March 30, 2009           HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS               Vol. XLVI   No. 3

The House met at 1:30 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

Admit strangers.

Statements by Members

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Today we welcome the following members' statements: the hon. the Member for the District of Port de Grave; the hon. the Member for the District of Fortune Bay-Cape la Hune; the hon. the Member for the District of Grand Bank; and the hon. the Member for the District of Humber Valley.

The hon. the Member for the District of Port de Grave.

MR. BUTLER: Mr. Speaker, on Saturday, March 21, 2009, I had the honour of attending the Bay Roberts Fire Department's annual Fireman's Ball celebrating their sixty-sixth year of service to their community and surrounding area.

The Bay Roberts Fire Department, consisting of thirty members, provides fire protection to a population of approximately 10,000 people. In 2008, the department responded to eighty-one calls, of which twenty-seven were motor vehicle accidents.

This department is equipped with two pumper trucks, a heavy rescue vehicle, two utility trucks, along with rescue tools, including the Jaws of Life. They are prepared for any challenge.

Also in 2008, they opened a new rescue training centre which is a regional facility. The event on Saturday attracted 300 people, which shows the support that exists for this dedicated and committed group of individuals who put their lives at risk to protect residents and their property.

It was a pleasure to present the long-service award and certificate to firefighters Geoff Roach, Clarence Mercer and David Churchill for twenty years of dedicated service.

I ask all hon. members to extend congratulations to Fire Chief Clarence Russell and all members of the Bay Roberts Fire Department on their sixty-six years of dedicated service.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of Fortune Bay-Cape la Hune.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS PERRY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise in this hon. House today to recognize the talent of young Mitchell John of Conne River who won the First Nations Language Contest in 2008.

This contest is sponsored by the First Nations Confederacy of Cultural Education Centres, and Mr. John has indeed stood out, attaining the best in his category for his magnificent artwork depicting his Mi'kmaq culture

The Conne River Band Council has achieved remarkable success with the revival of its traditional culture, and youth such as Mitchell John will ensure that future generations continue to sustain their heritage.

I ask that all members of this hon. House join me in recognizing the outstanding work of Mitchell John and St. Anne's school.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize a school principal from my district, by the name of Derrick Reid. Derrick is the principal of Lake Academy in Fortune, and has been on staff there for more than thirty years.

Mr. Speaker, Derrick was recently recognized nationally as one of the best principals in Canada. His Outstanding Principals Award is an annual program where candidates are selected based on their contribution to providing leadership at their local school and their contribution to improving student achievement. Mr. Speaker, Derrick was one of thirty-one recipients of this award and the only winner from Newfoundland and Labrador.

One of the initiatives that Derrick has been involved with at his school is in rewarding positive student behaviour. The staff and students of Lake Academy are extremely proud of Derrick's achievement, and I had the pleasure of joining them recently at the school to acknowledge his efforts.

Mr. Speaker, this is a tremendous accomplishment and reflects a lifetime commitment to education and to students by Derrick Reid. His dedication to his profession and his students is absolutely amazing.

I ask all members of the House to join me in offering congratulations and best wishes to Derrick Reid, truly one of Canada's outstanding principals.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of Humber Valley.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KELLY: Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to formally recognize the Winter Carnival Patrons for the Town of Deer Lake for 2009.

This year's Carnival ran from March 6 to March 15 and contained a balance of activities for all age groups. Each year patrons are selected based on their overall contribution to the community. This year, Joe and Joan Northcott were selected based on their involvement in the community for the past forty years.

Joe was a successful entrepreneur in Deer Lake and established a business in 1974 known as J & N Automotive. His business was quite a success story and has stood the test of time. He sold the business in 2001 and it is still in operation today.

Mr. Speaker, while Joe was busy growing his business, Joan was extensively involved with several volunteer organizations. She first got involved with the Girl Guide movement in 1975, and still supports the organization today through various fundraising initiatives. Her voluntary efforts also include the Tree of Memories, and she is quite active with the Catholic Women's League.

Both Joe and Joan felt honoured to be selected Winter Carnival Patrons. They were definitely wonderful ambassadors for the Carnival and I saw them at all the activities that I attended.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this hon. House to join me in congratulating Joe and Joan Northcott on being selected as Deer Lake Winter Carnival Patrons for 2009.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Statements by Ministers.

Statements by Ministers

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Education and Government House Leader.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform this hon. House that the twenty-five recipients of this year's Alberta Centennial Scholarships have been selected. Under this scholarship program, established by the Alberta Government in 2005, twenty-five scholarships valued at $2,005 are provided to every province and territory in Canada.

Here in Newfoundland and Labrador, Mr. Speaker, this government has chosen to use these scholarships to encourage participation in the skilled trades and, more specifically, to increase participation among females.

To this end, Mr. Speaker, seventeen scholarships have been awarded to females, with the remaining eight going to males. This builds on a series of initiatives designed to increase female participation in non-traditional trades. For example, approximately $400,000 has been provided over the past two years to the IBEW to help bring more women to the electrical trade. It is anticipated this contract will see 96 to 144 female electricians certified over the next several years.

A second contract valued at $100,000 was announced last fall with the Carpenters Millwrights Union. With this funding, the union has established an office of women in apprenticeship and, among other activities, will establish a work placement program to ensure women apprentices are finding the training they need to complete their programs.

In addition, the provincial government has ensured the Hebron Benefits Agreement included the development and implementation of a Gender Equity and Diversity Program – the first time such a program has been included in a benefits agreement in the Province's offshore.

In total, since 2006, Mr. Speaker, the provincial government has invested $53.8 million in the areas of apprenticeship, science and technology, programming, training and infrastructure.

Mr. Speaker, these scholarships support two goals of the provincial government. They help students - which is a hallmark of this Administration – and they encourage female participation in skilled trades. A full list of this year's recipients will be posted to the government and the Department of Education Web sites, Mr. Speaker. I congratulate each one of them and wish them all the best as they move through their blocks and onto journeyperson status.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to thank the minister for an advanced copy of her statement and to say to the twenty-five recipients, which we will know their names fairly soon, I guess, congratulations on winning this year.

We know, Mr. Speaker, that the Alberta government, as the minister has stated, offers those scholarships to each and every province and territory. It is for students who are attending university, college or the various apprenticeship programs. We know, Mr. Speaker, that some of the criteria that is followed is academic achievement, community service, financial need and volunteer service to the communities. I am sure each and every one of us know people who meet this criteria and hopefully, we will all look forward to the names that will be coming forward.

I want to congratulate the twenty-five, say thank you to the Government of Alberta. It is good to see that females are becoming part of the skilled trades. Each and every one of us, I guess, can tell some success stories with regards to that happening in each of our districts.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for her statement and to say congratulations to the twenty-five recipients.

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers?

The hon. the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise in this hon. House today to acknowledge and congratulate St. John's businesswoman Brenda O'Reilly, who earlier this month was elected Chair of the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association.

I am pleased, Mr. Speaker, to say that Ms O'Reilly is in the gallery with us today.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: It is significant, Mr. Speaker, that a Newfoundlander and Labradorian has been named to lead this national, 33,000-member organization, which represents independent and chain restaurants, bars, caterers, hotels, and other foodservice providers.

As I have noted previously in this House, hospitality industry operators in this Province are increasingly regarded as leaders and innovators in their field.

As some of you may know, Ms O'Reilly is the owner and operator of O'Reilly's Irish Newfoundland Pub on George Street, which is well-known for its exemplary offerings of food, beverage and live entertainment. It is also widely recognized as a popular gathering place for residents and out-of-Province visitors alike. She has also recently established a new enterprise, Yellowbelly Brewery and Public House, and operates a catering service, Food on the Run.

Clearly, Ms O'Reilly is making a significant contribution to the local economy as a hospitality business operator and employer. It is equally clear, Mr. Speaker, that she supports the local music scene and the professional entertainers who perform at her establishments.

It may not be as widely known, that Ms O'Reilly is also a great supporter of emerging talent, offering young musicians a chance to hone their skills and gain valuable onstage experience through "Young Performers Open Mic" events at O'Reilly's.

Mr. Speaker, I have no doubt that Ms O'Reilly's knowledge and experience in the foodservice industry will be a great asset to the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association.

On a personal note, Mr. Speaker, I have to say that on St. Patrick's Day two of my sons and I went down rather early in the morning. The brunch was not ready but there were a few – something to drink, put it that way, Mr. Speaker, early in the morning.

Mr. Speaker, I invite my colleagues in this House to join me in congratulating Ms O'Reilly on her election as chair and to wish her well as she takes on this new challenge.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I thank the minister for the advanced copy of his message today. I cannot believe, actually, that our good minister would be having swallies so early in the morning.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: We would certainly concur with the statement by the minister, Mr. Speaker. I have had the pleasure of meeting Ms O'Reilly myself some years ago. I guess anyone who has ever been on George Street or has been in O'Reilly's has had the pleasure of meeting her, because she is there virtually all the time. She is not just an owner; she is a hands-on owner-operator. She buses tables. Her goal in life is to make sure that the patrons are happy. She is just not a great woman entrepreneur, she actually delivers when it comes to the service end of things, as can be attested by not only the locals in this area but many thousands of tourists who have visited her establishments over the years.

I believe she indicated in a recent interview that her clientele in the summertime is about 75 per cent tourists and in the wintertime that switches to be about 75 per cent local.

Her first job, I note, from an interview she did recently, was as helper in a school cafeteria when she was a student. At the tender age of seventeen she opened her own catering business. That shows that she started when she was pretty young, in this world of business, and she has kept it up right through to this day and has some very healthy, financially active companies.

I would also like to point out, in addition to being a great women entrepreneur with businesses and causing employment in this area, her support for musicians but also her support for historic buildings; because the new business that she just started, Yellowbelly, has a great Irish tradition to it. To take a building that needed to be restored, and to do that in the fashion that she has done, deserves to be commended by all of us.

I would certainly stand with the minister and congratulate her on this appointment.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers.

The hon. the Minister of Justice and Attorney General.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I rise in this hon. House today to pay tribute to two members of the judiciary who are moving into different stages of their careers, and also to congratulate another jurist on his recent appointment.

Mr. Speaker, Chief Justice Clyde Wells of the Court of Appeal certainly needs no introduction to the people of this Province, having served as Premier from 1989 until 1996. Appointed to the Court of Appeal in 1998, he served as Chief Justice since 1999. His resignation as Chief Justice was effective February 20, 2009. He will now sit as supernumerary judge with the Court of Appeal, and we are pleased to retain his considerable experience on the bench.

Mr. Speaker, as a young lawyer in Corner Brook, I had the privilege of working with Chief Justice Wells, and later was both a business and a law partner of his. At the time, he was one of the Province's most well-known and respected lawyers. It was an honour and a privilege to work with him. He was a great lawyer, he was a great mentor, and I have the honour of calling him not only a colleague but also a good friend and I wish him well.

Mr. Speaker, Chief Justice Derek Green, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Trial Division, has now been appointed by the Prime Minister as the new Chief Justice of the Court of Appeal for Newfoundland and Labrador. A Rhodes Scholar, he was first appointed to the Trial Division of the Supreme Court in 1992 and to the Court of Appeal in 1996. He then became Chief Justice of the Trial Division in 2000.

Obviously, all members of this House would be very familiar with Chief Justice Green as he was the author of the document we refer to as the Green Report. I know that members of this House will join me in having full confidence in Chief Justice Green and his ability to hold the highest judicial position in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, since 2001 the hon. Milton Reginald Reid has served the people of this Province as Chief Judge of the Provincial Court of Newfoundland and Labrador. Earlier this month, Chief Judge Reid submitted to me his letter of resignation after thirty-four years of exceptional service as a judge with the Provincial Court.

He was born in Norris Point. His career has been a varied one. He was a social worker, a parole office. He became a magistrate in 1975. Throughout his time as a Provincial Court Judge, Chief Judge Reid has taken on many roles and excelled at each, raising the standards in his courtroom.

He served with the Provincial Court in Grand Falls-Windsor, in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, and in St. John's, and before being appointed Chief Judge he held the position of Coordinating Judge for the St. John's Court.

Chief Judge Reid has informed me that his retirement will take place effective April 30, 2009. Chief Judge Reid has provided essential leadership at the Provincial Court, and undoubtedly his presence in both the courtroom and amongst the legal community of our Province will be missed; but I am pleased to advise that he will continue in his capacity as Chair of the Criminal Code Mental Disorder Review Board.

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the government, I want to thank Chief Justice Wells and Chief Judge Reid for their service to our Province and wish them much success, and also offer our congratulations to Chief Justice Green on his appointment as the Chief Justice of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We would also like to congratulate Chief Justice Wells and Chief Judge Reid on their retirements.

I had the honour of articling with Chief Justice Wells in 1979-1980, when I got out of law school back then and went to Corner Brook. Shortly after, a couple of years later, he moved to St. John's, of course, and the rest is history. He became the Premier, subsequently, and then to the Chief Justice position from which he is now retiring.

Everyone who knows him, of course, knows him to be an honourable, principled individual who certainly, during the Meech Lake debacle back in the early 1990s, caused quite a storm nationally but was seen by all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians as a person who stood up for them without question.

Chief Justice Green, of course, has been known to many of us who practiced in the legal profession over the years as a fantastic practitioner, a very fair person to deal with when you practice with him, and he has taken those attributes with him, of course, to his capacity as a Justice, whether it be a Justice or a Chief Justice in the Trial Division, and shown himself to be principled, ethical, and a man of integrity, besides his overwhelming academic skills that he brings with him and has proven over and over again. We congratulate him upon his appointment as Chief Justice of the Province, and wish him all the best.

Chief Justice Reid is married to a Port aux Basques girl; so, of course, he has a good connection – comes from a good part of the turf - and I have known Chief Justice Reid for some years. He entered the bench under the old system of magistrate some years back and took advantage of the law program that was created by Chief Justice Alec Hickman. Went to Dalhousie and got his law degree, and we wish him all the best after thirty-four years. He himself has been a big part of the provincial court system in this Province for many, many years and, again, proven himself to be very fair principled and a man of integrity and we wish him all the best in his retirement.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers?

Oral Questions.

Oral Questions

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In last week's Budget Speech the Minister of Finance brought forward a new offer to the Province's nurses. This offer was unscripted, without any warning or advanced notice to the nurses and again shows the disrespect this government has for the collective bargaining process.

I ask the minister: Why would you choose to deliver such a message knowing it was in poor taste and insulting to nurses just days before returning to negotiations that you agreed would have no preconditions attached?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, in these uncertain economic times we are an exceptional government. What we have done with our public servants is offered them significant wage increases. For example, the compounded rate of the template is about 21.5 per cent. That is at a time I think when CBC and the federal government, over four years, are receiving 6 per cent. So, 1.5 per cent in the first year versus 8 per cent is what we are offering.

Similarly, with nurses we are being particularly generous. At one point back in January, and we did not know which way the economy was going, we decided we should reserve on the template. We are now saying that we are comfortable enough as to where we are and where the economy is going and we are putting that template back on the table. It is very, very important I think that we get on with it and we take the uncertainty out of the environment. Patients are very concerned about surgeries and everything else.

Last year during the Budget the leader of the nurses' union indicated that there was nothing in the Budget with respect to recruitment and retention. So this year we have responded to it. We actually had a Cabinet meeting that morning to deal with this particular issue and because it was a significant amount of money, we felt it was important that we get it on the table as soon as possible. That is exactly what we did.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is unfortunate that no one thought to talk to the nurses before springing that out on Thursday.

Let me ask this question: Why did you agree to go back to the table with no preconditions attached, to negotiate in good faith, to do bargaining with nurses to preserve the integrity of our health care system and just days before haul all that off the table and pull the tactic that you did on Thursday? It is unexplainable to me.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, that morning Cabinet met at 10:00 o'clock. We were in Cabinet for a fair part of the morning. At that particular point in time the leader of the nurses' union was actually in the Budget lockup. As soon as she came out of the Budget lockup she was presented with the offer, which we are putting on the table, which I might indicate, Mr. Speaker, was a very generous offer. We are now in a situation where we put the nurses – a nurse now starting at, I guess, probably around $45,000 a year will now start at about $53,000 to $54,000 a year. By the time the term of this contact is up a nurse coming out of school will start at $60,000 a year. With regards to a nurse with several years experience, she will now go, during the term of this contract, from $58,000 to $74,000 a year. That is a significant amount of money. That will actually place our nurses in Atlantic Canada and Quebec, either first or second, and that makes it the best.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Is the government saying that there is now no need to bargain with nurses, this is the deal, we have outlined it for you, you can either take it or leave it?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: No, Mr. Speaker, take it or leave it is not something that this government says. Members of the party opposite have said it from time to time but we decided at that time that we were going to leave it. Now this is a different situation.

What we are doing now for nurses is we are saying here is a very, very generous package. We are putting the template back on the table. We are taking out the first two steps for first-year nurses. So they now move immediately into step three. A big complaint of about 70 per cent of the nurses was that they were now capped off. So we have actually added on a step. They now have an extra step at the end of that particular period.

What we have also done, we have also looked at standby fees and shift differential. Now when it comes to preconditions, I want to make it very clear, that what was laid out were the conditions for that particular offer. All conditions are open. If they want to come in on Thursday and they want to negotiate anything - if they wanted, for example, Mr. Speaker, take the template and say: No, we are not going to take the 21 per cent, we are going to take the federal government offer of 6 per cent. So we will trade that off against maybe a two-year agreement. We will consider absolutely anything, but there are tradeoffs in a negotiation. We are not saying anything is cast in stone.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Last week in the House of Assembly the Minister of Health and Community Services said that the HIV clinic is currently open and Eastern Health has communicated information to the patients affected as to what physician services are available.

In actual fact, we have learned, Mr. Speaker, that the HIV clinic is not open and that no patients have received any formal information from Eastern Health regarding their medical services.

I ask the minister: Why was this information provided to the House of Assembly before completing due diligence and verifying its accuracy?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: As I said in this House last week, Mr. Speaker, Eastern Health runs the clinic for the HIV patients in this Province. They are the people who are providing the services in that clinic. They are the people who are responsible for staffing that clinic.

I had indicated to members of the House last week that, in fact, the HIV committee had been in contact with my office. I have agreed to meet with them. I think it is next week that we are getting together to have a discussion around the services they had, the services they believe they need, and the services they have access to. We will have a full discussion then with respect to the continuation of that clinic, the services they have, and the future of physician services to that group of people in the Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to inform the minister that I met with them this morning and they have confirmed that the clinic is closed. With the absence of the infectious disease specialists in the Province, with the fact that the nurse who normally runs the clinic is on leave, the clinic has not been open and there is no first point of contact for these patients.

Can the minister tell me, today, when the clinic will reopen, when we can see it re-staffed, and where can these people go in the meantime?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, obviously the member opposite has had a discussion this morning and she is sharing some information in the House this afternoon that I hadn't heard of until she just shared it with me now.

I will undertake to provide the answer to the member tomorrow.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We also understand that Dr. Bowmer and Dr. Bader, two previous infectious disease specialists from the Province, will be returning for a couple of days every five weeks to provide locum coverage to the HIV and AIDS patients.

