March 10, 2008              HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS            Vol. XLVI   No. 1

The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: Please be seated.

Mr. Speaker, the Justices of the Supreme Court have arrived.

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

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

MR. SPEAKER: Admit His Honour the Lieutenant Governor.


Mr. Speaker leaves the Chair.

His Honour the Lieutenant Governor takes the Chair.

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

PREMIER WILLIAMS: May it please Your Honour, the House of Assembly agreeable to Your Honour's commands, have proceeded to the choice of a Speaker and have elected Roger Fitzgerald, the Member for the District of Bonavista South, to that office and by that direction I present him for Your Honour's approval.


On behalf of Her Majesty I assure you of my sense of your efficiency and I most fully approve and confirm you as Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Your Honour, having approved the choice of this House in constituting me as their Speaker it now becomes my duty, in the name of the representatives of Her Majesty's loyal subjects, the people of this Province, respectfully to claim of Your Honour their custom rights and privileges, especially that they shall have freedom of speech in their debates, that they may be free from arrest during their attendance in Parliament, and that I, as Speaker, may have full access to Your Honour's presence at all reasonable times, and that they have confirmed to them all their ancient rights and privileges, which have been confirmed them by Your Honour's predecessors.


Mr. Speaker, I do confirm this House, on behalf of Her Majesty, in the enjoyment of all its ancient and undoubted rights and privileges.


Mr. Speaker and Members of the hon. House of Assembly.

Researchers in genetics at Memorial University recently made an exciting discovery that offers hope to countless people, both here and around the world, who are at risk of sudden, catastrophic heart failure at a very young age from a condition known as ARVC. ARVC is especially prevalent in Newfoundland and Labrador families, but, until now, there has been no way to tell if a person has the faulty gene putting him or her at risk. Many families have been living under a dark cloud of fear, wondering if they or their children would be next. Fifty per cent of men with the gene die before age 40, while 80 per cent die before age 50; and women and younger people are also at great risk of sudden death. An interdisciplinary research team in cardiac genetics from Memorial, led by Drs. Terry-Lynn Young, molecular geneticist; Patrick Parfrey, clinical epidemiologist; and Sean Connors, cardiologist; has identified the genetic cause of the disease. Others on the research team at Memorial who have joined us today include Nancy Merner, Kathy Hodgkinson, Annika Haywood, Vanessa French, Barry Gallagher and Lynn Morris-Larkin. These researchers, working with more than a dozen families in this Province, recently located the single gene mutation responsible for this condition, enabling individuals to be tested to determine whether they are at risk. Those who are not at risk can for the first time rest easy while those with the gene can be implanted with defibrillators that can save their lives. Newfoundland and Labrador expresses its profound gratitude to this team for their groundbreaking research and to all the families whose participation in this study will help to save countless lives. You embody the tenacity, intelligence and fighting spirit of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Proud, Strong and Determined

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

On the 9th of October 2007, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador were given the opportunity to make a choice. Our people were asked if they want Newfoundland and Labrador to be the master of its own house and control its own destiny within the federation of Canada. Our people were asked if they want to maintain the principle My Government adopted in 2003 of no more giveaways. Our people were asked if they want Newfoundland and Labrador to stay the course to self-reliance. On the 9th of October, the people of our Province, in overwhelming numbers, re-elected My Government with a powerful mandate to build upon the initiatives of the past four years with pride, strength and determination to achieve at long last the promise of a self-reliant Newfoundland and Labrador. This was a resounding vote of confidence in the work of My Government and the leadership of My First Minister. Under his direction, My Government is beginning a new term full of new opportunities and new objectives. My Government has made a range of commitments that are compelling and comprehensive in scope and, over the course of the term ahead, My Government will deliver for the people.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: The overarching goal of the term ahead is to move Newfoundland and Labrador boldly forward to self-reliance. In resource sectors such as oil and gas, electricity, mining, agrifoods and the fisheries, in growth sectors such as tourism and culture, in leading-edge sectors such as ocean technology and engineering, and in many other sectors of our economy, the opportunities are phenomenal and unprecedented. It is no accident that Newfoundland and Labrador stands on the cusp of a vibrant new future. These opportunities are here because of My Government's planning, our people's cooperation and My First Minister's leadership throughout the past four years.

Already, Newfoundland and Labrador is turning the corner. The tide has dramatically turned for the better in terms of job opportunities that are arising for the people of this Province, now and in the future. Labour market conditions have significantly improved, with unemployment in marked decline and employment at a record high. My Government will work to ensure Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are well-equipped to take advantage of the opportunities ahead and the benefits of a prosperous economy. To give Newfoundlanders and Labradorians a head start to prepare for the incredible career opportunities, My Government commissioned and proceeded to implement the Skills Task Force report and the White Paper on Public Post-secondary Education The Province's College of the North Atlantic and Memorial University are leading the charge in preparing our students for the careers that await. Memorial University has already commenced a search process for a new President who will bring a renewed vision and work collaboratively with the government to help Newfoundland and Labrador move toward self-reliance and prosperity. My Government looks forward to fulfilling our commitment to grant Grenfell College full university status with a separate executive, senate and budget, while maintaining a common Board of Regents to secure a strong partnership between the Grenfell and St. John's campuses. With a solid education to ground them and leaders in a wide range of disciplines to guide them, our graduates will be ready to take the reins of new opportunities as they arise.

Thanks to the leadership of My First Minister and the approach of My Government, our Province's influence is being felt and our voice is being heard all across the country and far beyond – everywhere, that is, except at the federal Cabinet table.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: In the federal forum that once mattered most, Newfoundland and Labrador is treated with little but contempt and condescension. Ours is not the only provincial government to be treated with disdain by the Harper Government, but no province has been treated more dishonourably. My Government has been deeply frustrated by the current Federal Government's refusal to honour – among other promises – their explicit written commitment to remove nonrenewable resource revenues from the calculation of equalization, a commitment worth an estimated $10 billion to Newfoundland and Labrador according to independent economists. Given the magnitude of this commitment, My Government cannot, in good conscience, either forget it or cease to remind others of this broken promise. A Prime Minister who makes such a promise saying "there is no greater fraud than a promise not kept" stands condemned by his own words for refusing to keep it. By keeping their word, the Harper Government would have advanced our efforts to address our excessive burden of debt and achieve parity in the federation. Their actions are not only disingenuous but also dishonest. They have proven they cannot be trusted; but their great betrayal will do nothing to prevent us from achieving our goals on our own steam. Despite their opinion that they will win a government without Newfoundland and Labrador, our Province will achieve its full potential as a prosperous and self-reliant partner within the federation with or without this Federal Government.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: We just want to opportunity to utilize our natural resources to become self-sufficient. We will resist any attempt to prevent this from occurring.

Ours is not the Province it was two decades ago. Indeed, it is not the Province it was five years ago. Fiscally and economically, we stand in a far more commanding position today than at any time in the past twenty years. As a result of our collective efforts to wrestle down the deficit, to ratchet up growth and to reach an agreement that fulfilled the promise of the Atlantic Accord, we are – for the first time in our history – poised to come off equalization very soon. This is a stunning achievement that will reinforce the bold new attitude of self-confidence that has taken hold among Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

For fifty-nine years, Newfoundland and Labrador has contributed enormously to the success of Canada. We have contributed resources of immeasurable value and, of even greater significance, we have contributed countless people - talented, tough and tenacious - whose energy and ingenuity have been powerfully instrumental in building the economies of our sister provinces and territories across Canada. As we move off equalization, it is time for us to benefit in a different way. The time has come for Newfoundland and Labrador to become a net importer of people. The time has come to reverse the trend of natural resource giveaways. The time has come for Newfoundland and Labrador to become a major centre of economic activity driving not only the Atlantic region but also the economy of Canada. It is time for people to take notice, because Newfoundland and Labrador is ready to lead the country.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Success in the twenty-first century is not merely about racking up high economic growth statistics. Success is about people. Success is about ensuring Newfoundland and Labrador communities remain places where people can put down roots and raise their families in an environment of social and economic security. This is self-reliance at its most fundamental.

Under the leadership of My First Minister beginning in 2003, My Government and the people of our Province joined forces in a concentrated effort to enable all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to share in the bright future they desire and deserve. My Government invested in socially progressive initiatives, including the largest personal income tax cuts in our Province's history, a poverty reduction strategy that national anti-poverty leaders herald as a model for the country, increased funding for new diagnostic and other medical equipment, insulin pumps for our children, new prescription drugs for those who need them, new long-term care homes, record spending on education, free textbooks for our students and the best post-secondary student aid package in the country. My Government also bolstered our communities by investing in a multi-billion-dollar strategy to improve infrastructure throughout the Province, and by developing our Province's first Northern Strategic Plan for Labrador. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are better positioned now than ever before to take full advantage of the fantastic opportunities at our doorsteps.

With renewed pride, hope and self-assurance, we are ready to continue the journey we have started together. Strong within ourselves and strong within our country, we are standing tall and striving boldly to bring Newfoundland and Labrador into its own. As masters of our own destiny, with our eyes focused clearly on the opportunities ahead, we will become stronger and more secure than we have ever been before.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Strong Economy with Strong Communities

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

Among Newfoundland and Labrador's most promising sectors is the energy sector. My Government in September released Newfoundland and Labrador's first comprehensive, long-term Energy Plan: a strategy extending out to 2041 to prepare us for the expiration of the Upper Churchill agreements; a strategy to position us as an energy warehouse in eastern North America; a strategy to benefit Newfoundlanders and Labradorians first, while at the same time providing the right climate to promote development. The release of the Energy Plan marked a new era of self-confidence and promise for energy resource development in Newfoundland and Labrador. Our vast energy resources - including oil, gas, hydro, wind and others - will be developed in ways that bring sustainable economic development opportunities to both Labrador and the Island, while returning valuable royalties, dividends and other revenues to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

My Government is especially excited about successfully negotiating equity stakes in the offshore development projects Hebron and White Rose satellites, in addition to a super royalty and industrial benefits. Those who said it could not be done have been proven wrong.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: My Government rejected old, outdated ways of thinking in favour of a bold, progressive, new approach. Securing equity means having greater leverage to control our own destiny. We welcome our new partners and look forward to many years of mutual success. My Government will build on the other outstanding successes of 2007 in the coming year by advancing a broad array of energy initiatives that will include: finalizing framework agreements with the Hebron project partners; participating in the development of the White Rose satellites under our new agreement; advancing the Hibernia South project based upon successful reapplication; progressing the Lower Churchill project development plan toward project sanction and first power; advancing wind power development; completing an offshore Natural Gas Royalty Regime that will provide a fair return to industry and the people of this Province; working with the proponents to advance the proposed new refinery near Come By Chance and the liquefied natural gas transshipment facility; and promoting increased offshore and onshore exploration and development on the west, south and east coasts and off the coast of Labrador.

