March 25, 2009             HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS             Vol. XLVI   No. 1

The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

SERGEANT–AT-ARMS: Please be seated.

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

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

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

MR. SPEAKER: Admit His Honour the Lieutenant Governor.


Mr. Speaker leaves the Chair.

His Honour the Lieutenant Governor takes the Chair.

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


We are going to start a new precedent this year by sitting down myself. Although I do not think the Speech from the Throne is too lengthy, I must say.

Our Speech from the Throne starts today with the Tragedy at Sea, which we have all just experienced.

Tragedy at Sea

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly: Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and our friends around the world, are embracing the families and dear friends of the seventeen men and women who perished in the terrible crash at sea of the helicopter that was carrying workers to our offshore oil fields. Taken from us too suddenly and too soon, these seventeen fine individuals leave behind broken hearted children, grieving partners and parents, best friends, closely-knit communities and a Province that will be forever marked by their loss. Amid the heartbreak, our spirits were lifted as we learned that one young man, a gifted mariner named Robert Decker, was pulled to safety from the frigid waters and returned to the warm embrace of his loved ones. But as our hopes for the others fell with the gathering darkness, so did our tears. How many times have we as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians cast our grief-stricken gaze across the ocean that has claimed those we dearly love? How many fishermen and other mariners across the centuries have lost their lives in these waters while providing for those they love? The Ocean Ranger tragedy twenty-seven years ago and so many other tragedies remain fresh in our memories and remind us of the perils our people face to provide for their families. In the weeks ahead, we will cooperate with those who are working to determine how this happened and how to make these noble occupations safer.

Our efforts must always be unrelenting.

Honouring Captain Bob Bartlett

This year, I note that we are honouring Captain Bob Bartlett and certainly it is well since time that we did that.

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly: It is timely this year that we are honouring a mariner who endured many tragedies of his own but persevered despite them all. Captain Bob Bartlett of Brigus, one of Newfoundland and Labrador's finest mariners, who comes to mind whenever we think of the great mariners we have had in this Province, shared a series of expeditions to the Arctic with polar explorer Robert E. Peary and learned to navigate a vessel along the ice pack ever closer to the North Pole. In the historic expedition a century ago, he reached a latitude father north than anyone had ever navigated before, and close enough that Peary and his Inuit companions were able to complete the trip to the Pole by sledge. That feat earned Bartlett the rare Hubbard Medal of the National Geographic Society, reserved for history's most elite explorers. Five years later, commanding one of his many scientific missions to the Arctic, he endured the loss of his vessel, the Karluk, in the polar ice. Heroically, Bartlett and an Inuit companion, Kataktovik, trekked across the ice to Siberia, journeying 700 miles south to reach a port where Bartlett then secured a ship and set in motion an operation to rescue the remaining survivors.

Anyone who has read the book, the magnificent book on the Karluk that was written just three or four years ago, can only be astounded by the fortitude and courage and determination, and the tough ability of Captain Bartlett. We ought to hold Bob Bartlett up before our children as a reflection of their own innermost potential to face great challenges boldly and brilliantly, and this year I am glad to say that in this Province, we do.

Staying the Course

This is something we should keep in mind.

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly: We as a Province were called upon to face great challenges boldly and brilliantly in 2003 when an unsustainable fiscal situation held us in its ever-tightening grip. Determined to navigate a course from this crisis to calmer waters, My Government in its first term set in motion a plan to get the Province's fiscal situation under control while at the same time beginning to grow our economy more effectively in ways that would generate lasting employment, open up new opportunities for diversification and lead us progressively to self-reliance. My First Minister – who, of course, is the Premier - fought for and achieved significant new benefits from offshore oil development, and the Province under My Government's leadership has for the first time taken important equity stakes in new offshore projects. Last fall, we received news that proved the course My Government has taken is the right one. For the first time since Confederation, Newfoundland and Labrador has achieved "have" status.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

His Honour the Lieutenant Governor: That was a really apocryphal moment.

We will not qualify for equalization payments in the coming year and in years to come. This unprecedented achievement is the culmination of everything My Government and our people have been doing since 2003 to master our own destiny. For Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, this is a moment to take pride, not merely in what we have done, but more importantly in who we are. We are determined to stand strong as leaders in this federation, proud of our achievements and confident in our future. Let the naysayers be warned: we will not be stopped short of success.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Events far beyond our shores have brought about a global economic storm the likes of which the world has not seen for many decades. While world leaders worry about the right course to take, we in this Province have already demonstrated the right approach that leads from decline to growth. We have charted a course for others to follow. World leaders can take it from this Province that optimizing the value of public spending is a strategy that works. Reducing our public debt over time to raise our credit rating and lower our interest rates is a strategy that works. Investing in infrastructure to lay the foundation for future investment is a strategy that works. Cutting taxes for employers and consumers and funding pension plans is a strategy that works. Investing in personal self-reliance by combating poverty is a strategy that works. Investing in people by improving access to quality education is a strategy that works. Standing strong on principle and securing agreements that truly benefit the people of our Province is a strategy that works.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: These things My Government has done, and because they were done early and done well, our Province is better positioned than most to weather the storm and emerge from it stronger.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Now, my next section is called: Expecting Better from Ottawa. You have to be optimistic.

Expecting Better from Ottawa

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly: In times of economic turmoil, Canadians expect their Federal Government to govern with integrity and chart a responsible course forward to better times for not just some, but all Canadians. Buried in the 2009 federal budget is a deep cut in funding to one province and one alone: ours. The cut will cost us more than a billion dollars the Province ought to be receiving from offshore revenues from an agreement negotiated by a Progressive Conservative Government a quarter century ago. Only a year after changing the equalization program to give it stability, they have changed it again to punish Newfoundland and Labrador. At a time when the people of our Province are celebrating our status as net fiscal contributors to the federation, it is truly appalling that the current Government of this federation has chosen to betray us and oppress us with policies devised to drive us back into decline just because we have exercised our democratic rights - to vote as we wish.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Our next section is headed: Captaining Our Own Ship.

Captaining Our Own Ship

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly: Canada and its provinces and territories have built a proud reputation over the years for international cooperation, participation and partnership. In science and technology, humanitarianism and peacekeeping, environmental stewardship and trade, Canada and its provinces and territories have long been leaders. As we move forward to forge new and stronger relationships for the century to come, it is essential that the concerns and aspirations of all members of the federation be taken into account. Unfortunately, Newfoundland and Labrador is not convinced that the current Federal administration, having ignored our best interests when developing domestic policy, will do any better in representing our best interests when developing foreign policy.

If the current Federal Government is not prepared to represent the best interests of provinces like ours, then we as a Province will protect our best interests ourselves. To lower tariff barriers to our exports while safeguarding our fish stocks and securing markets for our seal products, we will speak up on our own behalf on the international stage -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: - and work to effect progressive agreements that take our best interests fully into account.

My Government will allow nothing to prevent us from charting a clear course to the high latitudes of self-reliance. At Long Harbour, we achieved a new and stronger agreement with Vale Inco on the scale and pace of processing, and work is moving full steam ahead. In the offshore sector, we achieved new equity stakes in Hebron and White Rose, and work is moving full steam ahead. Planning to develop our Lower Churchill green energy resource is moving full steam ahead. In no other region of the western world is optimism greater than it is right here in Newfoundland and Labrador –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: - and this optimism fuels our confidence that we can meet any challenge.

Weathering Every Storm is the name for our next section.

Weathering Every Storm

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly: With our confidence secure, we are not swayed off course when storms arise. In Grand Falls-Windsor and the central region, the historic pulp and paper mill and its associated operations have been shut down after over a century of operation that has prospered the operators greatly. This is a major blow, but nothing will weaken our resolve to weather this storm and come out on the other side stronger.

My First Minister, the Premier, stated clearly in December that we cannot as a Government allow a company that no longer operates in this Province to maintain ownership of our resources. We will not give away our timber and water resources to a company that does not continue to honour its historic commitments on industrial development related to our timber resources. My Government therefore in December introduced legislation to return these natural resources to their rightful owners, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: My Government will not abandon those whose labour has prospered our Province so greatly. My Government is committed to working in partnership with all affected communities, with our sights clearly focused on new opportunities for long-term stability and prosperity. Solutions take time, but our track record in Stephenville demonstrates that our approach works.

With many who once found employment in other provinces now returning home, My Government recognizes that families in many regions need help now to weather the storm. Just weeks ago, it was quick off the mark in announcing a record provincial investment in infrastructure projects that will create jobs in every region.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Through highways and bridges, ferries and wharves, hospitals and schools, care homes and campuses, public buildings and public parks, we are making unprecedented investments in infrastructure projects that will get people working and money flowing. This year's infrastructure program is the largest in our Province's history, with levels of spending fifty per cent higher than what was spent last year. By committing about $800 million this year and more than $4 billion over the next several years for health care, education, housing, justice, municipal and transportation infrastructure, My Government is leading the charge and reassuring Newfoundlanders and Labradorians by its actions that we will not retreat from our forward march to self-reliance.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: In our next section, I will deal with: Learning from Health Care Mistakes and Moving Forward.

