The House met at 1:30 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Hodder): Order, please!

Admit strangers.

This afternoon we are very pleased to welcome in the Speaker's gallery councillor Seamus Butler, a member of the Longford County Council and visiting Newfoundland for meetings with the Minister of Municipal Affairs; and also Mayor Tom O'Brien from the Town of Stephenville.

Welcome to our House.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Statements by Members

MR. SPEAKER: This afternoon we have members' statements as follows: the Member for the District of Humber Valley; the Member for the District of Bonavista North; the Member for the District of Bellevue; the Member for the District of Mount Pearl; the Member for the District of Carbonear-Harbour Grace; and the Member for the District of Labrador West.

The Chair recognizes the Member for the District of Humber Valley.

MR. BALL: Mr. Speaker, I rise in this House today to recognize an exceptional town in my district. The Town of Jackson's Arm recently held their annual volunteer appreciation banquet to honour their volunteers.

Recently, we celebrated Volunteer Appreciation Week in our Province. What made Jackson's Arm situation unique was the magnitude of the volunteers in their town. The population of this small rural town in White Bay area is only 374. Even though they have lost forty-six residents since the last census, the town still honoured ninety-seven residents who volunteers in some capacity in the town. That is almost 26 per cent of the overall population.

Mr. Speaker, the Town of Jackson's Arm is a model of how important volunteers are to the survival of our small towns. These individuals volunteered in such areas as their council, the volunteer fire department, firettes, the church groups, recreation committee, their ambulance brigade, Orange Lodge and so on.

Not only was it amazing the magnitude of the volunteer base in this town, but also the variety of ages of the volunteers. The majority of the volunteers present were over fifty-five years old. One lady was actually the second oldest resident in the town. Two others of the volunteers present had just celebrated their sixth wedding anniversary.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this House to join me in extending congratulations to the Town of Jackson's Arm, a town with the need and the heart of survival for all challenges. Through the assistance of their phenomenal volunteer base, this town is a model town for all Newfoundland and Labrador and a great example of the importance of volunteers.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HARDING: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to acknowledge the contribution and offer congratulations to an organization in Bonavista North dedicated to preserving our heritage and strengthening our culture. The Cape Freels Heritage Trust, operators of the Barbour Living Heritage Village in Newton, have long been one of Newfoundland and Labrador's staunchest and most active groups participating in the preservation and presentation of our rural culture and heritage. Their dedication to preserving our past has contributed greatly to the development of a vibrant tourism industry on the Northeast Coast of our Province. Through the preservation of our past, they are helping define our future and change the way we think about life and opportunities in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

Recently, at the seventh annual Joe and Clarice Goodyear Business Achievement Awards Gala hosted by the Gander and Area Chamber of Commerce, the Barbour site was presented with the Customer Service Award for their efforts during the past year. The award was sponsored by Scotiabank and is given annually to a business that promotes the objectives of consumer service and provides a consistently high level of customer service. Through hard work and dedication, the Cape Freels Heritage Trust are blending essential elements of culture and commerce in a way that is helping redefine rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all hon. members to join with me in congratulating the Cape Freels Heritage Trust on their award and their continued efforts to preserve our culture and heritage.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, I rise in this House today to extend congratulations to the Crescent Collegiate Drama Club in Blaketown, who earned the First Place Award in the Western Avalon Regional Drama Festival.

The annual event, hosted at St. Catherine's Academy in Mount Carmel on March 3 and March 4, showcased the talent of seven schools in the region. For the third time in five years, the Drama Club at Crescent Collegiate in Blaketown has earned the first place award.

Mr. Speaker, Crescent's drama entitled, Wait, Wait, Bo, Bait, is a comedy based on the frustration of waiting and longing for something to happen.

Members of the Crescent Drama Club include: Katie Phillips, Brittany Gosse, Simone Dubeau, Stephanie Banton, Maria Drover, Matthew Feltmate, Greg White, Rodney Jerrett and Laura Thorne. Teacher Laurie-Ann Reid and colleague Debbie Phillips direct the Drama Club.

Mr. Speaker, along with the award for Best Play, the school also earned another for Best Female Actor. The award was presented to Katie Phillips of Markland for her spectacular performance on stage. They are now eligible to attend the provincial festival to be held in Stephenville from May 3 to May 5.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this House to join with me in extending congratulations to the Crescent Collegiate Drama Club, who took First Place in the Western Avalon Regional Drama Festival, and wish them luck at the Provincials.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of Mount Pearl.

MR. DENINE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Today, Mr. Speaker, I would like to pay tribute to the nominees and winner of the 2006 Mount Pearl Citizen of the Year.

The City of Mount Pearl, in conjunction with the Mount Pearl Kinsmen Club, host this event each year, whereas they select someone from the community for this very prestigious award. To be nominated as Citizen of the Year is a reward in itself. It is a reflection of a person's commitment to enhancing the lives of others and making the City of Mount Pearl a better place to live.

Mr. Speaker, the nominees for 2006 are: Dorothy Miller, Sally Seward, Rosalind Pratt and Patrick Walsh. The award ceremony was held during Volunteer Week, and the winner for the 2006 Citizen of the Year is Patrick Walsh.

At this time, I would like to mention a few of Pat's contributions to the city. He serves as a lector and Eucharist Minister in Mary Queen of the World Parish. He coached many school sports teams in soccer and baseball. He was part of the Mount Pearl Frosty Festival Committee. He chaired the Promotional Tour Committee for the 2000 Provincial Summer Games in Mount Pearl. He was a member of the Provincial Archives Advisory Committee. He is past-president of the Family History Society of Newfoundland and Labrador, and a member of the Provincial Council of the Association of Heritage Industries. He is a founding member of the Mount Pearl Heritage Committee and was Chair of Admiralty House Museum Board of Directors. He is Chair of the Mount Pearl Public Library Committee and he serves on the Provincial Information and Library Resources Board.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members here today to join with me in congratulating all the nominees, and special congratulation to the 2006 Citizen of the Year, Mr. Patrick Walsh.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SWEENEY: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to extend congratulations to the Carbonear Collegiate Sentinels Male and Female Wrestling Teams who won the 2007 School Sport Newfoundland and Labrador High School Provincial Wrestling Championships.

Carbonear Collegiate, who hosted the event, added to a collection of male victories from 2003, 2005 and 2006, while female teams scored previous victories in 2003 and 2006.

The male Sentinels totalled ninety-four points that resulted in seven of eighteen possible gold medals in their division, along with five silver and four bronze. Meanwhile, the female team received five gold medals along with four silver and a bronze.

Mr. Speaker, members of the male team include: Andrew Chenard, Jonathan Rockwood, Justin Cole, Jason Fitzpartick, David MacKenzie, Adam Butt, Kyle Snow, Karl Oates, Justin Burden, Korey Hearn, Dave Peach, Steve Snook, Mikey Hearn, Adam Comerford, Garrett Mangrove, Kyle Verge, Stephen Way Bishop, and coaches Robert MacKenzie and Randy Ralph.

Members of the female team include: Justeen Farrell, Victoria Ralph, Catrina Winsor, Ashley Butt, Marlana Penney, Ashley Guilfoile, Rachel Wrice, Crystal Clarke, Amanda Kelloway, Jessica Green, Sarah Pritchett, Jessica Laing, Molly Reichel, Kristi Bourne, Kim Reynolds, and coach Frankie Ralph.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this House to join with me in extending congratulations to the Carbonear Collegiate Sentinels male and female wrestling teams on wining the 2007 School Sport Newfoundland and Labrador High School Provincial Wresting Championships.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Labrador West.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to congratulate Sister Henriette Essiambre, a member of the Sisters of the Holy Rosary in Labrador City, Wabush.

Sister Henriette was recently honoured by the Catholic Missions in Canada with the prestigious Saint Joseph's Award. This national award honours outstanding missionary service to the Catholic Church in Canada.

Sister Henriette, the first Religious Sister to receive this award, has served the church for over fifty years as an educator, a school administrator, a parish pastoral animator, and in the past several years as executive assistant to Bishop Douglas Crosby, OMI.

She spent most of her ministry in the Diocese of Labrador City-Schefferville, but worked in education on the West Coast of Newfoundland for a few years.

"She is a worthy recipient of the honour," said Bishop Crosby, "and we are very proud of her! The sisters have done so much to build the church in Northern Canada; it is wonderful to see one of them recognized for her good work. They are unsung heros!"

The award, which is an Inuit stone carving of St. Joseph, was presented to Sister Henriette at a gala dinner in Toronto on April 25.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask that all members join with me today in congratulating Sister Henriette on being presented with this prestigious award.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Statements by Ministers.

Statements by Ministers

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform my colleagues today about an investment the provincial government is making in a Burin Peninsula company.

Recently, the Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development approved a $250,000 loan from its Small and Medium-sized Enterprise Fund for Dynamic Air Shelters Incorporated of Grand Bank.

Dynamic Air Shelters manufactures inflatable shelters for the promotional, medical and first response markets, and inflatable industrial shelters for the oil and gas industry. Last year, the company closed its Calgary production facility and transferred its production equipment and raw material inventory to its manufacturing facility in Grand Bank.

Since moving its manufacturing headquarters to Grand Bank, Dynamic Air Shelters has aggressively pursued new markets, including participating in our department's trade missions.

Recently, the company attended an event in Western Virginia and promoted its industrial shelter product line to key decision makers with a US firm that provides services to many US oil refineries. Dynamic Air Shelters is now hoping to be identified as a firm that can provide solutions in temporary shelter and structural requirements for firms serving the oil and gas refinery sector.

Mr. Harold Warner, President of Dynamic Air Shelters, says the company's rapid growth has resulted in significant staff level increases over the past eight months. Rapid increases in growth can result in working capital challenges and strains on equipment and infrastructure. Mr. Warner says that Dynamic's ability to respond to these challenges, while reacting to upcoming increases in production, has been improved significantly as a result of the Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development's assistance. He adds that the co-operation between government and his innovative and dedicated staff have propelled an enterprise that truly represents the great opportunities that exist for companies that manufacture in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, this company has positively affected the economies of Grand Bank, the Burin Peninsula, and the Province overall. This funding will help the company to continue its impressive growth and ensure that employment levels are maintained and built upon. I congratulate Dynamic Air Shelters on its achievements to date and wish them every success in the future.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Unlike this company name, this minister is neither dynamic but he is full of hot air, talking about this loan here. Let's give credit where credit is due, I say. This company was brought to the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador by the former Administration, the Member for Grand Bank when she was the Minister of Innovation. I say congratulations to the company ownership and their staff because they made it work - they made it work. Here we are with this minister and this government trying to take credit for something that they had nothing to do with. I say to the minister, this company also had EDGE status. Maybe if the minister -


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair recognizes the Opposition House Leader.

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I say to the minister, as well, this company was given EDGE status when they came here. I cannot say the same if you compare this enterprise to what is going on in Port aux Basques as we speak. Forty jobs have been lost because this minister sat on his duff and did not even have the EDGE committee get together to decide if Petro Field Industries that we could have brought in from Alberta to create forty jobs, would have gone ahead if he and his incompetence hadn't led to that not happening. Instead of that, the minister goes on an Open Line show and slams the mayor because the mayor speaks out about concerns that he has.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the member has about ten seconds left to respond.

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I say to the minister, when and if he ever gets off his duff and does something, maybe then he can get up and crow about it, but until such time as that, he should stay in his seat and not try to take credit for something he has nothing to do with.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

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

I thank the minister for the advanced copy of his statement. I, too, congratulate this company on its initiative.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Colleagues, I am asking for your co-operation. The Chair has recognized the hon. the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi and I ask all members to listen attentively as she makes her presentation.

The hon. the member.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As I was saying, I do congratulate this company on its initiative to come to Newfoundland and to open its plant in Grand Bank. I am delighted to see the government giving it support but I would also encourage the Minister of Rural Development, and I am emphasizing the rural development part now, to look at the fact that our communities have a lot of innovative ideas. Twenty years ago, twenty-five years ago in this Province, we used to put money into working with communities to develop their ideas. I really would encourage the minister in his department to start meeting with his people and to start looking at what could be done -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time has elapsed.

MS MICHAEL: Leave, please?

MR. SPEAKER: By leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: Leave has been granted.

MS MICHAEL: Just to say, Mr. Speaker, that rural development must be rooted in the people in the communities and I would like to see money going into the people in the communities in this Province to come up with their innovative ideas. I would encourage the minister to look at that.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers?

The hon. the Minister of Education.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, on Thursday, May 3, 170 students will arrive in Stephenville for the start of this year's Provincial High School Theatre Arts Festival. High school students from eleven schools across the Province will enjoy three days of workshops, perform plays, and receive guidance and advice on theatre arts.

The festival represents the culmination of hours of hard work and dedication. Students, teachers and volunteers have all worked diligently over the past several months to win regional competitions and secure a place at the festival. They deserve to be commended for their commitment to the performing arts.

This is the thirty-first year for the provincial High School Theatre Arts Festival. Mr. Speaker, a clear indication of its success. And for the first time, students representing the Francophone school district will be participating. They will perform their play in French and will receive their adjudication from a French drama instructor.

The Department of Education is proud to support this student festival. We have invested approximately $50,000 in this initiative. Students experience the thrill of performing on stage, improve their public speaking skills, learn how to collaborate, and gain self-confidence. The provincial showcase has turned into an annual highlight, not only for the students participating, but for the entire community. I know that Stephenville is very excited to be hosting this festival this year.

Mr. Speaker, government is proud of its commitment to the students of this Province. Cultural Connections, government's $10 million provincial arts and cultural strategy for K-12 education, aims to increase the presence of cultural content in the school curriculum, and foster links between artists and students in the school environment.

This is just one of the many initiatives that our school communities are embracing. From promoting healthy living to the introduction of skilled trades training in high school, our students have the opportunity to explore their interests and develop their skills in a whole range of areas.

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of this hon. House, I send best wishes to all participants in this year's festival and thank everyone involved for making it what I am sure will be another successful year.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I thank the minister for an advance copy of her statement.

I, too, would like to wish the participants in this High School Theatre Arts Festival the best of luck this week. I would also like to congratulate the Francophone School District for their participation. I understand it is the first time they have been at this festival, so it is good to see that happening.

Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that there are only eleven schools participating. I am sure they did have regional competitions, but it is unfortunate that more schools haven't participated throughout the Province. The reason for that, I guess, is that not all schools in the Province, especially those in rural communities, have theatre arts programs. I know there are very few if any in my district, and the reason for that is probably because they don't have the teachers to offer the program.

I know that the students and the teachers work very hard on this theatre arts initiative, Mr. Speaker. My wife taught theatre arts for a number of years, and I know that the teachers put a lot of effort into this program, and I also know that the students put a tremendous amount of effort into it. I would like to just congratulate them and wish them all the best this week.

Thank you.

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I thank the minister for the advance copy.

I, too, congratulate the schools that took part in the festival, especially the schools from the Francophone community. It is a wonderful venture.

I would like to think that these children, these students, would believe that they could go on in theatre arts as a career if they choose. It disturbs me that we have the lowest per capita support of the arts in all of Canada. I would encourage the government, if they want this kind of venture with the students to be successful, to look at increasing the money that goes into supporting the arts in this Province, or else these children won't be able to choose a career in the path they might want to go.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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.

My questions, or at least some of them, are for the Minister of Fisheries.

Mr. Speaker, over the past few months the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture has stated a number of times that any deal to sell FPI would be contingent upon the federal government transferring the company's quotas to the Province. Yesterday, the minister backtracked and is now referencing only the groundfish quotas, not the more lucrative shrimp and scallop quotas.

I ask the minister: Why is your government backing away from its previous commitment to secure all quotas, including the shellfish quotas, for the benefit of the people of this Province?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, it would be quite an exercise, indeed, to get inside the mind of the Leader of the Opposition.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. RIDEOUT: Never, Mr. Speaker, until yesterday, was it ever suggested that this government was backing off on the acquisition of quotas to the government and to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. That was a figment of the imagination of the Leader of the Opposition that got a genesis here yesterday and turned into some kind of a press manifesto later in the day, yesterday afternoon.

The fact of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, that we have said consistently, right from the beginning, that it would be a condition precedent of any deal that we would be party to, to allow FPI to divest itself of its assets, that its groundfish, licences and quotas had to revert to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. We have been consistent in that. We have said that from day one. We have never changed our position on that. We never, ever, ever said all quotas. Any phrase using all quotas is a figment of the imagination, the fertile mind, of the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair recognizes the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is no trouble to know when you got these fellows on the ropes, they start to insult you personally. I guess that is a trait they picked up from the Premier, who happens to do it all the time.

