May 7, 2009             HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS                 Vol. XLVI   No. 17

The House met at 1:30 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

Admit strangers.

Before we start regular proceedings, the Chair would like to inform the House that the hon. Member for Mount Pearl North is celebrating his birthday today so we offer him all the best for the day.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Happy Birthday!

Statements by Members

MR. SPEAKER: The following members' statements will be heard: the hon. the Member for the District of Cape St. Francis; the hon. the Member for the District of Topsail; and, the hon. Member for the District of Mount Pearl North.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I rise in this hon. House today to recognize the Torbay Volunteer Fire Department on its thirty-five years of service to the Towns of Torbay and Flatrock. The fire district served by the Torbay Volunteer Fire Department is the home of 8,000 residents and many businesses.

Organizations such as fire departments are the very heart of our communities. Their unselfish dedication to the protection of lives and property day and night is recognized by everyone in the area.

Firefighters give their time freely to ensure the safety and well-being of our neighbours and their property. Firefighters are motivated only by the desire to serve their community and provide the necessary fire service for their fellow residents.

There are two original members who are still with the department today. Chief Mike McGrath and Mr. Bill Woods Sr. have been with the Torbay Volunteer Fire Department since day one. Chief McGrath and the department have a full fire prevention program with emphasis on pre-fire planning, fire inspections, and they conduct fire drills in the two schools in the area.

I ask all hon. members to join with me in congratulating the Torbay Volunteer Fire Department for thirty-five years of service, and thank them for their hard work and dedication to the people of Torbay and Flatrock.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, on April 19, 2009, the Mount Pearl 2008 Citizen of the Year ceremony was held. This event was sponsored by the Kinsmen Club of Mount Pearl and the City of Mount Pearl, and was held in conjunction with the 2009 National Volunteer Week.

This year, Mr. Speaker, Ms Rosalind Pratt was selected as Mount Pearl Citizen of the Year for 2008. Mr. Speaker, Rosalind has spent most of her life volunteering for many worthy causes. She has been involved with the Girl Guides for twenty-two years. She has been a Brownie leader and a Guide Leader and has held the position of Avalon Area Commissioner for five of those years. Rosalind is presently the Deputy Provincial Commissioner for the Guides. She has taken Guides to national camps, attended National Guide Forums in Toronto, and in 2003 became the Girl Protection Advisor for Guiding in Newfoundland and Labrador.

For her dedication she was awarded, for twenty years of service, the Silver Merit Award and the Provincial Medal of Merit. Rosalind is also vice-chair of Kirby House. Rosalind's work with Habitat for Humanity included ten full days working on the first "all women build" in Mount Pearl in 2007. She is also member of the Family Selection Committee.

Currently, Rosalind serves as secretary of the Mount Pearl Citizens Crime Prevention Committee. She was nominated by the Mount Pearl Citizen Crime Prevention Committee for this award.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this House to join me in congratulating Ms Rosalind Pratt on being selected Mount Pearl Citizen of the Year for 2008.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Thank you for the birthday wishes, first of all. I also want to take the opportunity to wish the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture a happy birthday today. He is also celebrating.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENT: Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to recognize the achievements of a resident of Mount Pearl and former student of Mount Pearl Senior High School. Tracy Dyer has been known to many of her peers and educators as an academic and athletic powerhouse.

When Tracy graduated high school she was awarded approximately $16,000 in scholarships, one of which was a Premier's Athletic Scholarship Award. Tracy participated in many sports as a high school student, including soccer, basketball and track and field, to name a few. She also participated and served on many committees, including the Safe Grad Committee for her graduating class.

Tracy then went on to excel at university, both academically and athletically. She joined the Lady Seahawks Soccer team at Memorial and is an active member of their roster.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this House to join me in congratulating Tracy, and commend her on her hard work and dedication that she displays as both a student and an athlete. She is certainly a wonderful role model for all students and youth in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Statements by Ministers.

Statements by Ministers

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SKINNER: Mr. Speaker, as a government we have made a long-standing commitment to improving communications and identifying opportunities for collaboration among business, labour and government on issues related to improving the Province's competitiveness.

Over the past five years, the Strategic Partnership, led within the provincial government by the Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development, has heightened the importance of cross-sectoral collaboration. In fact, it is worth noting that the Strategic Partnership is North America's only successful collaborative approach that bridges business, labour, and government.

The Strategic Partnership is led by a council of senior representatives from the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour, the Newfoundland and Labrador Business Coalition, and the provincial government who identify challenges and opportunities to stimulate social and economic development. More importantly, the partnership provides the platform to formulate consensus-based recommendations and to help shape policy and actions.

Over the past three years, the partnership's Labour Market Committee examined the Province's ability to increase labour market participation, attract and retain workers, along with enhancing the quality and use of labour market information. Their work contributed greatly to many of the new programs offered by the Department of Human Resources, Labour and Employment that were introduced in Budget 2008.

Additionally, its Employment Relations Committee, in collaboration with the Labour Relations Agency, was prominent in the new labour management legislation passed in April 2008. All partners agreed that changes were necessary to the way arbitrations were handled in Newfoundland and Labrador and worked collectively to achieve consensus on a model that serves the best interest of all parties.

Recently, the partnership has broadened its focus to investigate any opportunities for its involvement in such areas as innovation and transportation and information communications.

Mr. Speaker, we are committed to ensuring the success of the Strategic Partnership, and I am very happy to report that the level of trust and respect amongst the membership is at an all-time high. There is a strong willingness on everyone's behalf to deliver positive results for the Province.

On behalf of the hon. members of the House of Assembly, I would like to take this opportunity to thank members of the council and its associated committees for their valuable contributions. Their work is one more example of how, through collaboration and partnering, we can seek opportunities to grow our communities.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I thank the minister for an advance copy of his statement. It is certainly good to see of course that we have a continuation of this Strategic Partnership. It started, by the way, back in January 17, 2002. It was an initiative that was announced on that date by Premier Grimes and I believe the representative of labour who was present at that time, was one Elaine Price, of course, who was highly involved in the labour industry. There was a gentleman, I believe, Michael Wilson, who was at that time Chair of the Board of Trade for the city. It is great to see that we do have this council and that this government is continuing with this council because it gives a great deal of feedback.

I know when I was in INTRD myself for some months actually attending one of their meetings, very beneficial. When you bring government, you bring business and you bring labour in this Province together. Not only do you know what the challenges are but you get a good round-table discussion about how we can possibly solve some of those challenges.

As the minister says, whether it is determining what the quality and use of labour market information is or the way that arbitrations in this Province work, you need to have this feedback from the people that are on the ground, directly involved, so that government can take these ideas back, formulate legislation that can deal with these issues and hopefully make it a better place and a more economic and socially stable place that we live in.

I encourage the minister to continue with the program, the Strategic Partnership. It came, by the way - it originated with the Celtic Tiger idea that came out of Ireland some years ago. I guess the tiger is a bit subdued now in these economic circumstances but in any case this was certainly a good initiative that we in turn adopted from them and as a Province we have been making good use of ever since 2002.

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, too, thank the minister for the advance copy of his statement. The Strategic Partnership is probably one of the most important programs I think that we have going in the Province because it is a model for how government workers and business need to work together.

I think that many countries in Europe have learned, especially in the Nordic countries, have learned how to sit at the table together and bring all of the different opinions together. I would like to see this model, for us, to find a way to have it to work in other ways as well. While here it is working in a general way with regard to business, government and labour, it would be really good to see us work more cohesively in individual industries as well in the same way so that we are less confrontational in trying to come up with what is good for the people of the Province, and more collaborative.

I congratulate this government on continuing this program, and I think it is something that should certainly remain in our Province as a real mark of the efforts that we are making to work for the good of the whole people.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise in this hon. House today to update residents of the Province on the 2008-2009 Home Heating Rebate Program.

Mr. Speaker, this is the fifth consecutive year that our government has provided assistance to individuals and families associated with the high cost of heating their homes.

Since our government assumed office, we have both increased the amount of the home heating rebate and expanded the number of people eligible under the program. The program has been expanded to include electricity, and the income threshold has been increased to $40,000 or less. Approximately 76,000 families are eligible for the rebate, as opposed to over 10,000 families who qualified for the rebate when our government took office.

Mr. Speaker, despite the lower cost of home heating fuel last year as compared to 2007, our government maintained the rebate at the same levels as 2007. The rebate was increased for Coastal Labrador communities due to the high costs associated with home heating fuel in that region.

Under the program, Mr. Speaker, eligible residents receive up to a $300 rebate for households which use heating oil, stove oil or propane, up to $200 for households which use electricity or wood, and up to $500 for those living in Coastal Labrador communities. Families with a net income of up to $35,000 received a full rebate. The rebate gradually decreases as income levels rise to $40,000, with no eligible family receiving less than $100.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to advise hon. members today that approximately 67,000 applications have been approved, with a value of $15.3 million processed to date.

Mr. Speaker, the home heating rebate is one way our government is working to put more money back into people's pockets. Other examples include $776 million in cumulative tax relief over the last three years, the reduction of motor vehicle registration fees, enhancement of the seniors' benefit, and the elimination of the sales tax on insurance premiums.

Mr. Speaker, our government is also committed to rural Newfoundland and Labrador. As recently announced in Budget 2009, beginning next year administration of the Home Heating Rebate Program will be relocated to the Grand Falls-Windsor area, providing seasonal employment opportunities for residents in the region.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I thank the minister for an advance copy of his statement today. It is indeed good to see that we have the continuation of this rebate program. The government, of course, last year, certainly made substantial dollars off our offshore royalties. Everybody in the Province has some source of heating cost throughout the year, and it is great to see that this is putting something back to these people, all of us who quality, to help with their heating costs, whether it be electrical, propane, stove oil or furnace oil. It is great to see that.

In fact, the offices around the Province, I know in my own office in Port aux Basques, for example, we get a lot of people walking in who want the application. Some people need help filling out the applications, so it is a great program to have, and it is great to see that the government did indeed continue with it.

I am just curious, and maybe the minister some time would be able to respond to it, I notice that the program was down. Last year there was a take-up of 76,000 people in the Province and this year there were 69,000 people who availed of the program. When I checked the announcement from last year it was $17 million that it cost the government to do this, whereas this year it was $15.3 million. Obviously, it is less because 9,000 people less took up the program.

I am just wondering if the minister at some time might elaborate on why 9,000 less people took up on the program this year than last year, if there was some reason that we are not aware of. Was it not properly advertised, or people are making more money and they did not qualify and so on? It seems like a substantial number, when you have 12 per cent or 14 per cent who did not take up the program. It would be nice to have an explanation on that just for clarification purposes.

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, too, thank the minister for the advance copy of his statement.

Obviously, I am very pleased that this year the government maintained the same rebate levels as in 2007 and 2008 despite the lower prices. I think we all recognize that the rebate helps a bit, and keeping it, maintaining it at the same level even when prices go down is very helpful to all families who benefit from this rebate.

I was also glad to see something that the minister does not have in his statement and in this year's Budget, and that is the Residential Energy Efficiency Program. Introducing that is extremely important and it is something that we have asked for here on this side of the House.

I understand that for this year the program is already booked. A 1,000 households are already - that government has more than 1,000 applications in. So I really look ahead you know, Mr. Speaker, always looking forward. So I ask the minister to be ready in the Budget for 2009-2010 to increase the number of people who will be able to benefit from the Residential Energy Efficiency Program.

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.

St. Patrick's Mercy Home is a long-term care facility in St. John's that has 214 beds; we received information that St. Patrick's has an asbestos problem. The individual contacted our office has informed us that past staff and patients have not been contacted and the public has not been advised of this problem.

I ask the minister, if you can confirm that there is indeed an asbestos problem at St. Patrick's Mercy Home and to what extent it exists?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, I would not want to dismiss the significance of the question or the significance of the issue that she is raising but yesterday we had a similar question in the House talking about a crisis at the Janeway cancelling surgeries. What she was really talking about was a day in the O.R. at the Janeway where there were four O.R. lists booked and one had to be cancelled because of nurses being off sick for an extended period of time and there were two cases involved and we get a question in the House, the place is falling apart. The O.R.s are being cancelled, we have a crisis in nursing, have a crisis in the O.R. at the Janeway.

Today we have another phone call, mysterious phone call to the Opposition office wondering about the asbestos in St. Patrick's nursing home. I say, Mr. Speaker, many older buildings in Newfoundland and Labrador may have asbestos in them. As I understand it, as I understand the whole process of managing asbestos, is it is safe within buildings to have asbestos as long as the building is not being renovated or the asbestos itself is not being disturbed.

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

If the minister wants to read Hansard he will find out that the question yesterday said one of four of the surgery lists at the Janeway. Obviously, he does not listen.

Mr. Speaker, Eastern Health was given directives by Occupational Health and Safety to disclose this information. Since 2007 an asbestos plan has been in place for the building but those who were there before that time have not been advised even though they know the seriousness of the prolonged exposure of asbestos in these buildings.

I ask the minister: Why were not past staff, patients and the public advised that such a problem exists even though Eastern Health knew that people were exposed?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite wants to talk about listening to answers to questions all she has to do is just pay attention to some of the answers I gave yesterday, and she will not go out into the media today and try to marry two answers from two different questions as if they are one and the same.

With respect to the issue at hand and the question she is posing, the day to day maintenance of buildings is something that each of our four health authorities are responsible for. If they are undertaking some maintenance or changes in a building as a part of their normal maintenance program where they need to give consideration to the protocols around asbestos abatement, then that is an issue that they would deal with on a day to day basis I say, Mr. Speaker, and that is something that I ordinarily would not be involved with.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister would not be involved because he does not want to be involved. This is a minister who claims he knows the answers to everything and yet knows nothing. If there is a public building in our health care system that has an asbestos problem and there has been a report since 2007, minister, you should know about it.

I ask you today: What plans are in place to deal with this problem, have they been outlined to your department or have you even consulted with Eastern Health to find out?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: If Eastern Health is undertaking some work at St. Pat's Home, I will undertake to find out if there is an issue that they need to deal with, with respect to asbestos, but let me reiterate, Mr. Speaker. There is asbestos in many buildings in Newfoundland and Labrador. I do not know the date, but many years ago to insulate with asbestos was pretty standard practice. As I understand the protocols in and around this, my colleague the Minister of Transportation and Works may be able to enlighten me even further, but as I understand the whole protocols around asbestos is if it is left stable, not disturbed, there is no hazard, there is no risk. As soon as you start to disturb it, then there is a process – but there is a protocol in place, I think it is called the asbestos abatement protocol that you trigger when you start to do some renovations or modifications to a building that has asbestos. Other than that, it can be in a building for fifty years and not have posed any health risk to the residents or to the employees I say, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

A Quebec judge has ruled this morning that AbitibiBowater no longer has to make special payments to its underfunded pension plan while the company is under bankruptcy protection. This means that some workers or their survivors will no longer receive pension cheques for the foreseeable future, if ever.

I ask the government today: What contingency plans do you have in place to assist these workers and their families that are impacted?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SKINNER: Mr. Speaker, there was a judgement handed down today in a Quebec courtroom respecting an application that was made by AbitibiBowater on Friday, I believe it was, of last week , whereby the company itself indicated that it did not want to continue to top-up the unfunded portion of the pension plan, given that it was in creditor protection.

The judge ruled today that AbitibiBowater, in fact, does not have to top-up the unfunded pension plan, but all of those pensioners who are receiving pension cheques will continue to receive them. There will be no effect on the people who are pensioners of that company. They will continue to receive their cheques, and the amount of those cheques will be the same as they always were. There has been no reduction in the amount of the cheques. AbitibiBowater still continues to contribute to the pension plan, they are just not topping it up while it is underfunded, given the market conditions that we face today.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Is the minister telling me today that none of these workers that are pensionable or the survivors that are receiving an income, will have their incomes impacted at all and that they will continue to receive cheques as they did in the past, because that is not our understanding?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SKINNER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, with regard to the court ruling today, that ruling referred to registered pensions that AbitibiBowater has. They have many thousands of employees who are receiving pension cheques from that pension fund, and the ruling today states that AbitibiBowater does not have to top-up the fund. There is a legal, legislative requirement that over a period of five years, that fund must be kept whole. The court now has removed that requirement from AbitibiBowater. The cheques that were being sent out to the pension holders will still come, they will still be for the same amount, and the company will continue to contribute to the pension plan as well.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Just for clarification, I want to ask the minister if that includes the widowers that were affected as well, if they will still continue to be paid?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SKINNER: Mr. Speaker, the issue that we are dealing with is a very complex one and there are many pockets of people, I guess is what I would say to the hon. member. When she refers to the widowers, I am making an assumption you are referring to those people who are receiving the early retirement allowances, is what they are actually called, and those are separate from the decision that was made today.

