April 20, 2010                       HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS                   Vol. XLVI  No. 7

The House met at 1:30 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

Admit strangers.

Before we begin routine proceedings, I have the pleasant task of formally welcoming a new member who has been duly elected in the by-election of March 16, 2010. The new member is Mr. Paul Davis, representing the District of Topsail.

I have been advised by the Clerk of the House that the member has taken the Oath of Office, the Oath of Allegiance to the Crown, as required by the Constitution, and has signed the Members' Roll.

While we are briefly interrupted here, the Chair would also like to welcome the following members' statements today to the House of Assembly: the hon. the Member for the District of Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair; the hon. the Member for the District of Kilbride; the hon. the Member for the District of The Straits & White Bay North; the hon. the Member for the District of St. John's East; and the hon. the Member for the District of Bellevue.

[The new member, escorted by the Premier, enters the Chamber and approaches the Chair.]

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair would like to welcome the new Member of the House of Assembly, accompanied by the Premier, Mr. Paul Davis.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present to you Mr. Paul Davis, the Member for Topsail, who requests the right to claim his seat.

MR. SPEAKER: Congratulation, Sir.

Allow the hon. member to be taken to his seat.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Statements by Members

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise in this House today to recognize two Junior Canadian Ranger Patrols from my district and two individual Junior Canadian Rangers who recently won awards at the JCR Provincial Air Rifle Marksmanship Competition.

This is the second time this provincial competition took place, and JCRs from all thirteen Newfoundland and Labrador Patrols participated. The competition was a great opportunity to demonstrate their skills and would qualify the top two patrols to attend the national competition being held this May in Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories.

The Port Hope Simpson JCR Patrol finished in first place and members of the Patrol included Maria Russell, Daniel Sampson, Nikita Penney, Brett Clarke, Randy Russell and Master Corporal Roxanne Notley.

I would also like to congratulate the Mary's Harbour Patrol on their second place finish. Members of the Patrol were Daniel Johnson, Jerome Bradley, Nicholas Cumby, Cassandra Pye, Billy King, and Master Corporal Brad Rumbolt. I would also like to recognize the team from Churchill Falls for their placing third in the competition overall.

Mr. Speaker, the top individual scorer for the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador was Maria Russell of Port Hope Simpson, and runner-up top scorer was Daniel Johnson from Mary's Harbour Patrol. I commend them as well for their outstanding efforts.

I ask all members in the House to join with me in extending congratulations to these Junior Canadian Ranger Patrols, not just from the District of Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair, but all of those who participated from across the Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DINN: Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to congratulate Bishops College on its fiftieth anniversary.

Bishops College has been providing quality education to students from my Kilbride district for years. There was a time during the denominational school period in this Province when non-catholic students from Goulds, Kilbride and Petty Harbour went to Bishops College.

During its fifty-year history, Bishops College has been the home for many thousands of students and staff. More than 10,000 of the Province's best citizens have graduated from Bishops College. Many have distinguished themselves in the field of arts, medicine, law and education here in this Province and in many other parts of Canada and the world. Many nurses, doctors, teachers, lawyers and trades people have used their education at Bishops College as the foundation they have built their present lives upon.

On October 22, 23 and 24 of this past year, students and staff joined with present-day students and staff to celebrate Bishops College's rich past.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all hon. members of this House to join with me in congratulating the fiftieth anniversary committee at Bishops College, past students and staff, and present-day students and staff on this joyous occasion.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of St. John's East.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. BUCKINGHAM: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in this hon. House to highlight the achievements of a young resident of St. John's East.

Ms Phillipa Gosine, a student at Gonzaga High School, is having quite a senior year as she prepares to graduate Grade 12.

Beginning last summer, Phillipa received a scholarship from Shad Valley International to participate in the prestigious Shad Valley science program. Next, she was awarded a Youth Science Canada scholarship to participate in an Arctic expedition with students from across Canada and internationally. The program is called: Students on Ice, and provides students, educators and scientists with a world of educational opportunities in the Arctic or the Antarctic to help them foster a new understanding and respect for the planet.

This past November, Phillipa was named one of the two provincial semi-finalists for the 2009 Loran Award. This award, for graduating high school students, goes just beyond academics as the essential criteria for consideration also includes - and I quote - "…a firm commitment to character, service and leadership; breadth in academic and extra-curricular interests and entrepreneurship, strongly developed inner-directedness and a high level of personal autonomy…".

From over 4,000 applicants, Phillipa was selected to the final national group of seventy-two who were interviewed in Toronto earlier this year. While Phillipa was not one of the thirty students to receive a full scholarship, she was awarded a $3,000 finalist scholarship. She has also been selected as a national finalist for the University of Western Ontario Scholarship Program.

This April, Phillipa was presented with the Gold Award of Achievement for the Duke of Edinburgh awards program. This is the highest award program available in this very rigorous youth program.

She is also active in her school music program and with Shallaway, an award winning community youth choir that has represented our Province and Canada internationally. During July and August she will be travelling to China with her choir to represent Canada at the International Society for Music Educators World Conference.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members in this House to join with me in recognizing Phillipa Gosine for her many successes over the past year, and to wish her well in all of her future endeavours.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. PEACH: Mr. Speaker, this being the week of the volunteer, I rise here in this hon. House to speak of a long time volunteer from the great District of Bellevue, Mrs. Barbara Barrett of Arnold's Cove.

Mrs. Barrett is a retired school teacher of twenty-nine years, and she has been very active since her retirement.

Today, she is the President of the Golden Years Manor Board in Arnold's Cove and has held that position for twenty-two years. Presently, she is the President of the Arnold's Cove senior citizens housing and has held that position for twenty-two years, and she is the President of the Bayview seniors centre in Arnold's Cove, a position which she held there for over thirty years.

Mr. Speaker, Mrs. Barrett served as a member of the Arnold's Cove Town Council for twelve years, a member of the Newfoundland and Labrador Pensioners Association for over twenty-five years, and a member of the seniors' citizen's federation for over twenty-five years.

Mrs. Barrett is a woman with a fine character who has dedicated much of her life to assist others. She is an outstanding constituent of the Bellevue District. Mrs. Barrett has been a long time advocate for the seniors throughout our Province.

I ask that all hon. members join me in thanking Mrs. Barbara Barrett for many years and hours of volunteer work, and her dedicated leadership she has demonstrated to all committees and organizations to improve the community and the lives of others.

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: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, Newfoundland and Labrador's craft industry is home to creative, innovative men and women who are creating valuable products that not only capture and preserve our culture, but significantly contribute to our provincial economy.

Today, it is my pleasure to rise in this hon. House and congratulate representatives of the sector, whose excellence was recently recognized at the Atlantic Craft Trade Show in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Ms Gloria Hickey of St. John's, a well known curator, arts writer, lecturer and mentor, won the Industry Leader-Supporter award for a thirty year career dedicated to developing and promoting the works of professional craftspeople.

Cara Kansala and Pam Dorey, owners and operators of Cara's Joy in Upper Island Cove, won the Excellence in Product Design award for their three-dimensional, hand-carved wooden wall-hangings depicting Newfoundland and Labrador scenes.

Mr. Speaker, we celebrate their accomplishments and commit to continue our partnership with the craft community to lay the groundwork for future success. In addition to cultivating this creative industry through financial investments, we are supporting craftspeople through a series of direct training initiatives.

The Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development facilitates a number of professional development workshops across all regions of the Province to help artisans fine-tune their skills and build careers in the same hometowns that inspired their craft in the first place. Recent workshops include metalsmithing, photography, caribou hair tufting, product pricing, and cultural product development. We also support initiatives that directly link artisans with potential buyers, encouraging a greater level of entrepreneurship within the craft sector.

I recently attended the Buyers Marketplace – Provincial Craft Wholesale Show, and was fortunate to meet some of these remarkable artisans and see their impressive products. For the past sixteen years the wholesale show has been a useful networking opportunity, connecting craft wholesalers with retailers to create business opportunities.

Mr. Speaker, this government is making its vision for a vibrant craft industry a reality. It is an industry that provides significant employment to over 1,600 producers and contributes more than $32 million to our economy each year. It is also an industry that adds immeasurable value to the Province's cultural tourism brand.

Our department will continue to work hard to showcase these people and their products that tell our story, celebrate our culture and bring economic benefits throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of The Straits & White Bay North.

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

First of all, I would like to say thank you to the minister for an advance copy of his presentation. Certainly, it is exciting for all of us to see the recognition being given to the members mentioned there in the industry, as noted. We are very much aware of the fact that the majority of new jobs come from small businesses, and while they may seem somewhat insignificant alone, when the numbers are put together they are very, very important. Really, the presentations play to our strengths and to pre-existing skills in crafts in our Province, and it is great for rural Newfoundland and Labrador in particular. The fact that we can do local production and place it on global sales, with the potential that it has, is a tremendous thing. I would certainly commend the department as well for the professional development workshops that play a vital role in their development and, again, it is good to see that today.

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

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

I thank the minister for an advance copy of his statement. I am quite pleased to stand with the minister today in recognition of the individuals with whom he has mentioned. These people are really indicative and representative of the tremendous talent that we have in this Province. I have met people who have participated in the professional development workshops, Mr. Speaker, and they have found these workshops to be extremely helpful on every level. Newfoundland and Labrador is just full of talented artisans and craftspeople. Craftspeople in the Province have, for a long time, had their own vision for a vibrant craft industry. Over the years they have presented two major strategic plans to enhance product design and marketing. I think we are seeing the results of that.

Government has played and should continue to play an even greater role in helping craftspeople develop and market their products for export and provide more venture capital to the industry. The crafts industry is labour intensive and predominantly rural based. Any investment by government will go a long way and I think the minister recognizes that in mentioning the contribution that they make to the economy. So, any work that is done with these people is not just something that is a handout, it is far from that. It is an investment in the future of the industry itself and in the lives of the people involved in the industry.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers?

The hon. the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Minister Responsible for the Volunteer and Non-Profit Sector.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DENINE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to acknowledge April 18-24 as National Volunteer Week. Volunteer Week is an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the great work of the volunteers across our Province and across the country. Their impact on our Province is invaluable and the volunteers and non-profit organizations in our communities contribute to a strong and vibrant Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, there are approximately 197,000 volunteers that contributed 35 million hours a year of valuable unpaid time to their communities and community organizations. Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, currently in Newfoundland and Labrador there are almost 23,000 people employed by the volunteer and non-profit organizations in a concerted effort to make our Province stronger.

Mr. Speaker, this year's theme, "Volunteers Connect Communities", represents the kind of impact volunteers can have when they come together for the betterment of their communities. I encourage all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to take time, especially during Volunteer Week, to think about how much we depend on volunteers and non-profit organizations. They make the lives of people healthier, happier, and provide a quality of life in this Province that we have come to expect.

I would also like to take time to recognize how volunteers and non-profit organizations from this Province are not only connecting with communities in our Province, but also around the world, specifically Haiti. In Haiti, Mr. Speaker, they are facing a long road ahead of them as they try to heal from that devastating earthquake. I am very proud of how this Province has stepped up and gone to great lengths to help these people who so desperately need help. The people and organizations that have given to this effort, and continue to give, are to be commended.

Mr. Speaker, government recognizes that increasingly we rely on community based organizations for advice, information, and delivery of programs and services that the people of our Province depend on each and every day. A volunteer's tireless and unwavering commitment to helping those in their community is outstanding, and we are thankful for their dedication.

During this week, I will be taking part in celebrations across the Province. These events will lead up to our URock Volunteer Awards Gala, which recognizes the tremendous volunteer work of our young people. I ask, Mr. Speaker, that all hon. members join with me in honouring the valuable work that the voluntary and non-profit sector continues to give to our Province.

Mr. Speaker, volunteers do make a difference, so get involved and connect with your community.

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. We, too, the Official Opposition, would like to join with the minister in extending congratulations to all the volunteers of our Province and to thank them for the countless hours that they do contribute to our Province.

Even this past weekend, of course, the Junos for example, it takes money, yes, to do that, but also thanks to thousands or hundreds of volunteers at least, that make such an event successful. We see volunteers in our schools; we see them in our hospitals, societies, such as the Autism Society, the Arthritis Society and so on, and in our recreational facilities. Our Province could not function properly and to the level that it does if we did not have these volunteers and they certainly do deserve to be thanked. This is just the official recognition week of thank you, but of course people who live in this Province thank them each and every day for the work that they do contribute to our Province.

I would like to pay particular attention and thanks to the fire departments of our Province. We do have some paid fire brigades in this Province but for the most part they are volunteers and they, or course, are the ultimate volunteers in the sense that they offer themselves not for a recreational pursuit or a cultural pursuit but actually for the protection of our property and the lives of the people of this Province, and they do so because they want to do it. They are concerned about their communities; they give of their time, not only to actually do the fire fighting but of course to undertake the training that is necessary in order to do it properly.

I had the benefit Saturday, the privilege of attending the fire brigade annual banquet in Port aux Basques and again, you have thirty-five members, for example, who give countless, countless hours to protection of their community.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I would again like to thank all of the thousands of volunteers we have and I would encourage them to stay involved, encourage those who are not involved to get involved, particularly the youth in our Province.

Thank you.

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

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

I too thank the minister for an advance copy of his statement. I am very pleased to stand with him and recognize and congratulate the thousands of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who give their time and their skills for the benefit of their local community, their Province, and as the minister has pointed out for places beyond our Province, places in other parts of the world.

We all know that we have thousands of people in this Province who are giving of their time unstintingly. We do not get an opportunity very often to thank them. I had thought about making a member's statement about my district and I thought well I could really get in trouble if I did that because we would leave out somebody, because I think all of our districts, my own is the same, have thousands of people.

When I think about - the Opposition House Leader has mentioned it but I want to mention it again because it is true in my district as it is everywhere. I go into the schools, I go into community organizations; there are social justice groups, the arts community. No matter where we go, we have people who are doing volunteer work. I think one of the biggest things we can do for them is not just recognize them on a day like today or a week like this week, but also to make sure that we have adequate money going into the not-for-profit sector as well so that there are staff to back up the work of the volunteers because I think one thing has been proven by successful groups that I know, and I am sure the minister knows some of them as well, that the groups that are the most successful in getting their work done are not just the groups who have volunteers only but when they have staff to back them up also. So I encourage the minister to continue in ensuring that adequate money is going to the not-for-profit sector to back up the work of the volunteer sector.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers?

Oral Questions.

Oral Questions

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the crab industry is on the brink of a collapse this season and there has been an impasse between the processors and the harvesters for a number of weeks now. We understand that they have been asking government to lead the charge to find a solution.

I ask the minister today: We understand that there are proposals that have been submitted to your department and we ask if you can tell us what is contained and if government is prepared to look at implementing some solutions to this impasse right now?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

There is one thing that is certain, that government cannot force harvesters to harvest nor can they force processors to process. One thing that we can do and one thing that we have done, is to encourage both parties to sit down at the table and come forward with a proposal.

It is about two weeks ago, Mr. Speaker, that I called together the representatives from the ASP and from the FFAW. For the very first time those parties sat down at a table to try and find some resolution here. They came forward last week and asked for meetings. One of the things that I did indicate to them is that I wanted something and I wanted it in writing. I did not see the point of meeting until they had something on paper that we could discuss and react to.

Mr. Speaker, as of 2:30 on Friday they submitted that proposal. We went back on Sunday morning with a series of questions and to that point we have not gotten a response, but, Mr. Speaker, I can inform the people here and the people watching that I intend to meet with both parties as of 2:30 today, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The last time I asked the minister questions in the House with regard to this industry he was on his way to meet with the groups involved and I think that meeting lasted about ten minutes, Mr. Speaker, and then he threw his hands up in the air and walked out of the room.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JONES: So we will see what happens this afternoon.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, we understand that the questions that the minister had with regard to these proposals had to do with issues such as pricing in the marketplace, what the risk would be for government investment, what the accountability and transparency measures would be if there was to be some form of initiatives or programs allocated.

I ask the minister today: Why you are not engaging in face-to-face to find the answers to these questions -


MS JONES: - to find the answers to these questions as opposed to providing –

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. member to pose her question.

MS JONES: Why has the minister been waiting since Friday, in the middle of a crisis knowing what this means to communities and families all across the Province and not responding to it?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, I do not know if she did not hear the last part of my response or not, but I said we are meeting at 2:30 p.m.

The other thing, Mr. Speaker, is it seems that she has substantial inside information as to what was in the proposal. I have no intentions, Mr. Speaker, of distributing that to the media. It seems that some of the discussions that she is having, she may want to disclose as to what is in there.

Mr. Speaker, I am meeting with the people as of 2:30 p.m. From Friday until today, Mr. Speaker, we have been in the office reacting and analyzing the proposal that has come forward. We are waiting for the response, and I assume, Mr. Speaker, that they will have a reply to some of the questions as of 2:30 p.m.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

What the minister has been doing is absolutely nothing only pushing paper and stall tactics in this industry, and waiting for all the parties to wear themselves out and hope that the industry will open at the end of the week. That is the kind of action that the minister has been taking.

I ask the government, Mr. Speaker: In light of the fact that many of these workers today, in this industry, are receiving their last cheque, the last bit of income that they will get for the rest of the season, what has your government done to look at the impact on communities as a result of this industry not opening? Because at the rate it is going now, Minister, you are not making a lot of progress to make that happen. What will be the impact on those communities, and how are you going to respond to it?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, her lead-in could not be better.

I spoke to an individual last week, a plant worker, who, the year before last, his bi-weekly income was $506. Last year, it was $367, Mr. Speaker.

Ask her to go and speak to some of the plant workers. One lady told me if you want to see how things are working in the plant, look at the lunch cans to see how many bottles of Tylenol are in them so that they can get through a day.

Mr. Speaker, we cannot continue with drivel like this, we have to see action, we have to see change, it is incumbent upon us, but is also incumbent upon the other two parties to make sure that they lay themselves open to make progress, Mr. Speaker. She can be a part of making that happen, instead of being continually criticizing.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I do not need that minister or any minister on the other side to tell me what the impact of this industry is, and what the income loss has been to plant workers and fishermen.

Mr. Speaker, what this minister needs to do is take some action. Your government has had six years to start dealing with the problems in the fishing industry in this Province, and you have raised your head above it and ignored it.

I ask you today, Minister: You are going to the meeting at 2:30 p.m., what are you bringing to the table? What investment is your government willing to put on the line for the fishing industry in this Province?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, I think if you check back through the years it is a bit naive to think that she can lay it at our feet. Mr. Speaker, I heard tell of licenses being passed out at the Glacier at one point. I can assure you we will not be at that.

Mr. Speaker, what we are going to start to do, if the other parties will engage, this MOU process has the opportunity to make significant changes within this industry; and that is what all of this process is about, it is about ensuring that those parties sit with us to make changes. We cannot snap the fingers and change it. It has not happened for the past 500 years, but we are more than willing to sit with all parties to see what it is we can do.

I am hoping, Mr. Speaker, that both sides will come forward with something as of 2:30 p.m., because, as I have said before, up until about two weeks ago these two important parties has not even sat at a table.

One thing that we can say that we have achieved is that over the past week, or week-and-a-half, they have sat pretty regularly, and I hope that they come forward with a good offer, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister talks about what the other groups are bringing to the table. They have been pushing paper through your office for weeks, proposal after proposal, and initiative after initiative.

The question to you, Minister, is: What are you bringing to the table today?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, I can tell you one thing that I am not going to put to the table - I said it on Friday - and I have said to both of the parties: I am not interested in bringing forward to this government or the people of this Province a huge sum of money that will open a fishery for this year and that we find ourselves back in the same situation next year. We have done that for year after year after year, but, Mr. Speaker, what has it accomplished? It accomplishes that every spring we are back in the same situation, so something has to be done different.

