April 22, 2010                       HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS                   Vol. XLVI  No. 9

The House met at 1:30 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

Admit strangers.

Today the Chair would like to welcome twenty students from the Harbour Grace Discover Centre in the District of Carbonear-Harbour Grace. The students are accompanied by their teachers: Debbie Snow and Joanne Mullins.

Welcome to the House of Assembly.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Statements by Members

MR. SPEAKER: The House will hear the following members' statements: the hon. the Member for the District of Topsail; the hon. the Member for the District of Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi; the hon. the Member for the District of Port aux Port; the hon. the Member for the District of The Straits & White Bay North; the hon. the Member for the District of Humber Valley; and the hon. the Member for the District of Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair.

The hon. the Member for the District of Topsail.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DAVIS: Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to recognize seventeen-year-old Paradise resident Sarah Davis, and to congratulate her on her successful play in the recent IIHF 2010 World Women's Under-18 Ice Hockey Championship held in Chicago, Illinois. As the only player representing Newfoundland and Labrador on the Canadian National Team, Sarah scored three goals and had one assist for four points in the five-game tournament.

On Saturday, April 3, 2010, the Canadian team, with Sarah in the lineup, was triumphant after coming from a 3 to 1 deficit to beat the United States team 5 to 4 in overtime to win the gold medal.

Mr. Speaker, I had the pleasure of first meeting Sarah a few years ago when she was a student at Villa Nova Junior High School and was competing in a regional speak off competition. Her abilities were obvious at that time as well. Sarah has continued to work hard and is now a full-time student at Warner Hockey School in Alberta and was recently awarded a NCAA position at the University of Minnesota where she will begin to play and study in September this year.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all hon. members to join me in congratulating Sarah Davis, her parents, Jeff and Donna, and brother Bryan, and wish them all well for the future.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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.

Before doing my statement, I would like to recognize the first time that the Member for Topsail has stood in the House.

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to stand in the House today and recognize the success of the Newfoundland and Labrador Council of St. John Ambulance and congratulate them on the marking of their 100 anniversary in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, today all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians understand the importance of first aid in saving lives in an emergency.

One hundred years ago a group of volunteers met and agreed to work together to promote skills that would improve the health, safety and quality of life of the people of their community by providing training and community service. Could those people at that first meeting have imagined how successful their work would be?

Today, St. John Ambulance trains over 25,000 people in the Province each year in courses such as: Standard First Aid, Emergency First Aid, Emergency Scene Management, Shock, Choking, CPR, Severe Bleeding, Automated External Defibrillation, and much more.

If we all think about it we do not go anywhere in this Province, no event, without seeing St. John Ambulance present.

As this is Volunteer Week, I want to congratulate the many people in my district and all over Newfoundland and Labrador who work to promote the goals of St. John Ambulance, through community service, first aid and CPR training.

Volunteers are at the heart of any community and when any group of people gets together with the idea of working together to serve their community, I advise them to look to St. John Ambulance as an inspiration.

I ask all members of the House to join with me in congratulating St. John Ambulance on its 100 anniversary.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. CORNECT: Mr. Speaker, I rise today in this hon. House to congratulate the winners and nominees at the recently held Stephen Awards Banquet in Stephenville on April 17 as part of Volunteer Week.

The Citizen of the Year Award went to Terry Smith of Kippens, who devotes extraordinary amount of time and effort as chairman of the Rotary Music Festival, second vice-president of the Bay St. George Snowmobile Association, a director with the Provincial Music Federation, a director with the Stephenville Theatre Festival, and co-chair of the Stephenville Theatre Festival's bar committee. I commend Mr. Smith for his hours of volunteer work.

Also, Mr. Speaker, other Stephen Awards presented that night were: Jennifer O'Quinn honoured with Youth of the Year for serving as a Youth Advocate for the Children's Wish Foundation and for her outstanding voluntary work in the community; Patric Alexander won the Junior Male Athlete of the Year Award; and Jillian Forsey was presented with the Junior Female Athlete of the Year Award.