I ask the minister: what is the schedule for these visits, and how will these specialists be able to accommodate the 120 patients in the Province who need this service, when they can only see approximately five to six patients during each visit?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: As I have said in this House many times before, for the member opposite to ask me a question on a clinic schedule and how that is going to be arranged and the number of patients to be seen, that is a level of operational detail that a minister, whether in this government or any administration, would not have a clear understanding of the running of any particular clinic, whether it is infectious disease or oncology or urology. These are things that the health authorities manage together with the physicians who are in that practice. The day-to-day scheduling of clinics, how many they will have, how many patients they see, what time they start, what time they end, what time they break for lunch, all of that kind of stuff is something that the health authorities manage daily.

Now, if the member opposite would like me to produce a copy of the current schedule, I will undertake to get a copy of that schedule from Eastern Health and table it for the House.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister's downplaying of this issue is very unfortunate, because it is a serious issue and one you, Minister, should be aware of and have details around.

Now, Mr. Speaker, we are being told that there should be three infectious disease specialists for this Province. In fact, we have had one. Today, we have neither one.

I ask the minister: Why were you unwilling to invest the resources that were required to retain these particular specialists in the Province, as opposed to being forced to pay out more money today to attract them on a locum basis, providing only an interim and a very interrupted service for very sick people in this Province?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: When the member opposite asks questions about this government's intention, this government's interest, this government's past practice of investing in physicians and other human resources in this Province, you only need to look to this most recent Budget announced in this House last week.

My colleague stood in this House last week and announced new investments. I think some $3 million to create some twenty-two new physician positions in this Province. We heard an announcement in last week's Budget of additional investments in human resources, whether it is in Child, Youth and Family Services, in a variety of clinical programs, social workers and nurses, and others.

I say, Mr. Speaker, this government's track record in investing in human resources in our health system is second to none. I compare our record in the last four years to any previous four-year period or any previous five- or six-year period in the history of this Province. I say, Mr. Speaker, given an unprecedented investment in health services, in human resources, and in new people we have added to our four health authorities in the last three or four years has been unprecedented, Mr. Speaker –

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to conclude his answer.

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I think that speaks very clearly, very clearly to this government's commitment to enhancing health services to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I say to the minister, creating positions is easy, filling them is the challenge that your government has been unable to meet.

Mr. Speaker, we are being told that doctors are projecting more surgeries to be cancelled in the first quarter of this year than all of last year alone. We understand that most of these cancellations are due either to a shortage of anaesthesiologists or nurses.

I ask the minister: Does he recognize this problem, and what is being done to address the issue?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: I have been informed by Eastern Health that they are currently in the process of recruiting anaesthetists. As I understand the current status, they have two; that they are working through some details of an appointment. They are optimistic that they will be able to reach a deal with them in the very near future. There is another one who is currently on maternity leave, who will be returning shortly. So if those two things work through, with the individual returning from maternity leave, which is, I understand, pretty much a given. The other two individuals, that they are currently very aggressively recruiting and they are optimistic about their chances of getting the deal signed with them in the very near future. We will have an increase of three new anaesthetists over and above where we are now and I have been advised by Eastern Health that that will see them through their current demands for OR time.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In the past when we have had other areas of our health care system that have been challenged, such as pathology, there has been a review done to determine what was required to fix it, such as the Maung report.

I ask the minister, if he is prepared to entertain such reviews for some other divisions of health care, such as urology and anaesthesiology?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: I think this government, as I said a moment ago, the commitment we have made in human resources has come about as a result of our analysis, our digging into the issues, getting a better understanding of the kind of human resources we need, the kind of skills we need and then the numbers that we need.

I say, Mr. Speaker, working with the four authorities, together with officials in my department, we have explored any number of service areas that we have made enhancements to in the last three to four years, and we will continue to do that. So we are working all the time with our four authorities to examine how we might improve the service that we provide. What are the human resources, the financial resources and the technology that is necessary to provide those services in a fashion that provides quality care to the people of the Province, and we will continue to do that, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

A number of these patients who are having their surgeries cancelled in Newfoundland and Labrador are now being referred outside of the Province simply because they cannot wait, Mr. Speaker, to have the surgeries done at a later date.

I ask the minister: Given the fact that the Medical Assistance Transportation Program was not enhanced in this Budget to accommodate people who have to go outside of the Province for this treatment, will he look at some interim solution or interim program to help families who have to go outside of the Province to have these surgeries done at a time when we do not have the resources such as nurses in the Province to provide for it?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I think this government has a track record of making sure that people of Newfoundland and Labrador have access to health service. We have had occasions in the past, you may recall a couple of years ago we were not able to provide radiation therapy here and we sent people out of the Province for that. You may recall last year we announced - in fact, the arrangement is still in place, Mr. Speaker. Last year we made an arrangement with a practice in Halifax, a urology practice, who was able to help us with some challenges we had in providing urology services in a timely fashion, and we put that in place. That arrangement is still there, as I understand it as of this morning. We have had about four people since January who have gone to Halifax to receive services because of that arrangement that we put in place.

I say, Mr. Speaker, any time that we as a government are challenged to ensure that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador have access to services within this Province we will make arrangements to have that service provided somewhere else, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

After hearing the Minister of Natural Resources' comments last week about government's bid for the Star Lake assets, our office did contact the company to get their version of events. They stated they contacted the Premier's office in March 2008 regarding the Star Lake asset. AbitibiBowater had signed an agreement already with a third party for that asset, but had agreed to allow Nalcor an opportunity to bid. It took Nalcor six weeks to submit an offer, and that bid was lower than the one that was received from the third party.

I ask the Premier today: Were you given notice of this pending sale prior to that March 2008 date, and were you given any notice as to the value of the bid that was being received by the third party?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Natural Resources.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As I said here in the House last week, and I do not have the exact dates with me today, AbitibiBowater did alert us that they had Star Lake up for sale and then invited us to bid. Nalcor did its due diligence. We do that, Mr. Speaker, before we rush off and make bids or go headlong into any kind of a business arrangement.

When the due diligence piece was completed, they made an offer to AbitibiBowater. I am not aware of what NL had bid for the asset.

When you get in a bidding process, Mr. Speaker, companies do not usually disclose the amount from the other bidder, but NL did have the right of first refusal and informed us that they were going to exercise that right, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We do know that the third party bidder bid an amount of somewhere around $20 million, so maybe the minister can tell me today what the bid from the provincial government was.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Natural Resources and Deputy Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, I said here in the House last week that we did our due diligence piece; we assigned what we felt was a fair value to the asset. We made that bid to AbitibiBowater.

I did not release the amount at that time, Mr. Speaker, and I will not be releasing it today.

Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, the Town of Botwood has been trying to get the federal government to divest of its port facilities to the town for a number of years. Now that Abitibi is moving out, there will be even more need for the town to acquire these assets for future development and opportunity.

I ask the Premier today: Has government provided any financial commitment to the town in an effort to secure these port facilities either from AbitibiBowater, the federal government, or other private parties that may be involved there?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Transportation and Works.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the issue of port divesture is a matter that the provincial government has been dealing with for some years now. As the Leader of the Opposition would know, and many in the House and in communities like Botwood would know, in many cases there are considerable environmental issues around these ports. I guess it is not surprising that the federal government are trying to divest of them.

The position of the provincial government has been, in the case of Botwood, and continues to be with any number of ports - Long Pond comes to mind, down in St. Alban's - that before the provincial government will consider anything when it comes to divesture of ports, and allowing municipalities or what have you to take over ownership of it, the environmental liabilities that are associated with it have to be dealt with by the federal government.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Maybe the minister can tell me, in light of the situation in Botwood right now, and the fact that all the port and waterfront facilities are owned by different parties, is there any collective effort to have that environmental work done? Is he aware of the time frames around it, and if it has been started or not?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Transportation and Works.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the provincial government's position has been what it has been; it continues to be, as I just said. The federal government have made no movements whatsoever to deal with the issue as it relates to environmental liabilities in these ports. We have some understanding of what the liabilities might be, but until the federal government changes their position on the divesture of these ports there is nothing new to report as it relates to either Botwood or any of the other facilities that are in Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Government expropriated the company's timber resources, and there are certainly a number of people employed in this sector in Central Newfoundland who are waiting to see what the end result will be for that resource.

I ask the minister: What is government's short-term and long-term plan for the timber resource and those who have earned a living from it in the past?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Natural Resources.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, when we expropriated the timber assets from AbitibiBowater, the first area of concern for us was to keep whole the commercial operators who had accessed fibre off those limits to keep their operations going; and, Mr. Speaker, I am happy to say that we have been successful in doing that.

The task force and various departments within government have received proposals from a number of proponents around use of the fibre, but recently, last week, I did a news release alerting the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and anybody who might be interested in doing business here, that we were doing a call for Expressions of Interest, so everybody has fair access, all the proposals that are out there can come together, and we can do a fair assessment on what brings the best benefit to the people of that region.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, there are three harvesting companies in Central Newfoundland, in particular, who have had millions of dollars invested in their operation and have been cutting wood in these areas for Abitibi for a number of years.

Mr. Speaker, today they are not only out the financial losses of their business but they have more than 120 employees they have had to lay off.

I ask the minister: In her Expression of Interest for utilization of that wood, will there be consideration given to these three companies in terms of allowing them to continue their operations in that area?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Natural Resources.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, all proposals that will be brought forward out of this exercise will be considered, and I am happy to say that in news reports last week, Mr. Wilson – one of the people who has the companies, one of the three that she refers – was very happy with the decision to call for Expressions of Interest, and certainly indicated that he will be participating in that process.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We also know that Abitibi and government certainly play a significant role in silvaculture activities, and this is an area of the Province that would have had a tremendous amount of silvaculture work taking place, and those workers have been displaced now for a number of months.

We understand that there was a three-year agreement on silvaculture, and I ask if government will continue with that agreement, to ensure that these workers still have employment and that work still gets done.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Natural Resources.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, AbitibiBowater still has the obligation to continue with the silviculture plan and the silviculture agreements that are in place and we are insisting, Mr. Speaker, that Abitibi honour those agreements.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the ferry service for Long Island and Little Bay Islands continues to be downgraded by this government. Government is unwilling to construct a causeway to Long Island and recently decommissioned the ferry service to Little Bay Islands. On Friday, the replacement vessel serving the islands broke down and residents have no clear answers when a replacement vessel will be brought in.

I ask the minister: When can residents of Long Island and Little Bay Islands expect to see a regular ferry service again, and will it be able to handle tractor-trailers when that service is put back in use?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Transportation and Works.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I guess you reap what you sow, and for too long there had been nothing sowed when it came to vessel replacement in Newfoundland and Labrador, until this government came into power five years ago, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: We are in the process, Mr. Speaker, of building two new ferries for the Northeast Coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. As the member said, we do have some significant challenges on the Northeast Coast right now. The Island Joiner is down. The Hamilton Sound struck a rock last week. If anybody wants to look out the window, they can surely look out through their office window in the Confederation Building and see the pack ice that is drifting down along by St. John's now. When you see ice drifting along by St. John's, you can handy about guess what you have on Cape Freels and Fogo Island and Green Bay.

Mr. Speaker, right now we have some considerable challenges when it comes to ferry service on the Northeast Coast. One of our vessels, the Island Joiner, was escorted by an icebreaker to Fogo a couple of days ago. The icebreaker, once ice pressure –

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to complete his response.

MR. TAYLOR: Once ice pressure diminishes somewhat, we will get back to get the Hamilton Sound. We have a new shaft and propeller for the Hamilton Sound that is being milled right now. As soon as we can get the Hamilton Sound over to Clarenville, Mr. Speaker -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for the District of Port de Grave.

MR. BUTLER: Mr. Speaker, I say to my hon. colleague, saying you reap what you sow is very little consolation for the problems these people are having today.

Mr. Speaker, both islands have representatives on government side; yet, their silence is deafening. We have more petitions to present today on behalf of Long Island residents because their members are unwilling to stand and represent their constituents.

There are currently poor ice conditions, as the hon. member said, and weather conditions can change quickly.

I ask the minister: what contingency plans are in place to ensure timely access to medical services at the islands should an emergency take place during the overnight hours?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Transportation and Works.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will finish my previous answer. As I said, the shaft is being milled right now. It is on location. As soon as we can get the Hamilton Sound to Clarenville – I think it is Clarenville we are bringing her – and out of the water, it will take us a day or two to do the work. Ice pressure will be the determining factor in how long it takes for us to get the vessels back in Green Bay, and how long it will take us to get the vessels out of Green Bay, for that matter, Mr. Speaker.

As for our contingency plan, it is the same as it always has been when we don't have a ferry to connect to these islands or anywhere else in the Province for that matter. We put on a helicopter service in the daytime and, if an emergency arises, Mr. Speaker, I assume, as is the case in any other situation, we will depend on Search and Rescue Gander.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Mr. Speaker, the fish plant on Little Bay Islands relies on the ferry service to ship their product. School children from Long Island must cross the tickle to attend school every day. The need for a new ferry is obvious. Government has announced their intention to build two new ferries and they promised they would be in operation sometime in 2008. Yet, it is my understanding that no fabrication work has taken place yet.

I ask the minister: When will you promise new ferries to be built and finally put into service?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Transportation and Works.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I can tell you that this government promised them a lot quicker than the previous government promised them; let's put it that way.

Mr. Speaker, the thrusters, the engines, the propulsion systems, are here in the Province right now for the two vessels. The contract was signed about four to six weeks ago, I think it was; I signed the contract. It took some time to get that finalized. We understand that steel is being ordered probably as we speak here now. It won't be fifty-year old steel from Estonia, I can assure you that, Mr. Speaker. It will be brand new steel from Central Canada, I would imagine. I would expect that rods will be burned sometime in May and we anticipate right now we will take delivery of our two new vessels sometime in May or June of next year.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Mr. Speaker, the people of Little Bay Islands have asked government to construct new docking facilities at Halls Bay Head. This would shorten the ferry route, have better ice conditions, and provide a better service.

I ask the minister: Is government willing to move forward with new docking facilities and road upgrades at Halls Bay?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Transportation and Works.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

To go back to two or three questions ago: we will ensure that the ferry on the Little Bay Islands, Long Island run this year will be able to accommodate tractor-trailers in order to make sure that the fish plant is operational. We are very aware of that situation and will do whatever is in our means to be able to provide the service to the people there.

It is understood that there will be, on a go-forward basis, a three or four point service in Green Bay between Long Island, Little Bay Islands, Shoal Arm, Pilley's Island. How that configuration will work itself out is yet to be determined. There will be meetings between officials of the Department of Transportation's marine division and the people on Little Bay Islands and Long Island.

We are aware of the proposal from Little Bay Islands on Halls Bay Head. There is a considerable investment required there, my understanding, somewhere in the order of $15 million, I believe. If that was to take place, the analysis on that has not been completed yet and will be completed some time between now and when we take delivery of the vessel that will go on that service.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The time allotted for questions and answers have expired.

Presenting Reports by Standing and Select Committees.

Tabling of Documents.

Notices of Motions.

Notices of Motion

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, by leave, I would like to give notice regarding the committees for Estimates and the composition of these committees.

MR. SPEAKER: Does the hon. the Government House Leader have leave?


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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I give notice, and by leave, move that the following committees be comprised of the following members for the Estimates.

The Resource Committee will consist of the members for Bonavista North; Burgeo & LaPoile; Grand Falls-Windsor-Green Bay South; Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair; Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi; The Isles of Notre Dame; Port de Grave; Labrador West; and Lewisporte.

The composition of the Government Services Committee will consist of the members for Conception Bay South; Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair; Topsail; Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi; Burgeo & LaPoile; Kilbride; Port de Grave; Exploits; and St. John's East.

The composition for the Social Services Committee will consist of the members for Ferryland; Port de Grave; Grand Bank; Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair; Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi; Burgeo & LaPoile; Placentia & St. Mary's; Port au Port; and St. Barbe.

Mr. Speaker, I also give notice, and by leave, will give the composition of the different committees themselves.

The following heads of expenditure will be referred to the Resource Committee: the Department of Business; the Department of Environment and Conservation; the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture; the Department of Labrador Affairs; the Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development; the Department of Natural Resources and the Status of Women; the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation.

That the following heads of expenditure be referred to the Government Services Committee: Consolidated Revenue Fund; Executive Council; Department of Finance; Department of Government Services; Department of Transportation and Works; and, Aboriginal Affairs; the Legislature; and the Public Service Commission.

The following heads of expenditure be referred to the Social Services Committee: Department of Education; Department of Health and Community Services; Department of Justice; Department of Municipal Affairs; Department of Human Resources, Labour and Employment and the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation.

MR. SPEAKER: All those in favour of the motions as put forward by the hon. the Government House Leader, ‘aye'.


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

The motions are carried.

Motions carried.

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, "An Act To Consolidate The Law Respecting Revenue Administration." (Bill 4)

Mr. Speaker, further, I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, "An Act To Repeal The Labrador Transportation Initiative Fund Act." (Bill 5)

And, Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, "An Act To Amend The Pensions Funding Act." (Bill 6)

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

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

MS SULLIVAN: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, "An Act To Amend The Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Act." (Bill 7)

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Pursuant to Standing Order 63.(3) with respect to Private Member's Motions – and this Wednesday is Private Members' Motions for the Opposition – I would like to put forward, on behalf of the Member for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair, the following Private Member's Motion, seconded by the Member for Port de Grave:

WHEREAS nurses of the Province have finished a strike vote with nearly 90 per cent strike mandate in favour of strike action; and

WHEREAS nurses are continuing to go through the collective bargaining process with negotiations scheduled to resume on Thursday, April 2, 2009; and

WHEREAS the government's preconditions included such things as a four year contract with concessions including extended earnings loss, market adjustment, and classification; and

WHEREAS government held a news conference on February 12, 2009, stating that preconditions would no longer apply to the nursing negotiations; and,

WHEREAS the Minister of Finance reinstated the preconditions as part of his unscripted Budget Speech on March 26, 2009;

BE IT RESOLVED that this House calls upon government to remove all preconditions before resuming negotiations with the nurses union, in an effort to reach an agreement.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Further notices of motion?

Answers to Questions for which Notice has been Given.



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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to present a petition on behalf of the residents in my district, and I will read it into the record because it is the first time it has been presented.

WHEREAS the price of gasoline in zone 11 from Lodge Bay to Cartwright is frozen at a rate that is substantially higher than the remainder of the Province; and

WHEREAS this freeze is implemented early in November prior to all winter stocks being brought into the communities; and

WHEREAS consumers in these regions are paying for gasoline that is still being trucked in at the lower cost at a huge profit to oil companies; and

WHEREAS the government must recognize the ineffectiveness of this freeze and have the Petroleum Pricing Commission act to remove the freeze; and

WHEREUPON the petitioners ask the Minister of Government Services and government to take steps to have this freeze policy removed to ensure that consumers in the region are no longer being gouged.

Mr. Speaker, this is a petition that has been sent by the people in my district and it is being sent simply because they live in an area of the Province that pays the highest price for petroleum products of anywhere in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, there are times when the prices of gasoline alone, from one zone to the zone they live in, which is only seventy-six kilometres, have had a differential of up to thirty and thirty-one cents on a litre. Now, Mr. Speaker, that is extremely high pricing of petroleum over a region that small and that size. They have been asking through myself and through the minister for a number of months now, to have the freeze lifted because they feel that if they were in the same competitive pricing regime that exists everywhere else in the Province, that their prices would not be escalated as high as they are.