Learning from Health Care Mistakes and Moving Forward

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly: No area of public responsibility is more essential to our people or more important to My Government than health care. My Government greatly appreciates the efforts of Judge Margaret Cameron and her team to get to the bottom of the failures of hormone receptor testing for patients with breast cancer. My Government, and surely the previous Governments, are profoundly sorry that those failures happened in the first place; but happen they did, and we have learned from those mistakes and are prepared to move forward in light of the recommendations that we have been given. These recommendations complement the findings of the Task Force on Adverse Health Events that My Government also commissioned. My Government is committed to raising to a much higher standard the quality of the laboratory work that is central to effective diagnosis and treatment of our Province's patients. Shortcomings and failures in diagnosis and treatment have been identified nationwide, so with these recommendations before us, we now have the opportunity to lead the country in setting higher standards. My Government is sincerely grateful to the patients, the families and the health care workers who participated in the Cameron inquiry and assures them that their legacy will be a health care system in this Province that is stronger than it has ever been before.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Judge Cameron's report encourages us to be vigilant in all areas of health care. Her message is not lost on My Government, which will be looking at the bigger picture of health care delivery to identify other areas where improvements are needed. My Government welcomes the new chief executive officer of Eastern Health, Vickie Kaminski, and looks forward to working closely with her, and with others throughout the health care system, to implement Judge Cameron's recommendations and to improve the delivery of health care in our Province. My Government is particularly cognizant of the need to ensure we retain and recruit the health care professionals we require. Our health care system cannot function without doctors, nurses and other professionals. My Government is ready to do more, within our means, to make Newfoundland and Labrador even more attractive to health care professionals.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTEANT GOVERNOR: My Government is also continuing to implement the recommendations of the Turner inquiry report, from which important lessons were learned. In addition this year, My Government will create a new department with responsibility for Child, Youth and Family Services.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTEANT GOVERNOR: These services are currently within a division of the Department of Health and Community Services. This move will be made in recognition of the priority My Government gives to Child, Youth and Family Services and to strengthen and enhance the profile of those services.

Our next section deals with: Preparing Our People for Self-reliance.

Preparing Our People for Self-reliance

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly: The vulnerability of children to the consequences of poverty is one of the key reasons My Government has made poverty reduction a top priority. Local and national anti-poverty groups continue to champion My Government's Poverty Reduction Strategy as a model for the country. My Ministers thank the many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and groups whose feedback will shape the next phase of our strategy and help us build a society in which all citizens, regardless of the conditions they are from or the challenges they face, can participate fully in the many social and economic benefits of our growing self-reliance.

Through major investments in education, we will continue to prepare our people to make the most of every opportunity that awaits them. This year, My Government will turn its attention to developing a strategic plan for early childhood learning, to give our children the kind of advantage that is enjoyed by kids in the world's most progressive jurisdictions. My Government has already made huge investments in educational excellence, raising annual education funding beyond a billion dollars for the first time in our history. At the K-12 level, My Government has progressively capped class sizes, introduced new programs, provided free textbooks, expanded labs and learning resources, and given students in remote areas access to programs never before available in their communities.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: At the post-secondary level, My Government has frozen tuition fees at national lows throughout its mandate and led the country in student aid reform while maintaining funding for facilities and programs. Every action is grounded in the conviction that our success tomorrow depends on the investments we make in education today. That student focus will continue this year. In recognition of his many years of service to Memorial University, My Government sincerely thanks Dr. Eddy Campbell, Memorial's acting President and Vice-Chancellor, and we wish him well in his new position.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: My Government looks forward to the recruitment of a new President for Memorial University, and My Government will continue to respect the autonomy of Memorial University. With the White Paper on Public Post-secondary Education and the Skills Task Force report to guide us, Newfoundland and Labrador is ready to seize the opportunities of the new economy.

Our Province will need more workers as it continues to grow. Our progress depends on our ability to retain the skilled workers we educate and recruit the skilled workers we require. Last year, we set to work on a Youth Retention and Attraction Strategy. We asked young people what we needed to do to help curb youth out-migration. This year, we will show them we have listened by implementing an innovative strategy to position Newfoundland and Labrador as a province of choice for young people who want to work and prosper, raise a family, lead a community and leave a legacy they can be proud of.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: This spring, we will also be launching the International Registry and its associated website. This registry will provide a direct means for workers from across Canada and the world to connect to employment prospects in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Growing Our Economy for Self-reliance

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly: The future we are working to build is not limited by the constraints of the past. An increasingly diversified and mature economy is taking shape in all regions of our Province. Activity is not confined to a single area or industry but spans traditional resource-driven industries and knowledge-based industry sectors. Much of this activity is driven by small business in such sectors as ocean technology, agriculture, life sciences, tourism, and information and communications technologies. My Government is working aggressively to build strong communities with healthy economies for today and future generations through innovation and diversification. By providing local enterprises with the tools they need to target new opportunities and modernize their operations, My Government is nurturing a climate for new growth and opening new doors for prosperity.

The massive infrastructure investments we are making this year will not only help tide many over these tough economic times, but also firm up the foundation for brighter days ahead. As My Government invests strategically in municipal infrastructure, it is encouraged by the growing awareness that communities are stronger and more sustainable when they work as regions by sharing services and, when they so choose, by amalgamating. My Government encourages communities to get creative as they work together to build sustainable regional economies, and it will work with them to achieve those goals. Through a bold new Regional Collaboration Pilot Project, My Government will work with regional leaders to explore collaborative forms of governance that advance regional sustainability. My Government will continue to work collaboratively with Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador and local municipalities, regional economic boards and other rural development agencies to develop long-term integrated sustainability plans which will help build a stronger Province.

Celebrating a New Dawn in Labrador

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly: In 2007, My Government unveiled an unprecedented strategic plan for the region of our Province with the greatest untapped potential. The Northern Strategic Plan for Labrador is a groundbreaking, far-reaching strategy to bring Labrador's enormous potential to fruition and benefit the people of the Big Land as never before. The plan is now entering the third year of a five-year cycle, and a mid-term report will soon be issued. My Government is continuing to invest strategically in Labrador and remains committed to improving social and economic conditions in the region in collaboration with all Labradorians, including the Nunatsiavut Government representing Labrador's Inuit people.

In September, My First Minister, the Premier, and the Grand Chief of the Innu Nation, Mark Nui, announced the signing of a milestone agreement, the Tshash Petapen Agreement which translates as the New Dawn Agreement.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Negotiations will continue to execute formal agreements. Once an Agreement-in-Principle on the Innu land claim has been reached, the Innu Nation will present the details to the Innu people for ratification. Truly historic in its scope, the New Dawn Agreement marks a new beginning for the Innu of Labrador and their relationship with our Province.

As the only Atlantic province with a northern region, Newfoundland and Labrador is ideally positioned to be Canada's Northern Gateway, and we are working to earn this designation. As Captain Bob Bartlett ably demonstrated, this is an ideal staging ground for scientific expeditions to the North as well as environmental stewardship projects, commercial operations, marine traffic monitoring and national defence.

Standing Tall in Ocean Technology

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly: The United States-based Marine Technology Reporter recently described Newfoundland and Labrador as "standing tall as an international epicentre of marine technology" - recognition indeed. My Government is determined to capitalize on opportunities to grow this sector by releasing a new ocean technology strategy in collaboration with the Province's industry leaders. By strengthening ties between institutions and industry, enhancing supports for businesses, expanding global markets and nurturing an environment ripe for success, My government will build on our historic strengths and natural inclination to be world leaders in the lucrative ocean technology sector.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: We have been a leader in ocean industries for hundreds of years. We have long been the guardians of the greatest fishing resource in the world, threatened though it remains. Still, our Province's fishing industry generates 24,000 jobs and hundreds of millions in returns year after year. Through strong investments in our growing aquaculture industry, we are harnessing modern technology to breathe new life into communities with historic ties to the fishing industry. Newfoundland and Labrador is exceptionally proud of the growth we have seen in our aquaculture industry in recent years, and we are determined to nurture that strength through continuing investments.

Taking a Lead Role In Research and Development

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly: As the world's most successful economies invest millions to become leaders in research and development initiatives that will define opportunity and determine prosperity in the decades ahead, Newfoundland and Labrador would be irresponsible to remain behind. If we are not prepared to lead, others will step into the breach and reap the rewards. This Province will not sell out its children by selling short their future. My government this year will launch the Research and Development Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador as a Crown corporation whose purpose will be to strengthen the focus, quantity, quality and relevance of research and development for the economic benefit of our Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: We will continue to build on our success to date and will move aggressively to capitalize on opportunities in ocean technology, energy and biotechnology. The R&D Corporation will bring together stakeholders to finalize an R&D Strategy that will position Newfoundland and Labrador's research institutions and innovative entrepreneurs at the fore in key sciences and technological disciplines, both nationally and internationally, and this will enable Newfoundland and Labrador to lead in this lucrative sector in the decades to come.

Our next section is: Becoming the Energy Warehouse of the North American Northeast.

Becoming the Energy Warehouse of the North American Northeast

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly: The field of endeavour whose successes are surpassed by no others in this Province is the energy sector. Already, we produce nearly half of Canada's conventional light sweet oil. In January, we celebrated production of our one billionth barrel of oil.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: The commitment to offshore development and exploration remains strong. The Hebron project is in the pre-Front-End Engineering and Design Phase with a project management office to open here in the next few months. My Government is committed to ensuring development moves forward with a focus on safety and the environment.

All should benefit from such emerging opportunities, not just some. The new Hebron Development Agreement is a true milestone for Newfoundland and Labrador with an unprecedented agreement for a Gender Equity and Diversity Plan for all phases of the project.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: With quantifiable objectives and goals, this plan will include training and recruitment programs that address access to employment and business opportunities for women, Aboriginal people and disadvantaged groups, including those with disabilities. Responsibility for the implementation of this commitment will be shared by the project operators and major contractors. The new Energy Plan also demonstrates My Government's commitment to ensuring women and underrepresented groups more fully participate in the energy sector and have full access to employment opportunities. Vale Inco is also currently finalizing a women's employment plan that will ensure equitable opportunities for women under the Long Harbour project. My Government will work collaboratively with business, labour and all stakeholders to advance opportunities for all who want to work in Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: This is a very important year for the Lower Churchill project, which is now undergoing environmental assessment, as is the proposal to establish a Labrador-Island Transmission Link. The projects would generate more than 17,000 person-years of employment over a 10-year construction period and bring incredible opportunities for generations to come.