The decision today is strictly about the registered pension funds and those employees and former employees of AbitibiBowater who are receiving pension cheques from the registered pension fund. Those who were receiving early retirement allowances or work force reduction program special payments were not a part of that ruling, and are separate and distinct from that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

A group of former AbitibiBowater workers in the fifty-two and under age group, which is the group the minister just referred to, also proposed an economic stimulus package that would benefit the Central Region while providing benefits to those same workers who were unable to access any kind of a pension.

I ask the minister today: What progress has government made on evaluating this proposal and when can these workers expect a response from government?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SKINNER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I have made reference in this House before to the submission that I received. I indicated at that time that that submission is under review. Since I received the original submission I have talked to the person who sent that to me. That individual indicates that there is supplementary information that they have available. I have indicated that I would like to see that supplementary information. I have asked the individual to send that to me. I am awaiting receipt of that information, and I will be corresponding with that individual as well in the very near future.

It is under review. There is more information that the individual says that he has. I have asked him to provide it to me.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The government is clear in their statements that they will deduct severance payments from any eventual compensation packages that are paid out to the company for expropriated assets, but we have certainly not seen any timelines around when this could occur.

I am asking today: What are the obstacles to government providing those severance payments sooner rather than later?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SKINNER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, as I have said many times in this House of Assembly, there are processes in place that we must abide by. There are court processes that are currently ongoing. We are not going to jeopardize our position, as a government, or the position of anybody who is intervening on behalf of the workers in these court processes, by taking any intervention.

The severance and pensions and all of those things are AbitibiBowater's responsibility. We are going to do everything we can to ensure that AbitibiBowater lives up to that responsibility. One of the ways in which we are doing that is through the court process that we have now, and we will see what those court processes bring to us, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Within the Town of Botwood there is a large storage tank. The tank was built from forty yeas ago and it was used by AbitibiBowater to store caustic soda. Caustic soda is a highly corrosive and highly reactive material that is used as a bleaching agent in paper making.

We have been told, Mr. Speaker, that this tank, which is only 500 metres from the school, is showing signs of deterioration.

Now that the company has ceased all of its operations in the Province, has government inspected this tank to determine whether it is safe, and to ensure the contents of it are safe?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, I cannot speak specific to that one. If need be, I will get some information on it, but all of the environmental liabilities associated with the Abitibi case here are under review.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: I guess one of the questions we have is: Would tanks and properties like this have been any part of the expropriation deal of assets that government did as a result of the legislation in the House, or would those things be completely outside of that agreement?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

These are environmental liabilities and they have to meet the stringent guidelines and regulations; and, as such, they will be treated in the most serious way.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Has government determined who has the liabilities for properties like this? We are talking about a tank, now, that we have been told might be unsafe, located next to a school. Has it been determined who has the liabilities for those properties or for any environmental damages that are there at this stage that need to be cleaned up immediately as opposed to a longer period of time?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

At this particular time, all of the environmental liabilities are still the responsibility of Abitibi. Despite that, assessments are being made and reviews will be made, and then decisions will be made accordingly as they unfold.

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister indicated earlier that the Province was doing an inventory. I would like to ask when the inventory will be completed, and a full report of all the environmental hazards that have been left by AbitibiBowater.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, I do not have that with me, but certainly I will undertake to get that information.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Transportation stated last month, in the hon. House of Assembly, and in Estimates since that time, that there were no changes to the summer maintenance program this year. The calls that I have received tell me something different, Mr. Speaker.

I ask the minister again: Will there be any layoffs this year in the summer maintenance program?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, the hon. Opposition member should be running a recycling depot, because that is the third time that I have had to answer that question.

No, Mr. Speaker, there are no changes from the summer maintenance program of last year and the year before. The staff complement will be the same. The budget is the same. The depots that were closed last year as part of our summer downsizing exercise that has been going on for the last four years will close, and those that were open last year will be open this year, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Mr. Speaker, the minister says that there will be no job losses this year. This past week I had workers from the Bay Roberts depot in my office and they state that the summer maintenance crew in Bay Roberts will be two to three workers short this year versus last year. I have had calls from the Trinity Bay area that in Whitbourne they will be one or two workers short of the maintenance crew last year.

I ask the minister: Can he confirm if this would be layoffs or not?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, all I can tell the hon. member is that the budget for summer maintenance is the same as last year. From the departmental executive perspective, all things are basically the same as last year.

Now, if there are regional supervisors who are making decisions on how they move their staff complement around, that I cannot speak to but I will certainly undertake over the course of the afternoon to find out exactly what the member is talking about and get back to him on it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Mr. Speaker, the two individuals I met with, in the winter program they are operators. In the summer, for the past three or four years, they dropped back to be carpenters. They also tell me that there were only two positions as carpenters last year on the full Avalon and this year there will be nobody in those positions as carpenters.

I ask the minister why this is, or is his department contracting out the carpentry work of last year?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, when it comes to contracting out, we have a collective agreement with our unionized employees. We cannot contract out work that would otherwise be done by our unionized workforce, so it would not be a decision that we would lay off people and contract out. Any contracting out would have to be over and above the normal work that would be done by our unionized employees; but, again, if we he identify those individuals I will certainly look into it and report back to him.

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

MR. BUTLER: I will consent to that, Mr. Speaker, because there are only two on the full Avalon and the two of them came from that area so I will definitely let you know that.

Mr. Speaker, this government, back a few years ago, closed down thirteen depots. The union at that time, from my understanding, took government to court and they won their case. Then government appealed that decision. It is my understanding from the information that I have received that the judge involved in the case apparently made a ruling on that issue in the fall of 2008.

I ask the minister: What was the ruling by the judge? Did it take place at that time, and will he table that decision today in the House?


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Transportation and Works.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, to the best of my knowledge -


MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, can you…?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask members for their co-operation. There was a question asked and an answer about to be given.

The hon. the Minister of Transportation and Works.

MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Protect me from the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Speaker. Thank you very much for that favour.

Mr. Speaker, as late as last week I inquired of the Deputy Minister of Transportation and Works as to the status of the court case. It is my understanding that it is still with the judge and that no decision has been made. Again, I will reconfirm that this afternoon but that was the information that was provided to me when I inquired on it last week.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Mr. Speaker, I have to say to the Minister of Health and Community Services, those were not anonymous phone calls. They were real live individuals who sat down in my office.

MS JONES: Real people.

MR. BUTLER: Real people, real workers.

I thank the minister for his last response. I know he said he will check that out. When he does, I am wondering if he will let me know, if he has a report back - because we heard that the report was there - what is the monetary figure attached to the decision; and, if so, will this money be paid to the workers in that particular case?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As I said, I am not aware that there is a report so I would not be able to give him any monetary figures that might be associated with a report that I do not know exists.

Mr. Speaker, I will endeavour to find out the answers on that, and I can assure the hon. member that if there is anybody in this House who wants to bring closure to the issue at hand here it would be me. The faster we can get a decision from the court and get it reviewed by the Public Service Secretariat and by Treasury Board and our department, that will be in the interest of all involved, including the government, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I asked some questions yesterday of the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation. Because of time, of course, I did not get to ask them all.

Just to continue, Minister, we know that only "qualified tourist operations" can obtain a sign under the new TODS program that the government is about to implement. If an operation is not approved under TODS because they are not within your definition of "tourist operation" will there be any other way for anyone to advertise at all along our highways?

I use as an example here - there was one in the media - the Jiffy Cab, for example. If that does not qualify as a "tourist operation" will there be any form of advertising, other than what the government specifically designs, possible?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, what we are involved in here is directional signage. I think the first thing we have to recognize is that our highway corridors are not advertising signs for businesses such as Jiffy Cabs, the infamous cab that is out there. As such, in our TODS program what we are looking at is a national and internationally recognized set of symbols that we will be continuing with. As to other types of establishments, from my perspective we are trying to unclutter the highways not to re-clutter the highways, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

We know there will be fees associated with this program in terms of the placement. In other provinces, for example, there is a one-time, non-refundable standard application fee, a one-time sign fee based upon the number and type of approved signs, and an annual renewal fee based on the number and type of signs.

How does your cost - and what cost do you have in mind with respect to this program - compare to what anybody who has a sign under the current legislation pays? What is the fee structure going to be like?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, I would like to reiterate that at this particular point we will be - as of June 8 we will be dealing with illegal and non-compliant signs. We have a committee that is going to be established that will take a look at implementation costs and overall costs, but I can tell you that, at present, an individual in this Province can buy a fingerboard sign - I believe it is at $142 - so I do not see that changing, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

A year after an open house was held at the Colonial Building in November 2005 the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation announced plans for the restoration and development of this important historic landmark for the Province and said they were underway. Since then, the government has taken zero action with respect to that plan. The building is still closed to the public, and no restoration work has been done.

I ask the minister: Can you provide us with an update on where we are right now with that intended restoration project?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, $3 million we as a government are investing in the Colonial Building.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Second to that, Mr. Speaker, interpretive work has been done, design work has been done. We are in the process now of reallocating workers within the Colonial Building so that we can start phase one, the structural type of work that needs to take place.

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to report that the work at the Colonial Building is progressing quite well.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

There has been no money allocated to the refurbishment of the Colonial Building since the 2006-2007 Budget. Time may have stopped for government but, of course, it has not stopped for the deteriorating building. It has deteriorated even further. The minister is well aware that the site has turned into an open-air drug market, a blight on the neighbourhood and an eyesore for the city, instead of a tourism highlight for our visitors.

I ask the minister: What are the timelines to get this project done and completed so that it will have the respect and be the tourism attraction that it ought to be?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: I think, Mr. Speaker, a $3 million investment shows quite a bit of respect for the building. We recognize it as a significant historical site. Second to that, as I have just alluded to, we have the interpretive and design work done. We are moving the workers out. We are doing phase one, which is the structural soundness and other types of stuff that has to be done before anything else can be done. Then, the second part of it is to restore the integrity of the building, Mr. Speaker.

I think that speaks to progressive work which the department and government is committed to doing.

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, we know that the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture and his officials met with stakeholders on February 4 when the Fish, Food and Allied Workers brought up concerns about the global economic crisis and the effect it may have on this year's fishery.

Mr. Speaker, the union wanted to know what kind of contingency plan the government had in place, so government and industry would not be caught in a bind. I am told the minister and his officials downplayed the situation.

Mr. Speaker, I am asking the minister: Why did the government ignore the warning signs which would have given him ample time to get ready for the current situation?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I remember well the meeting of February 4, where we did bring the players in the fishing industry together around one table to look ahead, to see what we could do as a government, what they could do as an industry to prepare for this recession that is global. It was a good discussion. Suggestions about slowing down the season, making sure that we were all on our Ps and Qs, that we were all ready to start the season and we left that meeting with a challenge for us to put together some working groups if the industry certainly wanted to. At that particular point we did not get any follow-up.

So, again, we are where we are today, fighting against a recession throughout the world that is not only affecting the fishing industry but other industries as well.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS MICHAEL: Well I would like to point out to the minister, it might be affecting other parts of the world but it is not affecting Nova Scotia where the fishermen yesterday were getting $1.65 a pound for their crab, which equals about $1.50 here, when adjusted.

I say, Mr. Speaker, that we have a storm brewing now over the crab fishing industry in this Province. Yesterday we heard from the Fisheries minister that only 20 per cent of plants are still processing crab. Mr. Speaker, that means that about 80 per cent of plants are not working. Harvesters already have their pots in the water and there are many plant workers who may not get the fourteen weeks they need to apply for EI.

So, Mr. Speaker, I ask the Minister of Fisheries: Is he going to have an emergency meeting with all the same stakeholders he had at the meeting on February 4, to overcome the current condition of the industry?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: I say to the hon. member across the House, you have to be very careful about comparing and making statements about other jurisdictions because you are very much comparing apples with oranges in this particular case and it is statements like that that can send ripple effects, as I pointed out before.

As well, I would remind the member that even as we speak that the industry are working with the price setting panel and bringing forth what conditions are on the go right now and trying to find a way to making sure that this season continues, that it continues in a way that is in the best interests of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and especially the workers involved in this particular industry.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS MICHAEL: Mr. Speaker, I point out that I asked why not all the stakeholders are working together because that is not happening.

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Human Resources, Labour and Employment said that she had a meeting with one of the processing groups in the crab industry. Mr. Speaker, the minister's seafood industry and review issued in March, 2009 says that the crab fishery brought in approximately $179.6 million last year.

So I ask the minister: If he is so concerned about the industry, why was he not at the meeting with the Minister of HRLE and the processors, the meeting that she talked about?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: I have to chuckle because again, both myself and the Minister Responsible for Human Resources, Labour and Employment, both of us have been accessible to any of the groups that want to meet with us. I have met with the processors, I have met with the harvesters, I have met with both of them together. The minister has followed up. We are doing everything that we possibly can to work with this industry to make sure that this season continues on. We have 25 per cent of the crab already in. We do have people, enterprises that are out on the water. This is the dance that goes on every year. It is no different than any other year, except the markets right now are not where they were last year. We are trying to settle on a price, and even as we speak there are hopefully deals that have been made that will break this blockade and move us to where we need to be with the completion of the season.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The time allotted for questions and answers has expired.

Presenting Reports by Standing and Select Committees.

Presenting Reports by Standing and Special Committees

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

MR. HUTCHINGS: Mr. Speaker, the Social Service Committee have considered the matters to them referred and have directed me to report that they have passed without amendment the Estimates of Expenditures of the Department of Education; the Department of Health and Community Services; the Department of Justice; the Department of Municipal Affairs; and the Department of Human Resources, Labour and Employment, respectfully submitted, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. Member for the District of Ferryland, the Chair of the Social Services Committee, reports that the committee have considered the matters to them referred and have approved certain estimates and recommend that a report be concurred in.

When shall this report be received?

MS BURKE: Now, Mr. Speaker.


On motion, report received and adopted.

MR. SPEAKER: Further reports by Standing and Select Committees?

Tabling of Documents.

Notices of Motions.

Notices of Motion

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. O'BRIEN: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act Respecting The Registration Of Births, Marriages, Deaths And Other Vital Events. (Bill 24)

Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act Respecting Marriage In The Province. (Bill 25)

Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Provide Change Of Name. (Bill 26)

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

Answers to Questions for Which Notice has been Given.



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

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

It gives me great pleasure to present my sixth petition on behalf of the people of Southwestern Newfoundland with respect to the dialysis needs that exist in that region.

I am not certain if the minister has the actual submission now, because besides the request that has been going on for years to have this dialysis satellite at the LeGrow Health Centre, there is actually a formal proposal being submitted to the minister, through Western Health, from the nephrologist there in Corner Brook and the chief of staff in Port aux Basques.

Of course, it seems to be very strange when you have a petition for a dialysis satellite on something that is so straightforward. We already know the numbers of people who use it right now. We have nine people in need of dialysis, who are currently travelling from their homes in places like LaPoile, Burnt Islands to go to Corner Brook three times a week to get this service. Whereas, the equipment that they need to get this done in Port aux Basques in the LeGrow, the people of the region are prepared to buy the equipment. They will pay for the equipment. So it is not an equipment need.

The training that is required for the nursing staff, they are prepared to undergo the training. It takes about six weeks training of a nurse in order to be competent and prepared and capable of handling this dialysis equipment. They are committed to undergoing that training.

So we have a situation where the need exists, the money is there for the equipment, the staff are there prepared to undergo the training to use the equipment, yet we cannot get the Minister of Health to even look at the situation and tell us why that cannot be done.

Now, they have to pay the nurses, as I understand it anyway, if they are going to be working. We are paying all kinds of costs out of the government right now. A lot of these people, for example, they are low-income earners who do not have the money to get to Corner Brook three times a week. The government is footing the taxi bill three times a week times nine. Twenty-seven taxi bills that go out over that highway three times a week for twenty-seven trips. Now that is not cheap. You go back and do the math on how long the government has been doing that, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that it is much cheaper to do this in Port aux Basques that it is to pay these costs.

By the way, it is not only the taxi fare. Because whether you do the treatment in Corner Brook or Port aux Basques, somebody has to do it. It is a cost to the Department of Health to have nursing staff and trained technicians doing this. That cost is there. That has not changed. You have to feed these people, and in a lot of cases they don't go alone. They have travel companions because of their health situation. Guess what? The government foots the bill for those as well.

We have a situation where it doesn't make any practical financial sense for the government to continue this, as it currently is. The equipment can be purchased at no cost to government, the training can be done, and yet this government, in its wisdom – we can't even get the Minister of Health to respond with a letter. They met with councils out in the Corner Brook area last fall, and, would you believe it, they have been waiting six months to even get a letter back from the minister. Surely there are enough people in the Department of Health who can write a letter for the minister saying why this is not possible or why we can't get on with this.

