April 7, 2009               HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS                Vol. XLVI   No. 8

The House met at 1:30 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order please!

Admit strangers.

Statements by Members

The following members' statements will be heard: the hon. the Member for the District of Cape St. Francis; the hon. the Member for the District of Mount Pearl North; the hon. the Member for the District of Port au Port.

The hon. the Member for the District of Cape St. Francis.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I rise in this hon. House today to recognize the Northeast Eagles Pee Wee (B) hockey team and their coaches for winning the Neil Maynard Memorial Hockey Tournament.

Teams from Fogo, Mount Pearl, Bay Roberts, Gander, Goulds, Bonavista, Conception Bay South, Harbour Grace, and St. John's all competed.

There were two winners, and I would also like to congratulate the Cee Bee's team from Harbour Grace for winning the A Division.

This tournament is the fifth annual Neil Maynard Memorial Tournament but it is the first one that was held in our new arena, the Jack Byrne Arena. Neil Maynard was a Grade 6 student who attended St. Agnes School in Pouch Cove. He was a young hockey player who loved the game of hockey. He played for the Pouch Cove Minor Hockey Association since the age of four. Sadly, in January of 1991, Neil died suddenly with a brain tumour. Each year the Northeast Minor Hockey Association presents an award for the most dedicated player in all divisions. It is called the Neil Maynard Award.

Each year this tournament raises money for charity. The Maynard Family chose two charities this year. They were the Janeway Foundation and the Children's Wish Foundation. These charities will receive over $3,000.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this House to join with me in congratulating the Northeast Eagles B team and their coaches, Carl Doyle, Jay Burton, Bill Murphy, and Manager Cathy Doyle for a very successful tournament.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise in this hon. House today to congratulate and recognize an individual who has spent his life contributing to the growth and development of Mount Pearl. Mr. G. Fred G. Bannister celebrated his ninetieth birthday on November 19 of last year.

I have known Mr. Bannister for many years. He is also well known to many residents in Mount Pearl. Fred has been a long time volunteer in the community and has served as a municipal councillor. He is a veteran and still actively participates in events at the Royal Canadian Legion in Mount Pearl. The Scouting movement in Mount Pearl can also find roots with Mr. Bannister. He often tells me that it was he who first introduced Scouting to Mount Pearl and it has been going strong ever since. Fred was also the first chairperson of the Mount Pearl's Seniors Independence Group.

Mr. Speaker, it pleases me to honour Mr. G. Fred G. Bannister and his lifelong commitment to Mount Pearl and its residents. To this day, Mr. Bannister is still active and serves on the board for Parkdale Manor as treasurer. The word retirement does not seem to be in Fred's vocabulary. He remains as active and busy as one can be. I can only hope that I will be as active as Fred when I reach my ninetieth year.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this House to join me in congratulating Mr. G. Fred G. Bannister on celebrating his ninetieth birthday and wish him happiness and good health as he approaches his ninety-first birthday.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. CORNECT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to congratulate Leah Burt of Stephenville, on being awarded the prestigious Heaslip Scholarship from Memorial University. This scholarship is funded by the William and Nona Heaslip Foundation and is the largest scholarship available to Memorial University undergraduates. It is valued at $45,000 over a three year period.

Leah is an ambitious individual. While attending Stephenville High School she was involved in jazz band and concert band and was a member of the graduation committee. She graduated from Stephenville High School in June, 2007 and was awarded the Governor General's Award for Academic Excellence. Leah has taken on the formidable task of completing a double major in Political Science and French while attending Memorial University. Upon graduation, she plans to continue her studies at Dalhousie University where she will attend law school to study environmental law.

Leah is a young person who has seized the opportunities before her. She is making a bright future for herself through her determination, discipline and work ethic.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all hon. members of this hon. House of Assembly to join me in congratulating Leah Burt on being awarded the Heaslip scholarship and on being an exemplary youth who is an inspiration to us all.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Statements by Ministers.

Statements by Ministers

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to deliver some very good news provided to me this morning by the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission. It is that in 2008, workplace injuries continued to decline in Newfoundland and Labrador by 7 per cent.

Mr. Speaker, this is a remarkable achievement, especially when you consider that this has occurred over a time when employment in Newfoundland and Labrador grew by more than 22,000 workers.

Since 2000, Mr. Speaker, on-the-job injuries have decreased in Newfoundland and Labrador by an incredible 38 per cent. This great improvement is the result of sustained efforts by employers, unions and workers to make workplaces safer throughout this Province.

Mr. Speaker, while this is excellent news, unfortunately, serious workplace injuries and fatalities still occur. Safety must continue to be a number one priority in our workplaces. Work related injuries and illnesses can and must be prevented.

Mr. Speaker, preventing injuries in our workplaces is everyone's responsibility. The Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission continues to foster a commitment to workplace health and safety by: promoting public awareness of workplace health and safety issues; educating employers, workers and others about workplace health and safety; providing services to health and safety committees and representatives; taking the lead in health and safety certification by setting standards under the Occupational Health and Safety Act; promoting funding for workplace health and safety research; and partnering with industry associations, government departments, unions and health and safety coalitions across the Province to reduce workplace injuries and diseases.

Again, Mr. Speaker, I would like to applaud the continued efforts that have resulted in the decrease in workplace injuries announced today. Let's all work together to ensure this positive trend continues in 2009.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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 the advanced copy of her statement, and to say, no doubt it is a good news story, to know that the numbers of injuries through the workplace is declining in our Province. I have to say, I guess it is due to the tremendous amount of work that is done by employers, unions and workers collectively, working along with the commission and with government with the various educational programs.


It is good to see that this is continuing, but, as I said in the Estimates yesterday morning, and I will say it again now, there is still a tremendous amount of work that has to be done with regard to the attitude of the Commission toward injured workers.

There is not one person in this Province who is listed as an injured worker, who went out on a job site and became injured to receive benefits. The attitude, sometimes, that I encounter, and others encounter, during the appeal process is something that the Commission has to work on. They have committed to do that, and I applaud the minister and the Commission for the tremendous amount of work they are doing on this level, and hopefully they will continue on in the other sphere in the future.

Thank you.

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

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

I, too, thank the minister for her advance copy of the statement with the recent statistics from the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission; and I, too, congratulate all the workplaces who have endeavoured to make their workplaces safer.

I congratulate the workers and their unions, where they have unions. It seems there have been some good results, but I think it would be remiss of me not to mention safety in the offshore.

None of us can ignore the recent news concerning the Sikorsky helicopters, and with so many workers in the offshore government must be proactive on the issue of offshore safety.

I think there would be a number of departments in government who would be concerned about offshore; some from the side of development, some from the side of workers and safety. I encourage all government departments who deal with issues related to the offshore to work together with stakeholders involved in the offshore industry to ensure that all aspects of this work are as safe as possible.

With approximately 1,000 workers going back and forth to the rigs over a year, and on a daily basis so many going back and forth, we must do everything we can for them to feel safe. Recent reports in The Telegram, as of today, indicate how workers are feeling quite unsure and unsafe.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers?

The hon. the Minister of Business.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. ORAM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the Williams government announced in Budget 2009, a new program to support the development of Newfoundland and Labrador's aerospace and defence industry. I rise today to highlight this program for the benefit of members of this hon. House, as well as the Province's business community.

With an investment of $5 million over two years, the new Aerospace and Defence Development Fund will facilitate the growth of the industry in this Province by supporting opportunities that will enhance sector capabilities, build capacity, attract investment and industrial benefits, and bring new expertise and business activity to Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, there is a growing network of knowledge-intensive companies and organizations in our Province that are active in a range of unique advanced aerospace and defence related activities that extend to global markets. They are engaged in Research and Development, and a variety of products, services and activities, including manufacturing and assembly of aircraft components; maintenance, repair and overhaul; navigation and communications systems; aircraft modification; oceans-related defence technology; and flight training.

Complementing this expertise are other attributes that make the Province attractive from an aerospace and defence standpoint. These include our strategic location, modern infrastructure including our airports and ports, Research and Development capabilities, the development of emerging technologies in unmanned vehicle systems, as well as available labour and education and training programs.

Mr. Speaker, it has been estimated the aerospace and defence industry in Newfoundland and Labrador employs well over 1,000 people and generates an estimated $150 million in annual corporate sales and service contracts. Our government believes in the industry and its potential for further growth. More funding available to local companies will help leverage additional capital to build capacity and infrastructure, which will in turn position the industry to attract other investment and capitalize on its potential growth.

We will continue to work in close collaboration with sector players and the Aerospace and Defence Industry Association of Newfoundland and Labrador. Actually, Mr. Speaker, there are representatives here in the House today. We welcome them. I also understand they will soon be organizing for a delegation to attend next month's CANSEC, which is the country's main national defence and security technology forum of the year.

Mr. Speaker, there is already a very strong foundation on which to build, and I am pleased that government is able to play a role, through the Aerospace and Defence Development Fund, to position the Province for future growth and success in this area.

Together, we will actively seek out and support new opportunities that will advance the development of this dynamic industry in Newfoundland and Labrador.

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 appreciate being provided with an advance copy of the minister's statement. We always know him as the minister of red tape. It is good to see we are on a different track here today.

Anyone who has been watching in the Province knows that we have had some six years now with the Department of Business, and it is good to see that we are finally getting some traction, albeit it was budgeted for about six years. It was the Premier's pet project to have a Department of Business. We went through five years of budgeting, but with no expenditures whatsoever in terms of investment, so it is good to see that we are finally starting to get some traction.

I do believe the first thing we had by way of aerospace industry in the Province was the Gander bonding and composites company that was started back on a Liberal Administration by Premier Tobin in 2000, and we hooked the contract with Sikorsky back then. That is where the Province got its start, and it is nice to see that the government is indeed making funding available so that people involved in this sector - $150 million a year to this economy is nothing to sneeze at. I say to the minister, it is good to see that we finally got some traction, that we have created a fund, and whatever we can do to enhance upon and attract those businesses to this Province, so be it, you should do it. It is very important, particularly in these times of economic downtown globally. Anything that we can do as Province, of course, to better ourselves financially and economically, we need to do that; so, we would certainly applaud the program.

Unfortunately, I guess we will not get our water bomber piece being constructed here, given the other minister's announcement today, but maybe some day we will get advanced to the state where we can actually see that type of industry here as well.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, and I thank the minister for the advance copy of his statement.

I do find the statement very interesting. I have to admit that I do not have much knowledge of the aerospace and defence industry in the Province, and welcome the statement with the minister giving us the information that is here. I would be interested, though, if the minister could give us in the House a list of corporations that are involved in the industry, and some kind of a breakdown of the 1,000 people who do work in the industry. I think that would be very helpful information for us to have here in the House of Assembly.

I am glad to see that money is going into the fund to help with an industry that is rooted here, and I look forward to learning more from the minister about new industries and new investments coming in to the Province because, I have to admit, we have not seen much of that yet, Minister, so I look forward to the day when I see some of that.

Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers?

Oral Questions.

Oral Questions

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, it was revealed yesterday that Eastern Health had an update on the additional number of patients affected by faulty breast cancer testing since March 26 of this year; yet, they did not release the information until April 3. The minister says that he was told on April 1, and he introduced it to Cabinet the next day.

I ask the minister: Why did Eastern Health wait so long to bring the information to your attention, and why did it have to go through Cabinet before direction was given to disclose it?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: As a minister, any time there is a significant event in my department, or any minister's department, that affects the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, it is a natural process to update my Cabinet colleagues.

On Wednesday afternoon, I had a meeting with the Centre for Health Information and they gave me an update as to the progress they had made on doing that database search that we had talked about earlier. That was late last Wednesday afternoon. As of normal course, we had a Cabinet meeting on Thursday morning and I shared with my colleagues. Then, following Cabinet, I had a discussion with Eastern Health, and officials of my department had a discussion with Eastern Health, about moving forward and providing a full public disclosure of the information that they had at that particular point.

We knew it was information that was being updated over a period of time, and the new updates would come. We felt it was important to provide an update on what information was known at that point, and, as new information becomes available, then that too will be made available in the public way.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Cameron Inquiry certainly highlighted the importance of releasing information in a timely manner, and communicating it effectively to the public. I guess our concern was the fact that they had this information for a week or more before they actually disclosed it in any way, even to the patients, who, as we know, were only contacted within hours of the information being released publicly.

The decision to vet this through Cabinet, is this a new process that is now being developed within government, that all disclosure at Eastern Health around critical information must first be approved by Cabinet before it is launched to the public?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: There is no vetting necessary through Cabinet. If there is an issue that needs to be disclosed in the public domain, it doesn't need to be vetted through Cabinet.

What I was explaining to the member opposite a second ago was that on late Wednesday afternoon I had a full briefing from the Centre for Health information. The next day, as a normal process, we were having a Cabinet meeting, so that was my next opportunity to be with my colleagues. So, I shared the information with them that I had learned the evening before, and was now providing an update. It was not a vetting process. It wasn't an approval process. It was a natural part of my responsibility as a minister, as with other ministers, to share with Cabinet issues that are of significant public importance as part of an update that we would provide to our colleagues. I say, that was the issue, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, after the release of the Cameron report, the minister himself touted that there had been improvements made within the system. In fact, he said many of the recommendations have already been acted upon. I find it really hard to trust those statements, when we have evidence like we did in Colleen Whitehorne's case where a lady waited up to seven months to get her diagnosis because it was lost in a paper trail in the system, and looking at what happened on Friday with the disclosure of information.

I ask the minister: In light of those recent events, where is the evidence that communications and protocols are being put in place and being followed within Eastern Health?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: If I could, Mr. Speaker, I will provide an update to the member opposite and to the House.

Since Friday, this past weekend, the board chair of Eastern Health and myself have had numerous discussions around this issue and what happened on Friday, and I shared my comments in this House yesterday in terms of my feelings with respect to that issue on Friday.

What has now taken place is that we have now arranged a meeting for early next week with the senior officials from Eastern Health and officials from my department to start a process to map out very clearly, so there is nothing ambiguous about a process of disclosure in the future and how that might work, how the patient disclosure differentiates from a public disclosure and when those events should occur. There is a U.S. firm, an institute for health care communication has been engaged to come in and do some work with Eastern Health, and the other three authorities, I say, Mr. Speaker, on disclosure of adverse health events and the education around how you go about doing that and training for the people who will be doing that.

So those things will be starting, I say, Mr. Speaker. Next week, as I have said a moment ago, officials in my department, together with myself, I personally will be engaged in this process to start mapping out very clearly how Eastern Health and the other four authorities will deal with public disclosure in the future. This education for the people who will be involved in that disclosure will be carried out by this institute for health care communication, a U.S.-based non-profit organization.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, I just cannot believe what I am hearing. The minister is in the House of Assembly today telling me that only since Friday has he had discussions with the chair of the board around what kind of information sessions, what process of disclosure that will be used in Eastern Health to divulge information around adverse health effects.

Minister, you fired the CEO of Eastern Health well over a year-and-a-half ago because of the way things were being handled inside of that board. Why haven't these things been dealt with in advance of what happened on Friday?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: You should not be surprised, Mr. Speaker. What I have said in this House before is that many of those recommendations of the Cameron report and the adverse health events have been implemented.

My understanding was, from the information that I was getting from the health authorities, is that they were proceeding along those lines. Obviously, what we witnessed on Friday was an event that I am not prepared to accept ever again and I am personally becoming involved in this issue and early next week to deal personally with the officials of Eastern Health; be engaged in a process with Eastern Health officials and officials of my department to map this out in a very clear and unambiguous way so that we do not end up with a recurrence of last Friday. That is why we are bringing in some outside resources to provide the necessary education to those individuals who will be dealing with the disclosure thing.

Basically, Mr. Speaker, we have said clearly in this House and as the government we are committed to ensure that there is clear and open communication and good patient and public disclosure of adverse health events in the system.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, I just find it really hard to accept because this is a minister who was led by Eastern Health before, who, in fact, disclosed false information to this House of Assembly that was provided to you by this corporation and went unchecked. Again, you are telling me today you thought they were putting a process in place, but you failed to check to see if that process was there or if it was working.

Minister, do you consider that you are doing your job appropriately?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, as a minister, and as a department, we will make sure that processes are in place, but what I cannot – I have no control over, is when individuals, on an individual incident, make a decision. That is a personal judgement call on an individual's part; that I have no control over. The people who made that decision to disclose that information in that fashion and not be available for consultation and discussion and not respond to questions, I have no control of that person's decision that afternoon.

What I want to make sure, Mr. Speaker, that is why I am using the word unequivocal, next week when we map out a process it will be absolutely and abundantly clear, no one will have to make a discretionary call from here on in because it will be clearly mapped out, and no one will have the ability to make that judgement call to do or not to do because it will be mapped out for them very clear.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Those kinds of processes I do have some control over, but individual judgements, when people make the wrong decisions, I cannot be in their heads. I cannot direct them and guide them on every single decision that they make.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Every time that there are issues around this file raised in the public the government has a tendency to push it off on Eastern Health, on the people that work within Eastern Health. Mr. Speaker, it is the obligation of government to ensure that these processes are working.

I ask, minister: Why are you not following up? We have had a public inquiry; we have had 470 pages of recommendations and documentation on this issue alone. Why are you and your department not practicing proper follow up on this issue?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, what I find amazing is the member opposite stands in this House and asks questions about what government does or does not do. She always references the Cameron inquiry. Let me remind the member opposite that the issues around Cameron were issues dealing with a lab service that occurred between 1997 and 2005. In 1997-2003, guess who was in charge? The members opposite were in government at that time, and the member who is standing on her feet today was a part of the Department of Health and Community Services at that time. My question can easily be: Why did you not take some action?

Mr. Speaker, the real answer to that question is that there is an issue of reasonableness here. What is the role of the government, what is the role of the health authority, and what should they do?

If you look at Hansard, Mr. Speaker – this is ironic, if you read from Hansard, because Hansard records what people say in this House.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to conclude his response.

