March 11, 2008             HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS             Vol. XLVI   No. 2

The House met at 1:30 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

Admit strangers.

Statements by Members

MR. SPEAKER: Today we have members' statements from: the hon. the Member for the District of Topsail; the hon. the Member for the District of Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair; the hon. the Member for the District of Mount Pearl North; the hon. the Member for the District of Burgeo & LaPoile; the hon. the Member for the District of Grand Bank; and the hon. the Member for the District of Port de Grave.

The hon. the Member for the District of Topsail.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to pay tribute to a resident of Paradise who has made a significant contribution to the Special Olympics movement in Canada at the regional, provincial and national levels.

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Evan Ash has been an integral part of the Special Olympic program for the past ten years. He started with the Mount Pearl Club as a member of the fundraising committee and later assumed the role of Program Director from 2002 to 2006.

Evan has served as Chef de Mission for Team Mount Pearl at the Provincial Games five times. He has been a member of Special Olympics Newfoundland and Labrador's Provincial Board of Directors since 1998 and sits on the organizing committee for the Chapter's two largest fundraisers. Evan also served as a member of the Special Olympics Canada Coaches Sub-committee.

Taking his commitment to an international level, Evan participated as a "fan extraordinaire" by travelling with his family to Nagano, Japan, to cheer on his son Andrew, a member of Team Canada's 2005 Snowshoeing Squad.

This past November, Evan was named Special Olympics Canada's 2007 Volunteer of the Year and was the recipient of the 2007 Jim Thompson award. Evan was selected for this honor from a group of nominees across the country.

Mr. Speaker, I ask my hon. colleagues to join me in congratulating Mr. Evan Ash for his outstanding contribution to Special Olympics and on receiving such a prestigious award.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise in this House today to extend congratulations to Elizabeth Penashue, who was recently awarded the National Aboriginal Achievement Award in Environment and Natural Resources. She was presented with this award on Friday night in Toronto at the Fifteenth Annual National Aboriginal Awards Gala.

Mr. Speaker, this award was established to encourage and celebrate excellence in the Aboriginal community. The awards are recognized both nationally and internationally, as one of the highest honours the community can bestow upon its achievers. The award broadcasts the success of individuals who have discipline, drive and determination to set high standards and accomplish their goals.

Ms Penashue for decades has fought to protect her homeland and the Innu traditional lifestyle. Her activism work began in the early 1980s in opposition to NATO low-level flying. For ten years she demonstrated and negotiated, camped out on the runways with mostly women and children, and barricaded roads to stop the flights and the noise of the jets.

Annually since 1996 she has led a 150 mile snowshoe trek through the traditional Innu lands. In the summer, she leads a month-long canoe trip on the Churchill River. Modestly and softly she has declared, "I am a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves, such as the animals, plants and other beings."

Ms Penashue was awarded an honorary doctorate of laws from Memorial University in 2005. She has nine children, thirty-three grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate Elizabeth Penashue, who has been a long-time friend of mine, on receiving this prestigious award, and I would ask all members of this hon. House to join me in offering our congratulations.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to recognize the nominees and winners of the Mount Pearl Sport Alliance Awards for 2007.

In particular, I would like to congratulate Peter Tobin, Junior Male Athlete of the Year; Dominique Linehan-Hall, Junior Female Athlete of the Year; Laura Murray, Senior Female Athlete of the Year; David Forbes, Senior Male Athlete of the Year; the Pearlgate Bantam Boys Bowling Team, Junior Team of the Year; Dogs Rugby Senior Women's Team, Senior Team of the Year; Leila Boland, Peter Haliday Executive of the Year Award winner; Brad Ford, Coach of the Year; and lastly, Andrew Martin, Official of the Year.

Mr. Speaker, it is very important to encourage all citizens to participate in sport, especially our youth. I commend the Mount Pearl Sport Alliance in its efforts, and for taking the time to honour the hard work and dedication put forward by individuals and teams in the area of athletics.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of the House to join me in congratulating the winners of the Mount Pearl Sport Alliance Annual Awards for 2007, and also recognize the Mount Pearl Sport Alliance for the positive work they do on a daily basis by offering support to those with an avid interest in minor sport.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to congratulate the Town of Port aux Basques, the Port aux Basques Minor Hockey Association and the organizing committee, on being selected one of the five finalists in the 2008 Kraft Hockeyville competition. Kraft Hockeyville 2008 is sponsored by Kraft Canada together with the CBC, the National Hockey League and the NHL Players' Association.

CBC cameras first came to Port aux Basques on January 31 to film the town, interview various residents, players, coaches, and take in a series of hockey games. Port aux Basques was initially chosen from over 1,100 applicants as finalists throughout Canada by a panel of contest judges based on community spirit, originality and passion for hockey.

Thanks to on-line and telephone voter support from all over our Province and around the country, indeed around the world, via Internet, Port aux Basques has made it through Round One of Hockeyville 2008 and are now one of the top five finalists.

With this win comes a $20,000 prize for improvements to the Bruce II Arena. As part of the competition, Hockey Night in Canada broadcasters Scott Oake and Kelly Hrudey broadcast live from the Bruce II Arena this past Saturday, and the Bruce was a rockin' until 4:00 a.m. Sunday morning. Mr. Oake and Mr. Hrudey, along with their crew, were wholeheartedly welcomed into our town and treated to first-class Newfoundland and Labrador hospitality and entertainment.

The participation and spirit throughout the entire weekend was phenomenal, and the excitement was contagious. Businesses, homes, vehicles and residents were decorated with hockey jerseys, posters, hockey sticks and anything to show their passion for the game of hockey.

On a special note, former Port aux Basques Mariner and Montreal Canadien player, Mario Roberge, returned to Port aux Basques for the weekend event and in a moving ceremony on Friday evening his Port aux Basques Mariner jersey number 14 was retired and lifted to the rafters at the Bruce II Arena. Mario Roberge, of course, went on to become a member of the Montreal Canadiens, when they won the Stanley Cup in 1993.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this House to join with me in extending congratulations to the Town of Channel-Port aux Basques, the Port aux Basques Minor Hockey Association and the organizing committee on being chosen one of the five finalists in the 2008 Kraft Hockeyville competition. I also ask for everyone's support for Port aux Basques when the next round of voting begins on March 29. We are a small town with a population of approximately 4,500 people but with the help of the whole Province and our friends and family throughout the country we can make Port aux Basques number one.

Before I conclude, I note that the new member for formerly Fogo-Twillingate was also a former member of the Port aux Basques Mariners. On that note, I say go Port aux Basques!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize a young woman from my district by the name of Kristen Francis. Kristen is a Level 2 student who attends John Burke High School in Grand Bank.

Mr. Speaker, in addition to being a member of the Principal's List for maintaining a 90 per cent or higher average since 2005, Kristen holds an impressive resume of involvement and achievements, including: Program Assistant with the local Cutting Edge Figure Skating Club; youth soccer coach; a member of both the Grand Bank Sea Cadet Corp., as well as the Southern Sharks Figure Skating Club.

Mr. Speaker, she was also first runner up in the 2006 Grand Bank Lions Club Speak Off.

Selected as the winner of the Miss Teen Southern Newfoundland and Labrador Pageant for 2007, Kristen participated in the recent Miss Teen Newfoundland and Labrador pageant right here in St. John's and was named First Runner-Up.

This is a tremendous accomplishment, and all of us from the District of Grand Bank are proud of Kristen and her achievement.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this House to join me in offering congratulations and best wishes to Kristen Francis - a young lady from Grand Bank who has a tremendous future ahead of her.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Thank you Mr. Speaker.

Robert Slaney of Upper Island Cove, and former member of the Cee Bees Minor Hockey League, has been short-listed as one of the five finalists for the Marcel Robert Trophy Award.

Robert is a proud member of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and this coveted award is for the Scholastic Player of the Year.

Mr. Speaker, to be selected as one of the top five is a testament to Robert's commitment to both hockey and education. Robert is enrolled in the business administration program at Cape Breton University. He attended a final review for this award on March 3, 2008, and the winner will be announced on April 2 in Montreal at the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Golden Puck Awards.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members to join me, along with Robert's parents and family, in wishing him every success on April 2.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Statements by Ministers.

Statements by Ministers


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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, I rise in this House today to acknowledge the important occasion of Social Work Week in our Province, which runs from March 10 to March 14. This week presents a wonderful opportunity to pay tribute to the over 1,100 social workers who make a meaningful difference in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Social workers play a vital role in our health and community services system as they help individuals and families across our Province in areas ranging from support for those impacted by addictions to ensuring the protection and safety of our children.

Social workers are counsellors, problem-solvers, administrators and developers of policy. Their presence is integral in our hospitals, community organizations, mental health clinics, long-term care homes, in the correctional and justice system and within the provincial government.

Mr. Speaker, one particular area where social workers are making an invaluable contribution is within the Child, Youth and Family Services system. Last year, our government announced an unprecedented investment of $9 million to strengthen this system. Since then, we have filled approximately seventy new positions for social workers and support staff.

This is a substantial achievement and demonstrates that we are well on our way to filling the 118 new positions we announced in Budget 2007.

Our government values social workers and their significant contribution to the people and communities that make up this Province. It undeniably takes a very special person to be a social worker in a profession which can be a challenging one. Our 1,100 social workers who provide invaluable service every day are true assets to our Province and our people.

Mr. Speaker, I ask my colleagues to join me in paying a tribute to the social workers across Newfoundland and Labrador for their dedication and contribution to their professions.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We want to join with the government in acknowledging and recognizing the tremendous work that social workers do in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Mr. Speaker, they are our frontline workers. They are the people who often have to respond in homes and in other facilities around our Province, whether it be hospitals, penitentiaries, rehabilitation centres, or whatever the case. They often deal with people at their lowest points in society. Mr. Speaker, I do not need to tell anyone in this House of Assembly what some of those cases could potentially be.

Today, we live in a Province where social workers are dealing with more cases in addiction services than they have for a very long time. Perhaps for the first time in our history we have more cases than we have had previously. They are dealing with more foster children in custody. Eastern Health itself has a 20 per cent increase in the number of foster children that are now in their care. We have increased numbers in other regions of the Province, in our Aboriginal communities, where we have upwards of 200 Innu children who are in the custody of the state.

Mr. Speaker, these people deal with some very comprehensive issues at some difficult times in our history. I want to acknowledge the work that they do, the contributions that they make and I hope that government will recognize those contributions as they bring down their budget and have further negotiations with public sector unions, because it is evident the reason we still have vacancies in this profession is because we are not providing for the kinds of benefits that will attract social workers to Newfoundland and Labrador.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I, too, am very pleased to join in saluting the social workers in our Province. I do believe that they are probably one of the most overworked and overstressed groups of workers that we have, especially our social workers in the child, youth and family services. They are highly skilled, highly committed workers. I think we have to assure though that all these support services and supplementary systems are in place to help them in their work. I know one of the areas that is of a major concern is the fact that when children are in care we do not have adequate foster care services for those children. It has been publicly in the news, we all know it. It has been verified that very often social workers have to stay in hotel rooms with children when there are emergency situations. So I really urge the government to work hard at building up our foster care program and our emergency care services so that we do not have social workers who are highly skilled having to be overnight in hotels with children.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers?

The hon. the Minister of Education.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, students in today's classrooms have many resources at their disposal which enrich the learning process. These include educational games, computer software and hardware and instructional DVDs and videos. One very important enrichment initiative that the Department of Education is proud to support is The Telegram's Newspaper in Education program.

Each year, the department contributes $5,000 to help bring this program to as many schools as possible. By the end of this school year, more than 600,000 newspapers will have been delivered to 185 K-2 schools and Adult Basic Education programs throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. In total, more than 26,000 students and 1,800 teachers are taking advantage of this innovative initiative.

There are a number of benefits to a program like this, Mr. Speaker. It creates a desire in young people to read. It helps students improve the reading skills they will use throughout their lives. It can be used to enhance just about any course, from language arts to global issues, and from mathematics to science; and it bridges the gap between classroom learning and the world outside, putting the lessons in perspective and making them real.

There are many initiatives supported by this government that help our children learn and grow, and strategic investments in programs and initiatives that contribute to student success. For example, Mr. Speaker, phys. ed classes have gotten more interesting from Kindergarten through high school with $3.2 million worth of new equipment. Artists are coming into our classrooms with our $10 million Cultural Connections Strategy. Our $11 million skilled trades program is introducing skilled trades training and equipment to high school students. This all speaks to the diverse and interesting learning experiences available for today's students. Our more than $1 billion allocated for education this year is clearly funding some great initiatives.

Mr. Speaker, I commend The Telegram for its ongoing support of learning in our schools. It is partnerships like this that make our classrooms great learning places.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I want to thank the minister for an advance copy of her statement, and to agree with her that I assure you that many of our classrooms have many resources at the disposal of our youth in this day and age, and I want to congratulate the department in being involved in this initiative with The Telegram.

As she mentioned about the software, the hardware, the DVDs and videos, I am sure, as I look around this hon. House, many of us never had the opportunity to deal with those issues when we went to school, and to know that so many students and teachers in this day and age avail of such services.

She mentioned about gapping the distance between classroom education and worldwide. I can assure you, and I speak for myself, many moons ago - and that would be many moons ago - little did I have a newspaper, not even a television, to go by. All we had to listen to was a radio, to know what was going on in our workplace.

To know all the millions of dollars that are going into education, we are very thankful of that, because every cent that goes in helps the children of our Province, but that does not take away, from time to time, that we will be bringing forward issues that are expressed to us as concerns for the people of this Province.

My closing comment, Mr. Speaker, will be that I hope all teachers and students find themselves in safe environments, risk-free environments, as they carry out the many initiatives that we have today in our schools.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I, too, thank the minister for an advance copy of her statement, and I apologize to the Minister of Health and Community Services for not having thanked him when I stood before.

These initiatives are wonderful initiatives, and I think there is some evaluation going on that indicates that these enhancement programs are essential to the school system and to the courses, whether it is the partnership with The Telegram, whether it is the Cultural Connections Strategy, the skilled trades program, all of them.

I would encourage the minister and the government to see these not as projects but as efforts that need continued funding. I know that the $10 million for the Cultural Connections Strategy is coming to an end, and I look forward to seeing such money being continued in the upcoming Budget, especially because it benefits not just the children but also benefits the artists who always need support from government in maintaining their careers.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers?

Oral Questions.

Oral Questions

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, my questions are for the Premier.

In 2005, the Eastern Health Authority spent $450,000 on a comprehensive facilities review that identified critical problems with the physical structures of health care buildings, including the four hospitals in St. John's. These reports have been hidden for the past thirty months, and only released when the Minister of Health accidentally referenced them in a recent media scrum.

I ask the Premier: When did you become aware of these reports, that they even existed, and the recommendations that they contained?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank the hon. Leader of the Opposition for that important question.

Mr. Speaker - I will try to keep it within the time frame - what government has been wrestling with in health care and in other departments is serious infrastructure problems with regard to new buildings with maintenance and repairs. The Health Department, particularly, has been basically looking at an overall plan to revisit the facilities, to look at relocating some of the facilities, to redesigning some of the facilities, to repairing facilities, building new facilities. I would have to say probably our top priority initially was for new facilities.

From my own perspective, I have never seen that report; but, having said that, the first time that we would have even become aware of it as a government – I remember back – it would have been early last fall when the Cabinet was asked to provide a half-million dollars for a consultant report in order to consider infrastructure issues and site planning, and that was part of that overall plan, but I have never personally seen the report myself over the thirty months.

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, when such reports are commissioned by government, and they have such startling recommendations as these reports have, I would expect that Cabinet Ministers would be responsible to bring those reports to the attention of Cabinet and government.

I have to ask: Were these reports ever brought to Cabinet, or their existence raised in terms of the needs that they were asking for in those documents?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: As the hon. Leader of the Opposition is aware, when she sat in Cabinet, general discussions take place in Cabinet with regard to general planning.

As, of course, of last fall we were still four or five months away from a Budget plan - assuming, of course, obviously, that we were re-elected. That process is all part of the general discussion that would go on with regard to planning.

We usually input in the fall into the planning process in order to prepare our budgets. As a general rule, departmental reports don't necessarily come before Cabinet. Some do, some don't. When they do, we have detailed presentations on them.

There was no detailed presentation on this particular report as, in fact, as I understand it, it was a buildings assessment - is exactly what it was. So it was discussed in the context of the overall infrastructure program and site planning and maintenance and repair generally.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, I guess what is surprising for us is that we have seen two Budgets being brought to this House by the government opposite since these reports were tabled with the Department of Health and Community Services; yet they have not been addressed.