We have also begun to reap the potential to generate clean energy from the wind, with nine turbines operating at St. Lawrence and nine installed at Fermeuse. Cumulatively, these sustainable energy units will be able to displace over 300,000 barrels of oil at Holyrood and 150,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions while powering 14,000 homes resulting in significant cost savings over the next two decades. Our new energy powerhouse Nalcor Energy this year will also start to operate the wind-hydrogen-diesel demonstration project at Ramea, showing Canadians how to bring alternative energy to an isolated community. These are tremendous success stories that My Government will showcase when it hosts the national conference of energy and mines ministers later this year.

Renewed interest in renewable energy reflect the goals of My Government's comprehensive Energy Plan and Climate Change Action Plan, which together will help us reduce emissions and enhance sustainability. In line with this Action Plan, My Government in January assisted in launching the Coastal Connections Climate Change Pilot Project, through which students from Clarenville High and Random Island Academy are gathering data to measure the impacts of climate change on the fishery and their own communities.

Promoting Our Uncommon Potential is our next section.

Promoting Our Uncommon Potential

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly: Just before we next gather for a Speech from the Throne, Canada will host the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver, and Newfoundland and Labrador will be there, promoting ourselves to the world. This fall, some 330 torchbearers will carry the flame across this Province and celebrate the power and sheer pleasure of sport. Having opened the new state-of-the-art Newfoundland and Labrador PowerPlex during the past year, My Government will continue this year to support our athletes and promote to all of us the many enduring benefits of sport and recreation.

My Government, in partnership with industry, has just unveiled our collaborative tourism vision for Newfoundland and Labrador entitled "Uncommon Potential" and set a target of doubling tourism revenue by 2020. Our tourism product is getting better by the year. Anybody who watches the advertising mediums can see that. With awarding-winning marketing strategies including a billboard on the Gardiner Expressway promoting Newfoundland and Labrador through a curtained window and television ads to rival the best, My Government is confident we have what it takes to draw the tourists in. This year, we invite the world to join us at Brigus and other communities to honour the outstanding legacy of Captain Bob Bartlett. His achievements amaze us and his attitude inspires us to fix our sights boldly and courageously on the high latitudes of self-reliance to which we aspire. If we had 10,000 Bob Bartlett's, you can imagine what we could accomplish. No matter how audacious the goal or how great the obstacles, we have all we need to accomplish what we set out to achieve. Like Captain Bob, and in the words of America's new President, with hope and virtue, let us endure what storms may come.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly: Estimates of expenditure will be laid before you in due course and you will be asked to grant supply to Her Majesty.

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

May Divine Providence guide you in your deliberation.

His Honour, the Lieutenant-Governor, Mrs. Crosbie, and the Vice-Regal Party leave the Chamber.

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I shall ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act Respecting Apologies. (Bill 1)

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

All those in favour, 'aye'.


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

The motion is carried.

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

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Justice, that Bill 1, An Act Respecting Apologies be now read a first time.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 1, An Act Respecting Apologies, be now read a first time.

Is it the pleasure of the House that the said bill be now read a first time?

All those in favour, 'aye'.


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

The motion is carried.

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

MR. SPEAKER: This bill has now been read a first time. When shall Bill 1, An Act Respecting Apologies be read a second time?

MS BURKE: Tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

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

MR. SPEAKER: His Honour the Lieutenant Governor has been pleased to make his speech to the Members of the House of Assembly. I ask the Pages if they would now make his speech available to all members.

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for the District of Fortune Bay-Cape La Hune.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS PERRY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

On behalf of the constituents of Fortune Bay-Cape La Hune, I would like to express my sincerest condolences to the families and friends of Cougar Helicopter Flight 491. This tragic loss has touched us all, and it is indeed a sombre time for this Province. We wish Mr. Robert Decker all the best in his recovery and healing process. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those near and dear to these individuals during this most difficult time.

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a privilege to stand here today on behalf of the constituents of Fortune Bay-Cape La Hune and speak to the Throne Speech. I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank my constituents for the support they have shown and for allowing me the honour of representing them in the House of Assembly. I applaud His Honour, the Lieutenant Governor for delivering such an encouraging speech in the wake of these turbulent economic times that we are facing; nationally, and in fact, globally. It is a testament to the responsible management and leadership exhibited by this government over the past five years, which has positioned us to weather this economic storm far better than most.

While Newfoundland and Labrador is certainly not immune to the effects of today's economic adversity, there are still many positive things happening in this Province, making it a great place to live, work and raise a family. Despite efforts by the federal government to suffocate growth and prosperity in this great Province, we have shown them that we will not be restrained. The hard work of the past five years is paying off, and our future is brighter than ever.

My district of Fortune Bay-Cape La Hune takes in much of Newfoundland's South Coast, with a population of just over 8,200 people. Reaching from Rencontre East in the bottom of Fortune Bay to the picturesque community of Francois (locally pronounced as "Frans-way", my district epitomizes the charm, beauty and tranquility of rural Newfoundland and Labrador. It is a fabulous home, a place where one can feel safe and happy and enjoy the best of what nature, family and friends have to offer.

We have faced some challenges, though, particularly where the fishery is concerned. The departure of Fishery Products International in 2005 was especially hard, but we have not only survived, we are getting stronger. While the traditional fishery is still very much the economic mainstay of our district's economy, new emerging fisheries, hydro, aquaculture and eco-tourism have helped diversify the economy and offer new opportunities to attract investors.

Earlier this month, we celebrated an historic day in the development of the Province's aquaculture industry, when Cooke Aquaculture announced an $8.5 million investment in partnership with government, to develop a cod demonstration farm in the Coast of Bays region.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS PERRY: While the location of this facility has yet to be determined, the company has already begun refurbishing the former processing plant at Belleoram into a cod nursery to help with the growing of cod in Newfoundland and Labrador.

We are also growing arctic char, mussels, salmon and trout, with proven success after years of trial and perseverance. To our industry pioneers, we thank you for your commitment and dedication. You have created a future in our coastal communities for generations to come.

Our region also boasts a budding tourism industry, offering a variety of adventure and cultural activities, including the famous Miawpukek First Nation's Powwow, which is held each July at Conne River. In fact, we were thrilled to have the Premier and Minister Pottle in attendance at last year's event, which was recently recognized as one of twenty-nine significant tourism events by Aboriginal Tourism Canada.

In Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune, there is a traditional festival in every community each weekend throughout the summer from the first weekend in July to the last weekend in August and it is well worth the drive.

The tourism industry contributes approximately $800 million annually to the economy. Just last month, this government unveiled a new, long-term vision for growing the sector even more: Uncommon Potential - A Vision and Plan For Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism, identified specific, strategic directions to further guide the growth and development of this industry through to 2020.

Over the last five years, our government has doubled it tourism marketing budget from $6 million to $12 million, and the results are evident. Earlier this year, Newfoundland and Labrador was recognized, internationally, for its tourism marketing efforts. The Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International acknowledged the Province with not one, but three awards. This level of recognition certainly contributes to the promotion of Newfoundland and Labrador as a destination of choice for travelers.

Mr. Speaker, our Province has much to offer. We are getting noticed and gaining the respect that we so justly deserve worldwide. We are a determined people, determined to be masters of our own destiny.

Just take a look back at all that we have accomplished in such a short period. Late last year, we reached a significant milestone. For the first time ever in our history as Canadians, Newfoundland and Labrador became a have Province. We are no longer the "poor cousins" who are mocked by many throughout the country.

Newfoundland and Labrador has also become a major player on the international energy scene, achieving yet another significant milestone - our one billionth barrel of oil - on January 23 of this year. We have established a new corporation, Nalcor Energy, to manage the development of our tremendous wealth of energy resources and to ensure that we receive the maximum benefit from them.

As a result of strong fiscal management by this government, in October of 2008 the Dominion Bond Rating Service upgraded the Province's long-term debt rating from A (low) to A. This rating improvement is a significant indicator of the strength of our Province's economy and it is a key factor in attracting investors to Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, this government is acutely aware of the global economic downturn and the need for responsible stimulus measures. In addressing this need, our government recently announced a record $800 million investment into our Province's infrastructure, which will help to ensure that we are well equipped to sustain and strengthen our economy over the long-term.

In addition, over $309 million was announced for transportation infrastructure and $103 million for municipal infrastructure, which will be allocated throughout the Province.

In last year's 2008 Budget, Fortune Bay-Cape La Hune received $2.5 million for road infrastructure under the Provincial Roads Improvement Program. As well, we received $240,000 under the Forest Resource Roads Program for construction and maintenance work on two woods roads in the area. From the Municipal Capital Works Program the Town of Hermitage-Sandyville received $220,000 towards the purchase of a new fire truck and approval of over $800,000 for water treatment, the Town of Gaultois received $98,000 for a microwater treatment plant, and the Town of Pool's Cove was allocated almost $140,000 for upgrading and paving in the community.

In addition, there have been investments into fire equipment in Milltown and English Harbour West, maintenance of various town infrastructure, cultural activities at the Arts and Exploration Centre, programming for recreation committees and seniors' groups, economic development activities, a wharf at Pool's Cove and supports for the Community Youth Network which has now expanded in Bay d'Espoir, just to name a few.

There is also the new $4.7 veterinary diagnostic facility that we began planning for St. Alban's in 2007, which will be commenced this year.

Mr. Speaker, these projects create meaningful and welcomed employment for our region and our Province. This year's significant announcement builds upon the near $1.5 billion this government has invested in infrastructure since 2003.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS PERRY: We have also made considerable progress in repaying our debt and lowering our borrowing costs. This government is obviously on the right track, Mr. Speaker, and we are in an enviable position.