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The member opposite, if you look at November 1999, if you look at Hansard, it was the person who is now providing advice to her on health issues who was the minister at that time, who said, she cannot babysit health authorities. It is their role to manage the system, and they take their direction from the –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, the minister says he cannot control the individual judgement of workers within Eastern Health.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the minister: Have you identified who made the judgements on Friday, and has the shot yet been fired across their bow, as the Premier indicated yesterday?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, I need to understand what goes wrong so we can find a remedy. What I shared with you a moment ago are steps that we are taking immediately to provide a remedy so that in future we do not leave it to individual discretion and judgement calls by individuals, or groups of individuals, to make a decision not to do, or to do something that we clearly, clearly, have said as a government it is our desire, our wish, our clear direction, to make sure that there is full patient and public disclosure in a timely fashion.

That direction has been clear, and what I want to make sure is, not so much the blame issue but clearly understanding what went wrong. What went wrong here is that individuals made poor decisions, individuals made the poor judgement call and did something that was totally inappropriate on Friday afternoon.

I am saying, Mr. Speaker, we are going to put in place a process to eliminate that discretionary decision making by people who are put in that position, so it does not happen again.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have to chuckle, because you talk about the blame issue. The direct quote from the Premier yesterday, said "They should be shot over there." That was the quote, if you want to get into blame, and where to blame, and who is placing blame here.

I ask the Premier today: Are you prepared to start with this tough discipline and those tough statements right inside your own government, and in your own department, as opposed to just Eastern Health?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, this is a significant issue. Any time we have problems in our health system, any time we have issues in our system that affect people's lives, and the quality of their lives or the outcomes of the treatment that they get, is a significant issue. For the member opposite to stand in this House and try to play some cheap political games with this process – and this is not the first time this has happened around this whole issue. This is not the whole issue.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, I ask the member opposite –


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask members for their co-operation.

The Chair has recognized the hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, this is an important issue. It is important to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and I ask the member opposite not to try to play cheap political games with her cute questions in this issue. We are trying to solve a problem. We are trying to get to the root of the issue here, and to make sure that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador have the kind of health service they deserve and require, and they get the protection that they need from the system and the people who provide those services, I say, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The only thing cheap about this issue, Minister, is your lack of follow-up in ensuring that the protocols are in place and the system is being run.

If you want to talk about quality of health care in people's lives, let's talk about the people who are impacted by HIV and AIDS in this Province, who have learned today that the only nurse practitioner left working in that clinic has just resigned her position.

I ask you, Minister: Where are these patients supposed to turn to today?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, I was aware that the nurse that you are referring to has been off on an extended sick leave. My understanding, and the most recent information I had, was that she was going to be returning some time around the middle of April.

If the member opposite has some information about her recent resignation, then I will commit to investigate in terms of that particular resignation and what plans are in place, actually, to provide a replacement for her, but the most current information I had was that the individual was going to be on a sick leave and returning around the middle of April, I say, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I was just notified prior to coming to the House of Assembly that the individual had resigned. We know that this individual had been off on leave for an extended period of time, and in the absence of no infectious control doctor in the Province, this nurse has gone into that clinic and filled prescriptions for people who are suffering from HIV and AIDS in the Province. So today, Mr. Speaker, they are wondering what will be the alternative for them and where do they turn to now to get those prescriptions and to get the treatment they need?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: I understood that Eastern Health had made arrangements as an alternate plan while that individual was on sick leave and pending to come back around the middle of April. I will undertake to find out what the new plan will be, now that the member opposite has become aware that the resignation was tendered this morning.

What is interesting, Mr. Speaker, I made a comment earlier about her predecessor who made comments in this House. It was around a staffing issue that the member opposite made that comment about the ministers not knowing, necessarily, the staffing plans for each health authority. That is not something that I would ordinarily know, but in terms of the programs and services that Eastern Health provide I am certain that they will make a commitment to provide some kind of continuity.

One of the things I want to point out in respect to the HIV/AIDS clinic is that there has been a mistaken notion that there are no services available to those patients at all. That is not true. That service is being covered off by a number of internal medicine specialists supported by members of the clinic, including the nurse in question. I say, Mr. Speaker -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Just for the minister's clarification, I had an e-mail notification before I came to the House. If you did not get it in your department, I would be happy to just send it to you.

Mr. Speaker, my questions are for the Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development. Yesterday, I raised in the House of Assembly the case of former Abitibi employees who are caught between Nalcor and AbitibiBowater right now. They do not know who is going to provide their severance, or who is going to provide their holiday pay, and government has been able to shed very little light on the situation. These people are looking for a commitment.

I ask the minister today: You talked about an investigation. What is being done as part of this investigation, and what is the resolution that government is prepared to provide?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, in response to the Leader of the Opposition, I will say to her today that there have been extensive consultations with both unions representing the workers affected: the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Communications, Energy & Paperworkers Union. In those consultations that we had, in those discussions that we had with them prior to the members of their unions receiving their bumping notices, they understood that they would be bumped out of their jobs by more senior employees of AbitibiBowater. They were issued their bumping notices by AbitibiBowater and it is our position, Nalcor's position, and the position of the union that represents these members, that it is AbitibiBowater that owes them the benefits that are due to them.

There is a process in place for the contractual arrangements for a grievance to be initiated. That grievance procedure has been initiated and an arbitrator will be put in place to judge that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, I cannot believe this.

Your government went in and expropriated the power generation assets of Abitibi. When you expropriated those assets you must have looked at what liabilities that you were expropriating as well, one of those liabilities being the severance of these twenty-two employees that are impacted.

So, I ask you today, minister: Why did you not negotiate under the expropriation of this asset, a contract that would provide for the protection of benefits for these workers that are impacted?

MR. SPEAKER: Order please!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, there was no need to negotiate any severance benefits to be paid by Nalcor by the provincial government because during the discussions that were held with the union it was very obvious that the obligation related to AbitibiBowater. That obligation is in concurrence with the union, it rests with AbitibiBowater. They have made a heartless decision, in my opinion, to indicate to these employees that they will not be following through on their obligations. We have processes in place to deal with that. We will follow through in the process and the arbitrator will make their determination.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, every time you ask this government a question in which they should be owning up to the responsibility they want to pass the buck. Today they want to pass the buck to Abitibi or to the union on these twenty-two workers that could lose their severance pay.

I say to you minister: What are you going to do after the fact? Because, obviously, you did not do it in your haste to move in and expropriate the assets, called the big press conferences, take over the ownership, you failed to provide for the workers.

I ask you: What is government and Nalcor going to do to ensure that these workers get the benefits that are owed them, because the company says it is not on, they now work for you?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, there is no need for the Opposition Leader to yell at me. I can hear her quite normally, and I will be happy to respond to her without her yelling at me.

Mr. Speaker, in the negotiations that we had with AbitibiBowater, as I have already indicated, we did engage with negotiations with the unions representing these employees. The concerns of the employees were our concerns; they were the concerns of their union leadership. In the negotiations that we had it was quite rightly felt that the obligations related to AbitibiBowater. Our obligations, as Nalcor, were to ensure that we had staff in place to operate the hydroelectric facility. We did that in consultation with the unions. We have appropriate staff in place. We actually have more staff in place under Nalcor than they did at AbitibiBowater. We have increased the amount of employment out there in the hydroelectric facility.

Mr. Speaker, the union, as I said, have been side by side with us on this and they now have started the process to right this wrong.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Minister, I apologize for raising my voice, but I cannot talk gently and rise above the yahoos in the backbenches over there, because they have been bawling and screaming since I have been on my feet, Mr. Speaker.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JONES: Anyway, let me just say this to the minister. Right now, as you know, because of the bumping rights within the union there are five of these workers who thought they would have gotten a job with Nalcor when the asset was expropriated, who did not. They, today, have no job; they cannot file even for EI benefits because neither Abitibi nor Nalcor will issue them a layoff from employment.

I ask you minister: How are you going to deal with that issue? Does Nalcor have an obligation, even though they were bumped through the union, to issue a layoff slip to those workers so they can at least have some income?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, a couple of points for clarification. Point number one, workers do not need a Record of Employment to apply for EI benefits. The workers can go to any Service Canada site, it is a federal site, and EI obviously is a federal program. They can go to any of those sites and they can apply for EI benefits without a Record of Employment, point number one.

Point number two, Mr. Speaker, the workers were bumped through a collective agreement process, a duly agreed to process. Those workers, when the expropriation occurred, were working in the hydroelectric facility. The day that we took ownership of it, on March 29 of this year, there were a number of months where people exercised their obligation to bump. So those workers knew, because there were consultations had with them, that they were going to be bumped out of their job. The only thing that was not known here was the heartlessness of AbitibiBowater to indicate to these people that they would not live up to responsibilities.

For the Leader of the Opposition to try and put that responsibility on Nalcor or the government is absolutely ridiculous!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

My questions are for the Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development as well.

Minister, the Province sunk $15 million into a fibre optic deal four years ago. The Request for Proposals were called on this $52 million project in 2007, and they closed on April of 2008, yet there has been no award, I understand, of the contract to date.

I am wondering if you could give us an update as to why this delay?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I certainly am happy to provide an update to the House Leader for the Opposition.

Mr. Speaker, what we refer to as the Government Broadband Initiative is the Request for Proposals that the hon. member is referring to. His timeline is correct. That request went out just over a year ago now, and there has been, I guess you could call it, a delay. I would prefer to say that there has been extensive work done on the amount of information that we have in relation to that Request for Proposals. It is a very large project. It involves many, many dollars. I won't say how many, but many, many dollars. It is probably one of the biggest projects that this Province has undertaken, and there was a lot of work that had to be done to make sure that we did the proper due diligence to understand all of the information that came in.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

Mr. Speaker, Eastern Health's performance on last Friday raises many red flags concerning how well the Cameron recommendations will be put into practice.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: How can the people of this Province be assured that Eastern Health will implement the Cameron recommendations fully and carefully after the recent display of incompetence?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: I guess, Mr. Speaker, the assurance that we can give the people of the Province is that we, as a government and as a Cabinet, and through the minister and his department, are doing absolutely everything we can.

As the hon. member opposite knows, we have already made expenditures in the breast cancer area of approximately $50 million. There is another $21 million to $23 million in the Budget this year. We are doing everything we can to implement it properly, to the best of our ability. These are significant amounts of money we are tracking down through. Of course, there has now been a new CEO appointed to Eastern Health. She will be in the position in the very near future. We have to assume, of course, that she is going to have to put the proper administrative procedures in place and we need to allow that to happen.

We are tracking it to the best of our ability and we are being as vigilant as we can. That is why, I guess, my reaction yesterday. I was quite annoyed at the way this was handled last Friday. I felt that enough is enough. We will continue to do it to the best of our ability. Unfortunately, we can't be there, as ministers and as members of Cabinet and members of government, in the hospital every day, in every hospital of the Province.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. Premier to conclude his answer.

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We can't micromanage, but we will certainly do whatever we can to the best of our ability.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank the Premier for his response.

Mr. Speaker, Eastern Health said, in the press release it put out last Friday, that it is working with government bi-weekly to identify priorities for implementation of the Cameron recommendations. We can no longer take on faith anything Eastern Health says, as this moment, without full public scrutiny of its actions.

I ask the Premier, if these meetings actually are taking place and if there will be regular updates in the progress of recommendation implementation.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The member opposite might recall that last week in the House, in response to a question here, I had indicated that before this session was over that I would be able to table a work plan that shows how we are going to move forward with the implementation of the Cameron report. A part of that work plan will show the reporting process.

I had indicated earlier, as well, following the recommendation of Cameron, that we will have a full report, a summary report to the House next March, but between now and next March we will provide periodic public updates as to the progress we are making and you will be able to track that based on the work plan that I will share with this House before this session is concluded.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Unfortunately, I was not in the House last week so I did not have that knowledge, but to add to that, Mr. Speaker, looking at today's technology, and how easy it is to communicate widely with the public, good use of technology can really help in the dissemination of information, so I am asking the minister if he would take into consideration the setting up of a Cameron implementation Web site with the list of recommendations and a regular update of what government and the health authorities are doing with regard to each recommendation.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: As I indicated in response to a question yesterday, I welcome suggestions as to how we might engage the public in an awareness and an understanding of not only just the recommendations themselves but how we are making progress towards the implementation, so I do thank you for your suggestion.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The time allotted for questions and answers has expired.

The Speaker is reluctant to interrupt during Question Period - it takes only half an hour - but during Question Period the hon. the Leader of the Opposition referred to members sitting in the back benches as yahoos. I say to the hon. Leader of the Opposition, that is certainly unparliamentary and I ask her if she would withdraw those remarks immediately.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you for your ruling, Mr. Speaker.

I certainly withdraw the comment.

MR. SPEAKER: Presenting Reports by Standing and Select Committees.

Tabling of Documents.

Notices of Motion.

Answers to Questions for which Notice has been Given.

Answers to Questions for which Notice has been Given

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Government Services.

MR. O'BRIEN: Mr. Speaker, I indicated in this hon. House yesterday that I would come back with a definitive answer in regard to a question from the hon. Member for Port de Grave. He referenced, in a question yesterday, that an accident, one accident, actually, at the intersection of Columbus Drive and Bay Bulls Road was due to a brake defect. I can report to this House today that it was not due to a brake defect. It was deemed as driver error, in that the driver of the bus actually turned left in front of the car in question.

Also, he indicated that in the inspection process, inspections were identifying brake defects and then they were being re-identified three months down the road, or whatever he said, which can be verified in Hansard. I would also like to clarify that as well, in that our zero tolerance approach is definitely working in that, yes, we are identifying defects. The work is being done, verified, and then that puts the bus in service again to transport our youth to the places of their education.

Also, there might be other defects being identified with a particular contractor but it is not with the same bus, so I wanted to clarify that as well and just make a statement that our zero tolerance approach is working and our buses are safe in regard to our children and travelling back and forth to school.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Petitions.


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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to present a petition on behalf of the people in my District of Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair. The petition is asking government to consider lifting the freeze which is implemented every year on petroleum products in that area.

Mr. Speaker, Members of the House of Assembly and the minister will be aware of this issue simply because it has been in the media for quite some time, especially over the course of January, February and March this year, in which people in my district found that they were paying extremely high prices for petroleum products in one area whereas people in the other area of the district were getting deregulated breaks on prices. The concern was that these petroleum products were being transferred or transported from one zone to the other zone and it was the same product that was being sold from one area to the other area. However, if it was sold in area ten, I think it is, Mr. Speaker, it would have been subjected to the price regime that is in place for calculating the price on petroleum products in the Province, in all areas of the Province, whereas if it was in zone eleven it would have been calculated under a different regime in which the products are frozen for an extended period of time.

Mr. Speaker, I did present a brief to the Public Utilities Board on this issue, which I have here today, asking that this freeze would be lifted. I did that in response not only to the petitions that I received from nearly all the communities that were effected in the region, but also in response to the letters that I received from the municipalities. All of the municipalities in this zone, with the exception of one, had asked and signed on to have the freeze lifted. They feel that in doing so it will allow for, not just more competitive pricing but it would be a pricing that reflects the actual cost of delivery of petroleum products in that area.

Right now, Mr. Speaker, if you look at the pricing of petroleum products right across the Province, whether that would be for furnace oil, stove oil or gasoline, what you will see is that from one zone to the other there is usually a price differential of only two cents to three cents or four cents in that pricing. That accounts for the transporting of that fuel into that particular zone; but, when you get into districts like mine, where you have the Labrador Straits in one area, you go seventy-six kilometres down the road to the next community and you find that there is a difference of up to thirty cents and thirty-three cents a litre in the price of gasoline, for instance. That is a huge price difference and actually does not fall in line with the way other prices are calculated at all on these products.

People could easily see that because you are transporting over gravel roads, you are transporting in a huge zone, because if you look at from Mary's Harbour or Lodge Bay up to Cartwright it is a large zone geographically, so there is a fair amount of distance, and you would think, yes, that you are going to pay more than the normal two cents or three cents to transport that gasoline, stove oil, or furnace oil, but you would not expect to pay up to thirty cents, thirty-three cents and thirty-five cents, which has normally been the case.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. member to conclude her remarks.

MS JONES: Yes, I will, Mr. Speaker.

The people, through their petition, are asking the government to lift this freeze and that the price be regulated under the same formula that is used in all other areas of the Province. They feel that in doing so they would have to live with the consequences of when prices fluctuate, but they do feel that it would be a fairer process for them and that is what they are petitioning today.

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 call from the order sheet Motion 1, put forward by the hon. Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board, to move that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government, the Budget Speech.

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair is asking if there is any further debate on the budgetary motion as put forward by the Minister of Finance.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. KENNEDY: You have an hour to speak, don't you?

MR. JACKMAN: I do not believe, Mr. Speaker, I have an hour, but if you want to give it to me, you can.

It gives me privilege today to get up and speak to the Budget. I suppose you can look at this from – I always look at it from two perspectives. You represent the people in your district, some of the people of the Province, and then you represent the department that you are in, and as such, you divide your time between the two roles as much as you possibly can.

If I look to this Budget, and if I consider it in the economic times that we are in, I do not think there are too many people who can be too critical of the Budget that we have brought forward.

First things that struck me about this, is listening to some of the stuff that was going on in the United States, and the conversations around where you need to go. They were talking about, you needed to invest in economic stimulus; you needed to invest in R&D. I watched a speech on one of the American stations, and I thought to myself: well, we are in a good league, when we are considering that the things that they are suggesting we already had well under way.

Then if we go to the Budget and realize that we did invest $800 million into an economic stimulus, and to start that work so that people can become employed, and that we stay ahead of the game, then that is a very positive move. Then if you look to education, and that is the previous vocation that I was involved in, and I look at the headings, there is $121 million that will be invested in school infrastructure. I have to say to the Minister of Education – and, like I said, having come from the education system, I do believe - and I say this with all sincerity and not because she is from my party, I think there has been more done under her tenure as an education minister than there has been done ever before.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, when I look back at last year's Budget and consider that we are issuing free textbooks in this Province now; we have removed school fees; we are investing more into school lunch programs. Then if you look to the post-secondary, all you have to do is listen to the student union leaderships that are out there and talk to some of the students who are presently students and former students, the lifting of the interest rates; tuition freezes; the grants that we have provided, $70 weekly and increasing that to $80 weekly.

