April 28, 2009             HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS              Vol. XLVI   No. 11

The House met at 1:30 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

Admit visitors.

Statements by Members

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Today we welcome the following members' statements: the hon. the Member for the District of Topsail; the hon. the Member for the District of Port de Grave; the hon. the Member for the District of Bay of Islands; and the hon. the Member for the District of Ferryland.

The hon. the Member for the District of Topsail.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS E. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, I rise in this House today to recognize a Paradise Elementary School Teacher, Mr. Ellis Coles, who has been awarded the Physical Education Teaching Excellence Award. This award acknowledges Ellis' outstanding contribution to physical education. He is one of only three teachers across Canada to win the award this year.

Mr. Speaker, this award recognizes Ellis for the exceptional physical education program he continues to provide and for his influence as a positive role model for his students. Ellis is an extraordinary physical education teacher who continually demonstrates a passion for healthy living, sportsmanship and an inclusive teaching model.

Under his leadership, Mr. Speaker, the physical education program at Paradise Elementary School is enriched through activities such as SpecTAGular, Healthy Commotion Day and Hockey Day in Canada.

Ellis is traveling to Banff, Alberta this week to attend the Physical and Health Education Canada National Conference, where he will be formally recognized for receiving this award.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this House to join me today in congratulating Mr. Ellis Coles on being awarded this very prestigious award.

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.

Last week being Volunteer Week, I want to pay tribute to a young gentleman from my district. I rise today to congratulate twenty-one-year-old Trevor Deering of Shearstown on completing a three-year training session in pastoral studies at the Vanguard Bible College in Edmonton, Alberta.

Trevor was an active volunteer in his community, taking part in events for children, and performing at benefit concerts to assist those in need; truly a caring and compassionate individual.

One of eight who graduated with top honours from Ascension Collegiate, Bay Roberts, Trevor had a dream to serve others. After a training session with The Billy Graham Association, his dreams were on the road to becoming a reality.

On April 26, 2009, Trevor became a credential holder with the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador and will soon be assigned a pastoral charge. I have no doubt his new congregation will be delighted to have him and I know he will serve the community well, as he did in the past.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all hon. members to join with me, as well as his family and many friends, in congratulating Trevor Deering and wishing him continued success in the future.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. LODER: Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to recognize a tremendous group of volunteers.

Mr. Speaker, starting February 21 to March 1 of this year the ECMA Awards took place in the Pepsi Centre in the City of Corner Brook.

To make this event a success, volunteers in the 700 range headed by local host committee chairman, David Smallwood, along with twenty-five other event committee chairs accepted the task. Volunteers from Deer Lake, both sides of the Bay of Islands and, of course, the City of Corner Brook, worked day and night to see this event be a success. The city was one of the smallest cities, Mr. Speaker, to host this event.

Mr. Speaker, as a result of the success, over $5 million was pumped into the economy. Hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts from Deer Lake, both sides of the Bay and Corner Brook benefited from the successful awards, showcasing our own talent in Eastern Canada, but most importantly our Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, to some thirty-five music buyers throughout the world.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members here today to acknowledge Mr. Smallwood and all of the volunteers and thank them all for their time and talents.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of Ferryland.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise in this hon. House today to ask all members to join with me in recognizing the tremendous accomplishments of the three girls' basketball teams from Baltimore School in Ferryland. These three teams won the provincial championships in their respective divisions.

The Baltimore Bronco Senior Girls basketball team captured the 3A Provincial Championship in Stephenville on March 22, while the Baltimore Bronco Under 14 Girls basketball team, who went undefeated in their four games, captured the East Coast Provincial Championship in Mobile on March 28. The Baltimore Bronco Under 13 Girls basketball team went undefeated in their six games and captured the East Coast Provincial Championship in Clarenville on March 14.

With these teams' accomplishment for Baltimore winning provincial championships, the region continues in the steep tradition of successful basketball teams. What makes this achievement even more outstanding is recognizing the number of students the team had to draw from, and the fact the schools competing have much higher enrolments. It is indeed a tribute to the community, the players and coaches, that they commit themselves to a program of excellence and continue the strong tradition of competitive basketball programs in the region.

I again congratulate the Baltimore Bronco Senior Girls Under 14 and Under 13 Girls basketball teams on this tremendous accomplishment and ask all members to join with me in extending best wishes.

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 to recognize that today, April 28, marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of National Day of Mourning in Canada. This occasion provides us with an opportunity to remember workers who have been killed, injured or suffered illness due to workplace hazards and incidents.

In observing National Day of Mourning we raise awareness about the importance of workplace health and safety. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have much to reflect on during this year's National Day of Mourning, having just experienced the devastating effects of a workplace accident with the recent offshore helicopter tragedy.

In 2008 there were twenty-three work-related deaths in this Province, with six due to accidents in the workplace and seventeen as a result of occupational disease. In terms of national statistics, in the fifteen year period from 1993 to 2007 just over 13,000 individuals lost their lives in Canada due to work-related causes.

Mr. Speaker, these statistics demonstrate how important it is to encourage a strong commitment toward occupational health and safety, and I am happy to report that in this Province we are seeing that commitment grow. I remind the hon. members that I recently reported the encouraging news that since the year 2000 on-the-job injuries in Newfoundland and Labrador have decreased by 38 per cent.

This significant improvement is largely due to the dedication of employers, unions and workers throughout the Province. I applaud everyone who is making an effort to enhance health and safety practices in the workplace, and I ask that the losses we reflect upon today always keep us mindful of the price that is paid if we slip in our vigilance.

Before I conclude, Mr. Speaker, I want to recognize the contributions made by the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission, and the Occupational Health and Safety Branch of the Department of Government Services. These institutions play a key role in the administration of regulations and the development of promotional efforts that help keep our workplaces incident free.

With government, business and labour working in partnership, I am confident we can ensure the well-being of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and minimize the kinds of unfortunate losses we are called to reflect upon today.

I will now ask all hon. Members of this House to observe a moment of silence in remembrance of workers who have been killed, injured or suffered serious illness while on the job.

MR. SPEAKER: I ask all members to stand.

[Moment of silence]

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

MR. BUTLER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I thank the minister for an advanced copy of her statement, and to say that we in the Official Opposition join all those who took part in the ceremony here today and throughout this Province, in mourning those who have lost there lives in the workplace.

Having worked in the construction industry myself, Mr. Speaker, not only here in this Province but in Ontario, you come across the unfortunate opportunity sometimes, to see coworkers who are seriously injured, and some of them, yes, result in death.

As the minister stated, we do see a decrease in incidents happening in our Province, but however, we have to keep striving, Mr. Speaker. We have to be dedicated, the employers, the unions and the workers throughout this Province, to see that each and every jobsite becomes accident free.

Not only that, Mr. Speaker, and I am sure I speak for all members here, that in my past twenty years involved in the political arena in one way or the other, there are dozens of times we have to go to the appeal boards to represent injured workers. I think we have to do more to see that their issues are brought to the forefront, rather than many of them having to suffer in the long term.

Mr. Speaker, I challenge government, business and labour to continue to work together. On behalf of the Official Opposition, I want to join all stakeholders in this Day of Mourning. Only recently, like many other communities in this Province, I had the unfortunate incident of a constituent with regards to the helicopter crash. So we want to join all members of government and the stakeholders in remembering those who have paid the supreme sacrifice, and to say let's all work together to make sure that every industry is safe for all employees.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I do thank the minister for the advanced copy of her statement. I think it is right and fitting that the ceremony that some of us were at today does take place here in this House of Assembly. I am proud to remember actually, and some of you will remember, that it was Mr. Jack Harris, the former Leader of the New Democratic Party and MHA at that time for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi who provided leadership in the House to see that the Day of Mourning would be formally recognized and observed in this Province. I think it is good that we take the time to be part of that.

While we have achieved much over the twenty-five years since this day has been recognized, we still have a lot to do, and we all know that, in our Province. The reminder, of course, of the disaster in March with the loss of seventeen lives and the fact that we have workers today in Baie Verte, for example, former workers from the mine up there, who are walking around knowing that they are going to die. These are the things that remind us of how much we have to do.

Today I just stand in memory of those who have died and know that our thoughts and prayers are with the families, especially the families of those who died recently, the Cougar helicopter, and to tell workers like those who are dying in Baie Verte, that we are with them and we are going to work to make sure that these kinds of deaths become minimized to the point of becoming zero.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SKINNER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise in this hon. House today to report on a significant, highly-anticipated trade initiative.

From July 26-28, 2009, our Province is set to host the second annual Southeastern United States – Canadian Provinces Alliance conference. Excitement levels are building among businesses in Newfoundland and Labrador and among our American and Canadian partners that include: Mississippi, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia; as well as the Canadian provinces of Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

From a local perspective, the conference will place Newfoundland and Labrador small and medium-sized businesses, industry associations, and academic institutions front and centre as they explore valuable business partnerships and export opportunities with Canadian and American businesses and government leaders.

Mr. Speaker, trade has long been an essential component of our provincial economy.

In today's shifting global economy, the value of trade has never been greater, placing significant emphasis on initiatives of this nature. To cultivate real opportunities for prosperity and growth it is important for jurisdictions to come together to explore and form mutually beneficial relationships.

The Southeastern United States - Canadian Provinces Alliance conference is an exceptional venue for fostering business-to-business networking.

I believe that it is this personal approach to business relations - the face-to-face communication between conference members - that leads to real results.

The ties between Newfoundland and Labrador and the Southeastern United States are drawing closer.

In 2008, for instance, $228 million worth of world-class products from this Province were exported to the Southeastern United States. Heavily impacted by a growing market for our natural resources, this represented an increase, Mr. Speaker, of over 80 per cent over the previous year, representing the highest growth rate among Canadian Alliance members.

Organizations like the Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University and the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Technology Industries, as well as local ocean technology companies are already forging strategic alliances with their counterparts from the Southeastern United States region.

This year's conference will build on these successes and focus on key sectors including energy, ocean technology, and advanced manufacturing.

These sectors represent areas where Newfoundland and Labrador has significant expertise and where real value can be attained as we link our firms with those from other parts of Canada and the Southeastern United States.

As Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development, I encourage our business leaders, our industry associations, our academic institutions, and our government officials to become involved in this worthwhile event that promises to provide considerable opportunities for trading partnerships and business growth.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I thank the minister for an advanced copy of his statement.

It is good to see. We often have trade missions that go from our businesspersons, go outside the Province, of course, to try to get business, and that is a great way to do it, but it is great to see that we are going to be hosting it as well because there is a twofold advantage to this, not only will they get an opportunity to visit and see the business opportunities that are here for them, and hopefully that will, in some way, impact on departments such as the Department of Business, for example, but they are also, of course, going to be boosting our tourist industry at the same time. That is a very positive spin-off to that as well.

Of course, anyone who has been involved in business knows that 90 per cent of the task sometimes, besides the product you are selling, is the contacts and the networking that you do in order to make your business grow.

We will certainly be supportive of anything that is done to advance the interests of the businesspersons, the entrepreneurs in this Province, who can integrate and make relationships with people in Eastern Canada and in the Eastern Seaboard of the United States.

In fact, I was quite astounded, and I will be discussing it later with the minister, the figure of $228 million of our products that were sold in the Eastern United States in one year. The figure jumped out at me, that that is an 80 per cent increase in one year. So I would certainly like to inform myself more as well because we have some real diamonds here in this Province when it comes to business proposals, projects and marketing things. I would certainly like to make myself more aware of it, and I would encourage everybody else as well to find out the details because there are lots of opportunities for employment when these industries do, in fact, be created and grow.

We congratulate the minister. Hopefully, you have a successful hosting and convention here and show them some good old Newfoundland and Labrador hospitality, in addition to the businesses that we do have.

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 the advanced copy of his statement.

This is a great way to make the connections that the minister was talking about with this new alliance, and it is new, it is only two years old. Not only will hosting the conference here mean that people will get to meet businesspeople right on the ground, the people from the Southeastern United States and the other parts of Canada, but they will also see the Province, as my colleague has said.

You will be showcasing both businesses as well as the Province, and that can only be good. I do agree with you that face-to-face meetings do bring results no matter what it is that we are talking about. It is just as true in business as in other places, in other areas.

I, too, minister, would be very interested in getting information on the $228 million worth of products exported, especially to know how much of that is in the raw state, natural resources in the raw state, and how much of it has been manufactured because of secondary processing here in the Province.

I would like to know, too, is trade flowing in the other direction? Are they trading back with us, because I think that will strengthen maintaining our exports if also there is some import? So I will be interested in hearing more about the import side as well.

I wish you well with the conference. I hope it goes well.

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.

It was recently revealed on the Fisheries Broadcast that the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture had rejected a decision of the Fish Processing Licensing Board for a shrimp licence for the Beothuk Fisheries Plant in Valleyfield.

The former chair of the board, Mr. Richard Cashin, said that he felt this was the worst decision that he had ever witnessed by the Department of Fisheries and certainly was not made in the best interests of the industry.

So I ask the minister to outline for us today the reason why he rejected the recommendations of the board.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: Mr. Speaker, I think it is common knowledge throughout the industry, and certainly this government has taken a position that the capacity within the shrimp industry is to a point right now where the individual thresholds of the plants are not being met, and until those thresholds are met, we as a government cannot see issuing any new licences at this particular time. It was on that basis that my decision was made.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

There were also some interesting allegations made by the minister's colleague, who happens to be the MHA for Bonavista North, in which he stated that the minister was actually wrong in his decision to reject the licence and it had nothing to do with overcapacity. He went on to state, Mr. Speaker, that the minister had been fooled by the lobbying of other processors.

I ask you today, minister: Was your decision impending upon the lobby efforts of big fish businesses in this Province?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: I guess, Mr. Speaker, the simple answer to that is absolutely no.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The MHA for Bonavista North also stated that the decision to reject the licence was a bad one and that he indeed did have input on the issue.

I ask the minister: Did your colleague provide you with any facts, and if so, why did you reject the advice and the information that he was giving you, along with the information and the recommendations of the licensing board under which your government established?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: Mr. Speaker, I say on behalf of this government that we do listen. We listen to everyone, I guess, but there comes a point where we have to stand by our principles as a government, and the principle I have already outlined to you. We are not deviating from that. It is in the best interests of the industry.

We take advice, but I, as a minister, have to basically make the decision. The decision was made, it is the right decision, and I will live by that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Cashin also stated that he has lost confidence in the process of awarding licences through the Fish Licensing Board, and he remarked that government's experiment in independence has come to an end in that regard.

I ask the minister: If you are going to make the final decisions around fish licensing in this Province, why do we even have a board?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: Mr. Speaker, that board was set up for a very good reason. It was to make sure that it was open, that is was transparent, that all parties were aware of what was going on, and 99 per cent of the decisions, obviously, were certainly accepted.

This particular decision that was put before me was not acceptable, for the reasons that I have pointed out to you. Again, I stand by the decision that I made. It was the right decision, the decision that is in the best interests of this industry, and that is where we stand right now.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

So the board is independent as long as they toe the government line, as long as the decision-making is not contrary to what the government believes.

Mr. Speaker, Richard Cashin is well known for his knowledge around the fishing industry, and is a real visionary for the future of the industry. I am sure that is the reason why government appointed him to that position in the first place.

I ask the minister today: Why was Mr. Cashin not reappointed to serve on this board? Was it because of this issue around licensing, and can you tell me who will be appointed as the next chair of the board?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Cashin served out his term. His term was up in March, and it was the decision of the government to move forward with another chair. The naming of that chair is pending, and I guess it would be inappropriate for me to name any names until that is done.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Just like Memorial University, Mr. Speaker, if we don't like the decisions you make we will get rid of you. We will clean house. We will bring in a new slate.

Mr. Speaker, yesterday we asked the Minister of Finance why government would not go to binding arbitration with nurses on the extended earnings loss benefits and the market adjustment clauses in order to avoid a strike in this Province and protect the healthcare and the welfare of the people who depend upon the service.

I did not get an answer from the minister yesterday, and today I pose my question to the Premier: To ensure that there is stability in our system, and to avoid a strike, will government commit to binding arbitration on the two issues that are outstanding with the nurses?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Absolutely not.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, we realize that government has made good progress in these negotiations, and we acknowledge that. We also acknowledge the fact that there are no monetary issues left on the table. As per the minister's comments yesterday, these two issues are policy related and they are at no cost to the government.

I ask again: In light of that fact, why would government not go to binding arbitration, knowing that there isn't any cost, and avoid a strike so that people in this Province do not have to go through a system where operating rooms will be closed, where hospital beds will be closed, and where they will not get the necessary treatment they require? Why not take it that extra step and go to the arbitration process?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, we went through a lengthy process with nurses. We gave them every accommodation. We started early, well over a year ago, nearly a year-and-a-half ago now. We asked to meet during the summer; they did not want to meet. We then came back and we addressed the pay issues. They wanted an increase in pay; we addressed that significantly with the template. They wanted recruitment addressed, and we addressed that. They wanted retention addressed, and we addressed that. They wanted standby addressed, and we addressed that. They wanted shift differential addressed, and we addressed that. We have now placed them either one or two in Eastern Canada, east of Ontario. That includes Quebec and all the Maritime Provinces. We have stepped up. We have offered them an extremely generous package, and it is a package.

If they wanted to take away their template, or take away parts of their template, or they want to take away all of the extra benefits that they have given them, then perhaps we can start to look at another package, but that package is complete. It is the very, very, very best offer that we can make. We cannot just keep stepping up every time they want to add on to the equation. It is not going to happen.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, last night we received a letter from the alliance of provincial groups who serve youth in the Province when it comes to addiction services. These organizations, including the Recovering Addicts Fellowship Team, the Community Youth Network, Turnings and Choices for Youth, have come together to form an alliance and are expressing concerns over the recent announcement to place the youth residential treatment facility in Grand Falls, Windsor. They have posed a number of questions to government, Mr. Speaker, and we are certainly prepared to pose these questions in the House of Assembly.

Mr. Speaker, they stated that those youth who are affected, the majority of them, are in the Eastern Region of the Province. My question to the minister is: What are the clinical advantages to placing this facility in Central Newfoundland?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: What I find interesting in the House, Mr. Speaker, is how questions have changed over the years. For many years in this House members opposite have raised questions around, what are we doing for rural Newfoundland? Now, all of a sudden, we are getting questions in the House lobbying for St. John's, Mr. Speaker. They want all services centralized in St. John's.

Mr. Speaker, I answered questions in this House a couple of weeks ago around this very same point. One of the critical considerations for us as a government was to ensure that we are able to provide quality programming with capable, competent people, and we are very confident – we are very confident indeed - that Central Newfoundland, and in particular Grand Falls-Windsor, is a community in a region of the Province that can attract the kinds of people that we need. We are very confident that we are going to be able to provide the kind of programming that will respond to the challenging needs of those individuals who need that kind of addiction services.