With strong, sound governance, we have shown the nation and the world that we can compete with the best. Proud, strong and determined to build a more prosperous self-reliant future, we can and will overcome these turbulent uncertain times.

The task now, though, is to maintain this momentum and keep our fiscal House in order, while responsibly addressing the needs of the people.

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the constituents of Fortune Bay-Cape la Hune, I move that a Select Committee be appointed to draft an Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Baie Verte-Springdale.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. POLLARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is indeed a tremendous honour to stand today and represent the people of the District of Baie Verte-Springdale and proudly second the motion that a Select Committee be appointed to draft an Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.

First I wish to thank His Honour the Lieutenant Governor for delivering such a sound, solid Throne Speech in fine style. It sets the tone, the pace and the course for the upcoming year for our government. It also gave an excellent overview or synopsis of what our government has done, is doing, and will do.

I would also like to take this opportunity to respectfully acknowledge the families of the tragic helicopter crash, Flight 491, on March 12 that claimed the lives of their loved ones. We grieve with you and share in your loss. As a Province, we come together to remember your loved ones and pray that God's peace will sustain and comfort you in this time of great sadness and pain. Also, our thoughts and prayers remain with Mr. Robert Decker and his family together as they cope with this tragedy. A great big thank you for an extraordinary job to all those people who helped in the rescue and recovery operations; forever we will be grateful.

Mr. Speaker, the world today is a different place than it was just one year ago, but our Province of Newfoundland and Labrador is in a position that many other provinces would not even dream of, or even dare to dream of, or would even hope to be in, thanks to the hard work, visionary approach and astute planning of our tireless government. Through strategic planning and an unwavering commitment to self-reliance, this government has ensured that our Province, and its people, continues to grow and stand on its own two feet. That solid approach has helped us to move forward and it will help us to overcome the various challenges that we face, and ultimately it will make us a stronger Province.

We began with a plan, we stuck to a plan, we are working that plan, and it is exciting to see the fruit of that plan. In spite of the federal government's efforts to suppress our positive growth and discourage us, we still remain tall and strong.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. POLLARD: We will continue to grow and flourish. We will continue to move forward with a sense of pride and with a sense of dignity.

Very early in the game our government realized that a strategic plan that puts our Province and its people first was absolutely essential, absolutely necessary for this Province to prosper, to grow and to move forward. Today we have built a strong foundation that will enable us and equip us to get through these difficult economic times.

Many governments all over the world are facing the same challenges, but with a strong economy, good job prospects and positive consumer confidence, we are poised to come out of the global recessional waters with a big splash.

This Province has many resources. This Province has a vibrant, skilled workforce. This Province has a strong, confident government who is willing to fight for the best deal and not settle for second-best. I am confident that by working together we will see Newfoundland and Labrador rebound from the impacts of this economic setback and continue on our path to economic prosperity. To that end, we will continue to stimulate our economy and create jobs.

Our government recently announced, not $600 million, not $700 million, but $800 million - I will say it again - $800 million in infrastructure investments that build on our sound fiscal management and continues to allow us to create a diversified and a strong economy.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. POLLARD: It is a considerable investment, over 50 per cent more than last year's budget, and is only a portion of the total spending that this government has committed to over the past six years. Since 2003 our government has spent $1.5 – not million – billion on infrastructure. That is real investment. That is a tangible investment. This spending, we believe, will stimulate the economy in every region of our great Province.

In my District of Baie Verte-Springdale, for example, our government has committed to building a new school in Baie Verte. We recognize that education is absolutely essential, absolutely necessary, to the success of our individuals and as a Province, as a people. Providing children with a new state-of-the-art facility in which to learn will maximize their potential, and in turn will allow them to become productive members of each of our towns. The new school is a K-12 school that will be completed in the fall of 2010. Children from the communities of Coachman's Cove, Baie Verte, Fleur-de-Lys, Seal Cove, Wild Cove, Pacquet, Woodstock, and Ming's Bight will all benefit from this new educational infrastructure. It will certainly be an asset to the entire region.

Funding for roadwork in the amount of $2.5 million was spent in communities in our district this past year, and over the past five years over $18 million. This significant investment helped to create jobs, generate revenue, and modernize aging infrastructure in our communities. Consequently, the residents in my district, industries such as tourism and resource development, all benefited from the new infrastructure announcement that set aside $183.3 million for road construction and improvements for the upcoming year, indicating that roadwork is indeed a high priority for our government.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. POLLARD: Municipal capital works projects in our communities have funded much needed water and sewer improvements. These projects inject money and resources into the smaller communities in our Province who alone cannot come up with this funding by themselves. In the recent announcement there was $103 million targeted towards municipal needs for our communities. Again, like road infrastructure, water and sewer is of major importance to our government.

Resource roads in my district are being completed, providing important access to harvesters and ensuring that the forest industry will continue to grow. These projects were part of the $55 million invested in the forestry sector in last year's Budget. In the latest infrastructure announcement, this government committed to putting $5.9 million towards the construction of resource roads in our Province. Central Newfoundland will see an increase of $1.7 million for construction of roads in their area.

Our government announced a new fire truck for the Town of Burlington and fire equipment for other towns like Pacquet, Middle Arm, Ming's Bight and Baie Verte. Providing much-needed funds to purchase new fire and safety equipment enhances the safety of our residents and also shows that our government, wherever possible, will help to support our local fire departments and do recognize the valuable contribution that they make to our towns and communities of our Province.

The people in my district and all over this great Province can look to the future with a stronger sense of security because of solid decisions and solid investments made by this government. Our Premier set a goal early in his mandate, and that was to fight for this Province and guarantee that there will be no more giveaways.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. POLLARD: He stood his ground when negotiating with large oil companies and came away with an unprecedented deal. He stuck to his guns when dealing with the federal government and again achieved great success for this Province, bringing home a mere $2 billion cheque. He once again stood up for the people of this great Province and expropriated the timber and water rights of AbitibiBowater.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. POLLARD: These actions clearly speak for themselves, that this government is not ready to roll over and go to sleep. We have too much desire, too much passion, too much determination, too much vision, too much energy, to do that.

As previously noted, today we are facing challenges that people and governments all over the world are also dealing with. It is just not us, it is global. The Throne Speech this year has announced a wide variety of initiatives that will help us to address these challenges, thus creating opportunities, stimulating the economy, and continuing the momentum that this government has had from day one.

This government's goal is to stimulate the economy and have a fiscally sustainable plan. We have directed our spending to create jobs that will drive the economic activity and make this Province a competitive and attractive place in which to work and play and raise a family. Along with our robust, aggressive infrastructure spending, we have also been cutting taxes and fees, paying down our debt, and improving our credit rating. All of these actions have given us a strong foundation upon which to build and give us a tremendous sense of optimism.

Through long-term projects, such as Hebron, the nickle processing plant in Long Harbour, Lower Churchill hydro project, Hibernia South expansion, and many other projects, we are looking towards a prosperous and bright future for the people of our Province. When the economic downturn runs its course, this Province will be in a good position. Why? Simply because our government has kept our economy strong and simply stuck to the plan.

As a Province, we continue to celebrate major milestones, such as in January of this year, when we marked the production of one billionth barrel of oil from the combined efforts of our three offshore oil projects. We have consistently delivered surplus budgets in the past four years. Our population continues to grow in the Province. Our have-not status is no more. All of these are indications that the course of action this government has taken over the past six years proves that the plan is indeed working. We have been fiscally responsible, prudent and investing strategically.

Some of the issues currently facing our Province and my district are beyond our control. The seal hunt, for example, which has been a stronghold in my district for as long as anybody can remember, may be a victim of global pressures. The seal industry adds a significant boost to the economy in the District of Baie Verte-Springdale, but unfortunately, world opinions are putting this historic hunt in jeopardy. The reality is that people in small towns in Newfoundland and Labrador are affected by votes made in Europe. Our government has worked tirelessly and relentlessly to make sure that Newfoundland and Labrador are treated fairly, but it is a difficult battle to overcome.

Meanwhile, our fishery continues to make substantial contribution to our economy. The seafood industry alone contributed $1 billion in production revenue to this Province last year and in the previous year. We are promoting sustainable industries such as aquaculture and agrifoods, providing them with lots of funds to grow and expand. Hopefully, that will keep some of our people in this great Province of ours. Our government feels that by diversifying the economy we will be able to entice people to stay.

To do this, here are some more examples: we will encourage growth through education and learning opportunities; we have boosted training and apprenticeship programs for skilled workers and provided more opportunities for post-secondary training to support our skilled trades and strengthen our labour market; our total infrastructure expenditures on public post-secondary institutions will be over $34 million; and in addition to this, we are investing a total of $121.5 million into new school construction, repairs, maintenance, and renovations.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. POLLARD: Another initiative: we are looking to develop clean and renewable energy sources by investing $3.5 million for the Ramea Wind-Hydrogen Diesel Project. Another initiative, the Lower Churchill project, is progressing very well and in the future we will be delivering green energy to the rest of the world.

Another initiative, diversifying and funding business investment and increasing our investment in tax credits, has helped to encourage business growth. Funding local research and development is another aspect of our diversification. We are planning for the establishment of a research centre in human genetics here in this Province.

You see, we are becoming world leaders and that is great, I like that. These are just a few examples of the initiatives this government is creating to move our economy along. Our future looks bright indeed, and the potential for us as a Province is exciting.

Again, we can stand together and be proud of our accomplishments. We have learned that through hard work and determination it is possible to arrive at a point where we can feel secure and confident in the choices we have made as a Province and as a people. But then, hard work and determination are traits that we as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have been known for the world over, traits of which we are extremely proud of, traits that will propel us to be the masters of our own destiny, traits that will make us the head and not the tail, above and not beneath.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to respond today to the Speech from the Throne.

