are going down. You know, next year is going to be the beginning of a decline in this Province. It may not appear that way right now, but, you know, there is nothing in this Budget that is looking towards the future beyond election year of 2007. It is a good Budget for a lot of people this year, but can it be sustained? Can it be sustained is the bigger question. I challenge anybody on that side over there to stand up now and say, yes, we have a plan, it is working, we have created this number of jobs and we have a plan that is already rolled out for Newfoundland and Labrador, we are already seeing communities being robust, building things, and there is a lot of money being spent on renovations.

I don't hear that kind of talk. In fact, I rarely hear rural Newfoundland and Labrador mentioned by this government. From time to time they come out with a news release and talk about their commitment to rural Newfoundland and Labrador, but I really don't see the effects of any kind of a real plan showing any recovery or any upsurge in new business. I challenge anybody to tell me what has happened in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

Why did the Minister of Municipal Affairs increase his budget for make-work projects? That is the best indicator of all. That is the best indicator of all, when you have the Minister of Municipal Affairs increase his budget for make-work projects in this Province. You only have make-work projects when there is no real work taking place. Make-work projects are designed to bridge a person from one job to another. If a person is out working and probably he does not have enough weeks to qualify to receive employment insurance, make-work jobs are designed to bridge that person so they can qualify for EI. As we know, it is much better for the federal government to be paying EI to one of our residents than us having to pay welfare from the public purse. A good indication of whether or not the rural economy is reviving is the fact that the Minister of Municipal Affairs had to increase the budget. That is pretty blatant. That tells us there is nothing happening.

You ask the people who have B&Bs in our Province. Where is the activity coming from tourists? It is not coming from the automobile traffic crossing the gulf and going to rural Newfoundland and Labrador. The traffic that is now coming has changed. It is air traffic. People who are coming here are coming for conventions, mostly in the urban areas, St. John's, Corner Brook, the Northern Peninsula, the prime spots. The automobile traffic that we depended on to infiltrate around all of rural Newfoundland and Labrador, you ask those tourism operators what they are experiencing and they will tell you that they have had a lot of empty rooms over the past two years.

Number one, our gas prices have hit the roof and people cannot afford to get in their cars. You know, the most tourism traffic that happens within our Province by car are our own people, you and me and our families and our friends' families. Over 60 per cent of the tourism that occurs in this Province is by our very own people moving about. When you have the situation where you have high gas prices and a lot of these people are out of work, they are not going to go for a weekend in Fogo when they have their Fish, Fun and Folk Festival. They might decide to stay home. Or they are not going to come to Grand Falls-Windsor for the Salmon Festival.

We have been fortunate in Grand Falls-Windsor, we have had a surplus now for the past several years. Everybody knows with planning any kind of a festival in the summertime it is all about good weather in Newfoundland and Labrador. If you have good weather, probably what can happen a day or two before the festival is you can expect to see a mushroom of tickets being sold. In Grand Falls-Windsor we are into our twenty-third year this year of the Exploit's Valley Salmon Festival and we always attract a good crowd. In fact, at the Red Cliff camps that we have all the time, Red Cliff on the rocks, we have about 5,000 campers there in tents. Some of them do not actually make the festival, they have more fun there at the campsite. Whatever! They are spending money and they are enjoying it.

Tourism operators in this Province will tell you, firsthand, that the automobile traffic has dried up across this Province and that the main tourism now is coming by air and it is hitting the larger parts of the Province, the urban ones, Northern Peninsula, and the smaller ones are finding the brunt of the high gas prices and our own people not travelling like they used to.

We have to look at where we are headed. It is interesting, that before our Premier formed the government in 2003 he gave a speech at the Board of Trade, and one of the excerpts from his speech - one thing about being a politician, everything you say generally gets recorded. You have to be careful what you say because you words might come back to haunt you. This is one of the quotes in his speech to the Board of Trade in November 2001. He said - these are the Premier's words: While I will fight aggressively and relentlessly for a return to the fairness that I believe is guaranteed in the constitution, I also believe that we have to prepare, as a Province, for the day that our non-renewable resources run out, and we must become self-reliant. Now, how true are those words! Were they said in this Budget? I don't think so. What we heard in this Budget was that we have to be masters of our own House, but we did not see a plan for us to get there.