I am proud to stand here and say that I am part of a government that has invested in education. Anybody in this House who has gotten up and talked about our youth have always said that once we invest in students we are investing in our future. That is exactly what I feel we have done, and again, I have to commend the minister on what she has accomplished in her tenure there so far.

When we look at health, all we have to do is look at Question Period again today and look at issues that have arisen in health. Health is a continued investment. I think that if we wanted and we were to cater to each of the demands out there, that we could invest our entire budget, but that is simply not possible. We have to, as a Cabinet and as a government, consider the needs of the entire spectrum and departments that we have set out in government, and then we have to invest accordingly. Part of being healthy is just not from a medical perspective. It is from having a strong, sound body and mind. Thus we invest in education, we invest in tourism, we invest in recreation, and the list goes on.

This year in health, just think about it, in a Province of 500,000 people, to be investing $2.6 billion, it has to speak to our commitment to the health and well-being of the people in our Province.

Mr. Speaker, I would certainly like to address some of the issues that fall under my department. I am willing to bet that I can ask anyone in this House of Assembly, ask anyone in the Province – and the e-mails that we get from other provinces, from Newfoundlanders and Labradorians living outside the Province, they will tell you that if there is one thing they can take pride in it is the advertisements that we have on our local stations, plus other stations that we have in Ontario, out West, and as such, we have doubled, since 2004 - we have more than doubled. Last year we had doubled it. This year we have put another million dollars into our advertising campaign. We have taken that campaign now from $6 million in 2004 to $13 million this year. As a result, I feel that we, as a Province, have become leaders in the tourism industry. We have a product that is second to none. I think, as one of our ads says, that we are as far from Disneyland as you can get, and that is exactly what we want. When people arrive in our Province, the experience that they have is not a fabricated experience. It is actually what you see. The present ads that are out around Gros Morne, if you want to experience it, come here and you can go to the spots that we have advertised there.

Mr. Speaker, another one that we have invested in this year is tourism season extension. I was very pleased to hear the other day that reports seem to be that we are going to see another banner year for icebergs coming down our coasts. For us in Newfoundland and Labrador, when see an iceberg we often take it for granted, but I have to say to you, Mr. Speaker, that any time I see an iceberg, as many times as I have seen it, I am always inspired by it and amazed that these big beasts travel from the Artic right down along our coasts and then they ground into some of our shorelines and people come out in droves to go and see them.

As such, Mr. Speaker, we look at season extension on both ends. This year we have invested $150,000 to do some continued work on the tourism extension, season extension, on the Bonavista Peninsula and on the Viking Trail.

We are seeing changes in our travelling public. For example, we get numbers of people now who prefer to come in September and October. The weather in our Province in September and October is pretty good, and as such, the number of tourists slows down. Then these people come and enjoy a comfortable pace, and we are very pleased to see that.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, on the Bonavista Peninsula since we have done an investment in that, we have seen the occupancy rates go from I believe it is 38 per cent up to 52 per cent. So it means that our investments in those particular areas are paying off and it means that we have to continue to do that.

Mr. Speaker, we invest in our destination marketing. We give them $100,000 a year, and this year we have increased that in Labrador. To Destination Labrador we have increased it to $150,000. Certainly one of the reasons we do that, Mr. Speaker, is we want to work closely with them to continue to develop the product that we have in Labrador. Our Province is made up of two parts, the Island part and Labrador, and any of us who have been to Labrador know that the product that Labrador has is different and it is unique but it is worthy of us developing further, and as a result we continue to make investments in that.

Mr. Speaker, on the cultural side, we continue to invest there. We recognize that Newfoundland and Labrador is unique culturally and, as such, we certainly want to invest in that. I would be remiss, Mr. Speaker, if I did not mention an upcoming event this year - this is 2009 – a celebration of Bartlett. Bartlett, the great explorer who was ahead of his time, worked with Peary on expeditions to the North Pole, and this year we are going to celebrate Bartlett. There will be numerous celebrations, and I certainly hope that the people of the Province will become involved and get engaged in those and make it a very successful event.

Then, next year, in 2010, Cupids will celebrate the establishment of John Guy's colony, and I hope that people will take the time to travel to Cupids in 2010. I have been out there to look at some of the excavation work that they are doing out there. It is truly amazing to think that this was the first English settlement in what we now call Canada, and to recognize that it has been here for 400 years. To see some of the excavation work that has gone on out there is certainly an educational experience and I certainly hope that people will take advantage of that, to go out there.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to speak a little on the recreational side of my department. I said before that we invest in health to a large degree, and we have to. We have to make sure that our facilities, our infrastructure, are up to snuff and, not only that, ahead of – because the health sector is ever changing, and we have to stay ever changing with it to meet the needs of the people of the Province, but I have also said that in order to have a sound, strong body, you have to have that recreational side of it. Health leaders will tell you that investing in the front end to get people active and to be very nutritionally conscious will cut back on the demands on the health care, and as such we have invested in that.

Our budget we increased numerous years ago, a couple of years ago, as a matter of fact, around our investment in recreation, and we continue to expand upon that. This year we are going to put $200,000 into a new Seniors Community Recreation Grant Program, because keeping our seniors active and healthy decreases the demand on our health care. We are going to put $200,000 into additional operational support to the provincial sports organizations. We have in the range of fifty of these organizations within our Province. They are our partners on the ground, and we have to continue to support them. They are the leaders within our communities. Many of them are volunteers who put their time and efforts into ensuring that our youth are active and, as such, we will be investing in that.

We are putting $200,000 in additional funding for community recreational programs, and we are bringing the total annual budget to $600,000. Mr. Speaker, one of the grants that we have in place is a $600,000 grant and it is based on a criteria. That is an investment that we will put out to the communities up to a maximum of $15,000 that they can invest in some infrastructure in their communities. What we saw this year was the communities and recreational committees that submitted an application, one of the things that they did was they leveraged other money based on this $15,000, so our investment of $15,000 really resulted in some projects having a $50,000, $60,000, or $70,000 investment.

I have to commend the communities that were involved in those. I highlight one of the first projects that came in. It came in from the Town of Fogo, the towns on Fogo Island. Next to the school, they wanted to start work on a soccer complex, so we gave our $15,000 to it and, as a result, with the Department of Education and communities around, they have begun work on that. Of course, one of the key factors in it is that the school is recognized as a central location, the soccer pitch to it is recognized as a central location, and hopefully they will get into making it a school recreation facility but also a community recreation facility. I am pleased to say that we have extended another $600,000 to that, and applications and the criteria have gone out to the interest groups around that.

Another one, certainly, that we have invested in, we are putting $50,000 into improving coaching within the Province. This was something that the recreation sector asked for, because what we want to do here is to take a first look at seeing how it is that we can improve coaching. If we are going to have our groups out there organized, and I use the example of a soccer program, then we want our recreation groups to avail and assist us, and to use this money to see how we can improve the coaching capacity out there.

Another $50,000 to further support the Regional Recreation Directors program. Last year, we put in place monies to support four of these recreational groups.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask members if they would take their private conversations outside. The Chair is having difficulty hearing the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, and I ask members for their co-operation.

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

MR. JACKMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I do agree with you, Sir. Thank you very much.

We are looking at $50,000, as I said, to put into a regional recreation program of getting some directors on the ground. Last year, we approved funding for four of those. I will use the example up in the Springdale area, that we put in place a recreation director and that director has brought the combined efforts of fourteen communities together so that, rather than trying to divvy up a pot of money between fourteen, fifteen or twenty communities, they have organized it such that now what we have is fourteen communities availing of the services of this director. We did one out on the Southern Shore, we are doing one in Labrador, and we are doing one in the Eastport Peninsula. This year, we have put in another $50,000 to support that type of programming. To this point, Mr. Speaker, it is seen as being very successful. It is being touted by Recreation Newfoundland and Labrador as a way that we need to go, and as such we have put in further support for that.

We have, again, invested $25,000 in the KidSport program. This is aimed at assisting underprivileged youth, and we will work with other partners in that. We certainly want to see all of our population taking part in recreational activities, and all of us who have been involved in some type of group activity, whether it be a sport, soccer, and so on and so forth, or whether it be drama or some other kind of group activity, know the positives that come out of being a partner within a team structure. It builds strong relationships, it builds strong ethics, it builds cooperation, and, as such, can only be a positive thing.

Mr. Speaker, I only have a couple of minutes left, but before I conclude I would certainly like to speak to what I consider to be a cultural event. It coincides with the Department of Education. It talks about our drama festivals that are held in the schools. This past weekend, myself and the MHA for Grand Bank went to the regional drama festival on the Burin Peninsula. One thing that is pretty evident is that, with the drama festivals in this Province the directors who work with the students in our schools are very much committed. I have to say, when you see these shows put off on a weekend you are seeing the actual performance, but we never see the amount of work that these teachers and students put into it; the many hours. I don't say the many weeks of practice, Mr. Speaker, because they put in many months of practice.

To look at some of the performances that are put off there, you see that there are plays specifically designed around our culture, our history, and then you see that these students are engaged in events that are happening within a community.

I was very impressed with one play that talked about the events that happen on the internet and how children become lured by predators on the internet and some of the cautions that we need to take as parents and as students when we are engaged in that.

Another performance talked about the issue that has always confronted Newfoundland and Labrador; how our people have to go away to look for work.

Then, of course, I would be remiss if I didn't mention some of the comedy performances that were put in place, the winning school being Pierce Regional Junior High. I have to say that these students put off an exceptional, exceptional performance, and they were rewarded in winning the festival.

I think, Mr. Speaker, it speaks to the programs that we have in the schools, and I go back to the investments that we have made in the education system. It also speaks to some of the programs and the teachers we have in the system, who speak to the culture of this Province.

I go back to my final statement, in reference to my own department. I have said it time and time again, that this department is the face of the Province. They are the face of the people in this Province. Our ads have been successful in promoting that, and I am assured, Mr. Speaker, that we as a Province will do well. That the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation is a leading department in government that promotes getting into more of the economic generation. Our tourism vision plan speaks to that, and we aim at doubling our tourism revenue in ten years.

So, with that, Mr. Speaker, I certainly hope I will have the opportunity to get up and speak again and I thank you for your time.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am certainly pleased to rise and have a few comments today in relation to the Budget. Of course, one of the key components in the Budget was restoring confidence in our health care system, and restoring it through the implementation of the Cameron report.

Well, Mr. Speaker, that report, which was a significant and complex document outlining over sixty recommendations for change that needed to occur within the health care system, that looked at everything from the operations and management of our health care system, to how our laboratories were being run, to how data was collected and transferred within the system, to how patients were being communicated with, and how messages were communicated to the public. That is a very general sense of the complex issues that were contained in this particular recommendation.

Mr. Speaker, when Justice Cameron was asked to undertake this particular process, to look at changes that needed to take place within the health care system, she was asked under the guise of one of the largest health disasters in our entire provincial history that resulted in numerous deaths of women and men in the Province. It also resulted in the wrong diagnosis of many of these people, which has caused them to have significant, longer illnesses; illnesses that have been revived from time to time and have been sporadic in their lives, causing them tremendous anguish and hardship, both financially and emotionally.

So it was under that particular guise that this particular inquiry was undertaken, and I think everyone in this Province watched that inquiry. If they did not watch it in its entirety as people day after day made testimony about the work they do, about their affiliation, about their accountability measures that were in place and around their jobs, about what their responsibility was to these patients. Every single day this occurred for weeks and weeks and weeks. In fact, as I said, if people did not watch it everyday in its entirety they at least saw portions of it on the evening news every single night. They got up every morning to flip open their newspaper to read what the testimony was from the day before and what the circumstances were. While that process unfolded, government was trying to create an air of being on top of this issue, of being engaged in this issue, of being involved in bringing about change and results that would provide security, that would provide more confidence to people in the Province who needed to use the system.

Well, Mr. Speaker, we as an Opposition almost bought into the tactics that government was spinning. There were times myself, when I honestly believed that in light of everything that had happened, this was a government that was no longer going to fall down on the job when it came to following up on important health information of people in the Province. That they were definitely now alerted to what the dire consequences were if you failed to do your job, if you failed to meet the accountability that was expected of you and live up to your responsibilities.

Mr. Speaker, for a short period of time even I was convinced that somewhere deep in the department that the relationship between the Department of Health and the Eastern Health Authority was being restored, that they were all working collectively together to sort through these issues. No one was more disappointed than I was a few months ago. Actually, I was in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. I happened to be there for another reason. It was actually when Serco workers were on strike. I went up there to support them in what they were doing and to offer a hand. I sat down and I met with them. I met with the workers and the unions and the company and even with DND and the town councillors and all of the people that were involved. While I was there, it is like when you visit any part of the Province, you always get calls from other people who want to come and talk to you about an issue.

Well, I remember meeting with this couple, Randy and Colleen Whitehorne. I remember them telling me their story about how she had been diagnosed with cancer. How she had been to the hospital and in the system, had done all the appropriate testing and had waited seven months to learn of the results, that yes, she had been diagnosed with cancer. With their co-operation, and on their behalf, we started to look into the system that was supposed to have been improved when it came to ensuring that health information was being communicated properly, that data was being collected properly and input properly into the system and that there could be complete follow-up. What did we learn?

We learned, in that particular case, that again the paper trail was not complete. That there were a number of things that occurred, one being information that was sent back from a hospital in British Columbia confirming that she had cancer. It was sent to the Health Sciences but that information just stayed there and was not communicated to the patient. It stayed there for so long in the system that when her doctor went back to request it, they had to go back to British Columbia again and get that information. It took seven months for this woman to find out that she had cancer. By the time she found out, she had to go and have an MRI done which showed that she had developed a brain tumour. Now whether the two are connected, I do not know that. Maybe she knows today, but I do not know for certain that the delay in her diagnosis and the delay in her treatment may have brought on another form of cancer for her.

Mr. Speaker, that was evidence enough for me at that time, that we need to keep a very close eye on what is happening, because obviously things are not being restored in the system in the way government likes to tell us they are.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, when the Cameron report was released in the Province the minister stood up at a press conference and said that a great deal – I believe was the word he used - or a number of these recommendations have already been implemented, leading us to believe that solutions had already evolved, that the system had already been greatly improved, that we would no longer see the circumstances that had existed previous. Well, again, that was wrong.

The very disclosing piece to that happened on Friday past when, again, Eastern Health, whom government claims that they were the watchful eye over, in which government claims they had been working hand in glove with to ensure that these problems were sorted out. What happens on Friday? On Friday, Mr. Speaker, again, after five or six days, or more, having been notified that there were more test results that were found in patients that were faulty, there were more diagnoses that were made inappropriately, after discovering that there were more patients in this Province who did not get the treatments that they should have gotten because of the faulty hormone testing, and that many of them are now deceased, after discovering that, what did they do? Once again, Mr. Speaker, they attempted to hide the information. They attempted to keep the information from the public.

Mr. Speaker, where were the lessons learned in that? The reason that we got in the situation that we did around this whole issue was because, between the government, the Cabinet, the Department of Health and Eastern Health, they all wanted to go out there and spin the story in a way as to not alarm people - was their explanation - but in doing so they did not provide full, accurate information to the public.

It is just like Eastern Health, after knowing this information for nearly a week, after informing the Cabinet, after receiving direction from the Cabinet, was what the minister said, what did they do? They either had very bad direction from the Minister of Health or they ignored the direction. Which is it? Which is it, Mr. Speaker? Because it was 4:00 o'clock on Friday afternoon when this information was released to the public, and how was it released? It was released in a two-page statement, a two-page statement that had the critical information buried in the middle of that release. The minister says, we told them to act immediately and we told them how to handle it, but we did not tell them to put it out there at 4:00 o'clock on a Friday evening.

Mr. Speaker, there is another issue here. If that is the case, and that is how the event unfolded, then we have another problem here, and that problem tells me that either Eastern Health is not taking any direction from the minister and his department, or they are giving direction that is very unclear and inappropriate. Mr. Speaker, I would like to know the answer to that question when the Minister of Health gets up to speak in the Budget debate. In addition to that, Mr. Speaker, the press release that Eastern Health put out there, let me tell you what it said. The headline said: Moving forward with Cameron recommendations.

Now, what would that tell you? In light of this issue, what would that tell you? That would tell me, Mr. Speaker, that there are a number of things around the Cameron report that are getting resolved. There are a number of these recommendations that we are on top of, that we are acting on, and that we are putting in place.

Well, let me tell you what the press release really said. Buried in the middle of it were important, critical details around people's health in this Province. It said, in fact, that there were thirty-eight new patients identified in the Province who needed retesting, of which twenty-four were reported to have been deceased.

Mr. Speaker, that is clearly an insult to those people who are impacted, if I have ever read one in my life; if I have ever read one in my life. These people deserve better. They deserve better than this. They deserve better than having critical information regarding their health being buried in a press release and issued at 4:00 o'clock in the afternoon, with no one available to speak to them; with a minister in Halifax, a CEO who was not in the Province, from what I understand, or on the way out, with no one available to speak with them. It is ridiculous. It is insensitive and it is inconsiderate, notwithstanding the fact that it is misleading.

I think if there is anything that these patients have deserved over the course of all of this it is for people to be honest with them, to be up front with them. Mr. Speaker, we asked the government and we asked the minister - we asked him yesterday and we asked again today in the House of Assembly - why this has continued in the manner that it has. Why have we not seen more of an effort to improve the way that important information is communicated, not just to patients but also to the public. Because you have to remember that although Eastern Health was aware of this information since March 26, and although the Cabinet discussed it on April 1, these patients were never contacted until hours before the press release went out on Friday evening. Now, isn't that something? Isn't that something? Have we learned nothing, I say, Mr. Speaker? Have we learned absolutely nothing?