For example, if you look at most zones across the Province, and there are something like twenty-four or twenty-five zones in Newfoundland and Labrador, you will notice that the pricing difference on gasoline, for instance, between each zone never really escalates more than about three to four cents in a litre. However, you get into Southern Labrador, into the area that I represent, and all of a sudden you start seeing those differentials in prices escalating very high. You certainly do not see the norm of the three to five cents in the difference of a litre of gasoline. In fact, Mr. Speaker, the transportation cost between one zone to the next zone, as I said, which is something like seventy-six kilometres, is calculated right now at more than ten cents a litre to transport that fuel, which is an unrealistic number. There is nothing else that is being calculated in that cost category for transportation of products throughout that region of the Province, so it has caused a great deal of difficulty for the people in that area and they have certainly found that they are not getting the co-operation that they had hoped from the Petroleum Pricing Commission.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, in previous years, people would be notified indirectly in one fashion or another that prices were going to go up. There were set dates in the regulatory policy for that area, that stated that freezing on gas prices would be implemented at a certain time during the year and that freeze would be lifted at other times during the year.

Well, in fact, Mr. Speaker, those schedules have not been honoured. In the last two years, we have seen situations where the Petroleum Pricing Commission has just implemented the price freeze when they felt they wanted to do it, and sometimes it was up to three weeks earlier than what was normally allowed for in the regulation.

It has caused hardship for people in that area to the point that they have asked that the freeze be lifted altogether, that they be calculated on petroleum products in the same manner that the rest of the Province is calculated on, and they have asked government to undertake to do that through the Public Utilities Board and hopefully they will see that it is necessary and it can provide for some relief on both home heating oil and gasoline products for people in that area.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Further petitions.

The hon. the Member for the District of Port de Grave.

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

I want to present a petition today on behalf of the residents of Long Island and the vicinity. This is my first petition; I will read it into the record:

WHEREAS on August 5, 2003, the Department of Transportation announced that they would build the Long Island Causeway; and

WHEREAS on January 15, 2004, government announced that the Long Island Causeway was deferred until the Province was in a better financial position; and

WHEREAS Long Island has received a ferry service from government for the past twenty-five years and has been very good until the ferry M.V. Island Joiner had exhausted its lifespan and now requires a replacement ferry or a fixed link; and

WHEREAS the causeway is more feasible for the Province than it is to provide the ferry service already in place;

WHEREFORE we the undersigned petition the House of Assembly and urge government to immediately undertake measures to construct a fixed link between Long Island to Pilley's Island and Green Bay; and

As in duty bound your petitioners will ever pray.

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure today to be able to stand on behalf of those residents, not only of Long Island but neighbouring communities in the area who support their cause.

As I mentioned today, I know I asked questions to the minister - I think it was in our last session – and he stated very clearly that as far as they were concerned there would be no changes when it came to the possibility of considering the causeway to the island.

Now, Mr. Speaker, we have questions today because we are hearing from the residents in that area, who have concerns about the service they are receiving. They have major concerns, like was noted in the questions: about emergencies taking place overnight when they do not have a ferry service; the concerns about the product from the fish plant being shipped across; as well as children who have to travel back and forth each day to school. They are also asking now that government would consider the docking facilities at Halls Bay Head - it being a shorter route, with fewer problems with ice conditions when that time of the year is here.

Mr. Speaker, we are presenting those petitions - one today, and I am sure there will be many others - on behalf of those people. Maybe government will find it in their hearts to look at the possibility of this causeway. I ask all hon. members from that particular area, who represent those constituents, during our Budget debate that they stand in their places and support those individuals who have major concerns here, Mr. Speaker.

Like I said, those people have major problems with the service they have, and they believe the most feasible way to serve their island and be less costly to governments over the years is a causeway. So I am presenting this petition today, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of those residents, asking government to reconsider and go forward with plans for a causeway to Long Island.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further petitions?

Orders of the Day.

Orders of the Day

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, we will continue with the Budget debate.

We call Motion 1, that the House approves in general the budgetary policy of government, the Budget Speech.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that this House approve the Budget Speech.

I call on the hon. the critic for the Department of Finance, the hon. the Opposition House Leader.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Just a few opening remarks, I guess. As anyone who is used to hearing me speak before will be aware, my voice is somewhat different. That is because I have a terrible head cold.

Under the rules, I am permitted to have two hours and forty-eight minutes in response to the Budget Speech which was given in this House last Thursday by the Minister of Finance. Anyone who watched the legislative sessions over the years, of course, will be aware that the former Finance critic, Ms Thistle from Grand Falls-Windsor, actually set the record when it came to responses, because under the old rules there were no time limits. As long as you did not sit down, or take a break, you could speak as long as you wanted. She, in fact, spoke continuously in debate and in response to the Budget for in excess of thirteen hours.

I do not intend – we are under the new rules. The Table Officers advise me that the Minister of Finance spoke for one hour and twenty-four minutes, which, according to the new rules, allow me, as I say, two hours and forty-eight minutes.

Whether I reach that or not is anybody's guess, given my physical condition today. It is good, in a sense, because my hearing is shot as well. I flew in yesterday from the West Coast, and as a result of the flight and the air pressure I cannot hear anything, so that will be very good in terms of any responses that might come from the government members. That is very good. I will just talk as if they are not there, because I cannot hear them anyway.

The Speaker is trying to indicate something to me, but I am not exactly sure –

MR. SPEAKER: If the hon. member would allow me to allow me to interrupt, I think the rule states that the person who speaks immediately after the Minister of Finance, in delivering the Budget, will get twice the length of time that the minister took to deliver the Budget, or a maximum of three hours, whichever is greater. Just for clarification.

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I was under the impression that the rule was the lesser of two forty-eight or three, but thank you very much. That gives me an additional twelve minutes, I guess.

As I say, I am not certain whether I will need the two forty-eight, let alone the three hours. It is not my intention just to talk for the sake of talking. Hopefully, throughout the course of the time period, there will be some opportunity to respond to what the government has done, and to do so in a – it will not, I am sure, be as cohesive a package as if you were delivering a hand-written speech. There are obviously breaks that are going to be required in terms of moving from one part of the discussion to another, but hopefully at the end of the day the persons who do take it upon themselves to listen to these broadcasts will have some indication of how the Opposition feels about what the government has done here.

That is what it is about, because in this House there are only four members in Opposition, so I am not here trying to preach to the converted one way or the other – not that there is any conversion likely, of course, based upon what I say – but it is my purpose and my role over the next time that I have to at least propose some questions, provide some information. If the government members – the Minister of Finance, the Premier, or anyone else – disagree with something that I might say, I would certainly appreciate being educated and informed if I am incorrect.

I would appreciate it at the end of the exercise if the minister, the Premier, or whatever minister is impacted by my comments, might take it upon him or herself to provide clarification rather than just let it go as a question being proposed and no answers forthcoming.

The government members will all get an opportunity in this Budget debate as well to respond. I am sure we can expect from the government members, when their turn comes, as they should, they are going to be touting the virtues of government and the positives of the Budget, probably on a very specific note - for example, we did such-and-such in education, or we did such-and-such in roads and so on - but my questions might not just necessarily be of a specific nature; there may be some more broader themes that I would like to propose or question the government on - in fact, challenge the government on.

That is the role, of course, of an Opposition. We are called critics, but hopefully the criticism can be constructive, and I mean constructive in the sense that if something is raised that the government admits is a legitimate concern the government will propose what they intend to do about it. If it is not based upon proper information, I would hope that the government would educate us as to what is the correct information rather than have at least the Opposition in the dark as to what the facts are. If there is information and facts that we do not have, we would certainly appreciate it.

I say that because you can only discuss based upon the information that you have. We have – just for the benefit of those who are watching – this is a package of information that was given out to us by the government on Thursday. It is not a case of the minister just stood up, had a speech, and that was the end of it.

In terms of preparation, there are one, two, three, four, five different volumes of information that result from the minister's Budget Speech - pretty complex information. There is the Estimates; there is another one that talks about all of the salary details in all of the different departments of government; there is another one which is a copy of the Budget Speech itself; there is another booklet which deals with the economy, what is happening in our economy in 2009, or expected or projected to happen; and then there is a bunch of press releases and everything that government puts out at the same time that they deliver it as well.

This person who is speaking here, I am the critic for Finance but I am not an economist. I am not, by training, an accountant. In fact, that is not my forte or my liking, necessarily. I am more of a social type person, being involved in a legal background as opposed to an accounting figures type background, so bear with me because sometimes I might use words like accrual, cash, deficits or whatever, and somebody might say: he hasn't got a clue what he is talking about. I am sure the Member for Topsail, for example, who is an accountant herself and a former Auditor General might say, no, no, no, that is not right, and she will be shaking her head over there saying, that is not correct.

Anyway, I say that with good intentions again. If I say something that is not correct it is not because I intend to mislead anyone, it is because I truly don't understand, probably, the concept. I will try my best, based on the information we have, and we will see where we go from there.

Now, the government put out its Budget, as we say, last Thursday. We all know, as well, in the midst of the Budget we had what we call the unscripted part, where the minister alluded to the comment about the Nurses' Union. I will come back to that, because that was, I would think, considered disrespectful by many in the public, as to how that unfolded last Thursday and how the government, the Premier and the Minister, chose to do that. I will come back to that, because that does require some further commentary.

First of all, with an overview, I guess, of the Budget itself, we, as an Opposition who listened to the speech and who have some familiarity with how government operates, had a chance over the weekend to look at the figures, as to what is being spent where; the preliminary assessment, shall we say. It is going to take us weeks, probably, to drill down to the details and find out what all this means.

In fact, there is another process called the Estimates Committees that the public might not see. I don't believe they televise the Estimates Committees. This member asked, in fact, that they be televised, but the government has not taken it upon itself to do so. What happens in the Estimates Committees, of course, is - there are dollar signs attached to every department of government, as well as Executive Council, Newfoundland and Labrador Housing, and so on. There are a bunch of figures associated with every one of those. What happens is, there is an Estimates Committee and a minister – it might be the Minister of Government Services, for example - would show up here in the House of Assembly. It is not during the regular televised hours. There would be a bunch of people on this side of the House, myself included and my colleagues and government members as well, and we would get to drill down into the details in the estimates of that particular department: what money is being spent in the minister's office; what money is being spent on staff; what money is being spent on programs; very specific things. That is where you get an opportunity to ask questions of a minister because anyone who watches the House of Assembly proceedings, you know that in the course of Question Period, thirty minutes, you do not get to ask a lot of questions. In fact, the Official Opposition, the Liberal Party, we get twenty-six out of the thirty and the third party, the NDP gets four minutes. So you cannot ask a lot of questions in Question Period.

Also, anybody who has watched Question Period is well aware that it is called Question Period. It is not an answer period because albeit you ask a question, you do not necessarily get an answer. So that is why it is called Question Period. During Question Period you normally only get maybe seventeen, eighteen questions on an average for that time period that we have, twenty-six minutes a day during Question Period. So that does not give you a chance, and the minister in that response of course can tell you what he likes, but you are limited ultimately to your twenty-six minutes, seventeen or eighteen questions a day. So it is not a very informative process.

The only other way you extract information out of government is you go through the Access to Information and Privacy Act. Now anybody who has been watching the media knows full well that this government has not been very forthcoming when it comes to information. We actually stood up here last year during one of the discussions; we had gone as an Opposition through the Access to Information Act to get some information about the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. They refused the information so we got the Privacy Commissioner involved. He went to that department and said: look, you should cough up some of the information. What we got back was a sheet of paper, standard size writing paper that said Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Every single thing on the page after that was blacked out. Now that is the kind of open, accountable government you have. Everything, there was absolutely nothing on the page except for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.

Now, if you cannot get your information from government voluntarily, if you cannot get your information through Question Period, the only other option you have, another option that you have is through the Estimates. That is good, because the minister is there then. He has all of his officials with him, deputy ministers, assistant deputy ministers, directors and so on and you can grill him or her, no such thing as a time limit. It says three hours but I do not know of a minister yet who refused to go beyond three hours, but it says three hours. Usually you try to get it done, and you can actually drill down into some of the details. If the minister needs help he has all of his officials to help him or her, which is good, very informative process. Besides the little nitty-gritty details that you get in Estimates, you also get an opportunity to ask about general policy stuff: Where are you going with such and such a policy that you brought in last year, two years ago, four years ago? Where do you see it going next year? What about this problem that happened to it? What are you doing to address those concerns? The minister just does not get to give you a one-off answer or say: Never mind, I am not going to tell you. He or she has to respond, if they do not, it does not look very good.

That is why I would personally like to see it televised because some ministers are very open, you ask a question in Estimates and they do not have it and their staff does not have it available, they would say: Thank you very much, we will get it for you. We will forward it along to you, no problem. Other ministers are not so forthcoming, shall we say. Some of them it is like pulling teeth.

I remember last year I believe it was, the Minister of Business sat in this very House and we were doing Estimates and he got very upset with me. I just asked simple questions like: Minister, could you tell me where the money for such and such went? He lost his cool, did not want to give me the answers, thought I had no right to ask the questions. Now I do not know if it is because he did not have the answers or he did not like the answer he would have to give me, I do not know, but that is not the purpose, the purpose is to be informative.

Anyway, we will pose a few things today but we will also, in the Estimates committee, get an opportunity to ask some nitty-gritty detailed questions as well.

Now back to the overview. I guess the word used by the Leader of the Opposition last week in her media interviews after she heard the Budget, her first phrase that I heard her mention was: It is a healing Budget. I reflected upon that over the weekend and wondered why she chose to use those particular words. Then I read in greater detail the background of her press releases and so on that she had and it made sense why she used that phrase. There are things in this Budget – by the way, this person here will not be totally critical, give credit where credit is due. When good things are done it needs to be acknowledged, confirmed and go forward. If something is not so constructive, not so positive, that should be pointed out, not condemning anyone, but pointing it out that it was not acceptable or it is not a good standard.

For example, the current Budget, there is no doubt there is some healing involved when it comes to home care, no doubt about it. I will come back to some of the details. This is just an overview sketch right now of the Opposition reaction to the Budget.

Home care was a positive. No doubt about it. Some moves were made. Now, we will get back into the details later about exactly how substantial were the moves that were made, or were they appropriate moves?

Student debt. No question. I listened to the commentaries of the president of the students' council at Memorial University. He was very pleased. Opposition was very pleased as well, that this happened.

Some attention being paid to prison services, particularly with respect to a psychologist and a psychiatrist at Her Majesty's Penitentiary, which will also service the Clarenville Women's Institute as well. Very positive moves. So healing again in that respect; healing some of the sore points, some of the deficiencies that exist in our social structure.

The mental health issue. We all know – anyone who has been paying attention in this Province since last fall. We all know the shocking situation involving youth mental health, not only youth addictions but also youth mental health issues. It was very positive to see in the Budget that some move would be made with regards to the construction of facilities for both the youth addictions, as well as the youth mental health issues. Now, I will come back to these in more detail later on, and of course it was positive in some of the things that we saw happening with the Cameron Inquiry.

Justice Margaret Cameron came down some weeks ago with her report. There were a substantial number of recommendations in it, and government has put something to the tune of $21.6 million in this year's Budget into trying to implement and satisfy the reports of the Cameron Inquiry. So that was nice to see. Very positive moves, and the government should be given credit for those. Absolutely!

I would say as well, just to give credit where it is due, that the Opposition pushed every single one of these issues. Every single one of these issues that I just mentioned, as being acted upon by government, were raised in this House through Question Period, and many of them, repeatedly. Repeatedly.

Now it goes to show two things. Somebody could get negative and say: well it shows that government reacts when they are pushed on an issue. They were asked about it in the House and they had all kinds of various interest groups who were pushing the thing outside. Letters, meetings, complaints. They had the open line shows that were blowing these things up, but the bottom line is they did react. If you want to call it react or act, the bottom line is they paid some attention to it; but, again, it was because, partly, the Opposition kept the feet of the government to the fire when it came to these issues. It was not a case of: I didn't hear about it; or we didn't know about it; or, if it was of any importance, surely the Opposition would have raised it in the House. It should have been, and we did, and it is good to see that government reacted to it and did act towards trying to correct some of these matters.

Now, there was a lot left out. I guess you cannot do everything in one year either - I am a firm believer in that - but some of the things that were left out were substantial in a way that they needed and still need to be done, and could have been done without a large infusion of cash, and a great opportunity in this economic downtime for the government to have done them, with very few dollars involved, and yet they chose not to. I guess that is obviously the prerogative of a government, to choose your priorities and decide what should and should not get done.

I was at a couple of functions over the weekend in my district and, quite frankly, I had no problem whatsoever with the student interest piece. I thought it was a very positive move. Someone in my district was very, very outspoken towards me and said they did not think that was a good move at all. They did not think it was good at all, and pointed out something else that they thought should have been a priority. I said: Well, that is how the system works. Government has to size up all the needs. Government has to decide what the priorities are, and put the money there.

We will point out, as the discussion goes on today, what some of those other areas were that members of the public were saying they felt should have been a greater priority. For example, on the Cameron piece, there was not a very overall positive reaction, I would not think. The lady at Eastern Health who is moving on seemed to be very positive, saying it was a start. You know, you have to start somewhere, but the general consensus I would think is that it is too little and more should have come on the front end.

Now, I heard the Minister of Health's explanation as to why that could not happen. According to the Minister of Health, you just cannot take the money and throw it at the system and expect that it is all going to get done in one year. There has to be a process in order to implement it at the proper stages and in timing. It is no good to put $50 million in, in 2009-2010, if all the system can handle and be prepared for from an implementation point of view is $21 million. That is his explanation, but that is not what some people in the health care system are saying, by the way. What the minister explained, that we could not put any more into it right now because you needed to timeline it better, not everybody in the public agrees that his statement is correct. A lot of people who are on the inside, very familiar with what is happening, know about the recommendations, know about the needs, they are saying: Whoa, he could have done more. He could have done more quicker than the government has now done. We will come back to that as well.

The issue of Central, and what is being done for Central Newfoundland - now, the Member for St. John's West, who is the minister, he is responsible, the Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development is responsible for the overarching committee, I would think, that deals with the government –

AN HON. MEMBER: St. John's Centre.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: St. John's Centre, excuse me, who is the Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development, is the chair of the government committee that is to deal with what has happened in Central Newfoundland.

Now, the government keeps talking about $41 million being set aside to help Central. Well, folks, if you take out the $5 million of that $41 million that they talk about, which is coming out of the development pot, I do believe, which is a federal funding initiative, if you take that $5 million out of the $41 million, my math tells me you are left with about $36 million. I have gone through the list of what the government is going to do with that $36 million, and there is not a lot there that is any different from any other year of government operations, not a bit, if you take out the $5 million. You have money in there for hospital construction. You have money in there for road construction. All of that would have been there anyway, folks. That is nothing special for Central Newfoundland. That would have been done anyway - you take in the area of Buchans, Grand Falls-Windsor, Botwood, Bishop's Falls - so you have to be careful when you look at the figures, because government would let you believe that they took a whole new pot of money, $41 million, and said: We have a problem in the Central Newfoundland Region. We are going to fix it. We are putting our money where our mouth is.