I do realize that the Premier, last week, announced that they would increase their infrastructure budget this year to try and deal with some of the critical problems here. I think he quoted an additional amount of $6 million.

I have to ask the Premier today, Mr. Speaker: Does he feel that this amount of money is sufficient to address the critical problems - not the overall problems that were outlined, but the more critical problems - that have been outlined in these documents?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, I would have to honestly say there is never enough money to deal with all the problems in maintenance and repair, whether it happens to be in our hospitals, in our schools, or other infrastructure. To deal with the critical problems - the critical problems that we are presently aware of - this would certainly appear to adequately deal with those.

From our understanding, when we considered this over a week ago, there would have been approximately $22 million or maybe $23 million from fourteen. So, when you have used the term six – I think what I had said actually was, we would increase it by about 50 per cent. We are in that range of $21 million, $22 million, $23 million. If that is what is necessary to deal with critical problems in the hospitals then that will be provided.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Obviously, I asked the question because our analysis of the reports indicates that the critical areas that need to be addressed are going to cost approximately $100 million to do.

My question for the Premier would be: Have they looked at a plan to be able to address all of those problems or when will they have an opportunity to do that?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I thank the member opposite for doing the critical analysis of the report. Our understanding is there are four different categories and category number one, priority number one, with the investment we have suggested we will be making next year, together with the – you have to remember, Mr. Speaker, over the last four years we have spent close to $40 million on maintenance repairs in our health facilities throughout this Province, in addition to close to $80 million in new construction, and with the projects we have committed to over the next four years, a total investment in capital alone will probably be closer to $300 million. If you look at that kind of capital investment in new structures, together with what we are spending on repairs and maintenance - and in one single year in addition to that one of our regional health authorities, Eastern Health, spent an additional $30-odd million of their money to be able to put into maintenance and repairs as well.

Given the commitments we have made, the investments we made in the past, and what we are gong to be spending next year and in the future, we will be able to deal with the high priority issues that were identified in that assessment.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I say to the minister, yes, I did do the analysis, but I understand from the media scrum that you did not even read the documents.

My next question is: There are sixty-one other health facilities around the Province, and I ask the minister: Has your department completed any recent cost-analysis for critical upgrades in those sixty-one other facilities? If so, can you table those documents in the House of Assembly, and if not, can you give me the timelines on which these will be done?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

There are multiple questions to that so you will have to give me a bit of latitude on the forty-five seconds.

The issue around the reports themselves: Eastern Health has a software package that allows them to do the profiling that they have done, and keep in mind that this was a facility management software package. This was not a specialized report that was commissioned akin to other reports that government on occasion may commission. This was part of populating a database that Eastern Health has to manage their health facilities. The other three authorities do not have that kind of capacity, they are smaller authorities and they have fewer facilities. What they have done themselves is they have done an evaluation based on their own interpretation of what it is needs to be done, and through their budgetary requests they have made a submission to government looking for funding for next year to be able to do the necessary repairs and maintenance in their respective regions.


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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, I take from that answer that there has not been any other analysis done on critical upgrades in the other sixty-one health care facilities in the Province.

Mr. Speaker, there have been numerous upgrades, as we know, required to health care infrastructure and some of them we have heard outlined in the media lately. One is the lack of sprinkler systems that exist in some of the Province's hospitals and long-term care homes. Just last month twenty-two privately run personal care homes were ordered to close in this Province because they did not have sprinkler systems to protect against life and safety hazards caused by a potential fire. We learned, after the fact, that government-run facilities were in a similar situation. The people of the Province certainly do not appreciate being governed by hypocrisy.

I ask the minister: When is government going to do away with the double standard and install the sprinkler systems at government-owned facilities as they have indicated needs to be done at privately run facilities?

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


MR. WISEMAN: The personal care homes that she is questioning or raising were personal care homes that were identified by the Fire Commissioner's Office as needing to install sprinkler systems based on the evaluation of those facilities and the nature of the construction. The health facilities that are operated by our four authorities, they too have been evaluated by the Fire Commissioner's Office on a regular basis. I understand, from a recent statement by the Commissioner's Office, that he plans to do some in the near future. Any time the fire commissioner identifies a hazard in any of our facilities we will respond appropriately.


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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The fire commissioner has already recommended that there are two facilities that need to have this installation done immediately, the Dr. Walter Templeton Health facility on Bell Island and the Newhook Clinic in Whitbourne.

Mr. Speaker, we know that there are other facilities as well in the Province, but I ask the minister: When will government move to install the sprinkler systems in those two that have been identified? Again, I ask: What is the plan to address this lack of safety infrastructure in the other health care facilities in the Province?

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


MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, I think it is important to challenge the statement just made with respect to the other hazards in other facilities. As I said in my previous answer, the Fire Commissioner has not identified or directed us to maintain or to fix, to change or to add to any of the other facilities. He has identified that the sprinkler system is necessary to be installed in Bell Island and in Whitbourne. Government, as I said a moment ago, when he has given that direction and made that comment to us we will be responding appropriately.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, it is unbelievable that the minister thinks it is acceptable to have acute care facilities in this Province that do not have the proper sprinkler systems installed, and again I have to ask: In facilities like Western Memorial Hospital, like the Paddon Home in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, when are you going to take some action to address the needs in those facilities?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Once again I want to go back to my earlier comment. I am not in a position and we do not have officials in my department who have the ability to do those kinds of assessments. That is why the Fire Commissioner's Office is staffed with the capable, competent people to be able to do that kind of evaluation.

With respect to the Paddon Home, he has indicated the fact that we have now started construction, tenders have been awarded, a new long-term care home is being built in Happy Valley-Goose Bay to replace the home. As I understand it, the Fire Commissioner is satisfied that with the current safety practices within the Paddon home and the fact that we are in the midst of building a new one that is acceptable to him. I understand he has done an evaluation of Western Memorial Hospital and he has considered the construction methodology used when that building was built in terms of fire walls, the construction material, the disaster plans that they have, the staffing levels they have, the ability to able to contain certain blocks and sectors of the building. All of that I understand was given consideration and that is why he has not, in fact, given us a recommendation today to install it in that building.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My next question is for the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

Some of the privately run, personal care home operators have told us that they were inspected and passed by government as late as six months ago in order to qualify for their licenses to operate. They said there were no conditions put on the inspection report related to the necessity of installing sprinkler systems and no correspondence was sent from government issuing any ultimatum until the final decision was made.

I have to ask the Minister of Municipal Affairs: Is it common practice for the Fire Commissioner to allow facilities in our Province that are in violation of fire code laws to pass inspection?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DENINE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the personal care homes were identified a number of years ago to have a sprinkler system installed. That is why, back in 2005, this government came on side and did a cost-sharing ratio of 75-25.

The fact that the order was going on for a time period 2005, 2006, 2007, this year the fire commissioner stated to me: It is time to stop it; we need to bring it to an end.

That is the reason why the closure orders were issued. Now, when I say closure orders, basically we said the closure orders but what we want to do is compliance. After all that, after a month, Mr. Speaker, twenty of the twenty-two facilities that were asked to comply did comply.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The recent revelation that the government does not have proper sprinkler systems in hospitals around this Province, and that other serious public safety concerns exist in our health care system, was shocking and disturbing. This attitude towards public safety also raised concerns about public safety in other aspects of government.

I ask the Minister of Education if she can tell us if schools in this Province are regularly inspected, and if they are all in compliance with the current fire safety regulations?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, we take fire safety very seriously in our schools. It is my understanding that there are no outstanding orders from the fire commissioner's office in relation to our schools, or any work that has been identified as fire safety at this point in time that has not been completed.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Mr. Speaker, this government has developed a reputation for not being open and accountable. In the case of public safety, it is important that parents be assured that schools comply with current fire regulations. With this in mind, I ask the Minister of Education: Will she obtain and make public information related to when fire inspections in each of the schools were conducted, and would she also release the nature and results of such inspections?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, as I had just said, we certainly take fire safety in our schools as a very important issue. All schools, at the beginning of the year, have fire safety week. They all practice their fire drills. They are all timed to make sure that all of the children, particularly the youngest students who are new to the school, come in and practice fire safety.

Mr. Speaker, if there is any information within the department regarding safety orders, regarding inspections, regarding our compliance with them, if I can compile that information and see what is available I will certainly make it public.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for her response.

We know government has not followed its own fire safety regulations in relation to hospitals in this Province. When government allows such serious problems to go unaddressed, it becomes even more important that the Minister of Education assure the people of this Province that children are safe in our schools.

Will the minister confirm that some of our older school buildings have not been required to comply with current fire regulations, and can she tell us what government intends to do about this problem?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding - and as I have said now twice before during this Question Period - that fire safety in our schools is absolutely important and it is a very serious issue. We make sure when school starts in September that the fire safety plans for that school are made known to all students, that evacuation routes are known. It is practiced. They do fire drills throughout the year.

Mr. Speaker, some of our schools are more than forty years old, some are brand new; but, Mr. Speaker, in every single case, in every school, we want to make sure that we do follow fire safety codes and that, based on that building and based on the standards for that building, and what is required, we make sure that is followed. That is very important. The school boards understand it, the individual schools understand it, and certainly the Department of Education understands it.

I had already made a commitment that we will go back, we will go through whatever information is available regarding fire safety in our schools, what work was completed or needs to be done. Whatever information I have, that is available, I will make it available in this House.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Mr. Speaker, this government's lack of concern for student safety is nothing new. Back a year ago when I asked -


MR. BUTLER: Mr. Speaker, back a year ago when I asked the minister would the department be conducting a comprehensive review of schools in this Province in terms of toxic mould and air quality, the minister dismissed the idea, saying she knew where the problems were and said such a study was not necessary.

I ask the minister: Was she aware of the problems at Hillside Elementary in La Scie at that time, and does she think it would have saved these children a lot of problems if she had listened to the request for a comprehensive review when I made it a year ago?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, this government - more than probably any other government in the history of this Province - has made the conditions and the safety and the maintenance of our schools a priority.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Since 2004, this government spent $111 million on repairs and maintenance to our schools. Included in that, Mr. Speaker, were 200 roofing, siding and window projects that were done that specifically addressed air quality

Mr. Speaker, when we dealt with the capital plan from the Central Nova School Board last year, La Scie was number twenty-six or number twenty-seven on their priority list.

Mr. Speaker, it came to our attention last week that there was mould in the school following an incident where we found a leaky roof and, Mr. Speaker, we immediately attended to that issue. We have taken care of the students - they have a place to go in La Scie - and we are doing that work immediately to make sure that school is a safe environment for those students.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I say to the minister, we commend her for correcting the problem when she knew about it, but this issue could have been detected back in December 2006. Why wait until March 2008 to have it done, Mr. Speaker?

Mr. Speaker, in the Speech from the Throne, it was revealed that approximately $2.6 million has been approved for eighty-seven air quality projects, such as air quality and hazardous material testing, remediation, carpet removal and ventilation.

I ask the minister: Will she be making all information related to those eighty-seven air quality projects, including the air quality and hazardous material testing results, made available to the public?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, when we go in and we do work at a school, it is not done in a way that is private or secretive. If the work is going on in the school, there has probably been a public tender that has been let so we can get the best available price we can to get the work done, and the scope of the work is defined in that tender.

If we want to expand Question Period tomorrow, and give me more than forty-five seconds, I will read out more than 200 projects that we have done, as government, to address specific air quality issues.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question is for the Premier.

Mr. Speaker, this government first promised in 2003 to, quote: shift the focus of seniors' care so that the first priority is for people to remain in their homes, and other types of supportive living arrangements, rather than requiring them to move into nursing homes or long-term care facilities.

In the 2007 election platform, this government promised to, quote: continue to improve home care services, and to commit to a long-term care policy.

In the Speech from the Throne yesterday, we heard that your government still intends to, quote: advance a Long-Term Care and Community Supports Strategy that will include a plan to improve home care services, implement equitable financial assessment and re-develop standards

I ask the Premier: What is your government going to do in the short term for seniors who are now living in desperate situations at home, without home care, and who may not benefit from what is going to happen down the road?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Since we formed government in 2003 the budget for home support in this Province has increased by some $30-odd million dollars, Mr. Speaker. That is a significant investment, a major investment by this government, and I think a reflection of the commitment we have made to improve the lives of seniors who live in Newfoundland and Labrador.

In addition to that, Mr. Speaker, we have increased the rates that we pay to home support workers. If not three times last year, one year alone as a result of some changes in the minimum wage, I say, Mr. Speaker. We continue to invest in advancing the capacity we have in the number of individuals who get home support in this Province. That, together with the other initiatives announced in our healthy aging strategy, I think reflects our government's true commitment to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians as they age.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS MICHAEL: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the minister's answer, except it does not answer the question. We know, and I indicated yesterday in responding to the Speech from the Throne, that a large percentage of people who inquire about home care do not take it because they cannot afford the system that is offered to them.

The Minister of Health and Community Services acknowledged publicly on February 20, in response to media coverage of Patrick and Shirley Connors, that the financial tool used to assess people applying for government-managed home care, quote, just does not work and that the way financial assessments are done - again, a quote from the minister - needs to change.

Mr. Speaker, my question, again: How can your government, Mr. Premier, allow this situation to continue in the present without putting some emergency plans in place to help people in desperate situations?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, one of the things we do not want to do, we do not want to move prematurely as we have been talking about in the past, and the Speech from the Throne alluded to the notion that we want to move out and move forward with a long-term care and community support strategy. There are many people, there is a seniors population, there are persons with disabilities, who avail of a vast array of community supports. We are in the process now, we are re-evaluating the programs that we have, re-evaluating the financial assessment tools because we want to make sure, Mr. Speaker, that when we roll out our strategy it is a reflection of what we will need well into the future. So, we want to make sure that what we do, we do it right; we better understand the implications of the current financial assessment tool for those who will take advantage of it, and we want to make sure when we construct it, when we change it, when we make any improvements to it, it reflects the changing needs of the population on a go forward basis.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS MICHAEL: A final question then, Mr. Speaker.

How can we view dealing with emergencies as moving prematurely? I want to know if there is going to be money in the upcoming Budget to help with the emergency situations that seniors are facing in this Province?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, the seniors of this Province, the persons with disabilities in this Province are accessing home support daily. There are people today who are accessing home support services, as they did yesterday and as they will on a go forward basis.

With respect to the upcoming Budget, we all look forward to our colleague standing in the House and delivering what will be his second, if not third, great Budget for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. I think all of the announcements he will make in the Budget will reflect our government's commitment to once again improving the quality of lives of the people who live in this great Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions are for the Minister of Innovation.

Mr. Speaker, since this government was elected, and again yesterday in the Throne Speech, we have heard about government's promise of openness, transparency and accountability. Surely the minister would agree that of all issues to which these principles should apply, the spending of public funding would be on the top of the list.

My question to the minister: Do you, as minister of that department, intend to have your department adhere to those principles of openness, transparency and accountability in this operations and disclosures?

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

MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I can absolutely confirm that we do, in our department, adhere to those principles, which is why every cent of money that we approve is made public. Sometimes there is some delay in the time period that it takes to make it public because we are working with other financial institutions and other agencies like ACOA and Services Canada to collaborate on joint announcements, waiting for their funding to be improved and what have you, but we have no problem in disclosing any information on finances that we provide to anybody in Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In February of this year The Telegram published a report that government had issued two loans totaling $675,000 to a company called SAC Manufacturing of Paradise. This company cashed the cheques, closed down, and the company directors promptly moved to Alberta. No government news releases were issued, nor any announcements made about this funding, when the money was dispersed, or when the company closed its doors. No information was ever released by the department to the public. The public only found out about this when a local media followed up on a report from the Comptroller General almost a year later - not the Auditor General but the Comptroller General.

My question to the minister: Please explain how this is openness, transparency and accountability when your department never, ever voluntarily released any of this information of its own volition.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, as I am sure the member opposite can appreciate, we disperse about $20-odd million annually, probably somewhere in that order anyway. Most of the programs that we have in place right now did not exist when they were in government. I think they had $2 million available for economic development. As I said, we have somewhere in the order of $20 million to $25 million in our department available for economic development.

Some of the communication protocols, Mr. Speaker, I have to admit, were somewhat lax in the early going of the development of these programs. I have asked our department, our communications director and our executive to review our communications protocols to ensure that that instance does not happen in the future. I can assure the House and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, there was no attempt to try and hide this information from the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and we will be making changes, as I have said, to our communication strategy to ensure that this does not happen in the future, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The time allotted for questions and answers has expired.

Presenting Reports by Standing and Select Committees.

Tabling of Documents.