Hopefully, the both sides that I am going to meet with at 2:30 p.m. will sit with us and that we can find a way forward, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Maybe if the minister and his government had done something year after year we would not be in the situation we are in today either, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the government commissioned two studies this year: one that was done by Deloitte & Touche for the harvesting sector to look at cost structures, and the other one by Grant Thornton to look at the processing sector and cost structures.

I ask the minister: Why are these documents not being released to people in the public and in the industry so that there can be engaged a full public debate about what this industry is all about? You have the information; why are you not releasing it?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, more importantly than that I have the information, it is equally as important that the harvesters and the processors, those being the ASP and the FFAW, have the information.

Mr. Speaker, at this particular point, I am not ready to release that, and on some advice, that we not do that. The most important thing in both of these reports, Mr. Speaker, shows that the viability of plants and harvesters are not sustainable and they are not viable under the current environment. Mr. Speaker, that is what the MOU process is all about. We have to do things differently.

This information will direct us and as such, at some point, maybe the people that she is speaking to might want to advise her if she is getting some of that information, but at this point, Mr. Speaker, I am not ready to release that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Seven weeks ago, the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association submitted a written proposal to government outlining their position as it relates to contract negotiations. At the time, the Minister of Finance stated that a written response would be forthcoming. Seven weeks have passed. We understand nothing has been received.

I ask the minister: When will you respond to the offer by the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Just to correct the premise of the hon. the Leader of the Opposition's question, there was a letter dated March 3, but the letter contained a number of requests for further discussions. So the letter could not be responded to until the further discussions took place. One of those discussions was set for late March; that meeting was cancelled. When Treasury Board tried to reschedule the meeting, we were told that they wanted a written response to the letter, and that response goes out today, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, over the past two weeks, the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association has held a number of information services regarding the workload and staffing challenges that are facing internists, emergency room doctors, and family medicine physicians in the Province. They are claiming that we are reaching a crisis stage unless there is some recognition and action from government to look at these problems.

So I ask you, Minister: In your response today, will you be coming forward to meet some of the demands of the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, as I said, the letter goes out today. The letter will respond to the proposal the doctors prepared, dated March 3.

Out of courtesy to the doctors, I would like them to see the letter before I state what is in it, out of courtesy to them, but I think it is fair to say that the offer the government is making is in the range of the $80 million that the doctors had announced they were seeking at their recent press conference. That is in the range of Atlantic parity, and I will ask the doctors to return to the table so that we can continue discussions to complete an agreement that is fair and reasonable -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: - to the doctors and recognizes concerns they have raised, but at the same time, is fair to the taxpayers of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, in the absence that negotiations between the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association and the government is not concluded in a timely manner, under the Canada Health Act it allows for provinces to settle negotiations with physicians through binding arbitration. This is something that the government to date has refused to look at in dealing with physicians in our own Province.

I ask the minister today: Is there any particular reason why the provisions of the Canada Health Act are not being considered or implemented in the absence of an unsuccessful negotiation?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, government has already indicated that it is not prepared to consider binding arbitration. We worked very hard on a counter proposal now, which the minister has indicated will be ready this afternoon. There is now an information process going on with the NLMA whereby they are bringing out doctors and showing some of the hardship, and we are very sympathetic to the hardships that are being demonstrated and we are doing whatever we can to alleviate them.

I want to let the hon. members know that not everything is well within the NLMA. I had an e-mail from a doctor, representing a group of doctors, who has indicated "… not all physicians working in this province agree with the statements made by the NLMA…We have been legislated to be members of the NLMA hence are forced to accept their decisions whether we are in agreement or not...we are subjected to what is essentially mob politics, being outvoted in any decision which we object to."

So these things need to be sorted out within the NLMA, between themselves, among the doctors, among the executive, to make sure that they are onside. When they get a uniform position and they are united in their position, it will be much easier for us to come up with a resolution. In the meantime, in the absence of that we will certainly be proceeding and that letter will go out today.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The fact that government did settle with certain groups of doctors outside of the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association is probably no wonder why there is some conflict within their own organization, Mr. Speaker.

My next questions are for the Minister of Natural Resources. I ask the minister: If she can confirm for me today that the Province, through Nalcor, does own a King Air aircraft located in Labrador?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: The answer to the question, Mr. Speaker, is yes, they do.

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Maybe the minister could tell me what that aircraft is used for, what the purpose of it is, and how many hours are logged on it in flying time throughout the year?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to think that I am pretty good at my job but there is certain information I do not have at my fingertips. The King Air is used for the business of Nalcor in the Province and sometimes outside of the Province, that I do know, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, in terms of the other questions that she has put in terms of flying hours, I will get that information and provide it to her.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is our understanding that this aircraft has been used for air medevac services out of the Churchill Falls region in the past. I would like to ask the Minister of Health and Community Services, in reviewing air ambulance services and being able to provide for approved services in the whole Province, especially in Labrador, I ask the minister: If any consideration was ever given to using this aircraft, which is already owned by the Province, to have it based in Labrador as a third air medevac for Newfoundland and Labrador?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In a letter today to the Leader of the Opposition, I outlined or attached statistics for the last number of years in relation to the use of planes in this Province in air ambulance. I have seen - and these are statistics compiled by our department. It shows search and rescue, The Commander was the previous plane in St. Anthony. The King Air in St. John's, the King Air in St. Anthony, helicopter and charter wing fixed aircraft which were provided by private companies. I see no reference nor do I have any reason to believe that the Nalcor plane which belongs to Nalcor was utilized for air ambulance. It is certainly not on this list but I can tell from the question that she has obviously been speaking to some of the people of Lab Grenfell, so they will probably answer the question for her.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I feel that the aircraft is owned by the people of the Province through Nalcor.

I ask the minister: Why was this plane not taken into consideration when looking at the reconfiguration of air ambulance services? It was based in Labrador. It was able to be used, and why was that not part of the consultants review in improving the services to the people of the Province?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Last week, or the last couple of weeks, I forget when exactly, I met with the provincial director of the air ambulance service and I met with both the medical director and the paramedic in charge of air ambulance service, and I discussed with them how many planes do we need for this Province. The indication given, Mr. Speaker, and the premise upon which the report was prepared was that we need two air ambulances in this Province, based on statistics we now have with the numbers. We need the Twin Otter located in Labrador, to go to the Coast of Labrador, particularly the North Coast, and, Mr. Speaker, we need to have charter companies available to do both in-province transfers and out-of-province transfers. For example, Mr. Speaker, over the last number of years there has been contracts with both Provincial Airlines and EVAS Air.

So the short answer to the question, Mr. Speaker, is that air ambulance as configured right now, in terms of the numbers, require two dedicated aircraft, the King Airs, it requires a Twin Otter and the availability of charter services.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Will the minister admit that the truth of the matter here is that this review of air ambulance services was done ad hoc? It left out whole areas of terms of reference. It did not look at all of the options within the Province to be able to provide for a better service.

I ask you, Minister, will you not go back and consider all of these particular options before you implement any movement towards air ambulance?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Yes, Mr. Speaker, over the last period of time I have met with the Town of St. Anthony on three occasions, as late as last week. They were difficult meetings, Mr. Speaker. I indicated to the Town of St. Anthony at that time that we would not be reviewing this decision. I met with the MHA for The Straits & White Bay North prior to coming into the House today, and again, I indicated that the decision was made and we would not be reviewing the decision.

Mr. Speaker, in a letter written to the Premier some time ago the Leader of the Opposition referred to a diminished service in the rest of this Province, or the Island portion of the Province, as a result of moving of the air ambulance to Labrador. Mr. Speaker, in 2009, approximately 61 per cent of the air ambulance flights in the Island portion of the Province, not including St. Anthony, were done out of St. John's, and 13 per cent were serviced by charter aircraft. So, 74 per cent, Mr. Speaker, of that 603 other, referred to by the member opposite at one point, were done out of St. John's and will continue to be done that way.

Most importantly, Mr. Speaker, now all areas of this Province, including Lab West, will be within sixty minutes of an air ambulance service; something that did not happen, Mr. Speaker, when the plane was located in St. Anthony.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of The Straits & White Bay North.

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, according to briefing notes prepared for the Minister of Health back in September, a committee was formed to review all air ambulance services in the Province, including air ambulance. This committee consisted of senior employees of the Department of Health, Department of Transportation and Works, Eastern Health, Labrador-Grenfell Health and other key stakeholders.

So, my question to the minister is: Why was the work of this provincial committee put aside and instead an independent consultant hired to review one aspect of that overall service?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Yes, Mr. Speaker, that committee that is being referred to was put together as a result of incidents that have occurred in Lab West, I think, around July 15, and then subsequently in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

It dealt with, Mr. Speaker, how the services were delegated, not how they were provided by aircrafts. For example, Mr. Speaker, if a referring facility needed an air ambulance they would call the medical communication centre at Eastern Health. The medical communication centre would then deal with Government Air Services over the Department of Transportation and Works. So, we had these various agencies: We had the referring hospital, Labrador-Grenfell, Eastern Health, Government Air Services, this committee was put together to study whether or not – as Mr. Drodge indicated in his report, and he did recommend that they should be under one umbrella. Mr. Speaker, that committee was not put together, nor were they asked to look at the issue of where the location of the airplane should be. When you look at the recommendations of Mr. Drodge, they outline, Mr. Speaker, the location of the airplanes, but also other avenues for improving the delivery of air ambulance services in this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of The Straits & White Bay North.

MR. DEAN: Mr. Speaker, will the minister confirm that the Terms of Reference in the scope for this provincial committee was much broader than given to the consultant and will he also confirm that a preliminary report has been completed by that committee?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

One of the issues we are still looking at is how to best organize the air ambulance service in terms of the placement of calls, whether or not it should be done through Eastern Health in terms of the dispatch. I am not aware of any report having been completed by that committee, Mr. Speaker. However, I am aware, from discussions with the Eastern Health personnel, that they feel the best way to deal with the air ambulance would be to have a medical decision made, especially when it comes to the utilization of charter services because there is one plane that is faster than the other.

Mr. Speaker, what we have is a committee that was an intergovernmental, interdepartmental, interagency committee that was looking at the question of how air ambulance should be dispatched.

Mr. Speaker, that is something that Recommendation 6 of the Drodge report, he states, "The air ambulance service should be organized as a single program with a single administrative structure." That is something we are certainly looking at.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of The Straits & White Bay North.

MR. DEAN: Mr. Speaker, in the October 13 edition of the Northern Pen, the minister, just taking over the department at the time, stated that a lack of consultation on the proposed cuts to the Flower's Cove Health Care Facility was a problem and he promised to consultant more of the people of the region.

So I ask the minister today: If you are truly going to live up to this commitment, why was there so little consultation with stakeholders on the Northern Peninsula as it relates to this service that you are taking away today?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

If the member remembers correctly, on December 15, 2009, the Leader of the Opposition presented a petition to this hon. House with 3,000 names asking to have the air ambulance service moved to Labrador.

So, in light of the incidents that have occurred, Mr. Speaker, my meetings in Lab West and Happy Valley-Goose Bay on November 27, then debated in this House of Assembly on December 15 and 16, we had to have this matter reviewed, as I indicated I would, on December 14, 2009.

Mr. Speaker, we moved forward. There was consultation in terms of reviews with the Towns of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, St. Anthony, and Lab West, but when it comes to making government decisions, Mr. Speaker, we hired a consultant. The purpose of the consultant's report was to ensure that the recommendations were objective and reflected what was necessary and best for the people of this Province, but more particularly the people of Northern Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, the numbers speak for themselves. We did not make these up. We have been accused of playing politics. The numbers indicate that there are twice as many flights out of Labrador as there are out of St. Anthony, Mr. Speaker, and the population in Labrador is approximately twice that of the St. Anthony–Port au Choix region.

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, earlier in Question Period, the Premier stood in this House and quoted an individual doctor saying that he or she is not pleased with the NLMA. This action is not unlike the kind of divisive actions taken by the Premier and the former Health Minister in 2008, Mr. Speaker.

I am going to ask the Premier: When will he stop playing these kinds of games and grandstanding and deal with the issue, which is a crisis in our health care system because of their lack of coming to an agreement with the doctors?


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, if this e-mail ended up in the hands of the Leader of the Opposition, she would question me on it and then would ask me why we were not being open and accountable and transparent.

The reason for disclosing this is to indicate that the NLMA does not have its act together, that they are not united among themselves. It is very difficult, and I do not know if you have had any involvement or any experience in negotiation, but it is very difficult to negotiate with an executive who does not know what it is doing. If it does not have a strong mandate from its own people, then how in the heck do we possibly, as a government, try to come to terms with them?

So, I have a letter from a doctor, representing a group of doctors, who said that he does not agree with the statements that are being made by the NLMA. He is also making a suggestion here that there is mob rule in the NLMA. This is internal; this is not something I am making up. This is something the public needs to know. We want to get this finalized, we want to get this negotiation settled and we want to bring peace to this whole situation, but for you to try and allege that I am doing something wrong….

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS MICHAEL: I hope for his sake, Mr. Speaker, the day does not come when the Premier has somebody from his backbenchers saying something against him and his executive, because he will say it is not the individual you have to listen to, it is the executive you have to listen to.

I saw and heard the Premier pull exactly the same kind of grandstanding up against the nurses, yet eventually he had to bow down and they had to come to an agreement. He pulled the same tactics.

Is the Premier going to stop grandstanding and deal with the issue of negotiating with the elected representatives of the doctors through their NLMA?


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Thank you for the Sermon on the Mount. That was lovely; I really appreciated it. I do not need a lecture from you or anybody else, I can tell you that much.

We are trying to get this resolved. There is a letter that is going out this afternoon that is putting $79 million of public money on the table and offering close to Atlantic parity which is exactly what the doctors have been looking for. What more do you want?

You are just trying to grandstand, you are trying to make small-p politics out of it, you are trying to make us look bad and everything else, when we are trying to do the best thing, we are trying to protect the public purse. All the social things that we have done in this Province, whether it is in health care, it is on the municipal side, it is on the education side, it is in human resources and poverty reduction, it is never enough for you! There is never enough money around because all you want to do is criticize; get on the bandwagon!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

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

When it comes to the issue of the impasse that the government is in with the doctors at this moment and based on public comments the Premier has made, I do not have to do anything to make him look bad because the public sees the things that he has said. He has done it himself, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, during this –

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. member to pose her question.

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

Mr. Speaker, during the last seven weeks at least one thing has happened, we have had doctors speak out about what they are experiencing; the difficulties they are experiencing as family physicians, as ER doctors, as internists. The stories have been out in the media; they are telling us what they are going through.

When will this government stop dealing with things piecemeal and acknowledge that we have major problems in our health care system and need an external review of this system, Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, what did we do when the ER-PR situation came up? What did we do when the oncologists wanted to meet? What did we do when they wanted to have a raise? We acted immediately. We gave them a significant raise which virtually put them close to Ontario parity. So we stepped up immediately.

What have we done as a government? We are now up to, I guess, close to $2.6 billion or $2.7 billion. That is what we have done; we have dramatically increased it. We have put money into information technology. We have put money into equipment. We have put money into long-term care facilities. We have put money into nurses.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) nurses.

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Yes, we have settled the nurses. Are you trying to get my goat because we bowed down? I will bow down to anybody if we want to get an agreement. This is about getting an agreement and bringing good health care to the people of the Province; not playing cheap, dirty politics like you do. Holier than thou, the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi!

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.

Tabling of Documents.

Tabling of Documents

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

MR. MARSHALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker; I know I have something to say here.

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to section 26.(5)(a) of the Financial Administration Act, I am tabling four Orders in Council relating to funding pre-commitments for the 2010-2011 to the 2015-2016 fiscal years.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further tabling of documents?

Pursuant to section 10 of the Public Tender Act, I hereby table the report of the Public Tender Act Exceptions for the months of December 2009 and January and February 2010, as presented by the Chief Operating Officer of the Government Purchasing Agency.

Further tabling of documents?

Notices of motion.

Notices of Motion

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, ordinarily we would have a private member's motion put forward on Monday before the Wednesday of the week in which the private member's motion would be debated; however, because we did not sit yesterday, we would like to put forward our motion, our private member's motion, for tomorrow, being Wednesday, by our private member; and, of course, we are asking leave to do that because the House was not open on Monday.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. Barbe.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. YOUNG: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

WHEREAS the provincial government, on June 5 last year, released "Oceans of Opportunity", a five-year, $28 million strategy to expand our Province's ocean technology sector; and

WHEREAS Newfoundland and Labrador's ocean technology sector is a cluster of more than fifty world-class institutions, companies and industry organizations which are harnessing the power of innovation and entrepreneurship to achieve the common of goal of growing the industry's value by 600 per cent to $1 billion with more than 6,600 employees by 2015; and

WHEREAS this strategy builds on the Province's investment in the School of Ocean Technology at the Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University to advance technology transfer and applied research in ways that provide opportunities for both our graduates and our Province to take a leadership role in this sector; and

WHEREAS this strategy includes provisions for the Ocean Technology Development Fund with components to advance the work of private sector enterprises, post-secondary institutions and industry associations; International Marketing Assistance; the Polaris Program; Business Incubation; and the Northwest Atlantic Ocean Observation System Partnership;

BE IT RESOLVED that this hon. House express confidence in this government's initiative to position Newfoundland and Labrador as a global leader in ocean technology by putting into action "Oceans of Opportunity: Newfoundland and Labrador's Ocean Technology Strategy".

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MS BURKE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

By leave, I would like to give notice regarding the Committees for Estimates and the composition of these Committees.

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

The Resource Committee will consist of the following members: Bonavista North; Burgeo & La Poile; Grand Falls-Windsor-Green Bay South; Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair; Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi; The Isles of Notre Dame; The Straits & White Bay North; Labrador West; and Lewisporte.

The composition of the Government Services Committee will consist of members for: Exploits; Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi; Burgeo & La Poile; Kilbride; Port de Grave; Bay of Islands; The Straits & White Bay North; St. John's East; and Baie Verte-Springdale.

The composition of the Social Services Committee will consist of the members for: Ferryland; Port de Grave; Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair; Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi; The Straits & White Bay North; St. John's North; Port au Port; St. Barbe; and Cape St. Francis.

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

The following Heads of Expenditure will be referred to the Resource Committee: Business; Environment and Conservation; Fisheries and Aquaculture; Innovation, Trade and Rural Development; Newfoundland and Labrador Research Development Council; Rural Secretariat; Natural Resources; Status of Women; and Tourism, Culture and Recreation.

The following Heads of Expenditure will be referred to the Social Services Committee: Child, Youth and Family Services; Human Resources, Labour and Employment; Municipal Affairs; Justice; Education; and Health and Community Services.

The following Heads of Expenditure will be referred to the Government Services Committee: The Department of Finance; the Public Service Commission; Office of the Chief Information Officer; Government Services; Government Purchasing Agency; Transportation and Works; Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation; Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs; Intergovernmental Affairs and the Non-Profit Sector.

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow the Social Services Committee will meet in the House at 6:00 p.m. to review the Estimates of the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services.

MR. SPEAKER: Members have heard the names of individual members who will make up the different committees of the House of Assembly, and the composition of those particular committees.

All those in favour of the motion, ‘aye'.


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

The motion is carried.

Motion carried.

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

Answers to Questions for which Notice has been Given.



MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of The Straits & White Bay North.

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is an honour for me today to stand and present this petition for the members of my district, The Straits & White Bay North, on maintaining our air ambulance service. I would like to read into the record the prayer of the petition:

To the Honourable House of Assembly of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned residents humbly sheweth:

WHEREAS it has been brought to our attention that the air ambulance service is being removed; and

WHEREAS St. Anthony Airport can provide the most optimal service to the whole of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador;

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to support and maintain the air ambulance service in the St. Anthony area and furthermore will proceed with strengthening the service with the placement of a Flight Specialist Team located in St. Anthony.