The devil is in the details, and when you look at some of the details you see, whoa, just a minute. Other than that community pot, the vast majority of that would have found its way into Central anyway. So what are they doing new about it? What new are they doing about it? Anyway, I am going to come back to Central because that is a burning issue right now. It is probably one of the single biggest issues we have in this Province right now, what we are going to do in Central Newfoundland.

Quite frankly, I never got caught up in all of the rhetoric that the government would feed you because I went through that two years ago with Stephenville. I went through all of that two years ago, with Stephenville. The bottom line is our pulp and paper industry here in this Island is shot, other than Kruger in Corner Brook. It is shot on the watch of this government. It is shot because this government did not do enough in the first instance in how they dealt with these issues. As a result of that, two very substantial issues, districts, regions of our Province, are suffering the brunt of it today. Stephenville, Port au Port region in Western Newfoundland, and Central is going through the same thing. Throw a committee at it and hope that it works.

Used as an example there. They talk about they are going to put the youth addiction centre in Grand Falls-Windsor; just one example. A few million bucks, they are going to go out and build a physical structure. We know we have a problem with youth addictions. Nobody denies that we have a problem with youth addictions. Nobody denies that we need a facility, a physical facility to do it, but there is nothing in this Budget whatsoever, and that is where we have to go looking for some details. I do not see any details by just reading the Budget documents. Where are the supporting programs, services, personnel, to deal with it once you get it built? That is one thing. Can the supporting programs, services and personnel that you need be accessed in Central Newfoundland? For example, anybody who has listened to the debates in the media in the last year, or two years, the possibility of getting and retaining health care professionals in Central, or anywhere else outside of the overpass is an amazing problem.

Are we going to be able to get the child physiologist, the psychiatrist, the analyst, the support staff that are needed once you build the facility? Quite frankly folks, I do not think that was thought about. The reason it was not thought about is because this government, as part of trying to deal with the problem in Central said, let's build a facility out there. It will create a few jobs while we are building it. But little, scarcely any thought has been put into how we are going to run it once it is done. Now that will be a problem. It might not be a problem this year because they will be building it in 2009-2010, hopefully, but it is going to be a problem in 2010-2011. I hate to say we will be here saying: I told you so. You did not have the professional support that you needed out there, so why did you do it, other than trying to make yourself look good and look after the Abititi situation? So, there is a lot of negativity out there on that move. Was it a wise move? It was a wise move to do it, but was it wise to put it where it was? That is not to take away from the fact that the people of Central should get as much stimulus and as much assistance as they should. The question is, is it done in the right manner with the right facility? That is the issue.

You talk about the infrastructure spending. The government touted its horns two months ago and said: We are putting $800 million into new infrastructure spending because the backside has come out of the world economically. We have to do something to stimulate the economy here. So we are going to spend $800 million, a great thing, we are going to build roads, we are going to build schools, we are going to build hospitals. If you just left it at that and accepted that, you would say: Wow, what a government. They are going to spend $800 million, $800 million. Well, we went back through the figures, got out all of the press releases, went back as early as 2005 to find out how much of the $800 million is re-announced money? In other words, projects that the government said they were going to do before but for some reason did not do it. I will give you one example.

The College of the North Atlantic school for Labrador West. I noticed the good mayor, Mr. Letto, the Mayor of Labrador City was in the audience the other day. It will come back to him later too because he is certainly not pleased with the Budget. When we went back and checked, the College of the North Atlantic to be built in Labrador West was first announced back in 2005, 2005 the first time. Announced again in 2006, again in 2007, twice in 2008, and now we have it announced in the Budget again in 2009. Now I do not know, maybe somebody thinks - I always call on my friend Joe Chesterfield. That is the person out the public who sits back and watches all this stuff on TV. Now maybe somebody thinks myself or Joe Chesterfield fell off the turnip truck this morning but when you hear something being re-announced for the seventh, eighth time you start to say, what is going on here? Come on, who is pulling my leg? Somebody is telling me that we are going to put money up in Labrador West and it is part of a quote stimulus package because the world economy has collapsed since October of last year and we are going to do this now as part of a stimulus package. Now, I do believe that is playing with words a little bit. That is misleading, folks.

That was only one example. I also went through the francophone school in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, pointed out…. That was announced - the Member over there for Baie Verte was saying the other day: Not 100, not 200, not 300. Well, I will use his expression. He got it from a good person, the first Premier of the Province, Mr. Smallwood, who was famous for doing that, of course. I will say to the Member from Baie Verte: It was not announced once – the francophone school in Happy Valley – not twice, not three times, not five times, and not seven times; it was announced eight times. As recently again as last Thursday. Eight times they told us they are going to build a school in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Now, I will not go through all of the re-announced money that is in the stimulus package. Suffice it to say that of this so-called $800 million in the stimulus package, at most – and this is giving the government its due, now, folks; this is not taking a word back from government - out of the $800 million, if you were to stretch it to the absolute, absolute maximum, there is about $200 million in there as to what you could call true stimulus - true stimulus package – out of the $800 million.

Now, some of the members here, of course, you have to go back to your districts too. We all have to go back to our districts and answer the questions, and be able to give the answers, and they are asking more questions. Maybe a few years ago people did not ask them like they do, but I notice now on the open line shows, and I notice the protest groups now, they are a little bit more questioning of the government, and the members just do not get to walk in and say: Well, this is what the Premier said, and it is all okay.

They are starting to get a bit more picky, because now they say: Never mind what the Premier said. My question is to you. What are you going to do about?

I am hearing more of that. I am hearing it from members, actually, and as time goes on you are going to hear more of that as a government member. People are not going to accept that everything that you do is perfect and without question. The world doesn't work that way.

Anyway, moving on along here to some of the positive things - as I say, the home care, the Cameron report – and what some of the disappointments are. I notice as well, you talk about retreads. I remember being a part of the government, I believe it was in 2000-2001, and the Premier at the time was Premier Tobin. We got together as a Cabinet and as a government and said: We think it would be a nice thing if, rather than everything being inside the overpass, all the government departments and all the government jobs being in St. John's – a lot of government jobs are high-paying jobs, good benefits associated with them, pensions, for example, associated with them. A lot of people out in rural Newfoundland were saying: Just a minute. We all pay into the pot for taxes. Shouldn't we have some of the government jobs out our way?

The government of the day listened and said maybe that is not a bad idea, so they went out and looked all through the government and said: Are there a few things that we could possibly do outside of St. John's to spread the wealth around a bit?

I didn't think that was a bad idea. It came up on a number of things. The Department of Forestry, I do believe, substantially upgraded out in Corner Brook. The MCP headquarters were put out in Grand Falls–Windsor. We put, at that time at least – I think it is all back now – we put at that time the Fire Marshal's office out in Deer Lake. The College of the North Atlantic was put in Stephenville. So that was government's intent: spread it around a bit so all the jobs weren't in one place.

Well, I will tell you, if you ever wanted to see a firestorm from the Opposition, saying that was a crazy, crazy thing to do, absolutely foolish, you had no thought for money and you were spending like drunken sailors to do it, up one side and down the other side of the government because they moved things outside of St. John's. How dare you! That is what they said.

I do notice, however, if you look at the Budget now, you start to see a little bit of that creeping back in. It is okay, for example, because the government lost the paper mill in Stephenville. It is okay to boost up the College of the North Atlantic because now we are doing it for a good purpose: we are saving Stephenville.

It is okay to boost up the manpower and womanpower out in MCP in Central, because Central has a problem. It is okay to put the youth addictions facility in Central because they have a problem. It is okay to do it now.

So this government, again – reactionary. It was not okay when somebody else did it as a thought-out plan to spread the wealth. It was not good enough, but all of a sudden, wherever problems pop up, government addresses them in the very same fashion that was unacceptable to the prior Administration.

I always thought what was good for the goose is good for the gander, but I guess this government uses it when it is only to their own benefit, not when it benefits the people but when it benefits their agenda and depending upon what happened. Well, that is not good enough.

Anyway, those are some of the positives and the negatives we saw, little trends you see developing. I am going to get into, sometime soon, a whole bunch of detail and a whole bunch of charters that I am going to reference, because I am going to try to be factual. As I said, if I challenge government on something and what I am saying is not correct, by all means somebody correct me, because I don't want my friends out in the public who are listening to this to think that I might be saying something that is not correct. If you have a problem with anything I say, by all means call a point of order and get up and educate us.

The Opposition's general response to the Budget was: it is a healing Budget. It didn't go far enough in many ways. Government spent a pile of money. There is no doubt about it, spending was up. In fact, for the first time I believe it is roughly about a $750 million deficit. Now, deficit, by the way, folks, was a dirty word in Liberal times. If you were in the Opposition back then – I remember, for example, back in the 2003 Budget the price of a barrel of oil was $25. The government of the day thought they were going to have a $30 million deficit. Just get the figures now! This was only six years ago, 2003 in the spring. The government said, we are going to run a deficit of $30 million. We are just not bringing in enough money to do everything we have to do, for health, education, all the social programs, justice, police protection, and everything, so we are going to spent $30 million more than we take in. That is called a deficit, you spend more than you make.

Well, the Opposition went bonkers. What are you doing? Absolutely moronic actions! You can't run a government! Who is in charge of the money? Who was spending the till? That was a $30 million deficit on a barrel of oil for $25. Well, folks, I do believe as of Thursday this government is telling us the price of a barrel of oil is $50 - that is what they are using in their Budget - and their deficit is going to be $750 million, fifteen times what the deficit was in 2003.

MR. BUTLER: Twenty-five times.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Twenty-five times, for sure. But that is okay, don't question our ability to govern, don't question our ability to manage, because we are part of the economic tsunami that hit the world back in October. Because everything happened in the world, and we are only one little place in the world, we are going to be impacted as well, so we have to do it. In fact, not only might we have to do it this year, we might have to do it again next year in 2010, but we hope that in 2011 this thing is going to be past us. Hopefully, we will be through the storm and we will move on.

I point that out for one reason, because depending on what side of this hallway you are sitting on here in this Chamber, something is either good or bad. If it was a Liberal government that had a $30 million deficit, tough, terrible managers. All of a sudden a $750 million deficit, don't worry about it. We will fix that down the road. We have to deal with some tough times right now.

Well folks, don't you think the tough times existed back then? Don't you think back then when the price of a barrel of oil never ever saw $150 a barrel, that that government of that day had the same issues? We never had a Voisey's Bay back then. We never had Labrador City with the mining prices that we have, but yet, still only had a $30 million deficit.

That dirty word: deficit, I will come back to that when I get into some of the charts because that is another dirty word that found its way back into the lexicon of the government and they tried to clean it up. It is a clean word now or they are trying to make it look like, if not a clean concept at least a necessary concept; not their problem, they cannot help it.

Now it is a funny thing, when we had the big budget surpluses in 2005, 2006, 2007 and this year: Boy, what a manager we are, we made all of this money in the Province. They had diddlysquat to do with the price of a barrel of oil. We have all of the figures here. I am going to show you all the charts.

This government never did anything whatsoever to increase the oil revenues, not a thing. They never did a single, absolutely, solitary thing in terms of the mining resources, nothing. The price of iron ore in Labrador City went through the roof, the Province benefited. The price of oil went up and tipped $150 a barrel. This government never created the price of a barrel of oil, but meanwhile now, they took all of the credit for the money that went into the coffers. I guess that is what governments do they say, or some would have you believe. Do not blame us for what goes wrong but give us credit when something looks like it is right and we are certainly going to take credit for it even if we did not do it anyway, and that is exactly what happened here.

There are a couple of other issues that I have not mentioned yet in terms of money in the coffers. I am going to give credit where credit is due, and that is in respect to the Atlantic Accord, give credit where credit is due in terms of money in the coffers with the Atlantic Accord. No question about it. The Premier stuck to his guns. Absolutely! He drove the crowd up along in Ottawa bonkers. Ripped down the flag, was not going to fly the flag any more, got all of the mainlanders upset. Margaret Wente started to call us everything under the sun. Anyway, he walked away with the cheque of $2 billion. Great move! Give credit where credit is due. Now, what happened with the cheque when we got is a different story. Then you have to ask yourself, okay, you did a great job when you got the cheque but where did you put the cheque when you got it, and how much of that cheque is left today?

I will come back to that because I think we put the cheque mostly on a thing called unfunded pension liabilities and I think we took a large smack in the head on our pension funds as a result, again, of something that government had no control over. Government had no control over that. The backside fell out of the world, economically. We lost so many hundreds of millions of dollars, including the Accord money that we shoved into the pension funds. We cannot help it, we are sorry but it is gone. You have to tell both sides of it. Give credit where credit is due when you get it but then tell the full story. Where did it go to, where is it today? Now maybe it might come back, but if it is like my own RRSPs I suspect it is going to be a long ways out before it comes back to where it was. Everybody I talk to, and I do not have a lot of accountants and everybody else, I just have a couple of fellows who know a little bit about stock markets and investing, a few banker friends, and they are telling me: Kelvin boy, you are going to be looking at least ten years before you get back what you lost in your RRSPs. So, I would think the government pensions is pretty well on a par with that unless they have some magnificent advisors that are going to get the money back sooner than we lost it. We will only see to that as time goes on.

That is just the Opposition reaction to the Budget so far. I have lots of time left. That is our reaction as an Opposition. As I say, some good, some bad, but then there was the public reaction. I drove across the Province Friday morning. I left here before daylight, got the Open Line show. I do not usually get time to listen to the Open Line shows, actually, but when you are driving from here to Port aux Basques it is a great opportunity to listen to the Open Lines and see how the public, what kind of issues are on the go, what are the current issues from all over the Province. In fact, there were people calling in there from all over the country, the United States, and e-mails coming into the host. This was the morning show I guess it is, with Mr. Randy Simms that I was listening to for two hours in the morning. Also, before I got home, I got to hear part of the Bill Rowe show which comes on again in the afternoon. I am telling you, what an education as to what the general public felt about the Budget. Again, to give government credit, it was not all negative, not at all.

The Open Line shows on Friday were not all negative at all. There was commentary both ways, but what I found striking most of all was it was different than last year. It was different than the year before. It was different than 2003 and 2004 because when the government brought down its first Budget in 2004, the government had changed, had a new Premier. The first Budget came out in the spring of 2004. The first thing they did was point out how bad the other guys were, the old guys, the other crowd. They went off and got a financial report done and showed just how bad and what kind of state we were in. They said we have to tighten the belt now and way we go. So 2004 and 2005 was a tighten the belt thing. Then of course, thank God, no doings of this government, the price of oil and the price of our resources started to go through the roof, which gave the government money to deal with. Of course they did try to deal with some of these things. They did try to deal with some of the social needs that we had here.

The current Minister of Justice, who was the Minister of Finance last year, talked about the fact that we are investing in some of these social needs that have been there for some time. We did not have the fiscal capacity to be able to do it before. It looks like things are on the rise. It looks like we are okay for a little while so let's try to catch up with some of these things that we needed, both of an infrastructure nature because a lot of our infrastructure had become dilapidated over the years. We simply did not have the money to do what you needed to do. That is the bottom line. It is not a case of you would not do it.

I am sure anybody in this Chamber or anybody in this Province if someone could give you $10 billion a year and all you needed to run your Province was $5 billion, you had $5 billion to play with. That makes it pretty easy to manage. You do not care what happens on a go-forward basis if you have a pot full of money. You still have to be wise of course. You do not throw it at foolish stuff, but if you have the money it is that much easier to do stuff than if you do not have the money.

It is like somebody running a family, there might be a lot of things you want to do for yourself and for your kids but you live on a budget. Now, surely God, if someone slipped $1,000 a month into your family pot that you were not aware of and it was above and beyond what you had, you could do a lot with it, and that is what the government tried to do. The minister used the word - I believe it was even in the headlines of the Budget Speech, it might even have had something to do with the title, and the word was sustainability. I think that was in the title. What the minister was getting at, of course, was he was saying: whoa, don't go overboard here, don't go overboard with our spending, because even though we are in the good times right now and the money is rolling in as a result of the oil and the minerals, there may come a time when we don't have the money. Therefore, if we go out and we crank up the public expenditures on programs, every year we have to pay for that. We have to pay for the wages, we have to pay for the doctors, we have to pay for the nurses, we have to pay for the education and the teachers and the schools, the operational stuff, every year, the programs and services.

He said, that is fine, but if we ratchet the services up and the bottom comes out of the money bucket, what are we going to do? We don't be able to sustain the services. Then we are going to find ourselves in a position where we have to cut back. Politicians know what that is all about. The former Premier Wells, of course, went through that. He came into power in 1989 after seventeen years, I believe it was, of Tory rule. Find the books! He couldn't even find the books. Never mind was their red ink in the books. He couldn't even find the books.

Anyway, by the time he did find out what was going on, he had to slash and burn; rolled back wages, did it all, to try to make it fit, to try to make it all new.

MR. BUTLER: Rolled back contracts.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: He rolled back contracts, yes, contracts that were signed.

MR. BUTLER: Tore them up.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Contracts: tore them up. He said: can't afford to pay for them.

The Minister of Finance last year, the current Minister of Justice this year, was trying to say the same thing: be cautious here. It is fine to pay for stuff, fine to have the money, but you can't create and pay for things if you can't sustain it down the road.

I will bet you – what? There is not one person in this House, there is not one person on this Island, not one person in this country, or in this world – maybe one – who thought that we were going to find ourselves in the economic situation today versus twelve months ago.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: I say to the Member for Mount Pearl, don't pride yourself on being so intelligent, Sir. There are far more people in the world who knew nothing – nothing! – about this economic tsunami that hit us; certainly not this government, certainly nobody in this House.

The bottom line is, last year a barrel of oil was pushing about $150 at one point; $150 a barrel. Now, what is it? Thursday, when the Budget came down, I believe it was $52 or $53 or $54. In fact, the government reassessed its budgets. Last year, I believe they used $85 or $87 a barrel for their estimates.

AN HON. MEMBER: Eighty-seven.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Eighty-seven, the minister tells me, and this year we are using $50. Reality smacked us in the head. Nobody wanted it, but we all got it and you have to deal with it.

Driving across the Island, you want to see how the public reacted. Actually, I did not have to drive all of the time so I could make a few notes as we were driving. The first thing that came through loud and clear – I have not heard from anybody except from the Premier, and except from the Minister of Finance, whom I listened to on Issues and Answers yesterday, and not a single, solitary person agreed with the manner that the government dealt with the nurses unscripted in the Budget. Not one! That was unanimous, folks. Forget about whether it was right or wrong, or what the contents were, or the message. The bottom line was there was total shock for the disrespect to the process that was shown by the government in throwing a new wage offer on the table in the middle of a Budget Speech. Absolute shock! The funny part was I was here watching as the Minister of Finance was delivering it, and the minister says: I am going to do something that is not done very often now; it is unscripted.

The Premier looked as if he were shocked. Oh, my God, what is he going to do now? Folks, we found out later that it was not very unscripted. It had, after all, been discussed in Cabinet that morning. That was acknowledged right after the Budget Speech, by the minister himself, so the Premier, no doubt, knew about it, so it was no shock to anybody. The only one who was shocked was the leader of the nurses' union, first.