Mr. Speaker, also that evening, sixteen Certificates of Merit for Outstanding Volunteer Work were also presented to individuals for their exceptional volunteer work for the community. I extend congratulations, Mr. Speaker, to: Barry Aucoin, Gerry Clark, Robert Dollard, Jenny Downey, Ruth Doyle, Florence Higgins, Val Hulan, Dianna Kung, Marsha MacInnis, Marjorie McKay, Margaret Rowe, Wayne Simon, Lisa Smith, Terry Smith, Maureen Tiller and Cyril White for their hard work and dedication and their contribution in making our area a better place to live and work.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all hon. members of this hon. House of Assembly to join with me in congratulating all the award winners and nominees of the Stephen Awards on their invaluable contributions to the community, the region, and indeed the Province.

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.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to congratulate fifteen-year-old Cole Walsh from Flower's Cove who recently won a local essay writing contest, and then Cole had the opportunity to explore the Chemistry and Biochemistry Departments at MUN in St. John's.

For a full week, Cole sat in on lectures; he participated in laboratory classes and met with former department heads. He also observed and took part in research in Dr. Brosnan's lab. It is certainly an exciting experience for Cole, a young student all the way from Flower's Cove, to be able to come to MUN.

So, Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this House to join with me in congratulating Cole on such a unique opportunity and extend him best wishes as he plans to explore this field further in his future.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KELLY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, April 18-24 is National Volunteer Week. Volunteer Week is an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the great work of volunteers across our Province and across the country. Today I am so pleased to rise in this hon. House and recognize the recent successes of the Jackson's Arm Volunteer Fire Department.

Mr. Speaker, on Saturday, March 6, 2010, I had the great pleasure of attending their twenty-fifth anniversary celebration and brought congratulatory remarks. Volunteer fire departments in my district and throughout our great Province do exemplary work on behalf of the residents they serve. Jackson's Arm Volunteer Fire Department certainly does exemplary work and that work is well respected by Mayor Jones, the council and the community of Jackson's Arm.

Mr. Speaker, during the celebration, it was my great pleasure to present awards on behalf of Fire and Emergency Services. These awards and the recognition that firefighters received are very important and well deserved. Seven firefighters received special recognition for twenty-five years of service, and included: James Hewitt, Carl Wicks, Hugh Hewitt, Vernon Combdon, Colin Hewitt, George Gillingham, and Bruce Wicks.

Mr. Speaker, twelve members of the firettes also received special recognition for the Town of Jackson's Arm for their twenty-five years of dedicated support to the fire department. They were: Louise Jones, Bonnie Wicks, Mary Wicks, Elma Jones, Hilda Bungay, Golda Hewitt, Ethel Brophy, Madeline Bungay, Laura Brown, Rita Cassell, Ivy Wicks, and Theresa Pittman.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this hon. House to join me in saluting the Jackson's Arm Volunteer Fire Department on the occasion of its twenty-fifth anniversary.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to congratulate the Labrador Metis Nation on selecting a new name to better reflect who they really are as an Aboriginal people.

Mr. Speaker, the Labrador Metis Nation Corporation recently held their annual general meeting and a resolution was unanimously passed to change the name from Labrador Metis Nation to Nunatukavut, meaning our ancient land. Mary Adams, the elder of the Inuit Society can be attributed with this instrumental change. President Chris Montague stated that their research confirmed that they are an historic and continuous Inuit community; therefore the decision was made to move forward to more clearly illustrate their identity as a people – Inuit descendants in the land of their ancestors.

Mr. Speaker, since its formation as a society in 1981, the Labrador Metis Nation has grown to become the largest Aboriginal group in Labrador. It is an affiliate of the national body, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples. Labrador's Inuit-Metis population today number more than 6,000 descendents of the residents of Inuit and Europeans who travelled to Labrador in the 1700 and 1800s.

Mr. Speaker, the Inuit Metis are a nation whose people continue to rely upon the resources of the land, the water and the sea. Their ties to the land and its resources form the core of the Inuit Metis existence, and I ask all members in the hon. House today to join with me in congratulating the Nunatukavut people on this significant occasion.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Statements by Ministers.