Energy is not the only sector offering great promise. The Province's mining sector achieved a record level of exploration expenditure of $138 million in 2007. The industry will continue to strengthen in 2008 with exploration, expansion at the Iron Ore Company of Canada operation in Labrador West, preparation for the construction of a nickel processing operation in 2009, and the opening of new mines of Beaver Brook and Pine Cove, all of which will create hundreds of high-paying jobs in rural communities. As production at Voisey's Bay continues, we look forward to future development of the underground mineral reserves.

We also have great expectations for our fisheries - the backbone of many rural communities - which will benefit from the Province's initiatives under the Fishing Industry Renewal Strategy. These include processing policy renewal, increased R&D, improved occupational health and safety, an enhanced harvesting sector loan guarantee program and strengthened workforce adjustment measures. We are also working with industry on innovative programs such as implementation of fish auctions and an enhanced seafood marketing structure.

My Government is disappointed that the current Federal Government has not yet acted on its promise to impose custodial management on the Nose and Tail of the Grand Banks and the Flemish Cap, and will continue to press the Federal Government to honour their promise. Reform of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) is no substitute for custodial management, in terms of either timing or efficacy.

My Government is reaffirming its commitment that the Province would participate in a cost-shared, federal-provincial early retirement/licence buyback program.

The fishing industry last year achieved a production value exceeding one billion dollars. My Government affirms that the fishing industry, which anchored our proud past, will always be vitally important to rural Newfoundland and Labrador as we work to build a strong, sustainable future. Both in the near term and for generations to come, the fisheries will continue to be a major employer, a major economic generator and a major source of pride throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: The aquaculture industry has benefited since 2005 from a progressive suite of initiatives – including working capital investments in 2005, a capital equity program in 2006, and an aquaculture health facility and wastewater treatment program in 2007 – that have broken through the barriers that had precluded the commercial development of aquaculture for many years. Production of salmonids, which was less than 5,000 tonnes worth about $15 million in 2007, is projected to reach 15,000 tonnes worth some $80 million in 2009. Success in aquaculture has brought an exciting new sense of optimism and a brighter outlook to our south and northeast coasts.

Our forestry sector, which has weathered particularly tough challenges, will benefit from the implementation of the provincially-funded and independently-produced forest sector strategy report. Initiatives advanced under this strategy will reflect My Government's appreciation of the immense value of our forest industry and a strong conviction that this industry does indeed have a sustainable future in Newfoundland and Labrador over the long term.

Newfoundland and Labrador's economy will also benefit from My Government's steadfast commitment to continue investing in the kinds of infrastructure and services that embolden investors and stimulate growth. My Government has already announced an investment this year of $182 million in road improvements -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: - the largest such funding in the Province's history. This will include a record $73 million for the Provincial Roads Improvement Program, an amount 10 per cent higher than last year's figure, which set a record of its own. Funding this year will also significantly improve the national highway system in Newfoundland and Labrador. My Government will work with Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador to review fiscal policies, to develop an infrastructure investment strategy that targets resources in line with the needs and capabilities of our municipalities, and to develop regional approaches to service delivery that will lead to stronger communities with stronger economies.

Now turning to Labrador…

Strong Labrador

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly: With the release of the Northern Strategic Plan for Labrador, My Government demonstrated an unfailing commitment to Labradorians and an unwavering determination to ensure the Big Land enjoys opportunities that are unprecedented in its long, proud history. My Government's commitment to Labradorians will not fail, nor will its determination to advance the well-being of Labradorians waver throughout the implementation of the Energy Plan or any other venture. The Northern Strategic Plan is a living document with clear goals and focused priorities for Labrador. My Government recognizes that Labrador will play a significant role in the overall future of the Province and looks forward to working with Labradorians to implement the Northern Strategic Plan. Investments in Labrador under the plan include completion of the Trans-Labrador Highway and other infrastructure improvements along with important advances in health care, education, natural resource management, tourism, culture and social services.

There are now two Ministers representing Labrador in the provincial Cabinet, including – for the first time in our Province's history – an Aboriginal woman who is serving as the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: This Minister, who formerly served as a member of the Nunatsiavut transitional government, will be instrumental in working with Aboriginal leaders and communities in advancing the status of Aboriginal people and Aboriginal women's issues in Newfoundland and Labrador. Having welcomed the inauguration of the Nunatsiavut Government, My Government will continue to implement the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement, particularly the provisions respecting devolution of programs and services and self-government. My Government will also work constructively with the Innu Nation toward the achievement of a Comprehensive Land Claims Agreement, and will also work cooperatively to advance the well-being of the Metis people of Labrador and the Mi'kmaq people of the Island.

Strong Governance

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly: My Government moved early and effectively to shine the spotlight of accountability on the operations of the Government and of the House of Assembly. My Government commissioned Chief Justice Derek Green to recommend an overhaul of management procedures at the House of Assembly and subsequently enacted legislation reflecting his recommendations. Among his recommendations was a call for ‘whistleblower' legislation establishing procedures for the disclosure of wrongdoings and for protecting public servants who disclose wrongdoings. My Government will introduce whistleblower legislation this year after appropriate consultation has taken place.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Strong People

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

My Government will build on important initiatives set in motion during the first term, including the Poverty Reduction Strategy, the Provincial Healthy Aging Policy Framework, the Immigration Strategy, the Violence Prevention Initiative and initiatives to advance the status of women; and will also take new initiatives to advance the well-being of our people. With a new Minister Responsible for the Volunteer and Non-profit Sector, My Government will draw on the talents, energy and compassion of thousands of volunteers and hundreds of community-based organizations across our Province who are working to make Newfoundland and Labrador a better place to live.

With a new Minister Responsible for Persons with Disabilities and a new Division of Disabilities, My Government will make great strides in enhancing the inclusion of persons with disabilities in all aspects of our society. In consultation with persons with disabilities, My Government will commission a study of the barriers they encounter – including barriers to public services, education and employment - and develop recommendations and strategies to address them effectively so persons with disabilities can take full advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead in this Province.

My Government's groundbreaking Poverty Reduction Strategy has been praised by advocates across Canada as a model others should adopt –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: - but our work has only just begun. My Government is committed to maintaining an open dialogue with families and community partners to ensure we are making the right investments and making a real difference. My Government remains committed to helping people make the transition from income support to the work force.

Promoting growth means implementing policies that are friendly to families. The family is the foundation of our communities and our Province. We must continue to build our reputation as a place where people can raise their families in a positive, nurturing environment. My Government will proceed this year with initiatives to provide support for growing families to make it a little easier for them to make ends meet as they put down roots in our communities.

My Government is particularly determined to advance the status of women in our Province and will do so by promoting apprenticeship and employment opportunities for women in nontraditional sectors, by encouraging their participation in influential roles in the community, and by addressing the special challenges that so many women face, which sadly in too many instances include violence and poverty.

Strong on Crime

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly: To ensure the security of our people, My Government will build on the strong investments of the past four years in crime-fighting and violence prevention. No one should live in fear - not a child, not a senior, not a woman, not a victim of crime and not a community.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: My Government will introduce further steps to prevent criminals from beneficing from their crimes by seizing the proceeds of crime and directing the value of these seizures directly back into provincial law enforcement and crime prevention. My Government will also modernize the Province's Human Rights Code, which has not had a major revision for two decades. Specifics initiatives to battle crime and protect people will be announced in the forthcoming Budget.

Strong Culture

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly: Our Province's unique culture has been shaped by our economy, our environment and people of many ancestries. My Government this year will build on the work of the Strategic Cultural Plan and proceed with a new Intangible Cultural Heritage Strategy to help preserve, strengthen and celebrate our distinctive and intangible cultural heritage, including languages, traditional knowledge and skills, customs, and music. We will be welcoming others to share our culture here at home as we prepare to host the North Atlantic Fiddle Convention and, in Corner Brook a year from now, the East Coast Music Awards. We will also be preparing to welcome visitors here for events of international significance in the next two years: in 2009, the 100th anniversary of the historic voyage to the North Pole of Captain Bob Bartlett of Brigus, and in 2010, the 400th anniversary of the founding of Cupids.

My Government's unprecedented investments in tourism marketing are paying off. In November 2007, Newfoundland and Labrador's tourism marketing campaign won the Tourism Industry Association of Canada's Marketing Campaign of the Year Award.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: In December, Newfoundland and Labrador was named a top 30 travel destination for 2008 by Lonely Planet Publications, one of the world's most respected travel guidebook publishers. In February, the highly-respected Fodor's travel institution highlighted Newfoundland and Labrador in a guide entitled "Where We're Going in 2008: Seven Places Americans Have Yet to Discover". This national and international recognition is a clear indication that Newfoundland and Labrador is no longer the world's best-kept secret. My Government is working with the tourism industry in the development of a new tourism vision and plan to ensure we continue to develop our tourism products and experiences. We will continue to creatively market the Province and build on our successes in ways that will attract more and more visitors and the opportunities they bring to our communities.

Strong on the Environment

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly: Public concerns about climate change, both globally and locally, have fostered a groundswell of interest in finding better ways to live more sustainably. In 2005 My Government developed a Climate Change Action Plan which, together with the Energy Plan, plotted a path forward to energy efficiency, waste reduction and sustainable living. This year, My Government will further update the action plan and include new initiatives to prepare the Province for the impacts of climate change. Specific initiatives will be laid out in this year's Budget and in the months that follow.

The native woodland caribou on the island is an important historical and cultural symbol for this Province, and an important resource for resident hunters in the outfitting industry. It is the only woodland caribou population in North America not listed as threatened or endangered. Still, caribou populations on the island have been in decline since they peaked in the mid to late nineties. My Government will strengthen its caribou strategy this year with an intensive five-year research and action program to better understand caribou population needs and threats, and will identify, test, and implement wildlife management practices that can help ensure the long-term integrity of the herds.

Strong Health Care

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly: Among the most important priorities in health care delivery are facilities, equipment and - most importantly - health care professionals. My Government remains strongly committed to recruiting and retaining doctors, nurses and other professionals who deliver the vital health care services our people need. My Government will announce initiatives respecting all of these key priorities in conjunction with this year's Budget. Among these initiatives will be an increase in funding to address the most critical maintenance and repair issues at health care facilities.