Tabling of Documents

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, if you will bear with me, I have a number of documents to table.

First of all, pursuant to section 49.(2) of the Financial Administration Act, I wish to table the attached list of temporary loans that were raised under section 48 of the act since my last report to the House tabled on May 15, 2007.

Also, pursuant to section 55.(3) of the Financial Administration Act, I wish to report that there were no guaranteed loans paid out by the Province since the last annual report, also on May 15, 2007. While there are none to be tabled, it is necessary to indicate that in a report to the House.

In addition, Mr. Speaker, pursuant to section 55.1(2) of the act, I wish to report there has been no guaranteed debt of any Crown corporation or agency assumed by the Province since May 15, 2007 annual report.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. That is the first one.

Secondly, Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Section 28. (4) (e) of the Financial Administration Act, I am tabling one Order-in-Council for the creation of one new activity of expenditure for the 2007-2008 fiscal year.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Section 26. (5) (a) of the Financial Administration Act, I am tabling thirty-four Orders-in-Council relating to funding pre-commitments for the 2008-2009 to the 2012-2013 fiscal years.

Mr. Speaker, there is one more.

AN HON. MEMBER: Finally, (inaudible).

MR. T. MARSHALL: Finally, there is one more.

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Section 28. (4) (e) of the Financial Administration Act, I am tabling five special warrants relating to the 2007-2008 fiscal year.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further tabling of documents?

Pursuant to Section 273. (3) of the Elections Act, 1991, I, as Speaker, would like to table the annual report of the Chief Electoral Officer on election finances for January 1, 2006 to December 31, 2006, and a report on election finances for a by-election held in the District of Placentia & St. Mary's on February 21, 2006.

Notices of Motion.

Notices of Motion

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

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, I would like to move, seconded by the Opposition House Leader, that the following members constitute the Striking Committee. Of course, the Striking Committee is the committee that will be responsible for populating, striking, other committees for routine business of the House: myself, as the Member for Baie Verte-Springdale; the hon. Deputy Government House Leader, the Member for St. George's-Stephenville East; the hon. Deputy Speaker, the Member for Cape St. Francis; the hon. the Member for Burgeo & LaPoile; and the hon. the Member for Port de Grave.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that the Striking Committee be the members as recited by the hon. Government House Leader, seconded by the hon. Opposition House Leader.

All those in favour, ‘aye'.


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

The motion is carried.

Motion carried.

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

Answers to Questions for which Notice has been Given.



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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to present a petition on behalf of residents of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is a petition that has been circulated Province-wide, in reference to the drug and alcohol addictions that exist in our Province.

I will read it for you, Mr. Speaker, into the record, and I should note for the House of Assembly that there are thousands of signatures collected on these petitions and they will be presented at different times in the House of Assembly over the next period of time that we sit.

WHEREAS Newfoundland and Labrador is currently lacking a long-term drug and alcohol addictions treatment facility for its residents;

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to establish a long-term drug and alcohol addictions treatment facility in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, the reason I bring this petition to the House of Assembly is because I support the people who are making this request. I support them in their efforts, because I do know that there are problems in our Province as it relates to drug addictions, alcohol addictions, and other addictions as well; but, Mr. Speaker, we do not have to look far to see many examples of how drug addiction has increased in communities right throughout the Province.

There is more need for education around drug addictions and alcohol addictions than I think we have ever seen before in our past, and there is certainly a greater need for the services that people depend upon, who are addicts.

Mr. Speaker, I was looking in The Telegram a few days ago, when there was an article there regarding drugs, and the growing problem with drugs in our Province. I think the drug market in the Province has become so big at this stage that the RNC has even announced that they will have to double up the enforcement officers they have working to combat the drug problem in the city in particular.

Mr. Speaker, those kinds of announcements become alarming, and it is a realization that it is not a problem that will go away. It is not something that we can brush under a rug and forget about, but it is actually something we need to take action on.

Mr. Speaker, the Chief of the RNC, Joe Browne, has said that drug use has gotten so widespread that buying drugs on the street is almost like buying coffee.

Mr. Speaker, I do not think the Chief of Police is exaggerating his comments. I think his remarks are founded on his own experiences, and founded on the kind of drug busts and arrests that they have been making through the RNC.

Mr. Speaker, back a few years ago the RNC made a statement that they thought 80 per cent of all of the crime in the Province was drug related. Today they are making a statement that 90 per cent of all of the crime in the Province, or in this area that they serve, is drug related, and those are very alarming numbers as well.

Those people who are out there identifying the need for a long-term treatment facility for drug addicts and alcoholism are people who are either affected by it directly or indirectly.

We all know that any time there is a person in our families or in our households who develops problems with addiction, it affects the entire family unit. It affects everyone. So, Mr. Speaker, these people are identifying the need based on their own experiences, based on the fact that they have had a brother or sister, a mother or father, who have been affected.

Mr. Speaker, I know that my time is nearly concluded. I do have a number of these petitions that I will present over the next few days in the House of Assembly, and I hope that hon. members will be prepared to listen and to support the pleas of the people who are petitioning us.

MR. SPEAKER: Further petitions?

The hon. the Member for Port de Grave.

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

I want to present a petition today to the hon. House of Assembly of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador in Parliament assembled. Seeing that this is the first time that this petition has appeared, I will read the petition:

WHEREAS Conception Bay North was the number one priority for a long-term care facility for the entire Province in 2000-2002; and

WHEREAS Conception Bay North in 2006 has slipped to sixth place on the list, behind Corner Brook, Clarenville, Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Lewisporte and St. John's; and

WHEREAS the present structures need to be replaced with a modern facility; and

WHEREAS there is a tremendous requirement for additional facilities for our seniors;

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, call upon all Members of the House of Assembly to urge government to reassess their decision to drop Conception Bay North on the priority list and commit to all residents of the area that the assessment of 200-2002 be implemented and a new facility be built in the Conception Bay North area; and

As is duty bound your petitioners will ever pray.

Mr. Speaker, over the past several years now - that assessment was done back in 2000-2002 and it was done by officials of the department. It was to the point, Mr. Speaker, where even the size of the facility - they determined that their requirements were up to 240 beds. It was so far progressing along that even proposals were sent to the three major centres out there, Carbonear, Harbour Grace, and Bay Roberts, asking them how they would handle the situation if government decided they would go one way or the other. Not only that, it was even determined that possibly it might be constructed adjacent to the Carbonear General Hospital, and the expenses probably would have been less with the heating and so on.

Mr. Speaker, over the past three years I have asked different Ministers of Health and Community Services, either in the House or through the Estimate Committees, what happened that Conception Bay North was dropped from a top priority in the Province to sixth place? I have yet to be able to get any answers. I understand there were no further assessments done to say that it was inappropriately done in the beginning. It was only, I think, when the Minister of Finance was going around - the Mayor of Carbonear even mentioned the facility and how the other facilities were not adequate anymore. We referenced the Interfaith Home, the Harbour Lodge, and I know back a few years ago the Pentecostal Home in Clarke's Beach, they were all to be combined together into this one new facility. Mr. Speaker, by having this facility I can assure you it takes the burden away from Carbonear General because all too often beds are filled by residents and patients who could be out in a long-term care facility whereas they are occupying spaces in the Carbonear General Hospital.

Mr. Speaker, I am calling upon government today to recommit to Conception Bay North, to the long-term care facility. I am not standing here today saying that the other six facilities that I mentioned, the other six communities, that they do not need it, sure they need it and all the power to them if they get their facilities. I understand, and I think Corner Brook and Clarenville have been on the list.

Mr. Speaker, I want to call upon my three neighbouring districts, all represented now by Ministers of the Crown, the District of Trinity-Bay de Verde, the District of Carbonear-Harbour Grace, the District of Harbour Main and my colleague from Bellevue district, that they will all come together and ask government if they would reconsider and at least have another assessment done to see what happened, why Conception Bay North has been dropped from the list.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further petitions?

Before I call orders of the day, I would like to take this opportunity to introduce to Members of the House of Assembly our Pages for this session. We have two Pages who are returning from the Forty-Fifth General Assembly, Michael Young and Jeffrey Blackwood, and we have two new Pages, Willis Wiseman and Blaine Cowan.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: I am sure I echo the thoughts of all members, that I hope your stay is both enjoyable and rewarding.

Orders of the Day.

Orders of the Day

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

MR. RIDEOUT: Motion 1, please, Interim Supply.

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

MR. T. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform the House that I have received a message from His Honour the Lieutenant Governor.

MR. SPEAKER: All rise.

As Lieutenant Governor of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, I transmit a request to appropriate sums required for the Public Service of the Province for the Year ending 31 March 2009, by way of Interim Supply, and in accordance with the provisions of sections 54 and 90 of the Constitution Act, 1867, I recommend this request to the House of Assembly.

Sgd.: _______________________________

John C. Crosbie, Lieutenant Governor.

The hon. the Minister of Finance.

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

Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Government House Leader, that the message together with a bill be referred to the Committee of Supply.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the message together with a bill be referred to a Committee of Supply and that I do now leave the Chair.

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

All those in favour, 'aye'.


MR. SPEAKER: Against?

The motion is carried.

On motion, that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole, Mr. Speaker left the Chair.


Committee of the Whole

CHAIR (T. Osborne): Order, please!

Bill 2, An Act For Granting To Her Majesty Certain Sums Of Money For Defraying Certain Expenses Of The Public Service For The Financial Year Ending March 31, 2009 And For Other Purposes Relating To The Public Service.


"That it is expedient to introduce a measure to provide for the granting to Her Majesty for defraying certain expenses of the public service for the financial year ending March 31, 2009 the sum of $1,902,039,700."

CHAIR: Shall the resolution carry?

The hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board.

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

Before I speak to the resolution and the bill, which is Bill 2, I think it is appropriate that I first of all extend my congratulations to Mr. Chairman for your election to this position, and also to the hon. the Speaker for being elected to his position as the new Speaker of this House, a task that at sometimes is extremely difficult, but I am sure that with the abilities and the talents of the new Speaker, that those tasks shall be handled with much aplomb as well as much dignity.

I also want to take this time to congratulate the new members who have been elected. There has been quite a change since the last time we stood in this House.

AN HON. MEMBER: For the better.

MR. T. MARSHALL: For the better, indeed. It may take me awhile to get used to looking over across the floor. Instead of seeing the smiling face of the former member for Grand Falls-Buchans and the former member for Torngat Mountains - I don't know if I will ever get used to seeing the Member for Conception Bay South. It is quite a change indeed, but it is great to see new members. My colleagues from the Bay of Islands, the hon. member from Deer Lake, the hon. member from St. Barbe and other friendly faces. It will be quite a change indeed.

For all new members, I think it is indeed an honour and a privilege to represent your area in the people's House. This is the House of the people and I know that all members of all parties certainly take the fact that they represent their districts very seriously. Certainly, I am sure that all members, no matter where you are from and what your talents, will use those talents and abilities to make the Province a better place once you have left it. I am sure you will leave the Province in a better situation than when you found it. I congratulate all of you and wish you all well.

Before us today is something that is formally referred to as a Resolution and an Act. The Resolution says that, Be it resolved that it is expedient to introduce a measure to provide for the granting to Her Majesty for defraying certain expenses of the public service for the financial year that ends March 31, 2009 the sum of $1,902,039,700. The bill is entitled An Act For Granting To Her Majesty Certain Sums Of Money For Defraying Certain Expenses Of The Public Service, for that fiscal year, And For Other Purposes Relating To The Public Service. The short title of the Act – it is called the Interim Supply Act of 2008.

What this Act is doing is looking for your approval, is looking for the approval of the elected representatives of the people to spend a certain amount of money until such time as the main supply bill or the Budget is passed. Because money cannot be spent by the government until it is first approved in this Chamber by the representatives of the people.

What we are seeking here in Interim Supply, Mr. Chairman, is approval of the Legislature and those who are responsible to the people of this Province for the sum, as I said, of about $1.9 billion. This amount represents about 34 per cent of the 2007-2008 budgeted current and capital account gross expenditures. It will provide the government, it will provide departments of the government and public bodies, with sufficient cash flow dollars to manage current and capital account expenditures for the period from April 1, 2008 through to the period of June 30, 2008. That is the first fiscal quarter of the 2008-2009 fiscal year. As you know the fiscal year of the government starts on April 1 and ends on March 31 of the following year.

When we bring in the Budget we will be seeking funding to spend during the whole year, from April 1, 2008 to March 31, 2009, but of course it takes some time for the Budget to pass. There is a certain amount of debate that has to take place. I believe it is seventy-five hours, and the debate that takes place on this particular resolution, on this particular bill, Interim Supply, will count towards the seventy-five hours allotted for the Budget Debate. Because it takes some time to pass the Budget, it is necessary to provide funding to the government to pay its day-to-day bills, and that is the sole purpose of Interim Supply.

Now, in some accounts more than one-quarter of the Budget is required to provide for those items which will need to be expensed early in the year, and as well to provide for the calling and the awarding of tenders and the encumbering of funds. Now, there is a 14 per cent increase being requested for Interim Supply this year over last year's $1.7 billion. The increase approximates $238 million. This increase, the reason it is more this year is because provision is made for inflation and for program growth, and for the annualization of the 2007-2008 Budget initiatives.

When an initiative is brought in, it may not be brought in on April 1; it may be brought in six months later. In the Budget there will only be an expenditure of funds for six months but, of course, that program will follow in the following year; and, of course, in that year you need funds for the full twelve months, so you will hear that word annualization quite a bit in this Chamber.

As I said, the increase includes provision for inflation, program growth and annualization of 2007-2008 Budget initiatives.

Now, some of the hon. members in this House will recall that when we did Interim Supply last year there was a 12 per cent growth over the previous year, 2006-2007, in their Estimates.

So, as I said, Interim Supply is basically intended to provide for the continuation of ongoing government programs and projects included in the 2008-2009 Interim Supply bill, our general ongoing housekeeping expenditures. We also have funding for seven pay periods and ongoing project and funding requirements applicable to the forthcoming 2008-2009 fiscal year.

This bill needs to be passed on or before March 26 in order to be able to process cheques, including Income Support requirements which will have to be mailed to Labrador and to other more distant parts of the Province, and to meet government's payroll obligations for April 2, 2008.

Mr. Chairman, I will be announcing, in due course, the date that I will table the full Estimates of Expenditure for 2008-2009, and that is the Budget bill, at which time we will seek authority from the House to spend money for the full twelve-month period.

Mr. Chairman, last year, when I introduced Interim Supply, I provided a brief overview of the inaugural Budget consultations that I had undertook. At that time, my predecessor had resigned from government on December 29, or just shortly before that, and I was appointed on December 29. Of course, I then was engaged immediately in the

process of what is called pre-Budget consultations. My predecessor had done the eastern side of the Province and I did Labrador and the West Coast.

This year I have had a chance to conduct pre-Budget consultations right across the whole Province. We had two in St. John's. We were in Carbonear, in Labrador City-Wabush, in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, in Corner Brook and Stephenville, in St. Anthony, Marystown, Gander, Grand Falls-Windsor, and Clarenville.

Now, I know there are cynics who write letters to the editor or comment in the media that these pre-Budget consultations are a waste of time. I strongly disagree with that. I think it is important that the Minister of Finance get around the Province and hear, in the regions of the Province, what are the priorities of the people in those areas.

Mr. Chairman, one of the things I suggested we do this year is that, instead of going to the usual larger communities, maybe it was time for the Minister of Finance to take a year and not go to the usual large communities. Maybe it was time for the Minister of Finance to go to some of the smaller communities.

There wasn't time to do that this year, but I would strongly suggest to the Minister of Finance - who is the Minister of Finance in the next Budget process - that maybe it is time, instead of going to Corner Brook, to maybe do pre-Budget consultations in Deer Lake, to go down to Port aux Basques, to go to the North Coast and South Coast of Labrador, to go to smaller communities on the Great Northern Peninsula than St. Anthony, just to get a more rounded view, a fuller view, what the aspirations and the hopes and dreams of our fellow citizens are, and what they would like to see expressed during the Budget process.

The meetings were very helpful, and we used a bit of a new format this time. Usually, people would come in and they would read - at least last year - their speeches, or they would read their petitions. This time, we tried a different format. We asked presenters to give us their priorities for their organizations, for their groups, for their regions of the Province, and then I wanted to engage in a discussion, to have a two-way discussion to discuss the issues facing the Province and give me an opportunity to ask them to give me their advice as to what they felt should be in the Budget - and not just related to their main priority, but to look at the big picture, to look at what I had to do as Finance Minister, and help me out in my dealings.