Statements by Ministers

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

First, Mr. Speaker, I must congratulate the Member for Topsail, Mr. Davis, who I am looking forward to working with in the next, hopefully ten or twelve years anyway, it would be nice. We both represent the Town of Conception Bay South and I certainly want to welcome him to the House.

Mr. Speaker, this past weekend Newfoundland and Labrador and the City of St. John's hosted the thirty-ninth annual JUNO Awards, a celebration of this country's extraordinary musical talent, and also a celebration of our capital city and our Province as a whole.

Mr. Speaker, the event was not without its challenges - but Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are well known for rising above a little adversity. We can look back now and know that all involved did a fantastic job of making this event an incredible experience for the artists involved, and for music fans in Newfoundland and Labrador and indeed throughout Canada.

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador invested more than $1 million into the JUNOs, and we anticipated a short-term return on investment of about $10 million in terms of economic activity generated. The national exposure we received, included the opportunity to showcase 260 local artists, will also bring long-term benefits to the Province - particularly in terms of highlighting Newfoundland and Labrador's vibrant cultural scene, an important sector, Mr. Speaker, to which this government has contributed over $28 million since the launch of our cultural strategy, Creative Newfoundland and Labrador in 2006.

What struck me most during the weekend was how a little fog and damp weather did not discourage people from having a good time - and for showing our visitors an exceptionally good time. Mr. Speaker, JUNOs on George was a great success. For the first time in JUNO history, the show was broadcast simultaneously at an outside venue allowing even more people to be part of the JUNO excitement. Thanks to Kim Stockwood and Damhnait Doyle for doing such a great job hosting.

Special congratulations are extended to local singer and songwriter, Amelia Curran, for winning a JUNO for Roots and Traditional Recording of the Year for her album, Hunter, Hunter.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FRENCH: It was certainly great, Mr. Speaker, to see a local artist receive national recognition.

I also ask my colleagues to join me in congratulating Ken Marshall, Chair of the JUNO Host Committee, and all of the staff and volunteers who made Ruckus on the Edge such a rich and diverse celebration of music in the week leading up to the JUNOs. It was an amazing week, and all the hard work certainly paid off.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FRENCH: Thanks to them - and thanks to the people of St. John's - for once again showing that this city, and this Province, has what it takes to hold a world-class event.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I thank the minister for an advance copy of his statement. It is great to see the JUNOs back in St. John's again. They were here, of course, back in 2002. I had a great time then, and it certainly caused a Ruckus on The Rock this time. We had musicians, of course, and entertainers and artists from all over the world. Not everybody got in – some volcanic ash might have kept a few away, but most people did get in, and eventually, despite the weather and the aircraft circumstances, everybody did eventually get away. What is important, of course, is what they did when they were here. They had a great time, they experienced our hospitality, and our culture and our heritage, and it was indeed a fine party.

I think, also, we should extend congratulations not only to Ms Curran, a St. John's native, upon her win, and to Mr. Marshall, but also to the hundreds of volunteers, of course, who took part in this event and made it a success; including the police forces, for example, who made everybody feel safe and secure while they enjoyed the events. We would like to extend thanks to them as well.

The feedback from the performers involved, and the people who enjoyed the events was certainly positive as well, and we hope we can see the day when we can host the JUNOs again in the very near future.

Thank you.

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.

I thank the minister for the advance copy of his statement. I, too, want to thank all the volunteers for the work behind the scenes. I am sure that those of us who did get to take in some parts of the JUNOs could not miss the volunteers as they went around with their red t-shirts on, and they were always there to help, no matter what the venue was. We could not have pulled it off without volunteers. It is wonderful to see the City of St. John's getting to host again such a celebration of music of all varieties from all the parts of Canada. I am sure we are all waiting for the next JUNOs to come here.

I especially want to congratulate our own Amelia Curran, as well as all of the musicians who performed, but she does need to be recognized for her first JUNO, Roots and Traditional Recording of the Year. I think everyone in the Province would agree with those who gave her the award, that Hunter, Hunter is really the culmination of all of her hard work to date. All of her albums have been great but this one stands out. It was the first of her albums to be recorded in St. John's and that makes it even more meaningful for us.