And as in duty bound your petitioners will ever pray. It is dated April 11, 2010.

Again, there has been a lot of debate in the House in the last couple of sessions on this atrocity of moving this air ambulance service from St. Anthony into Goose Bay. The more that we consider it and the more that we consult and look at the numbers that really speak truly about the service and so on, the more we realize that this is really disenfranchising the operation of air ambulance in the Province, and that this move is not the move that needs to take place. It does not improve the service, as government would want us to believe today. Certainly for our own district, the area of the Northern Peninsula and Southern Labrador in particular, it puts us at a disadvantage.

Just this weekend, on Friday night, we had an air medevac out of St. Anthony, as we often do this time of the year, in the wintertime, when the aircraft left under conditions that it quite simply would not have been able to get into the area due to the low ceilings and so on.

This is one of the main concerns for us in removing the service, that locally we have an airport that is unmanned from 5:00 in the afternoon until 7:00 in the morning. The air ambulance has operated out of that airport for the past number of years that it has been there, and it has done a lot of air medevacs from the local area and has been able to do so without any problems, in conditions that really would not allow someone to come in and take it out. It is the only aircraft in St. Anthony at 5:00 o'clock in the evening or 2:00 o'clock in the morning. There is no other aircraft. It is the only aircraft that is available. When that aircraft is away and an aircraft cannot come in and do that air medevac then we are left with the option, basically, of transporting that patient to Deer Lake, which is a four-and-a-half to five hour ride. So I would suggest that while we would want to sing praises of the decision and that it is improving air ambulance services in Labrador, it certainly is not improving it on the Northern Peninsula. I certainly would also argue that it is not presenting it in many parts of the Island as well.

I am pleased today to be able to present this petition, and I would ask that the House would give consideration and certainly many more signatures attached right now. Just in the past few days there have been over 5,000 signatures that have been collected along the Northern Peninsula, Southern Labrador and other parts of the Province as well, that are calling upon government to back away from this, to reconsider and to maintain the air ambulance service in St. Anthony.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further petitions?

Orders of the Day.

Orders of the Day

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

MS BURKE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We will continue with the debate that we were having prior to our break for Easter. So therefore, from the Order Paper, I will call Motion 1.

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

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

I appreciate an opportunity to have a few words in continuation of the response to the Budget Speech which was given by the Minister of Finance a few weeks ago. Of course, under the rules the Opposition critic for Finance gets up to three hours to respond. I think I took that period of time the last day that I spoke, which was March 30. Of course, the House adjourned at that time for the Easter break, but we are back here again today and we are continuing the debate on the Budget.

That is an opportunity, of course, for the Opposition members to speak as to what they find good about or what they do not find so good in the Budget that has been presented. Actually, the Easter break served a purpose here. Because the Minister, after actually delivering the Budget in the House on Budget Day, took the opportunity – I have been following through the media – to address certain bodies throughout the Province, in Western Newfoundland and the Corner Brook region, for example, and the Board of Trade here in town, in St. John's, to explain, from a government perspective, what was good about the Budget.

Well, of course, like the old saying goes, there are always two stories. There is one side that is their side, there is our side, and somewhere in between lies the truth probably, and the Budget document is no different. The government, of course, would tout that it is an all good thing. The Opposition, contrary to what government members would suggest, we do not only suggest that it is all bad things. We have in fact alluded to - this member has alluded to some things in the Budget that were in fact good. I referred to some things on a provincial basis but also specifically some things that were good in the District of Burgeo & La Poile, which I represent. I am pleased to say as well - I will come back to one of those references, that being the dialysis, that I had the opportunity over the Easter break to speak to several people in my district concerning that particular initiative, both in the health care sector as well as individuals who currently have to travel to Stephenville and Corner Brook for dialysis services, and to get their reaction to that announcement by government.

We ended off the last day, which was March 30, as I say the House closed shortly after that, and we ended off with this member giving a non-confidence motion. Now, some people might say: what is this all about, a non-confidence motion? What it is basically, it is in all democratic societies, where you have a budget put forward by a government. The Minister of Finance of course has moved that the House would accept the Budget. We in the Opposition, of course, and the government members, get an opportunity to speak to the contents of the Budget over the course of several weeks. Ultimately, there will be a vote, but wrapped up in that process as well is that you just do not get to speak to the Budget. If you are opposed to it you get an opportunity to propose motions of your own, and this member proposed a non-confidence motion back on March 30, which the Chair, the Speaker, found to be in order. It is that particular motion that I am speaking to today, the non-confidence motion.

Now, some people might say: well, how could you be pleased on the one hand with some things in the Budget that put money into your district and yet you are up proposing a non-confidence motion in the government? Well, that is not all that unusual. In fact, it is not unusual at all in the parliamentary process and the democratic process of budget debates. Just because certain things in a document are good, does not mean that you accept all the document, because I am sure there will be members on the other side who in the course of the next few weeks will stand and say: How could the Member for Burgeo & La Poile be up criticizing the Budget when he liked the piece about the dialysis? How could he be up criticizing it when he liked the piece about the infrastructure in Isle aux Mort? Well, that is the whole point about this. It does not mean that you have to have - just because you like certain pieces of it does not mean you like everything and it means that you still have some concerns about the Budget, not only this particular Budget but the policy direction and the economic policy direction and fiscal policy direction in particular that the government is moving towards. If you have some suggestions to offer, that is always very helpful as well.

Now, of course, the non-confidence motion that was put forward by this member, just so that we know exactly what we are talking about here, it says specifically - the motion is that we would strike out certain words and replace it with the following, and I quote: "This House condemns the government for its failure to develop and present fiscally responsible programs to address the economic problems of rural areas of this Province and bring forward a plan that generates sustainable economic growth that builds on the projects developed by previous Administrations."

This government would be the first to stand up and say: We have a plan. They are quite adept at telling us what they do not stand for; they are quite good at telling us what they disagree with. For example, they do not agree with binding arbitration for medical people; they make certain moves on air ambulance without considering all the information. They tell you what they do agree with, or do not agree with, but they are not so good on giving you the plan. In fact, they tried so many times that it has become a bit of a joke, because they do not even use the word plan and they have not used the word plan since 2003, folks. They have used the word strategy. We have a strategy to deal with this. It sounds good. It sounds like you are really on the ball and that you are going to do something: We have a strategy. If you ask them, and they do not actually have a plan, they invent a strategy: Do not worry about it, we have a strategy or we will get one pretty fast for you on that. Particularly if there is a polling period; if there is a polling period around the corner or about to start, you can be sure there will be a strategy and there will be a press release about the new strategy in jig time.

I noticed today, for example, even in the Question Period of today, you talk about reactionary governments and ministers and Cabinet members, we had questions asked there today that have been lingering here in this Province for weeks – weeks. You do not hear the government out ballyhooing about what they did on that until they actually get pressed with a question, and of course then they have their pet answer.

I am referring, first of all, to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture who today was asked questions by the Leader of the Opposition about the sad state of affairs that we currently have in our fishing industry. His reaction was: Oh, I am having a meeting at 2:30 p.m. - a miraculous cure. I wonder what strategy he is taking down to the meeting he is having at 2:30 p.m. He obviously did not have any strategy two or three weeks ago. He sat on this all over the Easter vacation. He could not tell us today where he thinks he is going to go with the strategy, but I am telling you, I am going to have a meeting. That is my strategy: I am going to have a meeting. I cannot tell you anything, but I am going to have a meeting. It is so convenient that the meeting was scheduled for today, Tuesday, April 20, at 2:30 in the afternoon when the House of Assembly happens to open and he happens to be getting a question about it at 1:30 p.m. It is so ever convenient.

Another example today, the Minister of Finance - we have had these ongoing negotiations with the NLMA for weeks and weeks. I believe the letter the minister talked about was dated March 3. He said the meeting was cancelled. I do believe it was government that cancelled the meeting, by the way. He said: Well, we could not answer the letter because we thought we needed some negotiations and get some information so we could go and respond to them. Well, he admits today that is not exactly the case. They came back to us and said: No, you should respond to our March 3 meeting, and you can, and you ought to. Lo and behold, when the question is raised today, the Minister of Finance says: Oh yes, by the way, the letter is going out this afternoon.

However so convenient: The government that responds when the flame hits the foot. When the fire is around the feet, that is when they move. They do not tell you anything else that is going on because you might learn something. The people in this Province might get some idea about where things are going.

In the midst of all that, today, probably, I would think, one of the most serious negotiations ongoing at the moment, the NLMA, what does the Premier choose to do? The old strategy of divide and conquer again - divide and conquer. There is no such thing as respectful negotiations between two parties: You have your position and I have my position; let us go behind closed doors and go at it and see where we end up. That is not the strategy of our Premier. Our Premier's strategy is to take an e-mail that he has from somebody who is in the NLMA, a member of it, disgruntled with how his executive, no doubt, is negotiating, and lets that be known.

Well, folks, that is not that uncommon either. I cannot remember any group that has never had a dissident somewhere within. When you are off negotiating for hundreds of people, to think that you might have a person who is not particularly pleased with the approach that the executive has taken, I do not think that is reflective of an incompetent, or poorly organized, or non-united executive. I do not think that means that at all.

If we were to take every expression of somebody's dissatisfaction as meaning that the group is not together, I think we would all be in a serious problem. I think we would all be in serious trouble. I will give you one example if you want to correlate that with something. For example: When the former Member for Placentia & St. Mary's, Mr. Manning, got offside with the government on the Raw Material Sharing thing that was the same situation. Here was a member of a group, the government caucus, who was offside with his executive, the government, the Cabinet, and he expressed his dissatisfaction, expressed his dissatisfaction and said: There are people in my district who disagree with that, I cannot be supportative of it, and I must ask questions about it and speak out for my people and their concerns and so on.

Well, the Premier dealt with that one pretty good; they turfed it. I believe the Premier was down in Houston at the time. Mr. Byrne was back here and word came back from Houston that Mr. Manning is not going to be sitting in that caucus when I get back, or if so, I will not be there. Lo and behold, the former Government House Leader, the Member for Kilbride, he pulled the trigger. There is no doubt about it, he pulled the trigger and the Member for Placentia & St. Mary's ends up on this side of the House. Now that is how they dealt with dissent at that time. That is how dissent was dealt with.

All members, of course, of the government caucus are aware of that. They know exactly what the consequences are of disagreeing with the boss, disagreeing with the executive, but yet, the Premier thinks that is okay for the party that he is a leader of. Yet, in the NLMA somebody is allowed to go out and express dissatisfaction, and because they expressed their dissatisfaction the whole executive of the NLMA is wrong. That seems like a hypocritical type of approach. That is not a case of what is good for the goose is good for the gander; that is a case of you do what you want to do with your crowd, or let me do what I want to do by my crowd, but I am going to tell you what to do for your crowd as well, and I am going to cause some dissention amongst you. Now that seems like a pretty nifty, cute approach. This is on the same day, by the way.

We will see where this going, I guess, after today or tomorrow when things come out because it seems kind of cute by half, I guess, the former Premier Grimes used to always say, too cute by half, that you get the Premier with a particular piece of paper in his hand today during Question Period, cannot wait to get on his feet to mention this e-mail after the Minister of Finance has gotten up and said: We have a very good, conciliatory, great offer on behalf of the taxpayers of this Province to the NLMA –great presentation.

So here we are, we have, as the Minister of Finance says - who everybody in this Province takes at his word - we have a great letter here; we have a great deal for these people. It is cognizant of their needs; it brings them pretty close to the range of dollars they were talking - $80 million. It puts us somewhere in the range when it comes to Atlantic parity, and away we go, the letter is going out this afternoon.

Lo and behold, we could not resist - the Premier could not resist to let the letter go and see what was going to be the reaction – no, sir. He had to take a swipe at the NLMA executive before they ever got the letter, because the minister says it is not gone out yet. So, he had to have that little swipe today. It is not necessary, I would put it to.

Now, I come back to my thing about the plan, and I said that most people talk about plans. This government tends to talk about the strategy. I actually had a call from someone in my district after March 30, and they said: You have to be kidding. You have to be kidding. You did not have an actual list of forty different government strategies. I said: Yes -


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair is having great difficulty hearing the hon. Opposition House Leader deliver his speech. I ask members to my left for their co-operation and take their conversations to the outside.

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Thank you. I appreciate that, Mr. Speaker.

Maybe if the members want to have a conversation, they can take it outside the House, as you suggest. That would be most respectful.

Notwithstanding the attempts to drown out the speaker by their conversations, Mr. Speaker, the most important people, of course, to hear this, and this information, is the people who watch it on TV. Fortunately, the background conversation does not interfere with their ability to listen and hear it - fortunately.

I come back, Mr. Speaker, to the issue of the strategies. The government, as the non-confidence motion suggests, does not have a plan, particularly a plan for rural Newfoundland. I went on the Web site on March 30 in the morning, trying to get a few notes and things, wanting to address this plan issue. I never had an opportunity to get into it in detail back on March 30. I put the word strategy into the search vehicle under the government Web site just to see how often the word strategy would jump out at me, because I have been hearing the word since 2003, continuously.

When you hear of some of the strategies of this government - now, by the way, besides calling it a plan they call it a strategy - when you hear about these forty strategies you wonder, is there anywhere that all of these strategies are supposed to get tied together so that they are all supposed to be helpful to each other? That neither is in conflict with the other? That maybe somewhere they might mesh, and instead of one hand not knowing what the other hand is doing, that the strategies might be somehow interrelated so that we get the benefit of them? I have not seen that one. I guess that comes under the Blue Book. I guess that is where the big master plan was, the Blue Book; and I will come back to that because there have been a few changes made in the text of that book since it was printed in 2003 and 2007.

Anyway, we got an Internet Strategy. Now, I will have to go back, of course, and get the actual details as to every minister who is responsible for every one of these individual strategies, and the departments, but just running down through some of them you get an idea of how the government is reactionary as opposed to proactive.

The Internet Strategy, now, I guess that must fall under the Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development. I would think that probably has something to do - I hope it has to do - with the connectivity issue when we talked about putting high-speed Internet services in rural Newfoundland. Anybody, of course, who was alive and breathing in this Province, is aware of the great investment that the Province jumped to make, of $15 million, back some years ago. There happened to be a fire at an Aliant building on a Saturday night, and come Monday morning we had $15 million going into Persona, just like that. We are going to have high-speed Internet in everybody's living room. Never mind just the schools and the courthouses and the social worker offices; we are going to have high-speed Internet everywhere. Memorial University is going to be connected to every nook and cranny in this Province. Have no fear, we are going to get back - I believe it was actually tossed around that this $15 million investment was going to get this Province back, on its own government services alone, something to the tune of $400 million. Wicked numbers that we were being told was going to come back to this government over time.

That was in 2003 or 2004 this was starting. We had the investment, we rowed about it for three or four years, the money was gone out the door, and we are sitting here now in 2010, or actually back a few months ago, in 2009 - and we have been asking this question, by the way, in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 – and we are saying: Minister, where is all this high-speed Internet stuff in rural Newfoundland?

I know I have had numerous inquiries in my district, from people in Ramea, people in Burgeo, for example, and people in Grey River who say: When is this coming? Can we get it?

They even talked about the lines being run; it is going to get energized in certain areas. Like in Rose Blanche, for example, it was going to get powered up, and it was going to get powered up again in Burgeo, and powered up at certain other sites down the coast. I had people calling me saying: This is great. You cannot criticize government for this because we are all going to be able to hook on to this high-speed Internet. This is great stuff. Why would you ever criticize government for that?

I said: Well, I am not criticizing government for doing the project. I am just concerned: are we ever going to get what we are supposed to get for our money? They are putting $15 million in; you are supposed to get high-speed Internet. You are supposed to get all these savings on government services. You are supposed, for example, to be able to go to your social worker office in Burgeo, when this was all done, and the social worker in Burgeo was going to be tied in with the social worker office in Port aux Basques. Port aux Basques was going to be tied in with Corner Brook; Corner Brook with Grand Falls; Grand Falls with St. John's. All of these offices - whether you needed a government social worker, whether you needed to talk to somebody in a courthouse, whether you needed to talk to a police agency, medical issues and health authorities - all tied together.

What does the minister tell us? I asked him here last spring, in 2009. I said: What is the situation on the money we invested? Oh, we have put out an RFP. We have all the proposals in, and we are going to let you know soon.

Lo and behold, last fall we get a press release come out of the minister's office. I am not sure if it was on a Friday. I would have to double-check to see if it was on a Friday because normally, when you are the bearer of bad news, that comes out on a Friday some time after 3:00 p.m. when everybody is pretty well shut down for the weekend. That is normal. I have to double-check and see what the timing was on the release, but that is normally when you see that happen.

I do know that nowhere did the heading suggest that we were not getting our high-speed Internet any more - nowhere. Lo and behold, down in paragraph four or five, hidden away, was a little pronouncement that the contract was not going to be awarded and the project was scrapped, done, no high-speed Internet.

You have not heard anybody say: Well, we are sorry that we pumped all this money in and it is blown. By the way, the company that we pumped the money into, Persona, just in case government members do not know, that company flipped itself a few months after. It flipped itself, which means it sold itself to someone else; gone, never to be heard from again, as far as us taxpayers know about.

Now, I do not see the government out ballyhooing about that one, that particular strategy; that is their Internet Strategy. My constituents down in Ramea and Burgeo are no better off today when it comes to high speed than they were in 2005 when the money was put in – none whatsoever – and no sign of it. That is the sad point: no indication from the minister as to where we are going to go. If it took you five years to go from when the money was put in to deciding that you were going to scrap it, how many years in the name of God is it going to take to get this back on track, back on the rails, so we can actually see this service being provided? That is a government that is dealing with a plan, too; that is very proactive.

Now, the other strategy is the Tourism Marketing Strategy and I have to say kudos to the persons and the agencies who designed some of the tourism ads that I have seen. In fact, I have watched them – and it is not a ministerial thing. That is not a ministerial thing. They happen to engage, and I say hats off to the government for increasing the tourism marketing budget over the years. Tourism is very, very important to this Province, not only in St. John's, for example, which just this past weekend benefitted from the Junos. I believe we put in $750,000 to bid for the Junos, and we put in so much more to assist with the cost of the celebrations on George Street and so on. In my view, and in the view of the Opposition, it was money well spent because it came back tenfold. It came back to the bars, it came back to the hotels, and it came back to the musical talent of this Province and the artists of this Province who benefitted from it. A good move, similar to the fact that we had good moves back when he had the days of Soiree and the days of the Matthew visit and so on – great initiatives. The marketing campaigns that were done in terms of photos and the ad campaigns were just super. I think they have even won awards. I not only think, I know, because successive Ministers of Tourism have given Ministerial Statements here saying so.

That is an example, by the way, of the Opposition not being afraid to say that government has done some good things; because, as an Opposition member, you just cannot be critical all the time and say: Oh, you do not do this, and you do not do that. That is an example where this government did something proper and deserve a pat on the back for it: the Tourism Marketing Strategy. Every time you spend $1, if you encourage someone to come here from outside this Province and spend $10 that is a pretty good investment. That is a fantastic investment. There is no doubt, there is no other province in Canada – I have seen them from all across Canada – have had the superior ad campaigns that this Province has had. Then again, no disrespect to the other provinces, but they do not have the beauty to show that we do anyway. So we get a head start, because as far as I am concerned we have the most beautiful scenery and the beautiful people in the country anyway. So, anyway that is our benefit.