We talk about reports sitting on shelves gathering dust. You have to question what is going on here when we can't get one simple letter from the minister.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask members to my left if they would take their conversations outside. The Chair is having extreme difficulty hearing what is being said here. There are far too many private conversations ongoing.

Further petitions.

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

MR. BUTLER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I stand today to present another petition on behalf of the residents from the Pilley's Island area, Robert's Arm and Triton and so on, Mr. Speaker, with regard to the request for the construction of a fixed link between Long Island and Pilley's Island and Green Bay.

Mr. Speaker, we all know that back some time ago, in 2003, they were told they would be able to have this Long Island causeway, and we know the reasons why it didn't go ahead at that time. The people there now feel that their concerns are not being addressed. They had a ferry service for quite a number of years and they agree that this ferry service was adequate at the time, however they have encountered problems over the last several years. Now they are asking for a replacement ferry or a fixed link.

This petition, Mr. Speaker, goes on to say that they believe the fixed link is the most feasible for them and this is what they are requesting.

I have to say, Mr. Speaker, I have ever so many petitions. I think I have them doubled up or tripled up today, trying to use them up while this session is open. We still get calls from the Long Island Causeway and Transportation Committee, expressing the concerns of the residents. I know they have written their MHA, the Member for Grand Falls–Windsor–Green Bay South and I think he has been sent along petitions as well.

Mr. Speaker, some of the concerns that they have, I know I have mentioned this before, is with regards to the time frame when they do not have a ferry service, is to get to the hospital, which would be eliminated if they had this fixed link. The same with the transportation up there; students, the product from the fish plant in the area, and many other issues. Those people, I believe, deserve better. They are living on this island and many times in the winter when it is isolated they are unable to be able to get to the mainland on time.

So the petition that I have here today is on behalf of the residents, asking government to reconsider their decision and that they would look at the possibility of constructing a fixed link between Long Island and Pilley's Island.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further petitions?

The hon. the Member for the District of Burgeo & LaPoile.

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

It gives me great pleasure to present my sixth petition on behalf of the residents of Ramea, Grey River and François, with respect to the lack of nursing capability and services at the clinic in Ramea. What happens at the present time is the station is in Ramea. There are supposed to be two nurse practitioners there, running that service for the people. They do frequent coastal visits down to Grey River and to François. What has happened is in the past numbers of months, and it has gone on for months, I have to say, we have been down by one nurse practitioner. So the key is: how do we get one back there to put things back on a stable track? When you have one, that person cannot work twenty-four seven. That person needs some time off. Of course, when there is time off, what do we do to fill in? Most often there has been nobody.

We were very fortunate; we had a special event there the weekend with the provincial convention actually for the Orange Lodge. There was an extra 200 people in town and they managed to send over a nurse, an R.N. from Burgeo to cover off for that particular event, but a community should not be dependent upon an adjacent community every time you need services for medical assistance. The nurses of course who work in Burgeo, they were hired to work in Burgeo. They do not have any commitment and cannot be forced to go to Ramea to work, nor down the coast.

Now I have made the suggestion to the minister as well, that the solution – we just did not pose a problem in petition and petition to have it corrected. We actually proposed a solution, and that is that government take its already existing recruitment and retention policy and instead of having it apply only to new graduates or to people from outside the Province, why would they not change the policy in the case of rural communities who cannot attract these individuals as easily, why do they not make that recruitment and retention policy applicable to any nurse practitioner who wants to avail of the opportunity? That seems to be a fairly simple solution. You can make templates for everything else, but yet when it comes to solving a problem that you do not want to deal with you always say: well, we cannot do that because we would be setting a precedent, or that would not be good.

Well, we have yet to have any explanation from the Department of Health or from the minister as to why that solution could not work. We do not even have a response to it, and that is what is so frustrating to the people, when you do not even get a response from the minister who is involved here to deal with these issues, and people in the Province are seeing this. They are seeing and realizing that you can get up here in the House – this is my sixth time on this issue and we do not even get a response from the minister, not even a letter to say: well, thank you very much, I listened to you in the House and we are going to give it some thought or we will give it some consideration. It is like it falls on deaf ears. Never mind just bringing the problem to their attention, we bring the solutions to their attention, and they still do not pay any attention to it. Is it a cost factor you cannot do it? Is there some reason you cannot do that? Why doesn't somebody tell the people and the residents of these three communities why this cannot be done?

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, I will be back again and again because, obviously, somebody has blinkers on and they are not hearing things, no matter how often it gets said. As I said earlier, as long as I am going to be here and as long as these petitions keep coming from these residents I will be up on my feet in this House during petition time presenting it, because this is not a case where it is a lot of money involved, it is not a case where it is an arduous task or problem to solve. The solution has been made there, at least attempt it. If it does not work, fine, you can say you tried, it did not work, sorry we will have to look for another option, but right now, this government, this minister, has a closed mind around this issue and does not even want to give his attention to it.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further petitions?

Orders of the Day

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, we will call today from the Order Paper, Order 2, Concurrence Motion of the Resource Committee.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the Report of the Resource Committee be Concurred in.

The hon. the Member for the District of Bonavista North.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HARDING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As Chairman of the Resource Committee, I am pleased today to be able to speak on the review of the Estimates that had been conducted earlier over the past four of five weeks, with respect to the departments that came under the Resource Committee.

Before I get into that, Mr. Speaker, I would like to recognize and acknowledge the members who served on the Resource Committee. They were: the Vice Chair, the Member for Burgeo & LaPoile, the Member for Grand Falls-Windsor-Green Bay South, the Member for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair, the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi, the Member for The Isles of Notre Dame, the Member for Port de Grave, the Member for Labrador West, and the Member for the District of Lewisporte.

In addition to these members, Mr. Speaker, we also had substitutes that filled in for some of our regular members that were absent. I would like to recognize these members as well. The Member for the Bay of Islands, the Member for Baie Verte-Springdale, the Member for Fortune Bay-Cape la Hune, the Member for Cape St. Francis, and the Member for St. John's East.

Also, I would like to thank the ministers and the officials, and observers of the six government departments whose Estimates were reviewed. I thank them for their participation and their co-operation during the debate. I would also like to thank the members of the House of Assembly staff who helped us out considerably during the Committee Estimates.

I would like to begin, Mr. Speaker, as Chairman, by giving sort of an overview of some of the discussion that took place while we were dealing with each department. I would like to begin first with the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation. The mandate of that department is to support economic growth and employment in the tourism industry; to preserve the Province's cultural heritage; to support our arts program, and to promote recreation and sport activities for the benefit of the people of the Province. They fulfilled that mandate through the operation and establishment of historic sites around the Province, through visitor information centres, arts and culture centres, recreation facilities, arts and heritage sectors, and marketing Newfoundland and Labrador.

The total estimated budget for the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation this year is $69,575,000. That is an increase of $19,440,000 over last year's budget. Some of the areas where this money will be going this year, and one area which is really important, is the area of marketing our Province as a tourist location. Since our government brought down its first Budget in 2004, that department has increased its budget by $1 million every year. So, this year now in marketing alone that department is up to $13 million. That is more than double the $6 million when we started back in 2004. Mr. Speaker, I think it is evident, as well, the positive results of that major investment.

Some of the areas where there is additional funding this year in the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, I would like to mention some of these now. In the area of Special Celebrations and Events, throughout the Province this year there is an increase of almost $4 million, and some of that money will be going in the following areas: the celebrations at Cupids will cost $1.4 million; the Olympics that is coming up, $1.9 million; the Juno Awards, which will be held in our Province next winter, $800,000; and the Bartlett celebrations, $150,000.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation will receive and increase of $1.75 million, and $1.5 million of that is a special project which is the filming of a twelve-part series by CBC called Republic of Doyle. All of that new film will be done here in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. I understand that, generating from that $1.5 million, we expect to receive approximately $11 million in return for that investment.

In Community Sports Facilities there is an increase of $7.5 million. That, Mr. Speaker, is in conjunction with a federal contribution and it will be distributed later on, as soon as the details have been worked out, also in conjunction with the Department of Municipal Affairs.

In our Historic Sites Development there is an increase of approximately $1.25 million, and that increased money will be used to upgrade infrastructure throughout the Province. Also under that sector, and the minister just referred to it, there is a $3 million investment in upgrading of the Colonial Building.

In the area of Recreation-Operations there is an increase of almost $1 million, an increase for different programming, an extra $200,000 for seniors' recreation programs, an extra $200,000 for our provincial sports organizations, an extra $200,000 for community programming.

In the area of Culture and Heritage there is almost half a million dollar increase, a $350,000 increase for ongoing revitalization of provincial historic sites and a $150,000 increase for cultural economic development programs. In addition to that, the Province is also providing $250,000 for cultural export, and that covers a gap that had been left last year by the federal government when they refused to contribute to that cause.

The Department of Business, the mandate of that department is to promote business development, especially to attract foreign business to the Province. The budget for this year in the Department of Business has increased from $12 million last year to more than $39 million this year, and $35 million of that department's budget is being spent on business attractions: trying to bring, as I said, new business into the Province. That department has reported and did report in the Estimates Committee that they are having some success with that.

The Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture was also considered. The mandate of that department, as you are no doubt aware, is to promote the ongoing development of marine fisheries and the aquaculture industry. Emphasis is placed on technological innovations, resource management and development, scientific support, quality assurance and value-added processing. Appropriations have also been made for the Fishing Industry Safety Council, the Workforce Adjustment Program, the cod moratorium or demonstration farm in Bay d'Espoir, and the minister announced a couple of days ago a $1 million investment this year into aquaculture-related projects on the South Coast. That is part of a $5 million investment that will be done over the next two years. Also, in addition to that, the federal government is contributing an additional $5 million.

Aquaculture in the Province, Mr. Speaker, just to give you some idea of the importance that is becoming, aquaculture production last year grew from 8,300 tons to 11,545 tons. That is an increase, Mr. Speaker, of more than 39 per cent.

In the Department of Natural Resources, that department is responsible for the management and development of the forestry sector, the agrifoods sector, and mines and energy. Total department Estimates for this year is $355 million. To give you some idea where some of that money will be spent: almost an $11 million investment in the silvaculture program; $4.2 million, plus $1.6 million from the federal government in our forest resource access roads.

There is a $9.5 million investment in forest industry diversification. This money, Mr. Speaker, will be provided to the provincial integrated sawmills and the value-added manufacturers of wood products in the Province. They will use that money to diversify their products, to modernize their facilities, and to access new markets.

Three million dollars will be used for land development in the Province. That money will be used to construct new agricultural roads and to acquire farmland in the Province. After that is done, these lands will then be resold to the farmers in our Province.

There is almost $7 million for the production and marketing activities of the Agrifoods Branch. This, Mr. Speaker, is an increase of $4 million over last year.

Almost $11 million in the joint federal-provincial Growing Forward framework agreement. This is an initiative, Mr. Speaker, to enhance the long-term stability of the Province's agrifoods industry. Actually, it is part of a five-year joint $30 million federal-provincial agricultural program.

In mineral resource management, there is an increase in that budget of almost $8 million over last year's actual expenditures.

In the area of the management of our energy resources and industrial benefits sector, there are appropriations in excess of $248 million, and a large part of that is in the development and formation of Nalcor Energy. That company will set up as an arm of government to facilitate participation in oil and gas activities and all energy-related areas throughout the Province.

The Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development: This department is certainly responsible for the strengthening and diversification of our provincial economy. The total expenditures of that department this year is $49 million, and that is an increase of more than $10 million over last year's expenditures.

Most of the increases in that department help provide for regional and sectoral economic development, and diversification initiatives and projects throughout the Province, especially projects that leverage funding from other sources. I know a lot of the small businesses that access this money also receive money from agencies such as ACOA.

The Department of Environment and Conservation: This department is responsible for the protection and enhancement of the environment management of the Province's biodiversity, endangered species, our wildlife, our inland fish, water, climate change and Crown Lands resources. The net expenditure this year of that department is $35,836,000, an increase, Mr. Speaker, of $6 million over last year's spending.

There is an allocation of $1.3 million in this year's Budget towards the development of tools, policies, and strategies to help communities adapt to climate change. There is an amount of $750,000 for a joint review panel for the environmental assessment of the Lower Churchill Hydroelectric Generation Project. This panel, Mr. Speaker, will allow for the harmonization of the federal and provincial environmental assessment of the Lower Churchill project.

The department is also continuing with its ongoing support of the five-year scientific and management strategy for the island woodland caribou population.

It is also continuing with its four-year $4 million Parks Renewal Program, and this year we will see an implementation of a recycling program in all of our provincial parks. There will also be monies spent on more scenic attractions and ecological reserves throughout the Province.

In addition to the six departments, Mr. Speaker, that our committee reviewed the Estimates for, we also looked at the Women's Policy Office, the Rural Secretariat, and the Newfoundland and Labrador Research and Development Council.

The Women's Policy Office has been given a mandate to provide for policy research and development on issues that enhance the economic and social status of women in the Province and prevent violence against vulnerable populations. It provides support for Aboriginal women's issues, grants to women's centres, Aboriginal organizations, violence prevention and other activities. The budget for the Women's Policy Office this year, Mr. Speaker, has been increased from $4,383,000 to $4,528,000.

Included also in this year's appropriations for the Women's Policy Office is a new $100,000 grant for the Multicultural Women's Association of Newfoundland and Labrador. There is a $110,000 operating grant for each of the eight women's centres located around the Province, for a total increase for these centres of $45,000 over what they had available to them last year. There is also an increase of approximately $30,000 for the Provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Women. That brings their total expenditure for 2009-2010 up to $441,000.

The Rural Secretariat; the mandate of that Secretariat is to promote sustainable economic and social development and to ensure that rural history issues are considered throughout the provincial government. That Rural Secretariat, Mr. Speaker, is a direct link between the rural areas of our Province and our provincial Cabinet. Its appropriations are increased from approximately $1.5 million last year to $1.75 million this year.

The last one that our committee reviewed, Mr. Speaker, was the Newfoundland and Labrador Research and Development Council. This Council is involved with strengthening all aspects of research and development in our Province. Their budget this year has been increased from $11.5 million to $25 million this year, and that is in view of the fact that the council now will become a Crown corporation, and that will be done as soon as enabling legislation is proclaimed.

Mr. Speaker, that pretty well concludes the overview of the departments and the agencies that our committee reviewed during our committee meetings. There will be other speakers following me, because we do have up to three hours to debate this in Concurrence.

So in accordance with Standing Order 76, I move that the report of the Resource Committee be concurred in by the House.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER (T. Osborne): Order, please!

Before I recognize the hon. the Leader of the Opposition, there was a point of order raised yesterday, and I would like to give a ruling on that. It is a ruling on relevance.

On May 5, the Opposition House Leader raised a point of order respecting the application of the requirement for relevance in debate. The hon. the Government House Leader spoke to the point of order suggesting that a ruling on the subject of relevance might be helpful as a guide for all members.

This question arose in the last session of this Assembly. The circumstances were very similar in that bill being debated as it was a pension bill as well. I refer members to the ruling made April 28, 2008 which referred to a point of order raised by the Government House Leader concerning the relevance of comments of the Opposition House Leader during that debate. That ruling cited another made on December 12, 2006 which dealt with the subject and which in the Chair's opinion are still valid.

As the Speaker said in the ruling of April 28, 2008 it is often stated in this House that debate on a money bill can be wide ranging. We have not been able to pinpoint the source of the practice which is somewhat more liberal than that observed in other jurisdictions. I do not think I can improve on what the Speaker said in the most recent ruling on the subject, in which I quote, "…it is important to remind hon. Members that not every bill which can be said to be remotely related to money is a money bill. Practically everything government does requires money, but not every bill that government introduces is a money bill. I think it is fair to say that bills which have as their sole objective, the appropriation of money, such as supply bills, and the raising of money through taxation and loan bills, constitute money bills."

There is a comprehensive definition in Erskine May, the twenty-second edition, at pages 806 and 807, which quotes the Parliament Act, 1911 of the United Kingdom as follows: "…a ‘money bill' is a public bill which in the opinion of the Speaker of the House of Commons contains only previsions dealing with all or any of the following subjects, namely, the imposition, repeal, remission, alteration, or regulation of taxation; the imposition for payment of debt or other financial purposes of charges on the Consolidated Fund or the National Loans Fund, or on money provided by Parliament or the variation or repeal of such charges; Supply: the appropriation, receipt, custody, issue or audit of accounts of public money, the raising or guarantee of any loan or repayment thereof, or subordinate matters incidental to those subjects or any of them."

While the definition may not be the last word for us in this Chamber, it does seem to the Chair that it is instructive and it is indeed useful. Mr. Speaker Hodder ruled on December 12, 2006, that bills relating to supply and the budget admit a wide-ranging debate.

I think it is clear to all members on a go-forward basis what would constitute a money bill.

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am sure my colleague will appreciate your ruling today.