Clearly, the JUNOs were not just an award show, but a huge music festival that allowed talent, a national audience, and generated economic benefits for the city and for the Province. The JUNOs represent the culmination of a lot of hard work by a lot of individual artists, and we must not forget to continue supporting those artists as they are in the beginning stages of their careers so that we can have more JUNO winners down the road.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers?

The hon. the Minister of Environment and Conservation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JOHNSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I should also point out, on the topic of the JUNOs, it was actually a Green event, too. So I think that is noteworthy.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JOHNSON: Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to recognize Earth Day – a day founded on the premise that all people have a right to a healthy, sustainable environment. Founded by Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin in 1970, Earth Day is a time for us to reflect on our actions and recognize the need for ongoing environmental education, continued action and change.

Earth Day 2010, Mr. Speaker, marks the fortieth anniversary of this celebration. Last year, on this day, the Green Generation Campaign was launched, a two-year project that focuses on the promotion of renewable energy. The goals of the campaign are continued this year, Mr. Speaker, as people around the world remain committed to responsible, sustainable consumption and creation of a new green economy that helps create quality green jobs and transforms the global education system into a green one.

The celebration of Earth Day is an opportunity to address worldwide environmental concerns, as well as an opportunity to focus on local environmental initiatives. More than one billion people in 190 countries are taking action for Earth Day, Mr. Speaker, and Newfoundland and Labrador is also doing its part.

To celebrate Earth Day, the Multi-Materials Stewardship Board is participating in a number of activities to promote the importance of waste reduction and encourage families across the Province to cut their waste in half – to protect our Province and our planet for future generations. The MMSB is participating in an Earth Day Fair at the Fluvarium and promoting the Get-to-Half at school message at St. Bernard's Elementary and Fatima Academy in St. Bride's during their Environment Fest. The Get-to-Half message will also be presented to Brownie groups in Foxtrap and Paradise this week, and the MMSB will also participate in the Newfoundland and Labrador Landscape and Gardening Show this weekend in St. John's.

Forty years after the first Earth Day, Mr. Speaker, governments, organizations, businesses and individuals remain committed to taking action every day to reduce their environmental impact through saving energy and reducing waste and emissions. Earth Day 2010 represents an opportunity for everyone to make a personal commitment to the environment.

I encourage all residents of Newfoundland and Labrador to consider options for responsible, sustainable consumption in all aspects of their lives on Earth Day and throughout the year.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, and a happy Earth Day to all.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Thank you, Mr Speaker.

I want to thank the minister for an advance copy of her statement and to say that we, too, want to take part in the celebration, I guess, of the fortieth anniversary of Earth Day.

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the schools, St. Bernard's and Fatima Academy for taking part in Get-to-Half school program and hopefully other people throughout the Province, schools and other organizations, will become involved.

As we recognize Earth Day this year, I just want to say to the minister, I do not want to sound in a critical way but I want her to recognize the sustainability act that was brought before this House in 2007. As we speak today, my understanding is it has not received Royal Assent. That was where, Mr. Speaker, we were supposed to have the outdoor Bill of Rights put forward where all stakeholders interested in whatever aspect of the environment, were to come together in a round table session so we could take care of many of the problems that we encounter today.

Just to name a few, we know that logging is taking place in the caribou habitat, the waste management on the Avalon Peninsula is not onboard any more with the program, St. John's has its recycling. The people who have concerns about the pesticides, Mr. Speaker, they have been trying to get a meeting for close to a year and they have not had that meeting yet.

Mr. Speaker, I want to join the minister in saying congratulations to all those involved with Earth Day this year, but hopefully that the minister will, in her wisdom, be able to go back to the sustainability act and hopefully see that come forward.

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

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

I, too, thank the minister for the advance copy of her statement. It is good for us here today to celebrate Earth Day and recognize the principles that are behind Earth Day.

I particularly would like to take this opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to congratulate the Town of Pouch Cove for being the first rural community to set up a recycling program. I think it is great that it is coming about around the same time as Earth Day is being celebrated. It is good also seeing organizations in the Province promoting the different activities that are going on today, both in the schools and also with the various groups concerned about the environment. I would have liked to have seen the government announce something very concrete today as a government action to celebrate Earth Day.