My Government has made significant investments in new health infrastructure and capital repairs and maintenance in health facilities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador over the last four years, totaling $128 million.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Our health care system has been strengthened with the completion of satellite renal dialysis sites in Burin, St. Anthony and Happy Valley-Goose Bay and the opening of two new cancer clinics in Central Newfoundland. In the months ahead, we will continue to see the results of this investment, including the openings of the new long-term care home in Clarenville and the new Humberwood Addictions Treatment Centre in Corner Brook. This year will also see the new primary health clinic and re-development of the Blue Crest Inter Faith Nursing Home in Grand Bank completed. As well, we are committed to making further investments in health infrastructure such as the new health centre for Labrador West and the completion of the long-term care home in Corner Brook. Our health care system has been further strengthened by an injection of $76 million over the last four years in capital equipment, which included such major investments as the addition of five new CT scanners throughout the Province, an MRI machine in Corner Brook, a third MRI for the Janeway Children's Hospital, and funding for two new radiation bunkers and radiation treatment machines for the Dr. H. Bliss Murphy Cancer Centre. My Government is building on a record of unprecedented health care investments that are working to enhance the health and well-being of all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

My Government this year will implement Phase II of the Provincial Wellness Plan, focusing particularly on the promotion of mental health, child and youth development, environmental health and health protection. These objectives will complement the Phase I initiatives that focused on healthy eating, physical activity, tobacco control and injury prevention.

My Government broke new ground last year in releasing and commencing to implement the Province's Healthy Aging Plan, and will proceed this year to implement year two of the plan with further initiatives to promote the well-being of seniors.

Consistent with the Healthy Aging Policy Framework, My Government will advance a Long-Term Care and Community Supports Strategy, building on a range of initiatives already underway. In particular, My Government will advance plans to redevelop and modernize the Province's long-term care homes, to improve home care services, to implement equitable financial assessment processes and to redevelop standards for long-term care homes, personal care homes and home support services.

Strong Minds

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly: Nothing gives us more optimism for a bright future than the confidence, hope and pride we see in the faces of our students. Some are children whose paths we determine. Others are older students who are charting their own course to a successful career. In all cases, we must be supportive, innovative and always striving for excellence.

At the K-12 level, My Government will build on initiatives of the past four years to advance the quality of education our students receive and respond to needs that will make the system better able to position these students to seize the opportunities before them, right here at home in Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Strengthening our education system means investing strategically in programs and in education professionals. My Government has received and evaluated the recommendations of the Teacher Allocation Commission and will announce its plans in the days ahead.

Since 2004, My Government has allocated $111 million for new school construction, maintenance and repair projects. Funding has been allocated for the construction of 11 new schools as well as renovations and extensions to many existing buildings. There were 200 roofing, siding, window and exterior maintenance projects completed or underway at a cost of approximately $25 million. In addition, over $2.4 million has been approved for 25 fire and life safety projects, such as fire protection systems, fire rated corridors and electrical upgrades. Approximately $2.6 million has been approved for 87 air quality projects such as air quality and hazardous material testing, remediation, carpet removal and ventilation. More than $24 million has been invested in projects involving the repair or replacement of roofing, siding, windows and brickwork since 2004 and other miscellaneous projects. Between 2005-06 and 2007-08, the budget for school construction almost doubled from approximately $25 million to approximately $49 million. Additional work will be announced in conjunction with this year's Budget.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: At the post-secondary level, My Government in Budget 2007 announced significant enhancements to the student aid program. Newfoundland and Labrador led the country in reducing provincial student loan interest rates to prime, a 2.5 per cent reduction, and now provides up to 50 per cent of provincial student assistance as an up-front grant. Both of these advances reflect the priorities My Government heard from our post-secondary students themselves.

My Government will continue to support the efforts of the Province's post-secondary students and its institutions through the implementation of its White Paper on Public Post-secondary Education. The tuition freeze at Memorial University and College of the North Atlantic will continue for a further four years.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Making post-secondary education affordable and accessible, and ensuring research and development are supported within these institutions, continue to be key priorities of My Government.

Initiatives to address financial accessibility and student debt not only help the students themselves. They also help our Province to educate and retain the skilled professionals we will need as new economic development projects commence and opportunities expand. My Government established a Skills Task Force during its first term and commenced an action plan to deliver on the recommendations. My Government will continue to take measures to ensure that our people are well prepared to take advantage of the many opportunities that lie ahead.

My Government is determined to position Newfoundland and Labrador as a leader in innovation and will establish this year, as a new Crown entity, the Newfoundland and Labrador Research and Development Council, a groundbreaking initiative to develop and lead a provincial R&D strategy to build a stronger knowledge-based economy and plot a course toward sustained prosperity. My Government will also implement year three of its Innovation Strategy and launch the Ocean Technology Strategy which, together with the Polaris program and the Northwest Atlantic Ocean Observing System initiative, will position Newfoundland and Labrador as an international leader in ocean technology development.

The Future is Ours

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly: We are today at a critical point in our history as we prepare to make the long-anticipated transition from a ‘have-not' jurisdiction to a ‘have' Province. Our day is now beginning to dawn.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: And with this dawning comes the confirmation that the course My Government chose four years ago is the right one. The principle of no more giveaways is the right one. The principle of making our own way and taking control of our resources is the right one. The principle of demanding accountability for federal commitments is the right one. We are ready to be fiscally self-sufficient, to be economically sustainable, to be socially secure and to be counted in Canada as strong contributors to the federation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: The bright new realities awaiting Newfoundland and Labrador demand the new way of thinking that My Government has boldly embraced. No longer can we afford to listen to those who try to impose on us their own outdated way of thinking. The time has come for us to chart out own course, to determine our own destiny, to think outside the box that others have tried to confine us within. New realities require new approaches. As the world continues to change, we must continue to adjust our game plan to ensure the approach we take is working. When there are successes, we must learn from them. When there are setbacks, we must learn from them as well. We must be prepared to try innovative approaches to ensure we remain relevant, on the leading edge of change, riding the global wave that will carry us forward from the subservience we have suffered for too long to the brand new future of self-reliance and sustainability that is beginning to dawn.


HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: The support and confidence of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians that has sustained My Government these past four years is the foundation for the successes we will achieve in the years to come. The work that remains to be done will be achieved with the continuing confidence and cooperation of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. It is only by continuing to work together that we will remain masters of the destiny we share.

Together, we will ensure our future is stronger than our past. Together, we will show the world we are a powerhouse of opportunities with the courage, competence, commitment and conviction to convert those opportunities into sustainable prosperity for the benefit of all. The promise is within reach. The future is ours. Proud, strong and determined, we will achieve our great promise by standing tall together, united as one, Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly, thank you for listening to me so patiently and without hurling any foreign objects at me.

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

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

May Divine Providence guide you in your deliberation.

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Labour Standards Act To Provide For Leave For Reservists. (Bill 1)

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

All those in favour, 'aye'.


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


The motion is carried.

Motion, the hon. the Government House Leader to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The Labour Standards Act To Provide For Leave For Reservists," carried. (Bill 1)

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

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, I think at this point we will have the distribution of the Speech from the Throne.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. Government House Leader if he is going to move first reading of the said bill?

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, I move that the bill now be read a first time.

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Labour Standards Act To Provide For Leave For Reservists. (Bill 1)

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 1, An Act To Amend The Labour Standards Act To Provide For Leave For Reservists, be now read a first time.

All those in favor, 'aye'.


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

The motion is carried.

This bill is now read a first time. When shall the said bill be read a second time?

MR. RIDEOUT: Tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

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

MR. SPEAKER: His Honour the Lieutenant Governor has been pleased to make a Speech to Members of the House of Assembly. We shall now take a few moments to distribute the Speech of the hon. the Lieutenant Governor.

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order please!

The hon. the Member for Grand Falls-Windsor-Buchans.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to thank His Honour the Lieutenant Governor for delivering such a strong and motivating Throne Speech. This is the first delivery of the Throne Speech for His Honour, and I would like to take this opportunity to commend His Honour on his recent appointment as Her Majesty's representative in Newfoundland and Labrador.

We extend our sincerest best wishes as he and Her Honour carry out their duties on behalf of the Crown.

It is indeed a tremendous privilege to stand here amongst my colleagues in the House of Assembly and speak to the Speech from the Throne on behalf of the people of the District of Grand Falls-Windsor-Buchans. I want to express my appreciation to my constituents for supporting and entrusting me with the responsibility to represent them in the House of Assembly. This is a wonderful time to be a Newfoundlander and Labradorian.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: So many great and exciting things are indeed happening in Newfoundland and Labrador. We have seen so very much accomplished in the past four years and we will continue to build on these successes in the coming years.

In my District of Grand Falls-Windsor-Buchans, there is much evidence of progress and good reason to believe in the potential that the future under this government will bring. With a population of approximately 25,000 within a driving radius of twenty minutes, Grand Falls-Windsor itself is the service centre for approximately 100,000 people, one fifth of the population of this Province. In fact, Grand Falls-Windsor is the largest town off the Avalon and one that I am extremely proud of.

Through the EXCITE Corporation, we have successfully branded ourselves as a centre of excellence in the area of information technology and health and life sciences, and we are home to companies such as DPSI and Helpdesk-Now who currently provide employment to some 250 people. With this government's continued help, and the support of the Departments of Business and INTRD, we will continue to build on those strengths.

Teck Cominco's Duck Pond Mine project has enticed many, many expatriate Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to return home to find good and meaningful employment in the mining industry.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: In fact, the entire region of Buchans, Millertown and Buchan's Junction, in my district, is besieged with a dozen or more junior mining companies that are actively exploring and drilling. The future is indeed very bright. However, there are also challenges facing my district. The Badger flood has definitely been an example of the Dickens adage: It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. So huge portions of the town were swept away and several houses and community structures were lost. The resilience and resourcefulness of the people of Badger and the hospitality of surrounding communities saw them through.

Of course, we are all acutely aware of the challenges facing AbitibiBowater, and in fact the newsprint industry globally these days. The soaring Canadian dollar, exorbitant fuel and transportation costs, a declining market demand worldwide, all contribute to difficult times in the pulp and paper business. This government has clearly demonstrated its commitment to our mill and has worked diligently with the former Abitibi Consolidated to reduce power costs, resulting in the mill in Grand Falls-Windsor reporting some of the best energy costs in North America. We will, no doubt, have to continue to work with the company and monitor the situation at the mill as AbitibiBowater completes Phase II of its internal review.

During our first four years in office, this government has made great strides in moving our Province forward, towards a new era of prosperity, sustainability and self-reliance. We look forward to building on those initiatives and furthering some of the key strategies that we have been developing since taking office.