I notice today the Premier says: Well, we could not get her the message because she was in the Budget lock-up. Well, I got messages when I was in the Budget lock-up. They did not have the courtesy to give it to the president of the nurses' union, to go down to her while she was in the lock-up and say: Oh, by the way, this is what we are going to do today in the Budget. What do you think of it? – and give her some chance to prepare. They did not do that. When the lady comes here – she was an invited guest, as I understand it, an invited guest of this House to hear the Budget, and somebody taps her on the shoulder and says: Here is what the minister is going to say.

Now, I do not know what anybody else thinks about process but there should be some respect for our collective bargaining process.

This is not the first time, by the way. This is not the first time, but there is a pattern. This Premier is the same guy who meets up back of the gas station after midnight with the former leader of NAPE, a parking lot meeting in the dark, after hours. It shows a lot of respect for process. Anyway, that will be dealt with. They are going back to the bargaining table now on Tuesday, I understand, so we will see where that goes. That was the general comment that came from everybody I heard on the open lines on Friday, and at the various functions I attended on the weekend.

The other thing, I mentioned already the addictions centre in Central. It is fine to do something, we need the facility, but some questions are being raised as to the appropriateness of putting it in Central. Not to take it away from Central, but is that the place to put it given the professional needs that are going to be needed once that facility is constructed? Are we going to have and be able to provide the professional care and counselling that is required, putting it in Central versus putting it somewhere else?

I have already alluded to the $800 million in infrastructure, the so-called $800 million stimulus, which is actually about $150 million to $200 million in stimulus. The others are all rehashed, re-announced projects that were done before.

That brings me to a point of there seems to be a problem with the government, that they cannot get the money out the door. Surely God, if you are going to build a school in Happy Valley-Goose Bay for CONA, what is the problem that you have to announce it six years in a row and you cannot get it done? Is there some problem that the public ought to know about? Is there some reason why that school did not go ahead?

I notice, for example, we have had bigger projects, or at least as big: the courthouse in Corner Brook. That was announced, bang, goes out, goes to tender, gets started, money put in, and we have money in the Budget this year again for it. That seemed to be the way that the projects normally should unfold, but the government has not once taken it upon itself to explain. They are right there to announce the stuff, but they are not there to tell you when something does not happen, to give you the reason why. Maybe there would be no question. If we knew, for example, why CONA could not be done in Labrador City and it had to be re-budgeted seven or eight times, surely God that is easy enough to explain. Surely, by the seventh or eighth time, somebody could take it upon themselves to tell the people of Labrador City why that is not being done and let the public know generally.

I do not know; maybe there is a problem getting money out the door. If that is the case, I think we need to review the process as to how we get it out the door. Is there a lack of construction companies to do it? Is there nobody capable of doing it? Is the bidding process wrong? I do not know the answer, and I have had discussions with the Minister of Municipal Affairs, for example, and her predecessor, the late Mr. Byrne, when he was the minister. I think government made some good moves in terms of the timelines of agreeing to do something, get it out to the districts and get it started, but obviously, albeit government has made those moves to try to expedite the project's approval and to get it done, obviously it is not being done for some reason when you have hundreds of millions of dollars in the system unspent.

Then there is the question of all the money that the government - this was brought up, too. Somebody asked on the open line: Why are the government putting all these hundreds of millions of dollars into Nalcor?

I will come back to that, because that is another question as well. There was also the question of home support, didn't see a lot of positives in home support. I do believe the minister went out to speak to the group on Friday, who was having their conference at the Holiday Inn, and the words used were that it was a timid or tepid reception that he received; they weren't pleased with it at all.

Personally, I thought it was a start. I mean, if you are working in home care, obviously successive governments have not given it the consideration it ought to have had. It is mostly a women-oriented profession, and compensation is low. The government made a move and tried to put I believe it was $1.71 in, which is a fairly substantial increase in the first year. I personally thought it was a start, and a fairly good start percentage-wise, based on what they were making. I think it was $9.27 on average, and to give $1.71 increase, personally I thought that was a good start and see where we go in the future, of course. Anyway, the people apparently were not impressed. They did not think that was a good enough start.

Again, I give credit where credit is due. It is due here, as a start, but some people did not feel it was a sufficient move. I guess you can say that is always the case; because, no matter what you do, you are always going to have a certain level of disagreement with what you do anyway.

I have already alluded to the fact about what I think about the Stephenville, Grand Falls-Windsor situation. Government's attitude is: it falls to the ground, form a committee and see what we can do. That is about it. Personally I do not think it ever should have fallen to the ground in the first place, either in Stephenville or in Grand Falls-Windsor.

Mr. George, Mr. Bradley George, head of Canadian Independent Business, I do believe - they are small business - he gave the Budget a C. He gave it a C. He said that was basically because there was nothing in there about taxes, no tax cuts. Now, mind you, he gave credit last year. He said government had a fantastic Budget last year, in his view, for a small business, because there were tax cuts and so on. He did give credit to government for last year's Budget. He did not think it should have been up to snuff for where he, from his perspective, thought it should be this year in tax cuts, and did not do much for business. Again, that is a gentleman who is entitled to his opinion. He represents a large segment of people in our population, small businesses.

What dismayed me, was not so much that Mr. George spoke his opinion – because we can agree or disagree with him as well, the same as we can agree or disagree with government, but it was the government reaction to his expressing his opinion. I read that this morning in one of the press clippings about the Minister of Finance. I think he did it at the Board of Trade on Friday. He took a swipe at Mr. George: I think he should go back and reassess the situation. But, he is entitled to his opinion. I guess the minister is entitled to his opinion too, but that seems to be the course of action for the government. You are okay, you can say what you want as long as you agree with us, but the minute you say anything that we do not like, boy, look out. They get pretty nasty, and I mean there are no holds barred.

Now, the minister's comments on Friday, they were pretty tepid, actually. That was not too much. They just said he should go back and have a look and reassess the benefits that are actually going to accrue to small business, because many small businesses are going to get the benefit of the infrastructure spending in the stimulus package, and that is true, too, but the overall attitude came through again, of agree with us or else. There are lots of examples of that, folks.

We had a heated debate in this House here last week when somebody dared mention the name of Mr. Griffin from Central. My God, I thought the Minister of Natural Resources was going to tear us all apart. He got upset, high strung, emotional. He started to say – but we did not create the words. We did not use the words. A gentleman in Central Newfoundland, born and raised there, a member, as I understand it, of one of the most long-standing families in Central Newfoundland, the Griffin family. As far as I understand they are long-standing members in good stead, in good standing in the community. He voiced an opinion. The word that the Premier used was he called him a traitor. That is another example.

Then there was the case of the gentleman – I believe he is the President, actually, of Abitibi – a few years back, when we got into the negotiations. The government was negotiating with Abitibi out in Stephenville. The words he used were: He needs a fastball upside the head. Imagine! A fastball upside the head. That is what that President needed, of Abitibi.

Well, I do not know about the fastball upside the head, but I guess we see what we got as a result of that great relationship between our government and the Premier, and the head of Abitibi. We have two less paper mills. We have hundreds of thousands of people out of work. Yes, that is pretty good!

The Cancer Society had their comments, generally favourable. They thought it was a good start. Some commentary to the fact that they did not think some of the Cameron inquiry recommendations were going ahead fast enough. They did not think they could put timelines on them, as the minister had. They thought they should proceed more quickly.

The doctors were sceptical of where government is going in terms of recruitment and what they put into the Budget to assist with recruitment; sceptical was the word. I just point some of these things out because you never heard any of this last year, folks. It was pretty well unanimous last year that it was a good Budget. I do not know if I heard anybody come out and say: I am sceptical. I do not think it is right. I have some concerns with it. I do not think I even heard that last year from anybody, but now so far this year we have had Mr. George express; we have had the doctors who were sceptical. Dr. Callahan, for example, I do believe she is the head of the medical association this year. She was on Open Line and expressed concern. She said they must do more, was the words she used. I think she specifically addressed the issue of computerization and said there is no move here to help computerize the doctors so that the information flow is where it should be. So you hear those words. These are professionals. These are people who deal with government everyday and know what the needs are.

I noticed throughout the morning the host, Mr. Simms, said we are going to do a little survey now like they often do in The Telegram, on VOCM, CBC, and so on. He said we are going to do a little poll now and we are going to see how many people like the Budget and how many people dislike the Budget. He said go in online on the VOCM question of the day and give your answer. Lo and behold, about twenty, twenty-five minutes later, this is the words he used. He said: Ladies and gentlemen, some turkey inside the Conservative echelon has wrecked the survey. That is his words! I quote. That is his words. He went in, and apparently in the matter of asking the question and putting it up online, within a couple of hours, an hour at most, a couple of hours, the vote was something like 3,300 people had gone in, in a very limited timeframe. That was his words. He said: Well, so much for that. They wrecked the survey now. That is the words he used, some turkey inside the Conservative echelon has wrecked the survey.

Now we have all heard stories of course about the government has their own little crowd somewhere off in the wings who work the polls. I mean, we have all heard that. Anyway, I was shocked and surprised to hear him put it so bluntly on the Open Line show on Friday morning.

Then we had this gentleman, Harold was his name, and he came from Little Bay Islands, Long Harbour, Long Island, and he was talking about – again, he was not pleased with the Budget – he cannot get any answers out of government. He tried through the Minister of Municipal Affairs, and Transportation, what can we do for ferries? Can you tell us? Can we have a causeway, government? No answers to any of that. They cannot get their member to speak up for them in the House of Assembly. They have a member and apparently have given him dozens and dozens of petitions, but either he is not allowed to or else he does not have the intestinal fortitude to stand up to do it but he is their member and they have been calling upon him to present their petitions and he is not doing it. No, that is for him to answer, I guess, but that is what they were saying. So Harold was upset with the Budget.

Mr. Little from Labrador West, he did not sound too pleased. He did not sound very pleased at all. This is the public overview, going from a year when you heard no discontent to you hear some – not only small musings and rumblings, some pretty significant disappointment and disagreement. Mr. Little, again, he had a good chuckle over the re-announced College of the North Atlantic, their hospital that they are supposed to get and again, I mean, one wonders. Again, they have MHAs, how long it takes to get this stuff delivered. At the end of the day, people are going to start pointing fingers and say: Well why aren't you up explaining this to us? At least let us know. So anyway, he was very displeased as a mayor.

The Mayor of CBS, I noticed he was in the galleries when the Budget was announced. He was not pleased with the sewer project in his district, one of the fastest-growing areas of our Province, Conception Bay South. He said he was displeased that he never heard the amount of funding that he thought he was going to get for his sewer projects.

Again, these people now are getting to the point where they do not mind speaking out. They are speaking out now. They are giving their opinions, that is all I am saying. It was not all as good as anybody here might think it was. Just for those who did not get the benefit, as I say, I had the benefit of sitting for two –

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: That is just Open Line shows. That is all I am saying. I am not creating or fabricating any of this. I did not make this up about Harold from down in Little Bay Islands. I did not make that up, folks. I did not make it up about Mr. Letto. I did not make it up about Ms Forward of the nurses. I did not make any of that up; not a bit. So, that is just some.

Now, just to get into a little bit of detail here - that is the overview from an Opposition, that is the overview from the general public - I would like to get into a few charts and some figures that we did, in fact, run over the weekend. What I did first of all was: anyone who was watching last week when the Interim Supply bill came in, I took the Interim Supply bill for this year and I compared it to last year's just to get some idea of how expenditures were increasing or decreasing in the different departments.

I will try to keep this in my type of language, because I do not understand all the accounting, economics language. I will try to keep this as condensed as I can so that I can understand it myself. I just did not want to get a comparison between this year's, the 2009 Budget, and last year's, the 2008 Budget, so I actually took all of the figures. I went back as early as 2002. Now, you will remember that in 2002 that was a Liberal Administration Budget; in 2002. I went back and I listed every department in 2002 and how much money they received in the Budget, and they break out under three different headings. There is general government and legislative spending, and there are the resource departments. For example, under resource departments you put Tourism, Culture and Recreation, Natural Resources, Industry, Trade and Rural Development, Fisheries and Aquaculture, Environment and Conservation, and the Department of Business. Now, we did not have Business back in 2002, but we would put that in there if there had been. I am showing here it is zero, obviously, because we did not create that until after 2003.

Just to give you an idea, I broke out the three headings, social sector, resource departments and government general spending, in 2002. The total spending by the government in 2002, the Budget, was - and I will round all of these figures off, but I have them here if anybody wants to see the actuals - the total Budget back then in 2002 was $3.65 billion. That is for everything. It included every department of government: Executive Council; Consolidated Fund Services – that is the debt payments and all of that stuff; Finance; Government Services; the Legislature; Transportation and Works; Fisheries; Newfoundland and Labrador Housing; Justice; you name it - $3.65 billion.

A couple of years later, on the watch of this government, that figure has gone up to $4.17 billion; two years later, three budgets later, 2003, 2004, and 2005. The Budget of 2005 went up to $4.17 billion. In 2006 it went up to $4.48 billion, increasing again. In 2007, $4.97 billion. In 2008, the Budget was $5.72 billion.

Now, I notice a couple of the members writing down these figures, and that is good because when we come to the conclusion it is going to be quite a shocker here.

In 2008, last year's Budget was at $5.72 billion. This year, the budget comes in at $6.42 billion.

Now, folks, that means that since 2002, up to now, on the watch of this government since 2005, spending has been increased by 76 per cent.

Now, one could say, well, what is wrong with that, that is a lot of money being spent, that is a good thing, isn't it? Usually, you try to spend at least to keep up with the rate of inflation. I went back and I said: I wonder what the rates of inflation were? I looked at it again from 2002 up to 2009, and it would have worked out to a 15 per cent increase if you looked after inflation. It is not fifteen, it is seventy-six by this government. In other words, even if you take inflation out of this, forget about inflation, this government has increased its expenditures by 60 per cent over 2002.

As I say to the members and the minister - the former Minister of Finance is there - if I am wrong on any of these figures, correct me. Of course, where I am going with this is we are talking about increasing expenditures. The next piece we have to talk about is where the revenue comes from to pay for things.

Now, it is fine for me. For example, if I am making $1,000 a month and I spend $1,000 a month, I can stay pretty even. I am not getting into much trouble, not going in the hole any further, and I am paying my bills. That is not what we saw here for expenditures.

We know that this government increased its expenditures by 76 per cent over that period of time. Somewhere along the line we have to say: now, how did revenues go over the same period of time? Where did the revenue come from, and is it revenue that is going to be coming every year? That gets back to the problem of sustainability that I mentioned earlier, and as the former Minister of Finance had said; sustainability. It is no good to ratchet up your expenses by 76 per cent if your revenue does not go up to 76 per cent, at least, because once you ratchet it up, if it is an ongoing expense, year-in, year-out, and yet you run into a problem, then you get that big dirty word called deficit, and then you get into debt financing and your debt goes up. Then we are back to the situation again, where your debt is starting to increase.

Taking a look at the debt, I have a little chart here that I came across. I think it was the Economics Branch that created the chart. I am sure the minister can verify this again. In 2003, when this government took office, our provincial debt – and you hear this government talking about this all the time, that the other crowd who was here before us left nothing in the till. In fact, they left all kinds of IOUs in the till. They ratcheted the debt right through the roof, and we ended up, every man, woman and child in the Province, owing $22,000 each, I believe it was they said, net debt. Now they claim, of course, over the last three or four years they have it down, so that we are only about $15,500 per man, woman and child.

On the surface, it sounds like a great achievement, but in 2003 the net debt was $11.49 billion. That is the year the government changed, 2003. In fact, in 2002 it was $10.62 billion. In 2003, it went up to $11.49 billion. It went down. It stayed up pretty well in 2004, 2005 and 2006, it started to come down in 2007, and in 2008 the net debt was down to $7.9 billion. In the Budget this year, it shows that we are going to go back up to $8.9 billion.

Now, folks, the bottom line is, you do not have to look back too far, you only have to go back as far as 2001. In 2001 - that was on a Liberal Administration watch - it was $8.93 billion net debt. If you go from 2001 to 2009, which is eight years, six of which have been on a Tory watch, in 2009 our debt is going to be $8.9 billion. Now, I do not know why all the speeches over net debt and how much better off we are. The bottom line is, under an Administration that has been in there for six of the last eight years - six of the last eight years! - our debt at the end of this year is projected to be back up to $8.9 billion which is higher than it was in 2001. All these speeches you hear about, we are reducing the debt - by the way, those are only the figures for 2009. Those are only the figures of net debt projected out to 2009. I do not know if the government has them projected out beyond that.

By the way, the jump in the net debt in 2009, this year, excluding 2001 and 2002, will be the largest single jump in our net debt in the history of this Province. Now, that is a big statement to make. Excluding 2001 and 2002, the jump in the net debt of this Province this year will be the biggest in our history since 1949.

We are getting into the realm now of managers of the economy. That is where we are going with this; managers of the economy. We cannot just look at this year over last year, the year before. We are eight years out, and where are we? According to the net debt, we are no better off than we were in 2001, folks; net debt-wise. Again, you will get the opportunity. I challenge the ministers over there to tell me that I am wrong. Love to see it, if I am wrong.

Now, that is a little bit about the debt and the history of it in the last few years. I say some of these things, not only for the benefit, of course, of my colleagues here in the House of Assembly, it is for everybody who is watching, because this makes people think. When you see press releases about how good we are doing and so on, you would think everything was absolutely rosy. Absolutely rosy! No problems! Relax! We have a good man on the tiller, let her go. Well, folks, the man on the tiller today is not going to be the man on the tiller for all time. My question is: is the man on the tiller making all the right moves, or should we be a little bit cautious here? Because he is not going to be there all the time, and in fact, I would suggest that the tiller has not moved in the right way since 2001, actually, in terms of debt. We are no better off than we were in 2001.

Ronald Reagan won an election campaign – the president of the United States – back in 1980, and he asked a simple question: are you better off today than you were four years ago? Well, I guess we could pose that question today, if you get into these facts and figures. To anybody in Newfoundland and Labrador, you hear these facts, you see these figures - and again, I say, challenge me, tell me if I am wrong, prove it that I am wrong - are we any better off, in terms of net debt today, than we were eight years ago? The answer is no, ladies and gentlemen. The answer is no.

Now, all these programs we have, court houses, teachers, hospitals, nurses, jails, roads, snowplows, all of that stuff costs money. Everybody knows that. This gets us into, how do we pay for it and where do the revenues come from.

The overall revenue and expenditure projections and performance: just as a little overview to this, I guess. People say: well, we are doing great, because we are getting the money off our oil now, and no doubt about it, and our resources. We are getting money off our resources. This government is fast to say: We are not the ones who gave it away. We wouldn't give it away.

I will say, so far in the six years you would not give it away because you have not done anything. I would go so far as to say, other than Hebron – and I will come back to that - in terms of a resource package, there has been little done. If you want to start stacking up what has been done on Hebron versus what has not been done or damaged on the pulp and paper industry, we can start stacking those figures up, if we want to get into job losses, monies to the coffers and everything else. We can get into that if you want to start comparisons, but in terms of oil revenues, our oil revenues peaked between 2006 and 2008. They peaked, our revenues. All of the economists have indicated that to us - our own, I believe the University economist, Mr. Locke - everybody has indicated that is the bottom line, folks. What we got out of oil in terms of reserves and resources, the revenue that is going to come out of them, they peaked between 2006 and 2008, and they are going to decline over time after 2008.