Last year, the Province of Ontario marked Earth Day by banning cosmetic pesticides; that was its contribution last year. Last November in our own Province, Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador at their annual convention passed a resolution to lobby government to ban the use of cosmetic pesticides in this Province.

The minister said in June that she is looking at the studies and recently, she says, she is still doing that. I am asking the minister, how much time does it take? I would love this time next year, minister, to see that Earth Day in our Province was being celebrated by banning the use of these unnecessary poisons to the environment.

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.

My questions today are for the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

Mr. Speaker, we have still seen no progress in resolving the impasse that is going on in the crab industry, yet thousands of people in this Province are depending upon this fishery this year for an income. The minister said in a media interview this morning that government would not be bringing forward any short-term measures, and also that the anniversary of the MOU would occur in July and hopefully they would have some solutions to implement at that time.

My question today for the minister is: Is he telling us that they are prepared to lose this season in the crab fishery without getting this issue resolved?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, I reiterate, again as I said this morning and I said on Friday, that short-term measures are not the fix. Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition was the Fisheries Minister for, I believe, about six or seven months. We can look back to one of her quotes that said short-term measures are not the solution.

Mr. Speaker, that is not the solution. I have to say, Mr. Speaker, that there is progress being made, that both parties met this morning –


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, both parties met yesterday morning. They met yesterday afternoon. They met again last night. I am hoping, Mr. Speaker, that I will get to meet with both parties before this afternoon is out. Mr. Speaker, I hope that something favourable comes from those meetings.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to remind the minister that during that year we settled the impasse in the crab fishery and made sure those plants opened. We made sure that the shrimp industry was going after the boats were tied up for a number of days. We also fought the federal government on the closure of the Gulf cod stock, I say to the minister. We did not sit on the sidelines and be observers while thousands of people in this Province, Mr. Speaker, went without jobs.

I ask the minister today: Is he prepared to lose this season in the fishing industry, in the crab industry, by sitting back, doing nothing, and committing to not invest in the fishing industry of this Province?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, I do not think this is any time to get into, I will say, the gutter politics of it.

The most important thing here, Mr. Speaker -


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. JACKMAN: The most important thing here, Mr. Speaker, is to get this fishery open.

Mr. Speaker, during these talks there have been ideas brought forward that I think have very much potential for long-term impact in the fishery. Mr. Speaker, she can say what she wants about getting that season open, but all harvesters, processors and plant workers will tell you that they are tired of the annual repeat that every spring you can expect disruption in this industry. It cannot continue, Mr. Speaker, it cannot because of the success of this fishery and the importance of this fishery to the entire rural parts of this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister is not prepared to look at any short-term measures to get this industry going. He is not prepared to invest any money. He has already indicated he has two studies that tell us that the industry for harvesters and processors is not viable at today's standards.

So I ask you, Minister: What action are you prepared to take?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, I am prepared to have all parties engaged so that we see structural changes in this industry for the benefit of the industry and for the success of the industry in the future.

Mr. Speaker, the thing that has been proposed opens up the potential for trade issues. Once you open that door, you do not know what is going to come through it, Mr. Speaker. We cannot take that chance; it puts too much at jeopardy. Again, Mr. Speaker, it may have some merit for the long term –


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, there may be merits for some of this for the long term, but that is exactly what we have to do. We have to get this industry open this year. I am hoping that both sides will have come closer to reaching an agreement, and for the long term, we have to make structural changes.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We certainly see what happened when we opened the doors to Abitibi, I say to the minister.

Mr. Speaker, sealers in this Province have had a very tough season as well. In fact, the markets for their products have been greatly weakened with the ban on seal products in the European Union. We are aware that in Nunavut today there is an ongoing discussion about a ban on liquor products being imported into that territory from the European Union.

I ask the Premier today: Has your government considered putting in ban in place on European alcohol being imported into Newfoundland and Labrador, sold in government operated liquor stores as a means of showing solidarity and our discontent with the ban in the seal industry?