Some of the other strategies: Provincial Solid Waste Management Strategy; now, there is a good one. You want to talk about a plan or a strategy that is on the paper, and that is about it. It has not gotten off the paper. You ask any member here, government or Opposition member: Where is the provincial government Solid Waste Management Strategy in their district? Where is it in their district? The Minister of Environment and Conservation plays a role, for example, the incinerators. The Minister of Municipal Affairs plays a role. I remember asking questions in this House last year, the year before, saying: by the way, minister - and they would play footsie with it. If I asked the minister a question, of the Minister of Municipal Affairs – or the former minister, I should say, he is now the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. Sometimes he would give me an answer, other times he would play footsie and flip it off to the Minister of Environment. He would flip it off to the Minister of Environment. If she thought the question was too hot, she would flip it off to Municipal Affairs. Cat and mouse stuff. The bottom line was, people were watching, and people saw that the questions were not being answered.

I will give you an example of a government that is, in terms of direction, where this government is not at. On the waste management, for example, towns in my district were told: your incinerator shall not work after June 30. Shut them down; close them down, that is it. So I came to this House and I asked questions of the Minister of Environment. I said: Did you consult with your colleague, the Minister of Municipal Affairs? Because if you have just told Port aux Basques that they cannot use their incinerator after June 30, they do not have any plan for the garbage. What are they going to do with it? Well, she said, that is not our concern. She just talked about all these furans going into the atmosphere and how bad it was for the public health. I said, well that is fine, that is great, nobody disagrees with that piece, but did you talk to the Minister of Municipal Affairs? Before you tell the town to shut down their incinerator, do you think there is a plan that people can take their garbage to on July 1, the day after you shut it down? Well, that is not my job, she says. That is not my role. I am just here to protect the environment. Okay. So I asked the Minister of Municipal Affairs: Now that your colleague has shut it down, what are you going to do to help the towns put their garbage to the day after? Oh, he says, we are working on it, we are working on it. Guess what, folks? They are still working on it three years after.

All of those letters that the Minister of Environment was so firm and stood on her feet here and said: We are shutting them down. That is my job and we are going to shut them down. Well, guess what, folks? Only Saturday past I dropped my garbage off at the incinerator in Port aux Basques. I dropped mine off. They are not shut down now. Somebody must have changed their mind. Somebody must have changed their mind. That is where it comes back to this thing about plans and strategies. A perfect example of one hand either does not know or does not care what the other hand is doing. Instead of getting their act together and the Minister of Municipal Affairs talking to the municipalities and saying: okay, what can we do to solve this problem of waste management; work out the strategy as to where we are going to go, bring environment in and do all the timing pieces on this to get it done properly and have the alternatives. Instead of that we get the Minister of Environment flipping off all of these letters.

I will give you an example, another - and you wonder if somebody who lives inside the overpass sometimes has any concept of what happens and how people live outside. I represent a little community called Grey River on the South Coast of this Province, maybe 130 people there. Over to one side of the community they have a little incinerator and for years and years that is where they take their refuge, over to the incinerator. They have no problem with having a waste management strategy. They would love to have some alternative so they do not have to burn their garbage, no problem whatsoever. They have been educated as to the environmental impacts of it and the health consequences of it and they have no problem with it, but they made a simple request - and by the way, they are not a municipality. They do not have a town council. These are people - they are called local service districts. A different level of government, but yet they took it upon themselves, they went to Municipal Affairs and said: Can you tell us what we can do, what are our options, what do you think we should do in this little community? So the off-the-cuff response - now to somebody living in St. John's this might seem pretty reasonable, but their off-the-cuff immediate response to the local service district of Grey River was: you hold your garbage; you get some kind of bin to store it in on your wharf; do not burn it; you pile up your garbage in a bin down on the wharf and once a week we are going to ship that garbage by boat, boat or barge, up to Burgeo.

Now, that is a five hour boat trip for anybody who is not aware of that. We are going to ship that up to Burgeo. He said: Okay. Well, what happens to it then? Oh, well, we will look after that when we put it amongst the Burgeo garbage, when we figure out what we are going to do with the Burgeo garbage. I said: Okay. They said: What boat are we going to put it on? Are we going to put it on the provincial ferry, because there is a contracted service to move people back and forth? So, once a week do we take this garbage bin and put it on a boat with these people? Oh, we do not know that. We have not figured that piece out yet. Okay, what are we going to store it in down on the wharf? Is there anything we should store it in rather than just have the smell and the stink of the garbage there? It might be okay in the wintertime but on the South Coast of the Province in May, June, July and August, having your garbage stored upon the wharf might not be such a good idea in a bin. We do not know; we have not figured that piece out where you are going to store it while you are shipping it. I said: Oh, by the way, who pays the cost of shipping it? Oh well, we have not figured that out either.

Guess what, folks? To make a long story short, the people of Grey River are still waiting for answers from the Department of Municipal Affairs and the Department of Environment: What do we do with our incinerator? No answers have come from this government, and I am not talking about needing a month to decide or six months to decide. This question has now been floating for three years; three years and no answer. That is the strategy. That is just Provincial Waste Management, and I am only down to number four on my list yet of strategies of this government.

The Atlantic Groundfish Strategy, now there is a good one. That is a pretty important one, given that the minister has gone off for a meeting at 2:30 today on the fisheries. It will be interesting for somebody to go back and dig that one off the shelf and blow the dust off that strategy and see where we are with the Atlantic Groundfish Strategy. That might have some relevance to what we are talking about today. I know today is mostly about shellfish industry but knowing where we are with the groundfish might be important.

The Provincial Geomatics Strategy, the Certification Strategy, the Cod Recovery Strategy. This government, to its credit, has put a lot of money into aquaculture in this Province. The Cooke enterprise is down on the South Coast, the Burin Peninsula area, the Connaigre Peninsula, even out west, I understand, in the Stephenville, Port au Port area. Government deserves full credit for putting money into the aquaculture industry; there is no doubt about it. They deserve kudos for putting their money there to assist these industries. Unfortunately, I guess, for all parties concerned, for government, for the companies, for the people in those areas, some of these technologies yet just are not proven to be successful.

I understand Cooke has shut down their cod farming operations on the South Coast. That has come to an end. By the way, that is not a thing that is only unique to this Province. I was in New Brunswick last week visiting with relatives and reading the local media there. Cooke is having the same problem in New Brunswick and other companies as well. So, albeit good intentions, sometimes we meet market circumstances and technology and science that just will not let it work to the full extent that we would like it to work. There is no doubt in the future that is the way we have to go when it comes to the fishing industry.

The Regional Diversification Strategy - now that is an interesting one. That is going to be very, very beneficial to us. Regional diversification - it sounds great, but I do not know what diversification has taken place in rural Newfoundland on the watch of this government. I see lots of reactionary stuff.

I had an e-mail only a couple of days ago from a gentleman involved in the fishing industry. I guess it is the frustration that sets in. He is in the fishing industry and he has been watching this unfolding between harvesters; processors; calls for government to get involved; still at a meeting stage up to 2:30 p.m. today; no resolution of it; the shellfish industry has started; we are not going; the pricing is an issue; inventory is an issue; marketing is an issue; the value of the dollar is an issue and so on.

This individual, trying to make a living, is frustrated. He says: I do not understand it. I saw this government, when Abitibi closed out in Grand Falls, strike a special committee. They pump millions and millions of dollars, he said, into severance packages, into trying to help the people of Central Newfoundland. He said: We saw in the Budget this year that the government has committed $30 million over two years to Kruger.

Now, let's not fool ourselves as to why the government has put their money into Kruger. We had three pulp and paper mills in this Province. We had the one in Stephenville which does not exist anymore. We had the one in Grand Falls-Windsor which does not exist anymore. Both of which, by the way, happened on the watch of this government, both of them happened to close. I am not suggesting that government closed them, obviously not, but since that three or four-year period, the forest industry in the world has been in a serious, serious situation with marketing, with cost, of access to materials, valuations of the dollar, disputes that have gone on between different countries over bringing in the resource and so on. The bottom line is you might not be able to control what happened if it is external, international forces or global forces that caused it, the question that people test you on and grade you on is: How did you deal with it once it happened?

Well, we saw in Stephenville there was not much of a solution. It is gone. We have not seen much to replace it from an industrial point of view. You might see some ad hoc government suggestions: Oh, we are going to put this little agency there or that there. Other than that, no real economic boosters or industry brought to the Province. It is the same way in Central. We hear the minister get up every now and then and talk about we have a few jobs here and a few jobs there and whatever. Again, certainly no master plan, no big initiatives to bring any industries here.

The Youth Retention and Attraction Strategy; the Ocean Technology Strategy; the Protected Areas Strategy; the Forest Ecosystem Strategy; the provincial branding strategy; fine arts and culture strategy; the Minerals Strategy; Northern Agrifoods Development Strategy; Workforce Adjustment Strategy; Provincial Immigration Strategy; rural development strategy; caribou herd recovery strategy – we saw that unfolding up in Labrador recently, caribou recovery; Graduate Recruitment Strategy; Vessel Replacement Strategy; Cultural Connections strategy; Strategy for Crowded – this is one that I actually had somebody call me and ask me was I serious when I said this. Yes, I am quite serious. There is a provincial strategy called the Strategy for Crowded Wormseed Mustard. Now, I will get the details at another time.

Craft Industry Development strategy; recreation and sport strategy; Excellence in Mathematics strategy; provincial cancer control strategy; Economic Growth, Innovation Strategy – now, I do not know how that one, number thirty-two, by the way, differs from number three which is Innovation Strategy. We have an Innovation Strategy and we have an Economic Growth, Innovation Strategy. Recovery Strategy for endangered Low Northern Rockcress; Early Childhood Development in the Northeast Avalon; provincial Wellness Strategy; Fishing Industry Renewal strategy. Now, I am sure the minister had that one tucked into his briefcase when he went to the meeting today at 2:30 p.m., because that is exactly what he was talking about when he answered the questions. We need something in this Province to renew the fishing industry.

Now, he did not have to go down, according to my list, and invent this since Friday or Saturday when he got his proposal from the fishing industry. This strategy has existed for some time. I am wondering if maybe he would like table a copy of the strategy and explain to us exactly what steps were taken from the time that it was created, just to show how proactive he was and where we have gone on that Fishing Industry Renewal strategy since it was created.

Tobacco Reduction Strategy; provincial Energy Strategy; and Wind Generation Strategy – so, we have forty that I am aware of. We definitely have forty. There are probably forty more that I never even scratched the surface with yet. The question is: Where does all this tie together in a plan? You have certainly covered the map of a lot of different areas, but where is the master plan as we say? Where is the overall master plan? That is the part that we have not seen.

Some people would say that I only talk about things that happen in other places in the Province and not my own district, but I want to take a few minutes to talk about the District of Burgeo & La Poile and some of the things that happen there, some of the things that are very good and some of the things not so good and that we still need help with. For example, I have alluded to the dialysis piece. I spoke to some individuals over the Easter break. They are very pleased. Some of these individuals, of course, they are very much aware that it is going to take maybe a year or eighteen months to actually put a facility in place, to put the training in place, but it will be there once it is done. We all realize that it takes time to do that and are very appreciative of the fact that government is, in fact, going to do that. I notice the same thing is being done in Lab West and that is very nice to see, because they are probably the two most isolated areas in the Province now when it comes to medical services. If you are in Lab West you just cannot walk down the street and get your services, nor can you if you are in the Southwest part of this Island very easily, particularly in the winter months. That is good to see.

Some of the roadwork that is getting done - it is outside of my district but everybody in the district uses it. The Crabbes River bridge, for example, is, I believe technically, in the district of the Government House Leader. That is going to be very beneficial to not only the truck traffic that rolls off Marine Atlantic but everybody in my district who travels out of town. That is very, very beneficial, and that is great to see.

Some municipal infrastructure, for example, in the Town of Isle aux Morts, they have been after for several years trying to get a facility. They had a problem. You talk about environmental concerns. They actually house their fire department in the same building that houses the town hall. You can imagine if the firemen came in for training and started up the fire truck, and started to use their equipment, the town hall is not a very good safe place for the workers to be working. We finally got that fixed. An individual who was a former resident of the town donated property across the street. The town took that offer. We have managed to get the engineering done, and now under this year's Budget we got some funding allotted to actually do the construction. Then, of course, the old fire hall, town hall building will be used totally for fire department services. That is a very good initiative.

We have roadwork being done constantly. We know you cannot get everything you want every year. People understand that. You have your basic road maintenance of potholes and so on. I must say, in fairness to the workers for the Department of Transportation and Works, I have an excellent working relationship with the people on the west coast who run that department. It is simply a matter, they ask every year, give us a list of where you have problem areas, tell us what your priorities are in terms of concerns and we will try our best in the forthcoming year to get it done. We did not get it all done in one year. Sometimes we have to go back in year two or even year three to get a crack at it and get it looked after. That has been done, and much appreciated.

Fire departments, that is a touchy one. I noticed in this year's Budget by the way, and I was very pleased to see it in the Budget this year, that there are going to be additional monies put into the Department of Municipal Affairs fire budgets. You talk about fire protection infrastructure. We had a statement made here today by the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs about volunteers in this Province. I alluded to the fact that probably, and it not fair I guess to characterize any volunteer being more important than another, but in terms of the actual service that you provide, firemen have to rank right up there in terms of they undergo the training to put their own lives on the line. A lot of volunteer effort does not involve your own personal safety, but being a firefighter in this Province involves actually putting your life on the line to protect your fellow citizens.

This year, the government has announced that there are two pots apparently, one is going to be for a fire truck acquisition. They have increased that to $2.5 million this year. Also the other pot of money, what we call firefighting equipment upgrades and replacements, they have put it up to $1 million this year, which is basically a doubling. We have two separate pots. Yes, we have some extra money. The fire chief for one of the major towns in my district, Port aux Basques for example, Mr. Musseau, is actually the western director on the Newfoundland and Labrador fire fighters association. He was present when the fire fighters association made their presentation to government earlier on and he is very pleased to see that we have in fact seen these funding increases, and I am very pleased to see. It is a great move.

According to the information that is in the Budget, there are 6,200 volunteer fire fighters in this Province. Now some communities, for example, take it for granted. Like maybe the City of St. John's, for example, and the City of Mount Pearl and Labrador City, Grand Falls-Windsor, Gander and Corner Brook, the bigger places. Some of these have paid fire departments, firefighting departments, and they build it in as an automatic part of their budgets every year of course, that we need a fire truck. We go looking for it, for government assistance no doubt but they have a tax base much larger, much more affluent in a lot of cases in order to do that. Whereas some communities are not blessed with that, particularly if you are a local service district as opposed to a community.

For example, I have a community of Cape Ray, a local service district, not a lot of people, got no tax base. Yet, they still have fires. So they are always scraping. They have their fundraisers, everything from soup sales to turkey suppers to cold plates to dances to crib tournaments, you name it. They do everything under the sun to try to get a few dollars to buy the equipment, because even if we go to government and government say: Okay, we can give you a certain amount of funding towards equipment, for example, they still have to raise their portion. It is pretty tough doing it, but I must say, hats off to the people in these local service districts because they realize it is their community. They realize they have to pay their share, and they are more than willing to pay their share. Fire services are one of the things that most citizens in most communities are more than happy to help pay their share with.

Now, I do believe as well that that is a pretty insignificant amount overall. I realize there are limitations with government when it comes to: Do you put it into health care? Do you put it into education? Do you put it into fire fighting? Do you put it into municipal infrastructure, like roads and water and sewer? There has to be some priority list drawn. Where do you draw the line? Some people would suggest that there are some other things of maybe a cultural or a recreational nature that should not take priority over firefighting equipment and that these communities ought to have the firefighting equipment but in any case, it is good to see that government is committed to funds in that regard.

I know it is usually - the process I find has been done fairly fair. You end up with all the communities putting in their wish list I call it and they are prepared to pay their share of the funding, and that finds its way through the Fire Commissioner's Office and Emergency Measures to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and eventually a decision gets made. I must say, in fairness to any minister I have dealt with, they have usually been pretty fair. They understand and respect the priority list that is usually provided. Sometimes there is a little quirk. We had a little quirk last year in my district between the community of Rose Blanche and the community of Burnt Islands, but those things you have to talk through. You have to understand why the decision got made, and usually if all parties are reasonable and rational, which they were, and the department, you usually try to work out some format and process so that on a go-forward basis you can hopefully see those types of issues resolved. I look forward to hopefully seeing that resolved later this year when we deal with the minister again.

The other issue that is of particular importance to my district, of course, and that is ferries. I do not know if that is the right word to use when I am talking about Marine Atlantic, because I have the ships, Marine Atlantic, but I also have the provincial ferry service. I have, for example, the communities of Grey River serviced by the provincial ferry service. It runs from Burgeo down to Grey River. I also have a service that runs from Burgeo to Ramea on a daily basis. I also have a service that runs from Rose Blanche down to La Poile.

So provincial ferries are very important, and you always get your problems. You always have issues. People are understanding when the issue relates to weather or ice conditions. If the ice is there and the skipper says you cannot go because the ice is down, you cannot go. That is understandable. We have had the case in the past where we could not do the service because of weather conditions or ice conditions, for example, and government has agreed to provide helicopter transport for anyone who needed medical service. That is very acceptable, and people understand that. These people living in these rural communities, they generally understand that you just cannot up and run whenever you want to. They are used to living in isolated communities. They want the service, and as long as it is a respectable, decent service, it is usually pretty good. Barring weather and so on, they understand that as well.

Problems come about when sometimes government puts a ferry on the service that is totally inadequate to that area. That is where you have problems, when you do not have consultation. You have a Department of Transportation who have, I believe it is run out of Lewisporte when it comes to the ferry service, and you might end up with a vessel going to service Burgeo to Grey River, and it is not the usual one and there has been little consultation, for example, and somebody says: How come we have this boat now? We have the Eagle instead of the such-and-such, and there was no consultation. Then people get all upset: She can only carry twelve people; the other one carries twenty-five. She cannot carry any cargo unless you put it out on deck and it gets wet, those kinds of things. Usually, it takes some discussion and some communication back and forth between the parties and we usually get it walked through.

Now, hopefully the new vessel replacement program that the Province has announced - I believe they have announced this one now about twelve times. We see some money being put into the vessel replacement piece by government again in this Budget, and that is a good thing. It is a bit late. Again, I guess you can only do it when you get your money in your hand or you know you can bank on the money, but they have committed a substantial amount of dollars to replace six vessels over a period of time.

Now, we do not exactly know over what period of time. We do not know exactly that they are going to pay for all six of them because the funding does not relate to all six. I believe it only relates to two or three at the present time based on the dollars that are there. It was interesting to see - and this is probably one of the few occasions when government listened, but it took a by-election for them to listen. It is amazing what can get done by government when there is a by-election on. I am referring, of course, in the case of the ferries to the Terra Nova District by-election – fascinating! Government had this strategy to build these new ferries, fund them, but somewhere between the jigs and the reels they forgot to say that they were going to be built in Newfoundland and Labrador, or to even make any provision that it be built in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Now this is the government who touts itself on no more giveaways. No more giveaways, you are not getting our oil out of the ground, under the ocean. You are not taking our minerals. You are not getting any of that unless it benefits us, but yet we are going to put millions of dollars into vessel construction but we did not say it had to be constructed here. Now that was a big piece missing. Despite the fact that people screamed about that, nothing was done. They did not say: Yes, we are going to stick that clause in there and we are going to give the dockyard in St. John's a chance to bid, the fabrication facilities in Glovertown, or the fabrication facilities in Marystown or Clarenville. We have lots of places, but government did not say we are going to give our own tradespersons a chance to do that; it was not there.

Lo and behold we get a resignation, there is a by-election out in Terra Nova, whop, all of a sudden that is reversed; we are going to get our vessels built in Newfoundland and Labrador. It is a good move, but it should not have taken a by-election to get it done. That is called listening. It is called listening and when you only listen because you are pressured to - can anybody tell me, in government, what was wrong with that decision to allow Newfoundland and Labrador companies to bid on the process or insist that they be done here? Was there something wrong with that?