Despite facing immense fiscal challenges, this government has worked effectively and efficiently to improve conditions for all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. Last year, changes to the provincial personal income tax regime saw the largest tax cut in the history of the Province and resulted in Newfoundland and Labrador having the lowest personal income tax rates in Atlantic Canada.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Strategic investments have been made to address the Province's infrastructure that was allowed to crumble over the past few years. A $90 million Poverty Reduction Strategy has become a model, garnering the praise and envy of anti-poverty leaders across the country.

Nearly half of our annual spending is devoted to health care, and this government will continue to work to ensure that the needs of the Province's people are met.

Our education system is on par with, or surpasses, any other in the country, with last year's funding bringing the overall education budget for both K-12 and post-secondary in excess of $1 billion, second only to funding for health.

This government introduced the Province's first ever Energy Plan, which will help to ensure that our energy resources are developed strategically in such a way that returns maximum benefits to the Province for our future generations.

We have set the stage to build a bright and secure future for our great Province. Newfoundland and Labrador has never experienced such a bright outlook for a more prosperous and self-reliant future. We have never been better positioned to take advantage of the opportunities before us, and this success is due largely as a result of the outstanding efforts and leadership of our proud, strong and determined Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Strong governance is vital to building a bright future for Newfoundland and Labrador, and this government has demonstrated this ability time and time again during the last four years. As a result of prudent financial leadership and effectively negotiated deals, our Province's financial position has improved dramatically. We have gone from dealing with inherited billion dollar deficits to record surpluses in this short period of time.

Based on our solid track record, the people of this Province endorsed this government's efforts and gave us a resounding show of approval. With a fresh mandate, we will go forward and continue to build upon the work of the past four years. There is a renewed sense of optimism, hope and pride that you get these days from people throughout the Province.

We have taken control of our destiny. There is no doubt that we have definitely turned the corner in our journey towards self-reliance and are well on our way to becoming a have Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: On behalf of my constituents in Grand Falls-Winsor-Buchans, I proudly move that a Select Committee be appointed to draft an Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for The Isles of Notre Dame.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DALLEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is an honour today to stand and represent the people of the District of The Isles of Notre Dame and second the motion to the Speech from the Throne.

I thank His Honour The Lieutenant Governor for his delivery of a motivating speech. The outlook for Newfoundland and Labrador is positive and contagious. It is indeed an exciting place to live today.

The past four years this government has worked diligently and responsibly to turn things around. In The Isles of Notre Dame district, for example, towns such as Twillingate are receiving accolades in international travel guides highlighting it as a world-class destination and, as a result, we are seeing more tourists visit our region. This is a result of this government doubling the tourism marketing budget over the past four years, committing $12 million to promote the Province to the rest of the world.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DALLEY: The creative and alluring advertisements that are receiving recognition from international travel guide books and from the Tourism Industry Association of Canada is a clear indication that this investment is successful.

Our government has committed to promoting and preserving rural Newfoundland and Labrador, investing in cultural industries that serve to showcase our artists and entertainers, promote our living heritage and develop infrastructure to promote cultural industries at home, nationally and internationally.

Our government is contributing to sustainable communities, working with the federal government and municipalities to provide water and sewer services to towns such as Joe Batt's Arm and Seldom-Little Seldom of Fogo Island.

Our eight-year blueprint is a well thought out plan that continues to deliver programs and services to improve the lives of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. This year's Throne Speech includes a wide range of initiatives that will go a long way in addressing the challenges we face, creating opportunities for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The people are excited about the future, and the vision this government has for our Province. A strong and proud people look for a government that reflects their values and goals. In 2007 they spoke loudly and provided us a clear mandate to carry on and lead this Province into a future of prosperity. Strong people deserve a strong government.

We all look forward to a time when we control and manage our resources and see the people of this Province benefit from the developments. The Hebron negotiation is a good example of this government sticking to its principles and not backing down, so that we receive what is rightfully ours.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DALLEY: The people were patient and stood with us throughout the process, and for this we are grateful.

The economic prospects of our Province have improved dramatically since this government came to power. A fiscal plan focused on infrastructure development, strategic investments and expanding social programs and services has benefited the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. As evidence of this, we recently announced a budget surplus of $888 million and a positive change to the Province's credit rating.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DALLEY: The commitments made by this government have put our Province on the right course towards economic strength and self-reliance. Strong strategic plans in all sectors have resulted in jobs and growth throughout our Province. Our Energy Plan initiative, designed to make strategic investments, will benefit the people of this Province and result in economic self-reliance and environmental sustainability.

The Fishing Industry Renewal Strategy aims to make our fishery more economically viable and internationally competitive. In 2007, Newfoundland and Labrador's seafood industry recorded a historically strong performance surpassing $1 billion in production value. Our tourism marketing strategies have received acclaim from all over. Led by offshore oil production, growth in tourism and manufacturing, a boom in residential and commercial construction activity, we are witnessing economic gains in all sectors which have resulted in employment growth, higher wages and increasing consumer confidence. There is a real, genuine feeling of optimism throughout our Province and the future looks promising indeed.

This government is turning things around, and the policies we have developed will see our economy grow through job creation and business development. Businesses in all sectors and regions throughout Newfoundland and Labrador are experiencing growth and success. Small businesses continue to be a major contributor to the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador, with employment numbers having increased by nearly 10 per cent in recent years. This Province recognizes the importance of creating an attractive business climate for business to establish or grow operations.

When we came into government we strongly promoted investment in our communities, and we will continue with this mandate in the future. We have accomplished this by creating a solid infrastructure investment in areas such as highways and roads, waste management systems, broadband networks, schools and health centres to promote growth in our rural communities.

In its record setting provincial roads improvement strategy for 2008-2009, this government invested $73 million in a strategy to improve provincial roads. The people in my District of the Isles of Notre Dame received $2.475 million to upgrade, resurface and pave roads which will have a positive impact on the area's economy, creating jobs, safer driving conditions, and assisting our tourism industry to grow. Areas such as Change Islands and New World Island will be directly impacted by this investment. In fact, a large portion of our total provincial infrastructure spending has been spent in rural Newfoundland and Labrador and, as a result, have created thousands of jobs.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DALLEY: Our Rural Secretariat and its partners throughout the Province are working with local and regional partners targeting opportunity development in sectors and regions throughout Newfoundland and Labrador to build strong communities. We are seeing a new Newfoundland and Labrador emerge, one that is stronger financially, economically, culturally, and environmentally. People are looking to this Province and recognizing the positive events unfolding here. As proof, Newfoundland and Labrador experienced population growth in 2007, the first time since 1992.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DALLEY: Our government believes that strong and healthy communities are essential to the success of Newfoundland and Labrador. We are utilizing emerging technologies in health care so patients from remote areas can benefit from the advice of specialists located outside their communities. We are helping people get prescription drugs they need and investing in new long-term health care facilities.

Our government is making this Province a model for other provinces; providing the best post-secondary student aid package in the country, creating a Northern Strategic Plan for Labrador, creating the largest personal income tax cut in the Province's history, and spending record amounts on education. These decisions lead to tangible benefits for our people, while this in turn will lead to self-reliance.

As a government, we are extremely proud of our achievements over the past four years and look forward to the future with a strong leader at the helm, a comprehensive and solid plan, and a team who is determined that these positive changes will happen. Together, with much pride and passion, we look forward to the future and strive to realize the potential of the people and the place we proudly call home, the great Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

First of all, I want to take the opportunity to welcome and thank our new Lieutenant Governor in his delivery today of the Throne Speech, and also to welcome our distinguished guests in the House of Assembly today, and to all those who are watching at home.

The Throne Speech, by its very nature, is a positive speech. It is a message of government that is written to indicate the direction they will take over the course of the next twelve months. Today's speech, obviously, has many good initiatives that will benefit the people of our Province. With a $1 billion budget surplus, there are many opportunities that are available to government, and these surpluses may be bigger as the price of oil continues to climb to well over $100 a barrel, which is much higher than that projected by the Minister of Finance just a few months ago.

Mineral royalties from projects such as Voisey's Bay, which has been one of the most beneficial mining deals ever reached in our Province's history, are also increasing. It is a matter of being effective managers and making the right choices with the extra tax dollars. There are many decisions that will have to be made and the people will judge if they believe the key priorities that they have outlined are being addressed. I guess those discussions and those debates will start on Budget day and in the days that follow.

While government has a significant pot of money to draw upon, there are a number of issues in this Province today that are not being addressed. Mr. Speaker, I would like to let government know that we get many calls at our offices with regard to issues in the Province that are of concern to people that they would like to have addressed. So while today's Throne Speech is full of promises, we will monitor the actions of government to ensure that they follow through on their commitments. As the Official Opposition, we will do our service to strengthen the policies that they bring forward and to challenge them when they do not act in the best interests of our citizens.

The strength of government is very evident in the numbers in this House of Assembly. The power you exercise is evident in the limited finances and staffing that is provided for Opposition parties like ours. However, we will not be downtrodden and silenced but we will rise each and every day to be the advocates of people, and our voices will be strong and they will be heard.

Your government has continuously stated your commitments to openness and accountability and I feel that you have not met those commitments appropriately. We need only to look in the past two weeks when government was forced to release a three-year-old report on the state of hospitals in St. John's. The only reason we know about the existence of these problems was because of the Minister of Health's bungling of another file in a media scrum.

Government committed in 2003 to release all reports within thirty days of their receipt. It was stated in previous Throne Speeches in this House. The report outlining the condition of St. John's hospitals shows once again that it was an empty promise. For a full three years these reports were hidden and not a word from government about their existence - and this is just one report. How many more reports exist that we know nothing about? Is this the openness and accountability that government had committed to?

We also learned of the results of the faulty ER-PR testing for breast cancer patients. Once again, government knew of these problems yet only communicated the information when it came out through a court document. This is simply unacceptable. When asked why government withheld the information, the Minister of Health stated: they had to balance litigation against the rights of the public to know - basically putting lawsuits ahead of people. I ask: How is this openness and accountability?

We saw a similar approach when Eastern Health went to court to block the release of so-called peer reviews. Even though the minister could have easily decided that such a court case was not necessary, he allowed it to go forward. Why block the release of information that can help improve our health care system and aid in the restoring of confidence to people? Is this the openness and accountability that was committed to?

How about the excess fees that were charged to the public, the media and the Opposition every time we tried to obtain information from government departments, when we have an Access to Information Act that is supposed to be there to work on behalf of the people? Government charges significant fees to discourage the access to information, or the release of sensitive information, and this, Mr. Speaker, is not openness and accountability.