When you talk to people about what a Finance Minister has to do, and while last year we got up and I think I was on my feet for an hour and a half outlining what was referred to as the most generous Budget in the history of the Province, I took the approach that what a Finance Minister generally does in a Budget deals with three main areas. He or she deals with three main areas: the revenue, which is the money that comes in; the spending; and then the effect of those two, which is dealing with the debt.

In terms of revenue, we talked about the taxes. We talked about the fees. We talked about last year's Budget, where we gave the biggest tax decrease in the history of the Province, where tax benefits were given under the lower income tax benefit, which provided tax benefits to 5,200 low-income Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and, in fact, removed 4,000 Newfoundlanders and Labradorians from the provincial tax rolls entirely.

We talked about the low-income seniors' tax benefit. There were a lot of seniors' couples in this Province - over 7,000 to be exact - whose incomes were too high to be eligible to receive this seniors' tax benefit. By raising the threshold, that provided over 7,000 seniors, 3,800 couples, with a cheque for $763 back in October.

We talked about reducing fees. What fees should be raised? What fees should be lowered? What taxes should be raised? What taxes should be lowered? We recognize that when you lower taxes that puts money in people's pockets. That helps take the oil well and transfer it through the government to the people who need it, and that is one of the things that government does: we take from the wealthy and we transfer it to people who need it.

We talked about eliminating and reducing 170 fees that we did in the Budget last year, including ferry fees. We then talked about: if you lower taxes, while that put money in people's pockets, while that gave people a chance to get ahead, while that made our economy more competitive, while that helped us attract and retain skilled workers, we also knew that we needed revenue in order to spend it, to do the spending side, to do the things that people want to see their government doing.

We talked about spending on programs. We talked about spending in the last Budget. The home heating rebate - when we came into office, when our government first came into office, the home heating rebate was going to 11,000 people and it was $100. Each year we made enhancements in that. Each year, as revenues permitted, we kept increasing that rebate.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. T. MARSHALL: This year, Mr. Chairman, that rebate, instead of going to 11,000 people, there are now 75,000 people eligible for the rebate. Instead of getting $100, people are now going to receive $300, and in Labrador, in Coastal Labrador, they are going to get $400, because in Coastal Labrador they have to use stove oil, which is more expensive, and because their consumption rates are higher. We recognize that, thanks to the good advice given us by the hon. Member for Torngat Mountains, and we were able to do that.

Also, I talked about the taxes; we are still talking about spending. We gave, for children who needed insulin pumps, free insulin pumps; a wonderful initiative for government. Of all of them, the elimination of fees for schools books, the elimination of school fees. Of all of the things we did, I think the most wonderful thing we did was increase the Provincial Drug Program. The enhancements made to the Provincial Drug Program now allow 96,000 people to be eligible for that drug program, and that is wonderful, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. T. MARSHALL: In addition to that, the Minister of Finance made further enhancements to the drug program that benefited 14,400 people by ensuring that low income citizens in this Province do not have to pay more than 5 per cent of their family income on drugs, and the government pays the other 95 per cent. Could we go farther? Hopefully, as our revenues improve, we can, but it is still a wonderful program that is going to help 14,000 people.

Mr. Speaker, in addition to that, there was $477 million worth of new funding this year over the previous year. In addition to that, over and above that, there was $345 million that we estimate is going to be spent on infrastructure; that is new hospitals, that is new long-term care facilities, that is new schools, that is roads and that is broadband.

CHAIR: Order, please!

I remind the hon. member that his time for speaking is up.

MR. T. MARSHALL: Mr. Chairman, I did not realize the time was passing so quickly, and I will conclude my remarks at this time.

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. T. MARSHALL: Thank you for that leave.

We did speak about the spending and I asked the people where they wanted us to see further spending in terms of infrastructure, spending on program expenses, but we also talked about - unfortunately, we also have to spend some money on the interest on our debt, and that was mandatory spending.

I pointed out that the Auditor General - this is where I first saw it. The Auditor General pointed out in a report of March 31, 2006, he talked about the fact that we were spending - well, this year we are spending about $733 million of the taxpayers' money on interest on the debt. Now, he talked about the amount of debt we have and the fact that our per capita debt was twice the national average. He talked about a number of formulas, he talked about debt to GDP, what our interest is compared to our total revenues, but the thing that struck home with me and the thing I wanted to make sure the people of this Province were aware of was the fact of what the Auditor General called the interest bite, monies of the taxpayers of this Province that had to be spent on interest on our debt rather than going into health care, rather than going into education and rather than going into public services.

Now, what I asked the people to do, I said: Look at this number. Look at how much we are spending on this, and the question is: What should we do about it? I asked them to advise me what they felt we should do about it. Now there were different views expressed. Some people said they did not care about the debt, and I disagree with that. Others said to me that we have to spend every dollar we have and pay that down on the debt, and I equally reject that argument. I believe, and I have said this from the day I became Finance Minister in the first interview I gave, I believe in taking a balanced approach. A balanced approach means doing something on the revenue side, doing something on the expenditure side and doing something on the debt side so that our debt is down for the days when the oil and gas revenues stop coming in.

Do I believe in putting every cent of the surplus on the debt? No, I do not. Have other people in the media mischaracterized my intentions as wanting to do that? Yes, they have. But I am here today to say that we gave the biggest tax decrease in the history of Newfoundland and Labrador in a Budget, the Budget that was brought in in April. We spent so much money for the citizens of this Province that the Budget was characterized as the most generous Budget in the history of Newfoundland and Labrador, but what we had not done, and if we are going to take a balanced approach, it is something we have to do, we have to recognize that we do have to pay down some of that debt. The Auditor General said that until we do that, until we bring in a debt reduction plan - now these are not my words, these are the words of the Auditor General. He said until we do that, until we bring in a plan to eliminate the deficit over time, that we have not turned the financial corner.

I have looked at the Budgets of the NDP Government in Manitoba. I have met with the NDP Finance Minister from Manitoba, Mr. Greg Selinger, and I have discussed this with him. I looked at his Budget of 2005, and the biggest priority of the NDP Government in Manitoba was debt repayment. They talked about four pillars, they talked about a balanced approach, but debt reduction was part of their strategy as well.

So, again, I do not suggest in any way that the surplus all go to pay down the debt. The surplus will be used - and I said this in the Budget Speech last year, that we will use the surplus to build infrastructure. We will use the surplus for hospitals and long-term care facilities and roads and broadband and the infrastructure that you need for economic development, and we will also pay down some debt. We will do what is responsible, we will do what is reasonable and we will do what is sustainable. Our spending must be sustainable so that our economy is diversified and our economy is growing so that we are ready with a diversified economy from the day when the oil and gas revenues are no longer there, and, mark my words, they will not be there sooner rather than later.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I wanted to rise and have a few words with regard to the bill that the hon. Minister has just presented to the House, Bill 2.

Mr. Chairman, before I do that I would like to welcome the new members to the House of Assembly, the newly elected members and say that they are very privileged, all of us are, to sit in this place and represent the people of this Province. I certainly look forward to, over the next session of the House and in their four years here, listening to them espouse the views of their constituents and to participate in the debate on issues that are important to the people that they represent.

Mr. Chairman, I am especially pleased and want to take the opportunity to acknowledge and congratulate the Member for Torngat Mountains, the first woman to hold the Aboriginal portfolio in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and to say that many people throughout Labrador are very proud to see her appointed to that position and I am sure she will do a remarkable job.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JONES: Mr. Chairman, the minister today is looking for almost $1.9 billion, and I can only look at those numbers and say that usually it is one third of the total budget. So we are expecting a big budget this year, Mr. Minister. One that could possibly see us exceed $6 billion into the coffers of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and if that is the case, it will no doubt be the biggest public treasury that we have ever seen in this Province.

I say to the minister, his challenge is going to be to top his budget from last year, I guess, in terms of his commitments to expenditure because as the revenues of the Province grow, so do the demands on the funding that is there to be shared by the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. I do not think it is any secret that in our history, not just this government but previous governments, governments that I was a part of and others before me, Mr. Chairman, often found themselves in challenging fiscal times; times where they were not able to rise to the occasion and meet what some of the needs were of people out there in communities across our Province. Over time, often they have been patient and other times they have been not so patient, and as a result of it we have had public sector strikes and we have had protests and we have had rallies and we have had numbers of things in which people advocated and used their voice to advocate for the needs of themselves and others.

Mr. Chairman, all of a sudden we are in a position, because of extremely high prices of oil and gas, because of the fundamental developments we have had in the mining industry and the revenues that have been accruing to government from the mining industry, that we are able today to say that we are in a better fiscal position and a better position to start responding to some of the needs of people in our Province.

Mr. Chairman, I remember when we were in government back in 2003. We had just signed on and seen development in the White Rose oil project. Hibernia was already operating. Terra Nova, I think, was on the go at that time and oil was coming in at $28 a barrel, I remember at one point. Today, I look at it and it is almost $108 a barrel. Certainly, the worldwide demand for that product has driven the price and allowed us in Newfoundland and Labrador to not only enjoy the revenues from it but to be able to provide for a higher standard of living and a better standard of living for the people that we represent.

Mr. Chairman, all of those things have contributed. We have seen extensive developments in the mining industry that have contributed to the revenues as well. In fact, today I would have loved to have been at the announcement for IOC, the expansion in Labrador West. It is certainly a company that I have supported for a long time. They did great work in Labrador West and today are announcing a major expansion that will not just benefit the people in that community but will benefit people all over Labrador and all over Newfoundland, people who today are moving in a transient workforce in Alberta will now have the opportunity to seek employment in places like Labrador West and be able to work in our own Province.

We have seen deals like the Voisey's Bay deal. Irregardless of the opinions that were, I suppose, recorded of members in the past, the Voisey's Bay nickel deal will go down in history as one of the most adequate deals in terms of providing for the people of the Province in terms of revenues and mineral benefits. There is absolutely no doubt about that. Not only do they have agreements that allow millions of dollars a year to accrue to the Aboriginal groups in Labrador, but they are also major contributors to the revenues of the Province. And, if the Minister of Finance wanted to do some calculations, I bet you will find that the Voisey's Bay project alone - when you look at corporate tax, mining and mineral tax, income tax and royalties that are being paid out - is contributing probably between $700 million and $800 million a year to the provincial coffers. He is shaking his head. So perhaps he is going to give me the real number in a minute, but I would imagine it is pretty fundamental contributions that are being made from that project into the coffers of the Province.

As well, we have seen an increase in the exploration work in the mining industry, new mines coming on stream, those like the one at Duck Pond, which I had an opportunity to visit and see that particular mine in operation, and then other new mines. I think five new mines now that have been identified, just in the northern region of our Province, that could potentially come on stream, providing there are sufficient and adequate negotiations with their environmental groups in Labrador and with the Aboriginal peoples, that we might probably see some of those mining developments move forward over the next four to six years in the Province.

So, all of these things combined are making, no doubt, a significant contribution to the revenues of the Province. I think it is important to point that out that these are mostly developments that have occurred in our past history and it is only now that we are seeing the real remunerations from them and the real royalties from them accruing into the provincial coffers. Of course, people want to share in that wealth and a lot of these people are people who have been disadvantaged under social programs in the past, many of them live in communities that have struggled economically or have worked in industries that have seen almost a complete disintegration, in some cases, or at least tremendous downscaling. Industries like our renewable sectors, such as the fishery, the forestry, the agriculture sector. Now, of course, they are looking to government and they are looking and advocating for portions of money for programs and services that they feel they have waited long enough for.

I know that there will be challenges for the minister and those challenges are only surmounted by the numbers of requests for infrastructure because as we went through the lean years, before we could enjoy the royalties of White Rose and Hibernia and Terra Nova projects and Voisey's Bay mines, we had to go through lean years where we were waiting for those royalties to be paid out and those investments to seek a return. Mr. Chairman, as a result of that, we have had infrastructure deficits, and we all realize that. Unfortunately, they are all coming to the surface at the one time, and this will be a challenge for the minister as he deals with the infrastructure in our education sector, in our health care sector, deals with everything from our road infrastructure to our water and sewer in communities, and so on. So, there are obviously lots of demands.

I am pleased, when I heard the minister say today, that his words on paying down the debt was taken out of context or exaggerated a little. Minister, I agree that there has to be a responsibility of every government to look at debt and plan for debt and plan for the elimination of debt, but I also believe that it is a responsibility of government to provide for, in the best possible way, services and infrastructure and employment opportunities for people so that you continue to grow a strong Province and that you continue to have people who do not have to move away but can stay here and enjoy the lifestyle that we have become accustomed to. I think that, while we have to practice some debt control, we also have to be fiscally responsible and we have to achieve balances in how we invest and spend our money.

Mr. Chairman, I think that government realizes there are a number of issues out there that need their attention and need to be addressed, and many of them we will raise in the House of Assembly over the next few days as we debate this particular bill, but also as we provide for motions and statements in the House we will continue to raise those issues on behalf of people.

Mr. Chairman, I will start with the health care sector because it is one of the sectors that I think we have seen the most issues developing in, in the last little while. Certainly, almost every day that you turn on the news there is an issue around health care, whether it is to do with infrastructure, whether it is to do with equipment, or whether it is to do with wait lists or physicians or nurses or whatever the case may be, so I will start there.

First of all, I would like to say that I was very disappointed yesterday when I saw the headlines in the news that the nurses' union had broken off their negotiations with the government. Mr. Chairman, I hope this is only a temporary thing. I hope they will get back to the negotiating table with government again, and I hope that there will be some meaningful negotiations and respect shown; because, as you know, nurses are not only the front-line workers but they are the front lines of our entire health care sector. It does not matter if you walk into a clinic, if you walk into an operating room, if you walk into emergency, if you walk into a laboratory, if you walk into any aspect of a health care facility, it is the nurses who are the front-line workers in our hospitals, in our seniors' homes throughout the Province.

Mr. Chairman, they have been going through a difficult time. In 2004, when they were in negotiations with government, they took a freeze on their wages in the first two years, with only a small increase in the third year. They accepted the regressive negotiations of rolling back sick leave for nurses in the Province, but they did it buying into the argument that at the time there was a price tag on everything and we could only afford so much, and they were co-operative, but over that period of time we have seen significant challenges develop in the nursing profession, to the point where even permanent jobs in the profession can no longer be filled. We are being told by people in the nurses' union that there are up to 400 shortages of nurses throughout our Province today.

Mr. Chairman, this is the reason why we had incidents like we did last summer, where we had to close down any kind of surgeries - I think it was at the Grand Falls hospital - where there were interruptions in services in the Gander hospital. I might add that in the Gander hospital today there are twenty-five nurses they need immediately, and could use up to forty nurses just on staff in that one hospital today.

Mr. Chairman, we have seen interruptions in services in Labrador hospitals, at Western Memorial, where people had to work double time and overtime, where they had to stagger their vacation time with their families simply because there was such a shortage of nurses in the health care sector and they were not able to provide the levels of service that they were accustomed to providing.

Mr. Chairman, since that time we have seen even more nurses leave the system. We have more vacancies today than we did back in the summer, so that will tell you what the challenges have been in some of these hospitals.

I talked to a number of nurses who work in various capacities throughout our hospitals, but I talked to a group of nurses a while ago when I was at Gander hospital and one of the things they had indicated to me then is that almost every one of them was working overtime. Every one of them was coming in - even management was coming in and working nursing shifts during the nights and on weekends because they did not have enough nurses to be able to provide the level of service that they currently had been offering in that particular hospital.

So, Mr. Chairman, I am disappointed that the negotiations have broken off with the nurses, because I think if there is one group of public servants out there that government really needs to seriously look at in terms of what kinds of benefits and wages are being paid it is this group.

Nurses in Newfoundland and Labrador today are the lowest paid of all nurses throughout our country, and that is not good enough. There is no way that we are going to be able to attract even our own nurses coming out of the school system, out of our own nursing schools, to stay and work in the Province, knowing that they have to incur, first of all, a major debt, but secondly to pay it off with the lowest wage being paid anywhere in the country.

This is obviously a current issue, a very significant issue, and one that is contributing to a growing problem, and that is the shortage of nurses in our health care facilities right across the Province.

CHAIR: Order please!

MS JONES: Mr. Chairman, I will conclude my comments on that statement. I am sure we will have other opportunities to debate Interim Supply.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Lewisporte.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. VERGE: Thank you.

Mr. Chairman, it is indeed a pleasure to stand in this House today and proudly introduce myself to the House of Assembly as the government member representing the residents of Lewisporte district. The past few months have been a great time of learning for me.