I remember the former Minister of Transportation, the former Member for The Straits & White Bay North, standing up and giving us ten reasons in this House, when it was asked in the House here in Question Period, why it could not be done. He gave us ten reasons why it could not be done. Lo and behold, when the by-election is on, all those reasons disappeared, and now it can be done. What was wrong with having it done in the first place? If you could find the will to do it in the fall of 2009, why could you not find the will to do it when you announced it?

That is what confuses people sometimes. It certainly does not tie in with the comments like the Member for Baie Verte-Springdale when he talked about: We care! Yes, that was a ‘we care'; we did not care to listen. That is an example of ‘we care', all right. Anyway, those kinds of things are confusing.

Back to the big ships which is more in my turf - Marine Atlantic. That is the other piece. You very sporadically hear in this Province from the Minister of Transportation in this Province or the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, anything about Marine Atlantic - very rarely. The Auditor General of Canada, Sheila Fraser, can comment on it, and then you will get a little press release come out and whatever. Yet, every tourist that comes to this Province by sea comes through Marine Atlantic. Every single year, year after year, whether they come from North Sydney to Argentia, or they come from North Sydney to Port aux Basques - very little attention. Can anybody recall the last time you saw a press release where the Minister of Transportation was coming to the West Coast or Port aux Basques to talk about Marine Atlantic and clue them in as to this the discussions we have had with the Minister of Transport federally and this is what we would like to see him do? Have you ever been asked to come in to a meeting and say let's talk about what Marine Atlantic does for your area?

For example, the town that I live in, Port aux Basques, my permanent residence, I would say Marine Atlantic – I do not say, I know Marine Atlantic is the principal employer. No question about it; good federal wages. You also have a situation where the baby boomer generation have moved on. They have all retired, and fortunately, for the area, most of them have stayed living in the area with good federal pensions. That leads to opportunities, of course, where younger people have come back and lived there.

So Marine Atlantic is a great piece for our community, a great piece for our area, our region. Tradespersons, persons who work on the boats, persons who work on the shore, traffic directors, terminal managers, ticket sellers, reservation clerks, welders, carpenters, it is unbelievable what that does for our community.

I would like to see the provincial government taking a more active role in encouraging the federal government to make the necessary investment to make Marine Atlantic Inc. be what it truly can be. Rather than just pay lip service and respond sporadically, can there be some open dialogue – it is a very important industry. You have hundreds of people who are impacted by it. You have truckers who are impacted by it in this Province. You do not go to Walmart and buy your time on time stuff because it was flown in on the plane. That came in because of a truck that came across the Gulf. That is why it is important. All of these truckers depend on it as well; all of the tourist industry depends on it.

I have a minute left there, Mr. Speaker, so I will conclude by saying, the Budget overall, I am somewhat concerned about the fact that we are into year two of a deficit and two more deficit years to come. There are some very good initiatives there when it comes to health care spending, no doubt about it - infrastructure spending. I agree, by the way, that we are not out of the woods yet in terms of the economy; our GDP last year proved that. We still have some shaky areas when it comes to mining this year; the strike at Inco. We have deep concerns in the fishing industry that need to be resolved. Yes, we have problems in our forestry sector which need to be hopefully worked on. It is questionable whether we are going to get the mining industry back to 60 per cent as the Minister of Finance suggested. It is questionable whether we are going to get $83.48 a barrel on our oil as has been projected; hopefully we will.

The bottom line is we hope all of those assumptions that this Budget is based on come true. We hope that the parity that we have seen in the dollar does not hurt us. I think the Budget was based on 95 cents; we seem to be off a bit on that right now. So, that is good for some and bad for others.

Overall, there were some good initiatives in –

MR. SPEAKER (Kelly): The Chair reminds the hon. member that his time has expired.

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

If I just could just take ten seconds to clue up?

MR. SPEAKER: By leave to clue up?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, the Budget does have some very good facets to it, but in essence again, I am speaking at this point to the non-confidence motion, we feel that the government is directionless in terms of an overall plan. They have thousands of strategies but so many strategies that they have no focus on the overall plan. If you do not have a focus for an overall plan, or it has at least not been revealed to the public yet, that is what causes a concern and that is what causes the lack of confidence in what you see in this document.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SKINNER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to stand and to speak to the budgetary policy of the government, to the amendment brought forward by the House Leader of the Opposition. I have to pick my spots. First of all, Mr. Speaker, I will say this to you, because I have twenty minutes and the Opposition House Leader had sixty minutes. So, I will get an opportunity to come back, hopefully, throughout the session to have lots of time to discuss some of the issues he brought up, but I will pick my spots on some here today and give the other side of how one looks at the budgetary policy of this government and how this government has done, and how we as a Province, more importantly, have done over the last six or seven years that this government has been leading the Province.

I will just start off, if I could, and talk a little bit to the strategies that the hon. member opposite has mentioned on a number of occasions now. He gets great wind in his sails when he talks about the strategies of this government, how many of them we have. He has actually gone, I have heard him reference thirty and forty, I have heard him reference hundreds, and I have heard him reference thousands. So, I am really not sure how many strategies he thinks government has but he has thrown around a lot of numbers. I would suspect to you that there are many. I know that. I listed some myself. We have a lot of them. He tries to give the impression that because we have a lot of strategies – he just said it a second ago – we are sort of directionless. We are operating in isolation and we do not really have an overall plan. We do not really have a bigger plan for what we want to do. What he fails to recognize is that each of those strategies are the spokes in the wheel that makes this government and this Province move forward. What he fails to realize is that each of those strategies are part of the building blocks that make the economic policy of government. Those strategies are consultations that we have had with individuals in our communities, in our municipalities and in our Province. Those strategies are discussions we have had with business groups. Those strategies are discussions we have had with community groups, with sector related groups representing various areas, aquaculture, forestry and the new knowledge economy. That is the views of the people. That is the views that people brought forward to us as a government and said: This is what is important to us. If you are going to dis the strategy, if you are going to try and indicate that the strategy is a negative thing, I would suggest that you are then saying that the input from the people is also something that you view to be negative.

I will just focus on a couple of strategies, Mr. Speaker, for the next minute or so to give you some idea of what I am trying to bring forward here in terms of trying to make people see and understand the value of our strategies. Two that are very close to my heart I will refer to. One is the Poverty Reduction Strategy. We have had many discussions about it in this Chamber. It has been discussed right across this Province and it has been discussed right across this country. We have seen accolades come to this Province because of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador's Poverty Reduction Strategy, but guess what, Mr. Speaker? It was not our strategy as a government. It was the strategy of the people in every nook and cranny of this Province that we went out and did a tremendous amount of consultation with. We spoke to the people who were affected. We spoke to the groups who were advocating on behalf of people who found themselves in poverty. We spoke to people who put forward themselves as community advocates, and that strategy came from those discussions. We took in all of those advice documents, formulated a working document. We tried to condense everything down. We tried to get rid of the duplication that we heard and we put forward a working document that we gave back to the people and said: What do you think of this? That is where the strategy came from. That is where we got our Poverty Reduction Strategy. So I think that is a very fundamental piece and a very important building block for this government and more importantly for the people of the Province, because they see that as a living document that shows this government is listening. We are turning their advice documents into policies of this government that in turn affect them, and they see that as a positive thing.

Let's talk about some of the results of that kind of an approach. Let's talk about that strategy and how important that strategy is. When we started down that road, we were the Province in Canada that had the highest levels of poverty. We had very significant levels of poverty, obscene levels I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker. The last time I checked, and I could be corrected maybe by the Minister of Human Resources, Labour and Employment who would know this a lot better than I would today, but the last time we checked we had gone down to the fourth lowest level of poverty.

AN HON. MEMBER: Third level.

MR. SKINNER: Third lowest level of poverty in Canada. Our goal is to be the lowest. Ultimately, we would love to eliminate poverty but I would suggest to you that there will always be people who will find themselves in situations where we need to be providing some levels of support and service to them, but we have gone from the worst down to the third best, if I could use that terminology, and we want to be the best or the lowest in terms of the levels of poverty that we have in this Province. The strategy document that is guiding us, the Poverty Reduction Strategy which came from the people in Newfoundland and Labrador, which came from the mouths of the people in every nook and cranny, in every community in this Province is the document that is guiding us along that road. So that is why strategies are important. That is just one example of why strategies are important to us.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SKINNER: Let's talk about our Youth Retention and Attraction Strategy. Let's talk about all those young men and women that I went to a number of consultation sessions with, that other people on both sides of the House went to consultations with, not just in this Province; more importantly, I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, outside of this Province. Young men and women who had to leave this Province, who had to go away, they felt, to find a future because they did not feel there was a future in Newfoundland and Labrador. We had a strategy, and I use the word proudly, not negatively, I use it proudly. We had a strategy to consult with them, to go out and seek their input to help, to have them help us build policies that would allow them to have a future in this Province.

Our Youth Retention and Attraction Strategy has a number of prongs that we are going to use to retain the youth that we have right now in our Province, so they recognize they have a future here, can have a career here and can raise their families here. We also want to make sure that those who have left see that there is opportunity here and they can come back, and, Mr. Speaker, they have been doing that. We have seen net in-migration for the last couple of years. We have seen our numbers increase. We are projecting the population to continue to increase as we move forward and our Youth Retention and Attraction Strategy is a part of the reason why that is happening.

So strategies are important and it is important that we recognize, as a government, as elected officials in this House of Assembly, that we have the voice of the people impacting and being inputted into the strategies that this government develops, and we do that. While we sometimes get criticized by people who say: You do not listen to the people; you do not talk to the people; you just impose your will upon them. That is not true. Nothing could be further from the truth. The hon. member opposite, when he talks about our thirty or forty or our hundred strategies, is talking about the fact that we are out consulting with people. We are out giving the people of the Province an opportunity to have a voice into the policies of government that affect them. We have done that.

I, myself, when I was minister in a different portfolio, did consultations on the minimum wage review. We have done consultations on a whole host of things, and we are going to continue to do that. It is a part of how we, as an elected body, govern the people of the Province. We rely upon their advice. We rely upon their expertise, I would say to you. It is not just advice. It is the expertise that they have because these are the people out in the community who are dealing with the issues that we have to grapple with and they are dealing with them on a day by day basis. They have their finger on the pulse, they know exactly what is happening in our communities, and we need their expertise and their advice to help us formulate policies – formulate strategies – that will allow us to move forward. We are doing that. They also appreciate, Mr. Speaker, the opportunity to be a part of that process.

We make no apologies in this government for having strategies. For those of you who may have some problem with it, I say to you two things: We are going to continue to do it because it works; and number two, we are going to continue to do it because the people of the Province want us to do it, and we are listening to the people of the Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SKINNER: Mr. Speaker, I will move off strategies. If I could maybe, by clarification, I understood I had twenty minutes to speak, do I have an hour?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SKINNER: I can take as long as – okay, thank you very much. I did not realize that.

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, you have a full hour.

MR. SKINNER: Thank you very much. Okay, I just needed clarification. I understand I do have a little bit longer, okay.

Mr. Speaker –

AN HON. MEMBER: Fifty-one minutes.

MR. SKINNER: Fifty-one minutes I am told. Well, better again, I will get an opportunity to elaborate a little bit more than I thought I would.

Mr. Speaker, what I would like to do now is just move off of the strategies because we will come back to that, I am sure, another time in this House. We will get an opportunity to speak to some of the specific strategies and why they are important and why we feel they are important - I just mentioned a couple then.

The point I wanted to leave with the people who are watching us, and the point I wanted to leave to my colleagues here in the House of Assembly is that that is an important part of government's framework. The fact that we have input from the people living in our communities, helping us construct the policies that are going to impact each and every one of us on a day by day basis. So, we are happy to be able to do that.

Let's get back to talking about budgetary policy. Let's get back to talking about the amendment, which I am going to refer to in a second in more detail that was given by the Opposition. The strategies, the budgetary policy of this government, let's see what has happened over the last couple of years by us as a government being able to employ some of the strategies that we have had and conduct ourselves as a government in a way that we have conducted ourselves. What has happened since 2003, since this government was elected in late 2003? Well, here are a couple of things that I think are important for people to hear. You have heard it before and I think it is important we hear it again.

Our net debt, that big yoke around our necks that everybody talks about, that big millstone that drags everybody down which was about $12 billion - that is billion with a ‘b' - when this government took office is now down by $3.9 billion to just under $8 billion. We have gone from a twelve-billion-dollar debt down to an eight-billion-dollar debt in six short years. Now, that is good economic policy I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker. That is good fiscal policy and that is something that the people of this Province understand and appreciate. I do not have the figures right in front of me –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SKINNER: I do not have all of the figures right in front of me, but from memory, Mr. Speaker, if my memory is accurate, we, when we took office, every man, woman and child in this Province had a per capita debt of about $23,000. Today, it is down to about $15,000. It is still way too high and we are going to get it down lower, but my point is we have made tremendous strides on the debt.

So, the budgetary policy of this government, if we want to talk about what our policies are like and if they are any good let's look back over the last six budgets and see what we have done. What have we done? One of the big things is we have reduced the debt significantly. We have knocked one-third, basically, off our debt and we will continue to knock more off it as we move into the future, Mr. Speaker.

The other thing that we have done, Mr. Speaker, and I think it is important for people to understand this, we have had to incur a couple of small deficits - small being millions of dollars. I do not use that term lightly when I say small; they are small relative to the overall budget. We are projecting a deficit this year of about $194 million. In the numbers that we are dealing with in our budgets I can use the term small on that. In a lot of other conversations when I am talking $194 million I would not use an adjective like small, but in this case I would. That is a small deficit, Mr. Speaker. We are having that kind of a deficit because we want to continue to stimulate our economy. We want to continue to make sure that people in the Province have access to work, have opportunity for economic development and have opportunity to make sure that they can put money in their pockets. So, we will incur a small deficit for the next couple of years to ensure that happens because, as we all know, the world has gone through, over the last eighteen or twenty-four months, a global recession. There are economies that have been brought to their knees. That has not happened in Newfoundland and Labrador because of the general budgetary principles that this government has employed over the last six years.

I referred to our debt earlier. I can talk about our taxes, how we have reduced taxes, how we have increased thresholds for people so people are paying less taxes, how corporations and small businesses are paying less taxes, how we have created and fostered an environment where businesses want to come here, and because businesses come here they employ people and they create economic activity.

The budgetary principles of this government, when I look backwards - because that is how I want people to judge us, judge us on our record. Don't judge us on speculation, don't judge us on what people think might happen, don't judge us on what people say is going to happen, judge us on what we have done. When people look at what we have done, they will see that we have done very well. We have not been perfect, nor do we profess to be perfect, but we have guided this Province over the last six or seven years, down a fiscal path that had you thought about it six years ago you would never say we would be here where we are today. Nobody thought we would turn it around as quickly as we did and as well as we did. We have been able to do that under the leadership of the Premier. We have been able to do that under the leadership of Cabinet. We have been able to do that under the guidance of all of our MHAs and all of the people of the Province who work with us on developing some of the strategies that I talked about earlier that are the building blocks to the economic policy and the social policy of this government. We are going to continue to do that into the future.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to refer, if I could, to a couple of facts and figures. We talk about 2009 and the world global recession and how bad it has been. We have seen banking systems collapse. We have seen countries collapse because of it. We have seen major manufacturers - the auto companies, the forestry industry - collapse because of it. Things have not been really good when you look at it from a global perspective. We have been able to isolate ourselves a little bit from that because of the budgetary policies of this government, the budgetary policy that the member opposite has an amendment in wanting to condemn. I keep referring to our budgetary policies because it is important that people understand we have a track record, and it is a positive one, is what I am saying to us.

So when we look back at the recession last year and all of the difficulties that people were having throughout the world, those banks collapsing, the countries collapsing, the major manufacturers collapsing and so on – well guess what happened in Newfoundland and Labrador, Mr. Speaker, in 2009? As an example, our labour income increased by 4.2 per cent - the second-best performance of any Province in the country. Labour income went up. Our housing starts were down marginally from a nineteen-year high, but they were the second best again in the country. People are not building houses if they are worrying about what the economy is doing, or worrying about how they are going to pay their next bill. We had the second-best housing starts in the country last year.

Retail sales – let's talk about consumer confidence, people going out and spending a bit of money. Retail sales went up 2.6 per cent - the strongest performance in the country. We were the top in the country in terms of retail sales growth, and only one of two provinces to show a positive retail sales growth. Two point six per cent, that tells you that people have confidence in what this government is doing from a budgetary policy perspective.

Our personal income – how are people doing with personal income? What about all those taxes that people talk about, all of those fees and stuff that we have to put on them? Well, guess what? In the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador last year, our personal income grew by 3.9 per cent, while our disposable income increased by 4.7 per cent. Now, why did that happen? It happened because of the tax policy of this government. The tax policy is a part of the budgetary policy that we have – the broader budgetary policy. So our tax policy, which has been one of reducing the amount of taxes people have, increasing the threshold, reducing the tax brackets, increasing the thresholds in those brackets, has helped keep more money in the pockets of the people of this Province. That is the key thing. It helps keep more money in the people's pockets. So all of that, Mr. Speaker, goes to show why the budgetary policies of this government have been positive.

Let's move away from 2009, which was a very bad year across the world from an economic policy perspective, and let's look at 2010, the upcoming year. The year that we have our budget that we just tabled, that we have an amendment on the table to say that we should condemn the budgetary policy of this government. I just want to make sure I am using the right word. Did he say condemn? Yes, he did. I wanted to be sure. I did not want to put words in the opposite member's mouth. He did use the word condemn. He said the House should condemn the budgetary policy. Now that is the budgetary policy that I just talked about that has reduced our debt. That is the budgetary policy that has seen all kinds of investments go in, which I will get to in a second, into our Province. That is the budgetary policy that has put more money in the people's pockets, more disposable income. That is the budgetary policy that has seen people's labour income increase 4.2 per cent last year. That is the policy that the member opposite wants this House to condemn.

So let's look at what we are trying to do in 2010. Let's see what we are talking about there. We are expecting 2010 to be a pretty good year as well, Mr. Speaker. We are expecting it to be a very good year. Our GDP - something that economists and people like my colleague, the Finance Minister, use as a barometer of success - is forecast to increase by 4 per cent in 2010, 4.0 per cent. That is healthy. That is a good thing. So we are still moving along the right track. Our train has not come off the track. We are moving in the right direction and we are moving there in a very positive way.

What about employment in the Province in 2010? We had a good year last year. What about this year? In 2009 it was good. In 2010, what is it going to be like? Well, it is expected to grow by 2.3 per cent; expected to grow by 2.3 per cent, employment, and our unemployment is expected to decrease. Not only are we expecting more people to find work, we are expecting people who are unemployed, the amount of people, the percentage of people unemployed to decrease by point-six percent. So we are moving in the right direction. Ideally, we would like to see unemployment - you will never get it to zero but we would like to see it down in the single digits. We are working towards that.

What about our personal income and our disposable income that I talked about last year and said that we had more personal income, more labour income and more disposable income in the pockets of the people? What do we expect to happen this year? Well, our personal income and our disposable income are expected to grow 3.9 per cent and 3.3 per cent respectively, Mr. Speaker. Personal income up by 3.9 per cent, another increase over last year, and disposable income expected to increase 3.3 per cent, another increase over last year; more money being left in the pockets of the people of this Province because of the tax policies and the budgetary policies of this government.