He went on to say: And that means, quite simply, we have to get our economy growing, not just in terms of GDP, but in terms of real investment, real expansion, real diversification, real value-added manufacturing, real jobs and real profits here at home.

He knew what he said then in 2001, and this is the kind of stuff that really gets our Province self-reliant. I believe that. This is the kind of stuff that we need to do as a Province to get us on equal footing so we can be masters of our own house. He said we need real investment, and your own government, the Minister of Finance said: Real investment is going to dry up next year by 7 per cent. The movers and shakers are not going to invest as heavily in our Province next year. The Minister of Finance said that himself.

The Premier said: We need real expansion. Where is the real expansion taking place? I do not see it. The only expansion I know off is private entrepreneurs, like IOC in Labrador City. They have expanded. Voisey's Bay; they are doing their mill.

He says, we need real diversification. Now, what have I seen in diversification for this government? I know you are trying to develop aquaculture. Cooke Aquaculture is a private company that has invested $35 million into the aquaculture business, and government has put in $10 million. Now, that is the only diversification.

Real value-added manufacturing: Where is it coming from? Where is the real value-added manufacturing? Would someone stand up and tell me where it is taking place, because I have not heard it announced in any government news release.

Real jobs: Where are the real jobs? We know about the make-work jobs. You know, I have been racking my brains over the weekend. I am looking at the Minster of Finance. He said he created 3,400 person years of jobs in four years. Now, 3,400 person years of jobs is not very many jobs. It is only 1,000 jobs a year. For every person year, there are 1.3 jobs created. You created 1,000 jobs in one year, but, sure, when I look IOC did that. IOC, Voisey's Bay and Aur Resources are the ones that created the jobs; private investment. You did not create them.

I am looking at the Minister of Business and the Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development and their books are blank. They have a book they put out this year and it is called The Strategy. If I could eat strategies, I would be full here today, because every book has a different strategy. It is all about your naming what you are going to do. Right now, you are wallowing in what has already been done by other governments. You are wallowing in what has been already generated by other governments, not your own. You have had the benefit of working with all this extra money. What is happening that you haven't created any jobs and real profits here at home? I don't see it.

What have we got here now, when we look out to the future for the next two or three years. We have to be careful of what is happening down the road. I mean, you don't get a second chance at creating jobs. If this new government doesn't come up with a substantial new project or a way to grow the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador, the surplus that you are experiencing this year is going to be dried up. It is going to be used just to exist, just to look after the current services that we now have. You cannot go on like this forever, and the Premier knows this. That is the reason why he said that in a speech to the Board of Trade in 2001.

The Budget, I have to say, addressed a lot of the social ills and concerns that are around our Province, and should be done. You have the money to do it. What is lacking in this Budget is the issue of; you do not have a plan for the future, and while you have a couple of years of good money coming in now from oil revenues, that money is going to dry up. That money is going to dry up because there are no new projects on the back burner ready to come out on the front burner.

You have two projects now that are light-years away. You have the Lower Churchill which you are talking about. An environmental assessment will be ready for 2009 and you are talking about developing the project in 2015. You are saying that the project could cost upwards to $9 billion. Where are you going to find the investors to come up with $9 billion? We want to be masters of our own fate. It appears from the relationship we have now with Ottawa, that we won't have Ottawa on board for the Lower Churchill, unless something happens, unless there is a change of government and the Liberals are in Ottawa again.

Then it looks at the other project. There is no energy plan. One of the planks of this government, while you were in Opposition and writing your Blue Book, was that there would be an energy plan. You are into four years and you do not have an energy plan developed for this Province. You are facing the electorate on October 9. You have money set aside for an energy plan, but you have no energy plan. The Hebron-Ben Nevis project, how much money has been lost since that project has been rejected by this government? How much money has been lost by not starting it? Can't the big oil companies - can't Exxon wait you out? What happens to us in the meantime?

These are glaring realities. Although you are enjoying a surplus from past government projects, you do not have anything on the drawing board or in progress that you can count as results that you can bring forward.

If I were the Premier of this Province - which I will not be, I am retiring in October - and one of my ministers put out a strategic plan that was a blank book with not one plan in operation, not one plan in the works, not an X in the block for an operational plan, do you think I would let that pass my desk? No, not likely.