I say to the minister, if it is just a figment of my imagination, boy, you should talk to the press because every time you made that statement it has been reported. I will show it to you, where you said it in The Telegram and other newspapers around the Province.

Now, Mr. Speaker, in a recent news story in The Telegram - and I will quote him, because that is where it comes from right there. In a recent interview with The Telegram, the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture is quoted as saying: Unless the government is convinced that the sale of some or all of FPI's business units is indeed in the best interest of the Province, no such transaction will be brought forth for the Legislature for consideration. He is saying that if it is not in the best interest of the Province, no part or all of FPI will be sold.

I ask the minister: How is the sale of the marketing division and the secondary processing division of FPI beneficial to the interests of the people of the Province?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, I thought I was paying the Leader of the Opposition a compliment when I referred to him as having a fertile mind. I am sorry if he took it the wrong way. I certainly did not mean it to be derogatory or insulting, or anything of that nature.

How can the sale of the marketing arm and the secondary processing units of FPI be in the best interests of the people of this Province? They can be in the best interest of the people of this Province, Mr. Speaker, if we have a company, like Highliner seafoods, for example, who is well known to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, who has done a lot of business over the years in the fishing industry in Newfoundland and Labrador; a well-known, trusted, reputable Canadian company, a successful Canadian company.

If that firm is prepared to make long-term commitments to the fishing industry and to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, they are prepared, Mr. Speaker, to do that in terms of the Burin operation. They are prepared to do that in terms of marketing for other fish companies in Newfoundland and Labrador, and in Atlantic Canada. That is the kind of business that FPI was involved in and promoted, up until now. That is the kind of business activity that Highliner is prepared to continue to involve itself in and promote. That, Mr. Speaker, we believe is in the best interest of the people and the fishing industry of Newfoundland and Labrador, and it is why we are prepared to support it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. REID: I say to the minister, it was the secondary processing and the marketing division of FPI that kept FPI alive during the moratorium. Now it going to be sold off to a Nova Scotia firm, and the only asset that is going to remain here in the Province is the plant in Burin. The profits from the plant in Burin and the marketing division in the United States now will go back to Nova Scotia, not to this Province, I say to the minister.

Mr. Speaker, the minister did not provide any information yesterday on FPI's seafood company in Great Britain. The minister has now had twenty-four hours to go back and try and ascertain who that division of FPI will be sold to.

I ask the minister: Who will be buying the seafood division in Great Britain of FPI? Is John Risley involved in it, and how much is it going to be sold for?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, what the Leader of the Opposition fails to say, of course - conveniently fails to say - when he talks about profits from Burin, or profits from the marketing arm, or profits from Triton, or profits from Bonavista, going to individuals, those profits, if they are made, are going to the people who own Fishery Products International. They are going to the shareholders, at the moment, of Fishery Products International.

If there are profits made in operating Marystown - or, excuse me, in this case Burin - and the marketing arm, they will go to the owners of High Liner. That is where profits go at the end of the day.

Now, in return for that, they provide jobs, good-paying jobs, long-term jobs, to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and we consider that to be in the best interest in the long term of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

As to the seafood company that FPI purchased in the United Kingdom some time ago, as of this moment that company has not been sold; there is not any plan to sell it. If it is to be sold, this government and this Legislature, as per the laws of this Province, will pronounce on that matter as well as pronounce on any other matter related to the sale of assets of FPI.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would assume that if FPI is selling its marketing division and its secondary processing division and its shrimp division and its groundfish division, I would assume that they are also selling the seafood division. I thought, after this deal went through, FPI would not exist. So, if FPI does not exist, who is going to own the seafood company in Great Britain, I say to the minister?

Mr. Speaker, there also appears to be very little mention of Fortune in any of the discussions that we have heard so far. I ask the minister: Are there talks ongoing to sell the Fortune plant to Cooke Aquaculture, and will there be any quotas transferred from FPI, or whoever picks up FPI, to that facility in Fortune?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, you talk about Jekyll and Hyde. I mean, this is the same Leader of the Opposition who, a few months ago, was swinging from the rafters in this Chamber because FPI, at that time, had purchased a seafood company in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Speaker, FPI purchased that for about $40 million. It is my understanding they could unload it today for about $80 million and turn a tidy profit. Now that they are in a position of maybe doing that at some point, the Leader of the Opposition is on his high horse riding in another direction. There is no way of pleasing this hon. gentleman, so I suppose we may as well give up on it.

I know there was a question and I am not quite certain what the question was. I believe it got lost in the rhetoric of the question itself, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I was on record and I will still be on record: FPI should not have used the sweat equity that the workers in Newfoundland did to buy that facility in Great Britain. I was opposed to it then and I am opposed to it now.

All I am asking you is: Who is going to buy it and who is going to make the profit off it? Because it is not going to be the plant workers who work for FPI currently in this Province, I say to the minister.

He can talk about swinging off the rafters all he likes because I think that is where he is most of the time, swinging off a rafter.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, let's change gears a little bit here.

Because of ice conditions on the Northeast Coast of our Province, the crab and shrimp fisheries have not started yet. As a result, fish harvesters and plant workers - some plant workers - now find themselves out of work, no EI benefits, and no chance of making an income in the foreseeable future, in the next few weeks.

I have written the federal Minister of Fisheries, Mr. Hearn, and the federal minister responsible for Employment Insurance, Monte Solberg, asking for an EI extension but I have not received a response back from him yet.

I ask the minister: Have you written or conversed with either of these two ministers about an EI extension to fishermen or fish harvesters and plant workers along the Northeast Coast? If you have, have you received a response, and what response was that?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, it is a strange old world out there indeed when it is wrong to buy a seafood company for $40 million and then it is wrong to hold on to it because its value has doubled and now it is worth $80 million and perhaps the best thing to do is sell it, Mr. Speaker, pay off the money that you borrowed to buy it, and invest the money into other aspects of your business. Something wrong with that.

I never professed to be a business person, Mr. Speaker, have not got a business clue in my body, never paid a payroll in my life, but even my elementary sense of business tells me there was something right about that whole process, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Now, Mr. Speaker, in terms of making representation to the Government of Canada on an extension to EI benefits because of ice conditions, I have received representation from the hon. the Member for Torngat Mountains in terms of Aboriginal fishers in the north. We passed that representation on to the Government of Canada. I know that the union and the Leader of the Opposition and others are continuously making representation to the Government of Canada because of ice conditions now along the Northeast Coast. We are part of that. We have made similar representation in person and in conversations with ministers and others. I have not received any personal reply. Whether there is anything at the office that has come in, in the last twenty-four hours or not, I do not know, but we have made representation. We do hope that the Government of Canada, through the Employment Insurance Commission, will be cognizant of the events that are facing our fishers and our harvesters and do the right thing and allow for an extension of EI benefits.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I say to the minister that his elementary sense of economics might say that FPI did the right thing by spending $40 million on a plant in Europe and selling it for $80 million, but does his elementary sense of economics - can he tell me how that benefitted the 2,000 employees of FPI in this Province? Because I do not see them being benefitted. None of them have seen any work on the Burin Peninsula or the South Coast in the last two-and-a-half years, I say to the minister.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier is on record as stating that FPI workers should take a wage cut in order to keep their jobs. Meanwhile, Premier Williams just gave his staff, in his office, salary increases which amount to nearly $100,000. Some of these wage increases amount to $13,000 a year - a wage increase of $13,000 a year - more than any of the fish plant workers that we have been talking about in this House for the last two days are going to make next year or made last year, I say to those opposite.

I ask the Minister of Environment, and the member representing the plant workers in Marystown and Burin: Do you agree with the Premier, that fish plant workers should take a pay cut while his staff, his own personal staff on the eighth floor, should receive massive increases in pay?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, I think everybody knows that the small number of people who work in the Premier's office and assist the Premier, as leader of the government, in overseeing and managing and providing day-to-day advice on running government departments, government operations that are, I think, budgeted now to be something in excess of $5 billion, those people are working day and night, seven days a week, twelve months a year, to provide advice to the leader of the government.

Mr. Speaker, all that has been done in the reclassification and the reorganization of staff in the Premier's office is to bring those who were at the ADM level closer to the ADM level of pay across the system, and those who should have been at the DM level closer to the DM level of pay across the system. That is what has happened in the Premier's office, Mr. Speaker. Those staff are worth their weight in gold. They provide great service to the people of this Province -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: - and they are working for a Premier who has contributed more in three or four years to the growth and the betterment of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador than practically every other Premier who went before him.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I did not think the Member for Burin-Placentia West would stand up to the Premier about his pay increases while saying that the fish plant workers in his district should take a cut, because he did not stand up for the fishermen in his district last year, or the year before last, when they brought in that ill-fated raw material sharing plan. There was only one individual who stood against the Premier on that, and it was Fabian Manning, so I guess the Member for Burin-Placentia West is protecting his own skin.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair recognizes the hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier stated that these significant pay increases were necessary to ensure that his staff did not leave or did not quit and seek employment opportunities elsewhere. I doubt that there are many opportunities out there that would pay more than they are receiving now. Meanwhile, by suggestion, the Premier is saying that people working in damp, cold fish plants are worth less and should have accepted salary cuts.

I ask the Minister of Environment, the member representing those plant workers on the Burin Peninsula: How do you justify your support for massive salary increases in the Premier's office while agreeing with the Premier that fish plant workers in your district should take wage cuts?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, in his preamble, the Leader of the Opposition talked about a former member of this House who stood with certain people when certain events were unfolding in the fishery. Well, Mr. Speaker, we just saw a couple of days ago in Ottawa an example of where that member stands in terms of what is unfolding in Newfoundland and Labrador today.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: God willing, that person will have the ability and the will and the desire to stand for the people of this Province again, Mr. Speaker, against his own government, as he allegedly stood against this government when he was in this House.

Now, I suppose if you want to carry on that kind of foolishness and drivel coming from the Leader of the Opposition, it can go on forever; but, Mr. Speaker, the bottom line is that we are talking about salary increases over a period of time given to some people in the Premier's office whose salaries were way below - significantly below - that kind of work done by other people across the system. They have been brought up to a more comparable level, a more equitable level. They deserve every cent of it and this government, Mr. Speaker, does not make any apologizes for paying people who work in the Public Service an appropriate amount of compensation for the work that they do for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. REID: The minister might think that it is drivel, standing up for your constituents, but I will let the constituents in the member's district decide if it is drivel or not, I say to the minister.

Mr. Speaker, here are a couple of examples of the salaries and the positions in the Premier's office. Upstairs we have an individual by the name of Brian Crawley, Chief of Staff. He will make $131,000 this year, a raise of 8.1 per cent. Elizabeth Matthews, Director of Communications, will make $102,000 this year, an increase of 13.8 per cent. The Director of Operations will make $82,000, an increase of 16.8 per cent.

I ask the Minister of Finance: Do you support such significant wage increases for the Premier's staff when your department imposed a two-year wage freeze on all public sector employees and just gave them a modest 3 per cent increase?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, let the record show, and the people who might be watching this know, that when questions come from the Opposition they are supposed to be directed to the minister of the department responsible, or the Premier, if he is in his seat, or the Deputy Premier, in my case, or the Government House Leader, not to a minister who has no responsibility for that particular department, Mr. Speaker.

Everybody knows that. The Leader of the Opposition knows it, but he is trying to be cute, Mr. Speaker. He is trying to be just as cute as he is listing out those salaries that he just listed. He did not say, Mr. Speaker, for example, that Elizabeth Matthews, the Director of Communications in the Premier's office, with her reclassification and her salary increase, will still make less money than was paid to the incumbent who worked for Premier Grimes when he was there, $103,000.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair asks the Government House Leader to complete his answer.

MR. RIDEOUT: It is so ‘backupable', I say to the hon. Member for Bay of Islands.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Neither did the Leader of the Opposition say that the Director of Operations in the Premier's office, who is getting a bit of a salary increase, is doing the work of two people who were there under Premier Grimes; neither did he say any of that, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: All of which I lay before the people of Newfoundland as ‘backupable', Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair recognizes the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

To quote the minister's own words, it is not ‘backupable'. Those figures are not ‘backupable', the ones that you just gave.

Let's talk about positions, I say to the minister. Mr. Speaker, the Premier recently hired, a new position, a Deputy Chief of Staff. A new position that pays $95,000 a year. His Special Advisor - I do not know what that individual does up there. I think he sold insurance before he went up there though. His Special Advisor is going to be paid $93,000 a year, an increase of 8.2 per cent. His Principal Advisor is going to be paid $90,000 a year, an increase of 8.2 per cent, I say to the minister. These are significant pay increases, approved by a Cabinet, while we have home care workers making minimum wage and no action by this government to address the issue.

I ask the Minister of Health: Do you agree with these high wages in the Premier's office while there is a shortage of home care workers because of the $7 an hour that you want to pay them?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair recognizes the Government House Leader.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition can go from minister to minister to minister to minister, but the answer is coming back here.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Because the question, if the Speaker wished, or if the government wanted to, could ask that the question be ruled out of order. We are not interested in that, Mr. Speaker. The Leader of the Opposition can ask what he likes, he can do what he likes, he can dance how he likes, he can wish what he likes, but the fact of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, as I have said it before, there was an increase for staff in the Premier's office as a result of a reclassification, as a result of looking at their work, to bring some of them up closer to the ADM level across the system; to bring others who were at the DM level closer to the pay already being paid to deputy ministers throughout the system.

Mr. Speaker, nobody mentioned that the Deputy Minister to the Premier - the Leader of the Opposition knows this but he is not going to throw it on the floor, just as he knew about salary levels for people when they were the government in the Premier's office. Nobody mentioned that the Deputy Minister to the Premier, for example, has resigned from his position, is no longer on staff, and that as a result of that happening, the overall salary complement paid to people in the Premier's office, even with those raises, is less than it was last year. Nobody has mentioned that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition, time for one short question.

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, what the minister is forgetting here is that all of these are political appointments, not civil service appointments. They are all political appointments. It is obvious that this government, and especially the Premier, has no problem giving money to his friends, his associates and his political cronies.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier's manager of Community Outreach, Ms Kim Puddister, just got a 16.5 per cent wage increase. She now makes $80,000. This individual is also a member of the so-called Tory by-election in the box theme. That is what they call it, a by-election in a box. She is part of that team. As a matter of fact, it appears that the only outreach that Ms Puddister did since January -


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the member if could put his question quickly.

MR. REID: No problem, Mr. Speaker, no problem. If I were not so rudely interrupted, I would have had it finished.

As a matter of fact, it appears that the only outreach that Ms Puddister did since January was outreaching the Tories in the districts of Port au Port, Humber Valley and Labrador West. She spent most of her time working on by-elections this winter.

I ask the Deputy Premier: Will you table in this House of Assembly all travel and entertainment expenses, and annual leave claimed by Ms Puddister since January to determine how much time was spent and how much money was spent of taxpayers' dollars to fund Ms Puddister's expenses during these by-election campaigns?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I would ask the Government House Leader to keep his response short so we can have the allocated time for the Member of Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi.

The Chair recognizes the hon. the Government House Leader.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will attempt to be just as short as the hon. Leader of the Opposition, for sure.

I want to say this, Mr. Speaker, right off the bat. I want to pay my tribute to that Tory in the box theme. I want to tell you -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: I want to say how pleased I am that that theme delivered seven out of eight by-elections, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: There is the crowning jewel up there.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RIDEOUT: I suppose I should, Mr. Speaker -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, yes, they won Humber Valley, but it certainly was not a landslide. Hold on to it. Seven votes can disappear pretty quick between now and October.

I should say, Mr. Speaker, I think I have run out of time.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question is for the Minister of Health and Community Services, directly to the minister.

The shortage of foster homes in this Province has led to a situation where young children are being placed in apartments and cared for by social workers. This shortage is reaching a crisis point because families do not want to operate foster homes when fees are still too low, in spite of the small increase announced in this year's Budget, and when they cannot get the supports they need from government.

My question for the minister is: What will your government do to address the critical shortage of caregiver homes?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As the member just alluded to, we are into the second year of a three year commitment we made to increase the rates paid to foster homes in this Province. We are working very closely with the Foster Family Association to recruit new homes, to recruit people into the system. She may have been listening to the media in recent months, where they have undertaken a massive media campaign to attract more homes, attract more families to become foster parents.