I want to thank His Honour the Lieutenant Governor for delivering today's Throne Speech and for recognizing the recent tragedy of Cougar Flight 491 that has shaken the Province and left many families heartbroken. We acknowledge and share in his kind, caring and sympathetic words today.

I would also like to welcome all of the distinguished guests who have joined us here today in the House of Assembly. I must acknowledge the Lieutenant Governor's highlighting of the celebrations of mariner Bob Bartlett and his expeditions in North America but, Mr. Speaker, I also want to take the opportunity to invite my honourable colleagues and guests this year to visit my district and historic Battle Harbour, which was the site of one of Bob Bartlett's expeditions as he accompanied Robert Peary to explore the North Pole, and you will have an opportunity to stand and sit in the very area in which Peary held his first news conference to bring to the world the news that he had reached the North Pole. So it is an open invitation for all of you to attend.

Throne Speeches, by their very nature, are positive. They are written by the government to outline their plans and priorities for the next year. While every person in every sector is mentioned in today's Throne Speech, it will be the initiatives of the Budget and the actions of the government that will demonstrate as to whether those commitments are being met to people.

This year we celebrate sixty years of confederation with Canada, a federation that has contributed to the growth and development of our people and of our Province, one that we are proud of as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. While we have and will continue to debate our differences with Canada, we must continue to play a role in shaping the country's agenda and our involvement in it, not just shut the door to the opportunities that we know exist.

There will be new economic challenges facing us as a Province because of the worldwide recession. Oil and mineral prices have dropped, which will negatively impact our budget.

We have significant challenges in both our health and education sectors.

There are groups of people in this Province who are falling through the cracks of our social system and experiencing hardship, poverty and homelessness.

Your government has benefited significantly over the past several years due to windfall oil revenues. However, the more our revenues have grown, the more our challenges have stayed the same. If you do not battle to overcome poverty, social inadequacies and homelessness when revenues are in surplus, then it will certainly be a test to what the priorities will be when faced with economic challenges and deficits.

We all know that our Province has not been immune to the economic circumstances facing the world.

The people of Grand Falls-Windsor saw this first-hand with the closure of the AbitibiBowater mill; the people of Labrador City and Wabush have felt the downturn at IOC and Wabush Mines.

Workers at Voisey's Bay, Duck Pond and Corner Brook Pulp and Paper have all experienced layoffs in recent weeks and months.

There have also been projects such as the Come by Chance refinery expansion and a second refinery for Placentia Bay that have been deferred indefinitely due to the difficulties in raising capital in the international markets.

What is in store for our fishery? The Icelandic banks provided much needed capital to our fishing enterprises, but this money is no longer available as it was in the past. It is the responsibility of our government to ensure that these gaps are filled or people in communities across our Province will be severely impacted.

These are just a few of the immediate economic impacts being felt throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.

Unfortunately, the people affected by layoffs and slowdowns do not have the same opportunities that we have seen in the past, for there are fewer job available today in places like Alberta and Ontario. They just can't pack up and move or get those fly-in, fly-out camp jobs as they did in the past. Those was opportunities that were afforded to people over the last number of years, in places like the Northern Peninsula, the Burin Peninsula, Harbour Breton and Stephenville, when the economic situations in those areas changed.

The economies of provinces like Ontario and Alberta are suffering as well, as a result of low oil prices and slowdown in the manufacturing sector and tight credit markets. Not only are there fewer opportunities for recently laid off workers, but existing workers today from our own Province who have been commuting to jobs elsewhere for a number of years are also being impacted.

Although we cannot escape the pressures of an economic downturn, and many times cannot control the factors that largely impact industry downsizing and job loss, what we do control, as a government, is how you lead the Province through challenging times to ensure that people, communities and businesses have a sense of stability and a sense of strength.

While we know that the lower commodity prices have driven our Province into a deficit this year and are affecting available revenue streams, we also know that economists believe that government spending must occur if we are to climb out of this recession.

Economists from around the world are saying it is not a time to cut services and programs, but instead an opportunity to create new stimulus by investing in infrastructure and people.

I am pleased to see that last month government did make announcements that would make a substantial investment into infrastructure in our Province. Even though some of the monies announced have been committed to on numerous occasions over the past years, we can only hope that now we will see those projects completed; projects such as the hospital in Labrador West, which has been announced in every budget since 2006, and the Francophone School in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, which was first announced in the Budget of 2005. These things must get done.

Not only are these projects required to provide the services to the people, but it can help offset the economic downturn and provide much-needed employment to skilled workers.

There are opportunities in every sector of our economy, our forestry, our agriculture and our fishery, but we have to be willing to invest and support these industries for both the short-term and the long-term.

We will be watching closely to determine whether government's approach is working and whether it needs to strengthened.

The economy is one of the challenges that will have to be a priority for this government, and another is health care.

Every day we receive calls, letters and e-mails outlining the impact of nursing and doctor shortages; cancelled surgeries; lack of beds; lack of home care; and lack of mental health services.

While government and the Minister of Health do not like to admit it, our health care system is in a crisis.

There are things that must be done to restore confidence, and this was evident from the recommendations of the Cameron report.

I want to thank Justice Cameron for her work over the past year and making recommendations that will hopefully improve the delivery of health services in our Province. I also want to thank the cancer patients and their families for sharing their stories so that improvements can be made that will benefit everyone in the Province.

The report, the Cameron report, was a damning overview of the problems that can occur when the appropriate leadership, oversight and accountability are not present in our health care system. While the report points out many faults that need to be corrected, it also provides an opportunity for change that can hopefully restore confidence in health care delivery right across the Province.

While Justice Cameron's findings were directed towards improving breast cancer testing, the recommendations can certainly be expanded to include other sectors of our health care system.

Now that we are aware of the magnitude of the problems, we need to ensure that the concrete action plan that government moves forward with is able to implement and foster the change that is required. We cannot allow this report to sit on the shelf, as has happened with other reports that were received by the government opposite. We, as the Official Opposition, will challenge government to move quickly and we will hold them accountable for unnecessary delays.

We also invite government to share information more willingly and be much more transparent in this process than they have been in the past; because, if you are to rebuild confidence in the system, everyone must work together to achieve this goal.

The breast cancer testing errors is certainly the biggest health care tragedy in our Province's history. Immediate action is needed to correct the problems that have been identified, but another area requiring immediate action is addressing the nursing shortage in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Under the current set of circumstances, nurses are poised and feel that they have no other choice but to strike this spring. Government seems unwilling to address the challenges facing nurses, including: workload, quality of life, and wage disparities with other provinces. One of the ways to achieve this is through non-pattern bargaining, a concept that government wants to dismiss around nurses. Not every group can be treated the same in today's environment. Nurses are in high demand across the country and throughout Atlantic Canada, and unless their issues are addressed, our health care system and patient services will be negatively impacted.

The horror stories are already being told by nurses and by patients. Just recently, the operating room at the Labrador Health Centre was shut down for two days. At the Health Sciences Centre, cardiac surgeries were being cancelled due to nursing shortages. The Newfoundland and Labrador Nurses' Union says that in 2008, in the last year, 175 cardiac surgeries were cancelled in this Province, and seventy-three of those were due directly as a result of a nursing shortage.

The Nurses' Union also says that the emergency room at the Health Sciences Center and the neo-natal intensive care unit are also struggling to remain fully staffed and provide effective health care delivery to patients.

In weeks to come, I encourage government to come to the table in the spirit of co-operation and reach out to the nurses to get an agreement in place. The people of the Province are counting on you, their government, to preserve health care services for them.

We are also hoping for some movement on youth mental health services in the Province during the coming weeks and months. Last fall, we profiled this issue in the House of Assembly and we are hoping to get some action on this file. Unfortunately, we are in much the same situation today as we were then.

While government recently announced that a treatment facility will be built, there have been no time frames or design plans outlined. We can only hope that those plans will be clearer as we hear the Budget tomorrow.

As we wait for this facility and the associated services, young people are still asking for help in this Province and desperately requiring services. According to the Canadian Paediatric Society, mental health problems among children and youth have increased in recent years and are predicted to increase by 50 per cent by the year 2020. Government has had a report in the Department of Health and Community Services for five years, yet let it sit on the shelf while the number of youth receiving treatment in programs outside this Province grew from seventeen in 2003 to approximately fifty young people today.

In December, the Janeway mental health treatment ward was closed and two teenagers were transported in handcuffs to the Waterford Hospital. This situation was only meant to be temporary, but the young girls affected were there for months.

Government must take action both in the short term and the long term to help the youth of our Province deal with these illnesses. Youth suicide statistics indicate that eighteen young people have committed suicide in this Province over the last three years, and approximately 1,000 young people in Newfoundland and Labrador attempt suicide annually.

Our Province spends the second-lowest amount per capita on mental health services in the country; one reason, I am sure, why young people are falling through the cracks.

I am also hoping government will move forward with improvements to the medical travel assistance program. We have heard from groups such as the Canadian Cancer Society and individual patients that the current guidelines are not appropriately serving the people of the Province. There are more and more stories coming forward from people who are being forced to travel within the Province or other parts of Canada for medical care, and they are experiencing great financial hardship to do so.

This program is supposed to assist people in dealing with the extensive travel costs associated with receiving specialized care. Unfortunately, too many people are being failed by the system they desperately rely upon. Many are placed in positions of financial hardship and even bankruptcy. This is not acceptable, and immediate changes are required. Every resident of this Province should have equal access to health care services without the fear of losing their financial independence.

As Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, we pride ourselves on our academic achievements and our institutions of higher learning, particularly Memorial University. This institution has been a cornerstone of academic development in our Province since 1949. As a matter of fact, it was the first act of this Legislature after we joined Confederation sixty years ago. Unfortunately, recent events and the political interference in the selection of a new president have caused significant problems for the university in its attempt to function as an autonomous institution. We need the MUN presidency issue addressed, and we need a process outside of political interference from government.