You look at Innovation, Trade and Rural Development. There are 154 people over there working, they have $58 million to work with, and the minister put out a book the same way. There is not one of those eleven strategies that is actually a working plan. Now, there are a lot of people hopping around the Province. There are a lot of committees shuffling paper out of their briefcases and staying at these resorts - 133 of them at a time - and all of their collective minds are coming together with a plan to rejuvenate rural Newfoundland.

When all of that is put together, all of those big meetings they have with those nine economic councils, and they give the minister the goods, he comes out with a blank book. A blank book. Here the Minister of Business has $4 million to operate on, and a $25 million diversification fund, and he has not a plan in place, and he is getting away with it.

People are really not looking at the underpinnings of this government. They are looking at the fact that there is money right now to spend. They do not care where the money came from, or whether there will be any money tomorrow, but I would say - and you can correct me if I am wrong - the biggest issue facing this government is the fact that they cannot sustain the present level of spending, the present level of revenues, because there is no diversification plan in place and there is no project to take up the slack in the future. By their own publications they are telling the people that they cannot sustain it.

Again, this is another excerpt from the Premier's speech in 2001. This is what the Premier said: Our Province needs a detailed master economic plan that will span two terms of government.

Of course, the Minister of Finance said that he had an eight-year blueprint. The Minister of Finance said he had an eight-year blueprint, and here the Premier said in 2001: Our Province needs a detailed master economic plan that will span two terms of government.

In other words, he wanted people to give him two terms of government because, he said, I do not intend to wear out my welcome beyond that. So, anyone who is out there now looking for a nomination to run for the Tories, you must remember that you will not have this Premier with you after the next term. In fact, I doubt if he will be there for the full term the next time. I doubt that very much. I doubt that very much.

He goes on to say: The master plan must specifically include a provincial energy plan. Isn't that something? The Premier now has to eat his own words. He said: Our Province needs a detailed master economic plan - which he does not have. He spent enough money trying to get it, but he does not have it and he does not have it implemented, and none of his ministers have it or are working on it. He said: The master plan must specifically include a provincial energy plan - four years on the job, no energy plan - a social and human resources plan.

I think you have scratched the surface on the social and human resources plan. The last thing he says: and this Province must have a comprehensive rural development plan. This Province must have a comprehensive rural development plan.

Where is that plan? Can anybody tell me? Can anybody tell me where that plan is? Not the Member for St. Barbe, or The Straits. Not that member, because he is still looking for make-work projects. I see him over in his seat now, and he is looking for make-work projects. The Member for Baie Verte, he is the king of make-work projects. He has more money in make-work projects than any other Member of the House of Assembly. He holds the rights to the most in make-work projects, out of any member who ever sat in the House of Assembly.

Is that a good accomplishment, that you can say I got more make-work projects than any other Member in the House of Assembly? I don't think so, because that shows me a couple of things. You might have been successful at band-aid treatment, but you really never got anything in your district that would give people permanent work. So, the Member for Baie Verte got the most make-work projects.

The Member for St. John's West, she did not need any make-work projects. The Member for St. John's Centre, he got one. I think he was the only one in St. John's who got a make-work project, the Member for St. John's Centre.

I remember, in Budget 2005, the buzz word then - well, this year it was that you are going to be masters of your own house. Remember what it was in 2005? I bet you nobody knows. You were going to unleash the fiscal tiger. I wonder where that tiger is today? I cannot remember what it was in 2006, but I remember in 2005 you were going to unleash the fiscal tiger. This year you are going to be masters in your own house. I cannot remember what it was in 2006 and, of course, I cannot leave this desk and look for it; because, for anyone viewing this today, the set-up here is, when I am critiquing the Budget, as soon as I sit down my time is gone. So, if I was reaching for something on the floor they would think I was sitting down and cancel my speech. I am not allowed any exceptions. Once I stand up, I must stay here in my place, with no exceptions. As soon as I sit down, my time is exhausted. So, naturally, I cannot go and look for any information that is not readily available to me on the desk. I cannot remember what the buzz word was last year, but I know it will come to me and I will have an opportunity to talk about it some other day.

I do not know what you did with the fiscal tiger when you unleashed him but you did not unleash him in rural Newfoundland.

Now the member for New-Wes-Valley, what is your district?

MR. HARDING: (Inaudible).