One of the things though, she did talk about, which is very important to note. First and foremost, our child, youth and family provisions of services to children and youth in this Province, our first priority has to be their safety. At any time, if we find that there is a child at risk, the first decision has to be to remove them from that situation and provide supportive services, regardless of whether it is in a foster home, which would be most ideal, but if not, we have to think first of the child and to make sure that they are not left in an unsafe environment.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair has allocated time for one brief supplementary.

MS MICHAEL: One point before my supplementary. I would like to point out that what has been put in last years, this years, and next years budget is well below what the Foster Families Association has been asking for. So my direct question is related to resources for the families.

Out of the fifty-one new social workers announced yesterday as part of improvements to Child, Youth and Family Services, will some of these positions be earmarked for in-care services to improve foster families' access to social workers?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: The short answer: Yes.

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.

Answers to questions for which notice has been given.



MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FRENCH: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

I am here to present a petition today on behalf of over 5,000 residents who signed a petition in Conception Bay South, Conception Bay Centre and into the Topsail district as well, Mr. Speaker. It is concerning the Holyrood Thermal Plant.

Mr. Speaker, I will just read the prayer of the petition.

WHEREAS the Holyrood Thermal Plant has been in existence since 1969; and

WHEREAS this facility is emitting thousands of tons of sulfur dioxide along with hundreds of other toxic chemicals into the atmosphere, our water supply and our food chain; and causing unnecessary harm to our environment; and

WHEREAS this facility has been ranked among the top ten polluters in Canada; and

WHEREAS this facility is causing considerable health concerns for our residents; including our children and seniors;

BE IT RESOLVED that we, the residents, are requesting the House of Assembly to urge Newfoundland Hydro and the Department of Environment to begin the process of reducing or possibly eliminating these emissions from this facility by installing precipitators - and they have scrubbers in brackets;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we request the House of Assembly ensure that this expense can be cost-shared between Hydro, the provincial Department of Environment, the federal Department of Environment, and the rate payers of Newfoundland Hydro, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I attended a press conference this morning and I would like to acknowledge some of the people who were in attendance. The Deputy Mayor of Holyrood was there. There were a number of people from the environmental care committee of Holyrood; Mr. Jack Swiminer; Mr. Joe Byrne; as well, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Gary Goobie was there who took the time, as a resident, and went around and collected quite a few of these names and put the petition together; as well as a Ms Megan -

AN HON. MEMBER: Parsons.

MR. FRENCH: Parsons, there we go, Ms Megan Parsons. I know here uncles would certainly kill me if they realized that I stumbled on her name; but certainly Ms Megan Parsons who spoke very effectively about some of the concerns that she had as a younger person and certainly as a person with diabetes as well.

I also want to acknowledge the fact, and they as well will sign the petition with me, that the Member for Topsail was also at that presentation this morning. As well, the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, the hon. Tom Hedderson, was also there and is also very, very concerned about the emissions at the plant in Holyrood.

Mr. Speaker, if I could, too, I want to acknowledge the work of the community environmental groups, the community care environmental group from Holyrood as well as one from Seal Cove that has probably been in place even longer than the one in Holyrood. They certainly brought this to my attention first when I was elected and it is something that we have been working on, I guess, from day one.

Mr. Speaker, just to give a little bit of history, I guess there have been some minor battles won. First of all, of course, was the Community Liaison Committee.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's allotted time has expired.


MR. SPEAKER: By leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: To clue up, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Leave has been granted.

MR. FRENCH: Thank you.

Could I say, Mr. Speaker, there has been significant progress made, and I want to acknowledge Mr. Ed Martin at Hydro for taking the time to meet with us, to meet with me, I guess, within the first week he was on the job, I believe, to go over some of these issues. We have made some minor progress in the last couple of years.

First of all, the Community Liaison Committee, we now have local residents sit on the Community Liaison Committee. They meet on a regular basis, and the residents are informed of what is happening at Hydro. Previous to that, there were leaders from municipalities who sat on the Community Liaison Committee but it was certainly nothing like the actual residents of this facility sitting on this committee and certainly being able to find out all the information that is available on, I guess, a month-to-month basis.

As well, Mr. Speaker, we were successful in getting some additional monitoring sites, which is certainly noteworthy, and, of course, the reduction of the sulfur in the fuel by 50 per cent, and that will decrease the Pms, what we call Pms, which is really the ash or the flake or the particulate matter as referred to from dropping on places, Mr. Speaker. Now, don't get me wrong, that is still a very, very, very, big concern; however, it has reduced it by 30 per cent or 40 per cent and that is something that I can only thank the residents and the local committees for keeping this on the public radar, Mr. Speaker, and encouraging Hydro to invest that extra $7 million to $9 million per year to get that down.

Mr. Speaker, like I said earlier, that is certainly only a minor battle that has been won. The war on emissions is far from over. Currently, as this House knows, the people in my district know that there is -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The members who granted leave have asked the Chair to assure that the member makes his concluding comments very quickly.

MR. FRENCH: I appreciate that, Mr. Speaker, and I know that members of the Opposition realize the importance of this for the residents of my district, and I appreciate them giving me the time to have these few words, Mr. Speaker.

As I was saying, we have a long way to go. Government is now in the process of releasing its energy plan, which will dictate how the energy throughout this Province is going to be obtained and how it is going to be used in the coming days and months. When we have that energy plan, it is from that, that major decisions will be made on the Holyrood facility.

Mr. Speaker, if I could just clue up by saying -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Leave has been withdrawn.

Further petitions?

The hon. the Member for Carbonear-Harbour Grace.

MR. SWEENEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to present a petition on behalf of the residents of Conception Bay North, Trinity Bay area.

WHEREAS conditions on Route 70 passing through Victoria and Salmon Cove are badly in need of repair; and

WHEREAS the traffic travelling over this road includes school buses, commercial trucks, patients going to hospitals, and children walking to and from school; and

WHEREAS this route is part of the Conception Bay North Highway and it has deteriorated severely over the past number of years;

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, call upon all Members of the House of Assembly to see that this section of road is brought up to proper standards.

Mr. Speaker, this is the same group of people who petitioned this House last year. I find myself in the same situation as I was last year this time, speaking out for these constituents and the constituents from an adjoining district on the North Shore of Conception Bay.

Mr. Speaker, they travel this road every day. It is the main highway, and the road is not fit to drive over. Last year, in response to the petitions, the government did half of the road, but what they failed to do was to address the worst part of that particular highway. The part from the school, the Persalvic school in Victoria-Salmon Cove area, to Salmon Cove itself, and through the community of Salmon Cove, was not touched. There are bridges there that are inches above the pavement. There is no surface left on the bridges. Every time somebody goes out, they are in risk of doing damage to their vehicle and suffering personal injury.

Mr. Speaker, this has gone on too long and without due care. It was so silly last year to see those pavers move into the area and pave half the highway that needed to be done. I do not know what the government attempted to prove by doing that. Why not just continue? For the little bit of money that was involved, they could have easily continued to come down and put a surface on the rest of that highway.

Mr. Speaker, government has to show compassion. We have just had a Budget. The funds for highways have not improved very much, considering the fact that the cost of asphalt has gone up now to $200 a ton, three times from what it was three years ago, maybe four times. The money that is being wasted in this Province in the Premier's office and other places, that $100,000 would have gone a long way to fulfilling the needs of these people and making the highways safe for them to travel over.

Mr. Speaker, little children this winter walking to school because of the government's bus policy of having to walk because they were within a certain distance of the school, dodging the buses and trucks and everything else that were going along that highway. These people deserve better. They are Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, like all of us. The very least that you can ask for in this Province is a decent road to drive over.

Mr. Speaker, I am sure I will continue this petition at a later date and I thank you very much for your indulgence.

MR. SPEAKER: Further petitions?

Orders of the Day.

Orders of the Day

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

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Motion 1. We will continue with the Budget debate.

MR. SPEAKER: Motion 1 has been called.

The motion is that this House approve in general the budgetary policy of the government.

The last speaker was the hon. the critic on the Opposition side.

Members to speak - the hon. the Member for Windsor-Springdale.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HUNTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I am indeed proud today to get up and have a few words to say on the Budget and just allude to some of the aspects of the Budget and, of course, how they affect my district in Central Newfoundland.

I was very proud last week when we talked to the people in Central Newfoundland who really commended our government on doing such a job of putting forward such a great Budget, probably the best Budget this Province has ever seen.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HUNTER: We all can see the effect of bad budgets in the past and, of course, bad decisions by governments in the past. It is good to see a bit of light now when we start to see our economy and, of course, our infrastructure and everything turning around in this Province. You do not have to look very hard to see that.

In the past couple of years, Mr. Speaker, we have been having to deal with situations where we had to be very prudent on how we spent the tax dollars of this Province; but now, with the turnaround and with the Atlantic Accord and with such hard work of the Premier and his Cabinet, we see benefits. We see benefits, of course, when it comes to our resources now. We see our mining resources, our minerals, at higher prices, the highest prices in decades. Of course, the oil prices are fairly high. That gives an opportunity for this Province to do some good planning into the future with the money that we get from royalties of our resources. We need to be very careful in how we do that.

Mr. Speaker, as I was going down through some of the items in the Budget Highlights book, it is hard not to think positive. It is hard not to be happy and excited for the future. I mean, you only have to look at the tax reduction plan for this party, that we have come up with, the largest tax reduction in history for the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Of course, a lot of people will avail of this and it will put more dollars in the pockets of our people in the Province which will, of course, stimulate our economy, especially in rural Newfoundland, Mr. Speaker, when a couple of hundred dollars here and a couple of hundred dollars there in people's pockets could make the difference of small businesses surviving in rural Newfoundland.

I guess that is the whole intent of having a good Budget. We need a good Budget to put more money back into the system, more money in the pockets of people of our Province, so that they stay in their communities and support the small businesses in their community. A tax reduction of over 2 per cent in most cases will put a lot of dollars in the pockets of our people in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, even small business will benefit greatly in this Budget. The corporate income tax threshold increased from $300,000 to $400,000. It is only $100,000 we might say, but that will help a lot of businesses and put a lot of money back in circulation for these businesses, and I am sure small business today in this Province will appreciate that.

Mr. Speaker, we even see in our Budget the elimination of 170 fees reduced or eliminated for an annualized savings of approximately $3.4 million. These fees and reductions might not seem like much to a lot of people, but to a lot of people when dollars count it makes a big difference.

I like the investment that this government has been making in our health care. We have been investing a lot of money in our health care, probably the most in history for this Province. Mr. Speaker, no one can deny the fact that health care is changing from day to day. The cost of health care in increasing. It is the biggest part of the Budget of this Province, almost $5 billion that we are budgeting, and our health care budget is getting up there to about $2 billion now. It is increasing every day, it is increasing every year, and we have to find ways not only to make health care more affordable and more accessible, but we must be very careful on the spending of health care. We do not want to see all of our Budget being put into health care, even though we would like to, but there are a lot of other things in the Province that we need to address.

Sometimes we just look at the needs of our seniors. One good thing I see here in the Budget, too, is an investment of $4.2 million. We will increase the low income seniors' benefits threshold for senior couples by about $10,000, and that will ensure more seniors can avail of the programs and some 3,800 senior couples will receive a cheque for $768 as a result of this initiative. With our senior couples in the Province today, they are finding it difficult, and every dollar that we can put into these senior couples' pockets is certainly going to make life a lot easier for them. I am really glad to see that part of our Budget. It makes a lot of sense to have these initiatives. It makes a lot of sense to promote them. It makes a lot of sense to encourage them.

We do have a lot of low-income people in our Province, a lot of people who need help. It could be as simple as getting a roof repaired, or some other minor repairs in a home for the lower-income people of our Province. One good initiative that this government has taken on, of course, is the Provincial Home Repair Program. It was formerly called the RRAP program. I remember back a few years ago when you could just go down to a local town office and sign up for a RRAP program; but, guess what? Back in those days the federal government contributed about 80 per cent of the cost of the RRAP program and it made it a lot easier and it served a lot more people because of the federal government's input into it.

Today, this Province recognized the need for it and the Province decided that it is a very worthwhile program and that we would take it on alone. This year, the Province will start a new program which will, in the next six years, increase the provincial contribution to another $24 million. That is doubling the provincial contribution of this program. The funding committed will help to address over 4,000 applications now that are on the waiting list. Every MHA, of course, who deals with areas that depend on low-income homes that need home repairs, we all are familiar with dealing with the regional offices, trying to get applications approved and trying to get inspections done, trying to get the work done and trying to keep it within, of course, the scope of the criteria of the program. This is going to make a big difference and mean a lot to a lot of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who need those minor repairs.

I know in my area, we have a regional office in Grand Falls-Windsor and we do have a couple of thousand applications that are back three years. We are starting to catch up now. We will probably be doing 2004 applications this year in Central. This extra money that we are going to put in this program is going to make a big difference in trying to clean up the backlog and, of course, these applications that are two and three and fours years old. The people who are going to avail of these programs certainly appreciate that, and they certainly will know that this government is making every effort in meeting the needs of the low-income residential problems that we have in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

We do recognize, of course, the need for low-income housing. We recognize the need for special housing for disabled people. We have a fair number of units that are totally disabled accessible and we probably need to do a lot more than that, but we are going in the right direction. Disabled people in this Province today, and people with special needs, recognize that it is a big problem and we are doing all we can to correct that problem, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, as I alluded to earlier about the health care, we are going in directions that we have never gone before in this Province, and people are staring to recognize it. This government is now investing $22.3 million for new diagnostic and capital equipment, and that will represent a $12.3 million increase above the base funding. This investment will purchase two new linear accelerators to expand radiation treatment capacity at the Dr. H. Bliss Murphy Cancer Clinic, cardiac cath lab equipment and monitors, a Bi Planar Angiography machine, a new X-ray machine for the Carbonear General Hospital, a CT Scanner for diagnostic imaging at Western Memorial Regional Hospital, and a CT Scanner for Sir Thomas Roddick Hospital in Stephenville.

Mr. Speaker, it is so hard to get to the areas where this testing is done. Then, when you get there, sometimes your appointments are cancelled or delayed. The more equipment that we put in the system, the more expertise we have and the more manpower we have to operate them, makes life a lot easier for the patients of the Province.

I know personally, from experience dealing with constituents of mine, having to come to St. John's for diagnostic testing, and, of course, certain surgeries and stuff, particularly dealing with cancer issues. To drive from Grand Falls-Windsor all the way to St. John's and find out that your testing has been cancelled or your appointments have been cancelled or delayed or sometimes postponed, makes it really hard on the patient and makes it hard on the family, especially the low-income families who can barely afford enough money to get here for one trip, can barely get here physically because of their health problems. The last thing we want to see and the last thing anybody wants to see is a patient having to go through that type of situation. This government has recognized the problems that we have had in these situations. We are committed to making it better, making it easier and, of course, making it easier to fund a trip for anybody in this Province to get these very necessary diagnostic tests and appointments and surgeries that they need in their health care. This government should be commented for the efforts we have been doing in health care, and we have been looking at the situation of all these people throughout the Province. The more equipment, the more testing, and the more manpower we can have certainly is going to be a big plus for the people of this Province.

One thing I noticed here in the Budget outlines, Mr. Speaker - and it might be only a small item, but I think it is going to make a big difference to a lot of people. This was an issue concerning speech language with special needs. In the outline it says, "In order to address the wait list of 200 children and the wait time in some areas up to a year for preschool therapeutic speech language pathology services, we will provide $396,100 to create five new positions."

Now, in a $5 billion Budget, $396,000 does not seem like a lot of money, but I know from people I have talked to, these five new positions will make a lot of difference in the lives of a lot of children, and we recognize that. We received letters from parents throughout the Province who needed help - and the children needed help - for preschoolers. That problem was addressed in this Budget. The minister, the Premier, and the Cabinet looked at these problems. They may be only a small number, but it is a big problem for a small number of people. We did address it, and I am very proud of that.

Another big issue in the Province, Mr. Speaker, and of course it is all over the Province, and that is dealing with mental health issues. This year we are dedicating $1.6 million to strengthen the Province's mental health and addiction services. That is including $800,000 to implement a new mental health care and treatment act. Also, $800,000 to continue implementing our mental health policy framework with specific initiatives, such as the anti-stigma campaign, additional addiction counsellors and mental health case managers and supportive care for clients.