The Canadian Association of University Teachers has already threatened to censor MUN because of this political interference. Memorial's autonomy and reputation are being questioned both nationally and internationally - and we have all seen the articles. A recent report from a joint consultation committee of the Board of Regents and the University Senate reviewing Memorial's presidential search process made four recommendations on how to protect the autonomy of Memorial University and avoid any future political interference.

I hope that government realizes their mistake and listens to the recommendations and allows the process to move forward without any further interference. We have already lost a great candidate and supporter of our university in Dr. Eddy Campbell. While his contribution made it into the government's Throne Speech today, he certainly did not receive the credit and respect he deserved to continue as the president of our university. He was highly recommended by the highest levels of governance and office within the academic community of our Province.

While it is our loss, I do wish him every success in his new role with the University of New Brunswick and I thank him for the service that he has given the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

There are many issues I can highlight today, both positive and negative, but I want to advocate on issues that require immediate action.

I want to end my response today by ensuring that government does not lose sight of the poorest people in our Province who will be looking for assistance during hard economic times. While we may be led to believe that we are insulated to what is happening around the world, we know that here in Newfoundland and Labrador people are losing their jobs and need social programs to get over the hump until they get back on their feet. They will need a hand up, not a hand out, because we are hard working people in this Province.

We hear daily from seniors and public sector pensioners who cannot afford to heat their homes and choose healthy nutritious foods. This is no way to treat our elderly population.

The Poverty Reduction Strategy has addressed some fundamental obstacles for the lowest income earners, yet we have learned that many of the challenges made actually hurt those who rely on government assistance for their basic needs. Hopefully, government will remember this fact as they move through their preliminary agenda over the coming months.

There will certainly be challenges in the coming year for both government and for the people of the Province. Our Province is not isolated from the country or the world as we work through these difficult economic times. We need to develop pathways with our federal counterparts to ensure that we do not leave money on the table, nor lose opportunities for our people or for the Province.

As I have outlined here today, there are many positive initiatives that government can do and are doing, but we must address some of the other pressing matters as well.

We will continue to advocate for balance during these challenging economic times. We advocated for a balanced approach when there were huge surplus budgets and we will do the same as we make our way through deficits.

While government may have a large majority in this House of Assembly, we will ask the tough questions, we will demand accountability and we will challenge government on issues as they arise. It is our job as an Opposition and we take it seriously.

Today's Speech from the Throne outlines government's agenda and I hope that it will produce results for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, individually and all of us collectively as a Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

It is an honour to once again stand and respond to the Speech from the Throne, and I thank His Honour the Lieutenant Governor for being with us today and delivering his speech.

I also want to welcome the guests who are in the House with us and those who are watching, both via cable and for the first time, I think, via Web cast. So, hello to everybody and thank you for being with us.

Today's Speech from the Throne highlights a couple of very serious issues. One of course, the very first one that was at the beginning of the speech, is the tragedy that we have experienced as a Province just so recently, and that was the loss, of course, of Cougar Helicopter Flight 491.

I would like to join with the Lieutenant Governor in, once again - on behalf, especially today, of my constituents from Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi - condolences to the seventeen families who lost loved ones on that flight and, again, join with the Lieutenant Governor and others in wishing Robert Decker and his family all the best wishes that we can send out to him. We hope that he will have a very speedy recovery.

The other thing that is in the Speech from the Throne, that is a serious issue, did not start with this past year but it certainly was highlighted this past year, and that was the report of the inquiry conducted by Madam Justice Margaret Cameron. That too highlights a tragedy, because that too indicates that we have people out there who are people who have suffered from a tragedy, either because of the loss of loved ones, or the potential loss – families who have women in them who know they are going to die. Both of these tragedies are tragedies that I think have brought great sorrow on people in this Province. Both of them have to have inquiries. We had the inquiry for the tragedies around the breast screening, and we have the recommendations; recommendations that the government has committed to put in play. I will be certainly looking forward to the Budget tomorrow to see the money that is going to be there to make sure that the recommendations of the Cameron Report can be worked on immediately without any hesitation.

With regard to the loss of the Cougar helicopter, of course we have to await recommendations. We do not even know at this point, I do not think, how many inquiries there might have to be. I think that once we get the report from the Transportation Safety Board and the other inquiries that will have to be done, one by the RCMP as well, I think then there will have to be thought given to: Are the findings of those inquiries sufficient? I think that is something the Premier of the Province has indicated he would have to look at himself, once those reports come out, and we may have to look at ourselves saying: Should there be a broader inquiry? Time will tell with that one.

What is certain for both of those tragedies is that answers have to be found. I think with the Cameron inquiry on the breast screening disaster – because it was a disaster – I think we have found the reasons, multiple reasons. It wasn't one; it was multiple reasons. We hope that we will find reasons, also, with regard to the helicopter crash that will allow us to work on that as well, to have concrete recommendations that can be acted upon, so that we can avoid another tragedy of that manner as well.

I felt it was really important to bring these two things out first today, because I think they colour what we have in the Speech from the Throne today. The Speech from the Throne is a positive document. Naturally, it is going to be. It is the government putting out its goals, what it says it wants to do, what its blueprint is, and it is going to be positive, but then you have Opposition and we are here to ask questions and to point out maybe there are some things that we may not see so positively – not just me. We are here because people want us to ask probing questions. That is our role, and that is what I hope to do this afternoon as I respond to the Speech from the Throne.

I am not unhappy, obviously, to see a Speech from the Throne that is optimistic and encouraging optimism, but in my role I have to say that we have to be not only optimistic but we have to be realistic, and being realistic means looking at the reality of what it is that we are experiencing here in our Province.

It is true; I believe very much in our Province and I believe very much in our spirit as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and I am a proud Newfoundlander and Labradorian. Everywhere I go, to me, being from Newfoundland comes first when I identify myself to people. That always comes first. I want us to be proud of who we are, to be proud of our history and be proud of achievements we have made, but we also have to recognize the places where we have to do a lot of work; because it is not just looking at the new things and moving in new directions. Unless we are at the same time looking at what are the things that are not in great shape, and are improving those at the same time, then we will not get exactly where we want to go, and I think we have to do that.

We have to realize, for example, as much as we know what we want for our health care system, we know that we have a health care system that is woefully inadequate at the moment. We cannot run away from the reality of the stories that keep coming to us with regard to different aspects of home care.

This week, of course, one has been the issue of access to dialysis machines for people who are in Labrador West. We have the issues around wait times, the whole issue around emergency rooms, and the issue of surgeries having to be cancelled because of lack of adequate personnel to deal with the patients when their surgeries are over, surgeries being cancelled five minutes before a patient is supposed to go into an operating room.

I do not name all of this to be negative. I name it because we have to deal with it. It is reality. It has to be dealt with. We have to have an influx of money, we have to have an influx of personnel in our health care system, and we have to deal with the fact that we are 1,000 nurses short in our health care system. How can the system work when we have that shortage? These are the issues that have to be dealt with. As much as we want to be nice, bright, cherry and positive, this is a reality.

We also have issues around homelessness, especially for youth, and it is not just in St. John's. Some people may think, oh, that must be only in St. John's, but the young people we are hearing from are young people from Corner Brook, young people from Labrador, young people who are couch surfing because they cannot afford a place to live because housing is not affordable, they cannot rent a place. This is a real issue.

We have a lot of initiatives going on, especially in St. John's – I think more so in St. John's – with regard to trying to deal with that issue, and I know that government, through HRLE in particular, is working with community groups in trying to deal with this issue, but we have to be working at it systemically. It is not just enough to come up with the housing and that is, I think, what some of the really creative programs in St. John's are showing: that if you have housing that is linked to persons who are also being trained and then going on and becoming employed, then that kind of a program is the kind of program that would really work.

We see some of that happening, and what I hope to see as we – naturally, we have not seen the strategy with regard to youth yet, because I think that is probably still being put together. The consultations, I think, ended not too long ago, but I would be certain that this issue is one that has to be dealt with in that strategy. I will be looking forward to seeing the strategy, to see what government is going to do to increase its participation so that we do not have any youths who do not have places to live and who are couch surfing because of that reason, or who cannot find training, or who need to be able to pull themselves out of a situation that they are in, where they do not want to be, but they need help to pull themselves out so that they can move forward. These are potential workers in the Province and we have too many of them who, right now, do not see their own potential.

The other issue - I was really pleased, and I will mention the things that I find positive in the Speech from the Throne - I am pleased to see the initiative, the hopeful initiative, around early childhood learning. I think the phrase says that government is looking to planning developing a strategy. Well, I hope that means it is going to start this year.

What disturbs me is that the strategy, or what is in there with regard to saying something about a strategy for early childhood learning, is not connected to the need for a child care program. If you talk to any of the people involved in dealing with early childhood learning, they talk about childhood education and child care. Early childhood education and child care, the two go together. The two go together; because, as we get children into early childhood learning, that only starts at a certain point in their life, three or four years old, number one, so what happens before that when parents need to have child care, and then what happens afterwards as well?, because their school day is not going to be the same length of time as the parents' workday. We have to have the two together, so I am happy to see early childhood learning named. I am very disappointed not to see child care connected with that. I would urge government to realize, if they are going to come up with a strategy, then that the strategy had better include child care or else it is just one-half of the coin and that will not work.

The other thing about the child care is that parents who do not have adequate income, one, if it is a two-parent family, will want, very often, two people to work, and without access to child care they cannot do that. Very often single parents, especially single parent women, cannot pay for child care - they do not have enough money - so they can't work, so they are on social assistance.

Unfortunately, we find that the cost for child care now is beyond the assistance that is given to women who need assistance to have their children in child care spaces, so we have a lot of issues around that. If we are going to move ahead with early childhood learning, we have to deal with the child care issue in this Province as well.