Well, one of the key elements to all of these Cameron recommendations and the report was ensuring that adverse health effects in the Province are communicated in an appropriate manner, that there be protocols put in place to ensure that it is done, and that there be full and open disclosure to the public, not critical information buried in two pages of a press release that has a misleading heading. These were the key lessons that should have been learned. They should have been learned before the Cameron Inquiry ever came off the TV screens in this Province, because those were the messages that were out there everyday. No one in this Province had the wait for a 470-page report to fall on their desks to know that there were communication problems in how this information was being handled.

Mr. Speaker, the day of testimony should have been the day that the government opposite acted to improve the communications in Eastern Health, to improve the disclosure of information, and to improve the methods in which they communicated adverse effects to the public and to patients. But did that happen? Absolutely not!

I was appalled today, in questioning the minister in the House of Assembly, to find out from him, that: Since Friday I have discussed with the board chair to start a process of disclosure, and how we would complete that process. Those were his words today in the House of Assembly. Those were his words today, months and months after we have learned about this health disaster and crisis in our Province. His response today is that: I have now talked to the board chair since Friday and we will put in place a process of disclosure. Well, that is not good enough, Mr. Speaker. It is not good enough! It should have been done months ago, months ago when women in this Province were being dragged to testify in a public inquiry, when families in this Province were bearing witness everyday to the testimony of how their parents, their mothers, their fathers and their loved ones had learned of this critical information. Mr. Speaker, it should have been done then and not a process started on Friday.

I think it is shameful and it shows the lack of leadership and the lack of initiative that has been taken by the government, Mr. Speaker. They have lots of time to debate this issue, and I will look forward to them standing one after the other – every single cabinet minister over there – and telling me what they did, as the leaders in this Province, to ensure that this process was corrected prior to Friday. I want to know that, Mr. Speaker. This is a serious issue, and I want to know what government has done to act in the best interests of people, besides grandstand on the issue, make smart comments on the issue, and throw money in there that has yet to be spent, Mr. Speaker. I want to know what they have done to correct the things that did not require money, but required process, that required leadership, and required effort on behalf of them, as the leaders of healthcare in this province.

Let me tell you what else the minister said today that absolutely astounded me, Mr. Speaker; absolutely astounded me. He said: we cannot control the judgements of employees. Well Mr. Speaker, I say to the minister and I say to the Premier, that you should pick employees that have appropriate judgements when it comes to issues like this. It is not only government that should have learned their lessons, but it is the people who work in the system as well. Mr. Speaker, no one is excluded from this.

Yesterday, we had the Premier out in the foyer of this building saying, they should be shot over there, in referring to Eastern Health. Now Mr. Speaker, I knew that he was not talking about taking a gun and driving down to Waterford Bridge Road and going into the administration building of Eastern Health. I knew what he meant by his comment, as insensitive and shocking as it was. I knew he meant that they needed to be disciplined with a heavy hand. Well, Mr. Speaker, this government should have known, better than anyone else in this Province, that there needed to be discipline with a heavy hand a long time ago on this issue; not just in the last forty-eight hours, Mr. Speaker, but a long time ago.

It is not enough, Mr. Speaker, to posture yourself in times like this, when the government's actions are under attack again, because they fell down on a critical leadership role in this province, because they failed to meet their own responsibilities, Mr. Speaker. It is not good enough then, to posture yourself in a position of aggression and action, if you are going to walk out through those doors and do nothing about it. That is what we have seen.

Mr. Speaker, I have asked hundreds of questions on this issue in the House of Assembly - hundreds of questions! - and I have seen the government posture every day with their sympathetic voices, with their tough talk, about the actions that we are going to take. Guess what, Mr. Speaker? The minister stands up today and says: I finally went over and talked to the CEO on Friday, and now we are going to see what we can do about this. Unacceptable, Mr. Speaker! And it is unacceptable for the Premier of the Province to just posture himself on an issue and not take action on it.

Mr. Speaker, I had all kinds of e-mails on my system last night and this morning saying: Oh, you have to get out there and you have to take a shot at the Premier for what he said about the people at Eastern Health. You have to take a shot at him. My, that is unacceptable. There is enough violence in society without having the Premier out there making comments that could insinuate that he is actually going to go out and shoot somebody. I have had those e-mails, but, Mr. Speaker, I am not going to go there, because I know that was not the rationale and the meaning behind his statement.

Mr. Speaker, what was the rationale behind his statement was that discipline is required, and I will take a heavy hand to make sure it happens. Well, I would like to ask the Premier to start in his own government with a heavy hand, and a little bit of discipline. He likes to reign in all the Cabinet and all the caucus when it means that he needs to silence them so that: I look good as the leader of the government, so dare not you speak, dare not you question, dare not you have another idea that could be contrary to the one that I espouse.

Mr. Speaker, where is that heavy hand in reigning in his Minister of Health, who had to admit on the witness stand in the public inquiry that he never read his briefing notes on one of the largest health disasters in this province, the same minister who had to admit, again on the witness stand, that he was given false information by Eastern Health as to the number of patients who were impacted? He never questioned the information, just brought it into the House of Assembly and tabled it.

My suggestion to the Premier, Mr. Speaker: If there is someone he needs to discipline with a heavy hand, it needs to start inside of his own government. Then, maybe, the Colleen Whitehornes of the world will not be ending up in Edmonton, like that woman is today, getting the treatment that she is getting because someone failed to communicate her test results and organize her treatments for her. Maybe then, Mr. Speaker, we will not have incidents like we did again on Friday where you have a health corporation who is trying to hide important information regarding people's lives in this Province.

I think it is time for someone to take a heavy hand, Mr. Speaker. It is time for someone to take a heavy hand to ensure that this system starts running appropriately. We all know that government and Eastern Health have cleaned house. We know that the CEO who was the master in the day when this was done has been fired. We also know that the communications people have changed. We also know that a lot of the directors in the various departments, including the laboratories, have changed. So, I am not sure who the Premier is going to shoot over there but most of them have already been changed over in one way or another, in one job to another job. There are different people with different areas of responsibility but the problem we have today is leadership, and those of you who fail to see it will ensure that this problem continues as opposed to being fixed. That is the issue that we are dealing with: the issue of leadership and the absence of it in this particular case.

Mr. Speaker, this is not the only issue. This is not the only issue that government is bungling. This is not the only one. I am going to talk about Abitibi now for a little bit. I have another thirty-five minutes left, and I could talk for the next thirty-five hours on what has happened in the Cameron inquiry and this government's response to it, but I have made my point for today. I have made my point, and my point is that the inactivity and the lack of leadership of the government opposite is continuing to affect the health of people in this Province and that is unacceptable.

Mr. Speaker, let's talk about Abitibi for a little bit, because this is another area where we are seeing a lot of people in this Province impacted. A lot of people impacted. In fact, Mr. Speaker, there is no end to the e-mails that I have received, and I know that a lot of these e-mails were copied to the member for the area, copied to the member for the adjacent areas in Bishop's Falls and Botwood, and copied to ministers - the Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development, the Minister of Natural Resources - so they cannot stand and dispute some of the comments that I am going to make today because they have gotten the e-mails as well.

Now, I have not seen their responses to these e-mails. Maybe they never responded to their constituents who sent them to them - I have no idea - but if they did respond they did not copy it to all of the people who were on the list, so I have no idea how they spin their response to these people, but let me just tell you what the response was that I got from them.

Mr. Speaker, the government is hiding, hiding under the guise of support from some union leaders and a mayor in Grand Falls. Because these individuals have come out and said some complimentary things about the process that government has in place, government likes to jump up and say, oh, this is what the Mayor of Grand Falls had to say, or this is what the head of this union had to say. Mr. Speaker, a lot of them do not have their paycheques on the line the way that a lot of these workers do that I am talking to. I can honestly tell you that these workers do not share the comments that were made by their mayor, and a lot of them do not share the comments that were being made by a couple of their union leaders. I know of one particular comment because I got a number of e-mails on it.

Mr. Speaker, let me just tell you the situation that exists in Grand Falls today. I got up the other day and I spoke about this in the House of Assembly and the minister got up, and the member for that area, and talked about all of the great things that they were doing, how the sun will rise even higher and everything will be completely rosy. I hope she is absolutely 100 per cent right, Mr. Speaker. I absolutely hope she is, but in the short term this minister has a lot of people to answer to. She has a lot of people in that area who do not know today if they are going to get the thousands and thousands of dollars that are owed to them. I forget what the quote was, something like $25 million or $26 million in total, in payout and benefits, that is supposed to accrue to the workers in that area.

Mr. Speaker, first of all, this government has never been able to disclose or give us the correct information about what happens to the severance of all of these workers in the case of a bankruptcy. If AbitibiBowater is to go into receivership, what happens to the severance benefits of all of these workers? No one has been able to give us the answer to that question, with all of the resources that government has: with a full Department of Justice, with all the money they have to access the largest corporate and labour lawyers in the country and in the world - because, as we know, this is tangled up in American legislation as well. Mr. Speaker, we have yet to get a definitive response from them in terms of what the impact will be. It is almost like: They are not bankrupt yet; we will see what happens.

Mr. Speaker, this is a company who has been unable to refinance its loans. This is a company that is millions and billions in deficit. This is a company who can no longer raise money in the financial market. You sit back and you say: What is the panic? The minister stood one day and said she is not hitting the panic button. Mr. Speaker, if her house was on the line today, if she was in fear of a bank recalling her mortgage, if she was afraid that she was going to lose everything she owned, including her $60,000 or $70,000 she is owned in severance, she would hit a panic button. She would hit it pretty hard, just like a lot of people are doing.

I know that government is out there trying to calm the fears, trying to calm the worries of people, and that is good, there is nothing wrong with that, but you do not calm them without coming clean with the information. You calm people by being up front and giving them all the information. Right now, today, the government has not disclosed what the implications will be for these workers in a case of bankruptcy.

The other thing they have asked by workers: In the absence of a bankruptcy position and we lose our severance, is government prepared to step in? Are they prepared to step in and honour these contracts because you now own the assets? You now own the assets. You own the assets of the power generation facility, which will generate millions and millions of dollars this year to the government in revenue. You also own the timber resources that have now gone out to a Request for Proposals to have someone to come in and develop and operate, another resource in which you will collect royalties, in which you will collect taxes. It is worth money to you as a government. They are saying: Now that you own the assets, and something happens in this company, where does that leave me? Are you prepared to honour the agreements that are there? Are you prepared to leave me out in the cold?

Mr. Speaker, I am going to tell you, the comments were really clear to me a very short time ago – I am not sure if it was a week or so ago – when the Premier went to meet with David Coles, who is the president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union. He went to meet with him, Mr. Speaker. Now, we never heard Mr. Coles out there trying to place this in the lap of the federal government until after his meeting with the Premier. As we know, the Premier likes to go after the Prime Minister. He is more interested, Mr. Speaker, in getting one up on the Prime Minister than getting the issue resolved. So, he goes up along, he meets with the leader of the union, Mr. Coles, and within days Mr. Coles is out taking a page out of the book of the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador – take on the federal government. It is now all the responsibility of the federal government.

I do not know, Mr. Speaker, if the eight floor wrote the briefing notes and brought them up to Mr. Coles when they went, and told him, this is what you should be doing, and that you should try and pin this on Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and that he is the one that should be coming out in a case of bankruptcy and paying for the benefits of these workers. It sounds like something they would do, Mr. Speaker. If I could ever access the paper, I bet there is an actual document written on it. I bet there is an actual document in government written on it.

We have never heard, prior to that, Mr. Speaker, the president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union for the country, even remotely go down that road, but within days, after being in a closed session meeting with the Premier of the Province in Newfoundland and Labrador, all of a sudden he was up demanding that the federal government, in the case of any kind of bankruptcy, in the case of any loss of severance to these workers, then you should pay it.

Mr. Speaker, I am sure, if there is a legal provision for the federal government to pay out this money, they will be held accountable and they will have to pay out the money. So they should, if they are legally responsible, but if they are not, Mr. Speaker, who has the moral responsibility? It is the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, because they own the assets, they make the money off the deal.

This is a case, again, of where government is trying to lead the unions down the garden path of taking on his big, bad foe in Stephen Harper, to try and get another one up on the federal government, Mr. Speaker, not one up for the workers. I hope they are just not silly enough to follow. I hope they are smart enough, Mr. Speaker, to see that the only obligation here is a moral obligation.

In the case of a default by the company and these workers do not get their money, the real obligation, Mr. Speaker, in the absence of any legal one, of any constitutional or contract one, is a moral one, and the moral obligation lies with the government. I do not mean a moral obligation to go out in Grand Falls–Windsor and Bishop's Falls and Botwood and set up a few offices and help a few people with their resumes, and Mr. Speaker, set up a task force and give them a few dollars and go out and create some new industry. That is all well and good, but there is a moral obligation to workers who have worked their entire life, who have given years and years of service to a company, who are due severance pay, that they should receive it. They should receive it, Mr. Speaker.

All they are asking of this government is: are you prepared to live up to your moral obligation and commitment, as the holder of the assets, as the people who are earning the profit on these assets, to do that in the absence of any legal, contractual or constitutional or company obligation, Mr. Speaker? Very simple, in my opinion. I can tell you, that the actions of the premier and the comments of the leader of the national union, Mr. Speaker, is evidence to me that this government is looking for a way out of their moral obligation and they are looking for a way to pin it in someone else's lap, Mr. Speaker; pin it in someone else's lap.

Mr. Speaker, that is only the issue as it relates to the workers who were working directly in the mill and had severance packages assigned to them. What about all the loggers out there? What about all of the loggers out there who are being told that they have no severance program, Mr. Speaker, that they have no severance package, that there was nothing devised for them in the company? What about those people, Mr. Speaker? There has to be an air of sympathy for those people. There has to be an air of sympathy for all of those people. There has to be at least one person on the other side of that House who must have some sympathy for the loggers in Central Newfoundland today who do not have a job, who do not have another industry to turn to in the forest sector, who are being told that, there is no severance pay for you. There must be enough air of sympathy over there, Mr. Speaker, in that government, that they can come up with some solution to be able to offer some form of work payment, severance payment, to these people.

When the loggers in Stephenville were displaced, I understood they got a severance package. I don't think it should be any different for the loggers in Central Newfoundland.

Mr. Speaker, I know how difficult it is. I have loggers in my own district. Unfortunately, they, like the people in Central Newfoundland, were put out of a job. When Abitibi closed in Stephenville they lost their livelihoods, they lost their jobs, their incomes, and many of them had to pack up and move to Alberta. That was a few years ago. There were options for them in Alberta then. The options are not in Alberta today. They are not there today.

Those loggers in my own district –

MR. TAYLOR: A point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MS JONES: Why don't you get up yourself, Joan?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Transportation and Works, on a point of order.

MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am just wondering: Is the Leader of the Opposition suggesting that Mr. Coles, the national president of the union that represents tens of thousands of forestry workers in this country, is not smart enough to make his own decisions and recognize what the issues are in the sector of the economy that he represents? Is she suggesting that he is being hoodwinked by the Premier and is not intelligent enough to recognize it? Is that what she is suggesting? Because that is what I am hearing her say.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There is no point of order.

I recognize the hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

What I am hearing the minister say is absolutely nothing, just like every other day. They are great at getting up and trying to put words in your mouth, they are great at getting up and spinning arguments, but they are rarely that great on getting up and giving you any solutions, any answers, any action on behalf of the people of the Province.

I am sure, today, the people out in Grand Falls-Windsor and Bishop's Falls and Botwood sitting around their kitchen table who don't have a clue, Mr. Speaker, if they are going to get a cent of money due to them or not, are absolutely appreciative of the minister's comments and his point of order today. I am sure they are sitting down clapping their hands out there around the kitchen table today, because the minister had a brainwave and got up on a point of order in the House of Assembly and wanted to take me on, on David Coles.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, let me just say this, because this is an important issue and I refuse to be diverted from making the comments that I am prepared to make today by frivolous points of order on the other side of the House. Let me just say this: Not only are we dealing with these people, but, as I said, we are dealing with the loggers as well.

We have already heard the Minister of Fisheries for the Province out saying we are prepared to look at a sectoral retirement program for fisheries workers, for processing workers in this Province, people who work in fish plants. We are prepared to look at that, he said, publicly. He also said it in the Estimates the other night: For fisheries workers on a plant-by-plant basis, depending on the circumstances, if this is something that the unions and that the processors are prepared to buy into.

Well, why hasn't this government been out saying they are prepared to do the same for loggers in the Province? There are a lot of loggers in Southern Labrador that would qualify. There are a lot of loggers on the Northern Peninsula of this Province that would qualify. There are a lot of loggers in Central Newfoundland today that would qualify. Mr. Speaker, they are not out proposing to do anything like that for loggers in the Province, but if you can do it for one group of workers why can't you do it for the other? Why can't you do it for the other? You must realize the tremendous financial hardship and circumstances these people find themselves in.

I am sure the member for the district, the two members or three members, whatever is out in that area, five, six, I do not know, there might be ten of them out there, but you would not know because you do not hear from them. Mr. Speaker, surely some of them must have an understanding of what this is going to mean and surely when they are sitting at the Cabinet table and they are voting at the Cabinet table to put in place a program for fish processors in the Province, for fish plant workers on a case-by-case basis, surely one of them must have enough nerve to speak up against the Premier and say, why can't we do it for loggers? Surely, one of them has enough nerve to speak up and say at the Cabinet table, I represent loggers and if we are going to do it for fish plant workers, then I want to do it for loggers, too.

Mr. Speaker, we have not heard anything about that. We have not heard anything about that, and I can go right through the benches over there and name every district that would have loggers in their districts that would be impacted. I can go right through the benches and name every single one of them, and a number of them are in the Cabinet. A number of them are in Cabinet, but yet they voted for a program in fisheries but they never put out a similar program for loggers that were impacted.