MS THISTLE: Bonavista North. Now, he did get a lot of make-work grants, I noticed that. You are in the top five. The Member for Bonavista North got a lot of make-work grants. That tells me, like I said before, there is no permanent employment in those districts. Anyone that tops the scales with make-work projects, they are the districts that do not have any permanent employment. It is only a band-aid treatment, trying to get people through until the next EI cheque comes. I do not think there is any joy in saying I have the most money for make-work projects. I would rather say we did not need any. You know, that is what you have to look at.

It is interesting, the concluding paragraph in the Minister of Finance's Budget is actually hilarious. One of the concluding remarks in the Minister of Finance's Budget is actually hilarious. I do not know if the Minister of Finance wrote his Budget Speech. I doubt if he did. Most Ministers of Finance do not write their Budget Speech. They have some of these high paying executives that we talked about today. Anyway, one of the lines in the Minister of Finance's Budget, when he was almost finished he said: The work has now begun. Wasn't your work supposed to begin in October, 2003? Wasn't your work supposed to begin then? Aren't we supposed to be able to see the fruits of your labour for the past four years? By golly, we cannot see it.

Now, it is interesting, isn't it? It is interesting for sure that the Premier's staffers get the big pay hikes. In one part of The Telegram you got this chart talking about the Premier's executive and the big pay hikes they are getting. On the second one, over to the right of it: Social workers are working beyond the call of duty. Now isn't that a glaring comparison? Isn't that a glaring comparison that the article that was printed right next to - was it intentional, I wonder, or was it just accidental how it happened? Next to the article yesterday in The Telegram about the Premier's staffers getting the big pay hikes, the next article is about social workers, how they cannot find enough foster families to look after children at risk. As a result of that, they are working around the clock. They are doing stuff they should not be doing. They are having to supervise children in apartments and supervise children in hotel rooms because they cannot find anyone to look after them. That is not what they were trained for when they went to university. They are not supposed to be in that kind of a setting. They are supposed to be out in the field or giving advice, or giving supervision and so on. They are not supposed to be babysitting.

Lisa Crockwell, the Executive Director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Social Workers, is concerned. That is not what social workers are trained to do. They are not supposed to be babysitters. Their job is to observe and rescue children from high-risk situations and put them somewhere where it is going to be safe. They are not supposed to have to find an apartment and go in it themselves and supervise and babysit children. That is not what they spent all that time in university for. Here you have the Premier's staffers getting big pay hikes, 18 per cent in one year, and social workers out doing that kind of stuff. There is a shortage of social workers. I can see why they would be fed up and heading to Alberta.

Minister of Health, you have to address this problem and you have to address it soon because once it hits the newspaper - it has already been a problem for a long time and it has been hidden, but someone found it so rough that they had to report it. I have to say now, Minister of Health, you have to fix that problem and you have to fix it soon because we have a shortage already of social workers. They are not happy babysitting. They are not trained to do that. They are trained to give advice and they are trained to help people in distress and so on. That is what they are trained to do and to administer all the government programs that is available to people in need, but they are not supposed to be doing that work. So, get that fixed. You have the money to fix it, so do it.

I am concerned about what is happening in our Province today. Here is another quote from our Premier - because, as I said, anything you say when you are a politician, it can come back to bite you. When the Premier was in Opposition, he spoke of a death spiral he felt would occur as rural Newfoundland declined. This is interesting. This is what he said while he was in Opposition: We are losing our people because they cannot afford to stay here. The failure of Liberal policies, or lack thereof, during the last decade is responsible for the demise of rural Newfoundland.

What is the responsibility of this present government? Four years on the job with plenty of money and people are lining up to leave. What is the problem?

We have been maneuvered into a health care system that rewards population rather than needs, and our population is shrinking because there are simply no jobs. For Newfoundland and Labrador this is a death spiral.

I would think, based on what we know already, that we are in that spiral right now. Now, this government has an opportunity -

MR. HICKEY: You are in a death spiral.

MS THISTLE: I would like for you to stand on your feet and say that. I am in no death spiral. The Minister of Transportation and Works is very insulting in his comments. He cannot take criticism. He is the one who is supposed to be doing his job, and he is not doing it. He says to me, that I am in a death spiral. I don't find myself in any death spiral. When I look at a death spiral it is with regard to health issues. I feel I am in good health, but that could change at any moment.