So we stand by the decision to locate this new facility and this new program in Grand Falls-Windsor because we believe it will be successful and the people of all of Newfoundland and Labrador will be well served by that new program.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I do not think the government should be offended that there are four groups in this Province, who represent youth and youth treatment, who would question your decision, Mr. Speaker. In fact, they have every right to question it.

These individuals are telling us that they have spoken to many groups who work in addiction services right across the Province, and that those individuals feel that the location of the facility is unacceptable, that it is unsuitable, and that it was chosen merely for political reasons.

I ask the minister today: Who did your government consult prior to making the decision to place this important residential treatment facility in the Central Region of the Province?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Again I am somewhat bewildered by the nature of the questions and the persistence, Mr. Speaker, of members opposite.

I do not have any difficulty, as a minister, and none of my colleagues on this side of the House would have any difficulty, meeting with any group in the Province to talk about issues of their concern. So, if there are organizations who would like to come in and talk with me about this decision, I am open to do that at any time of the day. Just invite me, or make the request, and I will have the discussion.

What I find very ironic, Mr. Speaker, is the persistence by not only the Leader of the Opposition but the Opposition House Leader in the continuous questions in this House, bringing into question a decision that we made about a location of a service in Grand Falls-Windsor. An attack, I say, Mr. Speaker, it is nothing more than an attack on the people of Grand Falls-Windsor and the people of Central Newfoundland and Labrador, as if it is a place no one would want to work.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, what rubbish I have just heard coming out of the minister!


MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, the minister has a responsibility, and a responsibility to provide services in this Province based on clinical cases and factual information, not based on what is politically opportunistic for the government –


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. member to complete her question.

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the minister has trouble defending his actions today - that is quite obvious by his comments – but there are four groups in this Province who provide services and treatment to residential youth, and they have serious questions.

Mr. Speaker, the day treatment program that services addictions for youth is based in the St. John's region, and I guess one of the questions they have is why government would choose to separate those two facilities and those two lots of services.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, I do not have any difficulty at all, none whatsoever. I have no difficulty at all, or this government has no difficulty at all, in defending a decision to relocate a service in Grand Falls-Windsor.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: A community, Mr. Speaker, that has demonstrated their innovative approach to providing health care. They have been leaders on a number of fronts. They have a very comprehensive mental health and addictions program already in existence there. They have proven they have the ability to be able to attract the qualified professionals that we will need to run this program. It is a community that is centrally located, provides easy access in and out of other parts of the Province; because, keep in mind, this is a provincial centre, not a St. John's centre.

This is purely a provincial centre. It is centrally located, provides ease of access by road or by air, and it provides the professionals that will provide the delivery of those programs, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

One of the other issues that they raise is around the detoxification services. I ask the minister today: Is that part of the program for this centre, and will the people of the Province who need the service be assured that they will have access, and affordable access, to that service?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: To the first part of the question, yes, it will include a detox program. The second piece, by definition - I have said before, but let me repeat it - this is a provincial program. It is a provincial program and we are delivering it from Grand Falls-Windsor. By definition, every single person who lives in Newfoundland and Labrador will have access to that particular program and that particular facility.

This is not a regional facility. This is a provincial facility, so anyone who needs it will have access to it, just like Humberwood does in Corner Brook.


MR. SPEAKER: Order please!

MR. WISEMAN: This is purely a provincial program, no different than any other provincial program; because we have many provincial programs in St. John's. People travel to St. John's to access provincial programs here. Now people will travel to Grand Falls-Windsor to also access a provincial program, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Native Friendship Centre has also raised an issue around the Aboriginal component for this treatment process. They are asking if it will include an Aboriginal component in the program. I ask the minister today if he will commit to that.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, it will absolutely give consideration to the Aboriginal community. In fact, as we develop the program, as we start to look at the design of the building, the programming will be driving the design and the program will give consideration to the Aboriginal needs of this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Mr. Speaker, earlier this month The Telegram reported that government had hired an environmental consultant to conduct testing for the presence of hazardous material at the former Janeway site in Pleasantville. The report was submitted and received by government a few weeks ago. I ask the minister: Can he please advise the public what the results of the report were, and whether there are any hazardous materials remaining at the site.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Yes, Mr. Speaker, as part of the demolition of the Janeway site we insisted that the contractor engage an environmental consulting firm to assess the work as it was being done, to ensure that there was no contamination left, to ensure that the site was completely remediated.

Back a couple of months ago there was some concern expressed by Occupational Health and Safety and Government Services when they had done some inspections. They issued a stop work order. Our officials in the Department of Transportation and Works met with officials from the company at the time, the contractor, and insisted that there be an independent firm, independent of the government and independent of the contractor, to go in and assess the site. There was some level of asbestos containing material found in a number of the test holes that were done. Probably, my guess is around 25 per cent of the holes had some level of contamination. It is being reviewed now to see if it is within acceptable limits. Mr. Speaker, I will be able to inform the House at a future date as to exactly what that is.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As a follow up to that story, workers with a construction company cleaning up the site are speaking publicly that there are old fuel tanks that are leaking oil and making the workers sick. They are also raising concerns that government is not taking the issue seriously and may not address the problem.

I ask the minister: What is government planning to do to clean up the old fuel tanks that are buried at the site to ensure that the health and safety of the workers and the residents are taken care of?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, the government is well aware of the fuel tanks that are on site at the old Janeway. There was actually a piece included in the tender call for the possible removal of those tanks by that contractor.

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest to the contractor that if they have a problem with air quality there are appropriate breathing apparatuses and clothing and what have you that people are supposed to be wearing. That is part of the reason why Occupational Health and Safety put a stop work order in place on that site back some time ago because the contractor was not using the appropriate safety equipment. So I suggest that the contractor get the job done that he is contracted to do.

We have every intention of removing the tanks. It may or may not be by that contractor. We have the option to have that contractor remove them, but we also have the option to have somebody else remove them.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

If I understood the minister, you said that the first tender that went out included the removal of those fuel tanks from that site. From that, I just ask the minister again for further clarification.

Once the report came back, was the oil tanks a part of that report that came back, because I think there was some concern why the report was not released and they felt that it should not be released too early it would complicate other issues.

I just ask the minister: What was in the report that has not been released and was of concern at that particular time?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, the environmental work that was done, that we insisted on having done over the course of the past month or so had nothing to do with the oil tanks. We knew that the oil tanks were there. As I said, when the original tender was awarded to - I will not get into the construction company, but it is well known, it was in the paper. Anyway, it was Kelloway Construction. There was a piece in there – I was not going to say it, but it was in the paper, so why not?

There was a piece in there – I forget what the dollar figure is exactly right now, but we could have engaged that contractor, if we so desired, and the dollar figure was identified for that contractor to remove the fuel storage tanks and remediate that site as well, but it was not something that absolutely had to be done by them.

We have every intention of removing the tanks. However, Mr. Speaker, as I said, it may or may not be by that contractor. I suggest that it will have a lot to do with how well he does the job that he is tasked to do right now.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Mr. Speaker, my next question is to the Minister of Government Services.

Back in 2004, 229 of our schools were identified as requiring air quality testing for asbestos. However, in the 2009 Auditor General's Report it was noted that only 28 per cent of those schools had been tested by April, 2007.

I ask the minister: How many of these schools are still waiting to receive proper asbestos testing, and how long will it take to complete the remaining inspections?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. ORAM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Of course, we continuously do inspections with all of our buildings, and certainly our schools, and the question that is asked today, I will take under advisement. I will get back to the House with the answer for you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Mr. Speaker, air quality and toxic mould in schools are serious issues in this Province. The incidents of air quality problems continue to disrupt the academic year for students, teachers, and staff.

Back in 2006, we asked the Minister of Education whether she would carry out a comprehensive review of air quality in all the schools across the Province. We raised it again last year, and again the need for such a review has been dismissed by the minister. In the meantime, the air quality issue has resulted in permanent closure of one school and temporary closure of ten schools.

I ask the minister: How many more closures will it take to convince the minister that there may be some merit in carrying out a comprehensive review of air quality in the schools?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, I am certainly pleased to take that question.

I think the member opposite is fully aware that our government is committed to ensuring safe environments in our schools for our students and our staff.

I think the member is also fully aware that we have engaged in an enhanced inspection process that puts us in a very good position to respond to schools that are in need and experiencing air quality problems.

I remind the member that it is only this year we have reached $125.5 million in investment in repair and maintenance in our budget for schools, Mr. Speaker, because this side of the House and this government is committed to ensuring that our students get the best possible quality of education and the best possible learning environment we can provide.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for his question, but I have to go back again and ask him: Is he convinced that there may be some merit in carrying out a comprehensive review of air quality in our schools?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, I say to the hon. member opposite, if I were convinced that that was the way to go, we would be doing that right now. We are convinced, based on the professional advice that we receive from professionals in the field, that the enhanced inspection is the process to take and the way to go, and that is where we are headed as a government.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Mr. Speaker, my next question is also for the Minister of Education.

The Auditor General's report of 2009 recommends that the Department of Education in cooperation with the school districts and the Department of Government Services establish a centralized information system to ensure that the monitoring of school inspection issues and any action taken be recorded properly and shared by all stakeholders.

I ask the minister: Have you started this database for information relating to air quality testing as recommended by the Auditor General, and if so, when will this information be available to the public?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased to inform the House that we have indeed started that process and we are moving along. I cannot tell the member opposite the exact date when it will be ready, but I will certainly look to provide some information and give you clarity on that.

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, I few weeks ago I brought up the issue that patients from Labrador West were forced to move to other parts of the Province to receive kidney dialysis because of the lack of service in their own community.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health and Community Services did commit to looking into the state of dialysis in Labrador West. I would like to ask the minister to give the House an update about how the issue of these dialysis needs in Labrador West is being dealt with.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Yes, I can. As I indicated in the House some time ago, the issue of dialysis services in Labrador West had been raised by a number of people, including my colleague, the MHA for that district. I gave an undertaking that we would start to look at dialysis services in that region.

What has happened since then? There have been a couple of things really, one at the community level. There has been a local community that has been mobilized to work with the health authority, to start looking at dialysis services for the region. More precisely: how do you deal with patients who end up with end stage renal failure? That is the bigger question in these dialysis services.

One of the things that has happened is that the nephrologist who takes care of that area, together with the regional health authority and that local committee, has been looking at those individuals in the past who have needed the service, and a profile of those who may need the service in the future. When they are finished their piece of work they will come forward to me with a series of recommendations and I will be able to provide a more appropriate update at that time.

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.

I am glad to hear what the minister has said, and I did receive some information to that effect today, but it has been pointed out to me that the doctor who has been assigned to look into the cases of the seven patients from Labrador West has been away for two weeks and people do not know when that doctor is coming back.

Is the minister willing to look into this and to see how quickly this process is going to be dealt with?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, the physician involved, as I understand it, is a nephrologist, someone who has been following these patients. Basically, this is a highly specialized area and only nephrologists are in the best position to provide some clinical assessment of the appropriateness and the nature of the treatment individuals get. So if the individual is on vacation during this period of time, which is not unusual, many people take vacation during the Easter period. So I am assuming, because we have not had a resignation, this must be a temporary absence. The work is committed to be done and I am certain upon his return that the work will continue. As I said earlier, when the committee finishes their work they will make a series of recommendations to me and I will be able then to determine what the future would be for services in Labrador West.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, since the issue of the lack of dialysis treatment in Labrador West came to the forefront we have heard from other areas in the Province, for example, the Southwest Coast and the Burin Peninsula. There are great concerns about the distances that people have to travel to access dialysis. As the minister just pointed out, not just in Labrador West but also in Central Newfoundland in particular


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: -there is quite a list of patients who are pre-renal and we know that this issue is going to increase as time goes on.

I ask the minister, Mr. Speaker: Will the minister, along with the members of the Department of Health and Community Services, look at working with the regional authorities in developing a province-wide system dealing with the need of dialysis?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: It is interesting the member opposite asked a question about, will we do something? The workings of that have already been done, I say, Mr. Speaker. Back some time ago, as a department, we established a provincial consultant to deal with dialysis services. We had the Centre for Health Research at Memorial help develop a protocol for establishing dialysis services in various parts of the region -


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. WISEMAN: - and a criteria to determine the level of service that should be provided in what regions and how we determine those individuals who are appropriate to be on a satellite dialysis service, those individuals who are more appropriately served on a home-based dialysis service. So that piece of work, Mr. Speaker, is well advanced.

One of the challenges we have in this Province, I say, Mr. Speaker, is the lack of uptake on home dialysis. Many other jurisdictions in this country use home-based dialysis more frequently than we do in this Province. So it is an education piece that we need to do, Mr. Speaker, to make sure people who need dialysis services fully appreciate that there are areas to do that other than in institutions.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The time for questions and answers has expired.

Presenting Reports by Standing and Select Committees.

Tabling of Documents.

Notices of Motions.

Answers to Questions for which Notice has been Given.



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

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

I appreciate an opportunity to present a petition with regards to dialysis for south western Newfoundland, particularly in Port aux Basques, and the questions directed to the minister today by the Leader of the NDP are certainly appropriate.

Anyone who has been aware, and I am sure the minister is aware because he had a meeting with a group from that particular area, the Port aux Basques town council in the City of Corner Brook last fall. Now, mind you, they are still waiting for a letter from him. He said he would take it under advisement and get back to them. That was some six or seven months ago and they still have not had a response from the minister as to what happened in that meeting.

Just for those who are not aware, we are not all fortunate enough in our neck of the woods, in south western Newfoundland, to have dialysis. Right now, we have – it ranges, of course, we have nine to ten people at any given time who have to travel from their homes to Corner Brook to get dialysis. Now you can imagine, you are doing this three days a week. You are not doing this because you enjoy a shopping trip in Corner Brook. You are doing this three times a week. You are travelling 500 kilometres three times a week, in and back, because you have to go in there and spend a full day hooked up to a dialysis machine. You are going through the roughest weather, I would suggest, that we have in this Province when it comes to wintertime, when you are going through the Wreckhouse. So you are not doing this because you are enjoying the drive for at least six months of the year when you go through the Wreckhouse.

Now, we have had every excuse in the book given in the last five years as to why this cannot be done. First we were told that it was an equipment issue. Well, Mr. Speaker, the people of south western Newfoundland have said, do not let the cost bother you when it comes to the equipment; we will raise the money in south western Newfoundland to buy the equipment. We will not ask this government for one penny if they are prepared to allow dialysis to be done in the Dr. Charles L. LeGrow Health Centre in Port aux Basques. It is that important to the people of that area. We will pay for the equipment, not a question.

The issue then was raised: well, we cannot do that because it takes a certain staff complement in order to operate the equipment. It is not rocket science. There are lots of people who can be easily trained –


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: - in order to operate the dialysis equipment. In fact, our institution in Port aux Basques is known for having some of the longest standing nursing practitioners in this Province. We do not have a flow through. Usually they are there – for example, right now we have six young nurses there who just moved in. They were all born in the area. They all went away and got their training. They are back there, they are married there, they are living there. So there is no question that they are going to up and leave next year. They are there and they intend to stay there for life.

Now, if it is an issue that the government cannot afford to pay for the training for them, we will look at that too. We are concerned enough and serious enough about it that if the government is prepared to say you can have the dialysis, we will raise the money for the equipment. We will pay for the training costs if we have to for the nurses to operate it. Now I do not know what further an area can do to say, please let us do this in our area so that we do not have to drive 500 miles three times a week.

Incidentally, when I was given one of these petitions by a gentleman I said: Thank you very much; I will present your concerns on your behalf. Unfortunately, I cannot do that today because he is not with us anymore, that quick. That is why the numbers vary, and they vary so drastically. He is not with us any more to speak for himself or hear me speak on his behalf because we did not have the dialysis that has been asked of this government, of this department, for four to five years.

Now, fortunately, it is not only myself, I am not the lone soldier on this initiative. There is a lady in Isle aux Morts by the name of -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I remind the hon. Opposition House Leader that his time for speaking is certainly over lapsed.

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

I will not abuse my time because I have enough petitions here that will keep me going until 2012 easily. I intend, with the permission of the House, to get up everyday and speak on this issue so there will not be anybody left in this Province who is unaware of this issue of dialysis in Western Newfoundland by the time we are finished.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Further petitions?

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

MR. BUTLER: Mr. Speaker, I believe my hon. colleague must be out for my record, he is good until 2012.

I present a petition today on behalf of the residents of the Barachois Brook area. I want to read the prayer of the petition because I think this is the first time, or there may have been one other time:

WHEREAS the Department of Environment and Conservation issued a certificate of approval to construct a bioremediation facility for petroleum contaminated soil in the community of Barachois Brook without any consultation with their local district council; and

WHEREAS the municipal permit for this facility was only approved in principle by the Town Council of Stephenville Crossing due to the fact the company Universal Environmental Services Inc. failed to provide the Stephenville Crossing Town Council with all necessary information to officiate this permit; and

WHEREAS the residents of Barachois Brook are extremely concerned about the long-term health and environmental impacts of this facility in their community;

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to encourage government to revoke the certificate of approval for the Universal Environmental Services facility in Barachois Brook.

Mr. Speaker, this petition references where Transport Canada proposed to remediate I think it was approximately 10,000 tonnes of contaminated soil from the Stephenville Airport. It remains unclear to those residents, to this very day, why no environmental assessment was performed. They were able to set up in Barachois Brook without even, really, any public consultation.

What the residents are saying is that the town should have consulted with the local service district to advise them of what was happening there. The residents of Barachois Brook are extremely concerned about the long-term health and environmental impacts it has on the residents of their community.

Mr. Speaker, the petitions are no only signed by the people who actually live in Barachois Brook, but they are from Stephenville, Stephenville Crossing and so on. I am sure we have heard through the media from time to time about the concerns they had when the contaminated soils were being transported, how the dust from the trucks was blowing throughout their communities and they had major concerns not only where the site is but as the contaminated soil travelled through the various communities en route there.

Mr. Speaker, I present this petition on behalf of those residents and ask government to consider revoking the certificate of approval with regard to the facility at Barachois Brook.

MR. SPEAKER: Further petitions?

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

I would like to take this opportunity to present a petition on behalf of the residents of Ramea, Grey River and Francois with respect to the health care services that are existent - or non-existent would be a better word - in the community of Ramea in particular that services these coastal communities.