Now, Mr. Speaker, again, sticking with Grand Falls-Windsor, Bishop's Falls and Botwood area. What about the pension plan? We asked in the House of Assembly under bankruptcy: What does this mean to the pension plan that is only 75 per cent funded? What does it mean? Does it mean that those that are due a pension will only draw out a portion of it? Does it mean they will only draw it until the fund is depleted? Does it mean that revenues from the assets will go in to top up the unfunded liabilities in the plan? Or, does it mean tough luck? Is it tough luck, is that what it is? Our hands are tied. Abitibi is a bad company. Abitibi is insensitive. Abitibi is not a good corporate player. Give me a break! Because that is the only thing I ever hear out of a minister opposite when they stand to answer a question on Abitibi and the workers that are impacted is how bad the company is. Well that is not a response to a question, I say to the hon. members. That is no comfort for the person who sits at their kitchen table pondering where this dilemma is going to leave them.

So, the next time I ask a question I hope someone over there has the decency to stand up and give a response to it as opposed to saying Abitibi is a bad corporate company. Well, everybody will make their own judgements around that at the end of the day. The first ones to make that judgement are probably going to be the workers. Just because the company is a bad corporate citizen does not negate the responsibility of government to act on behalf of these people.

So, Mr. Speaker, we never did get an answer to our question. I do not know if they have yet gone around North America, because their issue was that a lot of this is enshrined in American policy and American legislation so therefore we are not sure how it applies. Well, they have had a week now. They have had a whole week and they have had an opportunity to retain the best labour and contract lawyers in North America and I am sure they are out there that can decipher the legislation of the United States as it revolves around bankruptcy, pension plans and severance packages. They should have enough briefing notes now that they should not be able to carry them into the House of Assembly, they should be that heavy, telling them the positions and the options that are available. Yet, they are mum, not a word, not a sound.

We would like to know the answer to that because the people who are e-mailing and calling us, that is the kind of questions they are asking. That is the kind of questions they are saying to us, could you ask on our behalf? It is pretty frustrating for them when they are waiting every day for an answer and they are getting nothing only name calling between the minister and the company.

Let's talk about the recent issue around Abitibi that I raised in the House of Assembly yesterday and what affects twenty-two employees who worked at the hydro generating plant - which, as we know, was one of the assets that was expropriated by government. There were twenty-two of them who worked there that were told that you will be transferred to work with Nalcor, the new energy corporation owned by the shareholders of the Province, operated by a board appointed by the government. They were told you would have a job with Nalcor.

Mr. Speaker, two issues came into play. One was bumping rights or succession rights by the union, which the government must have known when they expropriated the asset of the hydro generation plant. They must have known that with that they would be expropriating liabilities, and one of those liabilities would be the people that work there. I cannot believe the disregard that was shown for what the consequences for the employees would be. There was a complete disregard shown, and that is evident today. Any time you expropriate an asset you have to know what the liabilities are that are attached to it. In this case, it was twenty-two employees who were told they would be transferred to Nalcor, but when the bumping right of the union came into play five of those never got transferred because they were bumped by people with more seniority in the union. Okay, we all understand how that works, but they must have known that the union would have had bumping rights in the first place. Before they ever expropriated, they must have known. It was not that hard to figure out, who the union was going to have bumped out of their jobs. Then, Mr. Speaker, action should have been taken to provide for those five workers who were going to be affected, but that did not happen. It did not happen because, like everything this government does, it is all about the fanfare. It is all about the fanfare. It is all about getting on the podium. It is all about taking the centre stage. It is never about the consequences that are left to be picked up by those people who are impacted.

The day, Mr. Speaker, of the expropriation was the biggest rush job in government. We supported the legislation, because we did not want to see the company go into bankruptcy and the assets of the people of this Province being tangled up in all kinds of liability issues with this company. We did not want that to happen. We were all too happy to approve the legislation to expropriate, but we never dreamed that government would not do due diligence before they actually took it over.

The day they took it over, the big announcement that day: As of midnight tonight…. Well, nobody came out and said as of midnight tonight there are twenty-two workers who may not get their severance pay because we are expropriating this asset. Nobody ever said that there are going to be five people out of a job who cannot even get a layoff slip from Nalcor or Abitibi to actually file for their unemployment insurance benefits to tie them over. That was not part of the big fanfare announcement. In fact, Mr. Speaker, it was not even a consideration, because if it had been a consideration government would have done diligence, or at least we would like to have some faith in them that they would have done diligence, and they would have negotiated under the expropriation contract the rights and the security for these workers, and it did not happen. It did not happen.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, yesterday in the House of Assembly, I asked the Minister of Justice: Under contract law, when assets are expropriated, does that mean the contracts that are connected to those assets are now void? He did not understand the question, so I had to ask it again. It is very simple. The question was very simple. Under contract law, once you expropriate assets, does that mean the contracts associated with those assets are void? We still do not have the answer to that.

We have obviously talked to a contract lawyer. We have obviously solicited our own views on what that means, and what we are being told, Mr. Speaker, is that it does make the contracts void, but I do not know that for certain. That is why we are asking the government. Can you tell us, when that expropriation occurred, that every one of those workers automatically had a void contract, which meant they did not have to be paid out severance, that they did not have to be paid out holiday pay?

I can tell you that the workers were not told. They were not told. When they were told that they would be going to work for Nalcor, they thought they were leaving a company where they would retain the assets they had built up as an employee, where they would secure their severance and their holiday pay and they were lucky, they were fortunate, they felt absolutely blessed, because they were going to work for another company, Nalcor Energy, a big government energy corporation, and we will be fine. They were excited about it. They were never, ever told, Mr. Speaker, that you could be out thousands of dollars.

I think the reason they were not told is because government, in its haste, failed to follow through to secure the benefits for these workers, and it was after the fact that they realized that we have a problem. It was after the fact, when the five workers who did not get a job went to Nalcor and said: Because we were supposed to be transferred to your company, you have to give us a layoff. They go: Oh, no, we have nothing to do with you. Then they go back to Abitibi and they say: Oh, no, you no longer work for us. When our assets were expropriated, your contracts were terminated.

Mr. Speaker, this is the situation, and who is caught in the middle of it? Who is caught in the middle of it? The innocent, every day, hard-working individual in this Province who cannot get an answer from the government. The only thing they have gotten from the minister, the only minister – I give him credit, because he was probably the only one in the House of Assembly yesterday when I raised the issue who had any idea what I was talking about, and that is the Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, when every other minister in the front bench were looking at each other, he stood up on his feet. He stood up on his feet, and I have to give him credit for that. I have to give him credit for that, Mr. Speaker, because when no one else in the House, on the other side, had any idea what the question was I was asking, what the issue was, when not one other over there had an answer, they had a blank face, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development had enough guts to stand up on his feet and give an answer.

Now, Mr. Speaker, it was not a great answer but it was an answer enough that told me he knows what I am talking about. He has the premise of what I am talking about. He has been made aware of the issue. It is quite obvious, Mr. Speaker, that a lot of other ministers over there were not aware of the issue, and did not have the information.

Mr. Speaker, we still do not have the answers that we seek for these workers. These workers should not be caught up in a game of expropriation of assets between Nalcor and AbitibiBowater. They should not be pawns in this transaction.

To stand up and tell me that the union has filed a grievance gives me no security. Come on. Come on. This is a company, Mr. Speaker, that is going to operate under the laws of the land. They are not going to look at a grievance from the union right now, when the laws of the land may be telling them that we no longer even have you as an employee. What kind of a cover-up is that? What kind of a gimmick is that, to try and convince workers who are affected that we are doing something to try and fix this problem?

You know the difference. You know that you failed to negotiate the contract, to negotiate the security under their severance and the holiday pay and the jobs for these workers before you expropriated. Now you are back, after the game, and you are trying to shove it back into the union's lap, to file grievances for workers that Abitibi claims we do not even have any more. You took the asset, you took the workers, and you own the liabilities. It is your problem now. You figure out how you are going to fix it.

The government is saying: Oh, no, no, no, we have to try this route; we have to try that route. I am all for trying, but use some sense when you are going to try. Don't go leading people down a garden path. You know the difference. You know that at the end of the day, when you did this, you failed to provide for those workers, and now they are caught in the middle. They are the ones who are out the money. They are the people who have worked and earned this money and now they are going to be out of pocket. Someone, again, has a moral obligation to ensure that these people get the money that is owed to them.

The five workers that are left with no jobs and no layoff slips and cannot even file and get EI benefits, Mr. Speaker, someone has a moral obligation to provide for them because they knew about the bumping rights in the union and they knew that they never provided security for their jobs. They know that they are caught in the middle right now because of an act of this Legislature and because of the actions of the government and the fact that they did not do diligence in their own negotiations.

So, I say to you, for God's sake, Mr. Speaker, have a good serious look at what you are doing and have a good look at the consequences that you are leaving these workers in the middle of and do something to try and help them and try and resolve it. Do not sit back and make excuses and try and play the game of pinning this over on some kind of a union grievance when you know it is an unacceptable response.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time for speaking has expired.

The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

It gives me great privilege to stand in this House today to represent the beautiful District of Cape St. Francis, and again, I want to thank them for their support.

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to take the opportunity to congratulate the Clarenville Caribous for winning the Herder on Saturday night. I have many friends on both teams and I would also like to make a special mention of two players that are from my district who played with the Caribous. They are Jeremy Kavanagh and Chris Mooney, congratulations both of you on winning the Herder.

I would like to also congratulate the organizing people who organized this Herder the past two weekends. Over 33,000 fans attended the games in the last two weekends. It is great for senior hockey in Newfoundland. As I always said, the Herder to me is like the Stanley Cup for Newfoundland hockey players.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak a little bit now on the Budget if I could, please. These are interesting times in which we live and I feel that it is very important that we stay positive. Rather than harp on negative, we have to promote the positive things that this government is doing and the positive things about Newfoundland and Labrador, and this Budget is a very positive Budget for Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, I had many hockey coaches in my career and the best one I ever had was a guy who used to come in the dressing room and would always give you something positive before he said anything about what you were doing wrong in the game and depending on how the game was going. His positive attitude rubbed off on the players and I am sure it made us a much better hockey team.

The positive attitude by this government as shown in the people of Newfoundland is rubbing off also. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are positive about what is happening in our Province today and we are very positive of what is going to happen in the future of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, this is my first Budget and, to tell you the truth, it is my first opportunity to really look at a Budget. I, like most Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, when the Budget came down would look at it and see what was in it that affected me and my family. I would look at different tax increases and see if there were any government employees that would be laid off because I had a lot of friends who worked in the government and I was concerned about their jobs. This government had no tax increases and no layoffs.

Again, Mr. Speaker, I am a new MHA and I am trying to learn my job to the best of my ability. Everyday when I am in the district, I speak to different individuals and they ask me: how is it going, Kevin? How are you finding your new position? I have to tell them, I find it unbelievable that I have so much help from my colleagues, from the ministers to my fellow MHAs. Either bit of advice or anything that I need, they are quick at hand. Also, the staff, I am very impressed with all the EAs and CAs that work here. They will do anything to help you out, and I would like to thank them all.

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to congratulate the Finance Minister. I know it was his first Budget, and I know that he and his department worked very hard to bring down this Budget. When I look at figures of this Budget and I look at the figure $6.7 billion, to me that is an awful lot of money for 500,000 people. As a matter of fact, it is kind of mind-boggling when you see what is being spent in Newfoundland and Labrador.

First, when I looked at the Budget, I looked at the Budget in terms of what is in my district. As I got looking further and further into the Budget I realized that all this money – yes, there is money spent in my district – but as I looked, there is money getting spent all over the Island that affects my district. The area in which I am located, Cape St. Francis, is in close proximity to St. John's. Our hospitals, our schools, our colleges are all in St. John's and money that is spent in the St. John's area affects my area also.

Mr. Speaker, I am going to just give you a few figures now. To me, again it is kind of mind-boggling, the amount of money that is being actually spent; $900 million on economic investment this government is making. Before the Budget came down I attended a news conference in which this government introduced $800 million in infrastructure spending; infrastructure spending in roads, schools, water and sewer, hospitals, you name it. The thing that really impressed me the most, Mr. Speaker, was that every area of the Province was covered. When they put up a map, you could see everywhere in the Province there is money getting spent, there are jobs getting generated. People are getting put to work in all areas of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Another area that kind of impressed me too, is the amount of money that we are spending on low-income families; $132.2 million we are spending to make sure that our low-income families are taken care of.

Another major investment – and I will talk a little bit later about this investment because it does affect my area – is $121.5 million getting spent on infrastructure for schools, and $40 million of that is getting spent on repairs; $11.5 million on new tax reductions; $5.8 million to make homes and businesses more energy efficient.

Mr. Speaker, one of the big ones the next day, when I was looking at the Budget and everything, that I saw affected so many people, the big one was $5 million to eliminate the interest on provincial student loans, affecting 49,000 students and former students.

Also, the addition of freezes; the freezes at MUN and CONA are staying in place. Right now, we have the lowest tuitions in the country.

Mr. Speaker, the next day I had the opportunity to just listen to the Open Line shows, read the paper, and see what people's reactions were to the Budget.

Listening to a young gentleman, his name was Daniel Smith, he is Newfoundland and Labrador Chairperson of the Federation of Students union, and he was talking on a talk show in the morning. He was so happy and so enthusiastic about what this government has done to eliminate these interest charges to students. He said he was receiving calls from all over Canada, from different provinces all over Canada, and they were saying: How did you do this? How did you get your government to do this for the students? He just said, basically, that this government was clearly listening to the students and their families for the need to increase the accessibility for post-secondary education and to reduce student debt. That is something that this government is doing, Mr. Speaker, they are listening to the people in the Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KEVIN PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, when I look at the health care of this Province, and I see the point that our government is spending $2.6 billion, and I heard yesterday from the Justice Minister that in 2003, we were at $1.6 billion. So just in that short period of time, we are after increasing the budget in the health care system by $1 billion.

Mr. Speaker, there are many investments into health care. Investments in the Cameron Inquiry, the response to the Cameron Inquiry. Now, I am just going to mention a few that directly affect my area.

A lot of people from the Cape St. Francis area enjoy going to St. Clare's rather than the Health Sciences, and there is a huge redevelopment of the St. Clare's Mercy Hospital Emergency Department, and this will affect people in my area.

Mr. Speaker, we have all been affected by cancer, either in our families or loved ones, and the Dr. H. Bliss Murphy Cancer Clinic will be getting an expansion. New drugs are being introduced for our drug plan.

Mr. Speaker, I have two parents. My mother will be eighty on Friday, and my father is seventy-eight year old, so I take them to the Health Sciences to their different appointments, and stuff like that, and one of the biggest problems we have with seniors and anyone else who goes to the Health Sciences Complex is parking. We all experience it. You have to drive around looking for a parking place. So, when they have their appointments, I make a point to go with them so we can get them up to the door. This government is building a new parking garage for the Health Sciences Complex.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KEVIN PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, this is going to be of benefit to everybody. Nobody likes going to the hospital and having to drive around that parking lot for half an hour looking for a parking spot, especially when you are sick and you are waiting for appointments.

Mr. Speaker, this government is also introducing thirty new doctors into the system. We could have more, I am sure, and we would love to have more, but thirty new doctors is a lot of new doctors.

Increases in the professional schools, there are ten new seats going in the nursing school. I heard again yesterday that 80 per cent of the nurses who come out and graduate through the nursing school stay in Newfoundland and Labrador, so hopefully that is eight more new nurses that we will have here in the Province.

Twenty seats to the pharmacy school. I talked to a pharmacist the other day and he basically told me that this is going to ensure that we will have pharmacists in rural Newfoundland and inner Newfoundland. This is a great step for the pharmacy program in Newfoundland.

Mr. Speaker, we cannot do with enough social workers. We know that social workers have heavy loads and they work hard every day, and we are introducing fifteen new seats in the social department.

One area which I am very pleased with is the increase in funding to foster parents. There is a huge expense today in raising children. I raised two kids myself, and I know what expenses are entailed in raising children. Foster parents play an incredible role in providing a caring and supportive environment for children on a temporary and a long-term basis, and the safety and well-being of these children are the top priority of this government. I could name off all the different categories, but in just one category I will give an example. Right now, a foster parent receives $523.30 a month. By 2010 that foster parent will receive $915. Mr. Speaker, that is huge, and it is huge for taking care of children, children who really need our help.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KEVIN PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, this government is also spending $50 million in new equipment, and over the last five years they have spent $173 million in new equipment. Again, we all realize that technology and expensive hospital equipment is something that we all need, but $50 million is an awful lot of money.

Mr. Speaker, they are also doing the new – hopefully, it is going to be called; I am not sure what it is going to be called - they are replacing the Hoyles-Escasoni Seniors Complex. There are many people from my area, seniors from my area, who need help, who are staying at the Hoyles-Escasoni Complex. This is an old complex and it needs to be replaced. I am glad that government is taking an initiative to do this.

Mr. Speaker, reducing poverty is a very important thing for this government, reducing the poverty for individuals and families. Thousands of families, due to this new poverty reduction that this government is doing, will no longer have to pay taxes. Mr. Speaker, we have to help our poor and we are doing it.

Mr. Speaker, there is one area which I would like to speak a little bit about. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a sports fanatic and I enjoy sports. The recreation and sports strategy. I, like most Newfoundlanders, get up in the morning – most Newfoundland sports fans, I should say, not most Newfoundlanders – and what we used to do, basically, was look and see how our teams did. When I was growing up we were either for Montreal, Toronto or Boston, one of those teams, I being a Boston Bruins fan. Today, Mr. Speaker, we look and want to see how the fellows from Newfoundland did last night in the NHL. My father called me the other day and the first question he asked was: How did the boys do? He is a diehard Toronto Maple Leafs fan, but we will have to excuse him for that.