What I am saying to you is what your own Premier said in 2001: If we don't have real jobs in this Province, rural Newfoundland and Labrador is on a death spiral. If you are so brave, why don't you stand up and tell me what the rural plan is. Tell me what you have done with your energy plan. Tell me how many people you have employed in Goose Bay. Tell me that now, will you; tell me that. You are the one who has to negotiate, you know, with the federal government on Five Wing Goose Bay. You won't be so smart, will you, when you have to do that because you know it can't happen.

That is the issue that is facing you. You have your relationship with the federal government on the back burner, you have burned out all your friendships with the federal government, you have no rural plan in place, you have no energy plan in place, and you are riding on the coattails of money that was generated by previous governments.


MADAM SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS THISTLE: That is the funny part. Do you know something? This is the funny part about it. This is the hilarious part about it. There is not a face over there that does not have a smile from ear to ear. There is not a face over there that is somber. I do not know if they have been hoodwinked into thinking that they generated this money on their own. I dare say that is what they think, because you know the members of the caucus on that side really do not know what is going on. They do not know what happens with the caucus over there.

The Premier comes down to the caucus room and he says: Okay, this is when you clap and this is when you say hooray and this is when you fold your arms, and here is the deal. They are laughing about this because they know it is true. That is the funny part about it, they know this is true.

The funny part about it is that the Minister of Finance, who is a very intelligent man - and we have never had an ill word between us - the Minister of Finance, who is fairminded, has delivered a good budget to the people of this Province.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS THISTLE: I am not saying anything negative against that. I said, the Minister of Finance, who is a fairminded individual, has delivered a good budget to the people of this Province. What I am saying is that there is no thought for tomorrow. You have glossed over the real problem that exists with your government today, and you are trying to use the smoke and mirrors. You are presenting a good budget, but you know you cannot sustain it. The economists all over the country are telling you that. You cannot sustain it unless you have another huge project that will generate new revenue. You know that, and you know that to be a fact. You know that there is nothing happening in rural Newfoundland. You know that to be a fact too.

You have spent millions of dollars in two key departments of this government, millions of dollars spent on staff for the Department of Business which has never been at an Estimates Committee and answered any questions. This year they will.

On top of that you have the Department of Rural Development - and I do not know why you do not change the name on that department, because it is undeveloped or forgotten about.

The Premier said in his Blue Book and he said it at every speech before being the Premier of this Province, the only way we can sustain ourselves and be masters of our own house is if we are to become self-reliant and if we rejuvenate the economy, we diversify the economy, and we build our economy. The growth that we are experiencing now in GDP, you cannot eat GDP. You cannot eat GDP. It sounds good when you are giving a speech, talking about the GDP. You cannot eat strategies. That sounds good. If you have not got anything really to report, all you have to do is name a new strategy. It sounds like you are doing something and there are no results. You cannot eat strategies in the month of March and you cannot eat GDP, but you can eat groceries if you have a job and you can bring home a paycheck.

That is just like the tax decrease that this government provided. The tax decrease is great for people who are working, but I do not know how it is going to benefit the young fellow who was in the paper over the weekend, the one who was out to the Glacier last week and said he is moving his family to Alberta. That tax decrease is no good to him because there is no job to give him an income so he can have a tax decrease.

That is the issue that we are up against. I think what is happening in this Budget, all you are hearing is the good stuff and you are hoping the good stuff is going to get you through the next election. The remarks that the Minister of Finance made at the end of his speech, that the work has just begun, well you know something, Minister, that work should have begun four years ago. When you have ministers who are supposed to develop this economy and there is nothing but a blank book that they put out in January, that is kind of frightening. I know if I was the Premier I would never have allowed that book to be printed, with all those strategies and a blank sheet all in the book, not in progress.

How much is a person worth? How much is a person worth who works for our Premier? You know, I never heard of the Premier even having a Deputy. Now we have the Premier with - these are just the ones listed in the newspaper who actually received raises. There are probably a lot more. The Telegram only picked up the ones who received the increases that were glaring. These are the kinds of things we do in the Estimates.

I do not know if the viewers out there know the process for the Budget, but we do get seventy-five hours to discuss, debate, matters that are pertained in the Budget for the next year. We have already used ten of those hours on Interim Supply before the end of March, because naturally the Budget will not get approved until sometime in May, I guess, and government must keep running. As a result of that, we did have a Interim Supply debate in March so people could actually get their paycheques and government wheels could keep running. We have probably - I do not know, the Speaker knows - sixty hours of debate left in Budget where we can ask questions to any of the ministers who represent a department of government, or the Premier. We do not always get answers now, but we can ask the questions.