Why is government refusing to release the names of companies that have been referenced in the Auditor General's report? Questions have been raised as to whether proper procedures were followed when awarding millions of dollars of public money to these companies. The department refused to release the information and has forced us to apply under the Access to Information Act. I have to ask why government is trying to hide this kind of information. What companies are they trying to protect? We want to ensure that you meet your commitments of openness and accountability, and this is the reason we raise those issues today.

The Auditor General identified reports with regard to restaurants that were not following policies designed to protect the public - a number of restaurants in our Province that could potentially affect the health and safety of citizens. Why is government refusing to release the names of these restaurants that are involved? Again, I have to ask: Where is the openness and accountability?

Who can forget the lack of information that was released on the Hebron-Ben Nevis MOU? Even though the Premier and members of his government, as I recall, in the days of the Voisey's Bay debate, had often claimed that there was insufficient information available and being released to make decisions – well, even fewer details are being provided on the Hebron-Ben Nevis arrangement. We have yet to see any information come forward, and a full seven months have passed since this announcement was made. Again, where is the openness and accountability that your government had committed to?

Numerous requests have been made to the Multi-Materials Stewardship Board to get information on the Province's recycling activities, budgetary expenditures and annual reports. Requests were made by the media, ourselves, and by citizens, that have not been fulfilled. Much of the information still remains hidden in the minister's department. This is certainly not openness and accountability that was earlier promised.

The Workplace Health and Safety Commission have reported documents on injured workers; yet, these workers are being denied access to the information. Why is the information being hidden from people whose interests are supposed to be represented by that very agency? Again, I have to ask the government: Why not honour your commitment of openness and accountability for injured workers who need this information?

Mr. Speaker, those are a number of examples of how openness and accountability - a hallmark of this government that was committed to in earlier Throne Speeches - have not been upheld and honoured.

Mr. Speaker, it is one thing to make commitments in Throne Speeches; it is entirely a different thing to honour and put those commitments into practice.

I want to talk about the Province's privacy legislation which lingered in the filing cabinets of government for over five years before it was finally dusted off and taken down just a few months ago.

While the legislation was snug in the cabinets of government, the private information of our citizens was being intruded upon. Over the past few months we have witnessed security breaches at Eastern Health, Memorial University, the Eastern School District, and the Workplace Health and Safety Commission. It is obvious that the supposedly developed protocols were not sufficiently in place to protect private and personal information. Now, as a result of these breaches, the personal information of thousands of adults and children has potentially been exposed to criminals who may be looking to steal identities. Identity theft protection is inconvenient, time-consuming and potentially costly for people who are seeking peace of mind after their information is exposed. We have yet to hear anything from government as to whether any assistance or guidance will be provided to help affected individuals protect themselves.

Openness, accountability, and the protection of privacy were pillars of this government's platform, a government who claims to be masters of their own house. Unfortunately, these promises have foundered and it is the public who are left vulnerable and without full disclosure of information. I want to encourage the government to get back on track, to protect the privacy of our citizens and rebuild confidence - people's confidence - in the fundamental commitments that you have made.

I would like to comment on the economic commitments government has made today in the Throne Speech. I am pleased to say that there are several things there that will be beneficial and will certainly benefit the people of the Province, should they be implemented.

Your government has had a wonderful opportunity over the last five years to do some very positive things. High oil prices, high mineral prices, and improvements to the Atlantic Accord have helped our Province see windfall profits never experienced since Confederation.

I want to acknowledge and support the decisions you have made to pay down portions of the debt, for recognizing and investing in new road construction, and the need to address the infrastructure gap in our long-term care facilities and our schools.

Certain areas of our Province are doing quite well economically while other regions are not, and with the current trends and the increasing price of oil there is a real possibility that we could be off equalization within the next few years and termed by Canada as a have Province. The reality of all of this is that we still have some of the highest unemployment rates in the country and a net out-migration of about 10,000 people per year.

Are we to be off equalization, and a have Province, and yet have stats on poverty levels in our own Province that exceed those of the natural average? The only stability being offered in our workplace today is with those commuting back and forth to Alberta.

The commuter trend may be a good fit for Newfoundland and Labrador right now, but can this trend last or will we eventually see more and more of our people and our families relocating to Alberta? I know, from the people I have spoken with, they feel that being away from their family and only being home for a few days out of every month or every six weeks is obviously very pressing and very difficult.

The oil and gas industry will reach its peak within the next few years. We need new projects and we need to rebuild our exploration industry offshore. We went from $672 million in exploration projects to less than $40 million in the past five years.

We want to encourage government to pursue those negotiations, to continue to foster new developments in that industry, so that we may keep people living and working in Newfoundland and Labrador. This is why we feel that government needs to put more emphasis on expanding developments into renewable industries as well, such as the fishery, the forestry and the agriculture sectors. These industries have sustained our Province for centuries, as government has outlined today, but have fallen to the backburner with all of the current emphasis on oil and gas and mining developments in recent years. Our renewable resource sectors are key to growing and sustaining our rural areas. All of us in this House spend time in or live in rural Newfoundland and Labrador and we know that these communities are struggling economically.

While oil and gas revenues balloon the Province's coffers, it is not reaching out to the individuals and families who are struggling in many rural areas of our Province, people who work in industries like the fishery, the forestry and the agriculture sector. I know many families who descended from generations of ancestors in these communities, who have had no choice but to leave our Province in search of opportunity so that they would not lose their homes and all their possessions. So overcoming the disintegration of renewable industries and ensuring the survival of rural communities is indeed a difficult task for any government in today's modern network of global industry, but the time has come for all of us, collectively, to act and for government to act. You need to decide: Are you prepared to use the resource revenues to invest in these industries and revamp a new course for the future of all communities in our Province? We believe it can be done, but attitudes must change.

I was appalled by the remarks made by the Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development in the Globe and Mail just a few short months ago when he nonchalantly made the comment that his department cannot save every ailing community. Mr. Speaker, we expect much more from a minister who is tasked with innovation and rural renewal in a government that is flushed with oil money and equipped with a new strong mandate. Government should not be the judge and jury when it comes to which communities will live or die, but rather; we know you have some control and you can take that control by not investing in renewable resource sector industries and therefore not investing in the communities that are dependent upon them.

We want to see this government make the fishery a priority. I was pleased today to hear some of the strategies that government is outlining in the fishing industry. Investing in aquaculture is one step, but you have to look at the major hit that this industry has taken over the past few years. We have seen a number of plants closed, we have seen hundreds of workers displaced from their industry, we have seen more raw material being exported out of the Province without production, we have seen the dismantling of a flagship company that boasted one of the strongest marketing arms in our nation, and we have seen a complete breakdown of communications with the federal government on fisheries issues. All of these things negatively impact the industry in our Province. There needs to be more emphasis placed on growing this industry, on investing in research and development, on establishing a strong marketing division for our Province.

The fishery summit that took place in 2006 - and I kind of reflected on it in recent days - I thought of it more as an act of frustration at the time because we never did see any real strategies or developments that came out of that summit, so maybe the Throne Speech today will be the turning point that implements some of those things in the industry. Many communities in this Province, Mr. Speaker, need the support of government to help them create stability in the fishing industry. It is the industry that has provided employment and income for thousands of our people for many years and it will continue to do so in the future.


Our forestry sector is facing very difficult circumstances because of marketing conditions that have weakened the demand for newsprint. We have already seen the closure of the Stephenville mill, the Abitibi mill in Stephenville, and I want to say to government, Mr. Speaker, that we will support them to ensure that the future of the mills in Corner Brook and Grand Falls-Windsor are stable in our Province for many years to come.

We must also look at the logging industry and the sawmill operations to ensure that they are receiving the appropriate levels of government funded support, both from a policy and financial perspective, and more emphasis has to be placed on product development in this industry for export markets. There is a need for our wood around the world and we need to work with communities to design the products that they demand. Silviculture programs must remain an important part of our investments in order to grow the Province's forests so that opportunities will be available for many generations of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to come.

We have recognized that the opportunities in the agriculture sector are enormous. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are very innovative people, as we all know. They have continued to develop various products from the resources we have here at home. They have been competitive in a global marketplace and our products have been comparable to any that are in the market today. We must work with our agriculture sector to find new opportunities and direction that will provide a strong future for farmers and harvesters.

We need to support those who invest their own money and try new businesses, such as those who invest in the fur industry in the Province. Government should not turn their back on these farmers when they hit bumps in the road but rather give them a hand up to a successful industry. I ask that government provide support to the fur farmers who have been affected by Aleutian disease, especially those who are on the verge of bankruptcy because of this. It is your place to help build these industries and guide the people in them, not walk away when times get tough. There are opportunities that we must seize upon so that everyone who lives and works in this Province is able to stay here. Our oil and gas and mining sectors may be driving our economy today but we cannot forget that there are still many people out there who are struggling to make ends meet on a daily basis.

Mr. Speaker, it would all be for nothing if we increased our revenues, eliminated the debt and the deficit but did nothing to address poverty in this Province and provide for those who need it.

We cannot forget the needs of the lower-income families who struggle with rising costs and face issues of affordable housing, poverty reduction, and access to social programs.

The Minister of Finance was quick to use a debt clock at his pre-Budget consultations, but, Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister why not a social deficit clock displaying information about the number of children who live in poverty, the elders in our society who cannot afford home care, the numbers of people who do not have adequate housing, especially in our Aboriginal communities, and those who suffer from addictions that have no centre for services in this Province? No, the debt clock was government's way of manipulating opinions and encouraging people to support government's priorities and not necessarily be free to express their own priorities.

We have been told, Mr. Speaker, by non-profit groups that they have to be placed on a waitlist to meet with the Premier, and maybe the Premier can confirm if this is true, but there are a number of groups out there, Mr. Speaker, that lobby on behalf of low-income individuals and families, and it is evident that poverty reduction must become a priority for this government. While they have a plan that may be the envy of the country, we have statistics that are still exceeding the national average. It is not enough to commission reports, you have to be prepared to implement the recommendations, and we are asking that government complete a social audit and act on the findings immediately in efforts to improve the quality of life of low-income individuals and their families.

At a time when the country is poised on issues of the environment and has risen to the top of the agenda across the nation, your government has allowed it to fall off the radar screen. The time has come for a complete review of the mandate of the Multi-Materials Stewardship Board. The minister needs to ensure that more effective decisions are made, and that they reflect the best interests of the Province's environment.