Anyone who is familiar with the geography knows that Ramea is an island. Ramea can only be accessed when it comes to boat. We are not asking for a medical centre that has all of the trappings of anaesthesiologists and every kind of expert specialist that they might want in the world. We are asking for basic health care that can be provided either at Ramea in a clinic, or when the coastal clinics are done in Grey River and in Francois.

For a number of years Ramea's medical centre clinic has been designated to have two nurse practitioners. There is only one. That one nurse practitioner was called upon to do everything in Ramea, Grey River and down the coast to Francois.

They are upset beyond what you can imagine. Weekends, for example, there is absolutely no coverage, no coverage in the Town of Ramea. You have 600 or 700 people and you cannot expect the nurse practitioner who is there to work twenty-four-seven, 365 days a year. It is just not humanly possible; nor would anybody expect it of her.

Now, the local authorities in the Calder Centre in Burgeo have tried their best by supplementing it with an LPN, but some training is required there and it looks like we might get that done, but that will not solve the problem. The problem is we still do not have any weekend coverage. So, God forbid, if you live in Ramea on a weekend and something comes up and you have medical needs that you need attended to, you had better hope that you are not in the winter or the ferry is broke down, because you have a serious problem. You are not getting even the basic treatment.

Now, we live in rural Newfoundland and we realize that if you had a serious issue of a heart attack, or somebody was in an accident, we realize you would probably have to go to at least Burgeo, and probably to Corner Brook, to a larger centre, if you need serious surgical treatment. That is understandable, and people live with that and they are prepared to continue to accept that, but there is no excuse in this day and age when you do not get basic medical needs attended to in this Province.

I talked about the Southwest Region asking for dialysis in Port aux Basques. You are looking at an area there of 15,000 people looking for dialysis - not unreasonable. I am talking now about 600 people who are looking for their basic needs to be looked after. If we have a problem on a weekend, what do we do? We cannot get on the boat whenever, willy-nilly, we figure, and just go across the tickle. It is not just like going across the tickle. We live an island here; we cannot get in our vehicle and run up the road to get done what we need to get done.

My purpose of making this petition is – and we have dealt with, by the way, in fairness to the people in Calder, in fairness to the people in Western Health, we cannot get the services and the personnel that we need. Now we are calling upon the minister and the department to do something about this, because we talk about all this retention activity and attraction activity that is going on in the government. Well, let's see if the minister and the department are prepared to put some money where their mouth is so that we can have a few dollars extra. Maybe we might attract a nurse practitioner, maybe we might be able to do that; but, no, what does government say? We can only use the attraction if you are from outside the Province and you are coming in. We will pay you money, but only if you are outside to come in. If you live anywhere and practice in this Province as a nurse practitioner and you are prepared to go in, we are not going to give you the bonus.

So why would you have a double standard –

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: 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, from the Order Paper, I will call Order 4, second reading of a bill, An Act To Consolidate The Law Respecting Revenue Administration. (Bill 4)

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 4, An Act To Consolidate The Law Respecting Revenue Administration, be now read a second time.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Consolidate The Law Respecting Revenue Administration." (Bill 4)

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have three bills, Mr. Speaker; I just want to make sure I have the right one.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this House to debate Bill 4, the Revenue Administration Act. The purpose of this act is to update and consolidate a number of tax statutes into a single act, being the Revenue Administration Act. Previously, each act had its own set of administrative procedures such as filing requirements, penalties and enforcement. A new consolidated act will ensure that there is a common set of rules for all taxes while ensuring that the legislation is modernized and easier to maintain in the future. It will reduce the administrative burden on taxpayers, and help the Department of Finance to achieve its goal of reducing red tape by 25 per cent under the Red Tape Reduction Initiative.

Mr. Speaker, the following tax acts will be repealed and moved into the Revenue Administration Act. There will be the Gasoline Tax Act; the Health and Post-Secondary Education Tax Act; the Horse Racing Regulation and Tax Act; the Insurance Companies Tax Act; the Mining and Mineral Rights Tax Act, 2002; the Retail Sales Tax Act and the Tobacco Tax Act.

Mr. Speaker, one of the things we are trying to do as a government, and this is a common theme that I heard as I travelled throughout the Province on the pre-Budget consultations, is to reduce the red tape or administrative burden at all levels of government.

Mr. Speaker, again one of the common themes was that it was too hard to access certain government information. When you have a case here, Mr. Speaker, where we have, for example, seven different acts that have similar principles, then it becomes difficult from a bureaucratic perspective to advise an individual, either a constituent or a taxpayer, as to how and where they should find the information sought. Secondly, Mr. Speaker, it just increases the amount of paperwork required. So what we have tried to do in this particular act is to consolidate and co-ordinate a number of different pieces of legislation.

I will go through, in a second, what we have tried to do here in terms of bringing these acts together, and why we have done that. There is essentially a procedural aspect to this, and although we have made some changes to the various acts, and I will highlight some of them, what we have attempted to do is to make it easy for the public and for our own government workers to access these acts when required.

Mr. Speaker, with the exception of the Mining and Mineral Rights Tax Act which was amended in 2002, the majority of these statutes have not been updated in a number of years, so what happens, Mr. Speaker, is that there are inconsistencies among the statutes for similar issues. This results in a significant burden on both taxpayers and the government.

To use an example, Mr. Speaker, and there was some discussion of this yesterday, my hon. friends who come from a legal background - the Opposition House Leader - will be fully aware of the complexity of statutes and the ability to access the required information.

Mr. Speaker, the statutes in Newfoundland and Labrador - and the Opposition House Leader may be able to help me out - I cannot remember when the first statutes of Newfoundland would have been brought in, but The Revised Statutes of Newfoundland, I know that around the early to mid-1990s there was a comprehensive effort to modernize our statutes and to rid ourselves of acts that were antiquated or no longer applicable, and as a government we have continued that process.

What we have tried to do in the last sitting of the Legislature, we removed - or repealed is the term that would be utilized - we repealed a number of statutes that were no longer applicable. Now by doing that, Mr. Speaker, not only are we removing statutes from the books but we are also reducing the number of statutes that exist. That serves a very practical purpose, Mr. Speaker. As a practicing lawyer and as – especially, lawyers are all the time looking at statutes and trying to determine the intent of the Legislature, because that is what a piece of legislation does; it should outline what the intent of this Legislature is.

Now, I would oftentimes, as a lawyer, get calls from the average person saying, well, I read this act, what does it mean, or, I am looking at this particular Statute, it doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense to me.

One of the keys to writing legislation, Mr. Speaker, I would suggest, is being able to speak in a language that the average person understands. In other words, what we try to do, or we should try to do somewhat – and I think we talked about this yesterday – is to demystify the legal process. Now, we will never be able to demystify, for example, the federal Income Tax Act. It is a very complex piece of legislation and one that is not meant to be easily read by either lawyers or the average person. Some of these Statutes, Mr. Speaker - for example, if any of us were to unfortunately be caught speeding or be given a ticket for parking somewhere we shouldn't park, there should be no reason for the average person to hire a lawyer to deal with that issue. The average person should be able to pick up the Highway Traffic Act and look at what is written there, and understand, these are the consequences of this particular infraction, that by going twenty kilometres over the speed limit, I receive, if I plead guilty, a penalty that involves a fine up to a certain amount and I will lose a certain number of points.

I will use St. John's, for example, Mr. Speaker, because I know tickets are regularly given out. If the average person is charged with parking somewhere they shouldn't park, well they should be able to find the applicable Statute and look at whether or not they have a potential defence. What we have to try to do, Mr. Speaker, as a government, is modernize legislation, make the legislation easily readable and understood.

Mr. Speaker, for all my lawyer friends out there, I haven't forgotten them, but I no longer feel an obligation to increase their work burdens by complicating Statutes. In other words, one of the things I try to do now, or we try to do as a government, is to take away the legal language that has developed over the years, and try to remove some of the complicated legal terms and legal language.

Mr. Speaker, what we have here are three, four, five, six, seven acts that we are putting into one act. There are a number of amendments which we have incorporated into this Revenue Administration Act. I will just go through some of them and then I will highlight some of the changes we are making.

The penalty provisions for fines and imprisonment terms have been changed. Fines were increased for inflation and minimum imprisonment terms were removed. Mr. Speaker, I will tell you, having come from my background as a lawyer and then as the Minister of Justice, when I picked up this piece of legislation to review, there were minimum imprisonment fines. In other words, if you breached certain of these acts - I cannot remember exactly which one now - then you could go to jail.

Now, I found something particularly offensive about that, especially in this day and age when we have a situation where conditional sentences of imprisonment are available for all kinds of offences. If there is a minimum term of imprisonment you could not get a conditional sentence of imprisonment. So you could, theoretically, commit an armed robbery and receive a conditional sentence of imprisonment, which is house arrest with stringent terms, but if you breach one of these acts you could go to jail. It is a matter, as a society, of trying to maintain our priorities.

I am not saying that this is a situation where we were trying to be overly punitive as a government. What happens is, unless statues are updated, unless they are examined on a regular basis, then there is always the possibility that provisions can remain in the statute that are no longer socially acceptable or no longer applicable.

I think the average person would agree with me that if you can receive a conditional sentence of imprisonment, theoretically again, for any offence that has an imprisonment of less than two years, and there is no minimum term of imprisonment, that you could receive house arrest; yet, you could breach one of these regulatory acts and go to jail.

The difference between a criminal statute – again, I know that some members of this House would have dealt with this in their previous careers as lawyers - if you breach a criminal act then there are a couple of requirements. It is not enough, in terms of the Criminal Code, that you commit the act. You also have what is called the mens rea or state of mind. In order to be guilty of a criminal act of wrongdoing under the Criminal Code of Canada you have to have those combinations. You have to have committed the act and you have to have the state of mind, so it called a full mens rea offence.

Then we have regulatory offences which can be either strict liability or absolute liability offences. Now, over the last number of years in Canada we do not have as many absolute liability offences; because, in an absolute liability offence, if you committed the act you are guilty. Now, there is something foreign in Canadian law where the presumption of innocence and the requirement that the Crown prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt are basic principles. There is something foreign, and not foreign to Canadian law, where, in the commission of an act, you are found guilty automatically. What we have seen since the mid-1980s, or I guess late 1970s or mid-1980s, is a move with regulatory offences towards what we refer to as strict liability offences.

In strict liability offences, Mr. Speaker, if you commit the act, well that is almost prima facie proof of your guilt; however, you are given the opportunity to – for example, there can be a defence of due diligence. If you show that you took all reasonable steps to avoid commission of the offence then you will be found not guilty. It is not a matter that you have the same strict requirements of the Criminal Code, because when we are looking at regulatory offences they oftentimes come within the powers of the provincial government to make statutes which regulate the highways, which regulate, in this particular case, tax regulations, so you are given the opportunity to defend yourself.

For example, Mr. Speaker, if you were charged with – not you, Mr. Speaker, but I am talking about any of us, the average citizen - if you are driving down the highway and something happens, for example, and you spilled hot coffee in your lap and you swerved over the line and a police officer were to come along and say: That is imprudent driving; what you just did there, you endangered the lives and safety of others.

Mr. Speaker, you could go to court and say: No, I spilled a coffee. Should I have been drinking the coffee when I was driving? Perhaps not, perhaps so; it was just a momentary lapse. I am always careful as I drive. I drink my coffee in a special mug, and I always keep my eyes on the road. Then you could go into court and say: I did the act, but I had taken all reasonable caution to avoid that.

A judge may or may not find you guilty, but what I am trying to demonstrate is that in regulatory or quasi-criminal offences there is not the same burden placed on the state to prove the offence. The kinds of acts that we are dealing with here are regulatory offences.

Mr. Speaker, one that jumps out at me – and again I will get to this in a second – was the Tobacco Tax Act. A number of years ago, and I remember this, I think the fines - and I have a note here somewhere which I will refer to – the amount of fines that were imposed on people who were caught smuggling cigarettes were something like $500,000. Mr. Speaker, I guess perhaps it comes as a surprise to no one that very few of these fines, if any, were ever paid.

What we look at, as we are looking at the Tobacco Tax Act, it does not make sense to impose fines that will not ever be collected as opposed to the possibility of a reasonable fine, one that sends a message, one that says to all people of society that these are offences that you are going to pay a price for; but also, Mr. Speaker, it costs a lot of money to investigate and to prosecute offences so we want to get some of that money back, because generally in regulatory offences the fines are imposed.

Now, Mr. Speaker, you want the fine to be enough of a deterrent to prevent that individual and other individuals from committing offences, and again we are referring to general principles of sentencing called specific deterrence, trying to deter the individual, and general deterrence, society as a whole being deterred.

So, in this particular act we updated the act. We had a look at what is contained in these acts and we said: Well, are we being fair to the public while still trying to send a message to everyone else as to the kinds of activities that are prohibited in our society?

Mr. Speaker, in terms of the Revenue Administration Act, we have changed some of the penalty provisions for fines and imprisonment. Some of the fines were increased for inflation. I forget one of the acts, Mr. Speaker, but one of the acts had a fine I think that was something like $25. There was a fine of $25 as opposed to $200 today. That is just an example, Mr. Speaker, but if you say to someone, well, you are going to get a - the fine has to make a person think about whether or not they are going to commit that act.

We are not talking oftentimes, Mr. Speaker, about the average citizen. We are talking about the person who says, well, I am going to break the law because it is worth my while. So, what the person does, he or she says, well, if I am only going to get fined $25 and I can make $1,000, where is the deterrent? What do I have to lose? Whereas, Mr. Speaker, if you have a fine of $1,000 then that is going to make the person think twice before they commit that act. So we have tried to adjust the fines.

Then, Mr. Speaker, we have outlined the time period, we have increased the time period, or we have standardized it, I suppose, is a better way to put it, Mr. Speaker, we have standardized the time period to apply for a review of the appeal procedures. It has been ninety days from the date of the notice of assessment. This, Mr. Speaker, previously ranged from thirty to ninety days, and again we are trying to make it consistent.

An amount owing to the Crown, Mr. Speaker, not only tax balances, can now be deducted from refunds. There is an inclusion of a civil remedy for director's liability for old taxes. Gasoline tax inspectors will be able to issue tickets for unlawful possession of marked fuel, which is an offence under the act, and there is the additional fine for contraband offences imposed by the court has been reduced from an amount equivalent - and I referred to this earlier, Mr. Speaker - to five times the tax payable to three times the tax payable. Again, I will try to give a concrete example in a second in relation to that.

Mr. Speaker, the Revenue Administration Act is essentially now made up of ten parts. There is the general part of the act and then what we have tried to do, Mr. Speaker, we have a section that deals with inspection and compliance, and then parts three, four, five, six, seven, eight and nine all deal with the acts I have talked about, being the Gasoline Tax, the Health and Post-Secondary Education Tax, the Horse Racing Tax, the Insurance Companies Tax, the Mining and Mineral Rights Tax, the Retail Sales Tax and Tobacco Tax, and then part ten, Mr. Speaker, is regulations, transitional and commencement, dealing with – that would be a standard part of any statute.

Mr. Speaker, some of the other amendments that we have incorporated into the new Revenue Administration Act include – and this sounds a little bit strange, Mr. Speaker, but we have added a definition of cigar for the Tobacco Tax.

Mr. Speaker, what had happened is that the Tobacco Tax Act imposes tax on a cigar but a tax is not defined by the act, so there was a federal-provincial-territorial-national tobacco steering committee which has conducted a comprehensive study of the difficulties currently being experienced by various jurisdictions in Canada with respect to the classification of cigar products for taxation purposes. They have recommended that a uniform definition be adopted by all provinces, or that the provincial legislation make reference to the definition of cigar in the Excise Act 2001.

Mr. Speaker, in our current legislation, and I know that this sounds at times to the average member like, what is going on here?, but what you have to do is try to foresee potential arguments, potential defences, and address these issues. As silly as it may seem to the average person, Mr. Speaker, at times this is what legislation has to do. So a cigar, Mr. Speaker, means, quote: a roll or tubular construction intended for smoking that consists of (1) a filler composed of natural tobacco, reconstituted tobacco, or both natural and reconstituted tobacco; and (2) a wrapper or binder and a wrapper composed of natural tobacco, reconstituted tobacco, or both natural and reconstituted tobacco, in which the filter is wrapped, and may include a mouthpiece, tip or filter.

Now, Mr. Speaker, if the average person out there is wondering, why do we have a federal-provincial-territorial committee studying this? that is a good question, but I have to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that if not some lawyer, like I used to be, would be up arguing in court: Well, you cannot charge my client with that; there is no definition of cigar. How can you charge my client with not paying taxes on cigars when we do not know what a cigar is?

Again, Mr. Speaker, these are the kinds of things. I do not mean to minimize the seriousness of it, but obviously how serious can you take that definition? Something to the average person that would be self-evident, and in a statute, we have that definition of cigar.

That is how, Mr. Speaker, you identify problems that arise. Chances are, Mr. Speaker, somewhere in this great country some lawyer has argued that someone should not have to pay taxes on that because you have not proven what a cigar is. I will come to another example in a second, Mr. Speaker.

Also, Mr. Speaker, this act will change the method of calculating interest charged on outstanding balances from 1.2 per cent compounded per month to prime plus 4 per cent, and the interest charged on refunds will be changed from 0.7 per cent compounded per month to month.

Again, Mr. Speaker, I just want to put that because the average person out there may not realize the impact on them of this 1.2 per cent compounded per month. That amounts to annual rate of 15.39 per cent.

We have all seen, if anyone has ever fallen behind in any kind of taxes, the interest and penalties, especially with Revenue Canada, that can become quite prohibitive. What we had was an annual rate of 15.39 per cent. That is much higher than current interest rates on outstanding loans being charged by major financial institutions.

Although they are meant to punish, the purpose of interest on a penalty is meant to be punitive to a certain extent. We want you, as a government, to pay your fine with your interest. Still, the current rate that was in place, Mr. Speaker, was too high, and it has not been charged in some time.

Mr. Speaker, some provinces and the federal government charge interest on outstanding taxes according to a formula in the act, and the calculation of the rate is specified in the regulations. The federal government adjusts its interest rate on a quarterly basis. Other provinces prescribe their interest rates to be average prime rate of the major financial institutions plus 3 per cent or 4 per cent, and they are also recalculated quarterly.

What we are going to do, Mr. Speaker, again in the act, is to charge all taxes using the prime rate of government banker plus 4 per cent. This new rate would be consistent with the federal government. as well as other provinces, and it is proposed that this rate be recalculated on a semi-annual basis and not quarterly.

Mr. Speaker, I have gone through some of the changes earlier in terms of the review of appeal. I will talk about, for a second, though, because this is an important issue, the set-off owing to the Crown. When I say it is an important issue, as the Minister of Finance it is important to the Treasury and that is obviously what I have to be very concerned about in terms of collecting monies that are owed to our government.