The Speech from the Throne says that it wants to see every citizen in the Province benefit from the social and economic benefits that are happening in our Province. I want to see that, too. I think we all want to see that but we have to put in place real plans to make that happen. While there are some things in the Speech from the Throne that will do that, I think we need a lot more, especially when we look at some of the economic realities in Newfoundland and Labrador right now.

The figures that I am going to be alluding to and quoting right now are figures that come directly from Statistics Canada. They are not - I know the whole phrase of statistics and damn lies, but I am afraid that these figures are real figures and I think they tell us the truth and we have to listen to that truth. For example, over the last ten years, when it comes to family income in Newfoundland and Labrador, there has been no appreciable change in the average income of families in Newfoundland and Labrador. Over those same ten years, the economic inequalities between those at the lower end and those at the upper end of income, is increasing tremendously. So the gap is growing between those who have and those who have not, or who have less in this Province. The gap is getting bigger. So we have a percentage of people at the top of the economic scale who are benefiting really well from everything that is happening in this Province, but from the low to middle income people, things are not changing for them. Yet, the cost of living has gone up, access to affordable housing has become harder, food has become more expensive but their incomes are not changing, that is a reality.

We have had – again, looking at the statistics, looking at what has happened over the last twenty-five years, we really have not had any progress in the fight against poverty. By that meaning -


MS MICHAEL: Excuse me, Mr. Speaker.

By that I mean, and this is the definition, people's income - that the level of people living in poverty has not changed over the past twenty-five years. The percentage has not changed. That is a reality. My colleagues in the government can moan and groan all they want but that is the truth.

In the past thirty years, when you compare the average income of people in this Province with the average income of people in Canada, thirty years ago we had 77 per cent of what people in the rest of Canada have in terms of income. Thirty years later it is 79 per cent. So we have only gained two percentage points in comparing our economic reality with that of the average in Canada.

Just to name one employment thing - because I can stand up and have thousands of examples here today but I will just do one more, two actually. The average full-time, full year earning of women in comparison between women in Newfoundland and Labrador and the average for women in Canada, is a growing gap. Women are comparing less and less favourably with women in Canada as a whole. I cannot talk about this without talking about the gender gap. For women in Newfoundland and Labrador, unfortunately, the gap between their earnings and the earnings of men has not changed. It is the same. Now, I know that initiatives are going on to deal with some of these issues. I certainly know initiatives (inaudible) in regard to the gender gap. I am aware of that, but we have to look at if they have not changed in five years and ten years when some initiatives have happened, are we doing enough? That is what we have to ask, Mr. Speaker, are we doing enough? The bottom line is, with everything that is in the Speech from the Throne, the bottom line is the well-being of the people of this Province.

I would like to look at a couple of the things that I find good in the – there are lots of things, obviously. I am very pleased to see that there is a going to be a department set up, a separate department for the Child, Youth and Family Services. I would like to point out that from the very beginning of the formation of the Department of Health and Community Services, that I think our party, under my colleague who was here before me, and myself since I became leader, have always questioned the package that is in Health and Community Services. So I am really, really pleased to see that a separate department is set up there, and I will certainly be following the setting up of that department and what services are going to be there and how it is being funded.

I am also quite pleased to see the Research and Development Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador is a Crown corporation. One thing I would like to say, I will be really interested in how this corporation progresses, but I think one of the things that I do find lacking in our planning at the moment and – you cannot really see it in the Speech from the Throne because you have to deal sort of with things separately, but we cannot have things in silos. Everything is interconnected. What I would like to see, if we are going to have our own Crown corporation doing research and development in all the areas that are outlined in the Speech from the Throne, but especially in energy - but all of them would, I think, as well - is that we combine together technological, economical and social research together. I will give an example of what I mean.

I was really pleased to see the fact that we are going to have 300,000 barrels of oil in Holyrood displaced because of the wind generation. I am delighted to see that. I would like to see all of the barrels of oil in Holyrood displaced by wind generation, and I think that can happen. What I would really love to see as we look at the renewable energy sources, is how we can build a whole model for generation of energy from renewable sources in the smaller communities and the coastal communities of Labrador while that being the basis of a community economic development model. So, you bring the community economical development, which has a social aspect to it, together with the technology for the wind generation, or the wave generation, or whatever it might be that the researchers might suggest, and you have a whole package of research. You do not do one without the other. It all gets researched together, different people doing it. You would have to have a whole plan for that research, but just to give you an example of what I mean.

There is one other thing that I have a question about. I think it is good to have regional collaborations, absolutely no doubt about that. I certainly saw, when I finally got to a meeting of the Combined Councils of Labrador, because for the two years before I became Leader I could not get there because of bad weather, which affected a lot of us who tried to be there, but when you see that they realized a long time ago the need for them to support one another and to have a Combined Councils, I think has really been to their benefit over the years. I think they still have a lot of frustrations, there is no doubt about that, but I really think it was important that they saw the need as councils in Labrador to form this association, which they did. I mean a couple of decades ago, I think, my colleague from Labrador - I think twenty-seven years maybe, since they did that.

So, regional collaboration is a very good thing. There is no doubt about it, but I would like to hope - so if you want me to be optimistic, I am hoping. I am hoping that this will move us further than any of the other development models that we have had, had moved us. By that I mean, for example, the rural development initiatives that there have been some benefits from, but lots of times a lot of us have had frustrations over it. I have not heard anything from the Rural Secretariat in about two-and-a-half years with what is happening with the Rural Secretariat. Maybe this is an idea that has come from them. I have no idea because I have not heard anything from the Rural Secretariat.

I will be looking to see if this effort, the regional collaboration, is going to be something new and not just something more of the same, that we will see real change because of this regional collaboration.

Mr. Speaker, I could go on and on, but I am not going to. I promise my colleagues I am not going to. I am not going to take every single thing that is in the Speech from the Throne. I will be dealing with them after the Budget comes down. You will get sick and tired of hearing me over the spring, because I will be coming back to them. I will be tearing the Budget apart and coming back to them.

There are three things I just want to point out and then that is it, I am finished. I think it is really important, as I said, that we bring all aspects of things together. I sort of talked about that in terms of the research. For example - and I will spell this out, I have already said it, but I am going to say it again - the Energy Plan: how does the Energy Plan connect with rural development and as a response to the needs of rural communities? Take the Energy Plan but look at it in relationship to other pieces of your plan. For example, the rural collaboration or the regional collaboration, where does the Energy Plan fit there? Will that mean that regional bodies can get together and say, we have plans for how the Energy Plan could work here, here is what we think is missing, or, it is there but it is not spelled out and here is how we think we could use it in our region?

Another example which I have used, and I am just saying it again: how does child care connect with early childhood learning and how do those two programs connect with elimination of poverty?

A third example of how we bring things together: How do social programs connect to building the economy? No social program, in and of itself, is just a social program and takes care of the need that the program is directed to. Whatever it is, homecare, childcare, no matter what the social program is, it also has an economic benefit. So, do the planning together, that the economic growth has to be connected with our social programs.

I am pleased, Mr. Speaker, to have had the opportunity to respond to the Speech from the Throne. As I have said, I do look forward to the weeks to come as we take the Budget that we will receive tomorrow, dissect it and look at how it reflects what the goals are in this speech.

Once again I thank the Lieutenant Governor for having been with us and I once again thank you for the opportunity to make my comments.

Thank you, very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will try to make a commitment to the members in the gallery of fifteen or seventeen minutes, so if anybody is starting to get a little uneasy in their seat, hang in with me for another quarter of an hour, anyway.

Fellow Members of the House of Assembly, first of all this afternoon, as others have, I would like to thank His Honour the Lieutenant Governor for delivering the Throne Speech. As some people may not know, over the last couple of weeks he has not been well, he has been battling a sickness, but he bravely came in here today and delivered the Speech in good form and in good humour, and I just want to thank him very much on behalf of all of us.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: I want to extend my personal thanks to the mover of the motion for the Address in Reply, the Member for Fortune Bay-Cape la Hune, and the seconder, the Member for Baie Verte-Springdale.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: These two individuals are representative of all members of this hon. House who are representing their constituents tirelessly and effectively day in and day out as we work together to establish and sustain a new era of self-reliance in Newfoundland and Labrador.

I also want to thank the Leader of the New Democratic Party and the Leader of the Official Opposition for their comments today, for some of their comments today. I do want to acknowledge the President of Memorial University, Dr. Eddy Campbell, who is with us here today and wish him all the very best in his new position. I have written him personally and I want to thank him for his contribution to the Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: I also extend my sincere appreciation to our other invited guests in the Speaker's gallery and the public galleries and on the floor of the House of Assembly, of course some of whom have taken their leave due to other commitments.

Weighing heavily on each and every one of us today remains a great burden of sadness, and I once again honour the seventeen individuals who lost their lives in the tragic helicopter accident a week ago, and to convey, once again, the heartfelt sympathies of all Newfoundland and Labrador to the family members and friends who are mourning the tragic loss of their loved ones. Our continued prayers are also with Robert Decker. At the appropriate time and in the appropriate way, Mr. Speaker, we will be honouring those who lost their lives with a permanent memorial.

I would now like to say a few words in response to the Speech from the Throne. The economic recession that has swept the world in the months since the last Throne Speech has touched every corner of the globe. While we, collectively, are better positioned than most we are not insulated from the effect of a crisis of such magnitude. In the news there is constant talk about the impact of the crisis on the GDP and all sorts of other statistics, but my concern is with the impact on families and individuals. What does it mean for your job and your household income? What does it mean for your business, and the employees on your payroll? That is where my focus is. Concerns are compounded by workers from away who have been laid off and by workers here at home who are victims of the new global economic reality.