Where did those policies come from? They came from the strategies that the member opposite talks about. Where did those strategies come from? They came from talks with the people in the Province. They came from Shawn Skinner, the Member for St. John's Centre, going out and speaking to small business people in his district and speaking to community based groups and speaking to homeowners and speaking to young men and women, students, and moms and dads, in my district, making sure that the grassroots were being listened to and heard and bringing that back to the table of caucus and bringing that back to the table of Cabinet. I am not the only one doing that. I would suggest every member in this House is doing it – not just the members on government side, but every member in the House is doing this. It shows because the indicators show we are doing well, and it shows because those polls that nobody likes to talk about when they are not favourable to themselves, but those polls that people put out, those independent, arbitrary outside agencies – they are not government polls – say that we are a popular government, and we are popular because of the policies we have. I would like to think it is because we are nice people too, and I am sure some people think we are, but it is our performance that is getting those poll numbers, Mr. Speaker. It is not the individuals, although in some cases we have some impact on that. We certainly have some role in that, no doubt, but it is the performance of government. If people were not happy with the performance of government, you would not see the kinds of poll numbers that you are seeing for this government. So people are happy with how we are doing because we are listening to them, we are taking their advice, we are listening to the grassroots, putting it into the strategies that we have, and those strategies are impacting the policies of this government.

Now, Mr. Speaker, retail sales; again, I am going to talk about 2010. We expect retail sales to increase 5 per cent, another indication of consumer confidence. People are still spending money. They are not hiding it under the mattress; they are not filling their pillowcases with it; they are not putting it in their back pocket waiting for the rainy day, waiting for the sky to fall, as some prognosticates across the way seem to say. They are spending it, and they are spending it because they are confident that we are going to continue to be a healthy environment, a healthy economy, and they do not have any worries, no significant worries.

Our population is expected to increase again. Positive net in-migration continues. Now, we have, I would suggest to you, fifty years of out-migration that we need to worry about. Certainly, the last fifteen years have seen significant out-migration. We have fifty years, but we have had a number of quarters of in-migration, positive in-migration, and that tells me that people see good things happening in this Province and they want to come back here. Not only are they people who have left the Province, I have talked to many people who have come to this Province from other areas of the country and other areas of the world because they see opportunity here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

I have been out as Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development doing announcements for local companies, and I have always taken the time to walk through those companies to talk to their employees and see how the employees are doing and where they are from and what their job descriptions are. I have met people who have been from Toronto, were born and raised and grew up in Toronto and moved to Newfoundland and Labrador because they saw opportunity here. I have met people who have been from foreign countries, too many for me to count for you; England, India, China, all over the world, who have said they have come here because of economic opportunities. They wanted to start their families here, they saw a career opportunity here, they like the style of life that we have, and they like the economic policies of this government, the tax changes. They had friends who told them about Newfoundland and Labrador and how it was a place that had an abundance of opportunities for them. I met with a gentleman from South Korea last week, exactly the same thing. So it is happening, people are talking about it. People see that there are good things happening in this Province.

Housing starts expected to go up again, that to me is always a big indicator. If you are going to build a house, you better be pretty sure about what you are doing. If you are putting a couple of hundred thousand dollars or more into it, you better be pretty sure of what you are doing. It is probably the biggest economic decision that we make as individuals in our lives, next to having children; a big economic decision there, too.

In terms of minerals, Mr. Speaker, mineral shipments, all of that is expected to increase, all of that is good news. So there is a bunch of stuff that is happening. My point is, I do not want to bore people with all of the details, but there is a bunch of stuff that is happening that is important.

It is important for us to understand that the economic and budgetary policies of this government, which the member opposite has an amendment into the House that says, "This House condemns the government for its failure to develop and present fiscally responsible programs..." Condemns us! The same government that has reduced the debt by almost $4 billion; the same government that has reduced the per capita debt from $23,000 per person to $15,000 - rough numbers, Mr. Speaker; the same government that has been reducing taxes; the same government that has been injecting billions of dollars into infrastructure spending so that people can be employed. The same government that is bringing pavement and hospitals and educational facilities and roads, you name it, new ferries; all those things to all parts of this Province. The same government that has done all that, the member opposite says we should condemn those policies. Think about that now, we should condemn them. You do not want that to happen. If you are going to condemn those policies, you are saying that stuff should not be happening. That is too easy. That is too easy an out, I say to the member opposite. You cannot throw big rocks at that glass window and beat it up unless you have something else that you want to put there in its place. It is easy to say let's condemn it. I would like to say to him: What are you going to do that is going to be any better? I have not heard anything from the member opposite, nothing from him about what he is going to do, or his party is going to do, to make it better. Let's hear your strategy. Let's hear your policy. Let's see what you are going to do. That will be something that you would hope would happen.

I go back to my point of earlier, Mr. Speaker, when I said to you: Judge us on our record, because I am not talking about stuff that we think we might happen. I am not talking about stuff that we hope will happen. I am talking about stuff that has happened. I am talking reality. I am talking about positive economic policies that have benefited the people, the companies, the small enterprises in Newfoundland and Labrador over the last six or seven years and will continue to show positive things happening in this Province in the many, many months to come and many, many years to come.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to refer to my notes to get my thoughts straight. Just bear with me for one second. Let's talk about the budget and the amendment. I want to get a little bit focused on that. Remember what I said, the amendment by the member opposite was: This House condemns the government for its failure to develop and present fiscally responsible programs to address other things - I will read it all out a bit later. The point is he does not like what we are doing. That is what I read into it. He does not think we are doing a good job of it. I beg to differ, and I hope the first twenty or twenty-five minutes that I have spoken will give people something to think about in terms of having a difference of opinion on that. Because, I have talked about concrete, real examples of what this government is doing. I have not heard any options being presented. I have not heard anything concrete or real being presented from the opposite side other than they want to tear it all down. They do not like it and want to tear it all down. Well, that is not good enough. If you are going to be a responsible Opposition, you have to do better than that.

Let's see what some other people are saying, because in fairness to the members opposite, they are entitled to their opinion, they are allowed to disagree. I respect that, and I encourage that. It gives us an opportunity to debate and debate is important in this House. In respect to the members opposite, I understand the role that they are playing, but let's get some other people involved and see what other people are saying.

When we talk about Budget 2010, which my hon. colleague, the Minister of Finance delivered a few weeks ago, the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters Association, what did they say about it? Bill Stirling, who is the vice-president of that organization, of the Newfoundland and Labrador division, applauded the Budget's infrastructure spending that includes new ferries and building renovations. "One billion dollars in infrastructure represents a tremendous opportunity for public procurement for our members", says Mr. Stirling. Mr. Stirling applauded the Budget's infrastructure spending. It does not sound to me like Mr. Stirling wants to condemn the government for what it is doing. Sounds to me like he is a happy camper, I would call him.

Now, the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers' Council - a lot of their members, they say, are relying on federal government stimulus spending, as well as provincial government stimulus spending in order to keep people employed. They recognize the challenge we have. He sees stimulus spending as being important to keep people employed. That is the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers' Council.

They understand the importance of people working. They understand the importance of jobs being available to keep people in the Province. They understand why we need to do some of the stimulus spending that we are doing, even though it causes a slight deficit – $194 million projected deficit – but it is over $1 billion worth of spending. So we are going to spend $1 billion, we will have $194 million in deficit, but it keeps people employed. That is the point that the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers' Council made, and that is the point that I want to reiterate. It is important that people understand that the spending we are doing is allowing people to have job opportunities in our Province, to have an income and to be able to keep their careers, and to keep all the things that they have with them.

The St. John's Board of Trade - the president of the St. John's Board of Trade, a gentleman by the name of Mr. Derek Sullivan said a smaller-than-anticipated deficit is a positive thing. So, we do not like to see the deficit. Nobody over on this side is jumping up and down because have a small deficit projected for the coming year, but it was one of those pills that we felt it was a bit bitter, but we needed to swallow it. It was important that we had that there, because it kept people employed. It kept injecting money into our economy, it kept businesses going the way that they needed to be going, and the Board of Trade in St. John's recognizes that. They think that is important.

Now, let's go to some other organizations. The ones I just mentioned were - I will call them - employer organizations. Let's go to what I consider to be some organizations that would be of a little bit of a different spin, a little bit of a different character. Let's talk about some of the union organizations. Let's talk about the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees. We refer to them as NAPE, most commonly.

Well, their president, a lady by the name of Carol Furlong, said she is glad no job reductions were included in the Budget, given the fiscal circumstances. So given the challenges that she sees we have to face, a global recession, banks collapsing, countries being brought to their knees, businesses shutting down, whole sectors of economies being wiped out – automotive sectors and others, mining sectors and things like that - NAPE was expecting that maybe this government would have to trim jobs. They had done it in other governments in Atlantic Canada; Nova Scotia being the most recent one. This government did not do it.

The president of NAPE said she was glad our budgetary policy that the member opposite wants to condemn - I keep going back to that because it is important that people understand what we are talking about here; we are talking about an amendment to condemn the budgetary policies of this government. Well the president of NAPE says she is glad there were no job reductions included in the Budget given the fiscal circumstances. "We're very pleased that there are no layoffs pending as a result of this. There are going to be new people hired, so in fact, that's very positive." So NAPE gives it a thumbs-up. The Board of Trade gave it a thumbs-up in that regard. The Canadian Manufacturers Association gave it a thumbs-up.

Now, what about the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour, a more of a global body in terms of the union movement in this Province, what did they say? Their president is a lady by the name of Lana Payne, a lady who does a tremendous amount of good work in this Province, who I have a lot of respect for. What did she say? She said she was pleased with the infrastructure spending in the Budget. There are quite a number of progressive things in the Budget she says. Overall, when you consider what has been happening across the country from provincial governments, this has not been a bad budget. It does not sound to me like the president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour wants to condemn the budgetary policy of this government, like the member opposite has an amendment on the floor to do.

So we have business organizations, we have sectorial organizations, we have labour organizations, we have community groups that are helping us with our strategies, they are all quite happy. Things are going very well. This is a good economy to be in. This is a good Province to live and work in. We are happy here. What does the hon. member opposite want to do? He wants to condemn all of that. He wants to condemn that. He does not like that. Don't be happy. Don't be creating economic prosperity. Don't put people to work. Don't do that kind of stuff. That is not what we want; don't be at that.

I will finish up with one more if I could, Mr. Speaker. I have lots more to say, but I do not want to quote too many other people. I have lots more to say. One of the other people that I want to reference, one of the other groups I want to reference is Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador. Now Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador are spread right throughout this Province. They are, for the most part, a dedicated group of volunteers who do a tremendous amount of work, rural in particular, certainly based rural Newfoundland and Labrador, the vast majority of MNL would be rural based. They do a tremendous amount of good work in this Province, and I listen to them when they speak. I like to hear what their take is on things.

Here is what their president, a gentleman by the name Harry Hallett, said: MNL President Harry Hallett said that investments in infrastructure will provide much-needed employment in our communities. And where did we hear that about employment a second ago? "Continuing to invest in municipal infrastructure not only creates jobs, it also improves the health and welfare of residents by providing cleaner drinking water, better roads and improved wastewater treatment."

It sounds to me like Mr. Hallett is happy with the budgetary policy of this government. It sounds to me like the organization he is representing, Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador, is happy with the budgetary policy of this government. He is happy with the over $1 billion worth of infrastructure spending that this government has committed to, even though we have a small deficit that we are carrying. It sounds to me like he is giving it a thumbs-up. What it does not sound like is what this sounds like, which came from the member opposite, the amendment that we are talking about today, that this House condemn the government – condemn the government – for our budgetary policies. That is not what we are hearing here, Mr. Speaker.

So it is fine to hear from the Opposition, and I am glad to hear from them, and I hope and I am sure we will continue to hear from them. It is important that we hear from them, but what I am trying to draw out today, Mr. Speaker, in my brief remarks is that there are other people in this Province that we also need to be listening to and those other people have certainly indicated to us that strategies, that input, that listening to the people, that debt reduction, that reducing taxes, that good economic policies that drives good jobs, that in-migration, that providing for our youth, that providing infrastructure, providing health and providing education, those are all good things that we should be doing and are doing as a government, and they want us to continue to do that.

That is what Budget 2010 does, it continues the policies of the government that were set in 2003 when we were elected and are continuing right on through in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and now into 2010. So when you talk about evaluating this government and looking at condemning it, I would ask you to look at the last number of years and see how we have done. Have we listened? Have we delivered? Is this Province a better place because of the things we have done? The answer to that I would certainly say is yes, absolutely yes.

Now, Mr. Speaker, if I could, I think it would be important that I take a minute or two and just talk a little bit about some of the initiatives related to the Budget from my department. As was indicated when I stood to speak, you indicated I was Minister of Innovation, Trade, and Rural Development. So I will take a couple of minutes and just talk about some things there. Again, I appreciate the opportunity to come back later in this session of the House and speak in much greater detail to some of these initiatives.

One of the initiatives that is very, very important, and the member opposite when he was up earlier spoke to this, was the Regional/Sectoral Diversification Fund. An $11 million fund, Mr. Speaker, that we have in the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador right now that did not exist pre-2005. There was no money for regional or sectoral economic development pre-2005 in terms of the RSDF. We brought in a fund of a couple of million, $3 million. That fund now has grown. In Budget 2010 it is going to be $11 million. Over 80 per cent of that money, over 80 per cent of that $11 million is spent in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. It is being spent in Marystown in terms of the municipal park they are building there; it is being spent in the Coast of Bays with aquaculture; it is being spent in Labrador with Smart Labrador with the trails; it is being spent in Central Newfoundland; it is being spent in Fleur de Lys. You name the communities, we are spending it. That money is being spent. It is not just provincial money; it is also leveraging other money. It is leveraging federal monies and it is leveraging private sector money. That $11 million - and I should have gotten this number before I came to the House and I did not, but I will get it. That $11 million that we are investing in Budget 2010 will probably see - I am going to guesstimate and say to you - $40 million to $50 million being spent in the Province because of that $11 million. A return of about $4 for every $1 that we are spending; that is my guess but I will check that number out and I will come back another time and tell you about that. Historically, I would suggest to you, that our money in RSDF probably returns $4 for every $1 that we spend.

Well, first of all there was no fund, and that brings me back to the discussion I had when I started here about strategies. When we were out consulting with people in our communities, one of the things they wanted to see was access to money. The rural communities, in particular, needed to see access to money, and groups needed to see access to money. That is why we created the Regional/Sectoral Diversification Fund. That is why we had that fund, a couple of million dollars as I said when we started. I believe it was 2005, if memory serves me correctly. Here we are today with something that we created and we have now gone from a couple of million dollars to $11 million.

MS DUNDERDALE: We have gone from $5 million to $11 million.

MR. SKINNER: Five million to $11 million, I am being told by the previous minister who had the wisdom to bring the fund in. She is just refreshing my memory here, because I am going a bit from memory. So, $5 million we started with, up to $11 million today. In a fund that did not exist before this government took office, and we recognized the need and we recognized it because of the work we were doing, and we recognized it because of the feedback we were getting from the people in our communities who said we need some assistance here. We created a fund to help with that. That fund, by the way, came about because of a strategy. I will go back to that as well. We had a strategy that talked about the creation of a fund. So that $11 million came about because of a strategy.

We also have an SME fund, small, medium enterprise fund. The backbone of business in Newfoundland and Labrador is small business; many, many thousands, tens of thousands of people employed in small business. The vast majority of our workforce in Newfoundland and Labrador are employed in small business. We have an SME fund, a small to medium enterprise fund, $13.8 million in Budget year 2010-2011. Money is there to assist small enterprises, small companies, men and women who are out there every day slogging trying to make a go of it. This is money that we have available to help them do exporting, to help them buy equipment, to help them retrain employees. Whatever their needs are we try to find a way to help those people. We have seen small business come to the table looking to access that kind of money. They have been very appreciative and very thankful that this government was able to put that kind of money out there.

That $11 million in the RSDF and the $13.8 million in SME fund, all of that is still being done while we have reducing taxes, while we have been reducing the deficit. Those are the kinds of things we have been doing. So it is not just about reducing, and by reducing not giving the people what we should give, because some people think it is a very black and white world. If you are going to do something then you are going to have to cut something else. We have been able to balance it. We have been able to do that. It has been tricky at times but we have been able to do it, and we hope to continue to be able to do it.

We have a Business and Market Development program, $1 million available for companies there. We have an Innovation Strategy, there is that word strategy again. Well, guess what that strategy helped come up with for Budget year 2010? It helped come up with two programs that have $1 million each into them, a Commercialization Program and an Innovation Enhancement Program. The Commercialization Program got $1 million and the Innovation Enhancement Program has $1 million assigned to it. That is money that this government has put in based upon feedback from the community, based upon feedback from business people that said we needed access to capital and they needed it in commercialization, they needed it in innovation. We have done that.

We have an ocean strategy, Oceans of Opportunity, a five-year $28 million strategy. There is that bad word again, strategy. Attached to that is $28 million available for the people of the Province. Where did we get that strategy from? We got it from talking to the people in the community. We got it from talking to people who said here are the kinds of policies your government needs to implement. So it is a good thing, and it is good that people are talking to us. People have enough confidence in this government to feed into the decision-making process so that we make sure the policies that we come out with are the policies that people wanted to see, all very positive. So those are the kinds of things that we are doing, Mr. Speaker, in this government. Those are the kinds of things we are trying to do to help people.

Let me just take a second, and because I am the Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development, I think it is important that we talk a little bit about the rural areas of our Province. We hear a lot of how this government maybe does not have an eye or does not have a lens on the rural areas of this Province. We spend a lot of time talking about rural Newfoundland and Labrador. Rural Newfoundland and Labrador economy drives the whole economy of this Province, in my opinion. A lot of our urban areas would suffer greatly if we did not have our rural areas feeding in from an economic development perspective.

So what I did, I did a little exercise at the end of last year in January month. I just kept an eye on some of the news clippings and some of the press to see in some of the rural papers what people were saying. I will start off with probably one of the areas of the Province that in 2009 was most hard hit. If anybody got a kick in 2009, it was the Central region. It was the area that lost the paper mill. We are a year out from that now and we know all the great work that this government has done with the people of Central to try and turn that economy around. We know about the severance monies. We know about the monies that were given to the widowers and the pension monies. We know about the people who are on disability who are receiving monies.

Here is what the Mayor of Grand Falls-Windsor said. Mayor Al Hawkins summarizes how his council's hopes are for his community as it leaves behind one of the most troubling years in its history, he calls it; 2009 he calls one of the most troubling years in its history. He says there are lots of reasons to be optimistic going into the New Year and we are certainly looking forward to it. Now there is a mayor of a community that this government has worked very, very closely with who still sees optimism, sees the work that this government has done and understands that there are reasons to be optimistic; understands there are challenges, and we are working on those, but again, look at the track record of this government. Look at what we have done over the last six or seven years and the economic policy and the debt reduction that I talked out, the tax policy, the disposable income being left in people's pockets, the roads, the infrastructure, the schools, the heath care, all of those things that we have talked about many, many times. That will tell you why these people are feeling optimistic.

There is a counsellor out there by the name of Amy Coady-Davis, in Grand Falls-Windsor. What did she say in the Advertiser on January 25, 2010? She says, "There's been no slowdown in business that we have been made aware of that would really make us change focus, I mean things are good, things are positive." Another person who had a major employer shut down in her town, who has challenges, we are working with the town council, but she still sees that there are reasons to be positive. Their focus is on turning around that economy and they are going to work with the provincial government to do that, all very good.

St. Lawrence Mayor Wayde Rowsell in The Southern Gazette, January 5, 2010. What did he say? He said, "Although the economic forecast for the coming year is uncertain in many jurisdictions, it seems to suggest promise for us." So he is looking at the world and he is seeing that there is uncertainty in a lot of places, but he also sees that there is some promise for us here in Newfoundland and Labrador. Part of the reason for his optimism, for him seeing some of that promise, is the economic policies of this government; the economic policies that the member opposite wants this House to condemn. Remember what we are debating here. I am up speaking to an amendment to the budgetary motion by the Opposition House Leader who wants the House to condemn the government. Think about that.