In five years you have not provided any recycling solutions for the thousands of tires that pile up in this Province. You allowed the paper and cardboard recycling program in St. John's to terminate. You are in your second mandate and still have not provided realistic solutions to eliminate waste from landfill sites, despite the millions of federal dollars that have been transferred into this program in the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

You have failed to put emphasis on clean drinking water. The Auditor General has already identified major problems with the Province's inspection and monitoring program as it relates to quality drinking water. We recently saw a situation where scented and non-certified chlorine products made their way into water supplies of dozens of communities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, and it was the authorities in another province that identified the problem, not because we had the resources here in our own Province to identify it.

Clean drinking water is a human necessity; yet, we have nearly 200 communities still on boil orders in our Province. Government can afford to provide clean drinking water to communities, and they should be doing it. It is sad when towns cannot correct the problems with their drinking water simply because they cannot afford to do so. Municipalities need your assistance, and increasing the Municipal Operating Grant would be a good first step for government at this stage.

Public sector employees have supported the government of this Province through the lean years - supported many governments through the lean years - and they worked with your government in 2004, accepting wage freezes and rollbacks of previously negotiated benefits such as changes in sick leave. Now they need to be supported by government and respected for the role that they play in our society.

Especially hard hit by government's tactics in the last round of bargaining were nurses. It was difficult enough to encourage young people to remain and work in the Province when their counterparts across Canada were being paid more and given more attractive benefit packages. Instead, new nurses coming out of schools in Newfoundland and Labrador today face the lowest paid wages in their profession of any other region in this country. As a result, we have a nursing shortage of well over 400 nurses in our hospitals throughout the Province. These hundreds of vacancies are resulting in a health care system struggling to keep its head above water.

If we are to recruit and retain our professional workers, we must offer competitive wages and benefit packages that will encourage these professionals to stay and work in our Province. We can only hope that government's discussions with the public sector unions will be productive, and certainly more productive than the relationship they have currently fostered with our federal government.

What is ironic is that government promised in the 2004 Throne Speech that one of the main priorities of their government would be, and I quote, "…to improve federal-provincial relations in concrete ways that bring real benefits to the people, economy and treasury of Newfoundland and Labrador." It certainly appears that the relationship has significantly worsened since those comments were first spoken.

Mr. Speaker, in all seriousness, I think that efforts need to be made to foster a more co-operative relationship with our federal counterparts on issues that are important to people in our Province. This is very evident in an area that I represent, in Labrador.

In Labrador, Mr. Speaker, we have developments such as the Mealy Mountain Park, the reserve status of the Innu, the stability of 5 Wing Goose Bay, that are all files jointly shared by the federal-provincial government, that we have seen little or no movement on. Yet government, again today, talks of its commitment to Labrador.

I say to them: Your real test to Labradorians will come with the development of the Lower Churchill Project. It will come in how well you listen to the environmental concerns of Labradorians, and how they are rewarded for developments like this in their land; because Labradorians, not unlike the government opposite, do not want any more giveaways.

Mr. Speaker, for the first time in our history, windfall revenues from our offshore oil and gas industry are allowing us to meet the needs of our people. I ask that government, as masters in your own house, not become obsessed with debt reduction but rather meet our fiscal responsibilities of debt control and strike a balance on social and economic investments.

We will be advocating for balance during this time of economic prosperity, to ensure that nobody is left behind. We must address the problems with our health, education and social programs so that larger problems do not arise in the future.

There are many areas in which this government can improve. We take our responsibility as an Opposition very seriously, and we will continue to challenge government on a daily basis to ensure that they live up to their many promises - not only those that they have made today, but those that they have made in the past.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

First of all, I join with my colleagues, the former speakers, in congratulating the Lieutenant Governor on his appointment and thanking him for being here with us today and reading his first Speech from the Throne.

I also wish to welcome, and say hello to, all of our guests in the House of Assembly and those who are watching us through the medium of television.

The Speech from the Throne, by its very nature, is going to be a very positive document, and obviously the Speech from the Throne today was. It is a document that deals with the big picture, and this Speech from the Throne today certainly dealt with the big picture.

I agree with the government, and with the Speech, that we are indeed in a very special time in Newfoundland and Labrador. We are indeed in a time that we have never experienced before. The amount of resources that we have actually coming into our Province for us to use is a whole new experience. It can be a pretty heady experience, too, when you think about it, and I rejoice in that. I am really happy that we have that situation. I would love to be Premier. It would be great to be Premier right now, with this - I would love it - but on this side.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS MICHAEL: Sorry, Mr. Premier, but it is a wonderful time to be there and to know that we have the resources to start meeting the needs of the people in this Province. That is wonderful, and I rejoice in that too. I know how wonderful the people in this Province are, and I, too, am committed to the future of this Province and to the people in this Province.

I am a person who not only went away once and came home but went away twice and came back, because I believe so much in this Province and I believe so much in the people, and I believe in myself as a person who is a Newfoundlander and Labradorian.

Obviously, the government is going to present, in the Speech that it writes for the Lieutenant Governor to read, everything that is positive. Naturally, they are going to do that - I would do it, too - but I have been elected to give the other side. That is why I am here. That is why I am standing in opposition; and I do not consider that a negative thing. It means being able to bring the other side, and there are a lot of things that are on the other side - of things that were in the Speech and things that were not in the Speech - and I think it is my responsibility this afternoon to bring some of those details to the floor, because as the old saying goes, the devil is in the details, and there are details that are missing in the Speech from the Throne.

One of the things that I promoted for myself and for my party during our general election was that I promised people who voted for us that I would be their voice in the House of Assembly; that if they had concerns and issues I would be sure that I would bring their voice to the floor of the House. One of the things that I find missing from the speech is a voice that I am hearing every day, a voice that I am hearing in e-mails that are coming to me, a voice that I am hearing on the phone from people calling my office, a voice that I hear in the media, and I think we have to recognize that voice.

When, for example, the government talks about wrestling down the deficit - and I congratulate the government that it really did wrestle down the deficit in a short period of time - when I hear that, the thing that comes to my mind is that we have another deficit, a deficit that was created historically. It is not created by one government, it is created by who we are, created by poverty that we have experienced, created by times when we did not have the money to deal with things the way we wanted to, and that is the social deficit that we have in our Province. We do have a deficit in infrastructure; we all know that. We all know the reality now if we did not know it before of the situation of the infrastructure in our health care. We all know the deficit in the infrastructure in our educational system. If we live in a community at all, we know that. If we live in the Province at all, we know that. We do not need statistics to tell us, we do not need reports to tell us, although it is good to have those things because they confirm what we know.

One of the things we do not recognize as much is the deficit in programs. Many of us have lived in other parts of the country. The two times that I lived in other parts of the country, I lived in provinces where they had things that we are still dreaming about, where they had and still have wonderful home-care programs, for example, for seniors and for people who need long-term care at home. They have childcare programs that we do not think about. They have programs in schools that we still think; wouldn't it be wonderful to have that. They have drug programs that are better than our programs. That is not to say we are terrible because our programs are not as good. We have not had the resources to be where they are, but now we do. So, I am not going to be satisfied when I listen to elderly people on the phone speaking to me, senior citizens, talking about their difficulty in taking care of each other because they cannot afford home care, that they cannot afford the system that is being offered to them.

The area of concern now that is coming in mostly to my office is not housing anymore. It used to be. Now the phone calls I am getting are mainly relating to health. Home care is a health issue and that is one of the ones. Inability to get drug cards is another health issue. These are the concerns that are mostly coming into my office now. You know, it is really hard when you talk to a senior citizen who is sick, him or herself, and who is saying: Ms Michael, I just do not know how much more I can take in taking care of my husband or my wife, I cannot do it anymore, but I am a few hundred dollars above the limit of what is allowed for me to be able to get home care; or, the amount of money we are being told we have to pay, we just do not have it because an assessment is done on a gross income, not on an income recognizing what the existing expenses are. These are the realities.

I know my colleagues must be getting these phone calls too. I know you are getting them because sometimes it is people from your constituencies who are calling me, and that is a reality. That is the voice that we have got to start hearing.

When I see the Speech From the Throne and I do not see, really, any serious talk about moving towards – because you cannot do it overnight – a full plan for a home care program. When I say that I am talking about a program, a program that will say we do not have enough workers. Why don't we? Number one, we need more training for workers; number two, we need higher wages - they will not work for the wages we have; and number three, maybe we are too reliant on profit oriented home care. How do we put a plan in place and have a step for this year and a step for next year and a step for the third year and the fourth year in that plan, so that we move towards a home care program that is accessible?

Of the statistic that has been given me, because I asked about this when I was speaking to one of the social workers about a certain case, I was told that of the people who call up and say, we really need home care, my wife and I or my husband and I, or even an individual, we need home care, and when the assessment is done and they are told how much money they are going to have to put into the home care, I have been told by the people working in the system that 40 per cent of their callers say, well, I just cannot afford that, and end up not having home care. I am talking to people who are telling me, there is nothing else I can do, Ms. Michael, we will just keep going as long as we can. That means as long as they can until one of them gets so sick that they end up in hospital or end up dead. I'm not trying to be dramatic here, this is the reality. This is the reality we have to realize and listen to. This is the reality that we have in our Province.

The same way with child care; the government says, and it says in the Speech from the Throne, that it is concerned about the status of women, but when we talk about child care and early childhood, we are talking about the children but we are also talking about the families. In some cases those families have two parents who are male and female. Sometimes they don't. Sometimes it is a single woman who is taking care of her children.

We do not have a plan for a child care program in this province, and I am really disheartened by the fact that child care and early childhood education is not even mentioned in today's Speech from the Throne. That really disheartens me, because it is something I have been harping on since I came into the House. It is something I was involved in before I became a politician. It is something that I know is essential for women out there. Women are not going to be able to get jobs, even if they train or retrain, unless there is a good child care program in place, and we don't have one in this Province and I see no mention of that in the Speech from the Throne. That really disheartens me.

What I want to do here, Mr. Speaker, is speak to things I saw in the Speech today, that are part of ongoing issues. Our senior citizens, from whom I get a lot of phone calls, are suffering desperately. They are the ones who are not accessing drug cards at the rate that we would like to see them access. Not enough of them are able to access them but the majority of them need them. We have a real issue there. We have an issue with accessibility. I do see that in the Speech from the Throne there is a reference to looking at the criteria for financial accessibility, looking at making things more available to people, I guess, bringing down the bar a bit. I want to say to the ministers responsible - because there is more than one minister responsible here - that this is urgent. It is so urgent that it needed to happen way before now. We cannot wait a year or two years for that to happen. People are suffering now, and a lot of them are senior citizens, senior citizens who cannot afford to heat their homes in the winter, senior citizens who are really begging, and I get them begging on the phone: Can't you get the government to see that even if we had more relief from taxation on our heating fuel that would be another help? Because, you see, if you only have an income of $15,000 or $16,000 a year every hundred dollars is a lot of money. It is a lot of money! These are the people who we are talking about, people who are on very low incomes. Even if you are a couple who are earning $23,000 a year, and you are seniors and you are paying for drugs and you are paying for other needs that you have, a little bit of home care yourself, because you are not eligible to get help from government your money goes away pretty fast.