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to certainly have a few words on the concurrence debate around the Estimates for the Resource Sector Committees of the House of Assembly. Mr. Speaker, for many of us who are in and around the House of Assembly, we call all of these meetings Estimates meetings, where we deal with the actual expenditures of every government department across the board. They are broken down into several categories, and they are: the Resource Sector Committees, the Government Services Sector Committees, and the Social Services Sector Committees.

Mr. Speaker, in this particular session of committees we dealt with the expenditures of government departments for a number of resource sector departments; one, of course, being the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, others being the Department of Forestry and Agrifoods, which is contained within the Department of Natural Resources, also the mines and energy sector of that department, and the oil and gas sector of that particular department.

Mr. Speaker, we also dealt with expenditures relative to the programs and services of each of those particular departments, and what that contained. Mr. Speaker, I am going to start off talking about the Department of Fisheries. I guess there were a number of issues that surfaced in the Department of Fisheries while we went through these particular Estimates. One of the issues, I guess, is an issue that we have been dealing with in the last few days, and that is issues related to the licensing commission of the department.

Mr. Speaker, when the commission was set up, or the board was set up, to look at the renewal of licences, processing licences in the Province, to look at eliminating processing licences, or renewing and extending new licences, it was done as an act of the Legislature which was meant to be non-partisan, non-biased, and this particular processing committee, the entire purpose of it in the minds of government opposite was to remove politics from the licensing of the fish resources in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, that committee was established for a number of years, actually, since 2005, and that committee dealt with a number of requests for either licences, for the expansion of new licences, and they also dealt with the revoking of licences that had become inactive in plants across the Province.

Mr. Speaker, I went back and looked at every single case that the Fish Processing Licensing Board had to deal with over the course of that five years. There was very seldom any issue of controversy. In fact, most of the requests were from operators who wanted to transfer a licence from one of the plants they owned to another plant, and those licences were not the controversial licences such as the processing of crab or shrimp. Most times it was other licences for underutilized species, or for pelagics, or something of this nature, where it would not be as controversial. In fact, I think a lot of them were for sea cucumber, for whelk, sea urchin, and species like that where we do not have an overabundance of processing going on in those particular sectors in the Province anyway.

A lot of those licences were either granted or the requests were refused based upon certain information, but they were never intervened upon by the department. The decision of the panel stood. The decision that they made after evaluating their own criteria in setting and making these

decisions was adhered to by the department, until recently when we had a situation where Beothic Fish in Valleyfield had requested to this licensing panel that they would be granted a shrimp processing licence for the Valleyfield operation. It went before the committee. They evaluated it, they weighed it out, as they did with the dozens and dozens and dozens of other requests they had dealt with since 2005, and they made a decision that they would approve the shrimp processing licence for the Valleyfield plant.

The problem came when it landed in the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture. When the senior bureaucracy and the minister got wind of this, they gave it an outright denial; the only actual licence since 2005 that has been overturned through the political mechanism, which is the power of the minister to do so.

Mr. Speaker, this company, the workers, the hundreds of works in the Valleyfield plant - because some of them I have met with; in fact, I have had discussions with some of them - I can tell you that they were very disappointed, simply because they need the employment and they need the work.

People might say: Well, what about the plant down the road or what about the plant on the other side of the Province, or what about the plant in the next community? But, Mr. Speaker, they feel, and they strongly feel, and so do the owners and operators of this particular plant, and so did the processing licensing board feel, that capacity was not an issue. They felt that capacity was not an issue. In fact, if you look at the amount of shrimp that is allocated today in Newfoundland and Labrador, the tonnage of that shrimp, and you divide it up amongst the number of processing facilities that we have in the Province, you will find that we are at the threshold levels. In fact, the increases of only a year or two ago put us at the threshold levels that we needed to be at in order for Valleyfield to get this licence.

Mr. Speaker, there are many who feel that this is more about strong lobby by big companies to the government, and that is how they feel, and one of those companies being the baby of the government. The government, when FPI failed, they needed someone to pick them up by their bootstraps and bail them out of the mess that had been created in the fishing industry in this Province. When FPI walked out and they were going to shut down all their plants, close their doors, the government was in a pickle. They were a new government and they were in a pickle. They did not know what to do. They did not know how they were going to deal with the situation.

Finally, Mr. Speaker a fish company in the Province waltzed in and bailed them out, bailed the government out. Because if they did not bail the government out you would have seen plants close in this Province overnight; you would have seen hundreds of people out of a job. So they did a deal with this company. They did a deal with this company, but the deal went beyond the initial takeover of the FPI operations.

The industry, Mr. Speaker, feels today that because that company bailed the government out that they now have particular influence over decisions that are being made, and there are processors in the Province who feel that this company was the driving force to influence the minister to make the decision and government to make the decision they did to deny the shrimp licence in Valleyfield, because it would have been that company that would have been directly impacted by the decision - and that was the reason.

I say to government, there is a difference between doing a deal and creating a partnership than selling your soul forever. It is almost as if you sold out the entire industry by doing this, and I hope that is not the case, but if every single processing operation and every single plant worker in this Province in the industry has to be at the mercy of decisions being made by a big company who bailed the government out of a tight situation, then I guess they are going to be the ones running the fishing industry, and the only ones running the fishing industry, and that is not acceptable.

In fact, today I feel for the people in Valleyfield because I happen to be familiar with that company. They are one of the companies, Mr. Speaker, that have worked hard to build their industry. They have kept their nose clean. They have stayed out of a lot of the bidding wars and the foolishness that have went on in the industry over the years, and they tried to build a good, home-based operation employing local people and doing the best they could in that area, and now they are being kicked in the teeth for that and that is not right. It is not right.

Mr. Speaker, to get back to the processing licensing board - because it is a farce; it is a farce - whether it is one licence of controversy that gets overturned or whether it is ten, it is not providing for the intent that it was meant to. When that board was set up, it was to take politics out of decision-making of fish licences in the Province. It was to remove the political aura around giving licences out to processors who support governments or government members. That was the whole idea, Mr. Speaker. It was the idea of letting an independent board, through individual legislation in this House, make decisions that were in the best interests of the broader public in looking at how impact could be mitigated, how benefits could be derived, and at the end of the day you would have a decision.

Mr. Speaker, I think this is what this board had attempted to do. This is what they had attempted to do. They went out and they made their recommendation; but, as I said, the recommendation was overturned by the minister and by the government simply because they were being lobbied and enticed by a big fish company in this Province who did not want that licence - did not want that licence - to go to Valleyfield plant because it would affect their own bottom line.

Mr. Speaker, why is it that a lot of these other decisions were not considered? For example, let us talk about La Scie for a minute. Mr. Speaker, there was a licence transferred from St. Joseph's to La Scie, it was approved by the board and the committee and it was sanctioned by the government. Why? Because it was the biggest single issue on the Baie Verte Peninsula in the middle of an election. In the middle of the by-election in August it was the single-most controversial talked about, lobbied about, issue on the ground on the Baie Verte Peninsula. I know, Mr. Speaker, because I was there. I spent time there. I knocked on doors there myself. In fact, I was in La Scie twice during that by-election campaign and I can tell you that this was important for the people in that community.

Mr. Speaker, at the end of the day the processing licensing panel decided they would allow for the transfer and that St. Joseph's would close down, the shrimp plant in St. Joseph's would close down, and the licence would be transferred to La Scie.

Well here we are now, Mr. Speaker, going into the next fishing season in this Province and not one thing has happened. In fact, it was only a few days ago I talked to people down in La Scie and I talked to people down in Baie Verte, and nothing has happened, not one thing. There has been nothing at all with regard to reactivating or building or opening a new shrimp plant in that community.

I just hope, Mr. Speaker, that government is not leaving these people with a false sense of hope, in telling them, because it was a big issue in a by-election when they were trying to win a campaign and win another seat in the House, that we are going to make sure that you are going to get this license and so on. Here we are, Mr. Speaker, already landing shrimp in this Province again today and nothing has happened, and no movement happening. Mr. Speaker, we are going to monitor this. We will see what happens. We will see if the people in La Scie, if their word is being kept to them, if this license will be transferred, and if they will indeed see their shrimp processing plant.

Mr. Speaker, there have been other decisions made as well, other decisions that could be considered to be controversial, that could be considered to have an impact upon capacity in the industry, such as the crab license that went to Conche. The government didn't intervene there. They didn't intervene in that decision and say, no, we are not going to reactivate a crab plant or a crab license in Conche, because it could have an impact on the capacity in the industry, because it could take crab from this plant or that plant or another plant, because it wasn't politically opportunistic for them to do that, Mr. Speaker. There was not a political opportunity for them to do that, so they allowed for that transfer. They said nothing about it. In fact, they were really pleased about it, and so was I, to be honest with you. The only surprise for me is that it didn't go in Englee. I thought it was going in Englee as opposed to Conche, but when I looked at the poll numbers I noticed that the member for the area didn't poll that great in Englee in the last election. I guess that is the reason it went in Conche and not in Englee. Anyway, that remains to be seen.

Mr. Speaker, what we do know is that there was no issue around capacity. When these licenses were transferred, when these licenses were reactivated, there was no issue. The issue came in one case, and that was the case of Beothic Fish and their proposal to put a shrimp plant in Valleyfield. I am not the only one who feels this way. The member for the area feels this way. I have all of his transcripts from all of his interviews, who figures he was done in by his own government, figures he was done in by his government. How sad is that, Mr. Speaker? What is sadder, he is sitting around to take it. That is what is sadder, Mr. Speaker, sitting around to take the punishment, because I certainly would not be taking the punishment.

Mr. Speaker, the people in that area feel that way. They feel that government has been unreasonable in dealing with a number of their issues. This is not the first issue in this area where people started to pin their hopes on a new industry. They were pinning their hopes on a cranberry industry and where did that go? Nowhere! New Brunswick the next plant is going, not in Valleyfield. They pinned their hopes on a new shrimp plant, where did that go? That got squashed and put in the garbage can as soon as it entered the executive office of the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture. That was the end of that issue.

So you talk about building industry in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. You talk about encouraging businesses to go out and do something, and when they go through all of this, go through all of the process, then they get squashed, then they get turned down, they get sent away. So it can become very discouraging, there is not doubt about that.

Mr. Speaker, there are lots of other things going on in the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, one of the departments that we dealt with in the Estimates. The licensing processing board is just one of those issues. The other issue that we are dealing with this week is the price of crab. There are people out there in the industry who say the final selection process for the pricing of raw material in the fishery in this Province was the proper way to go, but it got scrapped. It got scrapped by the government opposite about a year or so ago when we went to this new process, this pricing commission for the pricing of fish products in the Province. Now, Mr. Speaker, we have a problem right away. So much so, that the processors in the Province, a number of them, I do not know how many of them, I only know I have talked to three myself. So I know that there are at least three that are very upset by what is going on, but I understand that there are many more. You look at three of these processors that may operate 30 per cent, 40 per cent or 50 per cent of the processing capacity in the Province as well. Mr. Speaker, they are not happy with the way the prices have evolved.

If you talk to the fishermen, because I have had calls from harvesters as well, and they are not happy with the way the pricing has evolved. They do not think they are getting paid enough money. They think that the people who went out and fished in the last month and got $1.55 a pound got the best deal or the better deal in the crab industry. Now we are getting down to a lot of the smaller fleet under forty-five, under thirty-five foot fleets that are getting ready to go out fishing and they certainly feel that they are being taken for granted, that all of a sudden I have to go out and get a lower price for my product. So there is no doubt about it, there is no one on either side of this argument, when it comes to the pricing of crab in the Province today, who is happy with it. I am sure the minister is not happy with it. I am sure he is not happy at all, probably not even happy with the pricing commission that made the decision because they have left the problem directly in his lap to deal with. It does have to be dealt with, Mr. Speaker.

Almost every year in this Province we run into this problem, run into a problem with regard to the start up in the industry with regard to the prices. Whether it is on shrimp, whether it is on lobster, whether it is on crab, it seems like, Mr. Speaker, as sure as a pan of ice is going to move off the shores in this Province that we are going to have a war on prices in the fishing industry. That is the way it is.

Mr. Speaker, the other side of it is this; we have a very short season when it comes to crab. We have a short season to land it on the shores. We are restricted by DFO regulations and therefore, if it cannot be fished and landed in that period of time, it is the plant workers in the Province that suffer. It is the plant workers that suffer. They are always caught in the middle of the disputes between the union represented fisherpeople and the processing sector. I absolutely sympathize with them, Mr. Speaker, I do. I do sympathize with them because it is almost like they are caught in the middle of the war and they are held hostage all the time until solutions can be found in that industry.

I know today, Mr. Speaker, that there are plant workers in this Province that are depending upon that crab being landed at the wharf in order to get employment, in order to qualify for employment income over the winter months, and they cannot do anything about it. They have to wait for this situation to be worked out, and the ones that are left to work it out is the government. It is the government. It is the minister responsible for labour and the Minister of Fisheries that have to have this issue resolved, and prices that are agreeable and that both the harvesters and the processors can live with. If not, the biggest losers in all of this will be the plant workers; there is no doubt about that.

So, Mr. Speaker, we are hoping that this will get resolved and it will get resolved quickly, because we also know that many of the boats that are out there fishing today are going to be landing in the next few days and over the weekend. Once they land they are not going to be able to get bait and ice to go back out, and that means they are going to have to tie up. We cannot afford to have this industry that is worth well over hundreds of millions of dollars in this Province shut down and tied up. We cannot have that. So the pressure will be on government over the weekend to deal with the committee, to deal with the price setting panel, to deal with the union, to deal with the processor reps to get this issue resolved and to come to an agreement that is acceptable to all.

Mr. Speaker, there are always issues in the fishing industry; there is no doubt about it. Always issues in the fishing industry and, you know, I think that is one of the challenges. One of the tremendous challenges of that industry and it results from the challenge of raw material, of oftentimes not having the supply of raw material that you would like to have in the industry to do the work that you need to do.

Mr. Speaker, there has been a lot of progress made in the aquaculture industry. I recognize that, and I recognize the role that the government opposite has played in doing that. I think it is important to invest in industries like this to get it off the ground. I really do. In fact, I have looked at some of the things that they have invested in, and I have seen the results. I have seen the employment that they have created in communities on the Connaigre Peninsula and the benefits that it is bringing to people in those particular communities, but you cannot forget the traditional fishing industry as well. You cannot forget it while you are out there investing millions of dollars in partnerships with aquaculture companies to invest in our Province. We never see that kind of partnership and investing with the traditional fishing industry in this Province. We have never seen it.

In fact, today, if there is a processor in this Province who is operating in a small rural area and creating 200 jobs who needs to re-modify their plant or buy new equipment they cannot come to the government and get that kind of support and partnership. Yet, Mr. Speaker, you can get aquaculture companies, like Cooke Aquaculture that came in from New Brunswick, where government has piled millions and millions and millions into partnering with them to develop the aquaculture industry. That is great. That is great!. All I am saying is that you should be investing in the traditional fishing industry as well. If you were investing more in it maybe then harvesters would be getting a better price for their lobster or their crab or their shrimp or their whelk or their scallops, Mr. Speaker, because it is all relevant.

Mr. Speaker, the fishing industry is one of the industries that we talked about during those Estimates, and one of the other pieces I want to touch on is with the sealing industry. In fact, I watched the interview by Mr. Jack Troake from out in Twillingate and, honest to God, it almost broke my heart because this is a man whose name has been synonymous with the sealing industry in this Province for as long as I can remember. I remember hearing his name when I was a young girl growing up on the Coast of Labrador in a fishing community, because the sealing boats from the Northeast Coast of Newfoundland would always come up the Coast of Labrador to seal in the spring of the year, Mr. Speaker. I grew up in a fishing family and so it was always the talk. I remember every meal I sat down to with the Fisherman's Broadcast at 5:00 or 5:30 in the evening.

I watched Mr. Troake a couple of nights ago, when he did his interview on the sealing industry, and you know there has to be pain. There has to be pain and emotion that these people feel. This has been a lifetime industry for them; a lifetime industry. It has not been a hobby. It has not been a fly-by-night campaign to just fight off a few animal welfare people. It has been a way of life. It has been an industry. It has been a job. It has been an income. It is a part of who they are and what they do.

Mr. Speaker, these people understand the impacts of closing the sealing industry better than anyone else, better than any person who could ever sit in the European Union, because they know how the ecosystem works. They know the pattern and the cycle, Mr. Speaker, that fish take in this Province, and they also know that if you do not have a hunt in the seal hunt, it means that other species will be destroyed. They know the impact that it is going to have on the ground fish industry, on the capelin and on the cod. They also know that if we do not harvest and hunt those seals that a few years from now I am going to have people out there talking about how the cod stock is diminishing even more, how the capelin stocks are going down, and the herring and mackerel, Mr. Speaker. They know that it is all a part of the ecosystem in which they work and operate as fisher people, and they know that once you take one of those species out of the food chain it has an impact on all the rest of them. I would take my advice and authority from one of them any day, Mr. Speaker - any day! - on what the real implications of this could be. There is no doubt about it.