In The Georgian, Stephenville Mayor Tom O'Brien says, "The year has been a positive and productive one for the residents and businesses of the Town of Stephenville."

The Aurora, Labrador West, Linda Dumaresque says: Dumaresque concludes that 2010 has the right elements to be a solid economic year for the area, saying that Labrador West is poised for growth.

Those are just some, Mr. Speaker. I have others, but I will leave it for another day. Those are just some of the comments from mayors, officials and people living in rural Newfoundland and Labrador who are very optimistic, very happy with, generally speaking, the economic policies of this government and recognizing there are issues. There always will be. You will never not have issues. You will never not have challenges because it is a very fluid world that we live in, but we respond to those as best we can, we try to be proactive. In some cases you have to be reactive, you have no choice. I believe, based upon some of the things that I have quoted here today, Mr. Speaker, you can see that people of the Province, generally, are very happy.

Mr. Speaker, I will conclude with this. When you judge the government and when you judge the Budget, you need to take a broad view. You need to make sure you look at how it affects your Province. You need to make sure you understand how it affects your region, your municipality, and how it affects you as an individual. That is how I think people view these kinds of things, because I want to make sure there is no negative effect on me. I would like to have more disposable income in my pocket, most people would. I want to make sure that government is investing in our infrastructure. People want to see that government understands that roads are important, water is important, schools are important. I want my children to have access to good education; I want them to have access to good post-secondary education; I want them to have access to health care. All of those things government needs to be investing in, and we are.

I think people when they judge this government and judge the budgetary policies of the government - I think it has been proven, as I said, by some of the commentary that I read out from some of the business groups, from some of the union groups, from some of the municipal officials. All of that I think is a great cross-section of people in this Province who say that generally speaking, the budgetary policy and the economic policy of this government has been good for the Province.

Budget 2010 is building upon those initiatives, it is building upon the investments that we have made; the investments that have seen us reduce our debt; the investments that have seen the per capita debt go down; the investments that have seen employment rise; the investments that have seen in-migration. Those are the kinds of things that this government has been doing and I think people want to continue that train down that track. That is why people are supportive of this Budget.

Mr. Speaker, I will just finish up by saying that in terms of the amendment brought forward by the hon. member opposite asking the House to condemn the government for its failures in its budgetary and economic policies, I want to say to you that I, and members on this side, will be voting against that. I would suggest to you the majority of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador would also vote against that if they had the opportunity to do so.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER (T. Osborne): 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 and have a few comments. I do not know if I will get my full twenty minutes in but if the cough takes over I will probably have to take leave.

I want to make it known that this non-confidence motion that we are referencing here today, I second that motion. I want to say for the record, Mr. Speaker, that the hon. the minister when he was reading this, he used to go and say: this House condemns the government, period. He did not say that this House condemns the government for their good debt reduction policies. He did not say this House condemns the government for all the infrastructure work throughout the Province. He did not say this House condemns the government for school construction or long-term care facilities. He used to go as far as the words, condemns the government, and then stops. Mr. Speaker, what it says, "This House condemns the government for its failure to develop and present fiscally responsible programs to address the economic problems of rural areas…."

Mr. Speaker, that is what I am going to refer to because hon. members might say that is unbelievable and I am sure they are shocked to hear that, but, Mr. Speaker, that is where I will be going. Hopefully, if I can get my twenty minutes in, it is going to focus on the fishery and what can or not become of the fishery in the state we are in today, because that is where the people in rural Newfoundland are referencing. They are not complaining because the government paved their roads; they are happy with that. They are not grumbling because there is water and sewer coming into their towns. That is all wonderful, but something has to happen in those rural communities. It cannot happen in every rural community. It has to happen in different areas in order to keep the people there so that they can enjoy the water and sewer, so they can drive over the pavement.

Mr. Speaker, that is where I will be coming from, but before I really get into making those comments I want to welcome today, I know I congratulated him when he was sitting in the Speaker's gallery, but I want to welcome the new member to the House on this his first day taking his seat, the newly elected Member for Topsail, and congratulate him. Also, where I will be touching on issues within my district, I want to congratulate all of those volunteers that were referenced here today. Those people make a tremendous contribution, and really, they make the communities work and make them as successful as they are.

Mr. Speaker, I am almost sure – I have not read Hansard, but my hon. colleague, the Government House Leader, all throughout his three or four hours, he praised this government many, many times on issues, what is taking place, the work that is being done in this Province. By doing that, that is no reason that you cannot come here to this hon. House and bring forward issues that you hear from your own constituents or constituents throughout this Province of ours. I have to say with him there are good things happening. I see them happening in my district and in the immediate area where I represent.

Mr. Speaker, I will give you one reference, this past weekend my hon. colleague, the Minister of Transportation and Works, happened to be in his district when the new Bay de Grave fire department was opened. I thought I was going to be able to be given the opportunity to get up and congratulate him and congratulate the government, but apparently someone within the departmental system put a kibosh on that, but I will do it here. I congratulate you, sir, for all of the time you put in, and the hard work to get that new fire department and a new fire truck, and the government.

Mr. Speaker, the other thing I want to touch on is there are other issues within my district and the immediate area that have not been recognized in this Budget. I know that you cannot get everything. I am glad to see that there is another $4 million towards the 108-million-dollar long-term care facility that will be built in Carbonear. That is just as important to my district as if it was built in the district. I also want to reference the roadwork that has been done. One of the things that the people in my area, and I am sure there will be petitions coming forward, and that is asking government to consider the possibilities of a new school for Coley's Point. That will be coming forward.

Another issue that I hear fairly often, and I have discussed this with the Ministers of Transportation and Works over the last two or three years, and that was when government decided that they would not do any maintenance work on the class 4 roads, and I know there was study done, it was being reviewed, and to date, I do not think anything has taken place that this great service would be continued. The roads that I am referring to in my district - I think one of them there is some work being done on it now through agriculture, because it is a farming area. However, the First Pond Road area has to be done as well. We have blueberry farmers in there, vegetable farmers, the whole bit. There are other people who cut the grass and that for the animals. So it has to be kept up for those people so that they can carry on with their business, Mr. Speaker.

The other thing, when my hon. colleague for St. John's Centre was up, he mentioned when he was talking about the strategies about how they listened to the voice of the people. That is very important. I know that is coming through loud and clear now as we talk about issues on the Great Northern Peninsula. Please, reconsider what you are doing and listen to the people, because they are speaking out loud and clear. The other people, right around this Province – and I do not say there is a district represented here in this hon. House that are not attached directly to the fishery in one aspect or the other. Those people have been crying out for years. It is alright to stand and say: What did you do when you were there, or what did someone else do when they were there? That is not the issue. Whatever was done, apparently it did not work very well, because we find ourselves today in a very serious situation in this Province.

I have probably said this, and I will say it again, that in order for rural Newfoundland to truly survive the way that we see it and know it today, it has to be involved and survive on the fishery. Fishermen all over this Province will tell you that they are the engineers; they are the engines that drive this rural economy. If the fishery has a bad year, then everyone else in those immediate areas - and I think like the hon. Minister said, even in urban areas they find the effects if it was a bad year.

I know last year many of the fishermen in my area, yes they had a reasonable year, but they will tell you that it was not what they had anticipated. All you have to do is go to the other business people, whether it is car salesmen, whether it is the service stations, the grocery stores, they saw the effects of what was happening last year. I am not blaming that on government.

This year, we find ourselves in a very difficult situation. Mr. Speaker, the longer this goes on, the worse it is going to be. Let's face it; it is going on three weeks gone in the month of April. In another couple of weeks, if this fishery should start – and I hope it does. I hope we hear an announcement today that the parties got together and government agreed with whatever proposal they put forward.

Even if that should happen today, according to the fishermen that I talk to, it is going to be massive confusion at the heads of the wharves. You are going to see so much crab coming in that they are not going to be able to handle it properly, because everyone is going to be rushing to get it done in the three or four-week period. That has happened before.

What I am hearing from them is that when this happens, the processors are placed in a very difficult financial situation sometimes, and the markets outside of our country, they know this can happen, and they are just waiting for it to happen again. When it happens and the processors do not have this massive amount of money there to back up what is coming in from the harvesters, they have to give better deals to those who buy from them in the United States market. It has happened in the past, and that is what I am being told is going to happen again.

Mr. Speaker, in the fishery, we have seen tremendous success in some years, and other years we have seen plants close. We have all heard it said, and I have heard it dozens of times, no odds what government was in, there were too many licenses for this and there were too many fishermen. Whatever the answer is, I think the three parties: government, the unions, and the processors, have to come together and put something in place. What it is, don't ask me, but it has to be put in place for the long term. We have seen so much turmoil in the fishery here in this Province.

I was a part of a situation one time that happened down here on Newfoundland Drive when the RNC here in the Province - and probably our new hon. colleague was a part of it. When I saw the buses come out with eighty RNC officers dressed in riot gear because the fishermen were down there to the school and they were going to do this and do that and do the other thing. The lobby of our own Confederation Building here was blocked solid with RNC officers with riot gear on, fearful that the doors were going to be smashed in. We do not need to see that anymore. Neither do we want to see the fishermen in this gallery throwing down the jelly beans that we saw two or three years ago.

I tell you ladies and gentlemen, when it comes to the fishery, and I know there are other areas in the Province that probably outweigh my district when it comes to that, but I do know that there is a tremendous amount of activity that happens there. Approximately 270 to 300 people fish out of Port de Grave itself, just in the one community. The spinoff from that is another 300 jobs. The approximate value of the boats that are tied up today in that harbour – maybe some of them are gone today, I do not know – $55 million to $60 million worth, and every boat have their crab pots there ready to go.

I spoke to a fisherman from my district yesterday here in St. John's and said that he was up on the Burin Peninsula. I think he was up looking for a smaller boat to buy. He said it was so sad to go into every little fishing village and see the small boats and the larger boats all ready to go fishing.

When you talk about $13 million to $20 million taking place in one little community, if that fishery does not soon start, many people are going to find the effects of it. I can tell you, this year, I have had more young men and women involved in the fishery who are seeking financial support whether it is through the Department of Education or some other department to be retrained to get out of the fishery.

Mr. Speaker, it was only recently I saw an article in The Telegram, and I guess it really brings home what can happen even though we enjoy all the wealth today with regard to White Rose, Terra Nova, Hibernia, South White Rose and North Amethyst; but Mr. Speaker, the chart that was shown in The Telegram that day, back in 1999 there was about 56 million to 57 million barrels of oil that were coming ashore. Anywhere from 2003 to 2009 that figure went up to 120 some-odd million barrels per day. If you look at the slippery slope that this scale is going – now, what I am saying is based on if there were never another barrel of oil found on the Grand Banks or anywhere on our Island, on our property. We hope that is going to happen, there is going to be more, but if it does not happen, we have Hebron coming on stream somewhere about 2015-2016, and that will peak in that area. Then that declines. If you look at the chart, it will show you that by the year 2017, we will be back to the same level as what we were in 1999.

We all know and we hear it every day when someone is up speaking about the deficit we had back at that time. Ladies and gentlemen, 2020 is not that far off. It is ten years. If we never, ever discovered another barrel of oil, by the year 2035, we are down to about 8 million to 10 million barrels per day. That, to me, is scary. We might say, well, you might at the glass as half full or half empty again. If we never discover another drop of oil, what does this Province depend on? It has to go back to the basics. What each and every one of us here, I think, would contend to, it is the fishery. We have to keep that first and foremost in our minds.

I think more can be done - not with regard to getting the fishery started. I do not know why but we can have people come in here and manufacture something. I know there are things that have been tried here and failed. Then again, why can't we do more with our own products that we are bringing into the fishery? I went to the crab plant in Port de Grave one time. They called me down there; they were having a meeting. That was back when we were in government, and it was about a licence being transferred from the South Coast to St. Anthony. They were all hot and ready to fly, let me tell you. Years ago, in that plant in Port de Grave, they would do a lot of work extracting the crab and so on from the claws and the shells, and what they were down to then was sending out sections. Far less labour-intensive work for the people that were there, and they were losing their hours. Just out of concern for the 250 constituents that were there, I asked the question: Why are you sending it out in sections? Why don't you be more labour-intensive? I thought the gentleman, one of the owners of the fish plant, was going to take me and throw me over the head of the wharf, because he was not too kind to that. He did say that this is what the markets dictated. Now that to me is a crock of bull, because if the market dictates it, someone, whether it is in China or some other country, are extracting that crab, and it is coming back here to our country and to our Province. All I am saying is I cannot understand why we cannot do it here as well.

Mr. Speaker, I have to go back to a commitment made by this government – I am not saying they have done nothing in the fishery. I would not venture to say that. It was noted that a Progressive Conservation government would carry out national-wide public information campaigns aimed at persuading Ottawa to take custodial management over the nose and tail of the Grand Banks. I am referring now to our cod fishery. I know that the shrimp and the crab are the fisheries of today, but we have to protect the fish stocks that are there when it comes to the cod.

What was said is that a healthy fishing industry must play a leading role in Newfoundland and Labrador's long-term economy. It is the Province's largest private sector employer. Ladies and gentlemen, this is where I am coming from. If the oil is going down the way it is going, we have to protect, we have to put more emphasis on Ottawa to stand by the promise and the commitment that they made, because our present Premier wrote the Prime Minister: Will your party support imposing custodial management? He came back and he said: A Conservative government would support extending custodial management of the Continental Shelf beyond the 200 mile limit, to the nose and tail and the Flemish Cap.

Now, I think when wrote that letter, that was the extent of it. That was the extent of it. There was very little done after that. I have to say, and he went on with the old rhetoric that we hear about mismanagement by somebody else. Mr. Speaker, I do not think that is good enough. We have heard petitions brought forward here in this hon. House over custodial management time and time again. I know I brought one in the first year I was elected, and our Speaker of the day said to me: My son, don't bother with it. You are only wasting your breath, because nobody listens at the end of the day.

All I am saying is that somebody has to listen, because at the present time I know our minister is meeting with the powers that be, and hopefully they will come to a resolution with regard to the crab fishery, but when it comes to the cod fishery that is another issue. I know you are not allowed to use props, but they are talking about the seal fishery, about the blood on the white ice. That picture is taken over in some other country where they are killing off the whales. I do not know if anybody watches Dancing with the Stars, but I do from time to time, and this lady there, the movie star Pamela Anderson, and she is out speaking out against the seal fishery. Well, I would rather see her, than dancing with the stars, swimming with the seals, because it is people like that who are making a tremendous impact throughout this country on the lives of men and women who have made a living from the sea here for hundreds of years.

Mr. Speaker, all I am saying - and I know I will get an opportunity later on, but all I want to say to lead in - there are many other issues to be discussed, but I think our non-confidence motion is just saying that it is not condemning government for everything that they are doing - definitely not - it is just that we believe and I believe that our fishery can be a mainstay if more emphasis was put on dealing with issues on the local level.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and the Minister Responsible for the Volunteer and Non-Profit Sector.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DENINE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am glad to get up to speak to this non-confidence motion put forth by the Opposition House Leader. I am bewildered by the motion itself. My colleague from St. John's Centre put a few things onto it, and it says the idea condemns. I just suggest maybe that is unparliamentary; there is pretty strong language there.

The other part there, Mr. Speaker, when you go down through it, it says failure to bring a plan that will generate sustainable economic growth that builds on projects developed by the previous Administration.

Now that is bewildering, because the previous Administration, they were the previous Administration; and, for the likes of me, I cannot see anything in there that we would build on. There is one thing we did not build on: the deficit, the $700 million deficit that they left. We did not build on that, Mr. Speaker. We did not build on that. We reduced that.

So, to say that we did not build on what the previous Administration did…. I would like to ask him to go through the Budget Speech and find out one initiative in that Budget Speech that was introduced by the previous Administration.

AN HON. MEMBER: Nothing.

MR. DENINE: Nothing; absolutely nothing.

Mr. Speaker, I certainly disagree with the motion, there is no question about that, and anyone sensible in this House of Assembly would disagree with it also, but the Opposition has to be the Opposition because they have to put things forward to have a discussion. That is fine, there is nothing wrong with it, but we did build on our initiatives. We did not build on the previous Administration's initiatives; we built on our initiatives that were introduced by our government back in 2003, and we progressed as we moved forward up to the present day.

We have built on our Poverty Reduction Strategy. Mr. Speaker, we have built on our commitment to Memorial University and their infrastructure, and the freeze on tuition. Mr. Speaker, we have built on municipal affairs, our support of small towns and all municipalities in Newfoundland and Labrador, by increasing the infrastructure program. Mr. Speaker, we did build on the affordable housing, making affordable housing here available for all the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Mr. Speaker, we did build roads; and we have built on them, pardon the pun. Mr. Speaker, we also gave tax reductions to our citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, we did build on our commitment to education. We certainly improved what we had when we came here in 2003. Mr. Speaker, we did do investments in our children, our young people, the vulnerable, by creating the Child, Youth and Family Services Department. Mr. Speaker, we did.

Mr. Speaker, the only thing I can say: we did not build on the deficit; because when we came in here the deficit was close to $13 billion. Now, Mr. Speaker, it is down to $7.9 billion, and that is one thing I am glad that this government did not build on.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DENINE: Mr. Speaker, I want to go back into some of the departments which we looked at, on what we built on.

Our poverty reduction; this year in the Budget the Minister of Finance said: We are going to spend $130 million on poverty reduction. Mr. Speaker, that is a significant investment in people in the low income area. Not only are we proud of it, but we get written up in all of the magazines, and different people in the country are congratulating us on our poverty reduction.

Mr. Speaker, $2.5 million to increase the threshold for the prescription drug plan. Is that building on a plan that we introduced? No question. There was $6.8 million invested in the Affordable Housing Program. Is that building on what we have put in place? I would (inaudible) my hon. colleague did the other day. There was $17.6 million to modernize more than 2,300 Newfoundland and Labrador Housing units; an additional $1.4 million for a maintenance budget for Newfoundland and Labrador Housing.

Mr. Speaker, that goes directly to affect the people in Newfoundland and Labrador Housing, our drug prescription plan and also the rental units which we have. That improves the quality of lifestyle for them. That is an investment that our poverty reduction has done.

These are only just surface things that we have done in poverty reduction, because we went from $90 million to $100 million to $130 million. Mr. Speaker, that is building on a program that we developed. That is building on the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. That is not just building on the people of the urban areas; that is building on the people of all of Newfoundland and Labrador. So, to say we are not doing anything in rural Newfoundland, Mr. Speaker, is totally false.

Mr. Speaker, when I say we are building on things I like to say, for example, look at Municipal Affairs. When I was minister there we brought in cost-share ratios: 70-30, 80-20 and 90-10. What did that do? That allowed infrastructure to become affordable for the municipalities who could not afford it under the old program. That is the program that you had. That is why we did not build on that program, because it was not meeting the needs. We introduced a new program, new cost-sharing ratios that allowed municipalities to build on the infrastructure in their municipalities. That is what we did, Mr. Speaker. We did not take the lead from the previous Administration; I can guarantee you that, because if we did we would not be where we are today.

MS JONES: (Inaudible) be further ahead.

MR. DENINE: The Opposition Leader said further ahead. I do not know how she could say leaving a $900 million deficit in 2003 to reducing our deficit to $7.9 billion is the wrong direction. Make no wonder they put that motion forward.

Mr. Speaker, we also invested in the fire services and there will be a significant amount of money going for fire trucks, infrastructure, and also for equipment to the fire people in Newfoundland and Labrador. That is a very good investment.