Yes, we are going to get an expansion on Hibernia. That has been announced; we are going to get that. Yes, there has been an expansion to White Rose; we are going to get that. That is going to add some to it, but Terra Nova is going to run out. Hibernia as we know it itself today is declining. Hebron, I understand, is probably going to replace – not going to replace totally, it is just to affect the rate of decline in our revenue. It is going to affect the rate of decline in our offshore royalties and revenues. We have to remember, too, that we are not getting Hebron until 2012 at the earliest, folks.

That whole argument again is about: How are we going to sustain it? How are we going to pay for our programs out in the future? The Minister of Finance last year posed it perfectly. Are we going to be able to pay for it? He was cautious. He knew. He knew a $150 barrel of oil probably was not going to be up there forever and all time. Lo and behold, we felt the brunt of it within six months. The question is - we might never, ever see that back again. We do not know. I do not know. Nobody in this Chamber knows. The government does not know. Yet, every projection of where we are going in the future, somebody is hoping, somebody is looking in a crystal ball and hopefully the price of oil is going to be way up there for a time to come. Because I will tell you one thing: If the price of oil does not stay up above what it is now, if the price of minerals does not stay up where they were, or go back to where they were, we are going to be in terrible shape a few years out.

This is not a renewable resource, oil. It is not like a tree that you can plant and it grows again, or fish that you could grow again through aquaculture or whatever. Once the oil is gone, folks, it is gone. It is non-renewable. So when it comes to putting your eggs in the basket of the oil, that is only a basket that is going to exist for so long, and you see how fast it can change. The government did up a budget only twelve months ago based on certain prices, $85 oil, and we see where that is today.

The only point I am making here is not to criticize the government because we estimated $85 and it came in at less than that, because this year they realize that; they have new estimates this year and they are using $50. All I am saying is, because it is so volatile, the price of oil, we do not know next year if it is $25, we do not know next year if it is $75 or $150. The bottom line is, because it is so volatile and it affects our revenues so drastically, because we do not know, how are we going to pay for the things that we are ratcheting up? We have ratcheted up, as I already said, the expenditure of this Province by 76 per cent since 2002. Now, if you ratchet up your expenses - that is your wages, that is your programs, your services and everything you have - by 76 per cent, but yet over here the cash cow is sick one day and good another day, we do not know where it is, how are we going to pay the bills if all of a sudden the backside goes out of her?

This government is no better, and they have shown that in the last year - it is not a case of they are not smart or they are not concerned - they are no better at predicting things than anyone else. In fact, it is quite obvious that the oil revenues are going to come to an end, and I notice, as part of the Budget documents each year, they put out a little highlights package, a very handy thing. Anyone can get one, it is on line, it is all there in the Budget documents, but there is a neat little pie chart that shows you where the money comes from and where the money goes, and it has been a standard part of budgeting documents for years and years, very helpful.

On the first pie chart I am looking at, it talks about where the revenue comes from. In this year - this is all projection, by the way, the Budget. The Budget is only a guesstimate, because the government does not know what is going to happen. For example, they based a barrel of oil on $50. So, with $50 oil we are going to have a deficit of $750 million. If the price of a barrel of oil goes up between $70 and $80, and that is all American dollars, we will not have a deficit. If it goes back up to $140 or $150 a barrel we will have a surplus, so it is pretty straightforward stuff.

Here they are showing almost 61 per cent of the money that comes into this Province this year is estimated it is going to come from royalties, taxation – it is called taxation here in the pie - but that taxation includes all of our money from our resources, principally our oil resources and our mining resources, and some from pulp and paper, what we have left, and some from fisheries and so on, and any taxes that are created as result goes in there, so that is a big chunk of your money, when 61 per cent of what you are getting coming in are coming from those resources and we know they are so volatile. Not only are they volatile; we are not going to have them.

By the way, the sad part about this, folks, is we know that even though Hebron was announced last year, just before the election I note, because Hebron was announced just last year, we know we are not getting Hebron on scale and contributing until 2012. Yes, I have already factored in the expansion to Hibernia but that is not there yet. I have factored in the White Rose but that is not here yet, folks, and it is all going to run out. Even with all that coming on, it is going to decline so it is not going to be there. We cannot overlook that. It is not going to be there.

Last year, for example, in our pot of money that we get, just looking at that pie chart, from last year to this year our revenue went down by $2.6 billion. Two point six billion dollars. Now, if you had a pot of money and you went down that much, that is a big chunk of money. That is a big chunk of money to lose in one year, and obviously it is because of the economic turmoil. It is because of the price of oil dropping. It is because the mining industry is in a slowdown. Of that $2.6 billion, $1.3 billion is a reduction in what came from the provincial revenues and $1.3 billion, roughly, is what was a reduction in from the federal revenues.

By the way, I agree absolutely with the government on the issue of how the federal government did us on the recent equalization - or not the equalization, actually; it was the Atlantic Accord of 1985 tampering. No doubt in my mind whatsoever. In fact, I personally undertook and talked to officials in the Department of Finance because I wanted to be sure again; because not everything the government says I take hook, line and sinker, like they might have you. Sometimes I go question stuff myself. I cannot say who it was, because we do not know if they were allowed to tell me or not, but anyway I did talk to people in Finance and I have no doubt that the Harper government did surreptitiously take away from the people of this Province, when it was all done and said, about $1.56 billion, give or take a few hundred million. No doubt about it. I think the effects and the impact this year is going to be to tune of $419 million just this year, but as you extrapolate that over the course of the life of the agreement it works out to be about $1.5 billion.

There is no doubt about it, it is absolutely unfair, unjust, never should have been done, and every Newfoundlander and Labradorian will stand up and say that once they understand the details and the facts about it. It was totally unacceptable and inappropriate, but that does not take away from the fact that the government still has to govern.

The bottom line is we have our expenses gone up by 76 per cent in eight years; we have our revenues pretty iffy, iffy. We have seen, in a matter of six months, that we have gone from a surplus situation to, this year, we are going to go into a $750 million deficit. I do believe, by the way, historically that is the single biggest deficit we have ever had as well. I do not know if there has been any deficit that has been that big in one given year. Again, I would like for the minister to explain.

Back to my chart for a second here. I had the chart where we were comparing the budgets and I came up with that 76 per cent. This government prides itself as well on how much money they put into social spending - health, education - on their watch. So I went back and said I must peek into this again. I took all of the same figures going back to 2002, and that is each year. For example, I said already that in 2002 the Budget was three point six five, right on up through until 2009, and I gave the figures and it is six point four two. Then I went back and I said if you take each one of these and break them out into general government expenditures, resource department expenditures and social department expenditures, I wonder how much of today's budget goes to social programs today versus what percentage went to social programs back in 2002, because this is a government that says we are putting all this money into social services.

Nobody is denying that there is more money being spent, but you would not know but they are doing more in social sectors than anybody else would have done, or did do. In 2002 the percentage of the government Budget that went to social sector departments was 75.44 per cent. So, of every dollar that was spent back then in 2002, the government of the day put 75.44 per cent of every single dollar that they had into social sector departments: health, education and so on. This year, this Budget, these figures right now that we are talking about, in 2009 this government will put, as a percentage of their total budget, 71.18 per cent into social sector departments – well below, 4 per cent below, what was being done eight years ago on a percentage basis.

It is pretty straightforward. You talk about putting all the money there. You might be putting more in, but as a percentage of your total budget you are not doing any more than the governments that preceded you, back in the 1990s and early 2000s. The facts and figures are there to prove it, and that ties in again with my question of, you are not doing any more. You have had more money to do things with.

We have seen how volatile and how fluid things are, and it comes back to having a reactionary government again. Where are we going to go if you do not do something to keep the money in the pot to sustain what you have committed to doing? Therein lies the caution; therein lies the concern that this member has. Not only this member.

I came across some information. I went back and had a look at the Auditor General's report for this year. It came out in January. He is a good person to read, because the Auditor General has no axes to grind. His job is to tell it like it is. He has done that. We saw that he did it in the housing scandal. He did what he had to do. He does the same thing when it comes to the government's books, or anything he thinks is going wrong in government policies and so on, and I am referring here to his report of this year, on page 46 in particular, when he talks about government's expenditures and he says, and I quote, "Given its lack of control over oil prices and production levels, and its increasing dependence on this revenue source, Government has to carefully consider the degree to which it relies on this revenue to fund its programs and services."

So the former Minister of Finance raised the spectre of sustainability, could we sustain what we were spending? The Auditor General commented on it publicly, and now the Auditor General made it very clear, you have to be very cautious when you do that.

So it is not only the Opposition who are raising these concerns about being cautious. It is fine to spend like drunken sailors year after year after year, and I have just gone through how the debt has increased or will increase from now to 2011. He also says on page 40, "Offshore oil royalties revenues have become the single largest own source revenue for Newfoundland and Labrador with the increase in this revenue being largely responsible for generating a surplus of $1.4 billion for 2008. If resource revenues were to decline significantly it could result in the reversal of a "Have Province" to a Province that may possibly once more be a recipient of equalization payments from the Federal Government."

So we have had the talk in short order, based upon great prices for oil, about parties and pride. It is all good stuff to have pride. We all have pride. We did not need just a fiscal piece to give Newfoundlanders and Labradorians pride. We always had that, folks. It is no problem getting Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to stand up and be proud of where they come from and what they represent and who they are, but from a fiscal point of view the question is there and it is not only the Opposition who is raising it. It is the Auditor General who has put that flag out there as well and said: Where are we going?

I came across a little chart, too, called Gross Domestic Product, GDP. Now, economists throw it around, Departments of Finance, Ministers of Finance, governments, about our GDP. Basically, it is a yardstick, as I understand it, whereby you look to see if you are doing good, or better than you were, or if you have fallen off the end of the world in terms of your production, in terms of a Province, and how much better you had. It is a good yardstick to decide if you are doing okay.

I came across this little chart of the change in Gross Domestic Product year over year. Back in 1991-1992, in 1992 we had the worst figures for GDP in our history up to that point, or back there we did. It was largely resulted from the collapse of the cod fishery. The moratorium happened in 1992 and our GDP fell off the rails. We had a minus growth of 3.2 per cent in 1992. We were up and down as time went on of course, throughout the 1990s. We had another little dip in 1996-1997. The GDP skipped down to 2.1 per cent. We went up then in 1997, 1998, 1999. In 2001 she dipped back down again to 1.3 per cent but it was still in a positive range, 1.3 per cent. Up again in 2002, a massive 8.2 per cent growth in 2002. Then she went down, from 2002 down to 2004 and 2005, she went down again. She still stayed in the positives, 1.4 per cent and 1.7 per cent, but went down. In 2003 it was 4.7 per cent. Then in 2005 she went down to 1.4 per cent and 1.7 per cent. Then in 2006 she starts to go up again, between 2006 and 2007. In 2007 she was up to 7.9 per cent, good growth. I think up to that point, from the point statistics were taken, that was probably the biggest margin of growth in our GDP that we had was in 2007, 7.9 per cent. That was in 2007.

Here we are now in 2009, and the government is projecting this year, based on their figures, in their Budget, that we are going to have a GDP of minus 7.7 per cent this year. The biggest single decline - again, I believe historically, certainly since 1992, in our GDP. The biggest single decline again.

I was looking for a figure, a table I had here that went along with this GDP because people might think your hard times sometimes fall on what you are talking about, GDP, but it basically means how well off you are going to be or you expect you are not going to be. So it does not look very good in 2009. We are going to have a decline in our growth, the government says by 7.7 per cent, and I took that figure right out of their Budget, folks.

Now this is where you get into whether what a government is doing is accurate or not accurate. I will tell you why I raised this question, and I am sure the Minister of Finance can give me some answers to this when he responds as well. I went to the Department of Finance's own Web site and I took off a copy, Newfoundland and Labrador, Department of Finance, it talks about growth in GDP. I have already told you what the government said, minus 7.7 per cent. So I looked at it.

Now the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council says that we are going to decline by 1.3 per cent. The CIBC World Markets says we are going to decline by 0.2 per cent. Scotia Bank says we are going to decline by 0.5 per cent. Toronto Dominion Economics says we are going to decline by 2.5 per cent. Bank of Montreal Nesbitt Burns says we are going to decline by 2.5 per cent. Conference Board of Canada says we are going to decline by 2.6 per cent. Royal Bank of Canada says we are going to decline by 1.2 per cent. Now that is all private sector bodies that looks at provinces and determines what they project your GDP to be.

The average of all of those I just gave you from the private sector says that we are going to have a decline in GDP about 1.5 per cent; that is the average of them. What I cannot figure out is if all of these people have come to the conclusion, on average, that we are going to have a GDP decline of 1.5 per cent, why is the government putting it in their Budget documents that they expect we are going to have a 7.7 per cent decline? That is a pretty substantial difference. Now that has to be for a couple of reasons. That is just my head trying to figure it out. I cannot imagine what the real truth of it is. That has to be for a couple of reasons. It is either these private agencies have not looked at all the proper criteria to come up with their figures, and therefore their figures are wrong because they did not have all the tools and information to do their analysis – which begs the question of, did they ask the government for the information and so on - or is the government not telling us something? Does the government know something that we do not know, that these agencies do not know? Why would there be such a substantial difference of five-and-a-half percentage points between all of these and the government in your GDP?

Those are the kinds of things we would like to get some answers to. It does not look very rosy, when you get down into some of the nitty-gritty. Our revenues are not what they are going to be. The revenues are so volatile we do not know what they are going to be. A 76 per cent expenditure increase in services and programs, and yet we do not know if in a few years out we are going to have the money to pay for it. All concerns, legitimate concerns.

By the way, we did not come up with this issue about deficits being a bad thing, by the way. I do not think that was a creation of Her Majesty's Opposition. I quote from a Web site, back in April 2003, referring to the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Williams. He said, quote: Williams says the deficit is irresponsible and the Liberals are leaving the tough choices for the next government.

Well, folks, it does not change. It sounds like it is a case of: Don't do what I do; do what I say. That is what it seems like to me. Another plan here: Williams wants to see a detailed deficit reduction plan from the government.

This deficit thing – I came across another one that is pretty good, and that will lead me into the next topic I am going to get into, one of the topics. This was from the current Minister of Health. At the time, he crossed the floor, or shortly before that he crossed the floor. This was quoted out of a newspaper in Clarenville. Anyway, they said he crossed the floor and he joined the Tories, and this is a quote. It says: Ross Wiseman cites Grimes' position on the Voisey's Bay mining project and the Province's growing budget deficit as reasons for his political switch.

Interesting; he doesn't seem to be so disenchanted today with deficit financing, not so disenchanted at all today.

Back to the issue of the figures, for example, again, where we have declining revenues, massive, huge expenditure increases, 76 per cent increases, and the thing about how quickly we are going to get out of this, folks. First of all, I remember back in October, I think it was, I heard the Premier making some statements saying: No, no, no, we are pretty well insulated. You don't have to worry about it. We are in a different drum than most people. We will get through this, not a problem.

A few weeks later he was starting to get a different tune. Well, maybe we should take a look at this. Maybe we are not insulated from the rest of the world. A few weeks later, oh yes, there is no doubt, we are going to be impacted and we have to do something about that. Then, of course, some people questioned that. Some people thought that might have just been a thing to ratchet down people's expectations, such as the public sector unions that were still out there bargaining at the time, and had not bought into the government's template. They figured, well, that might be government's way of trying to cool them off and not be so demanding in their expectations; but, even back then, and even now I think the government has said 2009-2010 is going to be tough, probably. We are not so sure about 2011. We are looking into the crystal ball again.

Of course, there are some pretty well-known people who would say it could go beyond that. I do not mean to be pessimistic here. Hopefully, it will be over in six months. If it is over in six months everybody will be perfectly happy, but we have to deal with reality and take it as it comes.

For example, David Dodge, who is the former Governor of the Bank of Canada, says - the quote is: Recovery "is not going to be as quick as everybody thinks." We could be into this for the long haul. That is the former Governor of the Bank of Canada.

We also have a guy by the name of Mr. Drummond, Don Drummond. He is the Chief Economist with Toronto Dominion and he says, "…it will take many years for the economy to return to what many would consider normal." That was taken from him, the Canadian Press, on March 26. That is the very day, I do believe, that we got the Budget here last week.

The government here again, we can see from these papers, are talking: Maybe we have two years, 2009 and 2010, we have a problem. Again, some people are looking into their crystal ball, some very well-credentialed people, who are saying: Whoa, maybe not so fast.

We could be looking at years for this economy to return to normal, which gets me into the issue of the - I mentioned Voisey's Bay there and the deal. By the way, not only Voisey's Bay, because some people would have you believe - you talk about where the revenues came from, we are talking about revenue expenditures. Some people opposite would have you believe that they created all of those. That it was the Williams government that created all those revenue generating things. Well, folks, I do believe it was a combination first of all on Hibernia. That goes back - I read a book recently on former Premier Frank Moores, and it was back in the 1970s on his watch that they were doing the exploration and so on, on the Hibernia. Then along came Premier Peckford, of course. He got into more exploration, more development. It all got stalled in the late 1980s, early 1990s, but thanks to Mr. Crosbie, who was a substantial federal minister of the day, ended up getting the resources, the money that was needed. There were some companies in, some companies out, and Hibernia came to be. I do believe it was in the early 1990s, that it got up and got started. Not the Williams Administration.

I do believe that Terra Nova came about on the watch of a gentleman named Premier Grimes, I do think. No, Terra Nova came about on Premier Tobin, I stand to be corrected. Premier Tobin did the Terra Nova piece and I do believe it was Premier Grimes who started the White Rose. I do believe it was Premier Grimes who did Voisey's Bay. Now all of those terrible deals, call them what you like, there are two things that are factual. You can talk about resource giveaways all you want, the bottom line is with respect to those projects, that is what we are living off today. That is what is paying for our social services and our courts and our hospitals and our nurses and our doctors. That was not caused by this government, not created by this government. That was created by former Liberal Administrations. That is where the money is coming from. That gets back to the issue of, again, Voisey's Bay.

I did have the privilege of hearing the Minister of Natural Resources, the time has changed because the first time I heard this from her, I believe it was last summer some time, she talked about - there was a little glitch. We did not know, for example, where it was going to go to, Argentia or Long Harbour; if there were environmental considerations. The company was supposed to report back under the old Voisey's deal, I think November or December was the deadline, as to what form of processing facility they were going to go with, hydromet, that had been all outlined in the agreement and they had not reported back up to that time. Somebody talked about the benefits of the deal and the minister said: But we strengthened that deal. I do not have the quote with me, but I can get the quote somewhere, where the Minister of Natural Resources talked about how the Opposition of the day, when the agreement was going through, had strengthened the Voisey's Bay deal. Now there has been a substantial change in the membership of this hon. House since the Voisey's Bay deal was debated in 2002. It was in June month of 2002, folks. The current individual sitting in the Chair was here, I happened to be here, but very few others.

How it was done, folks, there was a Statement of Principles written up, twenty-odd pages or whatever long. It was agreed upon that there would be a special debate. Everybody was given a copy of the agreement, the Statement of Principles. The Opposition got it, the government members had it, and we set a time, set timelines. Everybody came back and did their debate in June of 2002 on the Statement of Principles. The rules of debate were worked out on the Statement of Principles, worked out between the then Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, the current Member for Humber West and the Premier. He was the Leader of the Opposition at the time, worked out the deal, worked out the speaking engagements. The deal was, under the rules of debate on Voisey's Bay, there were no amendments. There were to be no amendments, and that was agreed before anybody set foot in this Chamber to debate Voisey's Bay.