From Labrador West to Grand Falls–Windsor and surrounding communities, we are seeing Newfoundlanders and Labradorians suffering from the impacts of this recession. If there is a silver lining, here in Newfoundland and Labrador we are fortunate to have on the near horizon mega projects such as Hebron and the new Vale-INCO hydromet facility. These projects will provide an enormous boost in terms of employment and economic activity. However, we do recognize that we need measures to transition us until these projects begin.

By many accounts, the global economic situation will be a short-term crisis, lasting months rather than long years, but there are families and businesses in this Province that need help to tide them over until the economy turns around.

Earlier this year, our government identified infrastructure projects that could be undertaken relatively quickly with an infusion of stimulus dollars. Obviously, some stimulus spending does take some time to trickle down, but we wanted to focus on those projects that were ready to move forward, putting people to work as soon as possible.

On the 18th of February, which was very early in the year, we made a significant announcement of a huge increase in infrastructure spending this year – in fact, fifty per cent more than we spent last year, bringing total infrastructure spending this year to a record $800 million.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: That, Mr. Speaker, is work that we can get off the ground relatively early this year to get people working, put paycheques in pockets, and put food on the table for families and towns throughout this Province that have been hit by the global economic downturn. As these families spend that money in their communities, it will help other businesses and their employees to weather the storm. While it will not completely mitigate the impacts of the global slowdown, it will make a significant difference in people's lives, and that is exactly what is needed right now.

This is not a new strategy to Newfoundland and Labrador, since our government began tackling our own fiscal challenges in 2003. Our goal was self-reliance and to get there we knew we would have to get our fiscal house in order and start growing our economy. We identified our strengths and we commissioned strategic plans. We acknowledged the risks, and took on the national criticism as we fought for better agreements on offshore revenue, offshore development and mineral processing; and, against all odds, we succeeded.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: We improved the Atlantic Accord, we succeeded in getting important equity stakes in Hebron and White Rose, and we succeeded in improving our benefits on the Long Harbour hydromet project.

Long before world leaders were scrambling to implement plans to shore up their economies, we in this Province had already taken firm and decisive action. We invested in infrastructure, particularly in rural areas. We invested in broadband, to outcry from those opposite us this House. We paid down our staggering debt. We lowered taxes for people and businesses. We helped our most vulnerable citizens through our Poverty Reduction Strategy, and we turned our fiscal position around. When others said we could not succeed, we said: Yes, we can.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: When others criticized us for demanding too much from our resources, we said: Sorry, but we know what we are fighting for.

When others were determined to keep us down, we stood strong, we stood together, and we stood on our principles – and last fall we finally got the news that most said would never come, when we learned that we were becoming a have Province for the very first time since Confederation. What an outstanding and definitive confirmation it was that our approach was the right one, and what a moment of pride for our people.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: While we will incur a deficit in the coming year, we are determined to ensure that this is short-term and we return as quickly as possible to a balanced Budget.

So, unlike most jurisdictions that are new to this need to turn decline into growth, we are veterans whose approach is tried and true. We will invest in communities that have been affected by the closure of the Grand Falls-Windsor mill, just as we did with the Stephenville region after their mill shut down. We are convinced that, over time, strategic planning and investments will be effective in placing the Central Region on a new course to prosperity and sustainability.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: The revival of the Connaigre Peninsula is another good example of our successful record. There too, we put an action plan in place, and not overnight but over time we saw the region turn around. It will not be easy. It will not be an overnight fix. It will require co-operation and collaboration with community leaders and the people of this region.

I can tell you that I have been very disappointed by some of the comments from certain individuals in the region against government during this very delicate time. No one better understands the plight of the people of the Central Regions than your MHAs and others like the Member for the Stephenville region, because they have already been there; and this government has been there, and we have proven time and time again that we will be there for the long haul. There was no more tangible sign of our commitment than the action we took in this very House when we repatriated those assets back to the people of this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Now, we took extraordinary criticism internationally for this action but we did not care because we knew it was the right thing. The only thing I would say to the people of the Central Region is to remember that success will be achieved not by fighting or playing games of petty political partisanship in individual communities, but by working together, all of us pulling on the same oar, so that we can develop success slowly and steadily for the benefit of everyone who calls Central Newfoundland home.

Just as we see opportunities for that region, our government sees new opportunities for our Province as a whole to grow and prosper. In our ocean technology sector, in research and development, in the fishery and aquaculture, in mining, in all of these areas we see tremendous promise and we will continue to invest. We are becoming the energy warehouse of the North American northeast. With a fourth offshore project looming and White Rose expanding, wind power projects operating, and the Lower Churchill project on the horizon, we are positioning ourselves to be a true leader in energy production in the years to come.

In Labrador, through the Northern Strategic Plan and the New Dawn Agreement, we are working with Labrador's people and communities to advance opportunities for Labradorians to see potential realized and reach new heights of prosperity. We also believe strongly in supporting less obvious sectors: investing in people like our artists, our musicians, our actors and so on. These are the people who provide not only economic stimulation but who are the core of who we are as a people, and are intricately linked to our success as a Province.

Growth in every region of our Province requires people, and we need highly-skilled, highly-educated, highly-trained and highly-motivated people to lead the growth that will happen here in the years to come. That is why we have invested in our education system, to prepare people throughout our Province for the opportunities to come. That is why we have invested in freezing tuition fees of the lowest level in the country and making our student aid and debt repayment initiatives the best in the country so students are attracted to study here and enabled to stay here once they have graduated, and there is more to come.

I have to thank the Minister of Education for the outstanding advocacy role she has taken on for students in this Province as we work to ensure they are not saddled with financial burdens on their road to success.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: This year we are also excited about our Youth Retention and Attraction Strategy, where we will undertake new initiatives to recruit and retain the young workers that our Province needs as we prepare for the many opportunities ahead.

Of course, recruitment and retention is critical in every sector of our economy and it is certainly critical in our health care sector, just as it is across the country. Competition for doctors and nurses is intense everywhere, but we believe we have something special to offer in this Province, such as our lifestyle, our environment, our strengths in recreation and culture, our strong sense of community, and the relatively safe and healthy conditions for raising families.

There are health care professionals who have cited these strengths as reasons for their own decisions to move here from all over Canada and the world, and we welcome them with open arms. A young doctor and his family from Ontario, who I met with just a year ago, recently wrote me to say that for these very reasons he and his family are moving to Springdale.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: These are the very positive success health care stories that just never make the news.

We also realize that we need to continue to address the very real concerns of health care professionals. We are prepared to do that in creative and collaborative ways, always cognizant of the need to operate within our means as a Province.

In negotiations with our health care professionals we have been working very hard to strike the right balance. It would be wonderful to say yes to each and every proposal, but the challenges are tougher than that, and they require great efforts on the part of everyone involved and sometimes greater compromises for the greater good.

Our government commissioned the Cameron Inquiry last year to get to the bottom of serious mistakes that from as far back as 1997 where undermining the quality of health care that patients suffering from breast cancer were receiving. We have already begun implementing changes that have addressed weaknesses and, in fact, strengthened the system. We will not rest until our health care system is stronger than it has ever been before because patients deserve no less than to have full confidence and trust when they are receiving the care that they need.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: That is why we have already put significant additional investments in other areas of the health care system, everything from new facilities, new MRIs, new mammography machines, new drug treatments, new dialysis pumps for children, new satellite dialysis locations, and the list is endless. Just as we have been investing record dollars in health care, we have put our money where our mouth is and made tremendous investments in poverty reduction that are producing tangible and meaningful results, despite what the Leader of the New Democratic Party said.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: We will continue to invest in our social programs, as a true Progressive Conservative government should.

I am absolutely convinced, Mr. Speaker, that we can weather this economic storm. Unfortunately, the one obstacle that keeps arising is the one that we should never have to deal with, and that is our own federal government led by Prime Minister Harper. Just as we turn the corner and start to experience fiscal success, they try to sweep the legs out from in under us by cutting over $1 billion in Atlantic Accord 1985 payments. To that federal government I would say: Try as you might to keep us down, know this, we will succeed!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Nothing will stand in the way of our goal of self-reliance. When necessary, we will push you to the side to ensure that our voice is heard and our interests are protected. We have no choice. They have proven that they cannot be trusted to represent our interests so we must take charge of our own destiny, and we have and we will continue to do so.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, we are looking forward to a year of strong initiatives to address the effects of the present global crisis and to continue advancing our Province along the road to self-reliance that we have been travelling so successfully since 2003.

In this year's Budget, and through various legislative initiatives, we will build on the solid foundation that we have put in place over the past five years. We are moving forward, confident in the knowledge that we are on the right course. We as a Province fiscally, economically and socially are doing better now than ever before and we are determined to continue raising the bar even higher as we pursue our vision of self-reliance. Turning back to decline is not an option. Denying our children a future of self-reliance is not an option. So let us press on and let's stay the course with pride, strength and a steadfast determination to succeed.

I conclude with the words of Chiang Kai-Shek, a bold Chinese leader who said: "Don't be disquieted in time of adversity. Be firm with dignity and self-reliant with vigor."

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

The members of the select committee will be: the hon. the Member for the District of Fortune Bay-Cape La Hune; the hon. the Member for the District of Baie Verte-Springdale; and the hon. the Member for the District of Port de Grave.

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

All those in favour, 'aye'.


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

The motion is carried.

Motion carried.

Notices of Motion

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

The next motion, Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will move that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole on Supply to consider a resolution for the granting of Supply to Her Majesty. (Bill 2)

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Natural Resources, that the House do now adjourn.

MR. SPEAKER: It is properly moved and seconded that this House do now adjourn.

All those in favour, 'aye'.


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

This House now stands adjourned until 2:00 o'clock tomorrow, being Budget Day.

This House is now adjourned.

Before we leave I would like to ask all members present, and all the visitors that we welcome in the galleries, to join us in the lobby of Confederation Building for a brief reception.

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