Mr. Chairman, I have been fortunate in my professional and in my personal life. I have held several positions in the education field, including fourteen years as a school principal in three different schools. The experience I have gathered through my interactions with parents and children, while different from those of being an MHA, I believe have helped prepare me to be a strong advocate for people. As well, rubbing shoulders with children on a daily basis has helped me to keep my feet on the ground and my head out of the clouds.

It has always been my dream to enter politics, but I did not really think it would happen until after I had retired from education; however, something surprising - at least surprising to me - happened in the spring of 2007. The hon. Member for Lewisporte district at the time, the current Member for Baie Verte-Springdale, the hon. the Minister of Fisheries, Government House Leader and Deputy Premier, announced that he would be moving from Lewisporte district and seeking the nomination in the District of Baie Verte-Springdale in the October 9 election. Well, that announcement left me, and some of us, wondering who would represent the Progressive Conservative Party in the upcoming election.

Some friends and family encouraged me to consider the idea of seeking the nomination. At first, I dismissed the thought, thinking it would be later in life when I decided to enter politics; however, after careful consideration and consultation with my family and with friends, I gave it more serious thought, and I began to think: this may be the right time for me to throw my hat in the ring. I did and, as they say, the rest is history.

Mr. Chairman, I want to thank the voters of Lewisporte district for giving me their overwhelming support. As a first-time candidate seeking election, I am stepping into this position with greater than 70 per cent of the popular vote in my district.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. VERGE: The confidence placed in me by the voters of Lewisporte district is both humbling and motivating. I want to say thanks to all of the voters in Port Albert, Stoneville, Horwood, Victoria Cove, Rogers Cove, Boyd's Cove, Birchy Bay, Baytona, Loon Bay, Comfort Cove-Newstead, Campbellton, Michael's Harbour, Little Burnt Bay, Embree, Stanhope, Brown's Arm, Porterville, Lawrenceton, Norris Arm North, Norris Arm South and Lewisporte.

I would also like to thank the members of my campaign team for their unfailing support. Their many hours of work expended on my behalf can never be repaid.

Most of all, Mr. Chairman, I wish to thank my family for their untiring words of encouragement and for their understanding during all my foul moods during the campaign days.

Mr. Chairman, Lewisporte district is a great example of Newfoundland and Labrador culture at its best. Built along the bay, we are a proud, strong and determined group. It is a great place to live and indeed, I believe, a great place to serve.

Over the past four years, the Williams' government has invested in the future growth and economic stability of Lewisporte district through initiatives including, but not limited to, the following: In the area of roads, in the past four years, this government has invested millions of dollars in the upkeep, resurfacing and repair of connecting highways throughout my district.

Again this year, in conversation with the Minister of Transportation and her officials, I have received assurance that needed repairs and upgrades have been budgeted for this construction season. A formal announcement by the Minister of Transportation detailing the specifics will take place soon.

In health care, for many years the residents of Lewisporte district have had their health concerns met through services delivered in several different buildings, in several different areas of the Town of Lewisporte. You have doctors' clinics in one section, lab facilities at another end, and emergency services in another area. There has been a desire by residents and health care providers to have all these services brought under one roof.

Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to say this will soon be the case. It will be the case because this government has committed to the construction of a one-roof health care facility in the Town of Lewisporte that will serve the health needs of all residents in my district.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. VERGE: Plans, Mr. Chairman, are underway and this project will soon become a reality.

On behalf of my constituents, I wish to thank this government for their continued support of health care in the Lewisporte district and indeed in the entire Province.

In the area of recreation, tenders have recently been called for a major renovation to our regional recreational complex, the Stadium, which is located in the Town of Lewisporte. This Stadium is the only arena in my district, and it has served residents in all twenty-one communities throughout the district for many years. A significant financial investment has been made by this government, which will enable our youth and our adult population to practice and to play in a fully modern recreational facility.

In the area of government services, Mr. Chairman, on Thursday, January 17, 2008, the Minister of Transportation visited my district and officially opened the provincial headquarters for marine services. The location of this department in a rural district speaks of another significant investment that the Williams' government has made in rural Newfoundland.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. VERGE: Decentralization of government decision-making bodies out in the field is another example of the faith and the confidence this government has placed in the future growth and the long-term economic stability of rural Newfoundland. These government positions have added to our economic growth and to the sustainability of our region.

Mr. Chairman, I could continue but time wouldn't permit me to say all that has been done to assist with the needs of the people in my district.

As well, Mr. Chairman, I would be remiss if I didn't take this opportunity to pass along my gratitude to our previous member. He is the current Member for Baie Verte-Springdale, the hon. Government House Leader, Deputy Premier and Minister of Fisheries. I think I will even call him Minister Rideout.

Minister Rideout represented our district for eight years. During my campaign days I listened to many expressions of gratitude and respect as constituents throughout my district expressed to me their disappointment that he was leaving. The sentiment expressed by my constituents I think can be summed up this way: It is no doubt that they have on mass great respect for their previous member, great admiration of his character and indeed they were disappointed when he announced that he was going to be leaving the district.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, I think at one point during the campaign it was only myself and my wife who were happy he was going. Of course, my disappointment was only assuaged by the fact that I was hoping to replace him.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank Premier Williams for accepting me as a member of this team. I am very pleased to be a member of the Williams Government and I intend to work with him, his Cabinet and this caucus to advance the issues brought to my attention by the people in my district and throughout the Province.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, I wish to quote something from Hansard that I came across in doing a little research. It was written on the opening day of the Forty-Fifth Assembly, on March 18, 2004, approximately four years ago.

Our Premier, Mr. Williams, said the following, "Mr. Speaker, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are not looking to their government for miracles. They are looking for strong leadership that listens, get all the right information, makes strong decisions and moves ahead progressively towards concrete goals. They are looking for a government that will work on their Province's behalf, creatively, constructively and compassionately."

Mr. Speaker, I believe our government under the leadership of the hon. Premier Williams has listened to the people. They have done the research and they have provided leadership, leadership that has brought this Province from a position of deficit to an era of surplus, from an air of gloom to an atmosphere of optimism and from an age of burden to a future of promise.

I am pleased to be elected by the people of Lewisporte District to be a part of this government and I look forward to faithfully and honestly fulfilling this role.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: Order please!

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

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

First of all, I would like to congratulate the hon. Member for Lewisporte on his maiden speech. It is not easy standing in this room for the first time and doing that. We have all done it. So, congratulations to you.

I would also note the two hon. members who gave their virgin speeches yesterday. Again, I did get to speak to one of them who admitted to having been nervous. I said you certainly did not look it, and it is nothing to be nervous about. It is just another room and that is how we have to look at it because we are in here, we are privileged people with a heavy responsibility when we are in this room. If there is anything special about the room that is what is special. It is not because it makes us special people but we carry a burden and we carry a responsibility to represent the people who have chosen to ask us to be in this room. I think we are all aware of that but it is always good too, to remind ourselves of it.

When I stand in this room, I stand knowing that I have a constituency and a group of people who have asked me to be here through our democratic process, and I am aware of the fact that they are the ones that I really am accountable to. They are the ones who are watching and wanting to know that what I am representing is what they want me to represent.

I am glad, in this first new session that we are all into now, to have this bill, to be able to speak because it will give me an opportunity to speak to some issues that I am concerned about and have been concerned about. I am glad to be able to have the opportunity of raising them here in this room with my colleagues, and also raise them publicly so that anybody in the Province who wants to watch us knows what we are raising.

I come from an interesting district, because Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi - I guess a lot of districts do, but I think this one does have some real extremes in it and those extremes keep me in touch with a reality that is very important. In my district I have everything from people - and there have been some large numbers living in Newfoundland and Labrador Housing, having subsidized housing, people needing a lot of assistance because of being low income. I go all that range, right through to millionaires. In some parts of the district the millionaires and those on low-income are living pretty close to each other geographically. So, when I stand here I think about both of those groups. What I find interesting is that when I speak to the people in my district who are better off than other people in the district, one of the things they say to me is that they want me, when I stand in the House and when I am speaking out publicly, to address injustices that they themselves who are better off, who have been fortunate enough to get into a situation where they do not have any financial worries, they are aware of people, their own neighbours not too far down the road who do have problems. So, they have an expectation that when I stand in the House I am going to speak to the needs of those people.

When we come here and we look at something as heady as budgets almost up to $6 billion in humble Newfoundland - I can remember when we had our first $1 billion budget here, and I am sure we all can. Now we are up to $6 billion, almost. I suspect with the budget that is coming up we are probably going to see it over that because last year, the present 2007-2008 Budget was about $5.5 billion. So I suspect we are going to be over $6 billion when we get into 2008-2009.

As I said yesterday in my response to the Speech from the Throne, it is pretty heady, when you think about it, that we have so much money to work with and to be able to take care of our needs in this Province. That is why I cannot stop speaking about the people who are in need, because we have to see them as the touchstone for how well we are doing. It bothers me that we can have, at the drop of a hat, $15 million go to investigate what has happened to the caribou on the Island and we can, over a weekend, in a couple of days, have all kinds of inspectors go out and almost miraculously overnight have bridges and trestles inspected so that people can use the trails in this Province. That is fine, but I find it really difficult when that speedy response to an issue is not the same when all of a sudden we have child care facilities in St. John's putting the prices up, low-income women calling and saying: I can't afford to pay the new rate. Yet, we cannot come up with emergency money to meet that need. I find that very, very curious, why all of a sudden we can take care of counting caribou but we cannot take care of a single mother who cannot meet the new rate at the child care centre where her children are going.

It is the very same thing when I get phone calls, and you get them, and some of them have been public in the news, from people who are saying: I am absolutely desperate. A woman who called and said: My husband has to go to the hospital regularly for treatments. He is disabled. He is getting so bad now that we have to carry him down to the car in order to get him to the hospital, but I cannot afford the amount of home care that I am being told I am going to have to spend. There is something wrong when we cannot come up with money in an emergency situation like that.

What I would like to point out is that these are not individual cases. It is not: Oh, we have this one couple here or this one mother here. We have a systemic problem, and that is the issue that has to be faced. I know with regard to home care that the Speech from the Throne is saying there is going to be a long-term strategy put in place, and I certainly hope that long-term strategy is going to deal with the systemic issue. I know the Speech from the Throne said that there is going to be a review of the financial assistance evaluation, how that happens, and I hope that in the future that is going to be changed systemically. We have to deal now with the fact that we have systemic problems that are causing people to continue living in very difficult situations. So, part of dealing with the systemic problem is having a short-term plan, not just a long-term plan. I do not want to be dramatic, but if somebody is dying and the dying can be taken care of by a short-term plan, you do not look at long-term preventive care. You deal with the emergency stuff first and then you do long term. Well, it is the same thing. If we have a system that is not working for people, and we know it has to be helped but the system is not working seriously for some people, then we have to deal with it. I get very frustrated, I have to say to my colleagues, when I see our government lightly dealing with the emergency situations that exist.

It takes a lot out of a person, an individual or a couple or a family, to have to come and explain their situations, to have a man who has cancer to have to come and say: I now have a line of credit that is almost $19,000 because I cannot afford to pay for the things I have had to pay for, so the only way to take care of my health was to let my line of credit go up.

Not only does he not have the money to pay for what he needs, but now he also has a debt that is building up. This is not acceptable, not in a Province that is part of Canada, not in a country where we say that we have a universally accessible health care program.

That is the point I think I would like to speak to, the fact that we seem to have a narrow definition in Newfoundland and Labrador of what our health care program is, because home care is a health care program. In other provinces, home care is part of the health care program; because it is health care, except it is health care that is taking place in the home with assistance. We seem to have a totally different notion about home care here in this Province. We seem to think oh, it is just a private thing that is going on. Well, it isn't. If this government is serious about wanting to assure that seniors can go on living in their homes, even when they require care, then we have to do something very, very systemically different than what we are doing.

It is the same way with our emergency services in this Province as well. In some cases we have public services that are absolutely excellent, that have paramedical people in the ambulances, in the emergency vehicles, emergency response vehicles, people who can really take care of those who need help at that moment. Yet, in other places we have publicly run systems that do not have paramedics, that, if you happen to have, for example, a heart attack, you could die while you are in that emergency response vehicle while being brought to hospital. Emergency response vehicles are part of health care. They are an essential part.

CHAIR: Order please!

MS MICHAEL: I will clue up, Mr. Chairperson, just to say that I will have more time to raise issues that I am concerned about. I am just encouraging the government to realize that we have to broaden our notion of what it is that we are talking about when we are talking about health care in this Province.

Thank you.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Placentia & St. Mary's.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. COLLINS: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Chair, I am pleased today to be able to rise and say a few words with respect to Bill 2, the Interim Supply bill, looking for funding of approximately $1.9 billion.

Like the hon. Leader of the Opposition, I, too, look forward with anticipation now to one of the best Budgets that we could possibly anticipate in this House.

Before I do, Mr. Chair, I want to, as well, reiterate the comments of previous speakers and congratulate all the newly elected members to this House - all members, but especially the newly elected members.

It is indeed an honour and a privilege to be elected to serve your constituency and to serve in this House. There is no greater position that you could be put in than to be given the trust and confidence of your voters to represent them in the House of Assembly, in this Legislature. It is a position of trust, a position of confidence, and something we should be very proud of and hold very high.

Hand in hand with that, Mr. Chair, is the satisfaction that one gets out of being able to help people in his or her district. Make no mistake about it, as an MHA we are empowered with a special ability, a special opportunity to help people. That is the nature of the business. There is no greater reward, no greater satisfaction, than to be called by a constituent and thanked for something that you did for them. It might only have taken a telephone call, a letter, a visit to a particular official in government, but most of the time you can do something to help most of the people in your district. That is the greatest feeling about being an MHA, the fact that you are empowered to help people.

It is the people you represent. Always remember, it is the people who put us here and it is the people who can take us out of here. It is a great feeling to be able to help people. It is a great opportunity, a great honour and privilege, to be able to help people in your constituency, to help your communities, and that is what makes this position so worthwhile and so valuable.

Also, of course, in hand with that is the ability to stand in this House and take part in the debate in this House and in making the laws and legislation that govern this Province. That is a great opportunity, a great privilege, a great honour.

To all the new members, regardless of the image that is portrayed of us sometimes - and I will speak about that in a minute - regardless of that, this is a very proud and honourable profession – a proud and honourable profession - and my best wishes to all the newly elected members.

Also, my best wishes to the hon. Leader of the Opposition, in her new appointment, and I wish her well in the next four years.

Speaking of image, Mr. Chair, you know, it is safe to say that, in terms of our public image, politicians are not at the top of the heap. As a matter of fact - and I suppose our friends in the media have to take some (inaudible) for that - it is safe to say that we are somewhere around the bottom of the heap in terms of public esteem. We rank somewhere with lawyers.

MR. RIDEOUT: Some people in the House would know all about that.

MR. COLLINS: We rank somewhere with lawyers, and some of us in this House have double whammies; we are doubly blessed.

I see, right in front of me, the hon. Government House Leader, and right across from him the Opposition House Leader. The hon. Minister of Justice, of course, is on our left, as is the Minister of Finance. I don't know if there is either other one around.

AN. HON. MEMBER: What about yourself?

MR. COLLINS: Including myself.

As a matter of fact, when I was elected, Mr. Chairman, as a lawyer, an elected politician, I couldn't tell whether I had gone up or down the ladder in terms of public esteem. Anyhow, be that as it may, this is a very proud and honourable profession. Regardless of what they say about us, it is a worthwhile and honourable profession and I congratulate all the newly elected members.

I would like to personally thank my supporters in the great District of Placentia & St. Mary's for giving me their confidence again this year. I thought, you know, for a little while there, I was going to get acclaimed. I came very close. Twenty-four hours from the close of nomination day, I thought I might be acclaimed. I was hoping that would not happen, but thanks to the NDP they saved the day for me and picked a name out of the telephone book at the last minute to run against me and cause an election. I almost made it, but the NDP saved my bacon.

Mr. Chair, we have a huge mandate in this government, but with it comes huge obligations, huge expectations. As the Minister of Finance said in his comments earlier, it is odd to look across at the other side and see the different configuration over there. You know, with the limited numbers in the Opposition - and we throw barbs back and forth at them, but all in fun. At the end of the day we are like the wrestlers, you know, we go to the same bars. If we are tempted on occasion, and I am sure we will be, to include some of the faces to the right of the Opposition for some of our barbs – and there are a few people over there I would like to have a crack at before the session ends, some of the veterans. I would not want the Opposition though to develop any false confidence that they have support over there because I do not think that is going to be the case.