We also have what we call Estimates. The Estimates are contained in a book like this, this book, and that is an overview of every department of government and what this particular department intends to spend in conducting the business of that department for the next twelve months. Those meetings of Estimates Committees actually begin tonight, and the one tonight is the Department of Education. I will be at that meeting and I will be asking the Minister of Education various questions related to the expenditures that she intends to make in her department over the next twelve months for education. I am hoping that a lot of the questions I have, that had been asked to me by different constituents around the Province, I can ask the Minister of Education tonight, and I hope I can get some answers that will satisfy the people of the Province.

Although the Premier said in The Telegram that he looks at running the government as a $5 billion corporation and his staff are special because they look after the $5 billion corporation, it is really almost $6 billion and it is the people's money. I can tell you, the handful of people in the Premier's office, they do not look after the $5 billion to $6 billion corporation which is called the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

I know they work hard. I would not say that there are too many slack people in government anyway. There are a lot of people who work hard for a lot less salary. If you think back to the jobs you had, all of us had, before we became a politician, I am sure we all worked hard. We all worked hard in the jobs we had, and we did not all make a big salary. We are all working hard now. There are lots of people who will tell us that we are overpaid, but we are not making the salary of the Director of Communications, and we are not making the salary of the Chief of Staff, and the list goes on.

MR. JOYCE: The Premier is hard to work for, he said.

MS THISTLE: He said he is hard to work for, and he said -

MR. SWEENEY: He can't get along with anyone.

MS THISTLE: He can't get along with anybody. Well, I don't know if he said that.

MR. SWEENEY: He can't get along with Steve either.

MS THISTLE: Oh, we know he cannot get along -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS THISTLE: Yes, that is right.

There is a new position now called Deputy Chief of Staff.

The Chief of Staff, for anyone who does not know what the Chief of Staff does, the Chief of Staff is supposed to be the armour between you and the people, between the Premier and the people. The Chief of Staff decides who is going to be able to get in and see the Premier. The Chief of Staff decides what businesses are actually going to get an appointment to come and see the Premier, and when it is going to happen, and that person is going to set it up.

This person now is overburdened. This person now, the Chief of Staff, is overburdened, because now they have to have a Deputy Chief of Staff to go along with that.

MR. SWEENEY: That is to see who goes to see the Chief of Staff.

MS THISTLE: Right, they have to check on the Chief of Staff. The Deputy Chief of Staff has to do that.

This is what I cannot figure out, the Principal Assistant. The Principal Assistant, now what is that? Does anybody know what the Principal Assistant does? I wonder, is there an assistant to the Principal Assistant? We do not know. Then there is a Special Advisor on top of that.

Now, I did not think that anybody advised the Premier because he said: I am very demanding. I am not easy to work for. I am a workaholic, so you cannot pay people enough to work for me.

MR. SWEENEY: Did his brother get a raise?

MS THISTLE: I don't know.

MR. SWEENEY: (Inaudible) son-in-law?

MS THISTLE: I don't know who are in these positions.

Oh, there is a new position and it is called the Deputy Chief of Staff, but I am sure these are the kinds of questions that we will ask - I will ask - when I get into Estimates Committee. This part of the Estimates is called Executive Council, and these are the kinds of questions I will ask, and I will question the Premier under Executive Council. That will be done in the House of Assembly during regular debate like we are having here today.

Now, I do not know if he will stand on his feet and actually give me the answers, or if he will expect the Minister of Finance to answer on his behalf. I really do not know who will actually do the answering, when it comes time for asking these pointed questions, because these are the kind of questions that usually people do not want to answer. In fact, I am sure he is disgusted that The Telegram even picked it up, but it was going to be picked up because this is only day one of Budget debate and we have roughly sixty more hours to ask these questions, so naturally it was going to be picked up.

All in all, what we have here today, we have a glossy Budget which I have to admit does a lot of good things for people. I cannot underscore that fact. The Budget does a lot of good things for people, but my job as the critic is to point out where there are deficiencies, and that is only what I am doing today. I am pointing out where there are deficiencies, because you have to have a good Opposition. You have to have a good Opposition. You cannot have a runaway government that holds all the seats. That is not good for anybody. You cannot have such a lopsided House of Assembly that there would be no Opposition.