Mr. Speaker, the Mining and Mineral Tax Act, 2002 - excuse me the Mining and Minerals Right Tax Act, 2002 - has a provision that allows the department to set off any amount to the Crown from an amount that may become payable to the taxpayer. The other tax statues, Mr. Speaker, prior to this consolidation, only allowed the department to deduct an amount owing from a refund that was requested by the taxpayer. As part of this consolidation, Mr. Speaker, this provision will now be included in the general section of the Revenue Administration Act, thereby extending the general set-off provision for taxes.

There will be no time limitations, Mr. Speaker, to commence proceedings for offences under the act. Now, Mr. Speaker, some acts have different time frames involved and, as the Opposition House Leader would be aware, there is a point especially in civil law where there are time frames in which you can commence actions. One that a lot of people would be familiar with is the commencement of an action after an accident. I think it is six years to commence an action under contract, a couple of years in certain types of negligence. In criminal law, Mr. Speaker, for example, there are certain offences that a charge has to be laid within six months of the occurrence of the offence. So what we are doing here in this act is that there are no time limitations.

Now, Mr. Speaker, that is good and it is bad. It is good in that it allows us to collect money and to commence proceedings as we see fit; however, one of the reasons in other acts that there are limitations is that things cannot go on forever, but in this particular case we have outlined again in the act the reason - there will be no time limitation.

Mr. Speaker, search and seizure provisions are consolidated under this act. I think, if I could just go very quickly to – part II of the act deals with inspection and compliance and it starts at section 36 of the act.

Now, each act prior to this, Mr. Speaker, would have had a section dealing with inspection and compliance. What we have attempted to do here is bring all of these sections of inspection and compliance within the one act. This becomes important because when you are dealing with inspection and compliance you are giving the state abilities to inspect and oftentimes search an individual. What we tried to do, again, was to juxtapose criminal law with regulatory law. In criminal law, searches, whether with or without warrant, require reasonable grounds, but in order for there to be a search of a home, a search of a car, there is a more stringent standard in criminal law. What the law is protecting is the right to privacy.

Under section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, everyone is protected against unreasonable search and seizure. What happens, Mr. Speaker, is, as the seriousness of the offence diminishes the right to privacy can also diminish. An inspector under a regulatory act can be given a greater power and less stringent requirements of compliance.

In this particular case, Mr. Speaker, the word ‘inspection', I suggest, will be interpreted as it has been in other acts. I know the Fisheries Act has the term ‘inspection'. What happens, Mr. Speaker, from an enforcement and compliance perspective our inspectors have to be able to check vehicles. If you are going to check, for example, in terms of the records, we have to be able to look at what is going on to determine if any further acts are required.

Under section 37 of the act, Mr. Speaker, "An inspector may at all reasonable times, for a purpose – now we have outlined that you can't do it on an arbitrary basis – "related to the administration or enforcement of this Act or the regulations, except Parts III and IX, inspect or examine the premises….. that the inspector may consider relevant for the purpose of determining compliance with the Act."

Essentially, Mr. Speaker, although it is not outlined in that particular case, I can indicate to you that these are powers we are giving to an inspector to ensure compliance with the various act, but the inspector can enter premises. Now, in general, the police cannot enter premises without having reasonable grounds and, or a search warrant. The reasonable grounds can oftentimes be subject to scrutiny if there is no search warrant, but there can be times of urgency. There can be situations where there is flight.

In this particular case, we are giving - and we recognize - the inspector these powers, but how else can it work? How can the acts work to inspect ways business is carried on? Any property or books or records, make copies, extracts, photographs or videos. Now, there is no warrant requirement here because the inspector may, without a warrant. By using the term may we are saying, now exercise judgement here. Don't just go off on a tangent without a warrant. Because we recognize, again, these are regulatory offences as opposed to offences under criminal code. That without a warrant we do not have the same degree of privacy that the state has to in order to ensure compliance be given certain leeway. It still requires though that people act in good faith and on a reasonable basis.

Section 37.(1)(c) "require the owner or person in charge of a premises to give the inspector all reasonable assistance..." What we have tried to do here is put in one act sections that inspection and compliance, which govern all these acts, and they are there together so that it is not a matter of looking at each separate act, saying: well, is the wording the same? Do these acts achieve the desired purpose?

Then, Mr. Speaker, under section 41.(1) "A Provincial Court judge who is satisfied by information upon oath or affirmation that there are reasonable grounds for believing that there is on a premises…," "…may issue a warrant authorizing an inspector named in the warrant to enter and search the premises…" So we recognize that there are certain times that warrants will be required.

The inspectors, Mr. Speaker, enforcement officers are aware, and they are trained as to when a warrant is not required and when a warrant is required. Oftentimes, it becomes a question that has to be made, or a decision has to be made on the spur of the moment. If you are out in the middle of the woods somewhere than the issue of obtaining a warrant is not quite as simple as if you were in a situation like in St. John's where there are a number of judges. That situation, Mr. Speaker, in order to ensure compliance, it is my understanding – again, from my previous experience as a Minister of Justice, that justice lawyers vet these particular acts to try to ensure, as best we can, compliance with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but also to ensure that the government objective is achieved. What we are trying to achieve here is compliance with a number of regulatory acts.

Mr. Speaker, I am not going to go through the sections, they are quite detailed. They outline when an inspector can act, with or without warrant, when a warrant should be obtained.

Then we move into, as I have indicated, Part III is Gasoline Tax.

New provisions have been added in terms of dealing - to recognize the testing procedure utilized by the Canadian border agency. If I could use an example there, the RCMP, on our behalf and the Province's behalf, seizes, investigates and has samples of contraband tested at the Canada Boarder Services Agency lab, the CBSA lab. There is nothing in the Tobacco Tax Act that references this testing procedure or the certificate of analysis which is issued to validate that the substance seized is tobacco. Again, to the average person that may sound strange. You look at it, you smell it, it looks like tobacco, but the way the law works, and the way it worked in drug cases, you could see a - the Crown, for example, if it is marijuana, or cocaine, or pills, there still has to be proof that the substance alleged is a prohibited substance.

There was nothing in the Tobacco Tax Act, Mr. Speaker, which refers to the testing process or certificate of analysis. So you use their certificate in the court prosecution. In this Revenue Administration Act, we have enacted provisions substantially similar to the excise act which outlines the testing and verification process. These are what are referred to in law as technicalities. What we have to try to do is envisage what technicalities can be argued and remove them, because we do not want people being found not guilty of offences, be it criminal offences or regulatory offences on the basis of what the average person would refer to as technicality. I am not referring to, for example, a failure to identify a person, where eyewitness identification fails. That is not a technicality. That goes to the heart of the criminal justice system in terms of the Crown proving beyond a reasonable doubt.

What I am talking, though, is that you have a bunch of tobacco in front of you and because the Crown cannot prove it is tobacco, a judge acquits an individual. That is a technicality. So, what we try to do, is like the definition of cigar, it is like the tobacco certificate, is complying with the requirements of the law.

Now, Mr. Speaker, will we ever reach a point where simply, these kinds of requirements are removed, and where one would say, well, common sense will tell you that that is tobacco or that is marijuana? Well, we are not there yet.

Mr. Speaker, I know that at some point there was discussion, for example, in the criminal code, that in the absence of a challenge, that there could be a presumption that the prohibited material is what the Crown alleges it to be. So, in this particular case, though, we are just making our legislation consistent with the federal excise act.

What I am trying to do today is give our viewers and our listeners a flavour of the law. A flavour of how the law is interpreted and how we as a government try to bring in a piece of legislation that balances the rights of the state against the rights of the individual, but the overriding consideration always has to be the protection of society. What we are trying to, when there are regulatory offences there should be less onerous proof imposed upon the Crown – or the state, to use the term.

Mr. Speaker, to give you the next example - again, this is a very technical act but it is one in which it is necessary to consolidate, because although this is done to bring all of these acts under one roof, for lack of a better term, we are also trying to update them.

Mr. Speaker, we have included here an administrative penalty for excess unverifiable volume losses of gasoline. Now, a gasoline volume loss can occur for many reasons, such as evaporation, spillage, theft, contamination and destruction.

The Gasoline Tax Act requires collectors to provide a record of the gasoline losses to the department, but there is no limitation on the amount of loss. Fuel that is lost and unaccounted for can result in tax leakage, as the lost fuel may have been used in a taxable manner. So it is a way in which we lose, as a government, the Treasury loses revenue. So then to mitigate the risk of tax leakage, a limit is imposed on the amount of unverifiable losses for gasoline products and during an audit a penalty equivalent to the amount of taxes is assessed if the losses exceed a predetermined threshold.

The Ontario Ministry of Finance, Mr. Speaker, reviewed audit files to determine an unacceptable amount of unverifiable losses. They consulted with industry and an acceptable amount of loss was agreed upon by both parties. There are two thresholds, one for gasoline, 0.25 per cent and one for lower distillate products, such as jet fuel, diesel fuel, coal oil or kerosene at 0.125 per cent. There is a lower threshold for gas products other than gasoline because they are less volatile and do not experience the same level of losses as gasoline.

So, Mr. Speaker, what we tried to do here under the gasoline tax is to apply an administrative penalty for excess unverifiable volume losses of gasoline. In other words, to protect the Treasury from losses that go beyond a certain amount in terms of the losses of gasoline.

Mr. Speaker, furnace fuel vendors will be required to comply with parts one and two of the act, essentially requiring them to keep appropriate books and records and being subject to audit and inspection procedure by the department. It seems to me to be good business practice, and again contained within the same act.

The concept of a board for purposes of administering the Horse Racing Tax has been removed. Now, Mr. Speaker, I do now how many of our viewers out there would have been aware of the Horse Racing Tax, but in Part V of the act it says, "A person who places a bet shall pay to the minister a tax equal to 11 % of the amount of money deposited by him or her with the operator when making the bet. An operator shall collect the amount of the tax by deducting it from the money deposited with the operator for making a bet, before recording it or applying it to the making of the bet."

Section 77 states, "The minister may allow operators remuneration for collecting and forwarding the tax that may be prescribed in the regulations."

So, Mr. Speaker, I have to tell you, prior to coming into government and prior to having seen the Revenue Administration Act, I was not aware of the Horse Racing Tax.

Mr. Speaker, unnecessary provisions from the Retail Sales Tax Act have been removed to simplify the act, as it now only applies to the private sale of used vehicles.

The provincial harmonized Retail Sales Tax or the RST with the Goods and Services Tax occurred on April 1, 1997. Once harmonization occurred, RST applied only to the sale of insurance premiums and the private sale of used vehicles.

The RST on insurance premiums was eliminated, effective January 1, 2008, leaving only the private sale of used vehicles being taxed under the Retail Sales Tax Act. So, what is being done is all unnecessary provisions relating to RST are being removed and the act is specific now to the private sale of used vehicles.

Mr. Speaker, the Revenue Administration Act will come into force with royal assent. The regulations for the various acts will remain in place until a new consolidated set of regulations have been drafted by Legislative Council in consultation with the Department of Finance. Changes to the various acts will be communicated to taxpayers through a news release, as well as updated tax bulletins.

Mr. Speaker, to try to put this into perspective - again, the best way I can say to the people of this Province and to the members of this House, is that what we have tried to do is take all of these acts and put them under one act, apply all of the inspection and compliance regulations under one act and hopefully make it easier for the people of this Province to determine for themselves if and how a statute applies to them. Secondly, to reduce the red tape requirements and to reduce the number of statutes that we have in our Province.

Mr. Speaker, I am going to take a couple of minutes now very quickly to – because, again, this was touched upon briefly yesterday. We have an act here in front of us today that is approximately seventy-eight pages in length. Now how does this act come into force? How does this act – where does it come from?

Essentially, Mr. Speaker, in this government there is a commitment to red tape reduction, there is a commitment to trying to make government more accessible to the general public. So what happens is, for example, either in Finance more than likely – and, again, I see my colleague, the Minister of Justice, was here at the time - someone would have said: We have all of these acts out there. Do we really need seven separate acts or can we put them under the umbrella of one?

Then the minister, or deputy minister, or someone - it would come to the minister's attention - would say: Yes, that seems like a good idea. Now, what do we have to do here? How do we go about it?

What happened? Officials within, first, the Finance Department, would then look at the sections of the act and say, well, we should increase this penalty or decrease this penalty, or we should add this section here. The inspection and compliance provisions would have an especially legal component, so a lawyer or lawyers in the Department of Justice would ensure that there is a consistency across the statutes in terms of the inspection and compliance, as I indicated earlier, to ensure that there is compliance with the Charter of Freedoms, again having regard to the various types of principles: whether or not – the degree of privacy, the type of the act, whether it is a regulatory or criminal offence, the seriousness of the offences and the seriousness of the penalties. Then they would get together and it would go to Legislative Council

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that amazed me as Minister of Justice - and I am sure that my colleague, the now Minister of Justice, would say the same thing, and I know the Opposition House Leader would also be aware of this – you see all this legislation come forward and you think there must be a section up there, there must be this room up in the Department of Justice, where there are just people writing statutes. Essentially, there are a number of people. There is one gentleman who has been doing this for over thirty years now; he has been writing statutes. What happens is, when we go to him to review a statute, to draft the statute, it is absolutely amazing to watch; because, as lawyers, the writing of a legal letter can take so much time, the interpretation of a statute, whereas this particular individual - and I will not mention his name for fear of embarrassing him, he serves a crucial role in the Department of Justice and in government as a whole because he is the individual - along with, I think there might be a couple of other people working with him - he is the individual who drafts all of the statutes.

In this particular case, after we in Finance and in Justice and everyone have done their work, they go to this gentleman and he will then look at it all and bring it all together. I have to say, Mr. Speaker, having spent a number of years, as have some of my colleagues here in the House, interpreting statutes and looking for loopholes in statutes, as a defence lawyer especially, it is amazing to watch this gentleman at work. Unfortunately, though, unless he is going to stay with us for another ten or fifteen years, I think he could probably retire. He is one of the people, Mr. Speaker, a cog in the wheel of government, who serves a crucial role, and that is probably – no one really knows the kind of work and the importance of the work and the nature of the work he does. That happens, Mr. Speaker, with every piece of statute.

I happened to be at the Finance Ministers' meeting in Saskatoon, I think it was, around December 17 when the AbitibiBowater legislation was brought in, but I think that might have been something that was done in a very short period of time. Again, this same group of people or individual in the Department of Justice are always there, ready to put together the legislation.

Mr. Speaker, there would be Finance officials, lawyers, then, as I have indicated in this particular case, and I know my predecessor, the current Minister of Justice, would have also been involved, and we would have all looked at it. I remember, as I have indicated, one thing that jumped out at me was how I do not particularly like that. So, the minister and everyone play a role.

Then, Mr. Speaker, it works its way through the various committees that it has to go through. Again, I am just trying to give an example to the people of this Province as to how a piece of legislation comes into place.

It goes in this particular piece of legislation because there would have been more of an economic component than a social policy component. It would have, I think, if I remember correctly, gone to Treasury Board for examination, and the Treasury Board Committee of Cabinet would look at it, and eventually it might have gone to Economic Policy, I cannot remember outright, and then it would work its way through Cabinet. Eventually, Mr. Speaker, it finds its way into the House.

Then, when it comes before the House, it is not simply passed. There is debate, there is discussion, there is notice given, and what happens is that both Opposition parties are given the opportunity to speak, and members of the government are given an opportunity to speak.

What we try to do at the end of the day, Mr. Speaker, is to come up with the best piece of legislation we can, but recognizing that there are always lawyers out there – and the average individual, Mr. Speaker. It is not only lawyers. There are individuals out there themselves who can look and say: This is not fair. What has happened to me is not right. There is something I should be able to do about this. They may not be able to logically analyze and engage in a discussion or dissertation of legal principles, but they will say, that is not right, and they will win their case.

Now, one incident jumps out at me. I think it might have been the first sitting of the House last year. There was some piece of legislation that I had brought in, Mr. Speaker, as Minister of Justice, and the Opposition House Leader identified a flaw. I can't remember the piece of legislation, but as a result of the debate – there was something missing. I don't know if there was a timeframe or if we had forgotten to put a certain timeframe in. It was raised by the Opposition House Leader, we went back to discuss it among ourselves with legislative counsel and made the change right there. That is the purpose, hopefully, and I am looking forward to what the Opposition will have to say in relation to this act. It is, in many respects, a dry piece of legislation, but there are very serious consequences to the average person in terms of the imposition of fines, and the regulation of their activity, Mr. Speaker, which is always very important. There may be something that they will find, an anomaly in the act, an inconsistence, something that needs to be fixed up.

Mr. Speaker, let me say to you, that despite the skills of our lawyers in Justice and our legislative counsel and despite the best efforts of everyone involved, what happens is that there will always be – let me use the term for lack of a better one – a loophole. What our role is, as a loophole – and you will see this often times in criminal law in the Supreme Court of Canada – the Legislature brings in a piece of legislation. The intent of the Legislature is outlined or read into the legislation. There is a certain mischief that we are trying to prevent.

If a court were to rule against us and say, well, this particular piece of legislation is unconstitutional, your inspection goes too far, and it goes all the way and the Supreme Court of Newfoundland Trail Division or Court of Appeal says, we don't like this legislation. It is what we refer to as unconstitutional. Mr. Speaker, what we do, as a Legislature, if we deem fit, we change the legislation. That is our role.

The courts can make a ruling but the courts are not elected officials. The elected officials in this House, the forty-eight of us who are in this House, we represent the people of this Province. Each time we speak as a whole, we are saying, this is the will of the people. That is why as politicians, as you are well aware, Mr. Speaker, if there is a situation where my personal opinion disagrees with the majority of my constituents then my role there is to speak for the constituents. The same thing when it comes to a piece of legislation. A court finds that the legislation is unconstitutional or there is something that a court does not like about that legislation, then as a Legislature we have every right to come back into this House, take into account what the court said and answer their queries.

In other words, Mr. Speaker, simply if a court were to say: well, section 42 of that act is unconstitutional. It is not a matter of us saying: well, okay, we agree with that. We are going to take that out. We can try to adapt it. We can try to modify it. We can try to make it constitutional. That is what happens so often with how law is made. It is an interaction between the Legislature and the judiciary and coming back to the Legislature. However, there is a point where the legislative will is what counts. Judges are appointed to interpret law, to apply law, but also they are expected to be objective and are objective in their assessment.

I know, Mr. Speaker, there are times that the law becomes very contentious. Now I do not expect that this act, for example, is one that will become too contentious. People might not agree with it. I mean, people do not like getting speeding tickets or traffic tickets or parking tickets but that is the way the law works. We all accept that is the way it has to be. However, if something happens to me as an individual or as a member of society that I do not think was right or I do not think was fair then I have that opportunity to challenge that in a court. It is important again, that it be the court process that is followed.