Also, in that, too, Mr. Speaker, there would be $575,000 to address the gambling problem. A lot of times we just look at these issues and we know they are big problems but nobody wants to talk about them. In my district we have a mental health clinic and office in Grand Falls-Windsor. I deal with a lot of constituents and I tell you, this is a very important issue. It is very important and big enough of a problem that it needs to be given a lot of attention.

I am very proud that this government has recognized the problems and recognized the need for more funding in budgets to deal with mental health problems and, of course, to deal with addiction problems. We can see great benefits in the future when we address problems such as these. Maybe they are not the problems, the big multi-dollar problems that everybody gets excited about and wants immediate action, but these problems are big in the minds and the lives of the people who are dealing with them. I am so proud that this government has dealt with issues like this and we will see great benefits, as I said, in the years to come, Mr. Speaker. I am sure constituents of all of us, their families really appreciate the help that we are trying to give to the people in this Province dealing with mental health issues.

Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of items in this pamphlet about what this government has done in this Budget. It will take a long time for us to sit down and go through every one of them but I am sure my colleagues, we are going to have lots of time to deal with all of the issues, all of the good things in this Budget. Everyone of us can specifically pick out items that we are happy with, and of course the feedback from our constituents are happy with.

I just like so many of them, there is no way that I am going to be able to get into all of them, but to just pick out a few items here. The funding for the Kids Eat Smart Foundation, that will increase by $250,000, in addition to the $500,000 in core funding. That is a great initiative, and I do not think there is anybody in this House today who would not see great benefits in their own districts with this initiative.

The new funding that we have this year in the Budget is going to be really appreciated by a number of people in the Province. That is the new funding that we allocated for the Provincial Eating Disorders Program, and that comes to $228,800. I mean, that is definitely a good step in the right direction. Our health is depending on how we live and the problems that we have in our own personal lives, eating disorders and everything, that is going to make a big difference to our health care. When we can put money into a program that is going to help people like that, then I think it is an investment into the future health of our residents in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, another good initiative that I have just come across in the Budget - and of course means a lot to me and is near and dear to my heart, coming from a Central Newfoundland forestry area. We are very proud to see that this government will invest $19.9 million to upgrade the provincial water bomber fleet. This is a very, very important initiative. I do not know if the people of the Province realize how important our forestry is to us, but when we do have a disaster and do have a major forest fire it could destroy not only the forests in the Province, but it could destroy the lives and livelihoods of a lot of families in this Province depending on the forestry. We recognize that.

We recognize that our equipment, our firefighting capabilities need to be number one, topnotch with the equipment, and the bombers itself being topnotch. This year we are going to invest $19.9 million to do that. That is a great initiative. It is a good thing, even though it is one of those issues that a lot of people probably do not even notice, probably do not even care, especially in areas were there is probably no forests. I can guarantee you that in Central and Western Newfoundland, where we are really depending on the forestry for our livelihoods, this initiative is going to be well welcomed and hopefully we will not have any serious fires where we have to put this equipment out to be used. I certainly would rather see it being parked and be used for training rather than be out there fighting very, very large forest fires which is going to take away that very valuable resource that we do have.

Also, Mr. Speaker, this government will provide $1.2 million to establish fire and emergency services for Newfoundland and Labrador. That is a very important initiative. I mean, with the disasters we have been having in the last number of years and with the numbers of people moving away who have expertise in emergency and fire fighting, emergency services, we need to make sure that this Province is well protected and well served in emergency services. We don't have to go back very far, when we look at the disaster in Badger that devastated the lives of many people. Many homes were lost and, of course, it was a very trying time for a lot of people. We need to be prepared with not only emergency and fire fighting capabilities, but emergency care services to be able to handle disaster situations.

I have to commend out fire departments in rural Newfoundland and all these little communities that go out and train on their own time, volunteer and spend a lot of money to do this. I really thank our fire departments and emergency services response teams, the Exploits Valley search and rescue team and many more in the Province.

Mr. Speaker, I know my time is up but I would like to thank our volunteers in the Province for the great job they are doing to protect us. I am sure I will get a chance to have another few words. My colleagues are all anxious to get up and have a few words to say.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SWEENEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to use my twenty minutes this afternoon to go through some of the items in the Budget; some of the things, I guess, as most people realize, that affect the people of rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Windsor-Springdale just highlighted some of the things he saw that reflected good things to his district, and he also outlined some of the shortcomings that are going on in this Province right now and the need to do more. The only thing he didn't say was how lucky his government was to fall into this big pot full of money and have the luxury of being able to present this great Budget in an election year; the great October Budget, I have to say, Mr. Speaker. That great October Budget! That is what we will call this; the election Budget.

Mr. Speaker -

MR. WISEMAN: You are paranoid, aren't you.

MR. SWEENEY: No, I am not paranoid at all, I say to the Minister of Health; I am not paranoid at all, not one little bit.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health over there, I would like for him to go out to one of his clinics and take one of those suppositories they are handing out there and take some of the pressure off his head so I can get my speech in.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker -


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

AN HON. MEMBER: How low can you go, eh? How low can you go!

MR. SWEENEY: Stay tuned.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I know all hon. members are anxious to hear the presentation made by the hon. the Member for Carbonear-Harbour Grace. To that end, I ask members for their co-operation so we can hear his speech in relative silence.

The Chair recognizes the Member for Carbonear-Harbour Grace.

MR. SWEENEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to say to the Member for St. John's Centre, he will have his turn. He can get up and speak when he is ready.

Mr. Speaker, some of the things that were in there, there is no dispute that the books for the kids, the new school announcements, those things, yes, they were the proper thing to do; there is no question about that. You cannot refute any of that stuff.

In my own district, the enhanced CAT scan and mammography equipment, there is no question, the new X-ray equipment, there is no question, it is badly needed and the people out there are entitled to it, just as well as every other resident in this Province; there is no question about that.

Mr. Speaker, right in the middle of that, last week or the week before, I lost almost 100 jobs in my district. There are close to 100 people out there now who are not sure what their future holds for them. Just this morning, I dropped off a young man at the airport on his way to Alberta. There is nothing in there, Mr. Speaker, there is nothing in that Budget, I tell you, to help those people.

Mr. Speaker, this government has gone on now for almost five years, I guess, as an Opposition, and as a government, and they have not outlined their rural plan. We questioned it back in the spring of 2003, almost four years ago now. I questioned it: What was the rural plan? The leader at the time, the Premier today, said: No, we are not going to release it because the Liberals will steal it from us. They will take it from us.

Well, there are people out there still waiting, Mr. Speaker. Twenty-five hundred people left this Province, or are in the process of leaving this Province, as a result of a job fair here last week, here in this fair city, in Mount Pearl, over at the Glacier. Twenty-five hundred people were hired - instantaneously they were hired - interviewed and hired. One guy went over to see what it was all about and he realized that there were opportunities there for him, and within twenty-four hours he was back with his resume and he was hired.

Mr. Speaker, if things are so great and so rosy here in this Province, why are people still leaving? There has not been any amount of work in this Province since the Voisey's Bay project shut down, since the Bull Arm site closed. We have not seen anything materialize from that, Mr. Speaker. Here we have, in Marystown, two fabulous yards up there with very little employment taking place.

Mr. Speaker, if this government had such a great plan that they were afraid to show to us four years ago, five years ago, why are these facilities laying dormant? Why are they mothballed? Mr. Speaker, somewhere people are out there saying, well, I don't think I can wait any longer. There are places in this Province where people are saying, I cannot wait any longer. I cannot wait for 2010 or 2015; I have my children right now who I need clothes for. They have their own personal needs. They need a roof over their head. They need heat, light and shelter, Mr. Speaker, things that are ordinary things in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, there is a little hope in all of this. A senior taking an ambulance, for instance - and there were decreases in fees, Mr. Speaker, there is no question about that. This government saw fit, this year, the election year, to drop fees, but everybody out there will tell you who put the fees up. Everybody will tell you who put them up. The fees went up to $27 million, and lo and behold this year dropped $3.4 million. One of them dropped back to zero; but, guess what? You have to die to get the benefit from that one. It's a death certificate, Mr. Speaker, you have to die to get the benefit from it, to save $25.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) within twelve months, too.

MR. SWEENEY: Yes, my colleague tells me you had better get it in twelve months or you will not receive the benefit of it.

Mr. Speaker, I am trying to find out what happened to the polar bear fees. What happened there? I do not know how many of them were shot in this Province last year, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: I thought it was illegal to shoot them.

MR. SWEENEY: As a matter of fact, I think it is illegal to shoot a polar bear in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, filing of a statutory declaration, you are going to save a whole dollar with the registration of deeds. Just imagine, Mr. Speaker.

The interesting thing about it, though, Mr. Speaker, when you go and licence your car, when you have to stroll in and licence your vehicle to get back and forth to work, if you are lucky enough to have a job, it is going to cost you $180. If you are fortunate enough to have a computer, or a friend or a buddy across the garden who has a computer, you can amble over there and save yourself 10 per cent, save $18. Now, I am going to tell you, I do not know a lot of people out there in a lot of these places who has a computer. I do not know if anyone has checked, but the Internet fees are roughly $40 a month in most cases. That is if you have Internet services in your community. As I understand it, there are parts of communities still waiting for this great fibre optic to be warped in through and lights going everywhere and all kinds of things happening.

AN HON. MEMBER: With thousands of jobs created.

MR. SWEENEY: Thousands of jobs created, my colleague says.

What else is there? Oh, yes, the same thing with a motorcycle. You can save yourself 10 per cent, too, if you go online.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SWEENEY: No, I do not think, because from what I understand, there will not be any layoffs because it is taking months now for those stickers to get to the mail after you go online and do it. It is not what you call a speedy process. It is not going to be beamed back to you, if anyone out there in TV land today watching this think they are going to go online and are going to get their stickers right back to them. That is not going to happen. It is not going to pop up - your printer is not going to spit out the stickers for you, I will tell you that right now. A friend of mine has a new car bought and he is still waiting for his stickers. He was at my house on Saturday and he said: How long does it take to get those stickers? I said: My son, buy another car and you will find out.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, there were reductions in fees, but the reality of it all is, and the reminder to everybody out there - and I am sure they will be reminded between now and October when they go to the polls - is that they are still paying $180 to licence their car, to go around and beat the front-end, the struts out of it as they go along. I have travelled the highways in this Province and I will tell you, there is not a bridge in this Province that is not out there to attack you. I would love to have the plywood contract for this government for making signs saying: Bump. Because there are signs out there everywhere. The roads are littered with signs. Look out for bumps.

I will tell you, Mr. Speaker, when a person goes to work in the morning and he comes home in the evening with his tire in the backseat of his car and the front of his car hooked up on a tow truck, he will ask the question: What did I spend the $180 on? What benefit is that? Because we were all told back in 2004 when these fees went up: Now, listen, this is good for you. This is going to be good for you because we are going to increase the amount of money we are spending on the highways in this Province. Well, let me tell you how much. I have some stats here, some figures - from the Auditor General, by the way, the government's keeper of the books.

In 2001, road construction and maintenance in this Province, $98.6 million was spent; 2002, $101.3 million was spent; 2004, $65.6 million; 2005, $56.6 million. Mr. Speaker, these are all amounts that were less than the previous years before the fees went up. So what happened to the money? What happened to the money? The extra fees that were being collected by this government, what happened to it? Where did it go?

MR. REID: Giving the Premier's staff a raise.

MR. SWEENEY: My colleague says it was giving the Premier's staff a raise. That is so true, Mr. Speaker. That is so true. The Premier's staff did get a big raise. I hope for the benefit of this Province, that the Public Relations person and the Director of Communications when they are with the Premier today, wherever he is, giving his pep talk for this Province, I hope she is earning her money. I truly hope it, because we need a message in this Province going out to the rest of the country and the rest of North America that Newfoundland and Labrador is a friendly place to do business. We need that. So I hope the Director of Communications, when she gets her computer keyed up today, for $102,000 a year, I hope she can get that message out there. I know she has a lot of difficulty working to get a positive message out there because the Premier himself says he is hard to get along with. Even Steve in Ottawa knows that now; his buddy, Steve.

MR. JOYCE: Even the Speaker of the Chair knows that (inaudible) Trevor Taylor.

MR. SWEENEY: Yes, that is right. Everybody knows how difficult he is. So these people, yes, they have their job cut out. Whatever duties they are performing in the Premier's office, let's get the positive message out there, that the people of this Province need some help.

Mr. Speaker, there is another issue that has been kicked around for a while, and before I do that, the Deputy Premier today made reference to salaries. I want to point out that the last year, in 2003, Roger Grimes was Premier, there was less than $900,000 spent in the Premier's office, with fifteen staff members. This year, in the Budget, in the government's very own Budget, there is over $1.3 million, with twenty-one staff members. They were not ‘backupable'. These are facts that came from two government documents. One hasn't been voted on and approved in this House yet, but the other one was. Mr. Speaker, it is important that the facts come out. It is great to get up and say something, but the reality of all of this is that the people of this Province want results, they want leadership, and they want hope too, by the way.

It is great for the Premier to stand up and say, I am not getting paid, but I say to the Premier, get paid and be accountable to the people for your salary. It is great to step back when things get hot: I am not getting paid, I deserve better than this. It is great to say that. But at the end of it, Mr. Speaker, what do we really want in this Province?

Mr. Speaker, the people in your area tonight don't want what they are facing, the uncertainty of work, the uncertainty of their plants. What is going to happen when FPI is dissected and sold off in pieces? This has been going on for a long time, this FPI thing. They failed under their approach with us when we were the government. We wouldn't allow it to happen. Now they are coming back again in another form. Mr. Speaker, at the end of the day those quotas, all those things in these communities, belong to the people of this Province. These people deserve better than to be held out there right now on the whim of somebody who is waiting to see whether or not they are going to give them a job or what the deal is going to be.

Mr. Speaker, I mentioned out-migration when I started and the 2,500 people who got jobs last week. There are people going all the time, they are leaving. It is sad, actually, when you drive through a community and you see so many houses boarded up with plywood, the windows boarded up; very sad. That represents, Mr. Speaker, in most cases, a lot of cases, young men and young women taking their families and moving off to another Province. These are meaningful assets, great contributors to the economy of this Province, and there are too many people going.

I have to ask: What has this government done to create meaningful employment? What have they done in this Province in their four years now, almost four years, to generate and rejuvenate the economy of this Province? When we look at budgets, those are the things we can say. We can talk about schools, but when we talk about schools we talk about the school that is not going to be built in Carbonear until 2010. In the meantime, the little kids and little children in Carbonear are squat into little classrooms with no air and no ventilation. One of the highest rates of sickness in a school in this Province was experienced in Carbonear this past winter.

Mr. Speaker, when we talk about schools, we will talk about the school that is closing in Harbour Grace, a fairly modern school, for no particular reason, because it did not fit into the school board's plan.

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that I have noticed in this Province in the past couple of years is that people have lost hope. They are not out there protesting any more. They are not crying out for what they want. I have never heard such a silence from the municipalities in this Province. I spoke to a couple of them and I said: You know, you were always vocal a few years ago. You know what the results were? Well, it is no good to talk to this government. If you do, if you speak out, you are liable to get your head chopped off. You lose whatever chance you have of getting something.

That was evident the other day when the Minister of ITRD tackled the Mayor of Port aux Basques, and my mayor, from Carbonear, when he raised an issue about the Summer Games, the brutal attack that was put to him.

Mr. Speaker, you can go in Cabinet and make these decisions, but then the Premier says: Well, I need these people around me, up here on the eighth floor, to run this government; it is a $5 billion operation.

When I was in Cabinet, it was always the Cabinet running it. We did not need all these people on the eight floor, paid all kinds of salaries. As a matter of fact, there were at least six people less.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SWEENEY: I say to the Member for Terra Nova: Go pick up the Budget for 2003 and you will see it there.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) 2002?

MR. SWEENEY: The same thing.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, the Member for Terra Nova, I am afraid his Kool-Aid is wearing off over there this afternoon.

When you get into a situation, Mr. Speaker, of the state of the roads that are in this Province, the condition of our side roads, our inner sections, our bridges, the condition of some of our schools - not all of them are going to be done. Our health care is not all perfect; there is money put in there. The pump for diabetes, insulin pumps, I called the Department of Health yesterday: No, you have to call the Janeway. I called the Janeway: No, no, we are only compiling a list here. We do not know for sure ourselves yet what is happening, so you are going to have to go back to the Department of Health.

Here are people out there making long distance calls to and from the Department of Health, the Janeway, trying to find out if their child is eligible. Here is the government, another classic case of rolling out something without the mechanism in place to put it out there for the benefit of the people.