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, what this government is very, very proud of is we are the only jurisdiction of thirteen jurisdictions in all of Canada who has not gone along with the European Free Trade Agreement which Canada is trying to enter into. We are the only ones who have stood our ground and said we are not prepared to agree unless there are certain conditions. The seal industry, of course, is obviously one; the shrimp tariff is another one. We have been very successful in having the shrimp tariff reduced and, in fact, removed over time. It has made a huge difference to the shrimp industry.

We will continue to fight for what we believe in. If, in fact, there has to be some kind of a ban on a liquor product or some other European product, that is something that this government would actually be prepared to consider, but it would have to be for the right reasons. We would have to make sure it is properly researched, but it will not be a knee-jerk reaction.

I can say that we are very proud to be the only jurisdiction in Canada standing up for what we believe in on European Free Trade.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am sure it is not lost on the government what the impact of that ban in the European Union has meant to sealers in this Province, especially at this time of the year. I would encourage the government to consider looking at a ban on the import of alcohol from the European Union to express our disgruntlement.

Mr. Speaker, government continued with its $100,000 commitment this year for communications related to the sealing industry, but they did not provide any new strategies or any new marketing plans in terms of how they are going to overcome the severe challenges that we are facing in this industry.

I ask the minister today: What plan does government have to deal with this severe problem and the loss of markets that we have for seals in this Province?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, I think everyone recognizes the challenge that confronts the sealing industry this year. If you listen to the broadcast, the ice conditions are certainly an issue, the markets are there and the price of the pelt is down.

Mr. Speaker, let me assure the Leader of the Opposition that we are working with the sealing industry; we are undertaking some new initiatives. I cannot tell you exactly what they are now, but we are working on them. In conjunction with the sealing industry, Mr. Speaker, we intend to roll those out.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am really comforted to know that there are lots of initiatives being worked on in the sealing industry, but the minister cannot tell me about any of them today. So, maybe tomorrow – maybe the cone of silence is down, the cone of silence on the sealing industry.

Mr. Speaker, we do know that the federal minister has stated – and in fact she indicated this in a meeting I had with her myself in December – that the federal government was looking to China to develop some new markets for different products in the sealing industry.

I ask the minister today if there has been any recent discussions with his federal counterparts, or if there was anything that came from those discussions with China that could certainly help us in the future in developing a new market.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, it would have been good if she had been in Ottawa to try a little seal tasting, Mr. Speaker. One of her Senator colleagues put off a wonderful little feast that she was not there for.

Mr. Speaker, Minister Shea and I have discussed her representation in China. As well, Mr. Speaker, there are companies within this Province that we have had discussions with who are looking at expanding some of their products into the Chinese market. Those discussions are ongoing, Mr. Speaker, and we look forward to success in those particular areas.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to remind the minister I do not have to go to Ottawa to eat seal. I got a full carcass last week. I got it in bottles, Minister, and I would be happy to bring one into you tomorrow, so there you go.

Mr. Speaker, my next question is for the Minister of Environment. The Quebec courts recently ruled that this Province is not a secured creditor for AbitibiBowater's environmental liabilities. I know the minister indicated earlier this week that they have appealed this decision; however, the existing court ruling basically states that we are on the bottom of the pile to be compensated.

So I would like to ask the minister today: How much will it cost the people of this Province to clean up the environmental mess that has been left behind by Abitibi?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Environment and Conservation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JOHNSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As the hon. member mentioned, we did seek leave to appeal the section 99 Environmental Protection Act orders. We understand that that leave to appeal will be heard on May 12.

In terms of the cost of the environmental liabilities, until Abitibi files with us a remediation plan that we in the Department of Environment are satisfied with, only then will we be able to put an actual cost, an actual price tag on the cost of cleanup.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In questioning in the House of Assembly on May 7, nearly a year ago, I asked the government at that time if they would outline the inventory and costs related to the environmental liabilities that were left by AbitibiBowater. The minister said they would undertake to do that, or you were already in the process of doing that.