Essentially, Mr. Speaker, what I have tried to do here is to take an example of how a piece of legislation comes into existence. It can come into existence as a result of a change in public policy. It can come into existence as a result of a change in societal attitude. What was accepted thirty years ago may not be accepted today. So as a Legislature we may look at something that was brought in thirty years ago and say, no, that is not the way that is going to be today. That is not what our constituents, being the people of this Province, want. So we change the law.

That can start out, Mr. Speaker, as I indicated yesterday, with an idea of an MHA, a bureaucratic official, a lawyer, working its way up into a piece of legislation, or it can be, as in this case, where we are looking at legislation that is in existence and we are modernizing it. We are recognizing that society has changed, and with society changing we have the obligation to update the legislation. In this particular case we are also trying to address the issue of the need to coordinate, be consistent and reduce red tape.

So, Mr. Speaker, I can tell you, for example, that during my pre-budget consultations the HAPSET tax - I am trying to remember now, that was the payroll tax, it is commonly referred to – people disagreed with it. They wanted us, as a government, to look at removing that, but we felt that we had done enough at this point. However, there is nothing to prevent us from coming in, even though the legislation, if it is passed and if it is brought into force, there is nothing to prevent us from amending that legislation at some point if, again, it is the will of the people as expressed through the Legislature. There is nothing to prevent us from saying: okay, we will change that if that is the way you want it to be.

Oftentimes, Mr. Speaker, and all members of this House are aware, we will get letters from the average person, saying: Well, I think you should look at that piece of legislation. I do not know if that makes sense anymore. We may, when we look at it, decide yes, that person is right. Again, that is how the average person can play a role in the making of laws.

Now, that law can be amended then. After it comes in there can be a particular unfairness that results. The law can be amended. As we will see, as we saw in the last sitting of the House, laws can be repealed. The point I am trying to make is that law is not static. It can change. It can change based on the change in societal attitudes and morals. It can change in the need for the law to modernize, the need for it to be consistent across this country, because - and again, this is where it gets complicated, but the Government of Canada, the federal government is given the powers to legislate in areas of federal jurisdiction under section 91 of the Constitution Act, or the BNA Act of 1867.

The provincial government is given powers to make laws, like we are doing here under section 92, or the provincial heads of power. So there are times when those divisions are well accepted and easily seen but there are others where they become complicated. I will use the example, I think it is under 91.(27) of the Constitution Act deals with criminal law, and criminal law is a federal jurisdiction. So that it is only the federal government can make criminal laws, we have the Criminal Code. Then, however, as a provincial government we decide: well, we want a piece of legislation that will deal with – I think an example is proceeds of crime that the Supreme Court of Canada ruled on last week. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that, well, the Province can also play a role here. So we are essentially entrenching, the argument would be on federal jurisdiction but there are times where they can exist concurrently.

As we look at these acts we also have to be aware - even though we are bringing them all under one act here - that we cannot encroach on federal jurisdiction. Again, I wish it was as easily at times to recognize as I am putting it here now but it is not.

These are the factors, Mr. Speaker, that come into account. What we have tried to do here, and as we will continue to try to do as a government, is to modernize our legislation, to change our legislation or amend it when necessary and to repeal it if there are certain acts on the books that serve no further purpose.

I am trying to remember some of the acts that we repealed before Christmas. I know there were a number of them. I know there is one tomorrow, I think, that we will be repealing because it is –

AN HON. MEMBER: The Pickersgill Fellowship Act.

MR. KENNEDY: Yes, I think it was the Pickersgill Fellowship Act was one of them.

So, Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity this afternoon. As I have indicated, the process of making legislation is not one that is static; it is one that is evolving. I look forward to the comments from the members opposite and I will certainly be listening with interest.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER (Osborne): The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

I appreciate an opportunity to have a few words with respect to Bill 4, An Act To Consolidate The Law Respecting Revenue Administration.

Quite a complex piece of work, eighty pages in length, very, very complex. It is supposed to simplify certain issues, but in and of itself it is a very complex piece of legislation and deals, of course, with taxes. They all say there are two things that are unavoidable, death and taxes. They say we all have them coming and you have to pay the piper when the call comes. Of course, God knows, we have had our trials and tribulations in the Province when it comes to taxes in the last four or five years.

This is the Administration that started out, of course, taxing everything from birth to death and everything in between. You will all recall the famous Budget of 2004 in April when the government taxed even death certificates. So you pay a tax on a birth certificate, or a fee for a birth certificate, and you pay a fee for a death certificate and you pay the fee for everything in between, and I mean everything. The word on the street was, the only thing this government didn't tax was the free on the bingo card, and that is about it. The only thing they did not tax was the free on the bingo card. They did tax the bingos now, mind you. They did get a share of the revenues from the bingos, so that didn't go unheard of.

In fact, the one that became very, very humorous, too, was the tax on polar bears, if you had to get a polar bear licence in the Province. Now, I do not think they are hunted down around Ramea and places like that. I think there might have been something like six or seven polar bear licences issued in the Province in the run of a year, and the government of the day saw fit to put a tax, a fee, an increased fee, on a polar bear. So, if go out to shoot a polar, at one time it would cost you $10. They even taxed the poor polar bear fee up to $12 to try to scrape a dollar out of the people. We have no fears about where this government is prepared to go when it comes to collecting the taxes.

Now, we did not have as good luck in some cases when it came to collecting the taxes. I am going to refer to a situation from my district, actually, when you talk about taxes. The minister talked about the ability to recover fines and fees, and things that are imposed under various pieces of legislation. The one I am referring to, of course, happened in Port aux Basques. We ended up, after, with a piece of legislation as a result of it, and regulations as a result of it. That is where the funeral home operator out there ripped off the trust account to the tune of about $600,000-plus. What he was doing, of course, he took everybody's prepaid funeral monies that he was supposed to hold it in trust for when the people died. He did not hold it in trust. He went off and spent it.

Of course, he was charged, there was a conviction registered against him, and he went off to Alberta. He is working, as I understand it, in a funeral home out there today. Guess what? We, as a Province, have not recovered one penny of that $600,000-plus that the individual made off with.

Again one would ask themselves - and the media keeps reporting on it; I think they have it on their calendar diary and they bring it up about every twelve months and say - where is the money that Mr. Ford stole? Those are the words. I do not even mind mentioning his name; it is all public record. His name was Glen Ford and he ripped off the people of the Port aux Basques area to the tune of $600,000.

Fortunately, the government of the day - not this government, mind you, the government of the day back then – said, we cannot have those people who are impacted in that way stressed like that. So what the government of the day said was, we will stand good for those people.

A lot of them were seniors, or course, who had prepaid. Not too many young people had prepaid for their funerals. The bulk of them, the vast majority of them, were seniors. It is pretty devastating if you have scraped and scrimped and saved all your life and you try to put a few dollars away and pay your bills, and make sure you have enough to bury you, and all of a sudden you are in your seventies and your eighties and you find out that somebody made away with it.

Where were they – they were not in the workforce any more, many of them living on fixed pensions and incomes – where were they ever going to get enough money to put away again, in the short time that they had left to live, to pay for their funerals?

They were pretty stressful circumstances. I lived through that. I had hundreds of people impacted by that, and their families, who came to me and said: What are we going to do?

What we had to do at the time, the government decided, we said, look, this was the funeral director who did this, a funeral home operator who did this, so why don't we make the industry that is involved in these prepaid funerals stand good for that?

So the government of the day gave an undertaking to everybody who was affected by it, and said: Don't worry about it. If you die, if you pass on, we will honour the funeral payment that you paid for. So, don't worry about it. Don't be stressed any more.

That is what the government did, and to make sure they got their money back, and the bills paid to the government, the government forced every funeral director and funeral home operator in the Province to pay a certain percentage of every funeral that they did from that time on into a trust fund. That still exists today.

I do believe all the money has been recovered, so the Province is paid - not an issue. The government solved the problem for the people, looked after their funerals. The government got its money back, because they took it back from all the funeral operators.

So, whether the people everywhere else in the Province know it or not, if you have all had involvement with family members and paid for funerals, we all kicked in 2 per cent for the last number of years to look after that problem, where he made off with the money.

The problem is, we have never been able to get the money out of him. That is a sad point. He never served a day in jail, not a day in jail. He stole over $600,000 and never served a day in jail - not an hour - and never, ever, nobody in the Province has ever seen the money back that he was ordered to pay. The order was made against him.

Now, I say to the minister - and that is when we talk about how the laws come about - I am curious as to what kind of consultation went into drafting this bill, because it is supposed to simplify stuff. You question, sometimes, does it simplify things or does it make it worse?

It is like the good Minister of Business, last year. I was tormenting him one day. He is in charge of what they call the Red Tape Reduction Committee. That is where they say there is so much red tape that we needed to have a minister specifically to chair a committee of government to go around and get rid of the red tape.

Now, that is a fine initiative. That is great if it is going to make the system easier for the public to deal with, work with, and walk through and so on, but then the minister comes out one day and he introduces three new initiatives on how to get rid of red tape. I said, that is a good one. You are in charge of getting rid of red tape and you just set up three more sets of red tape.

Anyway, that is another story. Sometimes what you start out to do, or intend to do, as a reduction of red tape, in the process you bite yourself in the backside and you create more red tape. That is what happened in the Red Tape Reduction Committee.

The minister mentioned the Red Tape Reduction Committee, so I am not sure if he is suggesting that this Bill 4 falls under that category or not, because I would suggest it remains to be seen whether this bill is going to reduce any red tape. In fact, we may have walked into a quagmire here. Only time will tell, I say - and I am not being pessimistic, because I hope it does it - but when you deal with issues that are as complex as taxes you have to be very, very careful when it comes to saying what the laws will be, how you enforce those laws, and how you see that those laws are taken through our court system and how they impact people.

As we go through this today I will ask a couple of pointed questions of the minister, because that is the purpose of these readings here in the House. The minister has explained why he brought in Bill 4, and what the purpose of this bill is supposed to be. He indicated that if we as an Opposition have any questions, this is the time for us to ask them. This is at what they call second reading. Now, we are going to do another stage later on, some time this week or next week or whenever, called Committee, when we will go through each individual section in this act, all eighty pages, but right now in second reading we get an opportunity to pose some questions to the minister so that he can have an opportunity to go back to his staff and say, what was this all about? Does this fellow have a good question? Is this a problem? What is it? So that hopefully, even at this stage, even though it has been through the drafting stages and everything else, hopefully, if there is anything that anybody picks up on, we catch it now before we pass it here in the House and it becomes law. Because we are not dealing here with a minor type of an amendment, folks; this is not a minor piece of legislation where we might be saying you must have an MCP number. That is important, too, but this is stuff that impacts everybody's taxation in the Province. It is pretty significant stuff, which brings me to a question. My first question for the minister would be: I would like to know who exactly was consulted in doing this.

For example, he mentioned several times about lawyers and the role that lawyers play when something breaks down, something goes wrong, and the charge is laid. Were the lawyers consulted in the drafting and preparation of the bill? Normally, what would happen is you would send it out to anybody who is concerned and say, you bunch of lawyers now, this is what we are planning on doing, this is Bill 4, will you take this and go through it and tell us, is there anything you see in it that could cause problems? So, was there consultation? Because this government, you know, is not known for consultation, not at all. Most often it is a case of, this is what we are going to do, this is the bill, we are going to pass it because we have a majority, whether you like it or lump it, and we will deal with the problems after.

Well, that is not the way the process was intended. The process works best if you consult. One of the groups that needed, or should have been consulted with are the lawyers, the Law Society. That is just one.

I ask the minister as well: Did we consult with the accountants' association? When we are talking about accountants, we are talking about certified general accountants. When we are talking about tax preparation people, there are all kinds of agencies around the Province that prepare people's taxes. There are accountants who do people's books. There are bookkeepers. Were they consulted? And if so, who was consulted and when were they consulted? That is important information because as a legislator here and hopefully a contributor to the debate, I would like to have the assurance and the confidence of knowing that this just did not come off somebody's pen over in the Department of Finance without consulting the people who are involved in administering the laws. So if someone could say yes, we have the lawyers' opinions on it, we have the accountants' opinions on it. I would like to even know what they had to say, what they found good about it, what they found bad about it. Did they find anything problematic with it? That is the kind of information that we need to share in the House as well.

By the way, when the minister talks about the process involved in passing a piece of legislation, he talked about, it gets put together, it goes to the Economic Policy Committee, Social Policy Committee of government, goes to the Executive Council, i.e., Cabinet Secretariat, gets brought down here, drafted up by the legislative draftsmen, brought down here for discussion and gets passed. There is another process that I do not think this government has used and utilized, and I have been a proponent of it being utilized for many years, and that is called the standing committee of governments, of the House of Assembly. What used to happen quite often was if you had a major issue and you wanted public input, you would strike a committee of the House and say: Look, we have a pretty sophisticated, serious, complex piece of business here. Rather than take up the time in the House when we are trying to get this done in a timely fashion, why don't we give it to a committee who can deal with the outside interests? Maybe somebody in the public wants to have some say about this. Maybe the legal fraternity wants to talk about this; the accounting fraternity wants to talk about this. So rather than take up the valuable time of the House, why don't we put it out to standing committees? But, no, this government does not see it this way.

The last standing committee that I am aware of that was done in the House of Assembly was about 2002 under the former Administration, and it dealt with the issue of FPI. Nobody hears about that anymore, of course, because this same government dismantled that. We do not hear of FPI anymore. We do not hear very much in fact about the fishing industry anymore because that is gone, thanks to this Administration. That was the last standing committee that we had and it was an all party thing. The government of the day did not say, just let's have Liberals on it. The government of the day said, why don't we strike a committee? We take the Minister of Fisheries of the day, we will take people from the Opposition who are knowledgeable in the fishing industry, and I do believe the current member for the St. Anthony area, today's Minister of Transportation and Works sat on that committee. They went out around the Province everywhere where FPI had an interest and they said: What do you think we should do? They came back and ultimately there were recommendations made. Now that is how the House of Assembly can also operate when it comes to serious, complex issues.

Another question would be, in this case the taxation bill: Why are we dealing with an eighty page document that is so complex I would venture to guess, other than a few of us here in the House, there are probably only a couple of us that have read it. Seriously! I would venture to guess - and I put myself in the same category, and I have read it – that we do not understand it. I understand some of it. I understand some of the legal pieces. I am legally trained so maybe I had a leg up in terms of interpreting some of it, but there is stuff here that I certainly do not understand. So if I do not understand it, some could say at the end of the day: well, what are you going to do? You are going to vote for it? How could you vote for something that you do not understand?

So it will be interesting to see as well, while we are debating this bill, how many people get involved in the discussion here and show us what they actually understand about this because it is important as legislators that you play a role. You just do not sit there and aye or nay. Let's see some input. Let's give and take in discussion and debate as to why you like or dislike what we are dealing with here.

The other thing was, I am wondering what consultation exactly was done with the other provinces? Now the minister did reference, in his opening comments, he mentioned about a partially ingest, and it was taken that way, about the definition of a cigar. He talked about how we had a provincial-federal-territorial committee struck to come up with a definition of a cigar, and I agree with him, what he is saying. Sometimes what can seem the most simplest of items can cause such issues when it comes to a court case.

He read the definition of a cigar, of course. Now it took groups of people, it took weeks to come up with that. Can you imagine? We had a lot of heads in Canada, provincially, federally, territorially involved in coming up with the definition of a cigar. So if it took that many people to come up with a definition of cigar, can you imagine how many of us understand the rest of what is in here? For example, of the eighty pages that is here there are eleven pages of nothing but definitions. Never mind what the law is, never mind what you are supposed to do and cannot do and ought to do. Never mind what happens to you if somebody wants to search you or get a warrant for you, never mind what happens when you go to court. There are eleven pages here chock-full of definitions. Now I would think this is rather complex. This is not a bill that ought to just slip through the House and not be given some consideration.

Talking about the definition of a cigar, the minister, of course, had lots of experience in these issues. It is like the definition we ran into one time before in our Province here where a gentleman - when they tore up the old Bullet going across the Island, of course, there was a railway track. So Marine Atlantic or CN of the day sent out a crew and said: well, we have to take up the track. Do you remember that? That was back in Mr. Peckford's day when they tore up the tracks and gave us a pot of money and said that will look after you for the rest of your life; never mind, you do not need a train system. That was back then. Well, anyway, CN hired a work crew and they went out and tore up all the tracks and stockpiled the tarry ties.

One individual in my hometown where I was practicing, he wanted a few tarry ties to shore up his back bridge. Now I mean tarry ties across this Province, anybody who lives in Newfoundland knows that they are a dime a dozen, and that is about what they cost, a dime. Anyway, he got a few tarry ties out of the pile up along the track and he shored up his bridge, and he was charged with theft. He had seven tarry ties. They costed them on the books of CN at the time at twenty-five cents a piece. He had seven tarry ties holding up his back bridge and he was charge with theft; total value – seven times twenty-five - $1.75. Can you believe he was taken to court by CN for $1.75 because he had seven tarry ties? He was a reputable member of the community, never been in trouble with the law in his life, not as much as a speeding ticket. He got yanked into court for being a proposed thief because he stole tarry ties.

Anyway, he came and wanted some representation, so I represented him. When we went to court I just asked the judge one simple question. I said: he is accused of stealing a tarry tie. Now, everybody in Newfoundland knows what a tarry tie is. Common sense! Anybody who has ever traveled on a train or walked the train track knows what a tarry tie is. Well, guess what, folks? The tarry tie is not defined anywhere. You can look in Webster's, you can look wherever you like, and there is no definition in the English language of a tarry tie. That is what he was accused of stealing. Anyway, the judge said, I agree with you, Mr. Parsons, there is no such thing as a tarry tie, so how could he steal a tarry tie. The charge is dismissed.

The minister was talking about how you define a cigar, but that is an absurd example I had in my experience where a gentleman, a reputable gentleman, could have lost his reputation for stealing seven tarry ties worth $1.75. It goes to show why specificity is so important when it comes to definitions.

I am not concerned that there are eleven pages of definitions. There should be eleven pages of definitions. The problem is: Is anybody going to understand it after we take a vote here on what the definitions were? Because definitions are so important, words are so important.

I will just give one example again. Before I go on, I must finish the piece about the consultation. I asked were the lawyers consulted. I asked were the accountants or the certified general accountants consulted, or the tax preparers consulted. They obviously have a serious obligation. Anyone who owns a business, quite often you don't do you own taxes. You have someone prepare them for you. I think it is important that these people would have been consulted to see what they think about it.