I always appreciated the Opposition when I was in government, because it is the Opposition generally that bring questions to the floor from constituents and people around the Province that sometimes might get overlooked and they may not get answered if you are not aware of situations and so on. You need an Opposition. You need a good Opposition. You need an effective one, and that is what keeps government on their toes, because they know that they have to do what is required of them or they are going to be criticized in the House of Assembly, they are going to be criticized in the media, and many times, or all times, the Opposition will bring to the public's attention the shortfalls in government governing.

It is our job to do that. We have to bring forward the deficiencies of government because, if we did not, people would not be aware of them. Most people do not have the time or the energy to sift through a series of Budget books. That is not what people want to do. They do not want to sit in front of a television in the night time and go through an Estimates book. This is what we are getting paid to do, to alert the population as to problems within government, problems that can be fixed, actually. It is our job to point out these deficiencies. This is only day one of doing this, and there will be many days in the future where we will continue to do this.

I think it was telling when I looked at The Telegram on Saturday and in the Business section it listed down all the royalties from year 1997 to the current year. It started off with royalties from our offshore oil projects of $651,000. That was the first deal; that was Hibernia. Since that, other projects that have come on stream, we have created a better royalty regime through legislation in this House and, as a result of that, we are going to be getting more every year from these offshore projects. In fact, this coming year we will get $1 billion. Now, that is incredible. Our Budget for the whole Province in $6 billion and this year we will be getting $1 billion in revenues from our offshore royalties.

Do you know something? The oil industry are saying what everybody else is saying: You have to be able to look ahead. You have to have foresight and look ahead. It is fine to spend the money this year and next year, but what is going to happen the following year if we do not address this situation right now? This is the time to address it, when you have money to work with.

NOIA and the oil industry - NOIA, who speaks for them - said, it is quite an impressive move. They are saying what other people are saying. Ted Howell, President of the Newfoundland Ocean Industries Association, NOIA, said the oil revue is paying for $155 million worth of personal income tax cuts.

He is saying it; the whole population is saying it. This government is able to provide a decrease in taxes because of oil revenues. He goes on to say, that is largely as a result of the oil production revenues. So we are saying that every Newfoundlander and Labradorian is seeing today how our industry affects their daily lives. As I said before, earlier today, the people in Buchans Junction could not see the benefits of the oil industry, but by providing a tax decrease and allowing them to have more money in their pockets, they could see the benefit of the oil industry. That is one direct benefit the people all over our Province can see when it hits their own pocket.

Now, he said: It is quite an impressive move - they are talking about government's Budget - but all on the backs of oil revenue.

MR. HICKEY: Would you like us to give it back to them?

MS THISTLE: Our question is - is this a minister of Cabinet, the Member for Lake Melville, the Minister of Transportation and Works?

MR. SPEAKER (Hodder): Order, please!

MS THISTLE: Here we are having an intelligent discussion as to how we got in this situation and he pipes up and says: Would you like for us to give it back to the oil industry? My God, if the Premier could hear you, you would be out of Cabinet tomorrow morning.

Anyway, the oil industry representatives, Ted Howell went on to say, our question - and it is a question that is on the minds of everybody of this Province. Our question is sustainability. Without another oil project, Howell says, revenues from nonrenewable oil are limited. The solution, another offshore oil development. We would like to see the Hebron project move forward. We would like to see negotiations commence on that.

I would like to ask the Minister of Finance: Where are the negotiations currently on the Hebron-Ben Nevis project? Are they on the shelf like they have been for the past year? What is the situation? What is the situation on the Lower Churchill? What is the situation on an energy plan for this Province? What is the situation? If you can answer those questions we would have some hope for the future, but while you are wallowing in money that has been generated by another government you do not have those answers and you cannot go to the bank with them, by the way. You cannot go to the bank with them. You do not have any answers.

Our question is: Where is the energy plan? Four years on the job, no energy plan. Four years on the job, no rural development plan. That was key, one of the big planks in your Blue Book. Every speech the Premier gave before he became the Premier said that -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

It being 5:30 of the clock, under Standing Order 9, the Chair seeks direction from the House Leadership.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, if both sides agree, I think the hon. member is about ready to clue up. Am I wrong? I think there is a minute or two left, is it?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. RIDEOUT: Yes. If everybody is agreeable, we can stop the clock for a couple of minutes. The hon. member can finish whatever time she has.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. member has three minutes remaining. I think, by agreement, we will stop the clock and permit the member to continue.