I ask you: If you have completed that inventory and if you have cost it and if you are prepared to table it?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Environment and Conservation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JOHNSON: Mr. Speaker, under the act the way that we - under the orders that we issued we require Abitibi to submit to us a remediation plan. There were five orders: Botwood, Stephenville, Grand Falls-Windsor, Buchans and some logging camps. So, until they submit a remediation plan to us - and they had one year to submit this plan and they have done some work on it in the past. Until they submit that plan and until we are satisfied with the plan to ensure that the environmental liabilities will be dealt with, I cannot give you a firm, actual cost until that comes to us and we are satisfied with it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is my understanding then that government did not carry out this inventory or costing within their own department.

Mr. Speaker, in last week's edition of The GEORGIAN newspaper, officials with AbitibiBowater confirmed that no environmental work has taken place at their former site in Stephenville since last year and the company has no immediate plans to finish the cleanup.

I ask the minister: What are government's plans to ensure that this site is fully remediated and all the environmental issues are addressed?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Environment and Conservation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JOHNSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This government takes issues of the environment very seriously and that is why we issued the orders in the first place. We went before the courts, a decision was made, and now we are appealing that decision. So while this is in the courts, before the courts, Mr. Speaker, we are going to let that process unfold.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My next questions are for the Minister of Natural Resources.

Yesterday, I asked the minister about the $8 million expenditure in her department for professional services. She admitted that some of it was spent on Abitibi related litigation. However, she refused to give me the full breakdown of the expenditure and instead asked me to get it through Access to Information - which the Premier complains he is getting too many of those requests, by the way minister. Anyway, I think the appropriate place to ask and have those questions answered is in the House of Assembly.

I ask the minister again today: Will she commit to provide a break down of the $8 million spent by her department for professional services?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, there was in fact approximately $8 million spent on professional services related to the expropriation of Abitibi by my department last year. We paid a substantial amount of that money to CRA, to Navigant Consulting, to Weirfolds, a legal firm, and Enda Searching, to do particular work around the expropriation itself, around land registry consolidation; CRA, particularly with regard to the remediation requirements in Grand Falls. That work informed our budget, Mr. Speaker, where we budgeted over $9 million to deal with the mess left behind by Abitibi in Buchans.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I do not know what the issue is that the minister will not table the information in the House of Assembly.

I will ask her this question as well: Can she tell me if any of this $8 million was used to cover any of the legal costs for AbitibiBowater?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: No, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, this was work done within government, within the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Justice to cover off costs associated with the expropriation. There were legal fees and legal firms engaged outside of government in that piece of work. They were law firms engaged around the filing and potential filing of an after claim. There was work required to ensure that lands were transferred appropriately from Abitibi to the Crown. All of the money that was spent was with regard to that and to remediation that was going to be required immediately in Buchans.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Government wants to be open and accountable, that is one of the trademarks that they have certainly tried to convince the people of the Province in terms of how they govern.

I ask the minister today: If she would be prepared to table the information and the break down of the $8 million in expenditure?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Deputy Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, we have a freedom of information process in this Province for a very particular reason. We want to –


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS DUNDERDALE: – be as open and as transparent and as accountable as possible, providing as much information as we possibly can to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, but at the same time, Mr. Speaker, we have a responsibility to protect information that could be used against us in court hearings, in NAFTA hearings, and so on.

The access to information process makes information available, but also protects proprietorial information that we need in legal proceedings and so on. So that is why we use that process. I do not have that legal background, Mr. Speaker. So through the process all of those values are protected, and that is why we encourage people to use it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: No openness, Mr. Speaker, no transparency. I suggest to the minister, Mr. Speaker, the only one they are trying to protect here is their own botching of this entire issue and deal, Mr. Speaker.

Thanks to the government's lack of due diligence in finalizing the expropriation legislation, we accidentally inherited the whole of Reid lot fifty-nine and the former AbitibiBowater mill and assets.