Mr. Speaker, this government is giving opportunities to our kids to see their dreams, dreams that we see today like the Clearys, the Clowes and the Ryders are having. There is a sense of pride in this Province that we have in these fellows who are there playing for the team. This government is investing $7.5 million in new recreation facilities in the Province. They are helping improve the coaching capacity and supporting a Regional Recreation Directors Program. They are supporting hosting tournaments.

It is very big for our kids today to have someone to look up to. It gives them a sense of pride in people, it gives them a sense of purpose, and it gives them a goal to go look for and strive to be somebody better and to strive to be like one of these fellows that I talked about earlier.

Mr. Speaker, this government, along with the City of St. John's – the City of St. John's are providing $1.5 million and the government, along with the federal government, are providing $3 million to help funding for a new YMCA in St. John's. Mr. Speaker, I, being a volunteer at the YMCA for a number of years, it gave me a great opportunity to work with our youth and work with people in the community.

The Y is a great place. It offers a lot of different support for different families, and families in need. The YMCA has grown up in Canada. It has been on the go for 150 years. The Y goal is to grow Canada and its kids, to make stronger kids, stronger families and stronger communities, and I applaud this government for investing in the YMCA.

Indeed, these measures make our government lay out the foundation, and these investments will make us a diversified and stronger economy. Aggressive infrastructure clearly demonstrates that this government is staying the course. We are taking the necessary measures to stimulate the economy and create new jobs throughout the whole Province.

Mr. Speaker, watching the news on CNN the other night, the U.S. Labour Department reported the economy shed 663,000 jobs. That is, I would say, twice of what the working force is in Newfoundland. Incredible.

So, Mr. Speaker, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are not immune to the current recession that has happened worldwide, but due to a sound fiscal management that this government has laid out over the last number of years we are probably in the best position in all of Canada - indeed, of all of North America - to weather this economic downturn.

Yes, in the midst of this economic crisis that we find ourselves in, we are in a great position, I feel. This government has paid down debt, has reduced taxes, it has invested in infrastructure, and it is continuing to invest in all regions of our Province.

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the Minister of Justice yesterday and he was telling us about how debt was reduced from $12 billion to $7.9 billion. That is huge; but, Mr. Speaker, what impressed me more yesterday, and I did not know until yesterday, that we were paying twenty-three cents on every dollar just to cover the interest charges that were charged to us. Now, Mr. Speaker, due to the financial management of this government, we are now paying eight point six. Mr. Speaker, this obviously gives us a lot more money to put into different programs such as education, such as health. Mr. Speaker, this Province is in a great position. We will stay strong and we will continue to be masters of our own destiny.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I would like to just spend a little bit of time talking about the infrastructure spending in my own area, in education. Mr. Speaker, this government, to ensure the safety and first-rate education of our children, is investing $121.5 million in new construction, renovation, maintenance and repairs to the schools in this Province. One of these projects is in my district. The last couple of weeks the government announced the awarding of the tender for the Holy Trinity Elementary School for Torbay. This is a needed school. The school was crowded, the infrastructure is old and the government saw the need was there and allocated the funding. This will be a state-of-the-art, K to 6 school in Torbay. Right now, the site work is done and we are hoping it is going to commence soon. This will boost the region. It will give construction and employment to people in the area.

The government is investing in schools in my district, Mr. Speaker. We are investing in St. Francis of Assisi in Outer Cove where they need windows, a roof and siding. They are investing at Roncalli where new classrooms are going to be put in.

Mr. Speaker, construction in any area, in any district is good for the whole area. There are many benefits. There are benefits to convenience stores. There are benefits to gas bars, local restaurants. Any investment in districts in Newfoundland and Labrador is investments into the communities.

Mr. Speaker, this government has given the kids of this Province a great opportunity. It has given them a bright future. It has given them the opportunity to take advantage of what this government is putting in place. Schools provide a good education, and well-equipped schools will give them this advantage of taking care of these opportunities.

Another area in which the government has spent is post-secondary education. I have two children, both in post-secondary education right now, and this government is investing $12.5 million into facilities at MUN and Sir Wilfred Grenfell. They are also investing $9.5 million into CONA. Expenditures into post-secondary education is $34 million. This government is ensuring that children receive the optimum education that we can provide for them. There are new schools all through the Province. Government is continuing to be committed to the education and to the youth.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, I would just like to say that this government is keeping Newfoundland and Labrador in a positive position. People in Newfoundland and Labrador are very proud and very proud people and it is great to be in a positive position that we are in today in the midst of the mess that the rest of the economy in the world is finding itself.

Mr. Speaker, thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER (Collins): The hon. the Member for Bellevue.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. PEACH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It gives me great pleasure to rise in this hon. House and speak on the Budget 2009-2010.

First of all, Mr. Speaker, I want to make a comment on what the hon. Opposition House Leader made on March 31 of this year, when the Opposition House Leader said that all forty-four members were shouting at him in the House.

Well, I want to take exception to that, Mr. Speaker, because this statement was false. This member did not do any shouting. This member sat and listened to four hours of the irreverent tripe of the hon. member opposite.

I want to congratulate the minister on the great job he did in delivering such a Budget that saw very little in the way of cutbacks, in a time when we see jobs lost and layoffs all throughout the world.

The people of the great District of Bellevue, Mr. Speaker, could not be any more energized about the optimistic future generated through the development of Hebron, Vale Inco, and the Bull Arm site, and the existing oil refinery. These projects have energized the people of the great District of Bellevue. These projects are showing strong and professional negotiations of our government.

My district, the District of Bellevue, being the bridge to the Island and the bridge to the Avalon, has seen its gloom and doom over the past twenty years, since the closure of the ERCO plant in Long Harbour and the last project of Hibernia in Bull Arm. Now we have seen some hope on the horizon. We expect our people to get jobs, local employment, and this means a lot to my district.

Vale Inco hydromet project, what does this mean for my district? Mr. Speaker, this project alone means growth. This means new housing, new business expansion, and new jobs. Already today, new homes are being built in Blaketown, Chapel Arm, Norman's Cove, Arnold's Cove, Southern Harbour and Sunnyside. This means new infrastructure development, new jobs in construction, and increases in the business sector.

There is a form of energy growing in my district, and the district of my colleague who represents Placentia & St. Mary's. It is not only that of Nalcor Energy, but it is also an energy that gives everyone a satisfaction of hope. Having said this, Mr. Speaker, what would it mean to the working people of our Province? Everyone is excited, because it means that new jobs will be created. It means people who work away will have the opportunity to come home. It means that families that are apart for long periods of time will finally get to spend quality time together with their children.

Mr. Speaker, I have confidence in our leadership of this Province. If I did not, I would not be standing here today. Our leadership has shown Newfoundlanders and Labradorians the true way of a successful future. The government has turned things around in my district, the great District of Bellevue, and I am proud to be a part of this government. The constituents are seeing a working relationship with their MHA which they never saw in the past twenty years. Our government is committed. We take pride and we understand the people's needs.

Some of the qualities of energy efficiency are a high skilled workforce, advanced infrastructure, proximity to oil fields, industry experience and expertise. Mr. Speaker, we have all of those qualities. We seen it in the building of the gravity base structure at Bull Arm, we have seen it in the Marystown Shipyard, we have seen it in the existing oil refinery and we see it through NOIA and other companies. We have seen the strong direction of government in this Province of Newfoundland and Labrador through our leader. We have seen the leadership through our Premier and his Cabinet. We have told the people no more giveaways, and there will be no more giveaways.

Mr. Speaker, people of this Province, especially those of the Island portion, have been waiting for jobs at Bull Arm, Vale Inco, and the Hebron development and its spin offs.

Constituents of the District of Bellevue have said it is time this government did something to secure jobs in this Province. Well, Mr. Speaker, the time is here. Bill 35, the energy bill, will do just that. We saw that in the signing of Bill 35, the energy bill, and it will encourage large, cooperative companies to negotiate with the Province without having to get drawn into the political restrictions of the past.

I agree that we should have a good open debate and frank discussions on legislation. We must make sure that we have the best agreement in place for the people of this Province. Mr. Speaker, no matter what growth happens in our Province from energy, it affects everyone.

The great District of Bellevue is no doubt the future area for growth of energy in this Province. If it all becomes reality, you will see the great District of Bellevue rise to prosperity. You will see people moving in from all across this Province and the country. The great District of Bellevue will be the place to live in with the economic turn in our future. Being the Member for this District of Bellevue, I feel very good and optimistic about the future that this beholds. I only wish things could speed up, and the people of the district wish things could speed up, but as the old saying goes: Good things come to those who wait.

To our leader, the Premier, to our Natural Resources Minister, the Deputy Premier, and to all my fellow colleagues in government, we are a successful government, professional in all we do, and certainly we have taken the direction that our Province would want us to go. The future is ours. Let's not give these away.

I would like to take a few minutes, Mr. Speaker, and speak about social funding programs over the past year-and-a-half, since I became an MHA, that make a difference to the people of the District of Bellevue and rural communities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador as well. Social programs are vitally important to the people and small communities. The Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Program has major enhancements, making prescription drugs more accessible and affordable for the people of this Province.

Strengthening of the child, youth and family services system with an unprecedented annual investment, resulting in more social work positions, enhancement of professional development and training, and qualified insurance initiatives to ensure the health and well-being of the children and the youth. The health care system over the past years, with new equipment and redeveloped infrastructure, and let's not forget the insulin pumps for children under the age of eighteen.

Education, monies that conveyed an elimination of school fees and provided free textbooks for Kindergarten to Level III students, the student aid package, especially the elimination of interest on the provincial portion of the student loan. I have to say, it is one of the best student aid packages across the country. With its up-front needs-based grants and debt reduction grants, we have one of the lowest tuition rates in this country.

Mr. Speaker, our government has invested in a renewal strategy program for the fishery in the amount of $5 million over the past year. The investment is of great importance to my district, the District of Bellevue. We have placed $2 million under fisheries technology. Funding to assist the lobster hatchery, partnered with FFAW and the Marine Institute, this funding will assist in turning around the declined lobster fishery in Placentia Bay, and this lobster fishery will be a great asset to the many Placentia Bay communities in the District of Bellevue where the lobsters need to be replenished.

The exploration of green crab habitats throughout our Placentia Bay, this study proved just how destructive this green crab is to the shellfish and vegetation in areas where they live. How can we control the crab? How much do the crab multiply? These are just a few questions answered in this study. This study is very crucial to the growth of the lobster, clam, crab and mussels in the waters where green crab exist.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, and six students from Swift Current Academy All-Grade School in Swift Current, of the great District of Bellevue, took part in this project. Grants to fish processors to experiment with new opportunities and new equipment, and grants to accommodate the aged workforce in the processing sector is also important to the people of my district.

The fishing industry generates 13,000 person years of employment and contributes $400 million in the GDP per year. Mr. Speaker, the fishing industry is of particular importance to the many rural areas of this Province, especially in my district, the District of Bellevue.

Mr. Speaker, the District of Bellevue has a lot to offer the economy. Along with the construction of Vale Inco at the Long Harbour site, in our neighbouring district, we have thirteen fish plants, mostly pelagic. Let's not forget the state-of-the-art processing plant in Arnold's Cove, Ice Water Seafoods, producing one of the best qualities on the world market. The fishery is very much alive, but only on a seasonal scale; however, its employment has been very stable for the months of the year the fishery exists. Pelagic species are fished from May to September, crab fishing is from May to July, and the groundfish fishery is from June to November.

Mr. Speaker, other programs that are enjoyed by the people of my district are: Provincial Home Repair Program; Home Heating Rebate; Fuel Tank Replacement Program; safe drinking water; waste water; professional income tax reduction, and the elimination of the 15 per cent on the insurance tax.

Mr. Speaker, over the 2008-2009 fiscal year, the provincial road budget has brought the construction of new bridges and replacement of culverts, upgrading of pavement in the Thornlea, Bellevue and Chapel Arm areas, culvert replacement and paving in the Little Harbour East area in Placentia Bay, and the upgrading and levelling of the long grade road in Terrenceville, along with general maintenance of potholes, patching and ditching in some areas. There were also two more bridges that were repaired, Mr. Speaker, in the Little Bay area between Harbour Mille and Little Bay, and one other bridge in Terrenceville between Terrenceville and Grand Le Pierre.

We have seen maintenance and repairs to the schools in Terrenceville and Swift Current over the past years, Mr. Speaker. Water quality is a very important issue in the District of Bellevue, and I am working with the appropriate departments and communities of North Harbour, Swift Current, Harbour Mille, with consultants, trying to find a better solution to the water problems in these communities, a way to improve the system, and a system that the communities can afford.

Community enhancement projects, Mr. Speaker, provided employment in fourteen communities this past 2008-2009 season. These projects not only provided employment, but also gave communities an opportunity to do maintenance work on many different facilities. These projects are much appreciated. The people appreciate them, the towns appreciate them, and the not-for-profit sectors appreciate them.

Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, time will not permit me to carry on and talk about all the other programs that have been in my district, but I look forward to doing this at another time.

I want to speak, Mr. Speaker, on a couple of businesses that started up in my district and are doing really, really well over the last year. Cansolair, a company located in Dildo, this company produces solar panels from pop soda cans. This company has removed from the environment approximately 60,000 cans last year to approximately 260,000 cans projected to be used this year. In production, this company will maintain full-time jobs in the District of Bellevue.

Carino, a seal plant located at South Dildo, is the largest plant in the world of its kind. Mr. Speaker, this plant has been pretty much modernized with the seal industry and it employed, last year, twelve full-time jobs and now, this year, it employs thirty-five full-time jobs. This year alone it also will employ 100 seasonal jobs. Norway has closed their plant altogether and invested in Carino, and they have moved all of their operations into the Province. They are now the largest one in the world, Mr. Speaker.

The Municipal Capital Works Program offers a 90:10 ratio to communities such as Norman's Cove, Long Cove, Chapel Arm, Come By Chance, Sunnyside, Arnold's Cove, Thornlea and Southern Harbour, allowing these communities to qualify for funding to offer the facilities and services needed to grow. With the economy growth in the immediate areas of the Bull Arm Site and the existing North Atlantic Refinery on their doorstep, and our existing fishery in these communities, these towns will survivie. They are rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

When I ran for office, Mr. Speaker, I knew I was making the right choice. I knew that my position as MHA for the great District of Bellevue would give me the opportunity of doing what I do best: working for the people, helping the people, to make a difference for the people. That is exactly what this government has allowed me to do.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KELLY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am very pleased to rise in this hon. House today and pass my comments on Budget 2009.

First of all, Mr. Speaker, I would like to sincerely congratulate the new minister on doing such an outstanding job; a fabulous job indeed. Given these very tough economic times, he obviously had a very difficult job to do and he did a marvellous job in doing it.

Mr. Speaker, a budget is a difficult task to do. The minister went around the Province and was involved in pre-budget consultations. I know, in my district, in my area, I attended a pre-budget consultation in Corner Brook, and there were representatives from my district at that pre-budget consultation.

A budget is a plan for 2009-2010. A budget year runs from April 1 to March 31, in any given year. It takes an awful lot of time and effort, and, of course, a budget makes estimates regarding what your revenue is going to be. In this Province, of course, the revenue comes from a number of sources, taxation being one. Whether it be taxes from HST or taxes from income tax or taxes from oil revenues, that is an important source of revenue to the Province.

Of course, the budget also lays out a plan for expenditures, and, of course, each minister has a budget to expend during the year.

The budget this year was $6.7 billion, Mr. Speaker. That was quite significant. Of course, there were a lot of improvements in the budget. A lot of programs that were previously started by this government have been continued and enhanced through Budget 2009.

The Budget is entitled "Building on Our Strong Foundation", and I think the people in this Province recognize that there was a problem in 2003. The foundation was weak, the contractor and the company had to be replaced, and I am so glad that in 2003 a decision was made, and right now this Budget is building on six marvellous years of leadership by the previous Premier and the government, because a foundation is important, a foundation for a house, for example. If you do not have a strong foundation in your home, look at the roof, look at the walls, everything is not as strong as it should be, the home will not last. Of course, the same thing can be said for a budget. This Budget is not only a plan for 2009, but this Budget is also a plan for the years ahead.

You know, sometimes the members of the Opposition accuse us government members of being the cheerleaders. Well, Mr. Speaker, I am not here with pom-poms this afternoon but I am very proud to be a cheerleader for this government, because I fully recognize the job that this government is doing. Of course, they deserve the highest accolades for the outstanding job that the Premier, Cabinet, and caucus are doing to improve the lives of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

This MHA from Humber Valley has no problem in ranting and roaring like a true Newfoundlander. When you see something good, then it is something worth talking about and it is something that should be highlighted. Too often it is the Chicken Littles of the world that see the sky is falling that can cause some problems in an economy. If there was ever a time in our history in this Province when we need a positive attitude, the time is now. The sky is not falling in this Province. This government and this leadership have provided strong leadership in the last number of years. They have done the right things, they have reduced debt, they have invested into infrastructure, and this Province is on the right course.

Jonathon Swift, a famous author, once said, "Vision is the art of seeing what is in invisible to others." Just yesterday, in the House of Assembly, I overheard one of the Opposition MHAs speak and she talked about vision and she said, "it is very clear to me, and becoming clearer every year, that this government does have a vision, and this government has a big vision for the future." That was the member for Signal Hill–Quidi Vidi, and she is so right. This government does indeed have a vision. This government knows where it is going, and I think that becomes quite clear from Budget 2009, the direction in which this government wants to take this Province next year and in the years ahead.

Mr. Speaker, some very positive things came out of the Budget in 2008. For example, employment grew in our Province, and we know what kind of mess globally the world is in right now. We know the problems in the auto industry. We know the problems with manufacturing. You only have to turn on the television set to see the problems that are apparent globally. I was so pleased to see that, in fact, in our Province the employment rate grew by 1.5 per cent. Unemployment rate is down to 13.2 per cent, which is the lowest since the 1970s. Personal incomes, which is another indicator of the strength and how stable and how successful you are as an economy, actually grew by 5.2 per cent last year. Of course, retail sales tax grew by 7.7 per cent.