We all came here and over the course of two or three days we all had our limited time speaking arrangements to speak, and lo and behold, at the end of everybody's speeches, the vote took place. The government of the day voted on the Voisey's Bay Statement of Principles and subsequently, those principles were turned into an agreement, which I have here with me today.

Now I cannot fathom, for the life of me, how the current Minister of Natural Resources can say the Opposition of the day strengthened the Voisey's Bay deal back then when it was debated, when it is in the very records of this House that there were debates but there was no amendments. How can you strengthen something if there were no amendments to anything? The Opposition of the day, led by the current Premier, albeit he was vociferous against it, but it did not get anywhere. He did not strengthen anything, nothing changed. He voted on, we all voted on, what was in the Statement of Principles. So, lets not try and suggest what you did or you did not strengthen. That is factual, folks, and again I challenge anybody to show me that what I just said is not correct.

I had to go back, because I heard the minister and the premier recently out saying, well, we have made some substantial increases and improvements into Voisey's Bay, because first it was a bad deal. The Premier said here, on June 20, 2002, it was a terrible deal, a giveaway of resources. He said it repeatedly, after. He told me all about those rampways and off-ramps and everything that you could drive Mac trucks through, and I challenged him back then, on June 19, and I have challenged him a dozen times since: show me the ramps. Never once did he take it upon himself to be able to show this member, this House, this Province, where there was an off-ramp from the Voisey's Bay deal. Never! Never! Not once!

As time went on and we got into last year – and by the way, there was a little delay when we got to the end of it, i.e., the company had to come back. They made their decision on what kind of processing facility they were going to use, hydromet or hydromat. They decided, I believe it was for environmental reasons, that Argentia was not the best site. They were tied in to doing it in the Province. Argentia was the preferred site by everybody, government and by the company, but for some legitimate reasons, obviously, they could not do it in Argentia, and I do believe it was environmentally based.

In any case, the government kept their toes to the fire and said, look, where are you going to do it. You have to do it somewhere, and under the deal you have to do it here. Between the jigs and the reels, the government – give them credit – said: just a minute now, you made up your mind what you are going to do. You decided you are going to go hydromet. Where are you going to build it? You have to build it somewhere. Then they got back negotiating, and guess what? All of those negotiations, every single one of them, were contemplated by the very Voisey's Bay agreement; every one. Do you know why they were contemplated? I will tell you why they were contemplated. Because you did not know, for example, when it was talked about originally in the Statement of Principles and in the original deal, they were only going to build an $800 million facility. That is in the deal. As time went on, the deal became, I think it was, a $2 billion deal all of a sudden. That is contemplated, that, obviously, if the structure you are building is not $800 million but $2 billion, and it says right in here, the government and the company will negotiate these things when the decision is made. They had to come back. The company could not go willy-nilly and say, we are going to do this and we are going to do that and we are going to do something else on the facility. That is contemplated in the very agreement, section four, undertakings by the company.

Yet the government of the day, which they are required to do under the agreement, goes off, as they should have, and said, we want this, we want that, and we want something else. The right thing to do, no doubt about it! Yet, they turn around and say: we strengthened it. Well, folks, it was strengthened in the first place. The guts were put into the agreement in the first place to allow the new subsequent government to even to be able to negotiate those issues. We get into the issue of the spin again. We are into the issue of the spin.

Those are my comments on Voisey's Bay, by the way, which this government is taking and reaping the benefits of now as if they did something to create it. I am sure the member here from that area is not too upset that we said we were going to put a fabrication plant down in Argentia and it turned out to be Long Harbour. He is not too disappointed with all those jobs that are going to start down his way when they turn the tractor on it, the shovel on it, next month. Absolutely!

Let me move on now about projects again. This is the question, and sometimes, you know, you are not allowed to question. Those are my thoughts on Voisey's Bay and this government taking credit for it. I must say, I have to give the Premier his due, I am not sure if it was before or after Christmas but I did hear him say somewhere - I cannot remember what broadcast it was. As a matter of fact, I called the former Premier, Premier Grimes, and I said: I have to get you a clip of that, because the Premier is after saying that maybe Voisey's Bay is not such a bad deal after all. Maybe, he said, it is not so bad after all.

Anyway, sure enough that is where we are on Voisey's Bay. By the way, the people of this Province are going to benefit from that for as long as there is ore up there, and long after that because they are going to have a processing facility down there that is going to process nickel from all over the world. By the way, do not condemn until the timeframe comes. There was all this rush about giving away the resources. That agreement, by the way, has it all built in here about how every single spoonful has to come back, folks. It is all in here. Guess what? The very company that said they are going to bring back every single spoonful, they have honoured every single one of their commitments that they signed onto in 2002. So, why in the world would we think that they are not going to comply with their other requirements under this agreement? Why would we think that? Why would we be naysayers and condemn a good corporate citizen who has gone above and beyond what we even anticipated? Instead of an $800 million plant we have a $2 billion facility; more employees than ever contemplated. Obviously, you have to have more. You have a bigger facility and you are processing more. That is common sense.

Anyway, enough about Voisey's. It just goes to show that it is not lost on the public either, who should get credit for Voisey's Bay.

A few words now on another mega project that the government is talking about. That is the question. Actually, I still have not finalized where I come down to on the issue of the equity stakes. We know where the government has gone. The government made their decision and they bought into the equity stakes. I am talking here, of course, of the government's decision on Hebron to buy in, and also into White Rose, I do believe it is. They bought in. All that means, for the people in the public who might not understand this - I will explain that - what we do currently on Hibernia, for example: the companies take the oil out of the ground, they sell it, and they get paid in American dollars. We get a royalty, or a cut. It is like a tax. For every barrel of oil that comes out of Hibernia that is sold somewhere in the world we get a certain percentage of it. That comes into the government's coffers and we get to spend it on programs.

What the government said is: Maybe there is another way to do this. Instead of taking a royalty or a tax cut on every barrel, why don't we own a share of the company? So, we will go out and we will buy a certain percentage of the company. As you all know, Hibernia is up and running and they are going to expand it. Terra Nova is up and running. White Rose is up and running and they are going to expand it. The next big one on the horizon, of course, is Hebron. It is the only one that has not been developed. That is the one this government has an opportunity to tackle. They said: well, what are we going to do with it? They decided, as a government, we are going to take an equity share, we are going to buy some ownership into it, rather than go the other route, i.e. the royalties.

By the way, under the old roots of the royalties there were different amounts you got paid. For example, the first four or five years is construction of a project. Everybody is spending their money. We have to go out, and first of all we have to find it. Once we find it, we have to determine how much is there. Then we have to go develop it. The development phase is a very expensive phase, folks. Everybody is putting money in. All the shareholders of the company are putting money in for the development phase. Then, of course, it starts to pay back when it starts to take money out. It gives you some revenue. Of course, it has to be pumping out oil for a long time before you pay off what you put into it. You just do not develop it, start the tap today when you are ready to go, and all of a sudden with your first barrel of oil you have it paid for. It could be years before you reach what they call payout. At all those stages, you do not get anything during development, but from the time it starts to pump, extract the oil, you are getting a certain percentage. You take out so much, the government was getting a royalty rate of, say, 1 per cent. You reach another stage, you get so much per cent. When it reaches payout you get another per cent. So, the question is: What is the best thing for the government to do? Take the payout as its oil is flowing, just take your taxes right off the top? Because if you take your money right off the top by way of taxes, for example, royalties, you do not have to worry about what it costs to develop it because that was borne by the shareholders of the company, not you. If you are not a shareholder, you did not have to worry about what it cost to build it. You did not have to put anything into that. You could just wait. They develop it. You benefit because, of course, all offshore construction and so on you get the benefit; your people get employed while they are developing it. That is a benefit to you, but in terms of royalties, the minute they turn it on, the tap, depending on what regime, what royalty regime or payment schedule that you have arranged, you start to get your money back in the way of royalties then, and at different levels you get different amounts. It is all negotiated, whether it is going to be one, one point five, one point seven, two, five, whatever, all negotiated. So this government said: Hey, we are going to buy in equity instead, now. We are going to buy into it. Some would think that is a pretty big gamble, to buy an equity stake rather than just maximizing the royalty; because if you maximize your royalties when you have no associated risk, some would say that is the better deal.

Now, again, just a little bit of facts, and I stand to be corrected if I am wrong. The Minister of Natural Resources can tell me this right fast. These are a couple of things that we know for sure. I am sure some of this is new information to the members of the government side, because I am sure, I have talked to some of them, and they do not know about this. They are not aware of this. I do not know if it is because they have not been told or they have not looked, but these are facts, and Joe Chesterfield and the public of Newfoundland and Labrador are going to hear about them now. There are a couple of things we do know.

We know that the taxpayers of this Province are already out-of-pocket for the last two years, something to the tune of $550 million, because they took it out of our budget and put it over to this company called Nalcor. Just do the math when we get through this. The government decides we are going to buy shares in a company in Hebron - because that is what we are talking about; they decided in Hebron we are going to buy an equity stake – and over the last two years, last year's budget and this year's, you see $550 million being funnelled off from the taxpayers' dollars over to Nalcor. It is not Nalcor's money, not the president or the chair of Nalcor who owns it, did not generate it from Newfoundland Hydro. It came right out of the Province's pocketbook.

Now, taxpayers in that two-year period have also foregone another $200 million in dividend resource. What used to happen was, Newfoundland Hydro, pretty well every year, they are selling power, of course, and they used to have money built up in their kitty and they would pay about $100 million a year to the provincial government. Two years since we started this equity stake, there is two years that we have not gotten that $100 million in dividend revenue. Add that now to what we put over to Nalcor. That is $550 million, $650 million, $750 million that we have either invested or we have foregone by way of dividends in Nalcor, all tied in with buying equity stakes.

We are doing all of this, of course, we are sucking money out of the Treasury now, in the hopes that we are going to get a profitable return down the road. By the way, it is many, many years down the road – many, many years down the road - that you are going to see any return on this, folks. This is not like Santa Claus; he is not coming this year, not at all. It is not even like a leap year; it is not even coming in four years. I just gave you the figures of $750 million out of the Treasury to buy these shares.

Take Hebron, for example; it cost us $110 million last year to buy into Hebron. Our stake of Hebron was $110 million last year. It is going to cost us, in pre-production and construction costs, each and every year - we have to pay our share because we are a 4.9 per cent equity stakeholder - from now until 2016. Okay, folks? We have $750 million that has been gone out of the Treasury in foregone dividends, money sent over to Nalcor; $110 million that we said we are going to pay for the stake directly. We are going to pay preproduction and production costs. I do believe that works out to be seven years from now until 2016. By the way, that is our percentage of the total amount. What was it, a $2 billion or $3 billion project? We have to pay our share of that.

In the first few years of production we are going to collect a 1 per cent royalty, the same as we were getting on White Rose and Terra Nova, once Hebron gets going, the first few years. That is my understanding, and again I stand to be corrected. Of course, we are going to get back, if they make a profit - we are shareholders, so if they give the other shareholders dividends they have to give us a dividend - we will get it to the tune of whatever our 4.9 per cent is. Again, we do not know what that is going to be.

After two or three years of production, the Province starts to lose money again. I will tell you why; it is because the royalty stays at 1 per cent. Once Hebron is up and running for two or three years, the royalty stays at 1 per cent instead of – under Terra Nova and White Rose it would have been 2.5 per cent, but have foregone that. We have given up that 1.5 per cent that we would have taken after years two and three because we wanted the equity share instead.

The question is: Will the 4.9 per cent equity that we decided to take work out in the long run to be better than the 1.5 per cent royalty that we gave up? Nobody knows that. It depends, I guess, on the price of oil. If you looked at it last year you would probably say: Wow, we are in for a killing. A barrel of oil is $150 a barrel, we own 4.9 per cent, and all of the bills are paid. Come on, give us our 4.9 per cent dividend or whatever, shareholder dividend.

It looked good. On $50 a barrel, I understand we will pretty well break even. We do not know if there are going to be any dividends. That is the figure we are using today, by the way, $50 a barrel, coincidently. We might not get too much back on our 4.9 per cent shareholder stake; yet, we have foregone the 1.5 per cent that we would have gotten under a royalty. That is not coming back. We have given up a certainty for an uncertainty. That is where that is.

It gets even worse as production continues and the royalty stays fixed at 1 per cent, because under White Rose and Terra Nova – what they used to call the generic regime. Under White Rose and Terra Nova it would have grown to 5 per cent, and then it would have grown to 7.5 per cent, but that is not going to happen under this deal. So, we have given away what was our guaranteed, no-risk royalty, until payout.

Now, this giving away of the guarantee, of course, no royalties, continues until payout, which is a most uncertain date. We have no idea, right now, when that is going to be paid out. It is going to depend on a lot of things. It is going to depend upon what the price of oil is. It is going to depend upon what production levels are. It is going to depend upon what production costs are. It is going to depend upon environmental conditions. A very risky proposition indeed, when we are going to reach payout on Hebron.

Now for all of this time, by the way, twenty to twenty-five years maybe, we are guaranteed of one thing and one thing only are we guaranteed. We are guaranteed, at least for that period up to payout, whether it is twenty years or twenty-five years, we are guaranteed that we are going to take less total dollars than we would have taken if we used the royalty versus the equity. That is guaranteed. We are pinning our hopes on what we are going to get after payout, but we know we are taking a bite until that time.

It only pays off and we will only get our money back if it reaches payout, and if the price of a barrel of oil stays at or above $50 a barrel each and every month. So again, we already talked today about how fluid that was. Down from $150 barrel down to $27, $28 only a couple of months ago. So that is what we are into there. Quite a gamble, quite risky. A guaranteed loss of revenue for twenty to twenty-five years in the hopes that things will work out well and we get a super royalty in the last few years of the project, to recover the concessions that we have given up and that we will make more money than in the straight royalty that was provided for.

So that is the situation on Hebron. That is why I am saying this government took a course of action in buying equity stakes, bought into it, sold it to the public, no more giveaways; this is what we are going to do. I just wanted to point out with that example - and that is all factual by the way, that it is a pretty risky venture. It goes back to something like the old bird in the hand or two in the bush. Well, I would think here, some people think that by the equity stakes we might be going for the bird in the bush.

Now one final point on Hebron, one little final point on Hebron Ben Nevis, by the way. Even if payout is reached, it means that the government would have gotten their invested money back, like the rest of the owners, plus they would have gotten a return on their investment. That is what payout means. Payout means that those who put money in got their investment back and they got a return on their investment. Usually 15 per cent is considered a pretty good return on your interest, but it is not at all certain whether the return on the investment of 15 per cent was equal to the royalty concessions, the 2.5 per cent concession, the 4 per cent concession, plus the 6.5 per cent concession that occurred leading up to that payout.

Again, all I can say to the naysayers and those who do not understand and do not know, if I am wrong I challenge the government to show me where I am wrong. That is all, it is pretty simple. Do not put out a press release saying: Parsons is full of wind and does not know what he is talking about. Come on, I challenge the government of the day to show me where I am wrong on these issues. Now you cannot be any more upfront than that. Government says this is what we are doing; this is why we are doing it. I am just pointing out that it is a risky, risky business and a lot of uncertainty. We never know if we are going to get back what we are investing and meanwhile, here we are this year with a $750 million deficit and we already know that this government in two years has funnelled $750 million off to Nalcor or else forgone it into two years of dividends.

So, it ties in again to the management ability. It is fine to say when you are at the steering wheel and you have your back pocket full of money that I am a good manager, but there is starting to be a few cracks in the armour and you are starting to see that government has to react now. Maybe some of these big decisions that they made, maybe they will not come to be. This little tsunami in the environment shook up quite a few people. It showed that things are not always rosy. Maybe a decision you made last year on Hebron or the year before when you thought oil was going to be $85 a barrel, boom, maybe our little crystal ball was not as clear as we thought it was. So that will be good to see now where the government goes on that. We have seen in one year what a drastic difference we have had in the Budget and revenues.

The other big mega project by the way - because I said earlier today, and it may be a strong statement. I said this government has not done you know what all since 2003 in terms of resource development. I just talked about Hebron. They have Hebron, going to work on it. They bought an equity stake. I just pointed out why we will see that time will tell and history will show whether Hebron was a good deal. Do not go touting it yet. You might think it is right but let's not go touting. By the way, that is the only resource deal, to my knowledge, that we have seen this Administration do. I do not think they started it by the way. That was on the drawing books long before 2003, long before.

By the way, the other piece about all of this offshore stuff when we are talking about putting all of our eggs in one basket. If anybody were to check, we are talking about these non-renewable resources and where the money is coming from. I do not know if anybody has checked recently to see if there is any exploration going on, other than Hibernia, which we know pretty well what the reserves are. White Rose, Terra Nova and the Hebron. By the way, I have already talked about declining revenues from those. Hebron, as I said, is not going to replace that. So it is still going to decline, folks. There is no other exploration to speak of. Does anybody know about any other Hibernias out there we are going to develop? We are hoping we are going to hit on the West Coast onshore. We are hoping a lot of things, but I do not know of much going on anywhere else that looks to be a deal in our lifetime. Am I wrong on that too?

Now, I heard some people shout across the House as I was speaking here about: Oh, don't worry about that. That is a non-renewable resource, but we have plans, we have a renewable resource. We are going to get our money from the Lower Churchill. We are going to get the Lower Churchill. Now, that is another one too, by the way that, that when I read, as I said earlier, the biography of the late Premier Moores, there was lots of talk in there about the Lower Churchill. I believe he was the premier back in 1971, who first talked about doing the Lower Churchill. They tried it. Premier Peckford tried it. Premier Wells had a kick at it. Premier Rideout never got a chance. He only had forty-two days. He never got a chance. No disrespect to him; he never got a chance. He never had time to do anything with it. Premier Wells never got anything done with it, Premier Tobin never got it done, and Premier Grimes never got it done, folks.

There are a lot of premiers, over the course of twenty, twenty-five, thirty years, who tried to do the Lower Churchill and never got it done. That does not say anything about them. It just says it did not get done, and for all those times, at certain times in our history, there are reasons why it never got done. That is all it says. I hear people on the other side talk as if, oh, Roger Grimes was going to give her away, give it all away. Well, at least we brought it to a point where we could have had a deal and I believe a good deal, but it got railroaded by certain people, and history, I believe, will prove me right. The same as the Voisey's Bay deal was a good deal, history will prove me right.

Now, looking at the Lower Churchill and whether that is going to be the be-all and end-all to put the money back in the coffers that we are not going to have once the oil is gone, I noticed last year, I believe it was in the Throne Speech, when the Premier got up – I am not sure, I think it was the Throne Speech. He got up and made his commentary, and, in fact, it is one of the best times, if not the best time, in terms of off-the-cuff speaking that I have heard, because he was unscripted. He did not have a piece of paper in front of him and he spoke it, where he thought his vision was and where he thought this was going to go. He talked about where we were going on Hibernia, Hebron, White Rose, and those resources, our mining resources, and he talked about replacing those non-renewable resources with the Lower Churchill type clean energy. He talked about the time lines that would be involved, and he talked about, hopefully, when we can get to 2042, when we get to renegotiate the Upper Churchill hydro deal. I thought it was a pretty good historic look-see into the future as to where he wanted to go and how he wanted to get there.