I wonder were the provinces consulted about any of the implications of this. We talked today about a lot of integration, melding of taxes, HST, PST, RST, and so on. I wonder what consultation, if the minister can tell me, was done when it came to consultations with the federal government and consultations with other governments, as to the interplay between our tax laws as proposed here and what their tax laws are going to be. Now the reason that is important is because, as I understand it, we currently have a situation whereby there are laws, usually called Reciprocal Enforcement laws, whereby, if I owe the Province of Newfoundland something and there is a lean, the Department of Finance is after me for the payment, and I skip the Province, I abscond, I take off, there is a way that if I go live in another province and they can find out where I am you can have a law whereby, albeit I went to Alberta I did not get rid of my debt. The Government of Newfoundland can use a procedure whereby they send the debt to Alberta, once they know where I am working and my address, and attach my wages out in Alberta and bring the money back here to pay the bill. It is called Reciprocal Enforcement. We do it in lots of cases. I am wondering: was there any consultation by our government with these governments to see how this new simplified tax law is going to apply once it is passed into law here.

That brings me back to Mr. Ford again. We have a situation where Mr. Ford is working willy-nilly and living quite well out in Alberta but nobody ever received the $600,000-plus back from him. I would like to know how this bill is or will interplay with that situation. God forbid! I would not want to see a situation where we pass this law next week or the next week out and some lawyer says, ha, now he is off the hook because you have only gone and changed the law, you brought in a new law for the purposes of simplification, but what you have done is you have basically wrote off his bill. I am sure the people of my area would not feel very good about that, and nobody in the Province should feel very good about that, because there is over $600,000 outstanding.

What is the interplay between those people who are currently subject to Reciprocal Enforcement deals and trying to attach people's wages and incomes in other states and other provinces once this law goes through? Will there be any impact? There might not be. If not, fine, but I would like some answers if we could have them. Has anybody fleshed that out and found out if there might be implications because of that.

Of course, the same thing with the federal government. I understand that the former Minister of Finance, back some years ago - he is now our Ambassador, I do believe, of Fisheries. I have not seen much of him these days, he is too busy in the sealing industry I guess. He is up to his armpits in seal pelts. Anyway, he passed a law, I do believe, where he said that there was a deal between us and the federal government whereby the federal government, of course, as the tax reporting agency, can attach your federal refunds. You do your income tax and you get a rebate, if you owe the Province some money, wham, bam, they snatch your rebate and you pay your bill rather than get your money. I am just wondering: is there any interplay between this bill and those relationships that exist with the federal government? Was there any consultation done with the federal government?

At this point, just to highlight a couple of questions as well: I notice in particular, and I point this out to the minister, we did, back in 2002, a very important piece of legislation in this Province. I would suggest, without hesitation I would state, that it will prove to be the best economic development ever undertaken in the history of this Province. Now, the Upper Churchill might be better, once it comes due again in 2042 and we get our just reward, but for now I would suggest this was the best and the most important, lucrative, economic deal this Province is going to see. Of course, I am referring to the Voisey's Bay deal, done June 20, passed in this House 2002. This is the Statement of Principles that we did at the time.

I remember the Premier of the day, who was the Leader of the Opposition at the time, gave a speech. We all gave a speech by the way. We came in here and we had so long. The leaders had an hour each, the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition. The rest of the members had twenty minutes to get up and make their spiel and then there was a vote. I remember the Leader of the Opposition of the day, the now Premier, saying: you could drive a truck through that. There are so many holes in that deal you could drive a Mack truck through it. He said: there are more off-ramps in that deal, it is not worth the paper it is written on. He sat right over here in this seat. On June 20, 2002, he stood up and said that: drive a truck through that, never going to get your just rewards out of that. A bunch of idiots over there drew that up. That is not worth anything. Why should anybody in this Province trust you people to do an economic deal that is going to be of any benefit to the people of this Province? My, my, my! That is what he said.

Just so that we refresh the memories of some of the younger members here who were not around at that time, because it is important, of course, that our legislators – a lot of people in the public know these facts, but some of our legislators who are sitting here today are not aware of these facts. This is not political jabber. These are facts, folks.

At the time I happened to be the Minister of Justice, stood right over there where the Minister of Fisheries is today, and got up and said: would you mind, Mr. Leader of the Opposition, describing for me the off-ramps? Could you point out to me in this seventy-odd page document that we have here, that you have had three weeks to look over and get any legal advice that you want in this world to help you with – and you are a lawyer yourself – could you, Mr. Leader of the Opposition, point out to me where some of the loopholes are and some of the off-ramps are? Because, God forbid, I, as one member of the government and a legislator of that day, did not want to be voting for a deal that was going to sell this Province down the tubes; did not want it.

I asked him. I said: enlighten me, please. Do not let us in this Chamber be kept in the dark, and go off and sign this deal to the detriment of this Province if you know what is wrong with it. I never did get and answer; never did. That was in 2002. It will be seven years a couple of months from now.

Meanwhile, that was not the only opportunity I ever gave him. I asked the Premier successive times after that. Whenever something would come up, they would say: oh, the Voisey's Bay deal! A terrible deal!. I used to say: could you tell me what is wrong with it now? Then, of course, last year the government thought they had their off-ramp. The government thought they would eventually get to say: the old government, the Roger Grimes administration, they did screw it up. They thought they were going to get to say that last year, because the company said: we do not think it is a good idea to put the smelter in Argentia.

Whoa! The world quaked. They said: my God, Inco is going to rush out of this deal now. That is the out they wanted, that is the off-ramp they wanted, but Inco said, no, no, just a minute, government. We do not want to abscond. We do not want not to do the deal. We are just saying to you, we do not think we ought to do it in Placentia. The deal says we are going to do it. We just cannot do it there. There are all kinds of reasons why we cannot do it.

By the way, the agreement of 2002, June 20, contemplated that, contemplated it right in there, that their preference was to do it in the Argentia area, but they knew that look. We have not sized up all the environmental pieces of Argentia yet, because anybody who has lived in this Province knows that the Americans had a base down there one time. When we signed this deal, everybody said, just a minute now. You are hoping to go to Argentia, but what if you go down to Argentia and you find out that there is $200 million worth of trouble in the ground environmentally? Then you are going to use that and say to us: Well, we are not going to do it in the Province any more.

That was covered off there. That was all covered off. So, what did Inco say last year? We are going to move up the street to Long Harbour. Now, I do believe there is a certain member who sits in this House who represents the Long Harbour area. I would think he would be one proud member today - and I do not care what political stripe he is; I would think he is one very proud member - that some government passed the Inco-Voisey's Bay deal back in 2002. I would not think he is going to be up on his horses screaming that it is a bad deal. I do not think there is anybody who is going to go to Long Harbour in the next four or five years, the thousands of people who are going to be working there, who is going to say that is a bad deal. I do not think there is anybody in this House going to get up now and say that is a bad deal. In fact, I heard, to my amazement - give the man credit - over the Christmas recess, I think it was one of these year-end roundups that the Premier was doing, and he was on the Out of the Fog thing, I think it was, and I actually heard him say something complimentary about the Voisey's Bay deal. I just about fell off my chair and I said Santa Claus is coming; there is no doubt about it. He finally, after six-and-a-half years, admitted that maybe the Voisey's Bay deal was okay. It was nice to see. It took a lot of tugging, it took a lot of twisting, and it took a lot of convincing to get anybody over there on that side of the House to say that Inco might be okay. Nobody was prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Now that you have a bit of context of what I am talking about, just how important that deal was, and we are only now beginning – we saw little bits of it before where Inco created, over in Memorial University, the Inco Innovation Centre, millions of dollars. We have seen where Inco has put millions of dollars into Labrador, in what they have done so far in their mine, their sites, their contributions to charitable works and hospitals up in that area in Labrador. Now we are going to see it not only from a Labrador angle – and, by the way, I am a firm believer that if the minerals came from Labrador, a good chunk of the proceeds and the benefits that we get from the minerals from up in Labrador should go back there. That is my view of it. It is great to see, even more so, that it was spread around. You are going to see it now, not only in Labrador; you are going to see it on the South Coast of this Province. You are going to see people from all over, actually. Already, from my district alone, I would say there are twenty-five people, highly skilled welders and scaffolders, construction people who worked out in the Alberta industry, who are now coming home to make their home here because they are going to go and be working in Long Harbour. It has started, and it is great to see that it has started.

Now, my question in the context of this Bill 4 for the minister is: What impact does Bill 4 have on the Voisey's Bay Statement of Principles? I ask that for a very legitimate reason. Again, when you talk about consultation, and when we talk about what considerations we made when we pass Bill 4, is there anything in Bill 4 that is going to negatively impact the Voisey's Bay deal? You have to remember here, when we talk about Bill 4 we are talking about Gasoline Tax, we are talking about Health and Post-Secondary Education Tax, Horse Racing Tax, Insurance Companies' Tax, Retail Sales Tax, Tobacco Tax and Mining and Mineral Rights Tax.

Now, we know there is a full section in this Bill 4 that deals with Mining and Mineral Rights Tax, so I would like the minister, if he gets an opportunity, if he could tell me: Has there been any discussions whatsoever by the people in Finance with the people in Inco, now called Vale Inco, I do believe, as to whether or not – I believe they pronounce it vah-leh, actually, Vale Inco, depending on who you speak with - was there any consultation between government and them as to any ramifications that Bill 4 might have for the taxes?

Because by the way, folks, Inco is only going to be a good deal at the end of the day not if we just get the employment benefits from it; that is not what it is all about. The biggest chunk of the Inco deal for this Province is going to come by way of royalties and taxation. That is the big plus; plus, of course, we are going to end up with a construction smelter, top of the line, hopefully an economically-friendly smelter, that is going to be in existence and smelt nickel from all over the world for years to come, long after Voisey's Bay has been emptied. That is the plan. That was Inco's plan from day one.

My concern is, if you look at the Statement of Principles, there are pages and pages in the Statement of Principles that deals with taxation. It is a special deal. It does not come under the Mining Tax Act. It does not come under Retail Sales Tax. It does not come under Horse Racing Tax. It was a specially, specifically designed deal, done by an act of the Legislature, dealing with minerals and taxation.

I have had a look at it myself and, like I say, it is pretty complex and I certainly cannot pick all the pieces out of this. That is why I need some help, and that is why I am asking these questions.

I look at section 87. Now, section 87 of Bill 4 talks about different types of deals. They talk about people who had grants for certain minerals years ago, people who had leases for certain minerals, and people who get licences for certain minerals. They talk about what the impact of this is going to be. I am thinking that section 87. (2) might be the one that protects us, but I do not know. I need some assistance here, if the minister can get the – he has access to the expertise to provide his answer.

That section says, "Nothing in an Act, or in a grant, deed, licence, contract, agreement or other document, whether or not that grant, deed, licence, contract, agreement or other document has received ratification by the Legislature, or been passed, given, made or entered into before December 19, 2002…."

Now, that makes me think that maybe that is the protection clause that is specifically put in here for the Voisey's Bay deal, because they used the date of December 19, 2002. Why would they have used that date? It is so coincidental that it was in June 2002 that the statement was passed and the agreement was finalized a few months later, so I am thinking that is it, but I would certainly appreciate clarification from the minister. I think it is a comfort level. We do not want to find out, like we did in the case of the Upper Churchill, that you signed a deal, and then years and years later it was a bad deal. We do not want to pass a law here that is done as a piece of legislation some might think is elementary in 2009, only to find out next year in 2010 that we somehow or other tinkered with the deal of Inco to make it a worse deal - take away the great benefits that are in it. I would like that assurance, if we could, from the minister as well.

Just for the record again, I would like to ask the minister this, and this deals with the issue of when you can take an action. Normally, under any law in the world, there is what they call a statute of limitations. In other words, I believe, for example, if you shot a moose today, it says right in the act that if you shot a moose you violated the law. You poached a moose, I should say, not shot a moose. You might have shot a moose with a licence, but you poached a moose. The law says that if you poach a moose there is a period of time in which you can be charged. I do believe it is two years.

Under fisheries legislation, for example, it says if you poach a salmon there is a time period, two years, of which you can be charged. The reason for that, of course, is that there is an assumption, a common sense assumption built in that albeit somebody does something should we have it hanging over their head forever and a day? If a fellow poached a moose in 1962 when he was twenty and you go back years later when he is ninety-two and says somebody told us you poached a moose and we have an eyewitness, we are going to charge you. There are common sense reasons why we have statute of limitations.

That is where I am going to with this here because in section 34 of this Bill 4 it says – I will tell you that is how complicated it is, I cannot even find section 34. It says in section 34 of Bill 4, "A complaint may be made and proceedings may be taken on it in respect of an offence under this Act without limitation of time." Now that is a pretty strong statement: without limitation of time. So that means that we are consolidating all of these laws regarding gas tax, horse racing, tobacco tax, mining and minerals, insurance tax and retail sales tax, but you could have that hanging over your head for the rest of your life. That is what that means, folks. No question about it. In perpetuity, as long as you are alive, no limitation when it comes to any offence that was committed under these acts. Now that is a pretty onerous situation.

The Chair is a lawyer himself, he is aware of these things, pretty serious consequences when you say that there is no limitation on something. Now I realize we have some other things in our system that we say there is no limitation. There is no limitation, I do believe, on a murder charge or something like that. We are not talking a murder charge here. We are talking about somebody who might have not done something under the Retail Sales Tax Act.

I will give you an example of just how frivolous it can be. For example, if you look at section 9 of this act – in fact, before we even go to section 9 we will go to section 2. That is one of the eleven pages of definitions I was telling you about. On page 5, under clause 2.(f) it defines what a book or a record is. Now, if you want to know what a book or a record is - we will just take this example. I will set it up.

We have John Doe who runs a convenience store on Water Street in Isle aux Morts. Books and records under this act means "any recorded information in original or copied form relating to a taxpayer" and he would be running a convenience store, a taxpayer, "or taxpayers' returns, including every kind of financial book or record, all purchase invoices, sales invoices, sales tapes, other documents of original sale or purchase, statements of account, bank statements or statements of other financial institutions, bank agreements, loan agreements, partnership agreements, articles of incorporation, share registries, minute books, sales journals, purchase journals, all other journals, letters, memorandum, notes, draft agreements, charts of account, general ledgers, all subsidiary ledgers, payroll journals and summaries, income tax returns, returns under this Act, financial statements, auditors' opinions and notes that comprise part of the financial statements, internal audit reports, executive and management committee minutes and any other thing containing information, and includes those items or data in machine readable or electronic format."

So that pretty well takes it all in for Joe who is running the convenience store in Isle aux Morts. Everything he ever did in that business, and he stays in business, we will say, for fifteen years and then he decides he is going to retire.

Now we are going to take you to clause 9, and clause 9 says "A person required to collect, withhold or remit tax under this Act…" which he would be, in a convenience store, "shall" – no such thing as ‘may', "shall keep and maintain books and records..." Now that is what I just described, books and records.

Section 9 says, you are in business, you are a taxpayer, you have to keep your books and records. They define what books and records are, and as I just said, it is pretty well everything, everything you ever used. That would in fact take in the bingo cards that you never sold. That is everything, because you used that in a business. The question is: how long do you have to keep them?

Normally, under the federal act I do believe there is a law that says you keep your federal income tax and your papers, you have to keep them a certain number of years, six or seven years. Now that is even under the federal government; pretty serious stuff, your income taxes. You can get rid of them after seven years, but guess what? Under this act there is no time limit, no time limit and it is because, I would submit, the way the section is worded. It says: a person required under this section to keep records - which I just described, books and records - shall keep those records until authorized by the minister to destroy them, but in no case shall the records be destroyed before the expiration of seven years after. That does not say you can destroy them seven years after. All that says is you definitely cannot do anything with them for seven years, and after seven years you can only do it with the authorization of the minister.

Now is it fair if Joe at the convenience store in Isle aux Morts worked for ten years, kept all of his records you are telling us now for the rest of his life, he has to store them somewhere down in the basement or out in the shed or get something to store fifteen years of material because the government might want to come back and say: you owe us a few dollars under the Retail Sales Tax. You never sent in your bingo money back in 1978.

That is the unfairness of this piece. Yes, it is okay to have tax laws which require us to pay taxes. Yes, it is okay to say it is against the law to be fraudulent. Yes, it is okay to say we are coming to get you if you do not. Yes, we are going to keep after you and put liens on your property if you do not pay it; all fair ball. But how long can that go on? Should it go on? Where does the taxpayers' obligations and responsibilities end versus the government's obligation to do something?

Surely, if I kept my records for twenty years after I had a business and I decide well, I am not even going to live here anymore. I am going to live in Florida now. I made enough money off the convenience store; I am going to Florida for the winter. Sell your home, gets rid of all your junk, has a yard sale and off you go. Then all of a sudden some guy from Finance comes and says: Whoa! Sorry, where are your records? Just a minute buddy, I have been out of business for twenty years.

I mentioned yesterday my friend Horace, eighty-seven years old, businessman in Port aux Basques, good friend of mine, watches this televised proceeding every day. He does not get out as often now as he used to. Now there was an astute businessperson. Now, I would like to know, when I go home I am going to ask Horace: what does he think of this? He ran one of the most successful repair businesses on the southwest coast; eighty-seven years old. Now, is somebody going to tell Horace Meade that you did something back in 1957, where is your record to? Because this just does not say on a go-forward basis from today folks, this says your business, period. Those are the kinds of questions that we need to ask, and are not clear here. I picked this up from reading this. Were there any consultations with, as I say, the lawyers or the accountants for this stuff? Because there has to be a reasonableness element injected into the laws.

I point out another one about reasonableness, and that is in section 46 when we talk about telewarrants. I must say to the minister, the minister earlier made reference to a certain gentleman up in the Department of Justice who drafts all of this - he is a legislative draftsman – but I do not think the minister did him justice. He would not mention his name. His name is Calvin Lake, if anyone wants to know. I do not think the minister went far enough, because he has been one of the biggest, most positive contributors to the legislation of this Province since he went there in 1980, and he deserves kudos for what he has done over the years. There is no more brilliant, intelligent person to do the job. I do not mind acknowledging. In fact, I had the benefit of being in law school with the gentleman in the University of New Brunswick for three years. He graduated the same year I did, and went on to make himself well known in legislative drafting in this Province, so kudos to him; but, of course, he can only draft and put into here based upon what he is told has to go in here. He puts it into certain forms, of course, readable forms, but he does not say what the policy is. It is not his role to say whether or not there should be no limitation period. Somebody has told him that, so he designs a clause to reflect that. That is not his fault, so you have to go beyond the draftsperson, of course, when you are looking at whether the law is right or not.