Another very positive indicator from the Budget, when you look at the Budget Highlights, was GDP. Now, GDP is a term that refers to the gross domestic product and gross domestic product is a term that refers to the amount of services and goods that are produced in an economy in a given year, and last year the GDP in this Province grew by 1.8 per cent which was quite significant.

As of July 1, another indicator, population: for the first time, July 1, Canada Day, the last stats that we have, the population in this Province grew by 1,400 which was the first time in sixteen years which is bucking a trend. Unfortunately, the GDP outlook for 2009 is predicting a decline, but I feel that this Budget will put the Province on the right course for future economic stability.

Despite downturns, there are things that we can do and this government is putting its money where its mouth is to. Eight hundred million dollars is being infused into infrastructure this year to help the provincial economy, which is quite significant. We would not have those resources available to put into the provincial economy if it were not for the outstanding leadership of this government in the last five to six years and the type of work that they have done. Now, because of the savings we are able to do that.

Of course, the government has done marvellous things with tax reductions. For example, this year there were more tax reductions, as well, helping out the lower income people and of course also some benefits to the commercial sector as well.

Mr. Speaker, there has been a significant change in the foundation of our Province, and there is no doubt in that. We are no longer an equalization recipient, for the first time in our history. This year, in the Budget, when it was brought down, there was a $1.3 billion surplus which was on top of a $1.4 billion surplus last year. When you tie that with the Atlantic Accord, you know, we had a $2.4 billion surplus for fiscal year 2008-2009.

Debt, Mr. Speaker, is a problem. Four years ago, the debt in this Province was $23,000 for every man, woman and child. On March 31, the debt was reduced to $15,500 for every man, woman and child in this Province. We had a debt of $12.9 billion when this government took office and now we are down to $7.9 billion, which is quite significant.

Just imagine! As the previous member, the Member for Cape St. Francis, who I thought did an outstanding job - I have family who live in his district and they tell me he is doing an outstanding job. I congratulate him on the job that he just did.

Mr. Speaker, in January of this year my life changed. I became a grandparent for the first time. I now have a grandchild.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KELLY: Her name is Emma. She cannot speak yet, so I will speak for her and thank this government for what they are doing, the leadership that they are providing, and the fact that right now, as a three-month old, the debt for her is $15,500. If she had been born a few years ago it would have been $23,000. The decisions that this government is making, and that this government has a vision, is going to mean that my children and my grandchildren are going to be better served in this great Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Unfortunately, we have had our struggles. One of the struggles highlighted in this year's Budget was the $414 million loss of benefit to this great Province under the Atlantic Accord. That is quite significant, because our deficit this year, which is projected to be $750 million, would have been a lot less. It would have only been $300 million and change. So, that has had a significant impact on what we are able to do.

Mr. Speaker, building on the foundation continues. For example, this Budget is spending $277 million on transportation. Last year, my district benefited from the Budget. The Nicholsville bridge was finally finished. There was a commitment of $1.2 million to do road improvements in the Jackson's Arm area, in White Bay in my district, and in the fall I was very fortunate to receive $1.2 million to do some mill and fill work on the Trans-Canada Highway between Deer Lake and Pasadena. The mill and fill was taken and put on the park road to Sir Richard Squires Park. Of course, the community of Cormack was very pleased that the asphalt was recycled and used on that road, because there has been a significant amount of work done by this government over the last couple of years to enhance Sir Richard Squires Park.

In 2009, I am hoping, of course, that I will get further road improvements throughout my district. The announcements have not been made yet, but I am very, very optimistic.

Also, I think what is of importance was the $155 million for educational facility improvements, which is quite significant. One hundred and sixty million dollars in improvements for health care, $103 million for municipal infrastructure – already we have heard one speaker, this afternoon, talk about how significant the recent funding formula is to his district, and my district is the same. The two larger municipalities in my district are Pasadena and Deer Lake, and they received funding on an 80-20 ratio and the rest of them, the local service districts and the smaller towns, received 90-10. This has been the best it has ever been.

I noticed that this year there have been a lot more applications for infrastructure work in these municipalities because of that changing formula, and I compliment the government, and I compliment the former minister and the new minister, on maintaining that program and enhancing it, because it is something that is very much needed. Municipal infrastructure, water and sewer work, is needed throughout my district.

The ministerial task force, with Minister Skinner chairing, I think is a wonderful idea. I realize that the Opposition are somewhat critical, but I think they are doing a fabulous job. This Budget – and I think it is supported by the rest of this Province – supports the initiatives of this government in helping Central Newfoundland get through this very tough economic time in the lives of the people who live in that area. I am so pleased that that is there.

My own family, for example, had their roots in Millertown, back at the turn of the last century, and worked for that mill as loggers before moving to Howley in 1924, with the construction of the new paper mill in Corner Brook.

Reducing poverty is another major announcement, I think, in Budget 2009. The government continues to stand strong and lead the way in its fight against poverty, by this year investing $132.2 million in Budget 2009 to help families with low incomes. That is quite significant.

The low income tax reduction threshold was increased from $13,511 up to $15,911, and, of course, there were also tax benefits to families whose incomes ranged from $21,825 to $26,625. Already, I have heard a number of speakers today talk about the Poverty Reduction Strategy, how important it is, and it is nationally recognized as an important thing that is being done by this government. This Budget also increased the amount of funding to lower the rental rate for people with Housing.

The minimum wage was $6 in 2005, $8.50 today, and will be $10 by July 2010. That is very significant for low income people, the fact that the minimum wage is being increased. That is a significant percentage increase over those few years.

Mr. Speaker, being a former educator, I am so very pleased with this government's commitment to education. This Budget has $1.3 billion allocated for education, which is the highest allocation in our Province's history; $130.9 million in extra funding.

Over the years, Mr. Speaker, being a principal of a school, I observed many problems with school infrastructure. Often the janitors in the school used to have to take the garbage buckets and put them in classrooms or in hallways to catch the rain that would be coming into the building because the roofs were not up to scratch. This government is investing significantly more resources into replacing schools, and also of significant importance is that they have a maintenance budget to spend more money to make sure that we do not have those problems. In my district for example, schools like Xavier in Deer Lake and Pasadena Elementary have been getting maintenance funding to do some very, very important upgrades.

I was very happy to meet earlier with the Minister of Education in Corner Brook. They had a round table discussion with students from various educational institutions in the Province. There were students there from the University, from the colleges, and representing graduates as well. The minister listened, basically, to what problems and concerns the students had. I was so pleased to see, in the Budget - the biggest two things on the list of those students was the elimination of interest on Newfoundland and Labrador's Student Loans, which came out in this Budget, which is quite significant and will impact 49,000 students. So that is quite a significant announcement.

The other thing that they wanted was an increase in upfront-based grants, and I was so pleased that the Budget had increased those from $70 to $80. Of course, the Province also has a program for retaining and attracting youth. The strategy has a $3.7 million investment and the government has opened six new career work centres.

In February, February 4 actually, I was in Corner Brook for the unveiling of a new program, and the Minister of Tourism was there. The program was called Uncommon Potential: A Vision for Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism. Right now in this Province we generate about $790 million in revenue from tourism. So that is a significant part of our GDP that I talked about earlier. The government by 2010 wants to double that. So we are looking at $1.6 billion and the potential –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KELLY: The potential is there. Not only that, Mr. Speaker, but when we talk about tourism in this Province, tourism is an industry that benefits all parts of our Province, whether you are a large town or you are a small rural community. It is all seasons, and tourism is significant. In fact, globally, GWP, which is the global world product, it makes up 10 per cent of the world's GWP. So, one job in ten on the face of the earth is related some way to tourism.

In my district there are so many things, like Sir Richard Squires Park, the Pasadena Beach, Deer Lake, the Insectarium in Reidville. In White Bay there are so many opportunities for tourism with Main River, with whales, with icebergs. In Howley, the little community that I am from, in 1904 the moose were dropped there. In 2004 they had an anniversary. Howley is situated on the mouth of Grand Lake, which is sixty miles long and the tourism potential on that lake is of immense magnitude, immense magnitude.

So right throughout my district I am so pleased, but it takes vision. It takes vision, and vision is a roadmap to help us get there, and this government does indeed have vision. Tourism is one of the industries that I am glad that they are spending so much more money into. As the minister said earlier, four years ago they were investing $6 million into tourism for marketing. That number today is $13 million and I am confident that in the years ahead it will grow.

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity of responding to this Budget.

Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the Bay of Islands

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. LODER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Before I begin my talk here today I would like to congratulate the hon. Member for Cape St. Francis, the hon. Member for Bellevue, and of course the hon. Member for Humber Valley.

Before I get into talking I would like to tell a little story, if I may. It is regarding speaking notes, which I usually and most people here I think could be using them from time to time. I recall about a month ago having to go to an engagement to speak at a little ceremony. Before I left I wrote down a few speaking notes, little items there, a few words to highlight the area that I wanted to emphasize when I was speaking to the crowd of people, between 400 to 500 people. Of course, the only piece of paper around in my house at the time was a sheet of paper my wife uses for her grocery list. So I took that sheet of paper and I wrote down the welcome and a few highlights there that I would need to use moments before I was supposed to speak. So when I arrived at the ceremony, just moments before to speak, I put my hand in my pocket and hauled out this little piece of paper to review the highlights. When I did I looked at the list and here it goes: turnip, potato, cabbage, salt beef. Mr. Speaker, I accidentally took my wife's grocery list.

AN HON. MEMBER: Shame on you!

MR. LODER: Oh yes, that is really something.

Anyway, I did a good job; I thought I did anyway with that. So here lately I do not use that same piece of paper. I do not use that same piece of paper, Mr. Speaker, because I am sure my wife leaves me little notes at all times. If I may, I might even read the note out here in public, telling me: Terry, make the beds, vacuum the floor before you go to work, love Vivian. Anyway, Mr. Speaker, that is my little note of recommendations to other speakers here in this House today.

I must go to a more serious note, and the serious note of course is pertaining to the Budget of 2009. If you look at the news releases on these announcements you will see Budget 2009, Building on Our Strong Foundation. The first thing we think about with foundation, of course, is concrete foundation. But, if you look a little closer with these new releases, it goes down, the subheading here, Standing Strong for Tomorrows Leaders. Tomorrow's leaders, obviously it is our young people. I am sure everybody here in this hon. House today used the phrase: Our young people is the most important resource of Newfoundland and Labrador.

I recall the hon. Premier saying it, the hon. Minister of Natural Resources and, basically I think, everybody in this hon. House today do acknowledge that the most important resource we have in Newfoundland and Labrador is our young people.

Looking at this Budget of 2009, I can see that we increased our funding for education by a whopping sum of $130.9 million, bringing up the total budget for education from K to 12 to an unprecedented $1.29 million.

Mr. Speaker, I can see that happening here. I witnessed, most recently, the benefit that our students, our young people, our future leaders, are getting from this money allotted for education.

On March 2, I had the occasion of being in Corner Brook for the official opening of the Corner Brook Regional High. At the ceremonies we had the hon. Premier, we had the hon. Minister of Education, and we had the hon. Minister of Justice and Attorney General. It was great to be involved in this ceremony to see the official opening of this school.

I should add, or take a minute here, Mr. Speaker, to remind everybody, or to give some knowledge of why I am speaking about the City of Corner Brook. For people unknown to my district, approximately 26 per cent or 27 per cent of my area involves the City of Corner Brook. That is the reason why I do have interest in what goes on in the City of Corner Brook, whether it is education, health, or even city hall. I must say, I am getting great satisfaction from working with the Mayor of the City of Corner Brook, and all of the mayors, Mr. Speaker, throughout my district, from Mount Moriah to Lark Harbour, to Cox's Cove to Hughes Brook. It is great working with these people.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I still go back to this wonderful structure called Corner Brook Regional High. It took approximately $18 million to basically rebuild this enormous school to cover all of the high school students, not only in the City of Corner Brook, but we are looking at Mount Moriah, we are looking at Halfway Point, Burgoynes Cove, John's Beach, Frenchman's Cove. East we are going as far as Humber Valley, Little Rapid's, Steady Brook, and of course we are going west as far as Gallants.

This school takes all of these students under one wing. With this facility, of course, it is only going to be a better education, a better influx of meeting people, and good fellowship with other students. I think, looking at this structure, basically it is the best we have in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. You may extend that to the Atlantic Provinces or, in fact, it might extend right across this great Country of Canada.

Mr. Speaker, we do not stop there when it comes to high school. Our education, we do not through away the keys and say: Okay, kids, get out, go on your own and do the best you can.

No, we are still investing in secondary education, and this is witnessed here today from the hon. speakers here reminding everybody what was invested in, or will be invested in 2009, in education. One of the big ones, of course, would be the elimination of provincial interest on student loans; $5 million that these students do not have to pay back. They can keep that money. They do not have to pay it back. They do not have to pay it back when they go to work. Another thing extending on to that would be the freeze on tuition. Tuition, of course, if that was going up every year it would be an enormous amount. In reality, if this was going up like other provinces, I understand, our tuition would be in the amount $71 million more than what it is today. Who is going to pay for that tuition? It would be you, it would be me, and it would be the students who had the loan to pay back. Again, those savings are going back to our most important resource of Newfoundland and Labrador, our students. That is great to see, Mr. Speaker, this influx of extra money – or freezing.

Mr. Speaker, other key investments in post-secondary education, of course, I am referring to again the regionalization of Corner Brook, and again the $2.5 million towards the greater autonomy for the Sir Wilfred Grenfell College.

Also, of course, we have one of the most major College of the North Atlantic colleges in Newfoundland, and here again we do have some extra funding there for a continued freeze on tuition rates, plus more investment in structure repairs, and additional skilled trades to be honoured within that system.

Also, of course, another announcement that the hon. Member for Humber East yesterday spoke about would be the new academic building at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, a further investment of $34 million, which will result in higher education facilities for the numerous, or thousands of students who will be availing of that structure. Plus, it also will influx new teachers to come to the local area. It will also invest in extra jobs, of course, during the construction season. All of this goes beyond our imagination back in 2003.

Mr. Speaker, we have to go back to the long-term care facilities and community services given out on behalf of this government and, of course, we have to look at the reduction when it comes to home support quality, home support workers. Now, the old rate, if a couple at sixty-five years of age and older, if they were applying for home support workers, if they had an income of $2,000 per month and they had a $900 expense, they would have to pay towards the home support workers $1,100. Under this new program, this will be reduced down to less than $150.

Going on with that same involvement, naturally, we have seniors with only one income, and again they may require the home support work. If they had an income, for example, of $1,000 and they had expenses of $700, they normally would have to pay $300 towards the support workers. However, under this new Budget this is going to be eliminated altogether. That is great for these citizens, our most important seniors, that they will be able to avail of that extra funding and give them better quality as they live out their last wonderful years in this great world.

Mr. Speaker, last week my office was speaking to a lady in Lark Harbour, I believe, and this lady was inquiring in regard to some funding of some sort. Anyway, a lady in the background sung out: Ask him when are we going to get a raise for home support workers?

Well, according to the documentation I have here in my hand, effective March 1, the wage increase for home support workers will be increased by fifty cents per hour. Again, on July 1, 2009, that will be extended again up by seventy-one cents, and again on January 1, 2010, another fifty cents. If we add the usual increase in minimum wage, effective July 2010 they will be making the sum of $11.71. That is going to be great for lower income people, or a second income for the entire family.

Mr. Speaker, again we are still looking at poverty, poverty reduction in our Province, and basically I think almost every announcement we have in this wonderful Budget always reflects the Poverty Reduction Strategy. I think it is always there, it is creating jobs, but what we are looking at here now is an additional $132 million in the Budget of 2009 to fight this poverty and to reduce poverty by using this strategy. This strategy began in 2006 when the foundation was laid that we, at the time, may have been one of the most highly poverty stricken provinces within our Dominion of Canada; however, there was a commitment made at that time that by the year 2014 we would have the least poverty, using this strategy, within the jurisdiction of this great Country of Canada. So, we are using that every day. In every Budget we are always looking at ways to increase getting funding directly into the hands of the lower income people, and this keeps on going. This keeps on going, Mr. Speaker.

Another area here I have highlighted in the Budget is building social infrastructure and capacity in communities. I am delighted to say here today that one of these areas that we are going to expand in the District of Bay of Islands will be the investment in the Community Youth Network or, as abbreviated, CYN. This expansion will be taking place this year in 2009 in my district.

To explain out there to some people in TV land what the CYN means, I would like to read out the little insert there in this news release: The CYN offers young people at risk of poverty access to constructive programs, services in the areas of academic support, employment, wellness, social and recreation activities.

Now, of course, that is going to be a great enhancement to our young people throughout the Bay of Islands, again on the North Shore, on the South Shore, including a portion of Corner Brook. It is going to involve two highly qualified individuals to take this program to the schools, to the people out there within the system, and explain it to them and get them involved in more activities and, hopefully, see them go to and take secondary education and be profitable citizens within this great Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I will continue to go on. I know I am only repeating some areas where the other hon. members spoke today. I think the Member for Humber Valley again repeated the lower tax reduction program, again increasing the reduction program from $13,511 to $15,911, which will result, Mr. Speaker, in $544 extra money that we will be able to put into the pockets of these people who respond who are in this bracket. Of course, if you are a two person working family, with a wage of around $26,000, as a result of this increase they will have an additional $800 to spend on their means of support.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I will continue on with our health care within the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Again, I will look at the District of Bay of Islands and more particularly to the region of Corner Brook and the West Coast, and some announcements that were made during the Budget. Of course, we are looking at health care, and one of the areas that Western Health will be benefiting from will be the additional benefit of $50 million for new health care equipment. This equipment would involve $1.2 million for a nuclear medicine gamma camera in Corner Brook, and also this funding, added to the other investment, a total of health care equipment for the entire Province in the last five years to read in the amount of $173 million.