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

I remind the hon. Member for Carbonear-Harbour Grace that his time for speaking has expired.

MR. SWEENEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am sure I will be back at a later date.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Kilbride.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DINN: Mr. Speaker, I stand today in the House to show my hope and support for this Budget that was presented last week. I want to congratulate Minister Marshall and the other ministers of our government for such a great job.

The people in this Province, I think, today, contrary to what we are hearing from the other side, are looking at this Budget as something positive. I went around a lot of places in the last week and I might have heard one or two minor criticisms of this Budget, which I will refer to later on; but, generally speaking, people in the Province are feeling good about this Budget. They now see some hope. They are finally seeing us turn the corner in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, I, myself, think this is the best Budget in the history of Newfoundland -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DINN: - and I have heard on Open Line and other places that (inaudible).

MR. JOYCE: Who wrote that for you? (Inaudible).

MR. DINN: I am sure I did not ask you to write it.

Anyway, to go back -


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. DINN: That does not bother me, to be quite honest with you. That only gets me going a bit better.

Anyway, to go back to what I was saying, I think this is one of the better Budgets ever produced in this Province.

I have been following municipal politics and provincial politics for years, and I have watched budgets year after year after year, and I do not think there are too many times that a government has presented a Budget with a $260 million surplus.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DINN: As a matter of fact, it used to bother me to no end to see deficit after deficit after deficit, and debt being accumulated for future generations of this Province. We finally see a government that is tackling, doing something about, the debt that has been accumulated. We are finally looking at it and saying we cannot burden our future generations with such a burden. I think it is time, and it is really good news, and the people of this Province, I am sure, recognize what is going on.

I have heard criticism that this is an election Budget. One of my colleagues said yesterday: If this was an election Budget, why would we have a surplus of $260 million? Why wouldn't we spend that and make ourselves look even better? I would think you would spend it all.

Anyway, in this Budget there is good news for many sectors of our society - many. The general taxpayer, it is the first time in my time in politics, and in following politics, that I actually saw a tax benefit across the board. Usually, you have a tax benefit that is helping one sector of the population. This one is across the board, benefitting everybody who pays taxes, income tax especially.

One of the things I like tremendously in this Budget is the help that we are giving post-secondary students. Post-secondary students now can get, based on need, $70 a week contribution to their expenses. This means that in the future these students will not have to be borrowing as much money and be in debt as much as they were in the past. Also, reducing the debt that former students now have by 2.5 per cent is significant. It means a lot to these students over a twenty year period when they might have to pay this back.

Park users are benefitting from this. There is a reduction in park user fees. People who hunt and fish have a reduction. Seniors - there are many benefits in here for seniors, even though we do not realize it. Small business corporations. People who buy a vehicle, if you buy a vehicle today or tomorrow or the next day for $40,000 you will save $400, which is significant for someone buying a vehicle.

People using the ferries of this Province are being benefitted - people in tourism. Our farmers are getting benefits from this Budget. We also have people in the arts society. Low-wage earners are getting benefits - skilled workers. Skilled trades students are having benefits here. Parents and their school children - school children, there are many benefits. Parents will not have to worry about having to purchase school books. I spoke to a lady last week, Mr. Speaker, who has three children going to high school. A tremendous savings next year for this woman, just on school books alone.

People who need drug treatment, they are being helped. The drug program that was announced a week or so ago - I think it was last week or probably the week before - by our Minister of Health, did not specify that it was for one group in our society. Again, across the board, which is very important, I think, to the people of Newfoundland. People who need medical help, it is going to be easier because of the initiative that this government is taking to buy new equipment and everything else and upgrade our hospitals. All of that is going to help a lot of people.

Teachers; contrary to what some people think, teachers are going to be better off. Nurses, social workers, people addicted to gambling, our schools, our hospitals, our towns and cities, our roads. There are benefits in this Budget for all sectors. This Budget I said is good for a lot.

I have heard criticism in the last two days that this does nothing to create work. I beg to differ. Only yesterday we had a news release from the Minister of Health and the Minister of Justice with 100 new jobs included. The RNC are going to get twenty-two new positions. Social workers, another fifty-one of them.

In the education field, our minister announced a few weeks ago that 131 positions would be retained. Now, if they had not been retained that would mean that these jobs are gone. So you can add them to the net job gain in this Budget. We also had thirteen new teaching positions added to help us look at overcrowding in classrooms in our urban centres. There are twenty-five new teaching positions in math; thirty-nine nurses have been added to the list; five new speech pathologists; ten career information officers. To me, that adds up to over 300 new jobs just on these initiatives that I mentioned here alone. Now I do not know all of the details, the fine print in all the different departments, but I am sure that the number of jobs created are much more than 300.

There are many, many other seasonal jobs, and not even seasonal. I guess these could be ongoing for a number of years, depending on how long the construction takes. There are many jobs in this Budget related to the amounts of money that this government has offered in infrastructure. There is 5,700 person years of employment in this Province because of our infrastructure investment of $2 billion over three years. We are into the second year of this now. There are two vessels being built at a cost of $15 million; $13.3 million is going to go to refit government vessels that already exist. There is $5 million for maintenance and construction of terminals and wharfs - and porta-potties, I guess.

There is $16 million going into agriculture. There would be $9 million for agriculture. I have talked to farmers, if farmers get extra money, farmers will hire more people. I talked already to some farmers, they are waiting now to go in when the snow goes to clear some land. When they clear land, they do not go in with a pick and shovel. They will hire men in their communities with heavy equipment. They will go in and clear the land and do whatever has to be done.

Also, $10.1 million is earmarked for Baie Verte and Rambler Mine's environmental cleanups. This money will provide work. It is not going to be taken and a consulting firm spend it all. There are going to be a lot of people out in that area working when this cleanup takes place.

There is $4 million over four years for provincial park enhancements. People have to be hired to do that work. It is not going to be done just with the money alone. There is $1 million for five new career information centres; $14.8 million for new school construction, maintenance, repair and renovations to schools. There is $15.3 million for a new academic building at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College; two new student residence will be built, one in Corner Brook and one in St. John's; $1.3 million will be used to build a regional office for central housing mortgage corporation in Corner Brook; $67 million for health care facilities; $11.3 million for the construction of a courthouse in Corner Brook. Mr. Speaker, all of this construction money, all this money that is going to be used for infrastructure, will provide jobs for people. These projects will be tendered out and when they are called, people will go to work and they will be working until those projects are finished.

That is direct jobs. When you build on or your renovate or you build a new building, the people in the area who have businesses also benefit. There are materials, supplies and furniture. All of this stuff will be bought and very often it is bought from local dealers, and all of these people will benefit. The whole economy of Newfoundland and of the whole area where these projects take place will benefit when these projects do take place. It is a matter of many millions of dollars being spent to the benefit of everybody in Newfoundland. You will find people who are working on these projects will have more money to spend. They will be buying cars, buying new furniture, and technically spending their money. It is all good.

I didn't mention Labrador at all.

AN HON. MEMBER: You better.

MR. DINN: I was just going to get to that. Labrador is probably getting more attention now than it ever got in its history, with the present minister that we have.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DINN: I will use one of his statements: What a minister!

There is a lot of attention being given to Labrador, because I, myself, think that Labrador has great potential. With the investments that are being made in Labrador, Mr. Speaker, I think you are going to find out that the returns are going to be beneficial to the whole Province as time goes on.

I find it very difficult to criticize this Budget. Granted we couldn't do everything that we wanted to do. If we could do everything we wanted to do, we would probably end up giving $1 million to everybody in Newfoundland. That would be the best thing you could do. This Budget does an awful lot for the people of Newfoundland. It is hard to criticize this Budget seriously. I would say anybody who heard that Budget - and I saw some people on the other side the other day when it was being presented by our minister, I thought they were ready to clap. I wouldn't blame you if you did, because it is time for us in Newfoundland to clap, because we are finally turning the corner.

Like many people in Newfoundland, I am thrilled with this Budget and I am looking forward with anticipation to next year's Budget. I would say this: Stand by. Do not adjust your sets.

AN HON. MEMBER: Stay tuned.

MR. DINN: Yes, stay tuned, because next year in 2008 it should be much better.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Fortune Bay-Cape la Hune.

MR. LANGDON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. LANGDON: I have to tell it as it is.

Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt about it, there were a lot of good things in the Budget that was presented. It would be foolish for me to say that there were not many, many, good things. No matter who is in government, when good things are done for people you applaud it. We are not here for ourselves; we are here for the people we represent.

The thing that I feel good about, in a way of speaking, even though I had no direct part in that Budget, over the last six years when we were in government, and being a part of Cabinet, some of the decisions that we made in bringing projects to this Province are today reaping benefits for people in government - yes, I sit across the floor - but for people who are in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Hibernia project, the Terra Nova project, the Husky or the White Rose, the Voisey's Bay project, if I stand to remember correctly, there is more than a billion dollars of revenue that comes to government because of these projects, and the money that we spend in health, the money that we spend in education, the money that we spend in community development, came from these projects of which I had a part, and obviously people on the other side know that and recognize that. Am I proud that came to fruition so that benefits could come to the people of this Province? You bet I am, so that the people in the Province can benefit from some of the things that we did.

There are some areas that were in the Budget that were disappointing, that more money or some money was not done to address. First of all, coming from a small rural community and representing a rural, rural part, a remote rural part of the Province, one of the things that I was looking forward to and I thought might be in the Budget was an increase in Municipal Operating Grants for small towns. It was not there.

For the last four years these grants had been frozen, and what we find in many of the municipalities, in the small municipalities that we represent - there was an article in The Telegram only a few days ago about half of the people who make up the councillors in the rural parts of the Province are fifty years of age and over. Only 3 per cent of the people who represent councils, or are on councils, community or town councils in the rural parts of the Province, less than 3 per cent are under thirty. These are not good figures. In many of the smaller communities they cannot find people to fill up the slates, and they are operating at less than capacity. In some cases five in some of the smaller towns and the local service districts, and seven in many of the other towns. They cannot find these many people to operate. People are gone, and there are no two ways about it.

Any of the people who sit in this House recognize the difficulty that these small communities have in being able to balance their budgets. In fact, it is practically impossible to do so. Those small councils that are in the rural parts of the Province, the smaller communities, struggle. Do you know what? They are volunteers.

I was at a volunteer dinner in Milltown, Head of Bay, not too long ago, Mr. Speaker, and one of the last things that was done at that particular gathering was that one of the volunteers got up and thanked the council for sponsoring that dinner and recognizing that they were volunteers as well.

In many of our smaller communities there are volunteer fire brigades, and all of these people are volunteers. They get no money. They volunteer in the best of times and in the difficult times, and whenever there is an emergency called, or it is required for them to go, they go and do yeoman service and a professional job at the same time, but there was nothing there for them. There was nothing there in the Budget for the volunteer fire brigades, and I thought they would get something there.

The other thing, too, Mr. Speaker, not too long ago the minister did a Ministerial Statement in the House and I had the opportunity to respond to it at the time and point out to the minister that this year, in 2007-2008, the amount for infrastructure in Newfoundland and Labrador this year is $70 million. Last year it was $100 million. That is $30 million less for this year's budget than last; $30 million less to be spent in many of the communities in the rural parts of the Province that we represent.

The other thing, too, is the 30 per cent threshold. I have explained that here, and many of the people on both sides of the House understand that. In many instances, when I had an opportunity to be minister for a few years in the Department of Municipal Affairs, we paid for many of the smaller communities, up to 90 per cent of their share of the 30 per cent of the one-third that they had. Now, with 30 per cent, many of them are not even filling out applications to apply for these particular infrastructure upgrades and extensions because they know that they cannot afford it, and that is sad. That is very, very, sad to see that happen.

The whole idea here is that what we see in this Budget that was not there was disappointing. I think there could have been something there. The Member for Kilbride just spoke and talked about a $229 million projected Budget, and that is a fair chunk of money, and I know that members opposite want to spend it wisely, but I am sure that if it were several million for many of these smaller rural communities it would have been a really good gesture on government's part for them to have done that, but it did not happen.

That is one of the things that I see that was neglected in the Budget, and The Federation of Municipalities, I have to say to you, were very disappointed that it did not happen. They had lobbied government very hard, to think that it was going to happen, but it did not. It did not materialize, and they were very disappointed that it did not happen in this Budget.

Another area, too, Mr. Speaker, when we talk about money for roads, the minister talked about it is probably more money than we have ever spent on roads in the Province. I have a copy here from the Auditor General's report, January 2007, and it talks about the amount of money that has been spent on roads since 2001 up to 2006. They are very interesting figures, Mr. Speaker, if you would look at them. What the Auditor General did say here, he says that it shows that road construction activities decreased significantly from 2001 to 2005. In 2005 there was only $36 million of road construction, actually constructed.

I can see why that would happen; because, I tell you, that year, in 2005, I was given, I think it was $500,000 for my district for roads. When the tender was called, it came in way over the $500,000. What had happened, of course, the cost of asphalt had gone right through the roof and one kilometre of road is nearing, today, to repave it and to redo it, close to $200,000 a kilometre. That is a lot of money, and it will not go very far. So, in 2006 there was only $58 million of road construction. I am telling you, even though this year, as the minister said, there is $60 million, it is not going to go very far.

I think of the Bay d'Espoir highway which I had almost every year some money put into - not a lot because there wasn't a lot of money that we could have, but it is on par from 2001 to 2006. We did recap a lot of it. In that area right now, on the Bay d'Espoir highway going into St. Alban's, we need about 120 to 150 kilometers of road to be recapped. The road is in a deteriorating situation and getting worse because of the economic activity with all the tractor trailers going down with feed for aquaculture. The road is really deplorable. Going into Harbour Breton and causeway hill, I am telling you if something is not done with that in a very short time, the pavement will have to be taken up, it will become just gravel.

If we were to look at the cost of road construction today, about $200,000 per kilometre, and we need about 120 to 150 kilometres of road to be done, that is $24 to $30 million needed just to do that road. That is a lot of money. Obviously, getting $1 million a year to do it, it is going to take a long, long time for that to happen. I think there could have been more done to address that.

One of the other things in the Budget that I don't think went far enough - and obviously, when you put money into schools that is good; bricks and mortar and you pay for school books for families. That is good. There is nobody who can say anything negative about that. One of the things, when I heard it, I had to ask myself was I hearing right. When you talk about how there were 7,900 students who were eligible for the first time to get grants and student loans when you go to a post-secondary school like Memorial University, the Marine Institute or to the College of the North Atlantic, I said: 7,900? What happens to the other 13,000 then, students who attend those particular institutions, those that don't qualify for loans? They are not eligible for any grants either. So we are not taking care of half of the students in post-secondary. I don't think that is right. I do not think that a student who attends Memorial University or the Marine Institute or the College of the North Atlantic should be refused a grant because his mom or his dad and their income combined should be $50,000 or $60,000 or even $70,000. That is not right. You are discriminating against those students and families.

We all know, for example, if you live in the City of St. John's and your family is making $75,000 or $80,000 salary a year, it sounds like a lot f money. Fifty per cent of it goes into income tax. Then you have to pay your mortgage, then you have to pay all the other things besides. There is no way that family can afford to pay for the education for their student without going getting loans. What did the government do for those students? They said: Well, okay, you can get loans but it is prime plus 2 per cent, I think is what it was. I do not think that is right. I really do not, as one member here. I think government should have gone further than that and allowed any student attending Memorial University - they should have gotten a grant.

I remember when I attended university, way back in the 1960s, when Joey was Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador at the time. Many things he did wrong and lots of things he did right. Hindsight is always 20/20. Do you know one of the things that I did get benefit from? I got free tuition, and a lot of people my age got free tuition at the time. In addition to that, we got $100 a month living allowance. As a result of that, we had to go back into the rural parts of the Province and teach for two years if we were to get the $100 a month. There is no incentive here, and I do not think all the moms and dads and the fathers and moms, as I said, and guardians who are looking after those children - our young people who go to university, they should not be deprived. Something should have been done for them, but it was not. Less than half of the student population is taken care of in that situation. There is something wrong with that. I think that it is being very selective and these people should not have been left out. They should have been able to qualify for a grant as well.

One of the other things, as we are talking about education and teachers and so on. It is great that the government kept in 137 teachers, they did not take them out. They are in the schools and everybody will benefit from that. There were twenty-five extra math teachers who were hired to go into district school offices. I am not sure how much that would help, after being a teacher in a school. All of us realize that a lot of times we do not get the help that we need from the school board offices, not down into the classrooms. So I am not sure about that.