With respect to my own district, Mr. Chair, I want to thank my campaign people and my voters for sending me back to the House for the next four years. Also, in my district this year in this election, I had the very pleasant experience of making some new friends in new areas. My district included Whitbourne this year, Long Harbour, Brigus Junction, and I had the opportunity to meet some great people in these areas as I campaigned. I made some great relationships there. I look forward to looking with them over the next four years. That is the good thing about politics, there are no dull moments and there are also some new areas to explore. Having these new areas in my district presents new challenges to me but some that I looked forward to over the next four years.

Mr. Chair, we have some latitude today in this debate and I want to refer to an article in the March edition of the Atlantic Business Magazine. It is called: Land Ho - When it comes to oil and gas, industrial activity, Placentia Bay's ship has definitely come in. Being involved in community life in Placentia for a long time, we have waited for many, many years for our ship to come in. It has always been offshore but never came in. It still has not come in, but we think she is getting closer every day.

There are several things in this article that are worthwhile reading, those of you who want to learn all about Placentia Bay. In Placentia Bay at the moment, if I could quote, it says: As a result of what is happening in Placentia Bay – how about this! – the future of Placentia Bay looks so bright they ought to hand out sunglasses when people get off the ferry at Argentia, at the mainland at the terminal of Argentia. Several projects are in various stages of completion and expect to provide employment for hundreds of people over the next few years. I want to refer to these, Mr. Speaker, because it reflects the positive attitude that has been generated in Placentia Bay. We have had some lean years, we probably might have another year or two, but the future is very bright, never brighter, for my district and for all of Placentia Bay.

We already, of course, have the refinery in the bottom of the bay. North Atlantic Refining currently operates a 115,000 barrel a day refinery. We have the transshipment site at Whiffen Head and now we have three projects in the making. We have the Newfoundland and Labrador Refining Corporation, second refinery at the bottom of Placentia Bay. The plan is to start with 300,000 barrels of oil a day, with the possibility of expanding to 600,000. It will employ 3,000 people during operation, 750 when the plant is operational. They are waiting for some federal go ahead and are still seeking investors but hope to break ground before this year is over, or certainly by next year. That is encouraging.

Another huge project for Placentia Bay is the Liquefied Natural Gas storage facility being developed by Newfoundland LNG Ltd. A terminal value of $1.5 billion will provide facilities for LNG cargo transfer. Construction is expected to take three years and provide 300 jobs followed by 125 permanent jobs when it is completed. The company hopes to break ground again before the year is over and be in production by 2010.

Then, of course, we have the Vale Inco plant in Long Harbour that again is supposed to start construction late this year or early 2009. It will produce about 50,000 tonnes of nickel, 3,700 tonnes of copper and 2,400 tonnes of cobalt and employ 450 people when it is in production in 2011.

So, is the ship in? No, but she is not far offshore.

That is not to say, Mr. Chair, that does not come with some caution, because what will happen, instead of the 1,570 fishing vessels that plow the waters of Placentia Bay today, over half of them being oil tankers, that will rise to over 3,300 by 2012.

CHAIR: Order please!

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

MR. COLLINS: I will clue up, Mr. Chair.

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave!

CHAIR: By leave.

MR. COLLINS: Caution will be exercised in Placentia but we have to meet the needs of all of the stakeholders, especially the fishermen. That has to be worked out and we call upon our federal counterparts to do what has to be done to put the mechanism in place to ensure the safety of Placentia Bay because there are a lot of people who say Placentia Bay is a major accident waiting to happen. A lot of work needs to be done, Mr. Chairman, to put all of the safeguards in place.

We have had some lean years and we probably will have a couple of more. We may have to suck it up for another year or two, but, Mr. Chairman, I agree with the headlines that our ship is getting close. If I could quote, if I could steal a quote from a former Premier of this Province, but I will only steal half of the quote not the whole quote: In Placentia Bay one day the sun will shine. We will leave it at that.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. Opposition House Leader.

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I appreciate an opportunity to have a few words on this Interim Supply bill.

First of all, I would like to say thanks again to the Member for Placentia & St. Mary's; he is always a pleasure to listen to. He has a great sense of humour, as did the former member, Mr. Manning who was the member for that area. He certainly had a great sense of humour and quite often this House heard raucous laughter from time to time given some of the comments that he used to come out with. I would agree with some of the comments that the member made, that some spots in our Province certainly do have a reason for optimism. Of the three initiatives that he cited, for example, two of them, yes, are off in the future. Hopefully they will come to be, the LNG terminal and the second refinery. It is nice to see that certain parts of the Province do have a base. For example, he already has the North Atlantic refinery which is something to be thankful for, which some areas of our Province do not have. He is very fortunate to have a good base within his district for some employment opportunities.

He did not allude to it very much but the spin off from that great Voisey's Bay project, which was done by the former Administration back in 2002, no doubt is leading to the activities in Long Harbour which I think he says is going to bring about 400 jobs to that particular area. So not only will he have the refinery but he is very fortunate to have at least one other one in the works, regardless of what happens to the LNG and the second refinery which I certainly hope, as well, come to be and come to pass to be great employment initiatives as well for his area.

First of all, I would like to express my thanks as well to the voters. We have not had an opportunity since the election in this House to thank each of our respective voters in our districts for their kind support during the recent election back in, not so recent election I guess, back in October of last fall. Congratulations to all the successful participants. Congratulations to all those who took part in the process. It is not an easy thing to get involved in, in public life. Some people love it, some try it several times and are not successful and some, such as the Government House Leader, have always been successful whenever they ran. I think it is probably seven or eight or nine different elections that he has been involved in. In my particular case I have been here since 1999. I went through my third one recently; good numbers again. We have small numbers now, there are three of us. I do not know if I am one of the three wise persons or if I am one of the three blind mice but I guess we will see over the next three or four years how that pans out. In any case I would certainly like to thank the people.

This time around it was different in Burgeo & LaPoile as well. I had a fairly big expansion to that district in terms of numbers, and geography in particular, with Ramea and Grey River coming onside.

Some of the urban members might not appreciate it when it comes to difficulties, when it comes to the size and the geography of your district. Some people, for example, in the city region - I remember the former minister one time, Mr. Matthews, who represented St. John's North at the time, telling me what a tough day he had in terms of constituent matters and so on. Actually, he could walk from one end of his district to the other, with a cup of coffee, and see everybody in the course of about an hour, if he had to. Whereas, in my particular case, if I am to go from Port aux Basques, which is on one end, for example, to Grey River, I cannot do it in any less than two days. It takes me two days. I have to travel five hours by roadway to get to Burgeo and I have to take a boat for five hours to get to Grey River. Of course, once you are in you cannot get out until you meet the provincial ferry schedule again. So it is a minimum of two days that it takes to get there. But, in any case, I am very pleased. I am not unused to dealing with rural areas. I have had isolated coastal areas before, Grand Bruit, for example, Petite, which closed down in 2002, and of course LaPoile, which is still within the district. I am quite familiar and used to dealing with coastal areas but there is quite a substantial difference between dealing with a rural district as opposed to dealing with an urban area.

I would like to welcome the people of Ramea and Grey River to the district officially. I am more than pleased to represent them as well, of course, as everyone else in the district that I have represented since 1999. I would like to thank not only the residents and the voters - by the way, I would like to thank everyone in the district, not just those who voted for this member as their MHA. I have and continue, and will always continue to represent everybody. It doesn't matter to me what your political stripe is. It doesn't matter to me what your choice was when you cast your ballot but once the ballot is over and once the thing is done, I have an obligation to represent everybody. I have always done that and I will continue to do that as long as I get to represent that particular district.

I would like to thank the association, all the volunteers who were involved, of course, and their countless hours. I would like to thank the Progressive Conservative candidate who ran against me, Colin Short. Colin Short has been a friend of mine for all of my lifetime and all of his lifetime, a gentleman, always was and, no doubt, will continue to be. It was a clean campaign from day one, as he knew and I knew it would be. It is not in our natures to be vindictive towards each other. You do whatever you have to do in terms of the politics of the game, but there were never any personal accusations or suggestions whatsoever. In fact, we met several times throughout the campaign and talked and chatted amicably and we continue to do so to this day. So it was very refreshing to see that you could have that type of opponent against you and go through a campaign in that regard.

So, we are here, and now, of course, that I am back here we must turn our attention to what needs to be done. First of all, again, I have re-established an office in the district and for any of those MHAs who have not done it - and I understand there are more considering doing it now than have done it in the past. I believe I was one of the few who actually put a consistency office in my district from day one. In fact, that was a commitment I made in 1999 when I got elected, is that I would establish a constituency office and have my assistant work in that office. I did not want anyone to be working out of Confederation Building in St. John's, and for a very legitimate reason I thought and continue to think, and that is if I cannot be there everyday, the people of the district needs somebody who they can touch, see, communicate with and deal with on their issues. I am pleased to say that we have re-established the office again, immediately following the election. There has been no disruption of services to the people in that regard and people know where we can be accessed on an ongoing basis.

I look forward to continuing to dealing with all the issues you deal with. It was amazing how throughout the election some people, for the first time, got an appreciation of the types of things that MHAs deal with: E.I., CPP, pensions issues, Workers' Compensation, drug coverage issues, government program accessibility, employment initiatives, job creation projects, home care issues. The list never ends.

Again, Minister Matthews in the past did not know what it was like to have to deal with a road issue. He honestly never had, in St. John's North - those issues were dealt with by the city council and he did not have the same kind of pothole problems that we would have in a rural area.

Of course, there are numerous groups to deal with besides individuals. There are councils, local service districts, associations, fire departments. There are major issues of water, health care, roads, ferry operations. Over time you have to be a social worker, you have to be a bit of a lawyer, you have to be a bit of a psychologist, you have to be a confidant, you have to be an advisor and pretty well everything in order to do your job properly. That does not count, of course, the numerous functions and meetings that you have to go to, but you would not be in this job and you would not want this job if you did not want to do those things, and that comes with the territory. You do not get many Friday and Saturday nights to yourself to do private things, but that comes with the territory. As we will always say: If you don't want to do it, if you don't want to take the heat, get out of the kitchen. But that is what you sacrifice a lot of times when you take this job, and I have been more than pleased to do it.

Then, of course, there are the duties here in the House. That is just what you do in your district. Then it is what you have to do as an MHA on a provincial basis, particularly if you find yourself -in some cases of members who become Cabinet ministers, it becomes a very onerous task. If you are in Opposition and you have limited numbers, it is equally as onerous in terms of your time. In my particular case as Opposition House Leader, there is preparatory stuff for the House; there is the Board of Management Commission, of which I sit on, which governs the affairs of the House of Assembly and members interests on the audit committee of the management board and so on. So, your work does not begin and end in your district. There is a whole array of things that you have to prepare for when it comes to the House of Assembly here and so on. I look forward to doing that.

Now, in the House part of those duties, that is when we have to take on a bigger role than just dealing with your district issues. We will have a role over the next four years and we do have an obligation as Opposition members to challenge the government, and that is what we will be doing over the next four years. I do not intend to do it in a nasty way, not intending to be that way and never have been and it certainly will never be personal, but from time to time this member will, over the next four years, I will ask the tough questions. It does not matter which minister that I have to call upon, but that is the nature of this game. Hopefully, I will have my research done. I will be prepared and I will ask questions. All I am expecting is an answer. I do not need any personal attacks. I will not give any personal attacks, but that is the role of an Opposition. It is not my role as an Opposition member to personally attack anyone here but it is my role and obligation to ask the questions. So please -

CHAIR (Collins): Order, please!

MR. PARSONS: - anybody over on the other side, do not be offended.

CHAIR: I would like to remind the hon. member that his speaking time has lapsed.

MR. PARSONS: By leave?

CHAIR: By leave.

MR. PARSONS: Just to conclude, Mr. Chairman, at this time.

Do not be offended because you get asked a question. Ministers are prepared. Sometimes if you are not prepared it is simply a matter of saying: I do not have the answer, I will go find it for you. That is an obvious and that is an acceptable answer in a lot of cases. You cannot be prepared for everything, but if there is an answer that you can give it should be given. We do not need any personal attacks and we do not need any hiding or secret agendas or whatever. I think if we conduct ourselves on that basis, we will fulfill what the true function and the role of the House is. A lot of times a problem develops not because there is actually a real problem, it develops because the lack of communication, where one party does not have the answers that they require. So that is what I see as the principal role, is not to make anybody embarrassed, not to make the government look embarrassed. The first principal role of this member, as an Opposition member, is to get answers when I do not know the answers to questions that I have, and that is not too much to ask for, so that is where I will be coming from as an Opposition member over the course of the next four years.

I don't intend to vary from that, regardless of what cajoling may go on from time to time. You sometimes get little slings back and forth, but that is how this member will conduct himself with regard to opposition.

I look forward to getting down to business now that we are back here, asking some tough questions, challenging the government and keeping them accountable. I guess the only thing we have to wait and see is: Will the government be forthcoming in their responses? Only time will tell that.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Topsail.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I would like to say a few words on Interim Supply, Mr. Chair, but before I do I would like to congratulate the Member for Lewisporte on his maiden speech. I am sure he will be given many more opportunities to speak in the House of Assembly over the coming months and coming years.

I would also like to congratulate all members who are now sitting in the House of Assembly, both members who are returning and, of course, new members. I would also like to take the opportunity to thank the voters of Topsail district for their overwhelming support in the recent election. I would also like to thank my volunteers for their hard work and support during the election campaign and, of course, during the last four years.

I would like to say to the new members who are in the House of Assembly - and this is really speaking from personal experience - when I was first elected, it was an absolutely wonderful feeling, a wonderful experience, but I never anticipated that it would be surpassed by getting re-elected. So, while it is a phenomenal experience to get elected, it is doubly wonderful to be re-elected. I always say that when you get elected it is almost on a promise, but when you get re-elected it means that the voters are really endorsing you.

I would also like to say, Mr. Chair, we are given some leeway with regard to what we can speak about when we speak on Interim Supply. I would like to speak a little bit about the district that I represent, Topsail district. Like the Opposition House Leader, my district also changed quite a bit during the last election. Prior to the last election, I represented part of the community of Conception Bay South and also part of the community of Paradise.

Of course, when you serve the people in your district, you do form a personal attachment to the residents in your district and work hard on their behalf. The boundaries changed, and I say they were trying to push me out of Conception Bay South. They didn't quite succeed. I still represent the eastern part of Conception Bay South, continue to represent a good portion of the Town of Paradise, but I now have the opportunity to represent the people of Mount Pearl, so I do take in almost all of Power's Pond.

While I was somewhat saddened to lose a part of the Town of Conception Bay South, I look forward to representing the people in Mount Pearl; and, of course, it has been a wonderful learning experience. The people of that city have – I probably shouldn't go so far as to say they have embraced me, but they have certainly made me feel welcome. Of course, I feel probably like all Members of the House of Assembly in that I feel that I have the best district in the Province.

Mr. Chairman, I would like to turn now and talk a little bit about Interim Supply. I have worked with government as a bureaucrat, really, from the late 1970s until the early 2000s. I have been in government for quite a while, so I am very familiar with Interim Supply and spent a good part of my career preparing government for putting in Interim Supply and getting Interim Supply passed in the House of Assembly. It is really an annual occurrence.

One of the things I would like to point out - maybe some people in the House and people watching at home might not realize it - on occasion, in the past, Interim Supply has been approved by special warrant. In other words, the money would be approved to be spent but it would not come back to the Legislature for approval until after, really, a good portion of the money was spent.

This government, when it came to power in 2003, and I think it might even have been a part of their first Blue Book, made a commitment that we would lessen our, probably, dependence on the use of special warrants - that previous governments tended to rely on special warrants and really approved spending in advance.

It is really disrespectful of the Legislature in that I have always felt that if there is funding provided to the Legislature, to the government, for spending, then it should be approved in advance and not after the fact. So this government made a commitment that in the future we would go for prior approval of funding before we went out and spent the money, if at all possible. So, of course, what we have here today, instead of a special warrant, what we are looking at is Interim Supply.

As a couple of the other members mentioned previously - and as an accountant I am very pleased that people were putting their mathematical abilities to good use, because they were looking at Interim Supply at $1.9 billion and, of course, they were calculating it up and saying, well, the $1.9 billion is for three months and if you multiply that by four we are going to have a really good Budget this year; and, of course, that was one of the first things that I did. So, really, the $1.9 billion is spending for government departments, for government really to continue to operate until the end of June. Of course, after the end of June hopefully the Budget will have been passed and will go into spending main Supply.

Some of things in Interim Supply which I would expect to see in the Budget and, of course, were referenced yesterday in the Throne Speech were funding relating to infrastructure. There are a few areas that I would like to comment on, because they do relate to my district and I feel that the district has much improved because of the funding that was provided.