Let me tell you, I talked to the people in the fire services and they are quite pleased with what happened in the Budget; very, very pleased. I talked to the President of Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador after the Budget and he was very pleased with what happened with municipal infrastructure, $137 million. That was infused into the municipality world in infrastructure. I did not see any of the – members, I do not know who they were talking to outside after the Budget Speech but I tell you, the issues that I had out there or the people I spoke to were very, very positive. Very, very positive about what happened in here. I have a funny feeling, the next time we bring in a Budget I am going to give them the list of the people that I spoke to because they do not speak to the same people.

Mr. Speaker, when we look at the health, we look at health in our Province, which is a major, major issue. Now the Cameron Inquiry sent in reports last year and asked us as government to make sure we implemented the program, and the minister gave an update not too long ago. We are putting $5 million to help implement the recommendations of the Cameron Inquiry, a very important document for this government, a very important document for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, a very important document to the people who were affected by breast cancer, very important. So, Mr. Speaker, we are not leaving that document on the shelf. We are going to take those recommendations down and make sure that we look at those recommendations and implement them.

Mr. Speaker, $3.2 million for new drugs, and new cancer drugs; and $240,000 for colorectal cancer screening - $240,000. That is excellent. A record of $2.7 billion put into health and community services, 10 per cent greater than last year. Now, Mr. Speaker, I ask you, did we not build on our programs? We did. So every time we have done anything in the Budget, we built on it. So maybe what we should do, I am not sure if in the House of Assembly - I know we all get copies of the Budget Speech. If they did not get copies we will make sure that they get copies tomorrow so that they will understand exactly what this government has moved forward on, because obviously they did not read it.

AN HON. MEMBER: The Member for Port de Grave knows.

MR. DENINE: Oh, the Member for Port de Grave knows because you can listen to what he said in his response to it. He never even spoke to the motion; he went on a different tangent. He did not stay on target.

Mr. Speaker, what we are looking at in our health care, the hospital in Labrador West, to start the construction of that - construction of add-ons to the Grand Falls-Windsor hospital; the one in Gander. These are investments - the one in Corner Brook, investments in that. These are facilities that were needed. These were facilities that are needed for the future service of the public health system in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. These are the investments in which we are putting there.

So, Mr. Speaker, are we building on what the previous Administration did? Absolutely not! We are not even going there, because they never put forth a program that we could ever want to build on.

Mr. Speaker, education is another one that we should be very, very proud of here as an achievement in this government's record.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DENINE: That is good; we will get into them in a minute.

Mr. Speaker, some of the things that we brought through in education is probably forgotten by what happened, because the years have gone by. Think about it, Mr. Speaker, free textbooks – free textbooks. Every child in Newfoundland and Labrador, they get free textbooks. That helps out everyone here in Newfoundland and Labrador. Everyone!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DENINE: Mr. Speaker, we are putting the finishing touches on our class cap size from up K – 9. That was a commitment that we build on. That was not a commitment of the previous Administration, that was our commitment and we are following through on it and we followed through up to K – 9. Mr. Speaker, class size has been capped.

Now, let me go back. Let me tell you, I have been visiting a number of schools in and around my district and in and around the Province, and I can tell you the morale among the teachers in this Province is very, very high. They are very pleased with what this government has taken through the initiatives and putting forth and implemented it into the system. They are ecstatic, Mr. Speaker.

I was at a hockey game not too long ago, Mr. Speaker, and the principal at my former high school said to me – he introduced me to one of the teachers there. He said to me: look, this is one of our phys. ed. teachers. Mr. Speaker, the operative here: one of our phys. ed. teachers. When I was teaching there we only had one. Now there are two there, Mr. Speaker. He sings the praises of this government. He says: Look, without the initiatives put in by this government I do not know where I would be.

Fundraising in school is pretty well eliminated. Our phys. ed. equipment; our skilled trades equipment; the free textbooks; the allowances per child in each school for maintenance and for supplies have been increased. That is significant. That is very, very significant to the welfare of our children who are a very major component of everything that we do.

Mr. Speaker, when I look back on the school children that we have in our Province and all of the things that we have done, I feel very, very proud. Very proud that we have made some work. Now, is it over? No, the answer, as my colleague from St. John's Centre, it will never be over. We are just going to continue to build on our policies. Not the previous Administration's, our policies. Mr. Speaker, the children of Newfoundland and Labrador are well served by what we have done in the education system.

Mr. Speaker, we have an awful lot of school construction going on in our Province; school construction that is needed, school construction that was neglected under the previous Administration, school maintenance that was neglected under the previous Administration, school support that was neglected under previous Administrations. Mr. Speaker, school construction under our policy has been significant – has been significant. There are schools being built all over this Province, not only in one sector but all sectors. Now, who does that benefit? Does it benefit only urban municipalities, urban people? No, it is rural and urban. We do not look at a divide of urban and rural. We look at our Province as a whole. We want to do things that are beneficial to everyone in our Province, not just a special sector.

Mr. Speaker, another thing that we built on in the education system and that is the tuition freeze. Now, the Opposition, when we got in here they were blowing the horn and saying: Well, when we were there we gave a reduction in tuition. Yes, Mr. Speaker, but you have to read between the lines. What happened? They increased by something like 30 per cent, but only reduced by 15 per cent. So to them that was a reduction. Now, make no wonder we had a $700 million deficit to look after when we got in here.

Mr. Speaker, we have been in here six years. This is six years of tuition freeze for our students at Memorial University and CONA. Six years of freeze, that is excellent. That reduces the debt of students who come out after their programs and reduces it significantly.

When I went out after the Budget Speech, and I will give you the name of the person from the student federation, I said: What did you think of the Budget? He said: It was excellent. Your government should be very, very proud of what you have done for our students in post-secondary. Your government has taken the lead. We did not build on their program; we built on ours.

Mr. Speaker, in the Budget there is housing for our students at Memorial University, both here and in Corner Brook. If you go back and look over the previous years when university has started up in September, you will find that they could not find housing, there was no housing around. People getting into apartments, four and five into an apartment, could not find one, had to live with relatives and could not find anything on campus. That has been a major issue, but what does this government do?

MS MICHAEL: They still cannot.

MR. DENINE: The Member for Quidi Vidi says: They still cannot. Mr. Speaker, not today, but what did this government do? What did this government do? We created 500 beds; 500 in St. John's, 200 in Corner Brook that are in the process of being developed. I am glad I am not on the other side because all you need to do is be negative. They have no vision of what the future should be all about. They have no vision at all. Make no wonder they put this motion forward because they had no vision. I do not even know what the motion is all about.

Mr. Speaker, that will be a significant pressure off our students when they go back to our universities when those constructions are done. Now, we cannot build them tomorrow, there is a construction period, there is planning to be done and so on. But, in the future, it will reduce the pressure of our students in post-secondary.

Mr. Speaker, we also looked at the maintenance projects. We have maintenance projects in our hospitals, maintenance projects in our school, maintenance projects at universities, and maintenance projects at the College of the North Atlantic. These are some of the things that we have to invest on because we are not building on what they did, because there was a neglect of the maintenance during their Administration. This Administration is moving forward and making sure that maintenance is looked after, so we do not have to be saddled with major renovations or major construction because of the lack thereof.

Mr. Speaker, this motion that was put forth, obviously, was not well thought out because this motion addresses none of what happened in our Budget Speech. Mr. Speaker, one only has to take the Budget Speech and read through it to see that this government has a vision. This government is building on the programs that we developed when we came in here in 2003. We are doing an awful lot of work in our social policies, our educational policies, our research policies and all our policies, Mr. Speaker, to make sure that the future is well looked after, to make sure that we do not build on the deficit that they left us. We want to make sure that the future of our children is looked after, our grandchildren and the great-grandchildren are looked after so that we do not saddle them with the burden.

Mr. Speaker, all the programs that are put in here - and I am not sure if the Opposition received a copy. If they do not have a copy, they can have this one and they can take it home tonight to read. When they read this tonight, they will come back and they are going to vote against their own motion.

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for your time -

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. DENINE: By leave?

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

Is the hon. member asking for leave?


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

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

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

MR. DENINE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. members for giving me some leave.

Again, when you look at what is in here, page after page after page. The Budget Speech was delivered here and when I looked across to see the people from the Opposition, they were here. They were sitting there when this Budget Speech was delivered. This Budget Speech has vision; this Budget Speech has built on our policies, our direction and our vision for Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of The Straits & White Bay North.

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is a privilege this afternoon to stand and speak for a few moments to this non-confidence motion that was introduced by my colleague. I suppose in time one of the interesting things that I have discovered since coming into the House of Assembly, in this hon. House in the past few months, is how well government members brag about themselves. I do not know if that is an insecurity that you get into after a while, that you feel that you have to spend a lot of time talking about what you do and so on. I have never had that, in all of my life actually, about bragging about myself. It is nice to see things being accomplished but when you have to stand every day and brag about what you have done, then I am not really sure what it represents to be honest.

I certainly appreciate the fact that government is doing good things, and I would acknowledge that and would trust that more would come along. When it comes to rural Newfoundland in particular, we say there is not a rural-urban divide; I want to assure you that there is. It may not be an intentional one, but there certainly is.

I want to speak this afternoon for a few moments to, again, what is happening in my district, the importance of it and the consequences of it and so on. Fifty-five years ago, one of the leading doctors of this Province, Dr. Thomas, started an air ambulance service in St. Anthony. He saw the need to transport people from remote areas back to the centre of health care, and developed a system that eventually became really the system for the Province from which the provincial air ambulance system was built upon. The legacy of this government will be that in 2010 it felt that it was time to dismantle that, ticker with that in such a way, move it around and so on, and destroy what had been set up fifty-five years ago.

As I speak to this issue this afternoon for a few moments, I go back to this consultant's report again that, obviously, is the lifeline of the government's decision in regarding to relocating the St. Anthony piece of the air ambulance service. By definition, a consultation means consulting with others about a particular issue, or a problem, or a situation, or an impending decision, or whatever the case might be, but in this case, there really was no proper consultation. There was none at all. The individual was tasked with carrying out their consultation, as they did, with absolutely no dialogue with the people who could have the people who would have, and really the people who should have been able to provide the best information to help government make a sound, logical decision. I am talking about the local board members. I am talking about people who are involved in flight operations there. I am talking about medical staff. I am talking about transportation specialists. I am talking about public inquiries that allow the public to have input and so on. None of this took place in this particular consultation process. To call it a consultant's report is kind of tongue-in-cheek as you try and really qualify it under that light.

A fundamental issue that I have with the report is that the report states that it is a review of the location of the plane and where it should be in Northern Newfoundland and Labrador. That is deliberately not including the provincial implications. Again, how can you justify moving a provincial service if provincial implications are not considered? How can you justify looking at a very small piece of a larger picture and saying this is what we need to do with this? The fact remains that the plane today services the entire Province. The plane tomorrow will service the entire Province, not just the Northern Peninsula and Labrador.

Now, I realize that the minister has noted that the plane from St. John's does the larger volume of medevacs from the Province, and that obviously would be true. We are not going to dispute that. Yet, whether it is 30 per cent or 35 per cent or 25 per cent or whatever the number is, the question has to be asked: What about that what is left? What do we do with that? Do we give that a second rate service or do we hope that those numbers can be accommodated somehow in a time frame that does not impact the offering of an adequate air medevac service or whatever the case might be? Moving this aircraft to Goose Bay is moving it further away from the majority of the population of this Province, and that we cannot get away from. Goose Bay is an hour by flight further from St. John's than what St. Anthony is and thus it would be an hour by flight further away from practically anywhere else in this Island portion of the Province. So, how it can be seen as a reasonable solution to a problem even after considering all that has been said and reported and so on, I really cannot find that conclusion for myself.

Another issue that I have with this process is the fact that no preliminary report was provided, to my understanding, before the consultants report or work was complete. Obviously, the purpose of a preliminary report would be to help ensure the correctness of the final analysis is there, to help ensure that nothing has been overlooked, to help ensure that all things had been as it should be and so on. This was not the case. So as we bring a final report into what really should be a preliminary report process we find that there are lots of things that are missing. We find there are lots of things that should have been addressed and issues that should have been looked at before this decision was made.

Now we have heard a lot about numbers during the last little while about this air ambulance service and so on, and of course they are included in that report. Well, numbers do not tell the whole story. The story here is not about numbers, it is about people. It is about government's willingness to provide services that ensure the well-being of those numbers if you will; the well-being of its people. Thinking again of the process of this consultation and the lack of consultation, if you will, the Town of St. Anthony, for example, is listed in the report as being consulted. Well, what is consultation? A phone call to a council chamber or to a mayor one afternoon suggesting that you are coming in the next morning, I do not know if that is proper timing. I do not know if that is ample notice. I do not know if that really allows them to be able to go in and to sit and chit-chat with a member of a department and the consultant for an hour in the council chambers. I am not sure if that really results in consultation. In my opinion it does not. Obviously, in the opinion of the government it seems to be adequate.

The town council is mentioned in this report, really just to kind of suit the terms of reference. It really is only in the past week in a couple of meetings with the minister that the town was really able to have valid input; input that really is too late because the decision has been made. I do not believe it would matter what information they bring forth at this point in time. I do not believe what truths you could unveil, if you will. I do not believe it would make any difference at all to the outcome; the outcome is settled. Unfortunately, that is where this government seems to be.

The Northern Peninsula is obviously the furthest away from the seat of government on this Island simply by our geography. It has to shout the loudest to be heard, that is the way it seems. Yet, it is difficult to do that when one-third of your population in recent years have left, have migrated to other parts of the Province and the country. It is so important today that all the regions of our Province have a government that understands our needs, and that we have a government that will set policy and a government that will set direction that reflects that understanding.

Quite frankly, this government may understand the needs of the larger urban centres and it may be willing to set policies and set directions that positively impacts the larger centres of our Province, but I am here to tell you today that this government is not understanding. It is not setting policy, it is not listening; it is not hearing the people of the Northern Peninsula and understanding their needs. If it did, there is absolutely no way that this government, the Cabinet, would get together and would agree to dismantle the service that they are dismantling this day. Our economy in St. Anthony and Flower's Cove, in Roddickton, in Conche and Englee and so on, in Raleigh and the other communities that make up my district, it is not urban-based, it is not oil-based, as important as that is to our provincial economy. It is based on a critical fishery, it is based on a sustainable forestry; it is based on a profitable small piece, if you will, of agriculture in the Province and so on. That is where our future lies. It is based on being able to retain the infrastructure that we have.

One of the ironies that I listened to in recent times in the House, we talked about the offering of broadband service throughout the Province and the realization that government's commitment was to bring high-speed Internet to the government buildings in all the communities and in a lot of the communities to enjoy that service from those buildings. Well, the reality is that in most of the communities in my district, there are no government buildings because there is very little infrastructure. It is health care and it is roads, transportation. It is not much else, really. Now, as the fishery continues to undergo the difficulties that it is undergoing, then the district is economically challenged. To come into a district and to take an infrastructure such as the air ambulance service, from an economic point of view, to take that infrastructure and to take all of those jobs away and to relocate that without proper consultation, without proper due diligence, it is an injustice, at best. I do not know how we get that message across. Obviously, it does not seem to be an important message. It does not seem to be a message that wants to be heard and so on. So we just continue to basically put it forward.

We hear a lot today about heritage, we hear a lot about legacy, and so we should. It is important to preserve our heritage. It is important to understand our legacy and ensure that it continues to exist for generations to come. Well, one of the greatest legacies of this Province is the legacy of Sir Wilfred Grenfell. No question, it stands tall above many other things in this Province that would exist. His creation, Dr. Grenfell's creation of his high quality of health care services on the Northern Peninsula and along the Coast of Labrador is a legacy. It is a wonderful legacy for our Province. For decades we have had one of the best medical services in the country, second to none, standing above most that would be around and so on, until it was turned over to government, quite frankly.

The hospital in St. Anthony has even performed brain surgery decades ago, when it was done in not so many places around the world, but it would seem today – and I would love to be corrected by the minister, by the government, and so on, but it would seem today that it does not fit the policy of the government to allow something that may appear superior to, if you will, or greater than or even equal to, it does not seem to be the interest and the will of government to allow something like that to exist out in the rural parts of Newfoundland, in a place like St. Anthony, for example. It would seem like we would want to, in this particular case when it comes to health care and what has taken place in my district in the past three, four, or five years, it would seem that we want to destroy the legacy of Sir Wilfred Grenfell. It would seem that we want to just dismantle it, take it down, break it apart, and we want to move what we can into Goose Bay, Labrador. I am not against Goose Bay, Labrador. Having anything that is good for Goose Bay, that is fine. I have lived there, I respect its people, and I believe it deserves a service that is equal to the rest of our Province. What I do have an issue with is when they get it at the expense of my district, or at the expense of my family or my friends or my neighbours, or myself for that matter who live in a particular place.

I have watched for the past five years as the board was dismantled and as it was amalgamated with Labrador. I have watched as the CEO position went away. I have watched as all of the management positions have gone by the wayside and as they have been repositioned and re-categorized and as this great office complex was built in Goose Bay to house the management of the Labrador-Grenfell board.

I see no good coming out of that for my district. I have not seen where our services have improved. I have seen where our services have been degraded. I have seen where our services are less today than they were five years ago. I see where are services are going to be less in twenty-four months than they are today. We have one of the greatest surgeons in our country retiring in just a number of months, and I do not see anything being done necessarily to ensure that that service stays.

So, as I watch this and as I see this unfold, I have great concern about what the future of my district holds. I see where it would appear that we are satisfied to have a standard of health care in Goose Bay, a standard of health care in Corner Brook, and a standard of health care in St. John's, and let the other places just kind of trickle in, if you will, and avail of those services. I think that is just such a sad thing that it would come to where we are today.

One of the things that we asked for last fall when the issue of air ambulance came to the floor of the House of Assembly was that a medevac team would be placed in St. Anthony. I believe that the placement of that team would have went a long way to correcting the inefficiencies and so on that would have been there. Yet, it was not heard. When the report came out and the decision was made to move it from St. Anthony to Goose Bay, one of the first things that are attached to it is an air medevac team.

My question to the minister today again is: Why could that not have been tried on a trial basis? Why could we not have put a medevac team in St. Anthony and left the air ambulance service where it was, allowed things to run as normal, if you will, and see what that gave us, see if that improved the system? Obviously, it would have to, but to see how much it improved it and so. Again, there does not seem to be a will, there does not seem to be an interest, there does not seem to be a willingness to pull back and say: Perhaps this is not the way to go.

We all recall last fall in the by-election in Flower's Cove and in other places, Lewisporte, how the decision was made, it is done, it is there, it is in stone, it will not be changed. The lab and X-ray parts of the clinics are going to go, and yet we saw a government that came back and said no, that was a mistake, it was rushed, and it was not the right information and so on. They undid that decision, and I commend the government for doing so. I believe that we have another situation here where there needs to be another look, where someone needs to say: Listen, I do not believe I had the right information as a Cabinet minister when I supported the decision to move the air ambulance service from St. Anthony.

This afternoon, I could go on but time is pretty much gone, but I believe that a consultation, a public consultation is very necessary. I hear this government being criticized time and time again for not listening and on the other side I hear ministers saying that they intend to listen. When the Minister of Health took on the portfolio just last fall he is quoted in the October edition of the Northern Pen of talking about how he would consult with people, how decisions that were made in Flower's Cove would not be made again without proper consultation, without allowing people an opportunity to share their concerns, to have their input and so on; and yet, just a few months down the road we see such a significant decision being made again that impacts us in such a tremendous way.

Mr. Speaker, I realize that we are out of time, I guess, pretty much, but I thank you for the opportunity this afternoon to speak to this non-confidence motion. This decision by government is a bad decision. It is a bad decision for my district. It is a bad decision for the Province. I would still hold out hope today that is a government that has the common sense to come back and say: Look, let's take a second look at this and let's see if there is another way.

Thank you.

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

MS BURKE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services that the House do now adjourn.

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

All those in favour, ‘aye'.


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

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

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