That brings me back to section 46 again, when you talk about telewarrants. There is pretty modern stuff going on today, telewarrants. We have all heard of search warrants. For example, the minister was quite correct when he said if you are pulled over on the highway, for example, doing certain things, the police officer has certain authority, under the Highway Traffic Act and the Criminal Code, to do certain things if he suspects you are drinking and driving and so on. If somebody wants to walk into your house, of course, that is your castle and we have another set of laws that govern around your home, your privacy, and your protection of your privacy, and the need for reasonable, probably grounds if you want to invade anyone's privacy. There is a certain set of laws. That is usually governed under search warrants. There are very strict procedures you must go through in order to get access to someone's home. Now we are talking here about telewarrants.

One time, in order to get a warrant, if I were the officer, I had to have my facts straight, I had to have my reasonable, probably grounds, and I had to go sit down before a judge and say: Judge, I have reason to believe that John Doe over there is committing a crime. I think he has the evidence in his basement. Here is why I think that, and I need a search warrant to go and get into his home. The judge would listen to all of that and say, no problem.

Now, in the course of having that conversation with the officer, the judge can, of course, ask him questions back and forth. Well, what makes you think that? What home is it? Are you sure that is his home? Are you sure that it is not his brother's? That is his home?

You can have that conversation back and forth between the officer who is requesting a warrant and the judge who does or does not issue a warrant; but, folks, that does not happen under a telewarrant. A telewarrant is going to be done by fax or telephone. Now, I personally believe that is a little bit scarier. You do not have a judge any more vetting the process face to face to see what is going on here. You do not have that. We are going to permit telewarrants. You put the information on a piece of paper, you fax it off to a judge, and the judge faxes you back the warrant. I personally think that is scary, without some parameters.

Now, I have read the parameters that are outlined there. In subsection 3 it says what you can do after the fact, and it has to be filed with the court and whatever else, and you have sworn to it, but all of that is done in writing. It is all done in writing, so I am a bit leery. Was this run by the Human Rights Society? Did anybody over in Human Rights get consulted on this issue - Civil Rights? Was the Law Society contacted again, about what the possible ramifications of this might be? Because, God forbid, if we go off creating new laws, of course, only to find out that they are going to be terribly problematic with us.

I mention in the course of this discussion, of course, about getting things done in a timely fashion. What we are trying to do here, as the minister said, and it is a good idea, we need to review our laws from time to time to make sure that we are up to snuff. We have been dealing with some laws that are decades old. We need to modernize them. We need to simplify them. We need to put them into this bill and put them into a language that people can read and can understand. I am not so sure we accomplished that here. I am not so sure we used the right process. I do believe this was a piece of legislation that should have been dealt with by a standing committee, it is that complex, where people should have been invited in - for example, lawyers, accountants and so on, civil rights people - to have their say about this. This is one of the most impacting bills we are going to see in this Legislature, the tax bill.

They talk about updating the language, they talk about how it updates the penalties and so on, but God knows that taxes are complex enough in the best of times, so what we think might be a minor correction could be something very significant. We only need to look at this Province's experience in the last federal budget. We had the budget delivered by the federal Finance Minister and the people down in our Finance Department got into it and started to tear it apart. They figured out that there was one little change made. The federal government gave us a great big document and said, here is your budget. What had happened, though: somebody tinkered with one of the lines in the budget and as a result of tinkering with the lines in the budget we lost about one point. I believe the Premier said we could lose potentially $1.6 billion in the Atlantic Accord. That is another tax type bill. That is what we are talking about here.

We have no problem appreciating the significance of what one line could mean in a document. They changed one little provision and we are out in this year's budget - never mind the $1.5 billion - we are out this year in this Province, as a result of that minor change "that nobody knew about", supposedly, $419 million in our budget this year as a result of it. That was changed.

These bills are not frivolous and they are not simple. There is a very good reason, of course, why we need to play close attention to them. I do believe one of the weaknesses we have here is that there was no public consultation on this bill.

I have a lot of other specific issues I would like to talk about when we get into the bill, into Committee stage, because there is a whole pile of these. I just show these to the minister and point these out now because I think they are serious concerns. I do not think they are frivolous at all, and I would like to think that when we get to Committee stage we are going to get some answers on them.

This morning, I have to say, we had what they call an Estimates meeting, and this morning we did the Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development: a very forthright, very good process where you ask questions and you get answers. I was very impressed, surprised in fact, with the numbers and the answers on the fibre optic deal. Of course, I have been asking questions about the fibre optic deal for years. That is where the government, two or three years ago, took $15 million of taxpayers' money and put it into some companies that are personal friends of the Premier. I had a problem with that, not because we put the money in necessarily but how we put the money in. We did not go through any process. We did not use public tendering. That is what was upsetting.

Anyway, I asked the minister this morning where were we with the fibre optic, and he tells me that, yes, the $15 million is spent. I said: When are we going to see all the communities connected that are supposed to be part of the Broadband Initiative that goes with it? They will all be online, folks, by 2015; completely implemented by 2015. The Broadband Initiative will be done –

MR. SKINNER: Point of Order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER (Collins): Order, please!

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

MR. SKINNER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member opposite, in Estimates this morning, if I understood him correctly and I think I did, referenced that he had asked a question about the fibre optic deal and when all of the communities would be online. I understood his reference to be that I answered him that it would be by 2015, and that is incorrect, Mr. Speaker. I did not answer that question. He was asking questions of one of the members of the department, who was giving him an explanation as to the process involved. Those comments that I understood he attributed to me were not made by me.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: There is no Point of Order; a matter of clarification.

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I only have nine seconds, and I am sure I will not be granted leave to give this explanation. If I could, I would certainly welcome leave to explain, but I am sure they are not going to give me any time, so I will come back to respond to the comment that the Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development just made. If I had been given an opportunity to finish what I was saying, he knows quite well that what I said was absolutely true and correct, about the fibre optics deal and the 219 communities in this Province. They will not be online until 2015.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

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

I am quite pleased to be able to stand today and speak to Bill 4, our first day speaking to legislation in a while, since our last session in the House, last fall.

An interesting bill, in the sense that it is a bill that consolidates the law respecting revenue administration – and in short terms, that means the administration that is part and parcel of a taxation system.

The bill is a thick bill. It is not a new bill, in terms of the content, because what the bill does is take four other acts that have existed and puts them together. In that sense, it is not new material but it is an important bill because it does simplify paper work which I think is important. It does show the connection between different taxes, and I think that is important. The regulations and the general laws that deal with tax can now all just be put together around the seven tax areas that are covered in this bill. The different tax areas are not exactly connected though. Some of them are consumer taxes, some are retail taxes, and some are not.

It is interesting that it also includes the mining and mineral rights tax, along with horse racing tax, along with the health and post-secondary education tax, retail tax and tobacco tax. The taxes are not the important thing, what is important in this bill is the whole thing of having less paper, less bureaucracy, and less red tape when dealing with these different taxes by putting them in one bill. From that sense, it streamlines the paper that we have to deal with when dealing with the bills around these taxes, and that is good.

It is good to think about taxes. We think about them all of the time, I think, because we are always having to pay them. Whether it is the retail tax which we pay every day, the consumer taxes that we pay when we get gas for our vehicles, for example, no matter what it is, taxation is always there. Right now, of course, we are all aware of it because in three days time we will be filing our income tax returns. Certainly, taxes are with us. Some of our sayings in our language point to the inevitability of taxes and two things we can be certain about, death and taxes.

I want to take a few minutes to talk about, actually, the necessity of taxes, number one, and then the responsibility that government has when government taxes. Many times I will hear people comment on places that have less tax: you know, I like going to that country because it does not tax everything like in our country; or, I even prefer going to another province because it does not tax as much as we tax here; or, why do we have taxes? I know people who are actually in their retirement looking for places in the world where they can go where they do not pay any taxes. It always makes me stop and think, when I hear comments like that about taxes, that taxes are something that are a burden and that we should not have to pay. I think it is good for us to take a moment to think about what the role of taxes is, what role that taxes play in a community.

I think we are very fortunate to be in a country like Canada and to be in a Province like Newfoundland and Labrador because we have services and we have a system that understands how people need to be taken care of, but that system also exists because we understand it takes taxes in order for people to be taken care of. For example, we can go to a state in the United States of America, a state that maybe has very, very little retail tax and think, oh, isn't this great. This is really great. I do not have to pay all of these taxes on what I am buying. Yet, in that same state if one of us got sick, if we lived in that state and got sick, we would have make sure that we have personal medical insurance in order to be taken care of, so it makes one stop and think. When we hear about that, in a country like the United States, the small percentage of people who are actually covered for health care through insurance systems is frightening, and the fact that so many people in the United States cannot take for granted that they will be taken care of when they are sick. They cannot take for granted that the school that they go to is going to be a top-notch school and they do not have to pay to go into it. Things that we take for granted, in a country like the United States they cannot take for granted.

I do not go to the United States very often, but recently I was there and I was struck by comments with regard to taxation, but I am also struck when I sometimes speak to Americans who understand that we have something better in our country because our taxation system is used to help people. Now, there are some people it helps better than others, and that is one of the challenges that government has to face, and that is one of the challenges that we all have to face as people who are part of government, whether we are in the governing power or whether we are in Opposition. We have a responsibility to reflect on how tax is used, how the people's money is used, because that is what taxation is all about. Taxation takes money from the people so that the money then will go back for the good of the people. Whether the money goes back for the good of people because it is being used in health care, or because it is being used in education, or whether it goes back for the good of the people because it is creating a clean environment, or whether it goes back to the good of the people because we have better roads to use our vehicles on, or whether it goes back to the good of the people because the money is invested well, whatever it is, whatever happens with the people's money, we are doing it for the good of people. That is what taxation is all about.

So, as a person who pays a tax, a taxpayer - and everybody is a taxpayer, even people who are exempt from income tax because their income is so low still pay taxes because they pay consumer taxes and retail taxes – everybody, as a taxpayer, should have an expectation that they are going to benefit from the society that they are a part of, that they are going to be taken care of, because the money that government is spending is their money.

Unfortunately, we do not always have our systems working in such a way that everybody benefits equally. When I say benefits equally, I mean benefits to the degree that they need to benefit. It was interesting, actually, last night in Estimates - and I am going to dare to quote a minister, but I think my quote is correct; I will not comment on anybody else making quotes - last night when we were in Estimates, the Minster of Natural Resources pointed out something. She was doing it in her role as the Minister Responsible for the Status of Women. She pointed out something that, she said, we all know: We all know that treating people equally does not mean treating them the same.

That is a very profound statement, because that is a fact. For example, in our society if we are going to treat people equally it means that we have to recognize where there are differences, and sometimes some people need preferential treatment, what looks like preferential treatment, but in actual fact it is treatment that helps them be equal to somebody else. So, for example, we do not tax people - in income taxation, we do not tax people the same in terms of the amount of tax that they pay, the percentage of tax that they pay. The more money you make, the higher the percentage that one pays in income tax. That is how we do it. Not everywhere does it that way, but doing it that way means that you are helping people be more equal.

Unfortunately, we never get to a point where everybody is totally equal economically, but what we have to do in those cases is make sure that there are social programs there, that there are programs in place that even with somebody who is low income, even though they may not pay any income tax, still, at the same time, they have to pay taxation because of retail tax and consumer tax, as I have said. So we make sure that we have programs in place that help them have their basic needs taken care of.

We have to be careful, then, as decision makers, as people in government, to make sure that when we are making decisions for the business of government – and government is a business, and there are business decisions that have to be made – we have to make sure that in making decisions around the business of government that we, at the same time, do not do things to take away from the meeting of peoples needs.

So, for example, if we are going to invest heavily in an area like we are doing right now with regard to energy in this Province – over half a billion dollars has gone into Nalcor Energy, for example, in the past two years – that, in doing that, are we doing that while at the same time making sure that everybody who needs home care gets it, that every senior who has to have prescription drugs has those prescription drugs covered, and that everybody, no matter who they are, who has needs, has those needs taken care of?

So we have a real responsibility to make sure that in the decision making around the money that government has, the decision making around the money that is the people's money – because even if the tax comes from the corporate sector, the corporate sector is paying the tax because it is using something belonging to the people.

For example, you take mining and mineral taxes, which are mineral rights tax, which is covered in this act. The reason why a mining company has to pay taxation both on mining and with regard to mineral rights is because that company is using the resources of Newfoundland and Labrador. That company is using the resources that belong to the people of the Province.

None of us in government – it does not matter what party it is who may be the ruling or governing party of the day - that party does not own the resource. The government does not own the resource. The government manages the resource for the good of the people. So a corporate body, for example, pays taxation because it is using something that belongs to the people. So even the corporate taxation that comes in is the money of the people, so all revenue that government has is money that belongs to the people.

If I am a person who is disabled and has needs that are greater than somebody who is not disabled, or if I am a senior citizen, if I am an elderly person who has extra needs because of my age or because of infirmity that has happened, or because of illness, if I am somebody who is chronically ill, if I am somebody who is on low income, through no fault of my own, if I am somebody who is working minimum wage, if I am somebody who just cannot work because of circumstances, then I need to know that the money that government takes in, both from me and from everybody else and from the corporate sector, that money is going to be used for my benefit.

I think sometimes we can forget that, or sometimes we can be out of touch with what the needs of people are and we need to be reminded. We need to remind ourselves of what people's needs are, because sometimes we may not all have had the same experience of people who are in desperate need. So, if we are talking about a single parent who cannot work because of being a parent who cannot afford child care, what is it like to be in that situation? If we are in a situation when, having worked for thirty years in a mill, like the workers in Grand Falls-Windsor, and now all of a sudden because I do not have severance, because I did not receive any holiday pay, and because the last pay cheque I received was the last money that is going to come in for the foreseeable future and I have to go to social assistance, what must that be like? What must it be like? I cannot image what it would be like to have to go and beg for social assistance. We always need to remind ourselves what the needs are in our society.

The touchstone for how we are managing the resources that we have is: Is everybody being taken care of? If we have people going to food banks, if we have senior citizens who are going to food banks, if we have people who are displaced workers who, with their families, are going to food banks, then we have a society where we are not using the money for the benefit of everybody in the society, and that is something that really bothers me. With our food bank number of users going up and yet with our wealth going up as a Province, we have something that we have to face. We have to face a reality that we are not putting programs in place to meet everybody's needs, so not everybody in this Province can say, oh, I know that the taxes are being used for my benefit. Because the senior citizen who does not quality for a drug card and yet still needs assistance, that person cannot say I feel really good about my Province because I am being taken care of. The senior citizen who requires home care but is not fitting into the formula that currently exits, and cannot get home care, that person cannot say I feel really good about our taxation system because I am being taken care of, or my spouse is being taken care of. These are the realities of people's lives.

When I started to write my notes to speak today, I started to write what taxes do for us. I was writing: I get my health care, I get education, I get clean water, and I get good community services. I stopped and I realized that not everywhere in this Province can people say that. Not everywhere in this Province can people say I get clean water because of my taxes. We actually now have places in the Province – I do not know how many yet; I have to find this out – where I understand there are going to be portable places for people to go and get water.

I remember when we had Tank Lane in the heart of St. John's, and people had to go to Tank Lane to get their water, to go to the tank to get their water. That is why it was called Tank Lane. Now we are saying it is wonderful because we have these portable sources of water that are going to be brought to people. This frightens me.

Can everybody in this Province say I am taken care of because I have clean water? Can everybody in this Province say that we really do have an educational system in our community that is equal to anything that is in our whole Province? Can everybody in this Province say I feel really good because my community is getting all the community services it needs to get? This is the responsibility of government, to look at how we are using the money from taxation. There are so many things that we can do.

For example, I have talked about seniors and seniors needs. Let's look at something like our environment. For example, we could be using the revenues from fossil fuels - for example, from gasoline for our cars - and invest it in a comprehensive vehicle emissions reductions program to make a cleaner environment. A cleaner environment is a health prevention thing to do; because, the cleaner our environment, the more assured we can be that we are going to be healthy. So, again, taking care of the environment, putting money, for example, into vehicles that have low emissions of fossil fuels, is a way to take care of the community. There are so many ways in which the taxes that are gathered by government can be used for the good of the whole. As we take a moment to talk about taxation it is a time to reflect on that, and a time to reflect on how we do that.

Another example of how, for example, just the taxation of fossil fuels could be used, is replacing the whole government fleet with low-emission vehicles. It would be a good thing to take some of our tax money and put into having low-emission vehicles for the whole of the government fleet. It would also be good, for example, to buy back older, high-emission vehicles from consumers. These are all programs that are happening in other places, and we are at a point in time where we can; we have the resources to put programs like this in place.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I remind the hon. member that her speaking time has lapsed.

MS MICHAEL: I wonder if I could just have leave to clue up, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Does the member have leave?


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. member has leave to conclude her presentation.

MS MICHAEL: I will just clue up, Mr. Speaker, thank you.

If I can remember what I was getting into I will clue up, yes.

What we have to do is to look not just at the future but also at the present, and not just at the present but also at the future, and we have to find a balance in using the resources of our Province. We have to find a balance in using the money that comes in to government, that is making sure that people are benefiting from our taxation, benefiting from the revenues that come in from taxation, both in the present as well as in the future. I am not saying that is an easy thing to do, but I do think we could be doing a better job of it in this Province.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to have a few words on Bill 4 today. This particular bill pertains to tax laws in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador and it has to do with taxes on all kinds of commodities, goods and services that we require in Newfoundland and Labrador.

In fact, when I was going through the bill I was a little bit surprised to see the number of taxes that are actually included in this bill, and sometimes things that we do not often see; things like certificates and third-party claims and penalties and things of this nature.

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that is addressed in this bill is the tax on gasoline products and the levy on gasoline, along with the ability of the government to have marked gas and so on. I am going to speak to that for a little bit because this is one of the issues that I continue to raise in the House of Assembly and pertains to my district in particular. In fact, I have been waiting for a review to be done by the Public Utilities Board in which I made a submission back about a month and a half ago and waiting for a ruling from them on how they are going to deal with the pricing of gasoline in that particular area.