Mr. Speaker, the decision that was taken by the European Union is an unfortunate one, one that will impact rural Newfoundland and Labrador, one that will impact our Aboriginal peoples, our traditional fishers, our traditional hunters, and one that will impact those people, Mr. Speaker, who have invested money over the years to build seal oil plants, to process seal oil capsules, to process seal meat and products and to develop the fur industry. All of these people are now going to be impacted and they were people who built the industry for the fishermen, for the seal hunters, so they would have a place to sell their product, so they would have a market, so they would have a demand for what they were supplying. These companies have invested a lot of money, Mr. Speaker, they have put a lot of work into research and development, and they have done a good job at developing a first-class quality industry in Canada.

Mr. Speaker, more so than ever we have to depend, today, upon the federal government of this country to make our case at the World Trade Organization. That is our only hope to overcome the decisions of the European Union and to again restore confidence and legitimacy to this industry, to this honest industry that people have depended upon.

Mr. Speaker, I am hoping that on this issue, which is so important to the people of this Province, that government will work with the federal government, that they will be a helping hand, a supporter and an active lobbyist, in partnership with them, to bring a strong case forward to the World Trade Organization, to bring a strong case forward on behalf of the sealing industry in this Province and in the country, because I know how important it is to those who have been dependent upon it for most of their lives.

Mr. Speaker, I also know that it is hard to compete with the propaganda of lobbyists. It is hard to compete with the international organizations and the animal welfare groups that see only what they want to see, talk of only what they want to talk, who have misled people around the world with their falsehoods and their propaganda and their misinformation.

Mr. Speaker, I hope they can sleep with themselves at night, and that they are not afraid; that they can rest easy knowing what deceitful tactics they have pulled on the people of this Province and the people of Canada who have been involved in the seal hunt all of their lives; because there was nothing, in their opinion, that could stand in the way of a good misled, misrepresented story of the seal hunt in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, I know how tough it was to fight those kinds of campaigns. It is hard enough to fight campaigns that are built on fact. It is hard enough to fight issues that are built on real information, but when you have to fight the animal welfare groups when their campaigns are built on falsehoods and misinformation and non-factual, incorrect allegations, I know then that it becomes twice as hard to do so.

The other issue in the fishing industry that we dealt with in the Estimates Committee and it is very important, of tremendous concern to the people in the Province, was the announcement that was made by the minister back in the fall that they would look at an early retirement program for fish plant workers in the Province, a program that they were going to do on their federal fisheries renewal program, which is a federal partnership program that they have signed with the federal government where they get a certain amount of money to put into fisheries renewal. The Province puts up 30 per cent of the money, I think it is, and the feds put up 70 per cent of the money.

Mr. Speaker, they were looking at an early retirement program. We had questioned the minister on this program in the Estimates Committee, and he said that he was waiting for a proposal from the industry, that they had partnered with industry to look at how they can best retire people in the processing sector of the fishing industry.

Mr. Speaker, from what we understand - and maybe we will get more information as time goes on - is that the union will work with the government, identify processing plants in the Province where there is an aging workforce, and they will target that particular operation and the workers in that operation for an early retirement program.

It is not going to be a program whereby, right across the board, if you are a fish plant worker and you are over the age of fifty-five or over the age of sixty, therefore you can fill out an application and qualify for an early retirement program. Our understanding is that is not the case, and that people will be selected based on the plant they work in, which tells me a couple of things. Are they going to be targeting plants for closure and, in targeting plants for closure in this Province, they are prepared to provide a retirement program to workers in that plant? We do not know these things. I guess the union will have a role in identifying for government which of these plants that they think that people should be retired from. That is the only thing I know, and maybe we will get more information.

Mr. Speaker, what we did find out is that they have asked the industry to submit a proposal, that government will review the proposal and look at whether they will allocate money under the fisheries renewal program for early retirement. The only thing I do know is that it will not be a program whereby everyone over a certain age who works in a plant will be able to apply and retire. That was confirmed for us.

Mr. Speaker, it is going to be interesting to see how this rolls out, because I would think that any plants that are selected to meet this early retirement criteria are going to be plants where either they are going to want to phase them out altogether and close them down, or are going to be plants where they are going to want to amalgamate them with other plants or other companies within the system. We will have to find out how this is all going to work.

MR. HEDDERSON: A point of order.

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

MR. HEDDERSON: I was listening to the hon. member – and I don't mean to take away from your time, and I don't know if you want me to get on my feet to give you a break or give you a glass of water, but again I caution the member. You are talking about early retirement and so on and so forth, and just to be clear, that was a program that we were entering into with regard to the federal government. The federal government haven't come through on it, and the union has put forth, perhaps, another alternative to it. Of course, any proposal that comes in, as I have indicated we would be only too glad, as a government, to look at it, but without any commitments at this particular time.

It would not necessarily be about early retirement or plants closing down or amalgamations or whatever. I say, Mr. Speaker, it is the work force, and I think it would be more around recruitment, retention, and dealing with the challenges that that industry has in recruiting and retaining workers, part of which deals with older workers.

I just wanted that point of clarification.

MR. SPEAKER (Felix Collins): Order, please!

Is the minister posing a point of order?


MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order.

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: If he didn't propose a point of order, I would have lost the rest of my time.

Mr. Speaker, you heard it here first, you got it all from the minister that time in great detail. Obviously, it is a concept that a lot of people in the processing sector in the Province are looking forward to, and it will be unfortunate if the federal government does not come forward with their share of the money.

I know, from just traveling around the Province, we do have a lot of people in our processing sector working in our fish plants who are over the age of sixty, and would like nothing more than to be able to retire a couple of years early. It is not easy work, Mr. Speaker, so if there was a way that this program could be implemented I am sure it would be very well received in the industry.

We will have to see what happens on the federal government's side. The new senator, Mr. Speaker, in the federal government comes from a fishing riding. The federal ambassador is from a fishing district. He served in the House of Assembly and represented the fishing industry. Maybe between Senator Manning and Ambassador Sullivan we might be able to get the money delivered to the fishing industry in the Province, so that we can get a retirement program going. They should know better than anyone the dependency on that program after representing ridings and districts that have been highly dependent upon the industry for so long. Maybe there needs to be some calls go out to them and some meetings with them. I am sure they have a lot of persuasive powers in the federal Cabinet, a lot of persuasive powers in the federal government. So maybe they will be able to deliver on some of those issues.

Mr. Speaker, that is the basis of most of our discussion that we had around the fishery sector in our Estimates. Of course, we dealt also with other departments, as I said, forestry and agrifoods, oil and gas, mining and energy development. So, there was a broad section and, unfortunately, the fishery has taken up a lot of my time but I will attempt to try and get through the others as we go along.

Mr. Speaker, in the forest industry – actually, I was watching the other night, I just saw it when I was - I do not know if I was watching the news or something else. I saw this commercial come on TV for a program that they are doing on living within 100 kilometres. How you live within 100 kilometres, in terms of the food supply. Apparently, they are doing a program: What is available in your area? I think this is really important because agriculture is all about sustaining communities and people from a food source, and that is what it is all about.

Now, I have not seen the program, I do not know if others have seen it, but I would like to at some point, at least get an opportunity to watch one episode of it because I found it very interesting. I think it would be interesting to take that challenge right here in our own Province, to see if there was some kind of a catastrophe in trade, in export, in import, in the world, and you were cut off and you had to live within a 100 kilometre radius on the natural foods that were grown and sown and harvested in that area. How many regions of our Province could actually do that?

I found it very interesting, Mr. Speaker, and it would probably be an educational factor for people too, to encourage more people to get involved with the agriculture sector, to grow their own vegetables and fruits, and to farm their own beef and chicken and turkey, and all these kinds of things, or at least encourage more people to do it commercially so that you have areas of the Province that are being sustained from a food supplies perspective. So, I have to keep my eyes open for the program and see if there is an opportunity to watch it.

Mr. Speaker, there has been some things happening in the agriculture industry and also in the fur farming industry. In fact, I have seen a lot of jobs created in my own district because of the fur industry. In fact, in the last couple of years we have had two mink farms open in the district and now we are having a fox farm open in the district. So, we are into all the fur up there. We have the seal, the fox, the mink, so we are doing pretty good. It has created a lot of jobs and it is a good industry. It is an industry that is controlled from an environmental perspective. It is an industry that still has some demand in terms of the product and it is one that is deriving benefits to smaller rural communities in the Province. I think there is something like over twenty fur farms right now across Newfoundland and Labrador and I think almost all of them are located in smaller regions of the Province and are contributing to the economy of those regions. So, that industry just in itself has been one of the newer additions in the Province in certain areas in the last few years.

Minister, I am going to talk about the forest industry because this is one of the industries that really causes me tremendous sadness. It does. The forest industry is not unlike the fishery. It was like one of the foundation industries for the Province. How many of us know, growing up, the stories of how our fathers and grandfathers went into the woods, worked in the logging industry and so on? It is such a part of our history. It is such a part of who we are throughout this Province.

Mr. Speaker, it is really unfortunate today that we have a forest industry in Newfoundland and Labrador that has basically collapsed, and not because of raw material but because of the short-sighted visions of expanding the industry over the years. The opportunity was not there. The encouragement was not there for new growth. I guess, like a lot of parts of the country and North America, we put all of our dependency into single source industries, like the pulp and paper mills. I know there are a lot of people in this Province today who are finding it very, very difficult because of the changes that have occurred in the forest industry.

I know on the Northern Peninsula, for example, it was only a couple of days ago I talked to an individual there who told me they were leaving the end of May to go to Alberta; one of the ones who is still finding work up there with a private contractor. This is an individual who would have worked in the forest industry for a number of years, but right now, today, they have nowhere to sell their wood. They have no market for their fibre.

There are a number of companies in the Roddickton, Englee, right down through the Northern Peninsula, Hawkes Bay, Port Saunders, all of that area - I am sure my colleagues who represent those districts will know exactly who I am talking about - who have invested a lot of money. I have talked to some of them who have had huge investments in equipment, in harvesters and in skidders, trucks and flatbeds and all of those kinds of things that you use in harvesting wood. They have invested in these things over the last three or four years, some of them a little bit longer. Now, all of a sudden, they have nothing to do with this equipment. They have nowhere to use it, and that is unfortunate because they are sitting right next door to huge timber stands. They would like nothing more than to be able to go out and harvest that wood, to be loading it on, to be taking it out to a market but the market has been exasperated because the by-product of their industry was the pulpwood. They could always offload it in Stephenville or in Grand Falls. That is not the case today. They do not have those options today.

There has to be new markets developed for the by-product. They will still use their logs in the lumber industry. They will still do small scale production in the processing of wood and fibre, but you still have to have somewhere else to offload all of the by-product and if you do not, your operations are not going to be feasible. I found that out in my own district where I had two huge sawmill operators creating thirty, forty jobs in the communities. Mr. Speaker, the day that they had nowhere to sell their pulpwood or the by-product of their lumber producing operation they were out of business, because you cannot just product lumber and not have a market for the rest of your product. It is not financially feasible to do that.

As a result, not only have you seen a lot of companies that were into the harvesting sector of the wood industry in this Province experiencing financial hardship and going out of business, but you have also had a lot of saw millers, some big sawmill operations. I look at, I think it was Bloomfield Lumber, and the minister can correct me if I am wrong, but I think that was one of the ones that went out of business, or closed down for a period of time. I know there was another huge operator in the Province who ended up going to Alberta to work, and I know that the department gave them the opportunity to keep their wood allocation for up to two years or three years because they know that right now this individual was in a downturn and they had nowhere to sell their fibre. They could not stay in the Province and not have a job, so they had to go somewhere else and find work, but at least they did not take the wood back and re-allocate it. They let them hold on to it. They have the option to come back in the next two years or three years and be able to get back in the business and start producing again.

Mr. Speaker, it is a sad situation, a very sad situation, and I know that many members in this House go back to their districts on the weekends and they are faced with it. I know I am faced with it when I go back to my own district, and it is hard because there is no easy solution that you can offer any of these people; but, Mr. Speaker, you have to realize that a lot of these people have invested their money and they have no more to invest, and they are looking to government today for creativity, for ideas, for innovation. They are looking to government to develop an alternative industry so that they will have somewhere to sell their fibre and their by-product.

We are dealing with a situation in Central Newfoundland, a situation with three particular private companies who, as a result of AbitibiBowater closing down, have nowhere to cut wood or sell wood, but they were the contractor for the company for years. They were contracted to cut the wood allocation that was owned by the company. They employed dozens of people. They had hundreds of millions of dollars – I think it was a hundred and something million - invested, collectively, in equipment and in operations within their business. Then, all of a sudden, not only were they left with no company to sell to but they were left with no wood allocation to cut, and they still do not have a wood allocation. In fact, government did not automatically say to them, we will give you the first option to come up with a development concept to utilize this wood and to develop it and to create an industry around it. In fact, they put it out for a proposal call. That was what they did. They put it out for a Request for Proposals, to see who comes forward.

The fact that these three companies have invested all of this money and have all of this equipment lying up is really irrelevant to the government opposite. That is irrelevant today, because that wood allocation could end up going to whoever comes forward with some concept that the government might like.

Who knows what rationale they are going to use the make the decision? We saw what happened with the shrimp licence down in Valleyfield. There was no rationale for that. That was just a whim, something they did not want to do so they cancelled it. How do we know that will not happen with this wood allocation in Central Newfoundland?

Mr. Speaker, the forest industry has, no doubt, had its toll on the people and the families of this Province. There is absolutely no doubt. There is not a day goes by that we do not hear from people in the Grand Falls-Windsor area, not one day, because if there ever was a group of people who had to suffer through a closure in an industry, you are witnessing it today.

When Abitibi closed down in Stephenville, at least those people had the security of walking away with their severance cheques and their vacation pay and their pension plans. The people in Grand Falls-Windsor are walking away with nothing - with nothing. It is a very, very different set of circumstances, a very different event altogether. It is absolutely so sad, I say to you, Mr. Speaker. It is such a sad situation.

What is even worse, what could be worse than having a company tell you that you are not getting your severance, then having a government tell you that we are going to reduce the severance package pay from any revenue agreement we negotiate on the expropriation of the assets, but then you still cannot get a cheque until it is all done? What could be even worse, Mr. Speaker, than losing it twice? Because that is what it feels like for many of them.

If you are prepared to negotiate the severance as part of the expropriation of the assets, why not pay the money out to those people now? Why not pay it out now, if you are committed to do it? Why wait for another two months, three months, six months, or a year from now? Why wait until these people have had to foreclose on their properties? Why wait for the banks to come and cause more financial hardship and turmoil in the lives of those people?

Mr. Speaker, I look at things like this; I look at things this way: If government is so confident with negotiating the deal with Abitibi for the expropriation and in negotiating the financial agreement, and they are so committed to ensuring that the severance is paid to the workers in that community that are affected by the closure of AbitibiBowater, why not do it now?

Show your confidence and commitment and do it in good faith. Don't string people along. Don't lead them along and make them wait and wait and wait. If you are going to do it, do it now. That is the only issue that we have continued to raise on behalf of that group of people. Now, there are other groups of people as well that have been impacted, that are affected, and we have raised their issues in the House of Assembly as well. What is sad is that government has not gotten a good handle on this issue. I do not think the unions have been strong enough; I will be completely honest with you.

I listened to Wayne Lucas, who showed up out there just a few days ago. This is a crowd that had rallies at the gates for days and days before CUPE even showed up to support them. I think they can do more, too. I think they all have to collectively start putting more pressure on, if they are to get any benefits out of all of this.

It is going to be too late when it is all said and done, and people come back squawking at that time, and come back making demands at that time. When it is done, it is done, so I think there is more of a role that others can play in supporting them and pressuring and lobbying the company and government to get results on this particular issue. There is no doubt about that.

Mr. Speaker, forestry and fisheries were just two of the issues that we dealt with in the Estimates of the Resource Sector Committee. We also dealt with other issues, and they were around the oil and gas industry, around the mining industry, and around the energy development projects. Of course, part of the issue that has been ongoing in Grand Falls-Windsor is related to the energy development itself, and related to the expropriation of the power resource in that community, and what is being done with that power, and the revenue that is being generated from it by the government.

Mr. Speaker, my time is nearly up, and I will have a number of opportunities to speak on this particular issue. I will be speaking again on the other resource sectors that we have covered as part of the Estimates of this committee.

Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Lewisporte.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is indeed a pleasure to stand today and speak for a few minutes on the Budget estimates concurrence for this year. As a member of the Resource Committee, it was certainly a privilege for me to listen to the different ministers and the different departments and their senior officials give explanations and give answers to questions relevant to the inside workings sometimes of their departments. Of course, as a Resource Committee we heard Estimates from the Department of Business, the Department of Environment and Conservation, Tourism, Culture and Recreation and youth. We heard Estimates from Natural Resources, Innovation Trade and Rural Development, and from Fisheries and Aquaculture.

I have some things I want to cover here today, Mr. Speaker. Given the fact that we are talking about a money bill, I am going to take the latitude that is afforded in that case and to talk about a number of different things provincially and also to talk about some things in my district. Before I do, I just spent a full sixty minutes, practically, listening to the Leader of the Opposition and listening to some of the points that she was making. I have to say, Mr. Speaker, she covered a gamut of things; spent some time talking about the fishery and spent some time talking about the logging industry. As a Member for Lewisporte District and in Central Newfoundland - there are a couple of comments I want to make before I go on to some of the other things I wanted to say.

With respect to the fishery, I grew up in a small fishing town. As a boy I guess, graduating high school, I started fishing for a while actually and I decided I was not man enough to do it. As a matter of fact, I think I was seasick out in a boat, in a longliner when I made up my mind that I was going to probably attend university and get some further training. The fishery, and as the Leader of the Opposition has said, there has been a number of problems in the fishery for a number of years. I have listened to fishermen in my own district, I have attended meetings. I attended a meeting a while back with the Minister of Fisheries in which he took the time to talk to one of my constituents and listened to all the complications and the intricacies that go on in the fishery. As was said by the Leader of the Opposition, there are no easy answers, and I have heard the Minister of Fisheries say the same thing, too. It is a complicated issue.

One thing I would say, and I would say this without reservation, Mr. Speaker, while the issues are complicated and while we are dealing with a challenging industry, one thing I can say for sure without reservation, I would much rather have this government at this time, with this Minister of Fisheries trying to solve these problems than I would have the Leader of the Opposition trying to do it. With that, Mr. Speaker, I can say that without any reservation.

Mr. Speaker, I want to make a few general comments as well about the – you know, as I look back when the House closed last year, last spring, what we were looking at was we were looking at some really good news going on in the Province. As a Province, we were projecting some huge surpluses. As a Province, we had just signed a 21.5 per cent wage package increase with one of our large public sector unions, CUPE. Despite the fact that there was some uncertainty on the national scene, things were looking really good.

I have gone back a year ago now, practically, last June when we were about ready to clue up the House of Assembly for that spring session. Here we are a year later, and since that time a lot has happened in the world. We have been hit with a degree of global economic uncertainty that has resulted in an international recession. While the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador - we have not been shielded from the effects of a shrinking global economy, but we have been positioned to address the economic downturn in a very productive and in a very aggressive manner.

I was pleased in February, Mr. Speaker, to attend a news conference. Some people have alluded to that here and I am going to talk briefly about it again. There was a news conference that was held by the Premier, the Minister of Finance, and the Minister of Transportation of Works. It was held on February 18 of this year. I want to, again, paint the picture we were dealing with last spring, last summer. Emotions were sort of riding high and the price of oil was high and we were looking at big surpluses. What happened in the fall as the price of oil started to fall and we started to look at – there was a degree of uncertainty that was sort of injected into Canada and also to some degree into the Province.

On February 18 - prior to the Budget, at a news conference - the Premier, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Transportation and Works made an announcement about some infusion of infrastructure money that was going to be spent in the Province. At that time, I appreciated the fact that here was some good news. It was a little bit ahead of the Budget and I think it was good it was ahead of the Budget. It sort of raised the level of optimism again.

The hon. Premier announced that our response to the looming recession would be to increase infrastructure spending up to $800 million in this fiscal year. The sound fiscal decisions that our government has made in the past five years have certainly placed us in an excellent position to positively ride out the economic storms. Some of the spending that was announced at that time, Mr. Speaker, included: in the area of transportation infrastructure, about $309 million; in the area of educational facilities, $155 million; in the area of health care facilities, equipment, including repairs and maintenance of $163 million; municipal infrastructure, $103 million; Newfoundland and Labrador Housing, about $25 million, and justice infrastructure about $18 million.

Of course, Budget 2009 that was delivered by the Minister of Finance bears out these figures and they were carried forward. It is a very significant investment, Mr. Speaker, by our government. It is an investment that will serve to stimulate the economy through the creation of additional jobs for people throughout the Province. That is one of the things that I liked, was the emphasis at that particular news conference and in the media briefing that I attended, it showed where the money was going to be spent, not just on the Avalon, not just on the Northern Peninsula, not just in Labrador, not just on the West Coast but throughout the entire Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

In addition to the stimulus money, Mr. Speaker, I looked at the little booklet that comes with the Budget. It sort of summarizes some of the major things. I noted the following. In the area of education for this coming year, do you know what we are spending in education this coming year? $1.44 billion. That equates to 19.6 per cent. In the area of health we are going to be spending, this fiscal year, $2.6 billion, 35.2 per cent of our budget, on health. Then there is an area that is called, other social sectors, and there are a number of things that are lumped in there, 14.5 per cent or $1.1 billion.

Do you know what that adds up to, Mr. Speaker, in the area of our social sector, our social issues, health, education and other social? That comes out to be 69.3 per cent of our budget spent in the areas of social health.

Included in that, we have talked about our Poverty Reduction Strategy. I might add, Mr. Speaker, it is a strategy that is the envy of the entire country. The investments, the plans and the programs we have put in place, we have received accolades across the country. I have heard the Minister of Human Resources, Labour and Employment talk about some of the feedback that she has received about the Poverty Reduction Strategy, and very, very positive feedback.

With eighteen new initiatives announced in Budget 2009, the ongoing annual investment in the Poverty Reduction Strategy is just over $132 million. I would like for the Leader of the NDP to make note of that, because I have heard the Leader of the NDP sort of criticize and talk about poverty reduction, and she says we are not doing enough, with $132 million, and a committee of eleven ministers actively overseeing the Poverty Reduction Strategy, Mr. Speaker.

There is a well-known political activist, and many people here would know her, Gloria Steinem, a well-known political activist, a feminist, a champion for women's rights, in actual fact, and I bring her up because there is a quote that comes from her, that has been attributed to her, and it says, "We can tell our values by looking at our cheque book stubs."

Now, Mr. Speaker, if you take that quote, "We can tell our values by looking at our cheque book stubs", and then you look at our budget, almost 70 per cent of our budget being spent on the social, the mental and the physical health of our citizens, we know where our values are. Just look at our cheque book stubs, 70 per cent on the social, physical and mental health of our citizens.

Mr. Speaker, I have about seven minutes and I want to talk a little bit about some things going on in my district. I serve the District of Lewisporte, with about twenty-one communities. In the last year-and-a-half since I have been elected, October 2007, I am very proud to say that we have made, as a government, significant investments in the Lewisporte district.

We have improved roads. When we talk about roads, there are forty-eight members here, and I guess with forty-eight members we all have varying degrees of problems, or lack of problems, with roads throughout our district. The roads in my district are in pretty good shape. I do have some roads that are in need, in great need, of an infusion of money. Maybe some members here have a few more problems and some do not have quite as many, but roads is kind of a sensitive issue with members, I have found out since I have come here. We would all kind of like to get more and more and more. I am pleased to see the investment that our government has made in roads in the last number of years, millions and millions, about $75 million or $80 million a year in the provincial roads program.

In my district we have improvements to the roads in Norris Arm. We did a section of road down in Brown's Arm, Stoneville. We did a little section in Port Albert. We spent about $1 million on Gander Bay Road.

This coming year, the announcement is not out about my roads yet. I am still in negotiations with the Minister of Transportation and Works, still trying to pound a little more out of him, but he is taking quite a pounding because I think just about every member is doing the same thing with him. We all like to get what we can get; that is the way we work. The bottom line is that we cannot get it all.

The announcement will come out in my district within the next week or so, I hope, and there will be some people who will be pleased that their road is getting some attention and there will be a few people that I am sure I will have to say: Look, we will continue working on it, and hopefully we will get it addressed next year, and as this government continues to invest in our provincial roads and the infrastructure we will get the needs met. Hopefully, they will understand that.

I, just last Monday, left the House of Assembly early, actually, to drive to Lewisporte to go to the official opening of our new remodelled stadium. We call it an official re-opening, and what a beautiful facility. We had representatives there from the town council and we had representatives from the all the Chambers of Commerce, the different groups that use the stadium, the hockey teams. There were a whole slew of people out, and there was a nice crowd came out from the town and different areas to watch it, as we officially re-opened this regional recreational complex known as Lewisporte Stadium. It is a beautiful facility, a $5 million investment by our government, $5 million invested in that.

Our government has been investing in our local marina. For all you members and people out there, I will say that we are planning an annual marina conference June 18 and 19, a very exciting event by some of the local planners. We have a great lineup of speakers, and all of this again is made possible through investments by our government. There has been some help from ACOA and the federal government, as well, but our government believes in rural Newfoundland.

I believe, certainly, that marine tourism is going to be an important and an upcoming thing, as we partner with different districts around - my friend in the District of The Isles of Notre Dame and my friend out in Botwood, and the District of Exploits - and we try to see this whole bay become a great place for marine traffic.

We have water and sewer projects throughout the district. We had a number of water and sewer projects last year. This year we have a great investment from Municipal Affairs. The official announcements, again, are not out yet so I cannot let the cat out of the bag here today but I will say that we are going to get a number of our needs met again this year through some water and sewer projects in the district.

We have helped out a number of community centres in the last year or so with some infrastructure needs that they needed. I guess one of the most exciting things for my district this coming year, and one of the things that has been sort of on the radar now for a while and we have been working with government on, is the construction of a one-roof health care facility in Lewisporte. What we have there now, throughout town, is a senior citizens' home known as North Haven Manor. We have community health in another building, we have a lab and x-ray, and we have clinics. We have different areas of town where health services are being delivered.

Some people locally have been working for quite some time to have an improvement to these facilities. The improvements have been approved by government. Last year we had hoped to get the construction started, but prices were high last year. The price of materials was at an all time high, the price of labour was at an all time high, and the tenders were just too extravagant.

What we have in this year's Budget is, the government has come out and said: We are going to put $5 million there to get that project started this year. We will get some, as they call it, shovels in the ground and get some things going, and we will build on it from there. I think the people of the Lewisporte District and the surrounding area are going to be very, very pleased when they see that actually get started. I am optimistic that we will see it started this year, and I am very, very thankful that government saw fit to say: Look, whatever happens this year, we are going to spend $5 million there, and whatever it takes after that, depending on the scope of the project and that, we will continue to build on it.

Mr. Speaker, my time is pretty well up. I did have a number of other things that I wanted to talk about, but if I could have leave to clue up.

MR. SPEAKER (Osborne): Does the hon. member have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. VERGE: I will just take another minute to clue up.

I was going to talk about the central waste management but I will leave that for another day. I have some details on that. That is moving ahead great, as we see that the way we get rid of our industrial and our commercial and our household waste is going to be done in a cleaner and a greener way in the future. We are certainly looking forward to that.

The Budget announced an allowance for a family resource centre to be set up in Lewisporte this year and I am looking forward to that happening.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I will just say that the Lewisporte district has benefited from the Province's positive fiscal position, a positive fiscal position that really we are in because of the great decisions that have been made over the last number of years that have sort of helped us be shielded from, somewhat not totally - we are not living in a box here – and it placed us in a position where we can address the economic uncertainty in a very positive manner.

Together, Mr. Speaker, we are hoping to build an economy in which people in communities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, are communities where they can live, where they can work, and where they can prosper.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am very pleased to stand this afternoon and take part in the concurrence debate as part of our Estimates process in getting approval of the Budget.

It is interesting being the lone member of the third party, because as the lone member I actually sit on all three committees. By sitting on all three committees, I attend just about every single Estimates meeting, especially if they do not happen at the same time. If they happen at the same time I am in trouble. This year, actually, the schedule is done in such a way that there was not any time when there was a doubling up, and except for when I had to be out of the House I was able to attend all of the meetings. That is a very interesting thing to be able to do because it gives me a personal insight into all of the departments, which would not happen if there were other members here with me. We would all be sharing it out and sharing each other's. I am not saying that I want to attend all meetings because it is obviously quite a heavy schedule. I am looking forward to the next days in the House without having to have meetings every morning and every night, but it has been a very interesting process as it always is.

As I have said before, when I have stood in the House and spoken, especially to the Budget - this is my third time now speaking to a Budget - it is not my role as Leader of one of the Opposition parties to stand here and to point out all of the good things about the Budget. The government side of the House has forty-four people who can do that. That is not my role. I was not elected to do that. I was elected to bring issues to the floor that perhaps are not coming up, issues to the floor that perhaps government are not dealing with, and to bring the voice of people who say: well, there are different things that need to be done. That is my role. That is why I am here. I point that out so that my hon. colleagues will respect that role that I have to play just like I respect the role of government. We all have our roles and we all have to work together as we play these roles out. That is one of the good things, by the way, of the Estimates meetings, it is one of the things that I like, that we actually are sitting together and trying to work together. It is a bit less confrontational than being in the House of Assembly although it still is a bit of a we-and-they kind of thing when you have the committee and the departments.

That experience of the Estimates meetings is something that I really wish we could have on an ongoing way in the House. We could, of course, and I would like to use some of my time to speak to that. We could have our committee structure be a structure that works as it does in other legislatures in Canada, and that is a committee where legislation gets worked out at the committee level, that by the time legislation comes to the floor of the House, the legislative committee, the all-party committee, has worked together to bring the legislation to a point most often, I would hope, that would be a point of consensus. Obviously, when I look at other legislatures, especially the Parliament in Ottawa, there are times that even after working on a piece of legislation together in committee you still do not get unanimity when it gets to the floor and it still gets debated and the majority voice rules.

Certainly, if our three committees, the Social, Resource and Government Services, were able to sit together to work on legislation together, I think it would make for a very, very satisfying experience for people in the House of Assembly. We are not all ministers with ministries to take care of. To be involved on a regular basis in policy discussion, which is what would happen in committee, I think, would be using very creatively all the experience and knowledge that exists in the House of Assembly, because nobody in this House has a corner on knowledge and experience. Using the committee structure so that everybody would have an opportunity to be involved with policy discussion would really be something, I think, that would bring a new life to the House of Assembly.

I have been talking about that with some of my colleagues in the House. Obviously I am talking to other parties, because I am the only member of my party, so I am talking with colleagues in the House about this idea and I am finding that there are others in the House who would be interested in having an active committee structure all the time, not just when we are doing Estimates at budget time. I am going to continue putting that idea out there.

Now I want to turn my thoughts specifically to what we are discussing this afternoon, which is the concurrence around the resources discussions that we have been having. Resources are very interesting for us in this Province because we have an economy that historically has been very strongly based in resource development. When we talk about natural resources, I know there is more to the resource sector than just natural resources but when we look at natural resources we have an economy that is very strongly based in natural resources. We began, in terms of our modern society in this Province, we began with the fishery. We added forestry. We added mining. It was sort of in that order I think that it happened. We have always had agriculture, and of course now we have oil and gas. So we have a mix of an economy based on renewable and non-renewable resources.

One of the things that concerns me is that some of our resource development, some of the areas that we have been strong in in the past, such as the fishery - and particularly the fishery but not only the fishery, the same is true for forestry - that at this point in time seem to be getting neglected, and it really bothers me when I see that. I know that oil and gas is extremely important to us right now and the money that we are enjoying, the great wealth that we are enjoying for the most part is coming from the oil and gas industry, and I will not deny that. That is obviously true. I can understand why the government wants to put some of their money into that whole area, especially as it relates to energy, but we are running a great risk if we do not keep up looking at our other more traditional industries. We are running a great risk of putting all of our money in one basket.

I know money is going into other areas but this government has put over half a billion dollars into the new energy corporation. Because of the government's goal, I can understand why it is making that choice because it has a vision for that company. Well, that is the vision of this government and I hope it is going to pay off but at the same time as the government is doing that kind of thing, I looked at the Budget for this year and I saw, for example, that the budget in agriculture has dropped by $6 million in this Budget. Now, that really upset me, because I hear an awful lot of people in this Province, both people who are involved in agriculture in a major way in this Province and people who are involved in it in a smaller way, with all kinds of ideas about how things could improve in this Province with regard to agriculture.

It is very disturbing that we are not using, to the best of our ability, what we have with regard to agriculture. For example, local farmers in this Province produce only 10 per cent to 12 per cent of the vegetables that we consume here, but we know that we could produce almost all, especially when it comes to the root crop. We could produce all of the vegetables that we need here when it comes to the root crop. We are also, through large farms and through experimental farming that is going on, showing that there are all kinds of more vegetables besides root crops that can be grown here in Newfoundland and Labrador. Maybe more so on the Island than in Labrador, but they can be grown. I would love to see much, much more money put into the area of agriculture. I would love to see government working more closely with people who have ideas for agriculture and putting money into it, and really working at increasing our agricultural industry.