The first point I would like to make is the road budget. I know that the Minister of Transportation has announced the road budget of $182 million for the upcoming year and that $73 million of this is for provincial roads. I can say that up to a couple of years ago it was very obvious that the road structure within the Province was deteriorating. This government has put a great commitment into providing funding for roads, for the road network around the Province, and we are starting to see a noticeable improvement.

One of the things in my district that has received funding from the road program has been Route 60, and this is the main road that runs through Conception Bay South. I guess some people would call it the Conception Bay South Highway, but Route 60 has been really the beneficiary of a significant amount of money over the last four years, and the area that I represent, which is east of the Manuels River Bridge, for people who are familiar with the area, there has been a significant amount of funding put into that road network; in fact, I think probably around $1.5 million to improve that stretch of road. It is not really a large stretch of road, but it just goes to show that funding for infrastructure is really quite expensive, and it is expensive to maintain our roads, but it is something that needs to be done.

One of the other things that has been done in my district, that I am very pleased with, is that the Manuels River Bridge was rehabilitated last year. Several years ago, or a number of years ago, it was identified that the bridge needed to have extra work and extra money put into it; and, of course, that was improved during the past summer.

Unfortunately, my pride and joy in the bridge has come to an end because the bridge is now in the district represented by the Member for Conception Bay South, so at least he has a good bridge in his district.

In other areas of my district, there is also an area of the Trans-Canada Highway that received a significant amount of funding for upgrading – I think in the order of $3 million - so I was quite pleased with those improvements.

Mr. Chair, as we all know improvement in roads is not something where you put your money into the roads and then you walk away from it and you never ever go back to upgrade it again, but rather you have to keep upgrading your infrastructure and continuing to improve it. One of the things that is being done out in my district is that there is now a study being done on Route 60 which will identify other areas which need to be improved in that area. We are expecting that study to be completed fairly soon, so I am looking forward to the results of that study and I am sure there will be more recommendations there as to what areas needed to be upgraded.

One of the other areas in my district, and I think most of the MHAs in this House can relate to it, is that schools throughout the Province have had a big infusion of capital investment over the last number of years. In the District of Topsail, one of the things that we are experiencing in my district and I think that it is probably different from most other districts in the Province is that there is rapid growth out in the areas of Paradise and Conception Bay South and it is putting quite a significant pressure on the school system, especially in terms of accommodations for the students who are moving into the district.

The other problem we had in my district, as of a couple of years ago, was that Paradise Elementary school was closed because of problems with mould and the students in that school are now being accommodated at schools in St. John's and Mount Pearl. Within the past year we have been quite fortunate. The Minister of Education has announced two new schools for the Paradise area and planning for those schools is well under way. So, we are looking forward to having two new elementary schools in our district. Where the schools are at right now is that there is a process ongoing whereby the sites are being selected for the two new schools and I would expect that the sites will be announced shortly.

One of the other issues that we are trying to see if we can do something about is that the first new school is expected to open in September of 2010 and –

CHAIR: Order, please!

I would like to remind the hon. member her time has lapsed.

MS E. MARSHALL: By leave?

CHAIR: By leave.

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

I will have one more comment on the school and then I will sit down and give my other colleagues an opportunity to speak.

The last area for schools is that the Holy Family School, which is not in my district, it is in the adjacent district, but a number of students or many students in my district attend Holy Family School and an extension has just been approved for that district to the tune of $2 million. The design has either been completed or it is very, very close to being completed and we are expecting that that expansion will be open in September of 2010.

Mr. Chair, I look forward to having further opportunity to participate in Interim Supply debate, but with that I will sit down and provide my colleagues with an opportunity to speak.

Thank you.


CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Port de Grave.

MR. BUTLER: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

It gives me pleasure to be able to stand today and say a few words with regard to Bill 2 - granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money. As we look at page 5, we notice - and I just want to touch on some of the figures here before I get into my comments: Transportation and Works, $382 million; Education, approximately $360 million; Health and Community Services, $735 million; and Municipal Affairs, approximately $60 million.

I just want to say, Mr. Chair, as the time goes by those are some of the key areas that I will be touching on and hoping that there are a few dollars left there and it is not all spent, to be able to look after some of the issues that pertain to my district.

First of all, I, like other members, want to congratulate each and every individual in this hon. House on the Forty-Sixth General Assembly of our House of Assembly, and to say to all those who have been elected for the first time and those who have returned, I look forward to the next four years with great anticipation of working together as a team for the best interests of the people of our Province.

Like the Premier mentioned yesterday, and the Throne Speech mentioned, about the tremendous mandate that was given to this government on October 9, 2007; and no doubt it was a tremendous mandate. I have to say that my first election was back in 2001, which was a by-election, the same time the Premier was elected in the by-election. I won that time by a great majority of ninety-seven votes. When we came to the 2003 election, I went up to 1,700 and some-odd votes. This time, we had another good battle in the great District of Port de Grave and at the end of the day it was somewhere in the vicinity of 260 votes. I made a comment to someone after the election, with only three of us left and one member sitting to my right from the NDP it was almost like a tsunami had struck our Island and we were all washed out to sea. I think the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi had a better chance than we did. She had a clever mountain behind her to protect as it came ashore.

Having said that, Mr. Chair, I want to thank the people in my district, the district association, and all the campaign workers for the tremendous support that they have given me now in three elections.

The District of Port de Grave, like others, changed this time. Part of my district has been taken over by the hon. Member for Carbonear-Harbour Grace which takes in Byrants Cove, Tilton and a portion of the Town of Spaniards Bay. I guess that was sad to lose those people but more so to see a community split. Between the two of us, I think we are probably accepting calls from both ends of that community and we really do not know the difference because you hardly ever ask anyone what side of the street they live on.

Having said that, we also took back some of the great District of Harbour Main-Whitbourne that my hon. colleague from that Harbour Main District now had previously, like Makinsons, Clarke's Beach, North River, Halls Town, and Otterbury.

AN HON. MEMBER: We got some deal.

MR. BUTLER: He says we got some deal and I agree with him. I say to the hon. member, I know all about them because we had them for eleven years previously.

Mr. Chair, I have to say this election – it was my third election. I was campaign manager for the former member for five elections and previous elections, provincially and federally. This was one of the toughest elections that I have never seen and it has nothing to do with my hon. colleague who ran against me. Like my colleague from Burgeo & LaPoile, we have been friends from day one and we will always be friends. But it was a very difficult election.

I love driving in a motor home and I thought I had a new one. Because the Premier's motor home was in the district so much I thought I had a new one bought. It was good to see so many of the ministers and other MHAs there campaigning when they had free time on their hands. It was wonderful. It was a tough election, but at the end of the day I want to thank all the people of the district, not only the 3,000-plus who voted for me but the 3,000-plus people who voted for my colleague, the member for the governing party. Like other members have said, from that day forward, they are all constituents of ours in each and every district and we have to do what is best for them.

The great District of Port de Grave, I have to say I guess, is located in a portion of the Island that is very fortunate to some of our other districts. We are in close proximity to St. John's and a lot of our people communicate back and forth, but we do have problems there, and from time to time you have to go to various ministers of the departments and request financial assistance for some issues.

I have to mention today, Mr. Chairman, my involvement with the Minister of Transportation and Works. Since I was elected back in 2001 - and I think the facts and figures will verify it - I received, up until this year, the grand total of $144,000 outside of maintenance work. That is what was received, and they had no choice but to put that there because the road was washed out and the people could not get through; but this year, and I don't mind saying it publicly - I have already said it in my news release - I want to thank the Minister of Transportation and Works, and her officials, for the $2.6 million that is coming to that district, not only within the district but some of the work is in outlying areas. We were unfortunate to lose one of our main bridges through the community of Spaniard's Bay and Bay Roberts through Chantal, the major storm we had last year. It is good to know that is going to be replaced this year at a cost of $1.5 million.

There are a couple of other areas, and one of them is a link between my district and the Member for Trinity-Bay de Verde. Each and every year I put the funding down as a top priority because I know it is a crucial link between the two districts. Ninety-five per cent of the funding is probably in the Member for Trinity-Bay de Verde's district, but that doesn't mean a row of beans to me as long as it is doing the job that has to be done for the people of this Province.

I am glad to see that the minister also came up with funding for the community of Upper Island Cove and the community of Makinsons, some resurfacing and repaving.

Having said that, that doesn't mean from time to time that I will not be standing on my feet looking for other things through maintenance and what have you. As a matter of fact, I will probably have a petition for tomorrow but I want to thank the officials and the minister for her co-operation.

As an Opposition, there is no doubt about it, with just three members, we have major challenges, but we believe that we are up to the challenge and we will be doing whatever has to be done to bring forward the concerns of the people of this Province. Some people might call it political, some people might think we are only doing it for political reasons, but each and every issue, I can assure you, will be on behalf of the people.

I listened with great interest yesterday to the Premier, in his response to the Throne Speech, when he gave us an outlook forward to the year 2041, as he outlined the projects that are on stream now, and how they will eventually end, more will come on stream, hopefully with the Lower Churchill, all of it leading up to 2041 when, thank God, we will get back what is rightfully ours, the Upper Churchill; but, he went on to say that, when he took over, he had inherited a mess, and no doubt probably financially our Province was not in the position that it is in today. We know that, but I would like for him, at that time - and I guess I was a bit disappointed that he did not reflect back, that he did not have a flashback to a few years ago when all of this started, what has brought on the wealth that we enjoy today.

I know he has to do what has to be done now to be prudent, to see that we are protected for years to come in the future, but we have to realize there were many other Administrations of both political stripes who saw to it that what we enjoy today became a reality.

That was the only thing that I thought was missing yesterday; because, fellow colleagues, all of this did not happen in just the four years that this new Administration took over. Yes, there were major advantages. There were good things that took place, and you did what had to be done, but you have to realize - and one of your colleagues said to me last year, when I was leaving this building after the Budget of last year - he said it was a good Budget, and I said yes, it was a good Budget, and he came back with the response and said: I have to tell you one thing; we were fortunate to be in the position and the timing that we are in today.

How true that is; but, having said that, whatever this government comes forward with, as long as it is the best interest of the people of this Province, I can assure you that you will have our total commitment.

I want to just touch on a couple of the issues that the Minister of Finance mentioned in his address this afternoon. One of them was the home heating rebate, a wonderful program, and tremendous advantages over what it was in the first years of its life, to know how many other people today receive benefits through that program for various types of home heating. The only complaint -

CHAIR (Osborne): Order, please!

I just want to remind the member that his time has expired.

MR. BUTLER: Just a few seconds to clue up?

CHAIR: By leave.

MR. BUTLER: The only comment that I want to make, that I hear, is from people who have grave concerns with the timing of it - nothing wrong with the program. Probably they would like to see more funds in it, but it is the timing. They seem to think that it is too late in the year when they receive their funding.

I do not know about anyone else in this hon. House, but from time to time I receive many phone calls from people who say that there is nothing wrong with it but the winter is almost over for me when I get my funding. All I am asking of government, whether it be the Minister of Finance or whoever, that maybe in another year they can look at it that the program can kick in a bit earlier, that the people will receive those funds when they need it most, in the hardest time of the year, in the winter months, when it is the worst for them.

So having said that, Mr. Chair, I want to thank you and we'll be back again.

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for Grand Falls-Windsor-Green Bay South.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HUNTER: Thank you Mr. Chair.

Mr. Chair, it is indeed a pleasure to get up again today, after nine years and nine Interim Supply speeches, to have a few words to say about Bill 2. Of course, before I make some comments I would like to congratulate the Member for Lewisporte on his maiden speech, such a fine job, and the two members yesterday, the Member for Grand Falls-Windsor-Buchans and the Member for The Isles of Notre Dame for a great job they did on their speech here yesterday.

Of course, Mr. Chair, I would like to congratulate our Speaker. Mr. Speaker had overwhelming support in the House and I am sure he is going to be a great Speaker for this House of Assembly. After that, I would like to thank all the voters in my district for giving me a great vote of confidence to return me back into this House for the third time.

I would like to especially thank my family and friends who put a lot of hard work into my campaign, this one and the past. It certainly makes me feel good to come in here, one of forty-eight MHAs in the House of Assembly, to represent people in all Newfoundland and Labrador and it is certainly indeed an honour to be here on behalf of my constituents.

Mr. Chair, Bill 2 is something that we have to do. It is a bill that if we do not do, and do not pass, then there is going to be a lot of people who are certainly going to be without a pay cheque; a lot of bills are not going to be paid. Even though $1.9 billion sounds like a lot of money, by the time we are finished and we get into our regular Budget debate, it is only going to be a small portion of what this government is prepared to spend in our Province so that the people of our Province could be having the best services available. Certainly, at this time we are very fortunate and very lucky to be in a position, with the oil prices so high, that we could have extra dollars to do more. Is it enough? No. It is never enough that we could find enough money to fix every problem, to meet every need and to do all the things that people expect governments to do but we are certainly working towards that. We are certainly being very diligent in spending taxpayers' money, the hardworking people of Newfoundland and Labrador who pay taxes to the Province so that we as legislators will decide where that money will be spent.

I am looking forward, actually, to our committee meetings, when we go into the proper budget debates in a month's time. That will give all of us, and, of course, the Opposition, a chance to debate departments, to question ministers and get into the real meat of our true budget for the Province. Accountability will be held by constituents through their MHAs. I am looking forward - I have been on the Resource Committee for the last nine years and I found that very interesting and I found it very meaningful. I am sure, even though we have a small Opposition, but I am already convinced today that we are going to have a very well working, very convincing, and a very hardworking Opposition. During the budget debates we should see and, I guess, know exactly where the Opposition will be coming from.

Having said that, I remember being in Opposition for four-and-a-half years. I know what it is like to be on that side. I know what it is like to be on committees. I know what it is like to be questioning ministers. I know that we always come up with the problems of the Province when we are in Opposition. We would not expect anything less from our Opposition members.

Mr. Chair, in my district - I would just like to have a few minutes to talk about my district. My district is a very diversified district. I do have a larger portion of what we call a rural area but some people would consider an urban area. Grand Falls-Windsor is a big community with almost 20,000 people, and of course in the catchment basin area of central, with over 100,000 people.

On the other side of my district 150 kilometres away, I have what we call the true rural Newfoundland communities. That poses a challenge for any member in rural Newfoundland. Unfortunately, in the change before the last election I did lose a large part of my district, Springdale area. Of course, I feel very confident and comforted to know that the Springdale area is in good hands with our Minister of Fisheries, Deputy Premier, the Member for Baie Verte-Springdale. I feel very good that the constituents of that area are going to be well taken care of. I have worked hard for that area for eight years and I will certainly hear from them from time to time but I would like to thank the people of the Springdale area for their support over the last number of years. Of course, I would like to welcome the people in the Grand Falls-Windsor area who are going to be in the new part of my constituency. I assure the people in Grand Falls-Windsor, the extra people that I now serve, that I will deliver the same service as I did to the other people in Grand Falls-Windsor and Green Bay South. The name change is a little bit difficult. It is now called Grand Falls-Windsor-Green Bay South. That sometimes is a mouthful when you are in a meeting and you are trying to introduce yourself and you first mention the name of your district. It kind of throws you off guard when you are still thinking Windsor-Springdale, but I am getting used to it.

Mr. Chair, having said that, in the past three-and-a-half years my district has seen a lot of changes. With our roadwork alone, we went from two kilometres of roadwork during my Opposition years with a Liberal government. In four-and-a-half years I worked hard to get the roadwork and could not get it, to this year and the last few years, every year now with over $1 million of roadwork, and that adds up. Route 380 to now is starting to become in pretty good shape. We did a significant amount of work on 390 over the last number of years. Of course, the Member for Baie Verte-Springdale now will be mostly in charge of Route 390, but there is still a lot of work to do on Route 380 and I am looking forward this year to another good year of roadwork in my district.

We have other problems in our district that it takes years and years to correct, especially when you are diversified as much as my district, with the fishery on one end, with a fish plant, fish plant workers and fishermen. That is a continuous battle. Every year we continue battling with looking for product for the plant. Of course, last year we had a major problem with ice floes in the harbours and the product could not get into our plant; a lot of downtime at the plant. That was beyond our control, but these issues - we have to alleviate the stress of the people in the district by other means. Of course, government came through with a job creation make-work program to help displace workers, the down-time workers in the fishery and of course the fishermen.

We have loggers, forestry workers, in my district. I would say there are approximately 600 loggers dealing with sawmills and the Abitibi-Bowater Mill and Corner Brook Pulp and Paper. Half of the loggers in my district, of course, work for Corner Brook Pulp and Paper. That creates a little bit of a harder issue for me because I have to be going to Corner Brook dealing with one paper company and then back to Grand Falls-Windsor dealing with another paper company.