Mr. Speaker, in this bill it alludes to the fact that communities that boarder on the Province of Quebec have a tax levy and they get a break from the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. My district happens to be the area that is affected because, as you know, I represent an area that borders right on the Province of Quebec, and because of it people have the flexibility to be able to drive across the border, go into the Province of Quebec and be able to purchase things like gasoline at a lot less cost because the taxes are lower in that Province. Not only that, we pay on top of the tax that we pay, we also pay a sixteen cent per litre fee that goes directly to the provincial government on gasoline.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, it was back a number of years ago that I had lobbied the government to have this put in place so that the people in that area would get a break. I think what needs to happen now is to look at extending that program. In fact, we have written to government a number of times in the last five to six years asking them to look at this program because what happens is people have to drive across the border into the Province of Quebec in order to get air services, in order to get ferry services, in a lot of cases to access medical services. So as a result of it, they are driving into another province to get those services and therefore they are also spending money there because they are already there. So they are spending money there and they are spending money on other commodities and goods. As a result of it, the businesses in the Newfoundland and Labrador portion was losing business and they were losing sales because they could not compete with the businesses that were across the border.

The same was the case in Labrador West, and I am sure the member for that area could speak to that. In Labrador West it was a very similar situation where businesses in that area again were crossing the border into Fermont and those places, and they were also buying other goods and services. Fortunately, in that area people did not have to go there as a dependency upon services. Like in my district, we are totally dependent upon - all the air services for my area is operated out of Quebec. All the ferry services are operated out of the Province of Quebec. So it is a very different situation altogether.

Mr. Speaker, one of the issues I wanted to talk about is the fact that the price of gasoline in that area of the Province is regulated by the Public Utilities Board, and that regulation seems to be providing people with a higher commodity price than others are paying in the Province. This has been the issue that has consistently been raised by people in that area. In fact, nearly every community in the region has protested it, has asked the minister and asked government to take off what is known as a gasoline freeze. What happens is that every single zone in the Province is regulated. Every single zone has a regulated price for gasoline. In each zone that price varies, and it varies because of a number of factors. One of those factors happens to be the cost of transporting.

Normally, what you will see between zones across the Island portion of the Province is a difference in the price of a litre of gasoline that would run maybe between two to five cents in a litre, at the very most. In fact, if you were to go online today and print it off, I would think that there are probably very few zones with a differential that is any greater than three cents.

When you get into the Labrador region, not only do you have a huge discrepancy between the pricing of petroleum products from one zone to the other, but you also have different regulations. For example, if you go through one part of my district, one-half of my district, you will find that the price of petroleum is regulated as per the petroleum pricing commission's regulations used in every other zone of the Province. They take into consideration the purchased price of fuel, the transport cost of price, and any other factors in terms of the delivery of the product to the consumer.

When you get into the other half of the district, it is under what is called a price freeze. Every year from the middle of November going up until the middle of May we get a price freeze. So whatever the price of petroleum products are calculated at, at that time, they are frozen for a period of a number of months. As a result of it, we are seeing situations where the differences in pricing are becoming greater and greater. The gaps are more prevalent than they have ever been.

Last year, in fact, between one part of my district and the other part of my district, which was less than 100 kilometres apart, we have seen price differentials that range between thirty-two and thirty-four cents in a litre of fuel. So I could drive down the road an hour and buy all of the fuel I wanted, and buy it for more than thirty cents a litre cheaper. There is something wrong with that.

We have been asking the government and the petroleum pricing commission to take a serious look at that issue, and to do what is right and fair for the people in that area. Last year, in that part of the district, they paid out a lot of money for petroleum products, more so than anyone else in the Province, simply because of how the price was calculated. Some might say, well, you know, they had the fuel stored in, so therefore the price was set – but that was not true. The actual companies, the companies were trucking fuel from one zone to the other zone. They were trucking fuel from one zone, where they were selling it for thirty-two cents a litre cheaper, and trucking it up the road in another zone and selling it at the higher price. So, there is something wrong with that, and it is a problem with a regulation system that allows those kinds of things to happen.

So, we are hoping that there will be some sort of a decision made around this issue soon, and we are hoping that the decision will be favourable and in the interests of the consumers who are using petroleum products in that area. Meaning that, from now on when prices are set, that they will be set based on the same formulas that are used everywhere else in the Province. So that when you see differences in price per litre, that it is only going to be that two, three, or four cents that we are seeing everywhere else across the Province.

Mr. Speaker, one of the other things under gasoline that is included in here is what they call marked gas. Now, I want to talk about that because I represent a district where marked gas is a real big commodity. If you are a fisherman in my district, or anywhere in the Province, and you have a bona fide fishing licence and a boat registration, you can buy marked gasoline or diesel for your enterprise. So, in my area, this is always a big thing. People like that concept because it gives them a tax break. It gives them a tax break in an industry that is very marginal for most of them, and where their profits are not as great as they used to be years ago, but they are not the only people that are affected. There are others as well. In fact, if you look at other legislation in place in the House of Assembly you will see that there are tax breaks on gasoline that are given to a whole range of groups in the Province, like people who generate certain kinds of power projects, and people who operate in certain kinds of other industries like manufacturing, like transport trucking companies. There is a group that is not included in most of it, and that is the tour operators in the Province. Maybe they are being added, but I remember back about a year ago I was at a Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador convention and I actually talked to some people who were in that business. That was one of the things that they were expressing, that they should be some kind of subsidization or rebate program, which I think is what is offered to most of the other commercially operated businesses when it comes to the price of gasoline and diesel and so on.

Mr. Speaker, that is just one issue, and of course there are a number of issues that are included. Let's talk about insurance companies for a minute. Back a few years ago, government had this strategy to reduce the cost of insurance in the Province, to look at reducing taxes, so that people would get a bigger break. This bill talks about the imposition of taxes as it relates to insurance companies, but most people you will talk to today, or most of the people I talk to, still feel that the cost of insurance premiums in the Province is too high. They still feel that they are being gouged in one way or another. Now, I am not a very good person to ask because my insurance is in facility so I pay very high rates as it is. It is a hazard of the job, an occupational hazard for me trying to stay on gravel roads, but as a result of it I pay a much higher rate for insurance than I, obviously, would have been paying four, or five, or six years ago.

People who are under regular insurance programs often tell me that it is still too high. They do not feel that it has seen significant reductions or they still do not feel like they are getting a great break when it comes to insurance. In fact, many of them pay out, in the run of a month, a tremendous amount of money for probably having two vehicles, if you have two people in the home that work, for having insurance on your house and your property, and also for life insurance and disability insurance premiums.

In fact, one person was telling me that even if you go to the bank now to borrow money that the insurance premiums for disabilities, sickness and life, I guess, is a tremendous amount. They have seen it going up consistently over the last number of years. I do not know, but I think this is something that government needs to take a look at again, because all of us have to pay insurance or mostly all of us have insurance. Either we have life and disability, we have insurance on our vehicles, or we have insurance on our homes or other properties that we may own. Any time that that becomes a regular conversation it tells me that it is an obvious problem.

I have not really sat down and done a great deal of research into it in terms of where insurance premiums have went in each of those individual cases over the last four to five years, but what I do know is that going back four or five years the government opposite was very aggressive in saying that they were going to take on the insurance premiums in the Province, and they were going to reduce insurance costs to the consumers. If the consumers are not sensing that this has held on then government has a responsibility to follow up on that. It was not good enough that you just come out one year and say, okay, we are going to drop the premiums down and this is the new scale or standard that is going to be used, and everybody gets a rebate check of $40 in the mail and then that is the end of it. You know, over the course of time there are all kinds of other incremental fees and taxes and all the rest of it that come into play, and new securities that are being added to insurance plans that drive premiums up and change premiums and change how they are calculated.

If you are not monitoring it on a regular basis the end result is going to be, very surely and slowly they are going to climb right back up to where they were in the first place. What I am sensing from people now is that this is indeed an issue. Of course, people still pay some form of taxes on insurance although part of it was eliminated, but there is still some form of taxes that are being paid.

Mr. Speaker, this bill also talks about mining taxes and mineral taxes in the Province. Obviously, when we were in government we did introduce mining and mineral tax and revisions to the tax laws that would allow for more revenue from mining developments to flow into the Province. Under this tax law right now I think the government opposite has been sitting very well. They have been able to collect some tremendous amounts of money under this particular regime. The Estimates in the Budget will show you that in projects like Voisey's' Bay alone we have seen the base provincial revenues of the Province escalate each year from starting out even at about $150 million annually to $300 million annually, just in those kind of taxes that are coming from one particular corporation or mining company in the Province.

Mr. Speaker, that is only one, but we have a lot of mining activity. We have activity in Central Newfoundland with Duck Pond Mines, we have the iron ore mines in Labrador West, and we have a number of other mines that are being looked at around the Province both in gold and uranium. There is tremendous potential and it is important to have good mining tax laws.

I don't know, with the slowdown in production this year with a lot of mining companies around the Province, how that is going to affect the mining taxes and the royalties that will be paid to the Province. Maybe the minister can give us some information on that and forecast what they are seeing as the appropriate numbers, come this year. We do know that the Voisey's Bay mine site will close down this summer for a period of about six weeks. We also know that the Iron Ore Company of Canada will see a slowdown and a shutdown in their production activity that could go anywhere from five weeks up to sixteen weeks over that course and period of time. We also know that Wabush Mines have had some significant layoffs and they too have slowed their production. They have reduced the amount of ore that they are producing, or were producing back six or eight months ago. They have actually slowed down to a little more, I think, than half of what its production was. We have also heard announcements out of Central with regard to Duck Pond Mine and the fact that they are looking at some slowdown in their activity over the course of the summer. They have already laid off some people in that operation. It would be interesting to know what the mining tax is going to be that will come to the Province this year as a result of that shift in the economy.

Of course, Mr. Speaker, there is also the exploration industry, because any time that you have a slowdown like this you would expect that the mining exploration is going to take a slowdown as well. I know it has already slowed down when it comes to the exploration of uranium simply because of the freeze that was put on uranium development in Northern Labrador. That has had a trickling effect around all of Labrador when it comes to exploration work, and I have certainly sensed that and have talked to a number of the exploration companies who have basically said that this does have a significant impact. Mr. Speaker, maybe the minister could outline some of those things to us when he gets up to speak on this particular bill.

Mr. Speaker, I do not think there is any issue that is any more critical today in the Province than the issues that are unfolding in Grand Falls-Windsor. Before I conclude today, I want to have an opportunity to speak to these particular issues because I have had a steady number of phone calls and e-mails from people in the Central Newfoundland region, people who are impacted by the shutdown of the AbitibiBowater operation, and people who every day are feeling the impact more and more. They are feeling the impact far greater today than they did the day that they walked out of that plant and had to leave that job behind.

It is unfortunate that these people are suffering the levels of frustration that they are. Right now we are dealing with probably four different groups in the Central Region that all fall in different circumstances and different situations. What I find absolutely appalling is that the government is so cavalier in their attitude of dealing with this problem.

They should know by now what the full cost on the books of the Province would be if they were to be able to provide the bridging for those people who have been informed in the last week, the 119 workers who are not going to get their pension cheques to bridge them to the age of sixty-five. They should be able to tell us today how much money it would cost to provide that bridging program. They should be able to tell us, without any uncertainty, how much it is going to cost for the severance packages for all of the mill workers who have been told that, because the company is in receivership and has protection from its creditors, you will not get your severance pay. They should be able to tell us the full figures around that. They should be able to tell us the amounts of money that are owed to the workers who are caught between Nalcor Energy and AbitibiBowater, the workers who were expropriated when the assets were expropriated. When government took those assets from AbitibiBowater, meaning the hydro plant in the area, they also took the jobs and they transferred them to Nalcor Energy, but they did it without doing diligence.

They did not put any thought into what the impact was going to be on workers, and as time went on they started to realize, you know, here is another handful of workers who will not get their holiday pay that they deserve, who will not get their severance pay that they deserve, and we did not take those things into consideration. We did not provide the protection for them.

I think that is sad, because it shows that when government moved to pass the bill in the House to expropriate the assets it failed to provide for the security of the workers. Mr. Speaker, they can argue it all they like but the evidence is there today. The evidence is there in the hundreds of people in our Province who were displaced as a result of AbitibiBowater closing, who have nothing to fall back on; nothing to fall back on.

I have talked to people who, this week, because the bridging funding is gone, will not have money next month to pay their rent. They will not have money to pay for their ongoing medical plan that they have, that they have to contribute $100 a month to in order to maintain their medical benefits. These are people who are ill, who are ill and need those medical benefits, but if you do not have the money what do you do? You are going from being able to live on $1,200 a month as a pension bridging program down to trying to live on $350 and $400 a month. It is not doable for most of these people. It would not be doable for any member in this House of Assembly.

Mr. Speaker, this is the situation that they find themselves in, and unfortunately they are crying out for someone to help them and all they are getting is lip service. These people are being told, oh, yes, we will look after you. When are you going to look after them? When the bank has taken their homes? When their cars are turned back to the leasing companies? When their medical benefits have been cancelled? When they drain their life savings? Is that when you are going to move in and look after them?

You know, there are a few simple things that you need to be disclosing here. That is: How much is it going to cost to provide for the severance, the bridging of the pension plans, and the settlements on holiday pay and other incentives that are supposed to go to workers that are affected? What is the full number? Is it $30 million? Is it $40 million? Is it $50 million?

First of all, government is not even disclosing those numbers, which tells me that they do not know what they are, and that they have not even taken the time or the interest to sit down and to put those numbers together.

Secondly, Mr. Speaker, they are the people who are negotiating the contract on the expropriation of assets and they are saying that if we do not get this any other way it is going to come off the price that we pay for the assets. Well, if is going to come off the price that you pay for the assets it means you are going to get your money back anyway, so why make these people suffer today? Why push them to the point that they will lose everything they own before you act in their interests? Why don't you step in now and say, listen, we are going to be the leaders here. We are going to lead these people, just like we stepped in and took ownership of the assets and walked in there and expropriated and transferred, and we did all of this without blinking an eye.

Why aren't we walking in today and saying: We are going to look after these workers that are affected. We are going to make sure these people get the money they earned and they are owed, and we are going after the company to get our money back, and the money for the taxpayers of the Province.

Why isn't that attitude prevailing inside of the government? Why is everybody just sitting back and talking about how we are there to work for them? Oh, we are shoulder to shoulder with them. Oh, we are not going to let them down. We are going to look after you.

Well, I can honestly tell you that the phone calls that I have gotten are not from people who feel they are being looked after.

MR. KENNEDY: (Inaudible).

MS JONES: I will give the Minister of Finance the phone numbers. You can call these individuals yourself, and you can find out what it is like for a couple I dealt with only in the last day, who are going to lose their pensionable bridging income of $1,200 a month, who do not have the money to be able to cover their expenses. These are real people.

MR. KENNEDY: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

MS JONES: These are real people who have real lives, who are being impacted, Mr. Speaker.

If this government can take the tough line with the company when it comes to securing and expropriating the assets, it can take the tough line with the company when it comes to securing the benefits of workers in that area, Mr. Speaker.

It is unfortunate that these people have to go out in the streets. It is unfortunate that these people have to be on the phones, and it is unfortunate that these people have to begging for what is duly owed them, for what they have worked for their entire lives.

I know the government does not want to hear it, I know the Minister of Finance does not want to hear this over there, but it is the sad reality. It is the reality, and I challenge him to go out to Grand Falls-Windsor and to sit down at the table with these individuals and hear their stories first-hand, Mr. Speaker.

MR. KENNEDY: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JONES: I am going to tell you, he will take a different approach. He might come in here then tomorrow with the aggressive attitude he came in with when he was ready to take the gloves off with Abitibi on all the other issues. Well, why aren't you ready to take the gloves off with Abitibi and secure –


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MS JONES: - the financial benefits that are owed to these workers and their families, because that is one part of the job that you are falling down on? You are falling down on, and to go out there and talk to these people and think that just because they are going to have an opportunity to do some training or they have an opportunity to go into an office down the road and get a resume done, or that the town is going to get a break on their taxes, or that you are going to put a centre out there for youth addictions as a political strategy to say we are giving something to the community. If you think those things are going to give a lot of comfort today to people who are losing thousands of dollars that they have earned and that they are owed, well I am going to tell you, you need to get your head out of the clouds. You need to get your head out of the clouds because you have just missed the entire point of where all these people are. You have missed the entire point of where all these people are.

Mr. Speaker, we are not going to drop this issue. We are not going to drop this issue because the reality is this. The reality is this. The government can provide for the benefits that are owed these workers and the government can go after Abitibi through its negotiations, through its expropriation agreements and get the money back. If they are so confident in their ability to be able to do it, why are you allowing these people today to lose everything they have while you sit back and wait? While you sit back and wait, Mr. Speaker, because that is a really sad situation. I certainly cannot believe that more effort is not being made and more effort is not being taken.

Mr. Speaker, I can tell the minister opposite, I can give him, actually, every e-mail and the name and number of every person that I have talked to, because I think it is important that every one of them over there understands, fully understands, what the implications are for the people that are impacted in this area, what the implications are for every single one of them.

Mr. Speaker, what is even worse in all of this is the workers that left AbitibiBowater because they were told we have a job for you with Nalcor Energy, and they left when the assets were expropriated. Some of these individuals never, ever got a day's work. They never, ever got as much as one day's work. Because of bumping rights within the union, they never got to work one day with Nalcor Energy and now they are being left out in the cold. They have no job. They have no severance. They have no holiday pay and they cannot even file for unemployment insurance benefits, Mr. Speaker, because no one will give them an actual layoff slip.

How can a government who has been front and centre in all of this, a government who was out there on the ground with their arms in the air pounding away at the pavement, we are with the workers, we are with the town, we are with everyone, we are going to do it all, well how come today you are letting those individuals be left out there in the cold without a job, without any benefits, without a cent of money?

If I was the member for that area today I would be outraged. I would be outraged! I would be out there on the picket line with these workers, every single one of them. I would be out there supporting them, Mr. Speaker. I absolutely would! Because for a government to assume that we are going to take control, we are going to do this, they went out there, Mr. Speaker, they went with the Army, they went in with the Army, they were going to do it all, they were going to look after everyone. They could not even save a few jobs for the people they promised them to, for the people they told in AbitibiBowater: when we expropriate the assets and turn it over to Nalcor Energy you will have a job. Well, guess what? They did not all have a job. Now they do not even know where to go to get a layoff slip for their unemployment insurance. The government, what did they do? They hide away now. They are all hid away now. No one wants to deal with that issue now. They are just leaving these people out there to their own devices. I think it is shameful, Mr. Speaker. I think if the government really wanted to they could move in with the same aggression they did when they expropriated the assets, and they can make sure that these workers get the benefits that they are owed.

MR. SPEAKER: Order please!

If the hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board speaks now he will close the debate on Bill 4.

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

One thought I had is that although we are speaking on a bill that deals with taxation, to hear the ranting and roaring of the Opposition Leader does not add anything here, Mr. Speaker. As usual, she did not say anything, just talked for an hour.

On that basis, Mr. Speaker, I will close debate.

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Justice and the Attorney General that the House do now adjourn.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is 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 Wednesday.

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