Government makes its decision on what it decides is really important, and we know that by where it puts its money. I wrote down what my hon. colleague over there from Lewisporte said when he quoted Gloria Steinem, a feminist activist for many, many years. You can tell where our values are by looking at our chequebook stubs. Well, when I look at the chequebook stub for this government when it comes to resources, I see an awful lot of money going to aquaculture, for example, quite a bit of money going into aquaculture. So I look at that and I say: oh yes, this government really wants to increase the industry of aquaculture.

I see an amazing amount of money going to energy. I definitely know, I have absolutely no doubt in my mind, that this government wants to become a major player in energy, and I am not criticizing those things. What I am saying is, the message to me is, when I see less money being paid on agriculture, this same government is telling me: well, they are losing their interest in agriculture.

We have people sitting in this House who come from areas where agriculture is very important. I am looking at some of my colleagues across the room right now, who come from areas where agriculture is really important. I would really like to see this government become just as proactive around agriculture as they are, for example, around aquaculture. I would like to see them become just as proactive around agriculture as they are around energy. I would also like to see them become more proactive when it comes to the fishery.

I was extremely disappointed this year when industry did not vote for a marketing arm for the fishery. Government says it wants it to happen, and yet, it set up a vote that was doomed to fail. So I had to ask myself at that time, if government really wants things to happen around the fishery and they really believe there should be a marketing arm, then why don't they make it happen? Other countries have done that. Other counties have made the marketing arm happen. They have put the money in and they said this is the way we are going to go. Even though there may have been some small disagreement in the beginning - in Norway, for example, it has worked. The marketing arm has worked.

So I look at this government and I say, think about the future, think about twenty years time, think about when there is not going to be any more oil coming out of our ocean beds, think about when we are still going to need the fishery. Right now at this moment, for example, with what we are facing with crab, I really believe that we would be better off, around the crab issue, if we did have a marketing arm. If we had had a whole marketing plan in place and we had a stronger market strategy, we may not be in the situation that we are in.

We know, for example, on the West Coast that crab is being bought for $3.25 a pound, we know that Nova Scotia harvesters are getting $1.65 a pound for their crab. I do know, and I will say this so that everybody realizes that I do know the difference between apples and oranges. I do know, for example, that in Nova Scotia they do not pay into workers' compensation and EI the way we do, so the equivalent here for the cost of crab would be about $1.50. So when we say $1.65 over there, it is about $1.50 here. That is the equivalent.

My point is, even though the global economy downturn has affected everybody, it seems for some reason we are the ones who are in a crisis here in the crab industry. I am saying that if we had ongoing planning happening all the time, if we had a real market strategy happening in this Province with regard to the fishery, and if the government was involved with all stakeholders and doing long-term planning, looking five years down the road, then we may not be in the crisis we are in this week with regard to our crab industry. What I am saying to this government is: You have got to look at the industries that are at the base of our rural economy. It is not the oil industry that is at the base of our rural economy. It is not even the energy industry that is at the base of our rural economy. What is at the base of our rural economy is fishing, agriculture, and forestry, all three of which are renewable and sustainable resources creating a sustainable economy.

All I am asking this government to do is to look at shovelling more money into those areas, being creative, and working with the creative people in these industries, people who have great ideas, ideas that are rooted in community economic development as well to build up the communities, because if not I hate to think where we are going to be in rural Newfoundland in thirty years.

One of the other areas that would help this growth and this strengthening of the rural economy would be if this government were to look more seriously at environmental industries. There is so much that could happen environmentally that would sure up our economy, that would add to our economy.

First of all, of course, with regard to the industries that I am talking about, our natural resource industries, all of them, whether we are talking about fishing, whether we are talking forestry, or whether we are talking about agriculture, all have environmental spin-offs that can happen. Land use is one, building up, for example, marine protected areas, something that a lot of communities want to do - it is happening, but very slowly – and looking at environmentally different kinds of methods for doing agriculture. Putting money into these areas is not just putting money in, it creates a different type of worker, it involves training, and it is proven wherever people get into environmentally friendly new industries that it adds to the economy.

Let's look at something like in energy. When we look over at New Brunswick, for example, and look at the work that New Brunswick is doing with regard to Echo Energy, the work that they are doing with regard to retrofitting, the work that they are doing with industry, not just with people's residential homes but with industry, with commercial operations, and the work that they are doing with retrofitting through Energy New Brunswick, it is adding tremendously to their economy because they have created a whole new industry and that whole new industry is employing people who were not employed before. It is a whole new training area and it adds to the economy.

What I say to this government is, use the resources that we are getting from the development of the oil industry and let's get as much money from that as we can. I am totally in agreement with that, but let us also, more intently, use money from that to build up our renewable resources so that we, number one, build our economy now, improve our economy now, but also make sure that we have an economy down the road.

I get upset when I hear us take for granted, for example, that rural Newfoundland is going to die. I hear that from people and it really upsets me. It does not have to die if we put a plan in place. I would like to see - and I said this at the Estimates meeting - if the plan of the new director of the Rural Secretariat, if that plan works in the first phase, I would say shovel a lot more money into the plan once they get into a second phase so that real community economic development can happen in this Province where real money goes into the hands of people who are coming up with ideas, which I have no doubt they are going to come up with, because the ideas are already out there. If Mr. Gilbert's plan works, he will be bringing together, consolidating, these great ideas that are out there in rural Newfoundland. Make them work. Shovel money into it so that the ideas can be put into place and we can build up rural Newfoundland.

Some people may be saying, here she is, she is the MHA from Signal Hill–Quidi Vidi and she is talking about rural Newfoundland, but I am the leader of my party and my party is a provincial party. I am quite aware of the fact that it is St. John's and the Northeast part of the Avalon Peninsula that is benefiting so much from the offshore. We all know that, but we cannot allow that to happen and not at the same time worry about what is happening in rural Newfoundland and in Labrador. We have to worry about this; we have to plan for it.

When I say all that and the way I put this all out in spite of what my colleagues –

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: I will clue up now, if I can have leave, please, just briefly.

MR. SPEAKER: Does the hon. member have leave?


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. member, by leave.

MS MICHAEL: When I say all of this I am not being negative. I am showing some really positive things that can happen and I am hoping that the government is going to say: Oh, yes, that is pretty good, that is not a bad idea. As a matter of fact, I have already seen the government pick up some of my good ideas over the last two and a half years. So I will keep on with my ideas and hopefully some of the ideas that I have just put out on resources will also be picked up by the government.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Labrador West.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. BAKER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is certainly a great honour for me today to stand in my place, as the Member for Labrador West and as a member of the Resource Committee, to take part in the concurrence debate for the resource sector.

The detailed examination of those Estimates over the past number of weeks for the Departments of Natural Resources, Fisheries and Aquaculture, Innovation, Trade and Rural Development, Business, Tourism, Culture and Recreation, and Environment and Conservation certainly has been a very rewarding experience despite some of the late night sittings that we had. It certainly gave me a very insightful look into the workings of those departments.

The mining industry, Mr. Speaker, which comes under the Department of Natural Resources, of course, is of particular interest to me since mining is the life blood of the economy of my District of Labrador West. I want, therefore, at the outset, to take some time to talk about the impact which the current world economic recession has had on the mining industry in Labrador.

A year ago, Mr. Speaker, the economy of Labrador West was certainly booming. We were considered the mini Fort McMurray of Newfoundland and Labrador. Iron ore was in very great demand and prices were also at record highs. The Iron Ore Company of Canada and Wabush Mines, the two mining companies in my district, were certainly pushing production to take advantage of this. As a matter of fact, the value in 2008 of the iron ore shipments increased by approximately 90 per cent which was up from the previous year. The total value of those shipments was in excess of $2.2 billion.

As well, the Iron Ore Company of Canada was certainly well underway with its $800 million expansion project which would see it increase its production capacity for concentrate and pellets from 18 million up to 25 million tonnes which was by the year 2011, which would have been an increase of approximately 50 per cent. Certainly, the expansion was and would continue to create a great deal of economic spinoff for the local economy, employing over 300 contractors for the three-year life of the project; and, of course, at the end of the project we would see an increase in the permanent workforce at the Iron Ore Company of Canada of approximately 200 permanent employees, certainly adding to the growth and the viability of our town.

There was some downside, as well, connected with this expansion, of course. Suddenly we saw housing prices escalate. The market value of homes increased. For houses that were selling normally in the range of $125,000 to $150,000, they suddenly shot up overnight to $200,000 or $250,000 and even $300,000 for some of those houses. As well, we saw rental accommodations increase from $450 or $500 a month for apartments, double up to $1,000 or $1200. These were certainly some of the downsides. This created, of course, a severe shortage for affordable housing in my district. As well, restaurants and retail businesses had trouble filling their staff requirements and they, in some cases, had to curtail some of their hours of operation because of that.

Then, Mr. Speaker, as we are all aware, the economic recession which had started earlier in the year 2008 finally caught up with the mining industry in Labrador West. In December, or late November, IOC announced that its major expansion plans would be put on hold until the iron ore markets rebound, and that it would also be taking a five-week shutdown, starting in July, with a cut in production of approximately 20 per cent.

As a matter of fact, I think last month IOC also announced that, due to the continuing soft markets in iron ore, there is an outside possibility of this shutdown being extended to thirteen weeks. This, of course, is a worst-case scenario, and the way things are right now there is a good possibility that this will not happen. In any case, it is a worst-case scenario and it is a precautionary move by the company as a result of the continuous soft markets but also to give required notice under the Labour Standards Act.

Mr. Speaker, the impact on Wabush Mines has been more severe in terms of production cuts and layoffs. Production in Wabush has been cut back to 2.2 million tonnes from 4.5 million, and approximately 160 of their full-time workers have been laid off, which represents about 37 per cent of the total workforce. These layoffs of the unionized workers took place around mid-February with about twenty-six staff people laid off, I think, towards the end of January.

Now, Mr. Speaker, today, as we speak, the Iron Ore Company is still operating fairly close to capacity and, although its regular customers are not presently taking their contract commitments, it is selling its product on the spot market mainly into China.

Spot market prices, of course, are somewhat lower than their contractual prices but are indeed returning a positive cash flow to the company and enabling IOC to maintain 100 per cent of its workforce, which is very good news, and we hope that continues.

IOC, as well, are very well-positioned to get back into full production and to carry on with its expansion plans once the markets improve. They have done a lot of preparation work already on their expansion. They have a team still in place. It has accommodations now in place for over 300 contractors and, as a matter of fact, they have continued on with a project which would add another, I think, eighty-five units for contractor personnel as well, to take during their expansion phase. They also have a lot of the major components in place for this expansion, so they can certainly pick up quite quickly once the markets do rebound.

Now, the delay in the IOC expansion also has - despite some of the drop-off in the local economy there was a bit of a silver lining as well to this, because originally towns were caught unawares, which created a lot of the housing shortages. So, the next time around the towns will be much better prepared, and with the additional accommodations now in place for contractor personnel we certainly should see the pressure on the normal housing market slack off. We will not see as much pressure on that. As a matter of fact, prices are now starting to steadily move back to their normal levels, so that is some good news out of the bad.

The situation in Wabush, Mr. Speaker, Wabush Mines ore has a high manganese content, around 4 per cent, and that puts some limits on the marketability of its product. So it is now in the process of installing, on one of its production lines, equipment that will reduce this manganese content to about 2 per cent.

If this proves out, and the whole plant is converted, then the life of the mine could be extended by about 15 years. This would involve an investment of approximately $50 million, really not a major investment when you look at the grand scheme of things and see the benefits that would result from this. In the meantime, the company is also focusing its marketing strategy to a higher manganese product, and this can be very beneficial in steelmaking when blended with a product of lower manganese content.

Mr. Speaker, mining is a cyclical industry and Labrador West has gone through a number of downturns over the past fifty years. I have been around there to witness most of those, but the industry has always rebounded and always come back stronger than it was before, and I am certainly confident that this will happen again and Labrador West will be, in fact, producing iron ore fifty years plus from now.

Even today, Mr. Speaker, as I speak, there is a new mining company, Consolidated Thompson, which is forging ahead with its plans to develop a new mine just across the border from Labrador West, close to the town of Fermont, Quebec, which is about twenty-seven kilometres away from Labrador City, and part of that project would see them construct a thirty-eight kilometre rail link from the Quebec border into Wabush. This would enable them, then, to ship their product via the QNS&L down to the shipping ports in Sept-Iles, Quebec. This project, this railway project, is still winding its way through the environmental process but the company certainly has plans to be in production by next year.

As well, we have two other companies, Labrador Iron Mines and New Millennium, who have also submitted Environmental Impact Statements to this government to reactivate some mining areas that IOC walked away from, basically, back in 1982. These are near Schefferville, Quebec, but, for the most part, on the Labrador side of the border.

So, the future of iron ore looks great. It is not all doom and gloom, and I sincerely believe that Labrador West has indeed a very bright future when it comes to the mining industry. In the meantime, Mr. Speaker, I have kept on top of this situation since day one with regular contacts with unions at Wabush and IOC, and with their management personnel, and I certainly applaud this government for their pro-active response to this situation, which helped to mitigate the fallout, particularly the fallout from the layoffs at Wabush Mines.

As a matter of fact, in December, once the initial announcement was made, the Minister of Natural Resources was in immediate contact with the company and union officials. As a matter of fact, here in the House, just before the last session of the House in December closed, I was part of a meeting, along with the Minister of Natural Resources, with both union presidents here in the House of Assembly.

The Minister of Human Resources, Labour and Employment has also been involved and was in contact very early on and had a team of specialists actually on the ground in Wabush in early February. This team of HRLE specialists met with union officials at Wabush to discuss their training needs and other options available to the laid-off workers. They held public sessions. As a matter of fact, then they did a follow-up. Each person that was laid off had been contacted individually. Some people opted for some training programs but a lot of the employees decided to wait and see, to wait out the recession and go back to their regular jobs once the economy improves.

As well, Mr. Speaker, we had a delegation of five Cabinet ministers visit the area in February. We had the Minister of Natural Resources, Human Resources, Labour and Employment, Municipal Affairs, Labrador Affairs, and Aboriginal Affairs, along with myself, we held a series of meetings with both unions at Wabush and at IOC, and as well with management officials and as well with both the town councils in the area.

Of course, the largest impact of this whole recession has been in Wabush and that is where we focused most of our attention. Some of the suggestions put forth to us by the Wabush union included extending the retirement incentive which Wabush had put in place. They offered an incentive of $10,000 to people eligible for retirement in order to entice them and because they had an agreement in place with the union that for every person who took early retirement than the same numbers would be recalled from the laid off workforce.

As well, we asked if the company would consider extending this so people would have a little more time to make a decision on this. They did agree, as a matter of fact, to extend this bonus out to the end of April. I believe so far seventeen or eighteen people have taken advantage of this and the same number now have been recalled back to work from the laid off employees.

Also, there was a concern if people were out, that if some of the laid off employees were out doing training and were recalled then would they lose their recall rights if they decided to stay and complete their training. So we broached this to the company and they agreed that no, they would let the people continue their training without the penalty of losing their recall rights.

Some other things we talked about, using laid off workers for any construction or maintenance projects, and this was agreed to as well by the company. The possibility, of course, we broached from both unions, was an advance in block training for electrical and millwright apprentices during the summer. Especially if the shutdown is indeed extended, this would certainly be very beneficial to these people rather than having to go to other areas of the Province to complete their block training.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the infrastructure spending in this budget for Labrador West was announced as well during the ministerial visit. It was part of a stimulus package to help us ride out the economy slowdown and as part of the $800 million total provincial economic stimulus package. Certainly, the fast tracking and the level of spending for Labrador West projects is very encouraging. The early announcement of the scope of the work was also very helpful for potential contractors bidding on this work in order to enable them to gear up for manpower and equipment requirements. It certainly put to rest some of the rumours and negativity that was going around at the time that this government was not committed and none of the projects would be completed again this year, or no work would be started on them.

This year, Mr. Speaker, we will see a record $85 million, which includes $26 million from the federal government spent on the Trans-Labrador Highway, on Phase I and Phase III. As a matter of fact, an RFP, a Request for Proposal, was just put out a few days ago to hard surface eighty kilometres of the highway from my part of the district, from Wabush Junction, towards Churchill Falls. This will make a significant accomplishment for the eventual hard surfacing of the complete Trans-Labrador Highway between Labrador West and Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Also, we will see an additional 100 kilometres of widening carried out as well this year. I believe we will see, as well, similar work on the Goose Bay end. So, right now we are on track to have the complete widening of the Trans-Labrador Highway between Labrador West and Happy Valley-Goose Bay completed by the fall of next year.