I have been speaking to a man who finally got his drug card in November, a cancer patient who had to come into St. John's, has been coming in now for a number of years, and he has racked up $19,000 on a line of credit doing nothing else but paying for his medical expenses. That is all that money has gone towards, paying for his medical expenses. My constituency assistant has worked for almost two weeks on that case and things are getting sorted out and things are being put in place to help that man, but it took a lot of work to make it happen. It took an awful lot of work to make it happen. So, when government - it does not say it in this Speech from the Throne but we do have a department that works on this.

When we talk about red tape and cutting down on red tape, and that is one of the goals of government, it is not just red tape for industry, it is not just red tape to make the government move more smoothly, but there is an awful lot of red tape out there that individual people have to deal with when they are trying to access the social programs of government. I will tell you, it takes an awful lot to try to figure out what all that red tape is, and sometimes by cutting through the red tape you actually do say, you know, this person is eligible, but there is so much red tape the individual does not know how to deal with that. The people who are inside the system are so overworked that I do not even know if they realize that people do not even understand the programs that are there and how much red tape they have to go through.

I am not going to harp any more on that. I think you are getting the message. I hope you are getting the message.

We have an awful lot out there that is going wrong. While it is good to congratulate yourselves and while it is good to say it is a great time to be alive, for an awful lot of people out there it is not a great time to be alive, and that is reality. By the nature of my job right now, I guess that is what I have to hear on a daily basis. That is what I have to listen to on a daily basis.

I want to make a bit of a switch right now. I could go through a whole list here but I want to talk about some other things that are in the Speech from the Throne to show the other side. For example, I am really glad to see that mining is mentioned and that, yes, we do have income from mining as well, not just from oil and gas, and we have income from a lot of other areas in the Province in the resource sector.

One of my concerns is that we not make decisions around things like mining, especially in the nonrenewable resource areas, that are going to be negative somewhere else. For example, I agree - and I am really glad for the people in Central Newfoundland, and I have been there and I know the benefit of Duck Pond and the mine there, but we also did something that was environmentally, as far as I am concerned, really, totally unacceptable. We took a healthy body of water, Trout Pond, and allowed that, through our silence as a Province, to start being used as a tailings pond. We stood by while an application was made to the federal government asking that a federal government regulation called MMER - I will not go through the whole thing - that that regulation allow Trout Pond to get listed - Trout Pond and another pond that does not have a name, both of them feed into the Exploits River - for that to go on the list of areas that can become tailings ponds.

I was really disturbed that this government did not take a position on that and this government sat back and allowed the federal government to make a decision to allow that to happen. Now what has happened is, that set a precedent and there are other mining areas across Canada where application is being made for healthy bodies of water to become tailings ponds. Not only did we do something bad for ourselves, we also helped set a precedent, through our silence, for this to start happening throughout the country, especially in the north because that is where most of the mining is going on.

Yes, I want mining. I am not going to say we should not have it, but we should not allow things to happen that are going to destroy ourselves environmentally. There was not enough evidence presented in this case. For example, we do not know what is going to happen to the Atlantic salmon in the Exploits River where millions of dollars were spent to bring the Atlantic salmon back. Now because of Trout Pond and this other unnamed pond becoming a tailings pond, we could, in twenty years time, be in a situation where we have dead salmon. We cannot do that kind of thing. This is the other side of things that I am talking about. That is why I am here, to show the other side.

It is the same way with the Energy Plan. We waited for a couple of years for the Energy Plan. It finally came and what we got was a good vision, I admit, but nothing concrete in it. We say that we are concerned about energy efficiency and yet there is nothing in the plan - and I do not see anything in the Speech from the Throne either - talking about the government putting resources into helping residences, as well as commercial enterprises, to have buildings that are energy efficient. For example, if we did that in the residential sector not only would we have energy efficiency, which would mean that we were helping the environment, but we would also help people to have homes that are cheaper to heat.

Mr. Speaker, these are some of the issues that concern me. There are many others and, as the government knows, you are going to hear all of them as we continue to sit in the House. I will not try to cover all of them today. The only thing I want to say is that we have to look at both sides. I know the government does not talk about the surplus directly in the Speech from the Throne but has been talking about it outside of the House, because we were not in the House.

When I heard that out of an $880 million surplus, the government was considering putting - I think it was a decision, I am not sure, they will have to tell us - $700 million of that down on our debt, I say that is not where I would go. Yes, put some down on the debt, I am not against that, but we have enough resources now - I know economists who believe this, and I certainly believe it and I have enough economic knowledge to know it is true. We have enough money now to put money down on the debt if we want to put some more down. We have enough money to have a balanced budget, which we have, but we also have enough money to put a much, much larger infusion into the social debt that I have talked about. That money is there. It is political will. What I encourage the government to do is to think about that. I encourage you to get away from this notion that we have to take vast amounts of money to pay down on that debt because the payoff on an annual basis at this point is not enough. What we need first, and surely the issue about our hospitals should be showing us this, and I do not know for how many years, because this would have to be worked out - Is it five? Is it ten? - I do not know, but we need to put major money into our infrastructures, into our social programs, bring us up to standards that exist in this country. When we do that, then we can say: Okay, now we really start paying down that debt and now we start building a fund for the future – but, for God's sake, please take care of the present. Please take care of the people who are suffering right now in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, I will try and be as quick as I can. I know people are probably getting a little tired. It is late in the afternoon and people are starting to get fidgety in their seats. I feel your pain. That will assure you that this speech is going to be quick.

Mr. Speaker and fellow Members of the House of Assembly, I rise first of all this afternoon to thank his hon. the Lieutenant Governor for delivering his first Throne Speech. As he stood there - I could go back forty years. He stood steadfastly there on his feet for forty years, and it just reminded me of days gone by when he stood so proudly in this House of Assembly and spoke so eloquently.

I also want to extend my personal thanks to the mover of the motion of the Address in Reply, the newly elected Member for Grand Falls-Windsor-Buchans, and the seconder, the newly elected Member for The Isles of Notre Dame.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: These two individuals are representative of all members of this hon. House who work tirelessly, tenaciously and effectively on behalf of their constituents.

I also want to thank the Leader of the New Democratic Party and the Leader of the Official Opposition for their comments.

I would like to extend a warm welcome to our distinguished invited guests - some of whom have taken their leave due to other commitments - members of the media, and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador who are with us in the Chamber today or who are viewing us through televised proceedings.

I want to thank the people of our Province who, in October, expressed their confidence in our government by giving us a strong mandate to continue the work that we are doing.

I also want to congratulate the hon. Member for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair on her appointment, since the General Election, as Leader of the Opposition.

As the Throne Speech makes clear, the primary objective of our government's second term is to secure a long-term sustainable future of self-reliance in Newfoundland and Labrador. We are ensuring that our people have the tools to seize opportunities and anchor their families here, to enjoy a greater measure of prosperity and a higher quality of life. Working together, we will secure a living legacy that will carry Newfoundland and Labrador forward with confidence into the millennium ahead.

In the fall election campaign, voters overwhelming voted to stay the course of the past four years. As the saying goes, if you ignore the mistakes of the past you will be doomed to repeat them.

The people of this Province clearly still remember the situation we faced in 2003 and they do not want to go back there. In 2003 we inherited a fiscal mess, massive deficits, the worst per capita debt burden of the country by far, crumbling infrastructure, beleaguered social programs, high taxes, massive out-migration, a lack of strategic planning in both the resource and social sectors, and, most importantly, an attitude of despair.

Young people in our communities felt their only choice was to leave this place that they love so much to find opportunities elsewhere, and they were not happy about it. The irony was that we were sitting on some of the richest resources and brightest opportunities in the entire country. It just did not make sense that a Province so rich in potential should be so poor fiscally, economically and socially, and so steeped in pessimism about its future; but, in the words of Sir Winston Churchill, difficulties mastered are opportunities won.

So we embraced and implemented a new approach, a new direction and a new attitude. It was tough, and sacrifices had to be made to pull our Province out of the downward spiral and get us on an upward track, and we were criticized by some for doing so, but I credit Newfoundlanders and Labradorians for believing in this Province strongly enough to stand steadfastly together while we made that transition. People stayed the course because they envisioned, as we did, that there was a bright light of hope and opportunity at the end of that tunnel.

We identified priority objectives and set out to achieve them. We got our fiscal house in order and successfully negotiated important new revenues under the Atlantic Accord. We invested like never before in the history of this Province in infrastructure, including roads and broadband and schools and our hospitals. We invested in education and skills development to prepare our population for the opportunities ahead. We invested in innovation, improved the business investment climate, and developed strategies sector by sector to identify opportunities for growth.

We did invest in critical social programs such as health care and poverty, crime fighting, violence prevention, and we will invest more, but the people need to know - and I understand and I hear what you are saying. I know there are needs out there, and I know there are individual needs, and we are trying to get to all of them. I would love, and we would all love, to solve each and every one of them, but right now we are spending about three-quarters of our budget, our operating expenses, on social programs - is that correct, Tom? - about 71 percent. As well, from an infrastructure perspective, we are probably spending about half of our infrastructure capital on hospitals and schools; so we are getting there but it does require the funds to do it.

The problem that we faced as a government, when we took over, we simply did not have the money. Over the past four years we worked very, very hard to improve on that, even at a time in the first year when we did not have money. That is why the poverty reduction program is just a perfect example of a leading edge model that people right across this country are heralding. Again, I do not like to see people on television. I sit there and I watch the news every night. I hear those stories and they give me cold shivers, but we are trying to deal with it. We are going to do our best, and we are going to invest even more.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: We have generated jobs and growth as never before. Our efforts have been results-oriented, and the results demonstrate that we are on the right course. We have positioned Newfoundland and Labrador to take maximum advantage of the incredible economic development and career development opportunities that are spread out before us. We have developed the Province's first energy corporation and positioned Newfoundland and Labrador to develop the Lower Churchill for its own benefit, if the stakeholders have a will to proceed. We have drawn a line in the sand against resource giveaways and offered, instead, to partner with developers to harness our resources here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

We have achieved an agreement designed to give Newfoundland and Labrador equity stakes in the offshore and improved royalties - benefits that are now being sought by jurisdictions like Alberta and Alaska. We are proud to have blazed that trail.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: We have nurtured a business investment climate that has led to strong interest in offshore and onshore oil and gas exploration, mineral exploration and development, and wind power development. We have generated tremendous excitement about new opportunities in fisheries and aquaculture, agriculture and agrifoods, tourism and culture. We have demonstrated strong leadership in innovation, research and development, and are moving forward in ocean technology, software development, engineering, and a broad range of other leading edge sectors.