Of course, the big piece in that puzzle was the Lower Churchill. Just a few thoughts on the Lower Churchill; and again I am not a naysayer. I just throw this out there for people's consideration, because members of the government, by the way, I do not know if they have thought all of this through, but I just have these nagging questions and I cannot get any answers.

In 2003, that was the Lower Churchill deal that they were talking about back then that got scuttled. In 2003, the negotiations to develop the Lower Churchill involved only Gull Island. It did not talk about Muskrat Falls. It only talked about Gull Island back in 2003. By the way, the cost at that time, in 2003, to do Gull Island only was estimated to be $4.1 billion. Of course, Gull Island was supposed to generate 2,200 megawatts of power. It was supposed to cost $4.1 billion back in 2003. We hear talk now that the Lower Churchill is going to involve Gull Island, which is 2,200 megawatts, plus Muskrat Falls which they are saying is going to generate 800 megawatts, for a total of 3,000. That is questionable. It seems like 2,800 is considered to be a more reasonable number.

The cost of doing Gull Island has risen. The cost of Gull Island was going to be $4.1 billion back in 2003. The cost of Gull Island now is going to be in the neighbourhood of about $6 billion, we understand. We also understand that the price tag on doing both Gull Island and Muskrat Falls is going to be $10 billion. If you look at those figures that has a total price tag of $10 billion, Gull Island costs $6, that must leave $4 billion for Muskrat Falls; six and four totals the $10 billion that government is telling us that the Lower Churchill project is going to cost. Of course, that cost includes not only Muskrat Falls, that includes the line that is supposed to come down and go down to Holyrood, because we want to get rid of that dirty energy and replace it with a clean energy that is going to come out of Muskrat Falls.

In 2003, in those negotiations - and again I can be corrected, because Minister Byrne of the day, the Minister of Natural Resources when the government changed, talked about the ad campaign and everything that was ready to go by the government. We challenge the government again now to give us the facts and the figures, if anything I say is not correct here. In 2003, on the Gull Island project which cost $4.1 billion, it would have taken a forty-five year mortgage and that mortgage was going to have an interest rate of 8 per cent. That was the lowest rate that you could get from anybody at the time, the lowest rate you could get. That would have meant that with a $4.1 billion project at 8 per cent over forty-five years, we would have had to pay about $400 million a year in order to pay off that loan. That is what we would have had to pay back then.

Now, that was more than enough to make Gull Island profitable, because you would have had 2,000 megawatts, 2,200 megawatts, produced at Gull Island, that, according to the estimates then even, based on 2010 prices, would have generated $600 million a year. You would have done it, you would have had a mortgage on it for forty-five years, you would have paid $400 million a year, but you were generating $600 million so you were in pocket $200 million a year. Those were the figures.

Now, in the case of Muskrat Falls, which is in the current Lower Churchill piece and the island piece, the route to the island, as I said, that is only going to generate 800 megawatts in Muskrat Falls. That is going to generate, based on 2010 prices again, about $240 million a year in sales. Now we know that project is going to cost $4 billion. Just do the math. If we are going to do Muskrat Falls for $4 billion and put the line down to the Island, and we have to go get the financing that is going to cost us $240 million a year on that $4 billion project, and we have to pay for that over forty-five years, I ask the question: how does government expect to go ahead with the Muskrat project and bring the line to Holyrood while, based on even that financing, they are short $160 million a year? Now, a rough calculation shows that the residential rates in this Province would have to increase by about $100 per month for every household in the Province in order to make up for that shortfall. Every single residence in the Province would have to pay an extra $100 a month just to pay for Muskrat and the line to the Island.

Government, in their Energy Plan - we are all aware of that Energy Plan that they had out - government indicated in that, that rates would have to increase. Again, maybe the Minister of Natural Resources can fill me in. Is that what they meant in their Energy Plan when they talked about rates increasing, that we are going to have to increase the residential rates in order to pay off the Muskrat Falls piece?

So, the entire $10 billion project on the Lower Churchill is going to require – because we are not talking $4 billion any more. We are talking $10 billion, government's own figures, to do the Lower Churchill, Gull Island, Muskrat and the line to the Island – $10 billion.

In order to pay for that $10 billion over forty-five years, it is going to cost about a billion dollars a year in bank charges, the same as buying a house. They are going to buy a house called the Lower Churchill, it is going to cost them $10 billion to buy it, they are going to have a mortgage on it for forty-five years, and it is going to cost them about a billion dollars a year.

Now, of course, they are getting something out of this because they are going to have, they are saying, 3,000 megawatts of power to sell. Closer to 2,800, I do believe. Based on today's market prices, they are only going to generate from the Lower Churchill, $900 million a year. That is on today's prices. So, even if you do the Lower Churchill, pay for it over forty-five years, for every year of forty-five years we are going to be $100 million short, before we ever get it paid for. Forget about profits. That is just to pay for it. We are $100 million short on the bank payment.

Now, a couple of interesting questions come up there. Maybe I have the figures wrong again but I don't think. I think they are pretty accurate. It would be interesting to see, if we are going to do the Lower Churchill, and for the next forty-five years we are going to be $100 million short on paying the bill, that is not going to generate much revenue for the coffers.

I do believe we are going to be out of oil long before that, so we do not have our clean energy revenues put back in the pot before forty-five years out, folks, from the Lower Churchill – if that is going to be the Godsend and the economic saviour.

The other thing is, I just wonder, does the government expect that the Government of Canada, for example, might ante up some of this money? That is what they said in the Energy Plan, folks. I had a little skim through it. I read some of this stuff sometimes. People might think you don't read it, but I find it fascinating actually. The government tells you where they are going and then you get into it and you read it and you say: What about this? What about that?

In their Energy Plan, the government of the Province, this government, intimated that they were going to be getting a bit of help from the federal government. Now, I ask you seriously: Does anybody think, number one, since the ABC campaign, if it remains a Harper government, we are going to get any help from the federal government?

Now, we still have a $10 billion price tag, and if the federal government threw in some money, no doubt that lowers the mortgage that we have to get, but does anybody seriously believe that a federal Tory government is going to put any money into the basket to do the Lower Churchill? Now, come on. It is like Mr. Weaver, whom the Premier said needed a fast ball upside the head. I think he gave Prime Minister Harper a few fast balls upside the head, and I don't think he is going to be running with any cheques very soon to do the Lower Churchill.

I would like to ask a question, and it would be interesting: Has anybody ever made any formal request of the federal government yet? That would be nice to know, because the Energy Plan contemplates that the feds are going to give us some money, or hopefully. I would just like to know: Is the government – can they produce it? Can they produce anything showing that yes, we anticipate they would and we have actually asked them?

Maybe the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs or the Minister of Natural Resources or the Premier might be able to provide us with something, showing what they did.

Now, I just throw this stuff out because a lot of people do not question. A lot of people are afraid to question the government, because if you ask questions, you know – I need only mention Mr. Griffin. There are a lot of people out there who are frightened to death to say anything, but the questions need to be asked.

Again, I challenge the government because this raises doubts, what I just said. There is nothing complicated in what I just said on the Lower Churchill: $10 million, based on financing rates today, you are going to be $100 million short for forty-five years, paying for it. If you are $100 million short on paying your mortgage, you are not going out and buying anything else, so where is the money going to go when the oil runs out and you do not have your resource paid for on the Lower Churchill? Are you looking to the feds to get your money? That is the question.

Sometimes the government does not like these questions to be asked. I have tried to do it in an informative way. Hopefully, it all ties in with the fact that in this Budget, as I said, starting off, we, as an Opposition, had a position on this particular Budget. The people out in the public had a position on this particular Budget and they have let their position be known. This is the first year we have seen any disgruntlement, or certainly dissatification and disgruntlement to this extent. When you have the president of the Federation of Municipalities, you have the head of the medical society, you have the people who get home care, and you get the past-president of the agricultural association criticizing and commenting that whoa, maybe this is not so good, this is new territory for this government. This is new territory.

I guess Mr. Wiseman is in political purgatory anyway because he made the fateful error of getting offside with someone. He ran, or did not run, or did not get the nomination or whatever else. Anyway, he is no longer in the Federation of Municipalities. I liked, by the way, the way that he answered the CBC reporter last week, because they invited him to come on to this Crosstalk show, I guess it was, at 1:00 o'clock on CBC, and he volunteered. He went on, and the host, as soon as she asked him what he thought of the Budget, he expressed his opinion. Her response back to him was: Well, I guess that would be your opinion because you are a disgruntled former political person.

His – I thought – very appropriate response to her was: Just a minute. You did not ask me to come on your show as a former disgruntled political person. You asked me to come on and comment on what I thought, as past-president of the Newfoundland and Labrador agricultural association, of the Budget.

I think the question was out of line, or her intro was out of line, and I think he answered it quite appropriately; but, as he explained there, the reason for his disgruntlement was: apparently the government had put $6 million into agrifoods. At the end of the year they had only spent $2 million. He says there are lots of good initiatives out there where they should have, and could have, spent the money; but, for whatever reason, the other $4 million did not get spent in the agrifoods budget.

I am sure the Member for Kilbride is quite familiar with the comments he made as well, coming from a partially farming area out there. He made the comment: You budgeted $6 million, you only spent $2 million, you came up with another budget for this year. You gave us $6 million or whatever, but what happened to the $4 million we did not spend last year? You did not keep it there because we did not get it spent last year, to let us spend it this year. You took it away. It slipped, it disappeared. We are not getting it back anymore. It is not our fault that we never got to spend it necessarily. He said: Just a minute now, we are trying to grow the agrifoods sector in the Province. What happened to the slippage on the $4 million? He said: I cannot get an answer to this stuff. Why did it happen?

Now maybe the member for that area, Kilbride, like I said, a prominent farming area in the Province, might be able to give us some information when he gets up to speak on the Budget and answer some questions like that. A farmer himself I understand. I am sure he has information. He will explain to the public what happened to the $4 million that disappeared and why it is not there.

My comments today, besides what we might think as an Opposition, that is only our few limited opinions, I have also tried to show that there are a lot of other people out there who are not satisfied with this Budget. That should cause the government some cause to at least pause and say: Whoa, did we prioritize here properly? Is it possible that we made a few mistakes and errors here in how we prioritize things? Is there somewhere we could have gone a bit differently than we did to appease and look after some of these needs that are there? Should we have done that? That is all we are just trying to point out.

I am sure the members opposite, as you return to your districts in the next week or two and you attend your fireman's balls and your Lions Clubs and everything else, you are going to get these questions at you. They do not go away. Your districts are no different than mine, and particularly rural districts, I am sure, when you have questions from people about health care. You are going to get these questions and I am sure you will not duck them. I am sure over the weeks to come you are going to get questions from the nurses.

I remember back in 1999, I got elected February 9. I came in here - the first time sitting in the House was March 16. The Member for Grand Falls-Springdale over there was one them and the Member for Harbour Main. I believe there are only three of us left here who came in at that time for the first time. I was a member of government. I was not in the Cabinet but I was a member of government. I remember sitting in this House now and the place was blocked with nurses, and the hallways out there were blocked with nurses with their placards and their signs on them and as we were in here debating, the crowd in the audience were pretty quiet. The nurses in the audience were pretty quiet and abided by the rules. The Speaker had to discipline them a few times and threaten to clear the galleries and whatever but you could hear the roar coming through the doors, and we are two walls away from where they were. They were beating their placards on the floor, demanding justice and equity and fairness in their collective agreement. We were the government of the day and I tell you, it was a scary time.

There were friends of mine who were in the gallery shaking their fists at me, pointing their fingers at me, calling me a traitor. The Speaker was here. He was a member of the Opposition at the time, I am sure he is aware of it. When I went back to my district on this certain Saturday night I was asked if I was going as a speaker at the Lions Club. When I got out of my vehicle and headed into the Lions Club, there were the nurses in Port aux Basques, friends of mine, dear friends of mine, but I am telling you, when it came down to getting a fair deal for the nurses that is where friendship ceases. They wanted a fair deal. It did not matter if I was a friend of theirs for years and years and so on: What are you going to do for me?

Every one of you in the government side, if the nurses of this Province end up going on strike you are going to get the same call when you go to your districts. You are going to get the same call and demand, the services for themselves, the pay for themselves, the retention issues for themselves, the respect that they want, and you are all going to have to face it. I know how I handled it at the time, as a government member. The question is going to be to see how the members opposite handle it this time. That is going to be very interesting, because you can get in here all you want and you can talk about being a member of government and you can follow the flag, you can follow the leader but when it comes down to making a choice, the hard, hard choice between the people in your district and where they want to go, it gets a bit creaky.

We can all appreciate then where the former member, Mr. Manning, went on the resource material sharing piece. We can appreciate why it causes a few tremors in your timbre, and we are going to see that coming up, if it gets to that stage. God forbid, I hope they settle it. I hope the government and the nurses can come in here tomorrow morning, before they even start negotiations, and say they worked overnight and they got it resolved. Because I am telling you, folks, there is nothing more stressful on the health care system in our Province, nothing causes more disruption, nothing causes more bad feelings, not only from between nurses and the government, but the patients, the patients' families. It is the most traumatic situation that I, personally, have ever had to face as a politician, was to deal with the nurses.

So, I hope it gets resolved. I sincerely, honestly do. You will not have to worry about them outside anymore, because they changed the rules after that. They would not allow protests anymore, but it came down to government members sneaking into the House on buses. They would not dare walk across the parking lot. They had to get on rented buses and be shuttled in under cover of darkness sometimes. That is how tense it got. It was not a friendly situation.

Anyway, I understand, Mr. Speaker, I still have some nine minutes left, but it is towards the end of the day and I understand we want to stop the clock for the day. I will continue my remaining time the next day.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Speaker looks for guidance.

Is it intent to stop the clock to allow the hon. the Opposition House Leader to complete his remarks on the Budget?

I call on the Government House Leader.

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, this side of the House has no problem stopping the clock to allow the Opposition House Leader to continue with his eight minutes and few seconds to conclude.

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

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: I am assuming that the Government House Leader has offered that I finish now, rather than stop the clock?



MS JONES: No, no that is wrong.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: I am not clear, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The agreement is that we would stop the clock to allow the Opposition House Leader to complete his three hours time limit in responding to the Budget Debate.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: But as part of – just for the information of the House and the Government House Leader. I will be moving a non-confidence motion, which allows me to have another hour to speak. I am just wondering. I can speak, I have no problem with that. I can go on.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: That is why I just thought if we stopped it today, next day I would resume by making the notice of non-confidence with the time I have left and to move on into that hour. That is all.

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, it is our understanding that for the remainder of the day we would conclude the time that was allotted for the response to the Budget Speech, and that following that, we will either, with or without a motion, then adjourn the House and continue with what may come. If there is a motion put forward then we will continue that debate tomorrow, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Is everybody clear on what we are doing here?

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I think that gives me at this point about six minutes and fifty-seven seconds, just enough time to conclude my remarks actually.

The bottom line of what I have put forward here today shows that not only the Opposition but also the public are somewhat concerned about some of the items in the Budget and somewhat pleased with a lot of them.

For example, I must comment on the student one. I personally think that was a great move. It did not cost a lot, I believe around $7.2 million, $7.3 million or $7.4 million, not a big lot of money for the goodness that it does, and I personally do not have a problem with that.

As one of the talk show hosts pointed out - and I ran into myself the weekend - some people did not like that. They thought: Why should we be giving a break to students who are not going to start to pay their loans off until at least six months after they graduate? They said: In that time they are making good money anyway, and the government has already frozen the tuitions going back for years and years. Even the Liberal Administration froze the tuition in the College of the North Atlantic and MUN.

That was not a Tory plank, by the way. That happened back in the Liberal Administration when that was frozen. I personally agree that it was a good thing to do, and some people felt no, it was not. So, even when you do something, not everybody feels the same about it. Even though I might think it is good, or you may think it is good, some people have some concerns about it. I think it was a good move for the relatively small amount of money you had to pay versus the overall budget for the number of people that it helped. I do believe the figure was about 49,000 people are going to be positively impacted by that move, so I would certainly have no problem on that issue.

Just to conclude here, my questions and my comments about all of this oil revenue, where it is going, how flexible it is, how volatile it is, my reason for pointing that out, folks, is just as a caution. I pointed out that we have increased our spending for services and programs in the last number of years by 76 per cent.

It is great when the oil revenues are flowing but we saw very quickly when the cash cow died, as a result of circumstances beyond our control, we saw how quickly it put us back into a deficit situation again. I am trying to point out how fragile it might be on a go-forward basis if our revenue-generating cows, such as the oil and the mineral resources, stay down and stay depressed and do not recover; yet we have this dramatically increased public sector spending.

If, in conjunction with that, where the revenues are down and stay depressed - the mining industry in Labrador, in the oil prices – if, in conjunction with that decreased revenue, we do not get the other replacement sources of revenue such as the Lower Churchill and things, and the Hebron, we are going to be in a bad state. I think right now, and that is what I was trying to show, there is a case to be made, and I did make the case for showing that even today we are probably spending beyond our means. That is the whole point I was trying to make here.

Since 2003 we have gotten more money and we had more money than we ever had. We have fewer people than we ever had. These are facts again. Since 2003 we have had more money than we ever had before in our lives as a Province. We have fewer people than we have ever had here before, stabilized it now the last couple of years but we have fewer people than we have had before in our life, and yet even today we still have the second-highest per capita spending in the country. So less people, more money than we have ever had, very volatile revenue sources, ramped up our expenditures to the tune of 76 per cent, the second-highest per capita expenditures in the country. Now, that train can go off the rails pretty quickly, I would say, as has been shown in the last six months.

Maybe this is a government that stares in the crystal ball, contrary to what they put forward as prudent fiscal managers. We will see how prudent these managers were of the economy. It is easy to govern when you have a pot of money, easy. It is when the money dries up but the people still want the services and the programs that you have to be able to manage your way through. It is fine this year to have a $750 million deficit, but it is going to happen again next year and we do not even know where we are going beyond that folks. So, let's not celebrate too quickly until we get over this very, very serious, what appears to be a coming structural debt again.

Anyway, at this point, Mr. Speaker, with one minute and twelve seconds left in my time, I, as the Member for Burgeo & LaPoile, move, seconded by the Member for Port de Grave, that all of the words after "that" be struck out in the Budget motion and be replaced with the following:

"This House condemns the government for its failure to develop and present programs to address the economic problems of rural areas of this Province and bring forward a plan that generates sustainable economic growth that builds on the projects developed by previous Administrations."

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair has not had a chance to read and consult with Table Officers regarding the motion as put forward by the hon. the Opposition House Leader, but we will certainly take a very brief recess and return shortly to say whether the amendment is in order or not.

This House now stands in recess.


MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

The Chair has had an opportunity to review the amendment as put forward by the hon. Member for Burgeo & LaPoile, and it reads: That this House condemns the government for its failure to develop and present programs to address the economic problems of rural areas of this Province and bring forward a plan that generates sustainable economic growth that builds on the projects developed by previous Administrations.

The Chair deems this amendment to be in order.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, with that 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'.

The motion is carried and this House now stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock tomorrow being Tuesday.

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