The Chair recognizes the hon. Member for Grand Falls-Buchans.

MS THISTLE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have to say thank you to the Government House Leader. Your predecessor, Mr. Byrne, would always interrupt me whenever I got up to talk about the Budget. He lost a lot of my time doing that and trying to put me off track, which he never, ever did. In the meantime, I have to say thank you because not once during those three hours did you get up and try to interrupt me. So, that is good.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS THISTLE: I will summarize what I have been saying, and it will not take me long to say it. I thank you for your indulgence. I thank you for that but I have to say, I will summarize what I have been saying all day. The fact of the matter is, this was a good Budget. There is no question about that. This was a good Budget.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS THISTLE: It addressed many of the social issues that have been plaguing the people of this Province. Because you had a surplus, which you never generated yourself, you were able to hand it out to the right people who needed it. That is good. It also indicated to everyone who watched it and anyone who studied it and anyone is looking at the future of our Province, is that there are some serious underpinnings that you have to address. I have said them before but they cannot be understated.

The Premier was so adamant in every speech he gave prior to becoming the Premier, and his case is going to be weakened to the federal government. His case is going to be weakened if he does not watch the direction he is going in, because right now we have an issue on our equalization that he is hoping will go away if there is a change of government in Ottawa. That is one issue.

We have an issue that there could be a Lower Churchill project. We have no financing in place and nobody who is willing to come to the table. The federal government, the relationship has soured.

We have an oil industry that is going to dry up if we do not continue on the same track that we are already on, in creating new projects. We have lost already what we would have gained by a 5 per cent ownership in Hebron-Ben Nevis because the project is not even on the radar screen. We need to get back to the table. We are going to have a serious deficiency.

Every economist across our country is saying that in 2010 we will be in a crunch; we will use what revenues we have then just to survive. There will be no freebies at that point if we do not do something to diversify our economy.

We have had all kinds of trade fairs in our Province taking away our skilled people. There is nothing for rural Newfoundland. You need to get busy. The last words you said in your speech on Thursday -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's allotted time has expired.

MS THISTLE: By leave, for one minute?

MR. SPEAKER: By leave, for one minute?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: Leave is granted.

MS THISTLE: I don't want to take extra time that is not available to me right now, because I will have other opportunities.

I thank you again for your indulgence.

I think what I am saying is only what the rest of the population is saying: that, if we care about our Province and we want to sustain ourselves and be masters of our own house, we have to develop rural Newfoundland. We have to diversify. We have to have new projects, and we have to keep our people.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair recognizes the hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, in recognition of the fact this will be, as we understand it, unless the hon. Member for Grand Falls-Buchans changes her mind - which, of course, is open to any of us, but unless she does - this will be her last time to respond to a Budget Speech, so I would ask my colleagues to recognize her contribution.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Grand Falls-Buchans.

MS THISTLE: Mr. Speaker, I will not abuse the privilege.

This was unexpected. I really never expected those thanks, but I am very grateful, especially from all sides of the House. It has been a pleasure, and I wish you the best.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, before moving the adjournment motion, I just want to announce, of course, what is already known. The Estimates Committees will begin their work this evening. I think at 7:00 o'clock the Social Services Committee will meet here and begin consideration of the Estimates of the Women's Policy Office and the Department of Education.

Tomorrow morning at 9:00 o'clock the Resource Estimates Committee will meet here for consideration of the Estimates of Fisheries and Aquaculture and Aboriginal Affairs.

All things being equal, it would be my intention tomorrow, unless the Opposition can persuade me otherwise, that we would begin consideration in Committee of the Whole of Estimates from the Budget that are referred to the House of Assembly, the Legislature, Consolidated Fund, Executive Council, whatever those matters are.

Mr. Speaker, having said that, and thanking members for their co-operation, I now move that the House adjourn until tomorrow at 1:30 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House do now adjourn until tomorrow at 1:30 of the clock.

All those in favour, ‘aye'.


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

The motion is carried.

This House now stands adjourned until tomorrow, May 1, at 1:30 of the clock.

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