The thing is that there are situations in many rural parts of the Province when we talk about selection of courses. They do not have the same opportunity in many of the rural schools as they do here in the city. They do not have that, and probably the government is looking at the teacher-student ratio and looking at new ways to improve it and probably they will, because I am telling you, as a former teacher - and I have been out of the classroom now for a long time. I have been out of it for eighteen years. That is how long I have been here. There are a lot of changes in the classrooms over these years. It is no picnic being in the school system today, I tell you, with all of the problems that teachers have. There are many, many teachers out there that I know, and I am sure members opposite know as well, who are on for the forty-two periods. They have no free periods to prepare or to do some of the things that they want to do. There are many, many other things, no doubt, that these people do and I think they should have been compensated for it.

I was kind of disappointed in the Premier's comment when - I think it was Mr. Foley who said they were pleased with the number of dollars that was going into schools for the bricks and mortar. They were pleased with the 137 teachers remaining in the classroom. They were appreciative of that, but he said: We thought that we would get some extra teachers there. The comments that the Premier made about Mr. Foley on the public airwaves, I did not think that was needed. The thing about it is, I am sure that Mr. Foley, a fine gentleman, is out there to look after his people, his teachers, and anything that he can get for them I think should be - that is what he would do. Just the same as the president of the nurses' union, or Carol Furlong who has just been elected President of NAPE, that is their idea to do that.

One of the other things that I was disappointed in when we talk about fees, there was no decrease in the ambulance fee. I am telling you, for many of the smaller rural communities, again - and people who live in small rural communities, that $150 ambulance fee is a burden. It is a burden, there is no two ways about it. I do not think I would get any disagreement from any of my colleagues in the House from where we sit, whether it is in government or Opposition. It is a major problem. We are dealing with a lot of our seniors in communities and the only income they have is their old age pension, plus the security part of it. Their gross is about $20,000 a year. Tell me what you can do with $20,000? Then all of a sudden you have to pay a $150 ambulance fee, and that could be two, or three, or four, or five, or six of them in a month. That could have been addressed. I think that should have been addressed and it was not.

Home care workers; more and more, I tell you, Mr. Speaker, aware of the part that they play because (inaudible) more and more people want to stay home in their houses. I was talking to a resident of Harbour Breton this morning, where this gentleman passed away only a few days ago. He wanted to stay at home and he passed away at home. That is the request of a lot of people, that they can do that. Nevertheless, with $8 an hour, these people working - they are not going to be able to do very much with that, I can tell you.

Getting back to the transportation thing. I was disappointed that the thirteen depots were not reopened in the rural parts of the Province. I am telling you, there needs to be a lot of maintenance work done on the roads. I thought that could have been done, but it was not. It comes as a bit of a disappointment, not only to me, but to people who are using the roads.

One of the other fees that I think should have been reduced is the motor registration fee. When you realize - again, you are talking about seniors who are on $20,000 a year total income, and you have to pay $182 a year just to register your vehicle. That is a lot of money. I was looking forward to that, and I thought it might have been reduced. I know it was for people who have computers and can go online to get it reduced by 10 per cent, but there are a lot of seniors out there in the rural parts of the Province, that you and I know of, who do not have a computer system and still got to pay $182 a year.

The other thing that I was disappointed in, and it did not happen - and I realize there is not money for everything. I am not here suggesting that, and I think people realize that. When we talk about a Budget, the whole idea is that people who are in the House here, you get up and you speak what you think, and you present your arguments. One of the other things, I thought there might have been something that could have been given to people to - or benefit from the increase in revenues that are coming to the Province. There could have been a decrease on home heating fuel taxes, that did not happen. Insurance taxes, that did not happen. So there are many, many situations where those types of things could have helped a lot of people in the rural part of the Province and it did not happen.

Mr. Speaker, also, when I was listening to the Member for Kilbride, he said: I couldn't find anybody who had anything negative to say about the Budget. Now that is possible, too, in a sense, if you live in a large urban area. If you live in a small rural area and you live in the rural parts of the Province, these people primarily live on low incomes; a lot of them retirees and so on. They do find it disappointing, but they do not speak a lot. They are not the people who are calling Open Lines everyday, but these are the quiet people out there and they recognize that things could have been done for them and it was not.

The other thing, too, Mr. Speaker, when we talk about all the good things that we do and so on, and we talk about our natural resources. One of the things that is important to all of us, and as Newfoundlanders - I look at myself as a person who has a family and a grandparent and so on, and I think of my grandchildren who live here in the Province. I think of one of these days, not too long in the future, when our non-renewable resources are going to be gone. Oil is not going to last forever. Voisey's Bay is not going to last forever. It is hoped that the new smelter that will be put in the Argentia-Long Harbour area will be there long after I am gone and probably my grand kids as well.

That is the situation, and I think that all of us cannot live in a fool's paradise and realize that these things are not going to last forever. There are benefits here now that the Budget and the Finance Minister recognize for people in the Province, but we realize that a lot of it, as I just said, comes from non-renewable resources. The thing for us, in the rural part of the Province - and I have talked about that at all - is the fishery.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I remind the hon. member that his time for speaking has lapsed.

MR. LANGDON: Just one minute?

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


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. member, by leave.

MR. LANGDON: Mr. Speaker, the fishery in the rural part of the Province - I am of these who believes that the fishery is going to be here long after our oil is gone and after the Voisey's Bay is there no more.

MR. TAYLOR: Long after we are dead and gone.

MR. LANGDON: Long after we are dead and gone. People are going to say, Trevor who or Oliver who? They won't even know that we were in the House of Assembly. That is very important.

What I see, for example, in Harbour Breton, the town that I represent, the largest town here, I find it really, in a sense, discouraging. Even though everybody probably made an effort to improve the situation in the town, it is not. More people have left this year than left last year or the year before. A lot of disappointed people thought they would be able to find some employment within the town this year and that is not happening.

Someone was telling me only this morning that one of the people who are lobster fishing found it very difficult to find a person to fish with him, because everybody had left the community, the younger people. They are finding it more and more difficult to find people to work, they are all gone West. What scares me about it all, Mr. Speaker, is that one of these days these young people who are going to Alberta are not going to come back at the end of four months or six months or whatever. They are going to be staying there and having families and leaving our rural communities in a situation where we will not be able to look after many of the services and amenities of life that we have enjoyed for so long.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank you for the opportunity to say a few words and thank the people opposite for giving me an opportunity to conclude.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am very pleased to stand and speak to this Budget, the first time in the House that I have the opportunity to speak to a budget.

With many others on this side of the floor, and people outside the House of Assembly, I obviously acknowledge that there are many good things in the Budget that has been brought down this year by the government.

I also want to acknowledge, and I would like to hear the government acknowledge it as well, that they were able to bring down such a Budget because of the revenues that we have coming into this Province. We have never before been in the situation we are in, in Newfoundland and Labrador. I would like to remind the government that they are not the ones who are in this situation; it is Newfoundland and Labrador. It is the people. Yes, because they have been elected by the people they have been given the responsibility of managing this money, but it is not their money. It is the people's money, and it belongs to everybody in this Province.

So, while I congratulate the government on many good things that are in the Budget, I also have a right and a responsibility to point out things that I wish could have gone a bit further, or to point out directions that I would have gone in, that the government has not gone in. That is what I want to do this afternoon. I do not want to see this - we use the word criticizing the Budget. I do not think it is criticizing. I think it is giving constructive ideas to directions in which the Budget can go another time.

When we say criticize, it sounds so negative. I do not think that the ideas that are being shared on this side of the House are necessarily negative, so I would hope that government would listen to them with those ears, that it is constructive criticism; it is ideas to do things better for the people.

Yes, there were many things in the Budget that I liked. I had to notice, for example, that when the minister was reading the Budget the other day and he was reading the section on dealing with promoting social justice, many of the things that he said - like, for example, the free text books, the higher minimum wage, debt relief - my colleagues over on this section of the House across from me started shouting out to come over, you must like this, Lorraine.

Well, I want to point out that I did like it, but they were all my ideas and that is why I liked it. I have room over here for at least ten or eleven more, so why don't you come over with me since you like my ideas? - an invitation.

AN HON. MEMBER: I think you had better come over here.

MS MICHAEL: Oh, no, no way.

AN HON. MEMBER: I bet you, you are voting for the Budget (inaudible).

MS MICHAEL: No way. Too much missing in it, my brother, too much missing in it.


MS MICHAEL: Let me talk about what I see as missing. I am doing it - and I want the government to realize I am doing it - because of the fact of what my colleague who spoke before me said, that not everybody out there is happy about everything. It does not mean they are going around screaming and yelling it is a bad Budget, but they are saying there are still things that need to be done.

For example, the other night I was out to dinner - lucky enough to be out to dinner - and one of the workers in the restaurant came over to me and she said: Gosh, I was looking at you and looking at you and then I realized who you were, and I wanted to say to you, thank you so much for speaking up for me. Keep up what you are saying about the minimum wage, because that is what I am working for.

So, when I speak here today, it is that kind of woman I am speaking for. It is the women who are working in home care for minimum wage, or maybe five or ten cents above minimum wage, because some of the places give them a little bit more than the minimum wage. That is who I am speaking for.

Let's start there; let's talk about the minimum wage. I know that I have been saying that I would like a minimum wage of $10 an hour, and I would hope that when the government did what it did by adding another $1 this year, even though the full $1 will not kick in until next year, that the government is setting a plan for itself to go for $10 an hour by 2010, but I do not see the government saying it. I wish that in the Budget the government had said it. Set that limit and then take on the task of working with people who believe in that, and also working with people who are afraid of it. Not just hold consultations, because consultation has a meaning that is not always engaging, it is not always educational, and I think the process that the government is going to carry on needs to be educational, especially with some sectors like the small business sector.

Maybe the small business sector does not think it needs education, but I think it does. You know, in response to the minimum wage, there was one group of small business who actually said that putting up the minimum wage was the equivalent of taxing small business. Well, I have to ask the question: Since when does paying a just wage to a worker, since when is that a tax on a business? That is an expense that everybody who runs a business knows that they have to take on; but, putting up minimum wage in order for workers to have a just wage is not a tax.

I think that is the kind of discussion the government needs to have with small business. When you hold those consultations, I would hope that if somebody were to say anything like that to government, that government would try to set that straight right there and then, in the consultation, because that attitude towards a just wage, a just living wage, is just not acceptable. It is not part of who we are as a society.

We are a society that cares for people. We are a society that wants just wages. I am happy to see that this government is starting to move in that direction, but there is a lot more to do. I would like to suggest that when we get to $10 an hour, which I hope can happen in two years time, that we index, because a lot of the workers who are working for minimum wage, whether it is $8 an hour or $10 an hour, are non-organized. They cannot depend on collective bargaining every two or three years to help that go up. So, if we get it to an acceptable level, such as $10 an hour, and then we index it according to the cost of living, then we might help people stay on a road whereby they might be able to get out of poverty.

That is one of the things I would like to see in next year's Budget. I am not going to talk about this year's. What I am talking about, I hope will be in next year's Budget.

The other thing I would like to talk about is child care spaces. You know, I think it is an embarrassment in this Province. It is an embarrassment, not with regard just to child care. I am going to name some things that I feel embarrassed about, as a Newfoundlander and Labradorian. I feel embarrassed about our child care program, because we do not have one. That is one of the things I feel embarrassed about. Why don't we have a better child care program? I feel embarrassed about our lack of a home care program - just take the two of those.

I feel embarrassed about our record on environmental change. The fact that there is nothing in this Budget with regard to climate change and clean air really bothers me. I feel embarrassed when we are so far behind in areas that are accepted in other places. That we are not working towards an affordable, accessible, high quality child care program in this Province is an embarrassment. We have parents with children who are on waiting lists, who do not know what to do. We have parents with children in precarious situations right now who would like very much to have their children in secure child care spaces, but we do not have it.

I really believe - and I know that this may not be the philosophy of the government, but it is what I believe - that all child care should be not-for-profit. I do not believe that the care of our children should be done for profit, just like our educational system is not-for-profit, and we try to have a health care system that is not-for-profit. Well, I think child care comes under the same rubric and I think that our government has to start putting a plan in place for a not-for-profit, affordable, accessible, high quality child care program, and early childhood development goes along with that. It is the two things together.

I do not understand the mentality that says we only start caring for our children under the state when they enter Kindergarten, because that is sort of what we are saying when we allow an unregulated program. Only parts of the program are regulated. We have parts of child care that children are in unlicenced, unregulated child care situations and parents receiving money for the children to be in those situations. I think the parents should receive the money, but the other side of it should be that they are receiving money for the children to be in regulated spaces and not-for-profit spaces. I think it is a bottom line and I want our government to think about that. I want the ministers responsible to think about that and to start looking at having that in place, the beginnings of that in place, for next year's Budget. I understand this all takes planning, but unless the planning starts it is not going to happen, and I do not see the planning starting.

It is the same way with home care. It comes under the same umbrella in terms of what I think is a requirement. You know, a lot of us have a lot of personal experiences. This is one, believe me, that I know a lot about. The fact that you have agencies that are totally unregulated, that people without training are sent into homes to take care of very sick, disabled and elderly people, it really bothers me that it is so unprofessional. It is so much of an embarrassment to me, the lack of concern for home care in this Province. It should not be that way, and I see nothing coming from the government with regard to this, no sense whatsoever of the needs under home care.

The home care workers are underpaid, that is number one, that is sort of a given, and yet I know of agencies where the fee per hour, when the fee per hour went up twenty-five cents for the workers because of the minimum wage going up each quarter last year, I know of an agency that then put its fee up $1 an hour to the user, because they are unregulated and they can do it. Well, if the fee for the worker only went up twenty-five cents an hour, why did the fee to the user go up $1 an hour, and went up $1 an hour two years in a row? We cannot have that kind of situation.

People require home care. People are being sent out from hospitals based on the fact that they are going to have home care. In other words, go home, you have to now take care of yourself. If you are on income assistance, you are probably going to get paid home care, but if you are not you have to cover it yourself. I cannot believe it. I cannot believe the lack of training that goes on. I cannot believe that somebody who has never been a home care worker before can come into St. John's, within twenty-four hours, get a job and be sent in to a home to work without any training; and, believe me, it is going on. It is rampant. It is going on all over the place.

You know, maybe what we need first of all to convince government is a survey to really give them an idea of how bad the situation is, because the number of people requiring home care is going up and yet we have nothing being put in place for a program. So, yes, that is a real weakness in the Budget.

I heard the Premier on Open Line make a comment because of my comments about the Budget, and what he said - and look at me, naming me - she would do even more spending. Well, you see, the thing is, I would make choices, so maybe I would spend on more things but maybe I would make choices about the revenue. Maybe, for example, I would not have taken the 9 per cent surtax off high wage earners, high-income people. Maybe I would say, okay, this time, yeah, they get a percentage lower, but do they really need to have the surtax? Maybe they would like it, but is that too much revenue going?

I think you have to look at both sides, the choices that one makes for what is being spent but also the choices that one makes with regard to the revenue. So I think I differ with government not just in some of the choices that were made, and I do not mean the choices that were put in the Budget but the choices that were not put in. So I not only differ with government with regard to some of the choices around expenditure; I also differ with government with some of the things they did with regard to affecting the revenue. So you cannot talk about my wanting more spending without realizing I am talking about making different choices around expenditures.

What else do I want to talk about? There are so many things, and I have to make choices. One of the things I am really glad about - and I am sure my colleagues will be happy to know I was really glad about a few things and I have named some of them - I am really glad about the fact that money is going into Newfoundland and Labrador Housing for maintenance. The waiting list for people to have maintenance done is enormous here in St. John's for sure, in my own district. I am very glad about the $27.5 million that has gone in for maintenance and repairs and upkeep of Newfoundland and Labrador Housing. It is essential, because we get calls on a daily basis in our office; on a daily basis.

I just had my constituency staff person tell me today that finally a woman who has been months and months and months waiting for new windows, because the old windows are part of the problem she is having with mould, finally, after I think ten or eleven months, she is getting the windows. This cannot go on. So I am very, very happy about this money that is going in.

However, that is taking care of housing that is already there. We need a lot more affordable housing, and there is no plan in this Budget for more affordable housing. This is something that is really essential, I mean, in the general block of housing. We need a housing plan.