Mr. Speaker, this investment again expands further and includes further involvement in the regionalization of our area of the West Coast. Again this is going to be a benefit not only for Corner Brook but the entire region, including Humber Valley, the Bay of Islands and right up as far, I guess, as St. Anthony, out as far as Port aux Basques and towards Central.

We are looking at the further announcement of $19.2 million to complete the construction of this new 236 bed long-term care home in Corner Brook. A great announcement! Great ceremonies coming up, hopefully, in the fall to see this quite immaculate and topnotch building officially opened and in service for the people of the region.

Looking also at additional funding: again, a big new topic in the Corner Brook and surrounding area would be the investment of the new hospital in Corner Brook. I noted here today a couple of MHAs speaking about the new parking garage that will be built at the Health Sciences Centre, which I know. I experienced that problem, looking for a parking spot. Of course, if you are ever in Corner Brook go to Western Health hospital, go up there and try to find a parking spot during the day. Just try it, and you will find some major complications to locate a parking spot.

With this investment, Mr. Speaker, like Health Sciences we are going to alleviate that problem when we are building a new hospital. Naturally, it is going to be included in the new hospital, an expanded effort when it comes to parking facilities and up-to-date health care equipment.

I am looking at my time here now and I see I only have 1.2 minutes left to go. I do have a few sheets here, with a dry throat, but I will come back in a moment.

Going back to the health care, I see we have further dollars going towards an eye centre in Corner Brook. I looked at a newspaper clipping here a couple of days back, where Dr. Wijay, our ophthalmologist in the Corner Brook area, was looking at a piece of equipment, an OCT scan. Of course, this came about with the assistance of the Lions Club in the Corner Brook area. I would like to acknowledge these Lions Clubs at this particular time. I think we have one in Deer Lake, we have one in Pasadena, we have one in Corner Brook, we have one in Mount Moriah, and we have another one located in Summerside.

Of course, the Opposition Leader was saying that she could speak thirty-five hours on a topic. I think, when it comes to volunteerism in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, I could match that thirty-five hours and go beyond. That would involve not only the Lions Club, of course, which is very important to our citizens and our hospital care, as suggested, volunteerism, but it goes back to the fire halls, it goes back to the community councils, it goes back to the church groups, and with the Red Cross. You can go on, Mr. Speaker, about how important these volunteer groups –

MR. SPEAKER: Order please!

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

MR. SPEAKER: Does the member have leave?


MR. SPEAKER: Leave to clue up.

The hon. member, by leave.

MR. LODER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: He can go until 5:30 (inaudible).

MR. LODER: The Opposition House Leader said I could speak until 5:30 p.m., but I cannot take that time up because we have the hon. the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs to have his time also.

I have to go back to the roads, and I will try to speak a little faster. As we said, the District of Bay of Islands has one other major topic and that would involve the paving of the roads throughout the two sides of the bay. We are doing a great job at the moment when it comes to paving. It is good asphalt going down. As we are going, we are doing a great job when it comes to replacing the culverts. We are replacing the signs and the culverts. I said that once, but I am going to say it a second time.

The municipal guardrail is going up in places where it was not before, and this is going to be to the benefit of the driving public, it is going to be good for the safety of our driving public, and it is going to be good for tourism. We do have bed and breakfasts. We have the Candlelight Inn tourist home down in Lark Harbour. People did not want to drive down there because of the road conditions, but through the assistance of this infrastructure, with over $17 million being invested in provincial roads this year, I am looking forward to making some major announcements within the coming months, and putting out tenders to have these roads become available before the fall construction season ends.

One more topic, Mr. Speaker, if I may: we are looking for municipal infrastructure. Again, our people out there do have areas that do not have the services of proper drinking water. We are working with Municipal Affairs and the minister, and we are also working with the town councils, with the hope of availing of some funds that will be utilized and provide us with better assistance for people who should, and rightly deserve, to have these qualities of life.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, I will shortcut my speech here today, but I think it is 2,000 days that have lapsed since this government took a hold of the House of Assembly. In that 2,000 days, we made tremendous investments in health care and the anti-poverty strategy. We are also making investments in education, and we could go on. Of course, we are always preparing to harness our people and give them the full potential, and one of the full potentials, as I said earlier, would be the Corner Brook Regional High School, the magnificent, proper building, a great building that they can use to enhance their education purposes.

So, Mr. Speaker, by working together with the people of this Province we will continue to build upon this solid foundation and provide the prosperity and self-reliance that our parents could only have dreamed of. The dream of course is the future of plenty for our children.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DENINE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

That is the last time I am giving that hon. member leave, because the clock really ran out.

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to get up here today and speak to the Budget, and what a Budget it was.

Let me go back to 2003, Mr. Speaker, and have a look at the Budget we brought in in 2003. Each Budget we have brought in has been progressively getting better and better and better. We walked in here with almost a $1 billion deficit, and the hon. member across the way recognized that the other day. The first time I heard that in five or six years here, recognized there was an incredible deficit that this government inherited from the previous government.

Mr. Speaker, when we came in in 2003 there was a $12 billion deficit; $23,000 for every man, woman and child in Newfoundland and Labrador. Guess what, Mr. Speaker? One of the things that have not been harped on since we have been talking about, the deficit now is $7.8 billion, which is $15,500.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DENINE: Now, Mr. Speaker, that is incredible, but if you listen to the members opposite: Oh well, that is only because you had this happen, this happen, this happen. Mr. Speaker, this happened because the strategic spending and strategic investment in infrastructure. That is what happened, Mr. Speaker! That is what happened.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DENINE: What happened, Mr. Speaker, that allowed us to put an $800 million stimulus package when times were bad.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DENINE: When everyone is faced with economic downturn, Newfoundland and Labrador are in a very, very positive mode as far as our financial arrangements are concerned.

AN HON. MEMBER: Fiscal arrangement.

MR. DENINE: Fiscal arrangement. Thank you, I needed that one. Count on my hon. members to help me out there.

Well, Mr. Speaker, that fiscal arrangement that we made and the fiscal benefits that we derive from paying down our deficit has certainly allowed us to put more money into our programs. For example, in our $800 million stimulus package, $277 million for transportation infrastructure.

Mr. Speaker, when I got elected here in 2003, one of the main things that was hitting me from my residents and people around the Province, was the condition of the Trans-Canada Highway. There were ruts there that you would lose your tires in.

MR. BUTLER: Do not go into that one.

MR. DENINE: The hon. member said, do not go into that one, and I am some glad because we fixed those roads, Mr. Speaker. We fixed those roads and we are not going that way again. I am so glad.

Mr. Speaker, if you drive from St. John's to Port aux Basques you will see a marked improvement in the main highway of the Trans-Canada.

MR. HICKEY: And the Labrador Highway.

MR. DENINE: And the Labrador Highway.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DENINE: Now, I do not know where the hon. member is across the way, but he may have gotten lost in one of the ruts that were left behind.

Mr. Speaker, $156 million in education facilities, and I will expand on that one later on; $167 million, health care facilities and equipment; $103 million for municipal infrastructure. One of our hon. members mentioned today, because of the cost-sharing ratios introduced last year, it makes it affordable for the smaller towns and rural Newfoundland and Labrador towns.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DENINE: We had $28 million in Newfoundland and Labrador Housing infrastructure and repairing those units, and I will talk a little bit on that later on; $20 million for justice infrastructure.

Mr. Speaker, in a time of economic downturn, that will create thousands and thousands of hours for people to work. This will create employment throughout the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. We are able to do that because of the attention we have paid to the deficit, and we have brought it down to that level of $7.9 billion. That is significant. That, again, allows us to expand on that.

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that this government can be very, very proud of and hang their hat on, and that is our poverty reduction strategy.

Mr. Speaker, I had the honour to be at a convention in Halifax recently and also to attend a function here in St. John's where a person from Calgary was speaking. Two people came to me and said: Your Province should be very, very proud of what you have done in poverty reduction. Absolutely phenomenal!

Those were their words, not mine. We have been talked about as one of the provinces that has put real meat to the idea of poverty reduction. We have done that, Mr. Speaker, and again it goes back to our strategic investments, our strategic ideas that we have over here to reduce that.

The other one was a lady from Calgary. She came to me and said: I can't believe what you people are doing here in Newfoundland and Labrador with poverty reduction. Absolutely phenomena! She said: Look, Alberta is one of the richest provinces in Canada, or probably the richest province in Canada, but they still have poverty issues and they have not addressed it in as systematic a way that we have done. Mr. Speaker, that speaks well of this government and this government's vision.

Mr. Speaker, some of the things that we have done: we have put $24 million over a six-year period in Newfoundland and Labrador Housing. That is both exterior and interior improvements. That is probably one of the biggest infusions of dollars that Newfoundland and Labrador Housing had in its history, and that will serve the people who are on income support.

Mr. Speaker, another thing that came from the Poverty Reduction Strategy was the indexing of the income support to the CPI. Normally, income support recipients would have to wait for government to vote on an increase year after year after year, depending on what happens. This time, Mr. Speaker, it is tied to the CPI, the Consumer Price Index. As that goes up so does the income support. That is very, very significant in our poverty reduction.

We have put more money into our community centres and into our women's centres, a very, very important component of our social fabric here in Newfoundland and Labrador. They offer tremendous, tremendous service to our citizens, to the people who go to avail of that. The community centres, Mr. Speaker, offer a wide range of services: to daycare facilities, to after-school tutoring, to family life issues and other issues that are relevant to those people who use them. Mr. Speaker, I cannot say enough about them because their need in communities is immeasurable, and certainly immeasurable in terms of the people they serve.

Mr. Speaker, my hon. member across the way, from the Bay of Islands, mentioned the thresholds for low-income earners. That is significant, because we are continually raising the bar. As he pointed out, 47,000 individuals will find the benefit of that in Newfoundland and Labrador; 47,000 people will see $544 in their pockets, Mr. Speaker, in their pockets. Not ours, in theirs.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DENINE: That allows them to go out and buy the needs for their families. That would help it.

Mr. Speaker, I know just one initiative will not create the panacea of everything that we want, but it is all of those small initiatives that will add to it, and all of the small initiatives that this government has taken in the poverty reduction are second to none, not only here in Newfoundland and Labrador but in all of Canada, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DENINE: Mr. Speaker, another thing that is very near and dear to my heart, being a former teacher, is our educational system in Newfoundland and Labrador.

AN HON. MEMBER: And the minister.

MR. DENINE: And the minister, she pointed out.

I worked with the minister for a number of years as the Parliamentary Secretary.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DENINE: I can tell you, the minister is certainly on the ball when it comes to education. She has done a tremendous job. It was certainly a great help the Parliamentary Secretary had in that department, I must say.

Mr. Speaker, the tuition freeze: ever since this government came in there has not been a tuition increase. This government has frozen tuition every year since we have been here. I happened to be at the university for a celebration and I was talking to some of the students there at the university, as I would, being an educator, and asked them what they are doing, how they are getting on, what courses they were taking, and so on. I talked to this lady and I said: Where are you from? I figured she would say some part of Newfoundland and Labrador. She said: I am from Toronto. I said: From Toronto? Why are you coming from Toronto - in Toronto where there are a lot of universities within driving distance – why did you come to Newfoundland and Labrador? She said: Well, Minister, I can come here, pay my tuition, pay my room and board and live here for what it costs for tuition up in Toronto. That is significant.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DENINE: Mr. Speaker, that says an awful lot. We are probably the lowest in Canada, and that is something we can all be proud of. I tell you, the Federation of Students are very, very proud of it.

Now, Mr. Speaker, we did not just stop there. We did not just stop there. That alone in itself was a great accomplishment by this government. Up-front, needs-based grants - when I was Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Education we had the students come in and talk about up-front, needs-based grants, and I said: Look, it is going to be very, very difficult to get that in because we are doing so much. But, you know, a year after, these up-front, needs-based grants have come into effect and what did we do this year? We increased them. We increased them, and we did not stop there, Mr. Speaker. We did not stop there. Interest free loans on the Newfoundland and Labrador portion of the student loans, 49,000 students will be affected by that - 49,000.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DENINE: That is significant, Mr. Speaker, and I do speak to people. I spoke to a university student there not too long ago - I can speak to people; I have a little bit of gift of gab there, but I love talking to people - but I tell you one thing: they were so proud of this government when they brought those initiatives in, and each one of us in this government should be very, very proud of that –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DENINE: - very proud of it, because it is something, yes (inaudible) to tap the tables on, our desks on, because it was a good thing.

Mr. Speaker, we also invested in school infrastructure into our K to 12 system. I will not go back and tell what was left behind when we took over government. Yes, maybe I will. There were significant infrastructure deficits in our school system. We had to repair roofs of schools that were equivalent to sixteen football fields - sixteen football fields, to put it in reality - and we are still repairing them. We are still repairing them. We invested in expansion of schools, new classrooms, new gymnasiums, and new labs. We have invested that, Mr. Speaker, and that is significant in what we have done.

All of this package I am talking about, the Budget we brought in was excellent but this is building on what we started in 2003. If anyone out there has followed it, and watched the proceedings of the House, they will understand the progression that we have made today.

Mr. Speaker, we have invested in new schools. We have a new school slated for Davis Elementary in Carbonear. St. Teresa's School in St. John's will be replaced.

AN HON. MEMBER: Hear, hear!

MR. DENINE: The Member for St. John's Centre is very proud of that one, no question about that. We have a new school in construction in Torbay, and two schools in Paradise. Mr. Speaker, that is significant investment in this region.

MR. HICKEY: Two schools in Labrador.

MR. DENINE: And schools in Labrador.

MR. HICKEY: Right in the member's district.

MR. DENINE: Okay, hon. member, I am the one doing the talking here. You will have to keep quiet a bit.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DENINE: You will have your turn when it comes to you.

Mr. Speaker, these school investments have been very, very significant for us, and things that we should do, things that need to be done, and we took the bull by the horns and we made it happen.

Mr. Speaker, this Budget was a good Budget. It was a good Budget in hard times, in the economic downturn. Again, as people are – for example, in New Brunswick they were cutting back in jobs and cutting back in programs. We are very fortunate here. We are very fortunate here because of the strategic spending we have done, looking after the deficit, to decrease our deficit so that we can put more money into programs. Mr. Speaker, that is solid, solid financing. That is looking after our fiscal capacity, our fiscal responsibility for the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, I would be remiss if I did not talk about my own department. I am with Intergovernmental Affairs, and the Volunteer and Non-Profit Sector.

The Non-Profit Sector, Mr. Speaker, some people in here in the House really do not understand – my hon. gentleman across the way –

MR. BUTLER: (Inaudible) but not much when you retire.

MR. DENINE: Well, this member is not retiring, so do not worry about it. You will see his face around for a while.


MR. DENINE: Mr. Speaker, there are 186,000 volunteers in Newfoundland and Labrador and they volunteer 35 million hours of work every year. There are 23,000 people who work in the sector. Now, Mr. Speaker, if that is not enough to pay attention to, I do not know what is.

The volunteers we speak of are unique, because all the volunteers, they are the ones who do things because they want to make things happen. They love doing it. They love doing it for the community and the betterment of people that they serve. That is what makes it so special, Mr. Speaker, and this government has seen the foresight and the vision to make a minister responsible for the Volunteer and Non-Profit Sector. This year we are going to be looking at capacity building. Looking at issues that they have brought to my attention, in favour of grants, et cetera, and we will have more to say about that later on.

Mr. Speaker, when the volunteers do something in your community you know it is done with a heart, it is done with a heart-and-a-half. I had the privilege of going out to many parts of this Province and these people who go out to cook the meals for a fundraiser – I happened to be out in Centreville and Dildo for a volunteer firefighter function. The volunteers that prepared the meal did an exceptional job. They did not look at that as work. They did not look at that as: Oh, I have to report and do a meal. They looked at that because they saw a contribution that they could make, a tangible contribution, through their own self heart, their own kindness, to a volunteer fire department. Which to me, and I know all of our hon. gentlemen and ladies around here will look at this and say: Hey, these people sacrifice a lot, and when duty calls they put their lives on the line everyday. That is significant, very significant, and we should all say thank you to each and every one of them.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DENINE: Mr. Speaker, we are also going to talk about how to better communicate with the people of volunteerism out there, $350,000 is there. So we are going to develop a communication package to those people to improve the capacity of volunteers; to assist them in any way, shape or form in which we can; how to get through government's red tape; how they move through the government departments to access grants; how they move through government departments to get advice on certain topics. These are some of the things that we are going to be looking at a new portal for the volunteer sector. They have been asking for it, and that is something that we are going to look at and that is something we will deliver later on this year. As a matter of fact, the planning for that is in the works now and we should have something on that in the not too distant future.

Mr. Speaker, I see my time is running down, and I could ask for leave but I may not get it because of the time of day. This government has moved forward with a plan, it has not been haphazard, it has not been cherry-picking, because I tell you, even the Opposition members, when things are given out, grants in their districts and all of that, they are happy too.

The hon. member across the way, he knows what it was because when I was in Municipal Affairs he said to me that is the biggest thing I ever got in my history, and that was our government that did that for him.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DENINE: Do you know something? We did not play partisan politics with any infrastructure program that we had. We did not do that. We have treated every district the same, every districts needs on a priority basis, every districts needs on a provincial priority basis to make sure that all the money is spread evenly throughout this Province so that everyone, Mr. Speaker, can avail –

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order please!

The hon. member's time for speaking has expired.

Does the hon. member have leave?


MR. DENINE: Could I have leave to wrap up? Just one minute?

AN HON. MEMBER: No, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order please!

Leave has been denied.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, I would like to make note that this afternoon the Social Services Committee will review the Estimates of the Department of Health and Community Services commencing at 6:00 p.m. here in the House of Assembly.

Tomorrow morning the Social Services Committee will meet in the House at 9:00 a.m. to review the Estimates of the Department of Education.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Justice, that this House do now adjourn.

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

All those in favour, 'aye'.


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

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

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