Also, Mr. Speaker, there is $32.5 million in the Budget this year which will complete the link between Happy Valley–Goose Bay and Cartwright. The completion of this link certainly marks a major milestone in transportation in this Province. It will provide for the first time a continuous road link across Labrador, from the Quebec border in Labrador West to the Quebec border in the southern part of Labrador, a distance of over 1,200 kilometres. Certainly an event to celebrate, Mr. Speaker. Who said this government is not committed to Labrador?

I am extremely happy as well with the tender call which just went out this last week for our new multi-million dollar College of the North Atlantic campus. The artist's rendition of this building has been recently made public in our local media in Labrador West and I have been receiving very, very positive response from this. It is certainly going to be a structure that the people in Labrador West will be very proud of and indeed the entire Province can be very proud of. This project of course was announced in the 2007-2008 Budget, just after I was elected in the March by-election of 2007. Considering that we had lost a year due to unavoidable delays with the site, delays that were out of our control, I am quite pleased with the progress now being made on this project.

Mr. Speaker, there is another major project underway as well for my district, the new state-of-the-art multi-million dollar, $60 million estimate for a new health care facility. As well, work is progressing quite readily and speedily on this new facility. However, due to the complexity of this building, we do not expect to see construction start on this project until next spring but both buildings are adjacent to each other on the same site. So we will, in fact, see site services brought to the hospital site as well as the college site in this current construction season. That will get us in a better state of readiness for the construction season next year.

So this year, Mr. Speaker, we expect to spend some $15 million on both projects.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. BAKER: Time flies. Can I have leave, Mr. Speaker, just to clue up?

MR. SPEAKER: Does the hon. member have leave?


MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. BAKER: Thank you.

As I mentioned, we expect to spend about $15 million on both of those buildings this year. The estimated cost of both projects is in the order of $78 million, Mr. Speaker; surely a very significant amount of infrastructure spending for my district.

The government is also investing $4.3 million for municipal infrastructure in Labrador City and Wabush, in addition to the $1.2 million for municipal operating grants and debt servicing subsidies. Mr. Speaker, those projects will certainly provide for a lot of economic stimulus for our local economy as we ride out the current economic recession.

In addition to these infrastructure projects, there is certainly other good news in the Budget which directly impacts on my district. There is $1.5 million to purchase living quarters for the RNC officers. Presently, the Lab West detachment is about eight officers short due to the lack of suitable and affordable accommodations, especially for their junior officers. This purchase which will then be offered to the officers at subsidized rates will certainly alleviate that problem and we should see a full complement of RNC officers in Lab West by this fall.

We have made great progress on the justice front over the past couple of years. We now have a full-time judge installed. That was about two years ago. We have a full-time Crown prosecutor. Just recently we have added a full service legal aid office with a full time legal aid lawyer and support staff.

There is also funding, through the Newfoundland Housing, for rent subsidies to low-income households in private rental accommodations. Again, this will help alleviate some of the problem with low-income housing for people who qualify under the income levels for subsidies, people who are living in private accommodations.

There is also money in this for the Labrador West Status of Women. I certainly commend the staff, Noreen Careen and her staff, for the great service which they are providing to the women of Labrador West.

There is also funding to provide office space to accommodate Child, Youth and Family Services.

Once again, Mr. Speaker, this government is certainly keeping its commitment to Labrador, and to Labrador West in particular, to make up for the many years of neglect by previous administrations.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I see my time has expired, I will take my leave and look forward to continuing. I have other things I would like to discuss, and hopefully I will get an opportunity at some time in the near future to do that.

Once again, 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 very much, Mr. Speaker.

It is a pleasure today to be able to stand in Concurrence when it comes to the Estimates for the Resource Committee.

I want to begin by thanking the Chair of the Committee, the Member for Bonavista North, the ministers and the staff from the various departments, the House of Assembly staff, and my fellow colleagues for serving on this particular Resource Committee.

As we know, there are different departments that make up each one of those committees and in this particular case it is Business; Environment and Conservation; Fisheries and Aquaculture; Innovation, Trade and Rural Development; Natural Resources; and Tourism, Culture and Recreation. I have to say that we did not have to attend all of the meetings like the Leader of the Third Party but we did have, I think, six departments each of us had to look after. Under this particular Resource Committee, I just had the one which was Environment and Conservation.

I do want to take a few minutes today to make some comments on the issues that have arisen over the past number of months and what had taken place during the Estimates Committees with regards to, not only the department that I was responsible for, but to also touch on various issues from within the other departments.

I think it is a tremendous process that we go through. It is an opportunity, after the Budget comes down, where we can go to our Estimates. All members of the House of Assembly form this Committee. It is an opportunity to sit down and question the minister, or the minister can direct the questions to the various officials of his or her department.

One of the things I would like to say, and maybe it will happen in the future: It is a wonderful process and I think it is a process that should be televised. I know we are televised here today in Question Period and so on, and I would like to see that this would be a process where the Estimates Committee in the future could be televised.

Having said that, Mr. Speaker, I will just move along to some of the issues. I have listened attentively to my hon. colleagues opposite with regard to the funding that was announced in this year's Budget for the various departments and the tremendous work that will be done. I am not here to be critical or to condemn what the hon. members have said, Mr. Speaker, but I do want to touch on some of the issues that I have been dealing with on behalf of the residents, not only in my district but throughout the Province. I know that government is working on many of those that I will reference here, within the timeframe that I have, and hopefully they will be resolved to the satisfaction of the individuals in the various areas.

One of the ones I want to mention first, Mr. Speaker, is the New Harbour landfill. It has been an ongoing problem for many years, when the PCBs were carried to that particular site and buried within what they classify as the New Harbour dump. Over a tremendous period of time now, governments and many ministers have gone by the wayside. I think my hon. colleague who is in the Chair today, the Speaker, was the Minister of Environment at one time dealing with the same issue. It is a problem that the committee and the residents of that particular area still have. However, work is ongoing there.

It was back maybe about a year and a half, two years ago, that the AMEC earth and environment recommendations were brought forward. Some of the residents and some of the key people who brought those concerns forward still have concerns. They are saying that the fisheries information, the fisheries habitat, the water sampling from those particular areas and the sediment collection have not been done to the satisfaction of what they think it should be. The areas that they refer to, some of the ponds and streams, are the steady, the gully, Denny's Pond and Three Corner Pond. No doubt about it, the department has gone in, test holes have been dug, water sampling has been done in that particular area on the site, but the concern that the people have is what is flowing from that dump site into the streams and the ponds that are adjacent to it.

I know last year during the Estimates, the Minister of Environment and Conservation confirmed that they do have a geomembrane purchased - they still have it - that will be placed over that entire site. The concerns that the individuals in that particular area have: it is fine to cover the site but they believe that a greater job has to be done in the cleaning up of the site before the site is actually covered.

One individual I spoke to recently said it was like having a house with no walls and no floor; you have a roof over it. I guess where he is coming from: unless all the material, all the contaminants, are cleaned up, for hundreds of years they will be still seeping down through the ground even though the water will not be able to get into the site because of this geomembrane. Then again, is the problem downstream? He has asked that this be checked out. Apparently one of the small streams there has been filled in completely by sediment coming from that particular dump, and he is saying that it is not environmentally friendly and he has concerns about the fish that people are catching in one of the particular ponds. Mr. Speaker, that is a tremendous concern.

The other issue that I brought forward during the Estimates, and I read some time ago, is with the environmental liabilities within our Province. In 2004, government reported an estimated cost of $237 million relating to remediation of contaminated sites in this Province. Mr. Speaker, that is a tremendous amount of money. There must be quite a few sites when we are talking $237 million.

My question was, when I saw the financial statements dated March 31, 2008, all that is reported is $8.3 million recorded as a liability to the Province and it was $7.7 million in 2007. The questions that I have been asking, I have been told that answers will be forthcoming, because they could not understand, at that time, why the major difference. It is close to $200 million, the difference in what was reported in a government report in 2004 and what we are hearing today.

Another issue is with regard to the problem with used tires in our Province. We all know that we have been told, and rightly so, we have seen it on the TV cameras, that we do have two sites in our Province where the tires are stored. That is all fine; they are stored. Government is saying, and the officials are saying, that there is, at the present time, no danger to the environment or fire hazard and so on because it is being monitored.

Last year, during our Estimates, I think it was May 15, 2008, the minister at the time stated very clearly, when I asked her about what is being done, when this issue is going to be resolved, she stated that they were meeting with a particular organization. She was very confident that we were going to have a solution. She was cautiously optimistic about it, and she was receiving weekly updates, and no doubt she would have something to report within a couple of months, hopefully sooner. To date, she was saying that there was no announcement at that point in time.

Well this year during the Estimates, on May 4, I asked the minister the same question. As a matter of fact, I quoted, word for word, from the minutes of last year, what the minister had said. I was given a similar response: that we should have something on the go within the next few weeks, couple of months, or hopefully sooner than that.

Mr. Speaker, that was twelve months that have gone by and this issue has not been resolved. I know it is a major problem for government. If it was not, I guess it would have been resolved. Like I said, we do have two storage sites. The problem that I see with it is the fees that we collect when the tires are sold, to make sure that they are disposed of properly, that money now is being paid, in my understanding, just about all that money is being paid to someone who owns the property where the tires are being stored. It seems a waste of money, if that is the case, when probably there is a business venture or someone who may come to the Province, or maybe they could be shipped somewhere outside of the Province for less cost, and this money really could go into the coffers of this Province.

The other issue that I bring up from time to time, and I still have some concerns about it, what is unfolding, is the $15 million caribou strategy. No doubt, that is a lot of money and no doubt a lot of good information will be provided at the end of the day.

I am not going to use a prop, Mr. Speaker, but I do have a wonderful chart here, a wonderful chart that shows right back from 1952 up to the present time. It shows a trend of the caribou population in our Province.

It was in 1972, between 1972 and 1975, when the herd rebuilt to the point that we could have a hunt here in this Province. From that point it went all the way up until 1997. The population grew from 23,000 up to 96,000 or 97,000 in our caribou herd. Then, all of a sudden, it began to decline. Mr. Speaker, today as I speak we are only about – and it has been confirmed that in the last year since the caribou strategy was put in place there were some 5,000 caribou declined in the population. Through hunting there were only 1,200 or 1,200-and-some-odd licences, I think, so it is not only the outfitters; it is the predators destroying the caribou here in this Province and making the numbers to the extent that they are.

If that is the case, and I stated this in the Estimates meetings, if that trend continues, before this $15 million strategy is finalized we are going to be down to the point - and it is only going to take three, four or five years - where we will not be able to proceed with a caribou hunt.

That is crucial to the outfitters here in this Province. I had people in only recently and spoke to them, and they are saying there are some 400-plus jobs in that industry here in our Province, and to know that the main problem is the predation and not the hunters themselves. It is not being looked at in the way they think it should be looked at.

This individual is very knowledgeable. He is an outfitter, and he told me it is not only the coyote that we can blame it on, but the coyote is one of the major ones. The black bear is a part of it, the bald eagle - which surprised me, to a certain degree, but they go after the young calves - and the lynx. It is like he said: if something is not done with the predators in a very short period of time that industry is going to be gone here in our Province.

That is going to be sad, because we have seen what happened when people did not listen to the fishermen back years ago and we ended up with the moratorium. We are still in a state of shock, I guess, when it comes to an industry that was so powerful, that kept this economy going for 400 or 500 years.

In this particular case, from that time they peaked, in 1997, down to this present day, there are some 300,000 calves that have been destroyed by their predators. That is alarming, and those individuals are fighting for their industry. They are not only complaining because of what is happening there but they are looking at the jobs, over 400 jobs here in our Province, and action has to be taken.

All I am asking government to do - I agree with their plan. Now, whether it is going to solve all the problems…. I think they have to step it up and do something about the predators before this total study is over or they will not have to study very much.

The individual I spoke with also said to me, what we are going to find out from this study, even though we have more technology today and we have more avenues to go in the country and, I guess, count the population, he said there have been studies done since 2003, each and every year, and it is the same result. We know what is causing the decline in the caribou herds, and that is one of the major issues that I see that has to be dealt with.

The other one is in regard to Crown land. I attended the municipalities' convention in Corner Brook last year and what they were asking for: that Crown land within municipal boundaries be turned over to the towns so they could build their industries and what have you.

I can tell you, that is not going to happen from what I was told and I think that is sad for our municipalities. Yes, they can get Crown land if there has to be a road built through their town, or similar incidents like that - they can get that for $1 - but when it comes to giving them land, turning it over to them, it is not going to happen because government is saying this land is going to be sold for market value and it is going to be done through the way that it is being handled now and it will not be turned over to the municipalities themselves.

Another issue, Mr. Speaker, is the Barachois Brook area, the soil treatment plant that is there. We have brought that up in the House of Assembly, we have brought it up in Estimates, and I know government is trying to deal with that issue, but those people have a major concern. They are saying that this operation that is there has to stop, and we are going to hear more about it, let me assure you, within a very short period of time.

Another issue, Mr. Speaker, is with regard to the business sector, and we heard hon. members talking about various businesses that government are involved in. Seeing it is under that heading, I just want to make note of one particular business that opened in my district last week. That is a group called Builder's Edge Manufacturing. Three individuals formed this company where they build those modular houses, and I would challenge any member, if they travel to the area, it is worth their while to go into this plant and see the process they are doing. Having been involved in the construction industry, not in the carpentry end of it, but to go in and see that they have eight or nine stations where, from the time they saw the timber until the house is finished to go through the door, it is one week. One week and they have those houses finished. When I got the information on this they said we are going to hire twelve to fifteen people with the outlook probably, it could reach as high as sixty and today they have over thirty people employed there and it is an operation worthwhile seeing. People have moved in without government money. It just goes to show that different business ventures can be set up throughout this Province and do a wonderful job to help with job creation right here at home.

The other one I just want to touch on is tourism and it is a very important part of our history. It is a very important part of where we are going to go in the future, is with the tourism sector. I know next year we have coming up the – this year we have the Bartlett celebrations; next year we have the Cupid's celebrations, and those are just in my immediate area. One thing I love to do is travel this Province, to every little nook and cranny, and tourism is a key factor. I think that government should continue to put money into tourism because it creates many jobs and many initiatives here in our Province.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to touch briefly on the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture. I come from a district where the fishery is a very important factor. I know in the community of Port de Grave, I guess the fishing fleet when they are tied up there the summer, between $55 million and $60 million value there, just in the fishing boats themselves. You have other areas like Upper Island Cove and Spaniard's Bay and Bay Roberts, those people who take part in the fishery. I believe government has to put more pressure on the federal government. This has been ongoing, I guess eons, where we are trying to get something done about custodial management here in this Province on the Nose and Tail of the Grand Banks and the Flemish Cap.

The first private member's motion that I did was back in, I think March, 2001. The hon. Speaker who is in the Chair now, he congratulated me on the presentation. He said: my son, that has been done that many times nobody listens. How true that is, but something has to be done.

Here we are now dealing with the sealing issue with the EU, with the boat that they took last week. That is one of the key components to many people in this Province, a livelihood taken from the sea. What it is doing is destroying the cod that we are so hardily working, trying to recover. I am going to tell you, the day will come - none of us might be here in this hon. House of Assembly, but the day will come when the oils will stop flowing. I would like to see them flowing for hundreds of years, but that is not going to happen.

The day will come when the people of this Province will have to depend on the resources that come from the sea; the fish, the fish plants and so on. I know we are talking about the closure of the fishery this week, and that is going to be a very key component, because I can tell you, I receive calls now from people who work in the fish plant in Port de Grave. They are concerned. They are concerned if this is not resolved. I know it is an issue that probably goes beyond the Minister of Fisheries, but I call upon the Minister of Fisheries to step in with all the components, all the processors, or whoever it is, to try and resolve this issue, because I can assure you many people will be affected here in this Province if this should continue on. We have seen it happen before, we have seen it happen again, but we have to deal with those issues because I can assure you, the fishery, whether it is the shrimp, the crab, the cod, whatever species we are talking about, it is key to rule Newfoundland and Labrador. Not only that, we have to look at the businesses that are in the main City of St. John's or other cities. The money that flows to those areas really comes from rural Newfoundland and Labrador through the fishery.

So, Mr. Speaker, my time has expired. I just want to say that it was a pleasure to serve on the resource committee and to once again thank the ministers and their officials and all those who took part in this process, a process that I think should be televised so that the people of this Province really see how this operation works here in the House of Assembly.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Being no further speakers, the motion is that the report of the Resource Committee be now concurred in.

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

All those in favour, 'aye'.


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


MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

Motion carried.

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Aboriginal Affairs 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 1:30 of the clock tomorrow, being Monday.

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