Some of us MHAs from the St. John's region were at a breakfast this morning with the St. John's Council and I was really glad to hear them say that they are developing a housing plan and they are including all of the stakeholders in the city in having that discussion around a housing plan for the city. Well, I think the government on the provincial level needs to take a lesson from the city and the government needs to start getting stakeholders together in a serious way and start putting a plan together for the Province, because affordable housing is needed all over the Province.

Though we don't have a representative from Labrador West at the moment - and that is held by somebody else at the moment - I still have a concern for what is happening in Labrador West. The need for affordable housing up there is great, and the need for affordable housing in a lot of the rural areas is great. It disturbs me that government has not put a plan in place.

The other thing I mentioned, so I am going to talk a bit to it in the time that is left to me, the other thing I mentioned with regard to things that embarrass me in the Province was around environmental issues. The first thing I will mention is the energy plan. We have been hearing now for two years, almost two years, a year-and-a-half at least, when the discussion paper came out in November, 2005, that there was going to be an energy plan, and $12 million was set aside for that energy plan in the past year, but there is a vacuum of information. There is $12 million set aside right now, actually. There is a vacuum of information. There is absolutely nothing coming out about the energy plan. We have no idea about the energy efficiency issues. What are the energy efficiencies that we could be putting in place? We have no information on energy conservation, alternative energy substitutions. We have nothing to suggest action. There is no strategy or action plan that has come out, and there is no mention of it. When are we going to get the energy plan? At this day and age when we have so many concerns about climate change, to think that we are so far behind in putting something in place. People are asking for it. People all over the Province are asking for it. I am getting asked all the time: Have you heard anything about the energy plan? My answer is: No, I haven't. I haven't heard a word.

So, one of the things I have to say to the government is while this Budget has an awful lot of good things in it - it has a lot of good things in it for the needs of people and I could go through the whole list, but I am not going to. You know it. You have been reading it out to us and you will continue reading it out to us. I acknowledge the things that are good, the things that are in there for senior couples; things that are in there for people with disabilities; for post-secondary students, and the list goes on.

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

I remind the hon. member that her speaking time has expired.

MS MICHAEL: By leave, to wrap up?

MADAM SPEAKER: Does the hon. member have leave to wrap up?

MR. RIDEOUT: Yes, Madam Speaker.


MS MICHAEL: Thank you.

What I will say to government is, those things are great, but we need a whole lot of action on some things. We need action around housing; we need action around the energy plan; we need action around sustainable development; we need action around rural development. We need all those actions from government.

I will be speaking more to this as our session goes on over the next month or more. I will keep reminding government of those actions, and as we move beyond the days in the House, I will also keep reminding government about the actions that we need. I am sure government, just as they have listened to me on things like paying for textbooks and minimum wage, I hope that government will listen to me on these other things as well as time goes on.

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

MADAM CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

It is a pleasure this afternoon to rise here in the House for twenty minutes, I guess, and make a few comments on our great Budget that was brought down last week and speak about some of the very important initiatives that was announced and the funding that has been announced in the Budget.

Before I get to that, Madam Speaker, I have to deal with an issue that took place here earlier today when the Opposition House Leader, in response to a ministerial statement, made a few comments, because I think that it is important for people to know the truth. Sometimes people might not like to hear the truth, but it is always important to tell them the truth in the meantime. Over the years, since I have been in politics, I have not always been popular for some of the things that I have said, but nobody is able to say that I stood up and intentionally tried to mislead them, and I do not intend to start today.

What happened here in the House earlier today was - I am not going to suggest that it was intentional, but it was certainly misleading. It was utterly false statements made by the Opposition House Leader, the Member for Burgeo & LaPoile, as it relates to an initiative that was underway in Port aux Basques with Petro Field Industries, who had hoped to be able to locate their operation in Port aux Basques. The Opposition House Leader suggested that the initiative did not go ahead because government dropped the ball. Namely, that I dropped the ball. Namely, that our department did not deal with an application for EDGE status by Petro Field.

Now, Madam Speaker, the fact of the matter is, and the people of Port aux Basques need to understand what happened with Petro Field. They need to understand what happened and why Petro Field is not going to locate their operation in Port aux Basques. Somebody from the company, Petro Field, which is from Calgary, was interviewed on CBC Corner Brook this morning by Dorothy King. For the record, here is what Petro Field had to say, and it flies in the face of everything that the Member for Burgeo & LaPoile stated earlier this afternoon.

His name, Mr. Miles Krowicki - I suppose it is how you pronounce it, I apologize to him if it is wrong. Anyway, he said: Where Petro Field in the past made a lot of pressure vessels and that is the type of work that we were going to build out in Newfoundland, we are really getting out of that business. We are focusing more on combustion equipment and hydrovac trucks and a different sort of product line. So it is a reevaluation of our product focus going forward and we have more than enough capacity at the time being here with our existing shops, so we really just did not need the extra capacity. It would have just been an extra cost burden and not giving us anything that we could not already supply ourselves. The other major factor is that the oil and gas sector in Alberta has softened here in Alberta and they are at their lowest levels since 1998. They are at about 9 per cent capacity at the moment.

Now, Madam Speaker, that is why Petro Field did not come to Port aux Basques. It had nothing to do, in spite of what the Opposition House Leader said about government's actions. It had nothing to do with that. It said the company has changed a little bit out here and things have changed within the company a little bit, so our plans for setting up shop in Newfoundland, unfortunately, have to be put on the shelf for the time being.

The Opposition House Leader says, from time to time, words are important, and his former colleague, Mr. Roger Grimes, when he was Premier, used to say words are important. Well, Madam Speaker, I could not agree more. Words are important and the facts are important, and I hope henceforth the people of Port aux Basques understand fully why Petro Field did not come to their community, and they understand that it was a decision made wholly and solely by the company as a result of an evaluation of their business model and how that impacted Port aux Basques, and had nothing to do with the actions of government.

Madam Speaker, now that that is settled, and I hope it is settled. I had a chat with the Mayor of Port aux Basques earlier today and straightened him out on it, and I had a chat with the Western Star this morning and straightened them out on it. My staff had a chat with VOCM and straightened them out on it, and I had a chat yesterday with CBC Corner Brook and straightened them out on it, and I hope for now that the Opposition House Leader has been straightened out on it and he gives up with this misleading, inaccurate statements, Madam Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: I am going to deal, Madam Speaker, with a few more observations that have been made over the course of the Budget Debate thus far. I am sure it will come up from time to time again when you hear members opposite talking about: Well, the only reason we are able to do - the only reason we are doing what we are doing is because of the oil money. You know, we did it because all of a sudden we fell into a spot where oil prices are at a record high and production is going along fairly well and what have you, and as a result of it, we have money to spend. Well, that is true. That is true, Madam Speaker, but I think everybody in Newfoundland and Labrador needs to remember what the position of the Opposition was a couple of years ago, in 2005, when we were in a little bit of a tiff with Ottawa over the Atlantic Accord; when our Premier was negotiating with Ottawa to try to get a fairer deal so that we would be the principal beneficiary of the offshore oil revenues that are coming ashore from the Grand Banks. At the time, we were looking for, obviously, a minimum of $2 billion. We were looking for a deal like we have now. We would have liked to have a better one, obviously, who wouldn't?

Madam Speaker, let's bear in mind what a former colleague of the members opposite and their former Leader, a Mr. Roger Grimes, and I guess supported by the caucus opposite, said when we were in that little tiff, when we were offered $1.4 billion. What did they say? Did they say we should hold out? Did they say we should push the buttons and keep pushing back looking for the $2 billion? I think they said take it. Don't forget, they couldn't even accomplish $1.4 billion on their own. They couldn't even get it to that, even though they wanted us to accept it when we got it there. They couldn't get it there.

Why do we have the benefit of the surpluses that we have right now? Why are we able to invest in free textbooks for everybody from Kindergarten to Grand 12? Why are we able to embark on the greatest infrastructure billed out in the Province's history with $400 million in expenditure allocated for this year, 5,700 person years of employment? By the way, 5,700 person years of employment, to put it in perspective, is more than the peak employment at the Hibernia construction site in the mid-1990s. That is what $400 million is going to do for this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: That is what $400 million is going to do for rural Newfoundland and Labrador, because the bulk of that $400 million is going to be spent in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, Madam Speaker.

When the members opposite and some of their supporters in the public talk about this government not doing anything for rural Newfoundland and Labrador, well I hold up 5,700 per years of employment in this calendar year and $400 million worth of expenditure mostly in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

The difference between the 1985 Accord and the 2005 Accord - what was the bottom line for that in our Budget for this year? I am sure members on this side of the House know. I am not sure if members opposite know, or if they do they are certainly disregarding it in their commentary to the fiscal capacity of the Province. It means $305 million on our bottom line this year. To put that in perspective, if we were still on that side of the House and they were on this side of the House, we would be $305 million in Atlantic Accord money alone worse off this year than we are now.

People need to bear that in mind when they look at the Budget and look at how the Province is performing from a fiscal perspective and how that money can be spent from an economic development perspective, Madam Speaker.

Let's talk about a few more things. Last year I was Minister of Transportation and Works. My colleague now from Lake Melville is minister. At the time, as part of Budget 2006-2007, we rolled out prior to the Budget, and announced in the Budget, funding - we rolled out the vessel replacement strategy. Now, when they were in Opposition did they have a vessel replacement strategy? They attempted something in the way of vessel replacement. As our dearly departed colleague from Conception Bay South used to call it, and the Member for Cape St. Francis also used to call it, they embarked on the acquisition of the rust bucket from Estonia. Hull 100, was it?


MR. TAYLOR: Hull 100, I think she was called, now called the Nonia. We all know our experience with the Nonia and the problems that have plagued the people on Bell Island trying to deal with that.

Did they have a Vessel Replacement Strategy? No. We rolled out a Vessel Replacement Strategy, and in the Budget last year, if my memory serves me correctly, we allocated $1.5 million, I believe it was - $1.5 million - for design work on two new ferries.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: My colleague, the Minister of Transportation, tells me that over at the National Research Council's facility across from the university, the ice test took place on the models this morning. So, Madam Speaker, when we rolled out that $1.5 million, what did we hear from the other side? One point five million in design, that is it; when are we ever going to see construction? Never going to see construction. Never going to see the money for construction.

What do we have this year? Fifteen million dollars allocated in this year's Budget to begin construction this year on the first two ferry vessels.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: If I am not mistaken, they are the first two vessels to be constructed for the provincial fleet since Brian Peckford and Tom Rideout sat in this House.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: Now, Madam Speaker, that is putting your money where your mouth is. The provincial government has not built a ferry or any kind of vessel in Newfoundland and Labrador since the Progressive Conservatives were in power in the late 1980s. There was nothing done during the 1990s, and until 2004 there was not even an attempt, when we came to power, at trying to go down that road; but, because of the successful negotiation, because of the prudent fiscal management, because of the strategic decision-making of this government since we came to power, we are now moving down the road to replace the fleet in Newfoundland and Labrador and give the people who depend on that fleet the level of service that they deserve.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: Madam Speaker, I am going to move up the Northern Peninsula a little bit now and talk a little bit about what is after happening up there over the course of the past three-and-a-half years.

I can remember when I was in Opposition - I made this observation in Plum Point the other night to a group of people - when I sat in Opposition, to put it in perspective, over the course of three years the previous Administration, the people who sit on the other side of the House here right now, and one of them was the Minister of Transportation and he, I can tell you, allocated a lot of money to my district, in the course of three years there was less than $1 million. As a matter of fact, if my memory serves me correctly, there was about $850,000 spend on road work over the course of three years in the District of The Straits & White Bay North, and about an equivalent amount spent in St. Barbe. To put that in perspective, we are talking about an area that has somewhere in the order of 650 kilometres or 700 kilometres of road, one of which is the Northern Peninsula Highway, the Viking Trail, the main artery into Labrador, the Big Land, where all of this vast potential exists, where a great amount of the development in Newfoundland and Labrador from an economic perspective is taking place and going to take place over the coming couple of decades, and what did they do?

MR. BYRNE: A former Premier there, too.

MR. TAYLOR: And a former Premier.

When I got elected, a previous member was the Premier. A Cabinet minister sat up there. What did we have?

I said, when I was in Plum Point the other night - and I will mention a couple of people - Curling White owns a couple of tractor trailers in Sandy Cove. I used to hate to run into him, because every time I ran into him he was complaining about the conditions of the roads. He was talking about how his trucks were getting beat up and he was breaking off U-bolts and springs and whatever that keep a tractor trailer going, but breaking up everything up in under, busting up tires, ruining everything, costing him a fortune to keep his trucks on the road.

Well, I can tell you, now when I run into Curling White these days it is a little bit of a different story, I can tell you, and you can drive over the Northern Peninsula Highway and the people on the Northern Peninsula know how they were treated prior to 2003. They know what kind of investments were made on the Northern Peninsula back then, and they know that the investments that are being made on the Northern Peninsula now are of a strategic nature -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: - to support the tourism industry and the forestry industry and the fishing industry and what have you.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TAYLOR: Yes, my colleague, the former Minister of Transportation and Works - the former, former - now the Government House Leader and minister responsible for many things.

You know, for forty years the people of Conche drove over a woods road because the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, of both political stripes, never did put much in the way of money on the Conche road. The fact of the matter is that it was a woods road, pushed through by White's Logging, as I recall - I could be mistaken on that, but by White's Logging - in the early 1960s, mid-1960s, and never upgraded. What do they have now? Go to Conche now. I can guarantee you, the people in Conche now see a road to drive on, and they are going to finish it and we are going to pave it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: Madam Speaker, I look at some of the other things that have happened. I have to still go back to this rural theme, this issue of not doing anything for rural Newfoundland and Labrador. What did we do last year? What decision did we take last year when we decided that we were going to set up the telehealth centre in Newfoundland and Labrador through Clinidata? What did we decide? Well, we were advised that the best place to put it was St. John's. We were advised that the most optimum place in Newfoundland and Labrador to locate that operation was in St. John's. Well, what did we do? I think, from the Island perspective, we got as far away from St. John's as we could get. Well, we could have gone to Quirpon, I suppose, but it might have been a little bit of a challenge putting it in Quirpon, in fairness. Where did we put it? We put it in St. Anthony, twenty-six full-time jobs in administrative support for Clinidata, going over very well.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: What else did we do? I remember when I sat in Opposition, the year before I got elected in 2000 - I was elected in 2001 - in 2000, then Premier Brian Tobin, God love him -


MR. TAYLOR: God love him, nobody else does - promised a dialysis unit for St. Anthony and Clarenville. Supposedly, we were going to get it the next year, 2001. Well, of course, we all know Mr. Tobin moved back to federal politics and there was a by-election, and for the first time in fifty-one years the political stripe of the district changed.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: What happened to the dialysis unit? I do not know what happened. All of a sudden there were not enough people on the Northern Peninsula needing dialysis services to put a dialysis unit. They had to come to St. John's; they were living in St. John's. I remember some very sad stories about it at the time, dealing with a lady, Mrs. Jane Smith from Raleigh, who had to relocate in here.

What did we do last year? We announced a dialysis unit for St. Anthony. The tenders have been called. The contract, if it is not awarded, is very close to being awarded. I know tenders closed last week, I believe it was, and construction is about to start. The dialysis unit will be operational by September, I think it is, along with the ones that we announced for the Burin Peninsula and along with the one that we announced for Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: Madam Speaker, I do not know, I suppose some people might say that Happy Valley-Goose Bay is a little more urban compared to Quirpon and Sandy Cove and places like that, but I can guarantee you that St. Anthony is not urban. St. Anthony is downtown rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

AN HON. MEMBER: The same thing in Burin.

MR. TAYLOR: The same thing in Burin and, really, in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

What else did we do? We had a forty-odd-year-old arena in St. Anthony, one of the most utilized arenas in the Province, falling down around our ears. Occupational Health and Safety - I probably should not say this, but there are issues there, let's put it that way. There are safety concerns. I hope my colleague, the Minister of Government Services, is not listening too attentively here.


MR. TAYLOR: Anyway, the facility is, no doubt, showing its age and desperately needed to be replaced - the focal point of recreation and entertainment on the tip of the Northern Peninsula - and what did we do? After so many years of the people in St. Anthony looking for a new facility, what did my colleague, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and the Member for Cape St. Francis do last year? Four point eight million dollars we announced for a $6 million facility -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: - and with our lobbying efforts with ACOA we managed to secure another $600,000, and, Madam Speaker, hopefully the ground will break on the facility this year. The reason why we are only hoping that construction is going to start this year, is because we need to reconfigure on the school system on the Northern Peninsula. We need to do some work in St. Anthony because the St. Anthony Elementary needs work and Harriot Curtis Collegiate, which is the high school, needs work. Of course, with the changing population and busing and what have you, the whole system needed to be looked at.