Through our Skills Task Force and White Paper on Post-secondary Education, we have laid the foundation to ensure that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are prepared for the many careers and entrepreneurial opportunities associated with the major developments that are unfolding in Newfoundland and Labrador, and we are seeing the tangible results of our efforts and reap the returns on the sacrifices that we have made to get there.

Already, with major initiatives still on the horizon, we are witnessing job demand that is outpacing supply. Already people are, in fact, moving back home to seize opportunities that they once had to move away to find.

As the Throne Speech states, this is not the Province of twenty years ago, or even five years ago. The day we cease to receive equalization will be a milestone that will be a cause for great celebration in our Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: I can tell you that the growth that we have already achieved has positioned us to come off equalization very soon, an achievement that many people would have thought improbable or even impossible just a few years ago.

Incredibly, for the first time in Canadian history, Ontario is seriously talking of having to go on equalization, while Newfoundland and Labrador is about to exit that program.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: In essence, we would become the eastern engine, helping to drive the largest provincial economy in the country. Just imagine that! Most critical of all, we have seen a renewed spirit in our people, a bold new attitude of pride and self-confidence that has taken hold in our Province. We are walking with a new swagger and people are talking about our prosperity right across this great country. Yet, in this process of turning the corner we see that one thing has changed little, and that is the attitude of Ottawa towards our Province. The federal government has become more a foe than a friend, more a hindrance than a help.

The Harper Conservatives are developing a well-deserved reputation for being untrustworthy, and one of their greatest betrayals so far was the betrayal to Newfoundland and Labrador. Stephen Harper, Fabian Manning, Loyola Hearn and the entire Conservative Party promised us in writing, during their election, that their government would remove non-renewable resources from the calculation of equalization. We believed them. "There is no greater fraud then a promise not kept" - was their slogan. Despite this, Harper has absolutely refused to keep his promise. So it is his own words that condemn what he has perpetrated on us as a fraud. How can any person of the Harper team be trusted?

The past two years proved that there are no benefits for us in electing Harper government members. People should not be fooled by supposed federal government largesse in spending announcements of money that will rightly flow to this Province in any event. That is why I will continue to advocate that Canadians vote against any candidate who runs for that party in order to help prevent a Harper government majority and the consequences it would bring to our Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: It is as easy as ABC.

So notwithstanding federal roadblocks, we will achieve self-reliance on our own steam. We have the natural resources. We have the human resources. We have the brain power, the boldness, the work ethic and the thirst for success that will drive us to succeed in the face of every challenge. This year, we will again bring forward a surplus, but make no mistake, it is not a windfall to squander. As Confucius once said: When prosperity comes, do not use all of it. Our goal is not to reach a peak of self-reliance only to slip back into decline. That would be the very opposite of sustainability and our children down the road deserve better.

There are three main things we can do to lift our Province up to a higher plateau. One is to get our debt burden down to a more reasonable, more equitable level. On a per capita basis Newfoundland and Labrador's public debt is nearly $22,000. That is more than double the national average and 70 per cent higher than the debt load of any other province. Excessive debt strangles opportunity, and that is true for provinces just as it is for households. We pay several hundreds of millions of dollars a year to service our debt - $733 million a year. So reducing the total debt burden frees up that money year after year after year and enables us to invest in initiatives that will build a more secure future. So let no one pretend to you that reducing our debt burden progressively over time has no positive impact on our Province, our social programs, our people and our future. Those arguments just do not stand up to scrutiny.

Secondly, we must continue to implement strategic planning and strategic investments so we can stimulate economic diversification and growth, the kind of growth that makes communities and families strong and self-reliant. The great weakness of our economy for too many decades was the concentration of economic activity in just a few sectors, leaving us overexposed to downturns that spelled disaster for communities. We saw what the groundfish collapse of the early 1990s did to numerous communities that were overexposed and vulnerable. In order to diversify, we are investing directly in businesses, including aquaculture and also in strategic programming that enables businesses to build networks, to collaborate and learn from one another and gain entry to new markets that allow their operations to grow.

Third, we must invest in infrastructure to make Newfoundland and Labrador far more attractive to investors and far friendlier to the businesses that we already have. We recognize from the outset that the energy sector presented the greatest opportunities for growth and economic diversification and that is why we have worked hard to produce the Province's first ever comprehensive energy plan to guide us as we move forward. We now have a multi-faceted public energy corporation to oversee a range of energy developments from hydro to oil and gas, and our goal is to provide for the future long after this government has left office to our repatriation of the Upper Churchill in 2041.

If I could just take a second, and we sincerely mean that as a government, that we are not simply looking at the next four years or the four years after that or the short term, and we are not looking to go out and spend money haphazardly in order to win favour with the people. We are trying to have a plan in place that will safeguard the future of our children and our grandchildren.

When I talk about the energy plan, as we have developed it in the minister's department, we are looking out to 2041 because I am hoping - I hope I am ninety-five and I am sat there before the television and just before I happen to go, that we are going to get that Churchill back. I think everybody in the Province thinks that, because that is about what I will be by then. But, having said that, what we are trying to do is plan those cash flows that we do have the sustainable cash flows so that we can maintain the social programs that are necessary in this Province and build the hospitals and the schools because with Hibernia and Terra Nova and White Rose, as they are now, the cash flows would peak and then they would just drop off. Around 2010, 2011 they would drop off, but with some variances in production with the White Rose extension, and with the Hibernia South extension, we will be able to take those cash flows and ramp them up again to get us up to around 2014, 2015. By that time those three projects will start to wane and they will drop off dramatically.

In 2015, if everything works out well, we will have the Hebron project just coming on. We will have the Lower Churchill project within a year, either way on either side of that, which will be just coming on. Hopefully, that then will be able to sustain those cash flows for an ongoing period; Hebron for a shorter period of time, Lower Churchill for an ongoing period, forever, because it is a renewable resource. When Hebron starts to tail off we have to remember by that time we should be bringing our wind energy on, we should be bringing our gas on, if not sooner, but our gas will just be getting developed. So these cash flows should be able to be maintained to get us through that period of time.

Now, we are moving up into 2020-2025. During that period of time, hopefully, the exploration that we are now doing at Orphan and Laurentain, and any other basins and gas off the Labrador coast or anything else that gets discovered should be kicking in, if not by then probably before then. So, we should be able to maintain good, solid cash flows right out, hopefully, to 2041 when we finally get the Upper Churchill back, you combine that with the Lower Churchill, 8,000 megawatts of good, solid, clean renewable power, which the whole world will be demanding.

So, I just want you to know that this is the kind of way that this government is thinking when we are putting out strategic plans, that we are trying to look at the long term. Yes, I understand. I keep coming back to the social deficit and the concerns that you have but what we are trying to do is make sure that we do have the financial resources in order to make sure that this is the best place in the whole world to live.

I will wrap up now. I promised you I would, and I will.

So, enhanced economic activity and debt reduction will provide the revenue bases to sustain strong and progressive social programs and improve the quality of life of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. In turn, a better quality of life makes Newfoundland and Labrador even more attractive to investors and others who want to put roots down here.

When I talk about self-reliance, sustaining our Province on a higher plateau, I want our progress to be measured not only in economic terms but in terms of the standard of living of our people. We want our people to be able to rely on high quality health care services, the best in education programs, and progressive social services that enable those facing special challenges to surmount their hurdles and reach their true potential in our communities. We want new families to be able to shake off their fears of having to move away, and focus instead on sinking down permanent roots in this great Province.

Having a strong diversified economy is part of that, and having a strong reliable network of progressive social supports is the other part of that. Each grounds the other. The opportunities have never been greater, and our resolve to harness them to our advantage has never been stronger.

My government is determined to ensure that Newfoundland and Labrador is never again left behind. We are building a solid reputation for bold thinking and consummate professionalism in boardrooms and Cabinet rooms around the world.

Newfoundland and Labrador is standing shoulder to shoulder with the best, the brightest and the strongest in the emerging new economy as an equal player ready to compete successfully in the big leagues.

Let's prove to the world that we have what it takes, and that Newfoundland and Labrador can no longer be referred to as have-not by our fellow Canadians.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that a Select Committee be struck to draft an Address of Thanks to be presented to His Honour the Lieutenant Governor in reply to the Gracious Speech from the Throne with which he has been pleased to open the present Session of the House of Assembly.

The members of the Select Committee will be: the Member for Grand Falls-Windsor-Buchans, who moved the motion here today; the Member for the Isles of Notre Dame, the seconder of the motion; and the Member for the District of Port de Grave, representing Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

All those in favour signify by saying, ‘aye'.


MR. SPEAKER: Against, if any?

The motion is carried.

Motion carried.

Notices of Motion

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

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

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

MR. SPEAKER: Further motions?

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Pursuant to Standing Order 63. (3), we give notice of the Official Opposition's private member's motion to be heard this Wednesday, March 12.

WHEREAS on February 14 government ordered the closure of twenty-two privately run personal care homes in the Province, which were non-compliant with the 2003 order section 13.(1)(b) of the Fire Prevention Act to install sprinkler systems in their facilities to protect against the threat of fire; and

WHEREAS government stated that the closure of twenty-two privately run personal care homes was made strictly on the basis of health and safety of the residents of those facilities; and

WHEREAS it was recently discovered that several hospitals, long-term care homes and other government run health care facilities in the Province do not have sprinkler systems in compliance with section 13.(1)(b) of the Fire Prevention Act; and

WHEREAS government has a duty to protect patients and residents from fire and safety hazards at its own health facilities;

BE IT RESOLVED that this House of Assembly calls upon government to remove the double standard that exists between fire regulations at privately run personal care homes and government health care institutions, recognizing that fire can occur at any facility.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that government immediately comply with its own fire regulations and install sprinkler systems at government run health care facilities.

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I move that the House, on its rising, do adjourn until tomorrow, Tuesday, at 1:30 p.m., and that this House do now adjourn.

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

All those in favor, 'aye'.


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

This House now stands adjourned.

I would like to invite hon. members, and guests who are present in the gallery, to join us in the lobby of the Confederation Building for a brief reception.

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