I must say, even through all the comments and the problems that the paper industry has had, I still feel confident that Grand-Falls Windsor and the Abitibi-Bowater Mill are going to survive it, and I feel confident that the workforce in there is certainly committed to keeping their jobs and making that mill secure. Myself and my colleagues in the surrounding areas, the Member for Exploits, the Member for Grand-Falls-Buchans, the Member for Lewisporte, the Member for Baie Verte-Springdale, we all have an interest in Abitibi-Bowater and Grand Falls-Windsor.

CHAIR: Order, please!

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

MR. HUNTER: One minute to clue up, Mr. Chair?

CHAIR: Leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

CHAIR: Leave is granted.

MR. HUNTER: I still think we are in for good times in Central Newfoundland. Grand Falls-Windsor is certainly coming ahead, certainly growing with many subdivisions at the same time, and many people moving in for health care, education and other services. The health care services, even though there are other services within not too far a distance, we still expect and we look forward to more changes in our health care in Grand Falls-Windsor, of course with the expansion and renovations that are badly needed. The members in Central are certainly behind our physicians and behind our board to make sure we get the best service we can in health care; and also in our education system in central. We are all working together.

I find it a big difference now. In the past when I had to look across the way and see colleagues of the House of Assembly in a different party, and I was the only one in central carrying the banner for our party, when I had to deal with the member for Grand Falls-Buchans, the member for Exploits, even though we all work for the same cause in Central Newfoundland it seems like now it is a lot easier when we have members all on the same side, the same party, working together, attending meetings and doing things for Central Newfoundland, not just Grand Falls-Windsor and the Green Bay area, but of course, all of the Notre Dame Bay area. We work together with the Member for Lewisporte, the Isles of Notre Dame and the Baie Verte-Springdale area and we do what is best for our constituents.

Having said that, I would like to just thank everybody again for supporting me in the last election and congratulate all my colleagues in the House, all of the people returned in the last election and all of the new people. I would just like to say to our new members in the House, you are excited and you are looking forward to good times but we do have a hard job to do and you are learning now that being an MHA is a big commitment, a hard job, long hours, but a very rewarding one at the end of the day.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. Member for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair.

MS JONES: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

I wanted to have a few words on Bill 2. As you know, this bill is Interim Supply, it is to grant certain sums of money to Her Majesty in order to defer expenses in the government over the course of the next number of weeks, I guess until the minister is able to bring forward a new budget, have that budget debated and passed in the House of Assembly.

Mr. Chairman, anytime that we debate bills like this in the Legislature that are relative to monies being granted it leaves it open for a full debate and discussion on any particular issues that we want to talk about.

Mr. Chairman, over the course of the next week we will certainly be raising a number of issues in the House of Assembly and many of these issues, as I said earlier, will be relative to the health care sector.

Mr. Chairman, today we raised a number of issues in Question Period, and those issues were around reports that had been commissioned by Eastern Health. The reports that were commissioned were on the infrastructure and the need for emergency or critical upgrades to hospital infrastructure in the Eastern Health region. They looked at eleven potential health care centres that needed work completed and four of them were highlighted and highlighted because of the caliber of work that needed to be done and the magnitude of it. Mr. Chairman, the hospitals that were identified were, the Waterford Hospital, St. Clare's, the Health Sciences Centre and the Miller Centre.

These reports that outlined critical work that needed to be done were based on a walkthrough with no official report on structure. There was no structural analysis done on these facilities and it was basically just from looking around and identifying problems that needed to be dealt with.

Mr. Chairman, those reports on those four hospitals were completed in 2005. They were submitted to Eastern Health and, in turn, to the Department of Health and Community Services and they were in that department for two years. In fact, when the minister was questioned on it just a few weeks ago, at first he could not recall ever seeing these reports and then a little further on in the media scrum he did confess that he had at least seen the reports. So, we are still uncertain of how much analysis he has done of the reports or if he indeed has read them.

Mr. Chairman, these reports that were limited, as I said, to a visual observation of critical work that needed to be done, were in the system for the last two years. Over that period of time we have had two budgets introduced in the House of Assembly. We had the Budget of 2006 and the Budget of 2007 and soon we will have the Budget of 2008, but we have had two budgets introduced in the House of Assembly since these reports were completed on four hospitals in the capital city of St. John's, and not just hospitals that cater to people in this area, but they cater to every person in this Province. They are our critical care hospital facilities. So this, in effect, affects everyone in the Province.

Mr. Chairman, there was a review of the facilities, there was a database collected. The minister today talked about the reason they have not done an assessment on the sixty-one other hospital facilities. It is because they did not have the database in those other health care board regions to do the work. I do understand that Eastern Health did purchase a proper database system whereby they could input all the information with regard to infrastructure and maintenance upgrades and they could keep track of the work that was ongoing.

Mr. Chair, what the minister did not tell us today is that the Department of Health and Community Services are also purchasing their own database system, being done through the Department of Transportation and Works, who is responsible for tendering for that work and is also installing their own database into the department so that all these assessments could be done on all facilities in the Province if that was the wish of the minister and of the government. So there is absolutely no excuse why we are not conducting regular infrastructure assessments on what needs to be done as critical upgrades in their facilities. There is no excuse for that. It could be done. The database is being purchased. The information can be inputted, and it can be monitored by government on a regular basis.

Mr. Chairman, what was even more telling was the fact that the Premier of the Province, the lead minister in the government, was not informed of these reports. Now, Mr. Chairman, this is a Premier who has been pretty well informed on almost every issue within the government, but all of a sudden is not informed of reports that are completed on health care facilities in the Province and has not had the recommendations of those reports disclosed to him.

Mr. Chairman, I have a problem with that because there needs to be a system of protocols so that these things do not happen. For example, if you look at the education sector, the school boards in this Province complete a report every year where they outline the maintenance work, upgrading work, new school construction, all of these things. It goes to the Minister of Education. The Minister of Education and her officials look through these reports. They do an analysis of it and then they take it to Treasury Board. Then Treasury Board does an analysis of this and then it goes to Cabinet. That is the process. Why does that process not exist in the health portfolio so that when you have reports like this coming in identifying critical work, whether it is $100 million or $10,000, why is it not put through the same process within the department, within Treasury Board and within Cabinet?

Mr. Chairman, frankly, I do not understand why this information was not communicated to the lead minister in the government, that being the Premier, and why the recommendations were not disclosed to Cabinet, because that would have been the appropriate and the normal process that these things would have taken.

Mr. Chairman, we need to have answers to those questions because, in the absence of those actions being followed, we sense there is a degree of negligence. There is a degree of negligence on behalf of the minister and his department when they can have that kind of detailed information outlining critical repairs that need to be done - they can have it in their possession - and not communicate it through the channels of government, but rather take it, file it into a cabinet, put it on a shelf, let it collect dust until some media reporter out there in the Province has dug up some information with regard to this and all of a sudden puts a microphone to them and says: What do you know about it?

That is not acceptable. In fact, that is negligence. That is not the way that work in that department should be conducted.

So, Mr. Chairman, I would suggest to the government immediately that they put appropriate protocols in place to deal with these issues so that we do not find another incident of this - like in the past.

Government has said they want to be open and accountable. Well, openness and accountability is not open to selective information. Openness and accountability means that you are open and accountable on all issues, regardless of the information, regardless of the recommendations, whether they are favourable or non-favourable, whether they are costly or cheap, whether they are relevant or irrelevant to the agenda of government at that particular time.

That needs to be done, Mr. Chairman. It definitely needs to be done, and they need to ensure, in the spirit of openness and accountability, that, irregardless if these reports are looking at recommendations up to $100 million or $200 million, it needs to be released and made available to the public so that they then have the information.

The other issue, Mr. Chairman, is the critical work in those four particular hospitals; because, as I said, there are eleven hospitals in the eastern region that this analysis has been done on, where they have looked at what the critical upgrades are. In the other facilities the amounts are somewhat lower and of a lesser priority. In the four hospitals in the St. John's region, meaning the Health Sciences Centre, the Waterford Hospital, the Miller Centre and St. Clare's, the work that was identified was identified in 2005 where about $20 million of the work at that time was critical and emerging, and needed to be done right away. The other $80 million worth of work that was identified as being somewhat critical would need to be completed, based on the recommendation, within one to two years. That was in 2005; this is 2008. Those one to two years have long since passed, so obviously there is an expectation for government to act on doing this work.

I understand that they are doing some assessments of the health care facilities in the St. John's region -

CHAIR: Order, please!

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

MS JONES: By leave, Mr. Chairman, to clue up?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

CHAIR: By leave.

MS JONES: Thank you.

I do understand that there is some analysis ongoing as to the hospitals in this particular region, especially based around the number of acute care beds that are available, to ensure that there is going to be a proper number of beds to be able to meet the demands of the service in the foreseeable future. I have no problem with that. I think that is government's role, to do that kind of analysis, but while they are doing that, in the absence of not having a decision made around some of these facilities, in the meantime they still have to address the most critical areas.

I have to ask the question as to whether the amounts of money that are being looked at to invest into this is going to do that appropriately and adequately. You look at $100 million in recommendations that need to be dealt with, and the fact that government is prepared to invest about $20 million, of which 40 per cent of it will go to other facilities in the Province, when you look at it in that particular context, you have to ask the question as to how far the $20 million in investment will go, and if it will meet the necessary urgent needs that exist right now in those four hospitals in the city.

Mr. Chairman, that was the basis of my questioning today to the Premier and to the Minister of Health, and I am sure we will have many more debates around this issue in the next few weeks as we debate Interim Supply in the House.

Thank you very much.

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for Exploits.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FORSEY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

It is certainly a pleasure for me to address this bill today. First, before I do that, I would like to say the same as my colleagues earlier, to congratulate the new members who got elected this past fall.

It is different over here, I must say. I heard somebody say on the other side just now, on our government side, that they kept looking across the way. Well, last year in our positioning, when I was speaking, I was looking at mostly the backs of the heads of all of our colleagues on the government side. This year, I don't know if this is really a privilege, a pleasure, now to be able to see all of you while I am speaking, but I think I am going to enjoy it.

I would also like to congratulate the new members who made their maiden speeches in the last couple of days. They are to be commended. I think they did a great job.

Also, to the Minister of Finance, who took the time to go around the Province and offer the Budget consultations, I think we learned a lot during that time period. I remember when he was out in Central and he entertained quite a few groups, representations from different towns, town councillors, develop corporations and so on. There were a lot of good ideas, a lot of ideas that were presented. I think some of them this government acted on before and some of them, I am sure, will be adhered to in the coming months. Hopefully, some of it will show up in the Budget.

What we are about to do is approve, pass a bill that is going to okay the spending for the next three months. As I look at some of the departments and the money that is going to be spent through Transportation and Works, through Environment, Tourism, Health, Education, it brings me back to the past couple of years when I have seen this government spend unprecedented monies in these areas, especially in the health department and in the education department.

Although it is a provincial issue, I certainly go back to my own district, the District of Exploits. In the past couple of years, because of the fiscal management of this Administration and the leadership of our Premier and being able to negotiate the proper deals, we have been able to get the benefit of that in the District of Exploits as well. I think that showed this past year, as other members and colleagues have said, that they got re-elected because the people thought they deserved another chance and they performed well, and their investments proved it. This past year was no different for me in the District of Exploits. I think there was somewhere around 73 per cent of the vote that the people gave to me. It was overwhelming. I really appreciated the support, especially from my workers and the team as well.

Going back to the Budget and the money that we are looking for and the expenditures, we would not have been able to do what we did in the District of Exploits without the funding that is there right now. I know just in transportation and roads - I came in in a by-election in 2005, actually too late to meet the budget for 2005. I think there were a couple of ministers who were generous enough to say yes, we have a few dollars left and we are going to help you out. I appreciated that, by the way.

In the next two years to come, I was looking at a review of the roadwork that was left by the previous member that needed to be done for upgrades. I think the figure came in at around $17 million. That is a lot of money, but we were fortunate enough in the past couple of years to see about 30 per cent of that investment, which covered quite a few kilometres of road that was badly needed. I know earlier the Premier alluded to supporting rural Newfoundland through transportation, education, communication and so on. I think we are doing that. I know we have done it in the District of Exploits. It was proven this past year, even with the money invested in tourism.

This past year, in 2007, the towns of Botwood and Norris Arm decided to get together to mark the seventieth anniversary of the first transatlantic passenger flight from Botwood to Foynes, Ireland. It was an international affair and this government saw potential in tourism and agreed to invest in it. Well, thousands of people and tourists visited the area from all over the country. They did so well with the festival that it has now been classed as one of the top 100 destinations by the American Bus Association. So that, in itself, is an accomplishment in its own by a couple of small communities in rural Newfoundland. It is an international affair and an international festival and I am sure we are going to see a build up from that. As a matter of fact, the tourism last year increased, I was told, somewhere around 30 per cent in that area. We all know when people come into a district, especially tourism, you can build on it. They have money to spend. Hopefully, if they enjoy what they see and what they experience, they will be back and they will tell others.

I would like to speak on education as well. We have done a lot for education in the past couple of years, at least the last couple of years I have been there. I see the Minister of Education had a budget last year that exceeded $1 billion. When the Province and the minister can produce a budget that is going to be over $1 billion, then I think everyone in the Province is going to benefit. I know that we benefited in the District of Exploits. We were very fortunate. We had most upgrades in all the schools. We were able to put in the skilled-trades program in Botwood Collegiate. It encompasses five other communities. It gives all these students a chance, who probably would not go to university, to be able to avail of skilled trades. For the past year it seems to be working well.

We did the same thing in other investments, in buildings as well in infrastructure right through the district. I must say that it has made an improvement. We have been doing, as a government, what we set out to do, to invest in communications, invest in infrastructure, invest in transportation and people will be able to travel there, hopefully live there and settle down there. Some people call it rural but really if you have a good road system and you are only twenty minutes away from one of the bigger centres in Central Newfoundland, then of course twenty minutes is not a very long drive.

We also have the best in adventure tourism. If you want to travel down that way, we have the seaport there; we have the water, the boating, the skidooing and a lot of things to offer in that area. So, we have done really well in the district in the past couple of years and it is done because of good leadership, good fiscal management.

We also spoke on money; investments in natural resources, especially in mining. Last year I was reading a report in the mining sector, exploration expenditures exceeded $130 million in 2007. Well, a lot of that investment is out in Central Newfoundland. Some of it is in the District of Exploits, some of it is in the District of Grand Falls-Buchans, and some of it is in the District of Grand Falls-Windsor-Green Bay South. A lot of exploration and actually some of it is already in production and doing well. We are doing well in the mining sector, especially in the exploration sector.

CHAIR: Order, please!

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

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. FORSEY: Just a minute, that is good.

CHAIR: By leave.

MR. FORSEY: The only other point that I would like to make right now, and I am sure we will get another opportunity, is the investment in the fishery, and I guess the innovation we have taken on through innovation in fishery.

We are, right now - we are not probably the leaders, but we are getting there. I think, through the Minister of Fisheries and what they have done through aquaculture, especially on the South Coast and even on the Northeast Coast, we have seen it grow. Granted, there are some particular species that you are going to invest in or grow on the South Coast that is not going to happen on the East Coast, but I am sure, through diversification, we can master that and we can improve on that.

Yes, we need this money, we need to pass this Supply bill, and hopefully this is only just going to mean good things for the Province.

I thank the Chair for the time today. Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Chairman, I move that the Committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again.

CHAIR: The motion is that the Committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again.

It is the pleasure of the Committee to adopt the motion?

All those in favor, 'aye'.


CHAIR: All those against, 'nay'.

Motion carried.

On motion, that the Committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again, Mr. Speaker returned to the Chair.

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): The hon. the Member for St. John's South and Deputy Speaker.

MR. T. OSBORNE: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of Supply have considered the matters to them referred and have directed me to report progress and ask leave to sit again.

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair of the Committee of Supply reports that the Committee have considered the matters to them referred and have directed him to report progress and ask leave to sit again.

When shall the Committee have leave to sit again?

MR. RIDEOUT: Tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

On motion, report received and adopted, Committee ordered to sit again on tomorrow.

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

MR. RIDEOUT: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House at its rising do adjourn until tomorrow, Wednesday, at 2:00 o'clock.

I think tomorrow we will be debating, since it is Private Members' Day, the resolution standing in the name of the hon. Opposition House Leader - and that this House do now adjourn.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that this House do now adjourn, properly moved and seconded.

All those in favour, ‘aye'.


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

This House now stands adjourned until 2:00 o'clock tomorrow, Wednesday.

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