What did we do this year? Well, we had this idea - about this time last year a few of us talked about it. Myself, the Minister of Education and a couple of more ministers talked about it, talked about it to the chair of the school council in St. Anthony: What about we build a facility, we take the elementary school which was built for 450 students, forget about the high school - let's forget about that because the total school population up there now is only around 500 or 550 anyway. Why don't we find a way of extending the elementary school so we can have an all-grade school, and on top of that why don't we build the arena, the sports centre, the recreation centre for that region, right into the school. That, Madam Speaker, is what this government decided to do.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: That is what we decided to do, because we understand that if you are going to promote healthy living, if you are going to expect students to be bused, then you might as well put a facility in place that accommodates that and works towards that. That is what is called strategic thinking, Madam Speaker.

The members opposite criticize us all the time for having strategies. Well, how would they spend money? They would spend money in the absence of a strategy, I can only conclude, Madam Speaker. So, there is no strategic thinking amongst the Opposition. The Opposition is not thinking strategically, which is why we have seen no much money wasted on ill-fated projects over the years. What we propose to do -

MADAM SPEAKER: Order, please!

I remind the hon. member that his speaking time has expired.

MR. TAYLOR: A moment to conclude, Madam Speaker?

MADAM SPEAKER: Does the hon. member have a moment to clue up?


MR. TAYLOR: Anyway, that is what we are going to do with the school system in St. Anthony. I am not sure, it is probably around $900,000 allocated for engineering work for this year, $600,000 allocated for design work and engineering work on a new hospital in Flowers Cove that is desperately needed. We are working with ACOA to try and get the interpretation centre developed on Burnt Cape. We have a wildlife and forestry museum between us and ACOA that we are funding the construction of in Roddickton.

Madam Speaker, I could go on. Unfortunately, I only had twenty minutes and I guess I am now at about twenty-one. I know I will have an opportunity over the coming weeks to have a few more comments on the wonderful things that are in Budget 2007-2008.

I thank my colleagues opposite for the little bit of leave to conclude.

Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MADAM SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Humber Valley.

MR. BALL: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

I am certainly proud to stand here today, as a new member really from Humber Valley, to take part in this Budget Debate. I guess, as many of you know, this is my first time standing here.

I understand that a Budget Debate is multifaceted. In my role as an Opposition member, I guess I get the opportunity to throw maybe a brick, maybe some stones, and I have no problem throwing a bouquet where it is deserved.

I have the privilege to stand here today because of the support of some people in Humber Valley. These are people that I have known for many years now, my work life, well over thirty years in the district. I was born there, raised there and proud to say that I am from there.

I would also like to congratulate Mr. Darryl Kelly and Shelley Senior for the hard fought battle during the campaign. Campaigning in Western Newfoundland, as many of you know, because many of you did visit the district during the campaign, in the middle of winter was met with many challenges.

I would also like at this time to congratulate the Member for Kilbride, Port au Port, Labrador West, and I guess the Member for Ferryland. I congratulate and welcome them to the House as well. Really, I have to thank my family and the many campaign workers, and my colleagues on this side of the House, for the tremendous support that they gave me during the campaign. It seemed like everywhere I turned there was a campaign worker, and I can tell you, they were quite the crew because through snow, wind and freezing temperatures, you could not hold them back. They were really committed, and without their support it would have been hard to keep motivated, but they were there from day one.

To represent a district here in this House is truly a privilege for all of us, and I commend those MHAs on both side of the House for the commitments they have made to the future of the Province and, indeed, to its people. For me, Humber Valley is not only a great place to live but it is also a great place to visit. For those people who made the decision to live in Humber Valley, chances are they worked in one of the many industries or businesses throughout the district. Like most primary rural districts in the Province, most people in our district work either in the fishery, the forestry or the agriculture sectors.

Now, the fishery in the White Bay area is fairly strong. We have a shrimp plant and a crab plant which are successfully operating in Jackson's Arm and it provides continuous employment for many people. Now, on the other hand, in the White Bay area, in particular, in areas like Trout River, we have some concerns, and certainly people are met with many challenges. Throughout the campaign it was consistently heard, people asking about fishery buyouts and those sorts of things. I think in order for this to work, I would personally like to see a commitment from this government on to a fisheries buyout program.

Agriculture throughout the district, too, is very important. We have seen many opportunities in the past, in particular in areas like Cormack. This year I am really looking forward to seeing the opening of the new heritage and agriculture building in Cormack. That will highlight much of the history in that area. As many of you know, Cormack was built primarily as an agriculture community many years ago and settled by many of our veterans. I think we need to recognize those and commend them every chance we get.

The community of Deer Lake, in the district, is certainly the hub. Its economy is very diverse, but it was primarily built around the forestry. My own family has very strong ties to this industry, where both my grandfather and my father made their living. Growing up, when people asked me where my parents or my father worked, my answer would always be: Well, he works in the woods. But, for a number of reasons the forestry sector is struggling these days. We have all heard of the plight of Stephenville and we have also heard the challenges, of course, in Grand Falls. Either the exchange rates, the cost of fibre, all of this is having a major impact. It is important that we work with all of our stakeholders. In particular, Corner Brook Pulp and Paper, they employ over 1,000 people in Western Newfoundland and continues to be one of the largest employers and it makes a huge contribution to our economy.

The Member for Windsor-Springdale earlier made reference about a $19.9 million investment in water bombers. Of course, fire protection for our forestry is extremely important but we also need to recognize that a land use policy, in particular in Humber Valley, is important as well. These people need to know where their future lies.

As I mentioned earlier, Humber Valley is not only a great place to live but it is a great place to visit, and tourism is fast becoming one of Humber Valley's most important sectors. Most of all, these activities are supported by Deer Lake Airport. For those who do not know, right now Deer Lake Airport is the fourth busiest airport in Atlantic Canada. Deer Lake Airport, of course, is reaching unprecedented growth. Year after year after year we are seeing traffic increased to that airport, and it is certainly a huge economic generator for Western Newfoundland. Thanks to the commitment - the commitment here belongs to the staff and the board of directors. They are now currently embarking on an $11 million airport terminal expansion. I might add here, that all of this is happening without any federal money, any provincial money. This is really coming from the airport's own sources. In today's world, I think this is a major achievement and I think these people need to be commended as well. The growth of Western Newfoundland, and that area of the Province, will highly be dependent upon the success of Deer Lake Airport.

Now, a provincial visitor's centre would be a great addition. I spoke to the minister earlier about this and I am really looking forward to seeing the completion at the airport there. This is something we have been talking about for a long time but I think we also need to address that the Deer Lake Chamber of Commerce has had significant impact. They have been responsible for managing this visitor's centre for quite a number of years. It has been a financial generator for them. I think we need to be cognizant of the fact that there may be a transition and they may need some support from your government in the upcoming years.

In speaking about tourism, one of the first questions that I asked in the House was about snowmobiling, because snowmobiling right now in Western Newfoundland, in particular, Deer Lake - Deer Lake is now recognized as a snowmobile hub for the Province, and even the town's own strategic plan supports this. This part of the Province, as many of you know, is surrounded by some of the best snowmobiling in the world. As I said, I first asked the minister about what would happen with the agreement that was signed between Parks Canada and the Government of Newfoundland. It is unfortunate to see that this agreement right now is being unilaterally changed by Parks Canada. All of this is happening with - really, there is no demonstrated ecological damage in the park. There is no scientific data to support the restrictions. This is really happening because an initiative of Parks Canada were trying to satisfy some concerns of some stakeholder from mainland, Canada. This is very unfortunate, because in order for the tourism sector to grow, in particular in the wintertime in the Deer Lake area - snowmobiling in Gros Morne is an important part of what happens here. Indeed, by many it is considered to be a destination. Even after numerous requests, the Province has failed to get involved and the opportunity is being stripped away to satisfy, as I said, the interests from mainland, Canada. Even though it is late in the process, I still feel the Province should support the local tourism operators and the recreational snowmobilers. These restrictions can be removed and we should suggest that they are removed.

In this area, too, outfitting is a very (inaudible) of what happens. We have seen a tremendous growth over the years, as we have seen visitors from the U.S. and mainland, Canada, as I said, and from all over the world come in; those who enjoy the outdoors and enjoy the hunting. I am sure our colleagues from up on the Northern Peninsula can relate to this as well. What I have been hearing lately - and this is coming from a lot of the outfitters and a lot of the employees in this sector - is that they are very concerned about the future of the caribou herds. What I have also been hearing is that many of those people are really not interested in another strategic plan. What they would like to hear is an action plan. What are we planning to do to save this herd? Not only to save the herd but in actual fact this saves a very important industry within the Province. The outfitters, of course, we all realize that they are making a significant contribution these days. So, as I said, what we need here is not another survey. We actually need some action so these herds can be stabilized.

We have heard a lot of people make mention in the last few weeks about out-migration, and the impact that is it is having on rural Newfoundland. Out-migration, in my mind, is stripping our communities not only of our young people these days but it is also the full and extended families. I guess we all know of families in our districts, and we all know of friends of ours, we can almost but them on speed-dial these days, the people we know who are living in Fort McMurray. Even on my own street, where I live, I have both neighbours, both the guy who was living next to me and the guys across the street right now, if I want to speak to them I have to phone Fort McMurray.

This is really becoming a problem because what is happening is that most towns right now, in particular in rural Newfoundland, are left with a group of volunteers who are now aging, to really operate the towns.

It is not only me that feels this way. As a matter of fact, in the April 30 edition of The Western Star there is an editorial that says, "A place like Deer Lake is ideally located and can expect to thrive in the current economic climate. But what about the more rural communities? Towns like Hampden, Howley, Jackson's Arm, Norris Point and Baie Verte - to name just a few - saw their populations depleted by more than 10 per cent over the past five years. If the government's only solution is to throw money at the Rural Secretariat, then you might as well pack your bags and book your ticket west now. Maybe this is a case of our worst fears coming true. But it's hard to accept that rural Newfoundland is an endangered species."

That is not me saying that. That is a writer with The Western Star. Obviously, some of that I do share, and I do share the view because I know the numbers. I have seen people who have left their homes, and the houses that now have their windows boarded up, and they have moved on to other places. We all know that in the last census many of our communities faced double-digit declines. Tax bases are shrinking and, as I said earlier, our volunteers whom we were celebrating last week are now worn out and becoming very tired.

Madam Speaker, I guess another concern that I have is certainly the state of our health care right now. Even though we have made significant investments, there is still a lot to do. This is one area where I would send - this will not be a brick or a stone - I will send somewhat of a bouquet here. I do support some of the enhancements to the drug program, but I believe that many of the expectations will be thwarted if the department fails to include some of the essential health care costs in their calculations.

I know I have been talking a bit about this, this week, to some people, and I certainly encourage government to include such things as ostomy supplies, insulin pump supplies. They need to be included for all ages because, even though they may not be a benefit, it is important that the cost gets included so that the people can reach the benefit of the thresholds that will supply the savings that they are fully expecting.

Also in my district - and I have heard previous ministers speak about the investments in their own districts - what we are forced with is an aging clinic which is currently in desperate need of investment. The clinic, for those who do not know, is not owned by government. It is not owned by the town. It was actually put there through fundraising efforts back in the late 1960s and early 1970s from a fundraising group. Of course, there has been very little done with this building over the years and it has really now reached a point where investment is required.

This clinic is important to our area, because not only does it support the residents of Deer Lake but it is also very important to the people of the surrounding areas in White Bay and Bonne Bay. The clinic provides space for four doctors, a nurse practitioner, a dentist, and lab and X-ray services, and is an absolutely necessary part of the area's infrastructure.

I would like to thank the minister, too, for the meeting that we had last week. I certainly am looking forward to working with his department and the local committee who are responsible for operating the clinic. Keep in mind that our goal here is to bring the necessary improvements to the building, and all the residents of Humber Valley will benefit from that.

We have heard a couple of comments made today, by various members who stood, about home support workers and their plight. We all realize, I guess, that as the length of stays becomes shorter in institutions, it is important that we have the necessary people ready and available in our communities, and home support workers fill a valuable role there. With the current wages that these people are making, it is becoming harder and harder for people to stay in that industry, and we are finding it harder and harder to find people who are actually willing to work there.

Madam Speaker, we listen to the media and we listen to various, I guess, residents of the Province, and we all realize the state of our transportation system and road and highways. As the speaker before mentioned, he spoke about the road to Conche. I have been down that road a few times myself, and certainly that money could easily be spent in Conche. Not only could it be spent in Conche; it could be spent in a lot of other areas in this Province.

I know in my own district, the White Bay Road, the Bonne Bay Road, are in desperate shape. There are well over 200 kilometres of road in my district, and those roads are also responsible for the transportation of fish and forestry products, and the wear and tear is very obvious. We need to see a long-term commitment to this program, and I will ask the minister right now if he would make a commitment to the people in White Bay, that at least there would be a maintenance program put in place so these people can see the necessary improvements in their roads?

One other thing during the campaign that became very popular, and has been picked up by the media throughout, was the Nicholsville bridge. We are certainly waiting to hear - and we understand that there is a commitment made, but this commitment was made some time ago by an amalgamation agreement. I understand there is a meeting in the town today. Throughout the campaign it was a big issue and the commitment was made by the Premier, as well as some other ministers through that, and we fully expect that commitment to be kept.

Before I close today, there are a few things, because of the electoral boundary changes, that I would like to make some reference to. The District of Humber Valley, at least in the by-election, included the Bonne Bay area. These people of course I have come to know, and became friends of mine for a number of years now. At this time I need to say a goodbye, I guess, to those, as I do plan to run in October. They will not be part of the district in October, but they have been great friends of mine and I appreciate that I will be working with them for the next few months. In the October election, of course, they will not be part of the district. It is also an opportunity to welcome the people of Pasadena. There is two-thirds of Pasadena that will now be included in the Humber Valley district. I am really looking forward to working with those people

Madam Speaker, I would also like to, before I finish, thank you and your staff - or Mr. Speaker there now - for the welcome to this House. I will always remember my first visit. My mind went in many directions when we first walked into this House. Initially, I went back to other members and thought of the personal sacrifices that they have made and people that, I guess, have spent years here, long before me, and the commitment they made to the growth of the Province. I can say that my commitment will be the same. I share their view of many of the past and present members committed to making the Province a better place to live. I look forward to participating in many debates in the future.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER (Hodder): The hon. the Government House Leader.

AN HON. MEMBER: A standing ovation.

MR. RIDEOUT: No, Mr. Speaker, it was not a standing ovation for the hon. member, but we do recognize the fact, I believe it was his maiden speech and he did a fine job. We are certainly complimentary to him and we all welcome him to the Chamber.

Mr. Speaker, I understand that the committees would like to begin their -

MR. TAYLOR: Tomorrow he is fair game.

MR. RIDEOUT: Tomorrow he is fair game.

I understand that the committees that are meeting this evening would like, for scheduling purposes, begin their work a little early. The Resource Committee is going to meet - well, it is scheduled at 7:00 but I understand the committee is going to meet a bit earlier than that here in this House to review the Estimates of the Department of Environment and Conservation. I had intended to advise that the Social Services Committee would have met tomorrow morning but I understand, by agreement, there has been a change in that. So that will not go ahead tomorrow morning to review the Department of Justice. That has now been rescheduled, I believe, for May 14, which was worked out by agreement on both sides of the House.

So, because the committee would like to meet a bit earlier this evening because of scheduling matters -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. RIDEOUT: Yes. I should advise the House, tomorrow, of course, is Private Member's Day and the notice of motion that was given by my colleague from Terra Nova on Monday will be the resolution that will be debated tomorrow.

AN HON. MEMBER: Can we vote on it now?

MR. RIDEOUT: Pardon?

AN HON. MEMBER: Can we vote on it now?

MR. RIDEOUT: We could, indeed, vote on it now. Yes, no question.

Mr. Speaker, having reached that kind of unanimity of what we want to do next, I move that the House on its rising adjourn until tomorrow, Wednesday, at 2 o'clock.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House do now adjourn until tomorrow, Wednesday, May 2, at 2 o'clock.

All those in favour, ‘aye'.


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

The motion is carried.

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

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