I ask the Premier today: How did such a major error take place and why wasn't this picked up during your review and that by the Department of Justice and the top legal advisers you claim to have gotten on this file, and how much will this mistake cost the people of the Province?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Deputy Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the pulp and paper industry has been in turmoil worldwide for quite some time. A primary objective of this government from 2003 forward was to do everything that we could do to sustain the industry here in Newfoundland and Labrador. We worked hard to do that in Stephenville. We were working hard to do that with Abitibi in Grand Falls-Windsor. It became very clear in a very short period of time that our efforts were not going to be successful because of circumstances way beyond the control of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. We realized that we had to move quickly – very quickly – to ensure that the assets that truly belong to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador stayed in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, in the rush to do that, there were mistakes made and we did expropriate a property in Grand Falls-Windsor, the mill itself, where we did not intend to do it. That is a reality that we have to live with. We cannot return it while the CCAA process is ongoing. Mr. Speaker, we will deal with it when the time is right for us to do so.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

No doubt, the industry may have been in turmoil but it has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that there are loopholes in the legal agreement that government launched. Right now, today, we have had $8 million in legal bills to show for that. We have a 500-million-dollar lawsuit being launched. We have a property, a pulp and paper mill that we did not even know that we were getting. As a result of government's accidental expropriation of these assets, AbitibiBowater is now looking to be reimbursed for security and environmental monitoring costs that have been associated with the former mill site.

I ask the Premier today: How much will this cost the people of the Province, not just now but on a go-forward basis?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Deputy Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, when we reached the decision that it was critical that we move in protecting the interests of Newfoundland and Labrador by the expropriation of Abitibi assets, the first people after Cabinet and our caucus that we informed of our intention were the Official Opposition and the NDP. We invited them to a meeting. We then made our officials available to them; we provided them with every piece of information we had, the legal advice we had at the time. They unanimously supported what we did, Mr. Speaker, and nobody was behind them with their arm twisted up behind their back.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS DUNDERDALE: I suppose they asked a few questions themselves given whatever advisers they may have in their back rooms, Mr. Speaker. What we did was the right thing. We will not pay $500 million for the assets. There were legal fees. How naive would you have to be to think that there would not be legal fees involved in the expropriation of any kind of an asset, Mr. Speaker? They have legal advice over there that is supposed - a former Attorney General, I surely thought he would have known that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

There were a lot of gaps in the briefing we had, and I remind the minister there was no $8 million in legal opinions. We had about eight minutes, I would say, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, in addition to that, now that the government has expropriated the former mill and the people of the Province are responsible for its upkeep and monitoring costs, I ask them if they can provide to us an update on what the future plan will be for that mill and the associated assets in Grand Falls-Windsor.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Deputy Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, when it was discovered that we had inadvertently expropriated the mill our first thought was to return the mill to AbitibiBowater. Because they were already in bankruptcy protection, we were not able to do that. The law prevented us from doing that.

Right now, Mr. Speaker, we are maintaining the mill as Abitibi goes through the legal processes associated with its bankruptcy protection. Mr. Speaker, we continue to seek other uses for that mill. That will not stop, Mr. Speaker, and we have under consideration any kind of interest from anywhere in the world in activating that property in Grand Falls-Windsor. We will continue to do everything we can to rebuild and to continue to rebuild the economy in Grand Falls-Windsor.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the minister that during those briefings, as well, we also indicated that there would be a net zero cost to the Province as a result of all of this, in terms of the exchange of assets and environmental liabilities. Mr. Speaker, I can only say that I hope they do not have the same legal counsel on their lawsuit on the Upper Churchill as they had on the Abitibi deal.

Mr. Speaker, we know that AbitibiBowater had partners on the power projects on the Exploits River; namely, Fortis, and the Italian company Enel. There was some question as to what compensation those companies would be entitled to receive from government for their losses and the timeliness of such payments.

So I ask the Premier today: Has any discussions taken place with these companies, and has government provided any compensation as a result of the expropriation?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Deputy Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, let me say, first of all, that the Province has in its possession, in trust for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, the generation assets on the Exploits River as well as hundreds of thousands of hectares of fibre that can be put to the use to drive the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: The value of that is not to be underestimated, even in terms of our pride and being the stewards of our own natural resources and using them to the advantage of the people here in the Province.

Mr. Speaker, we made a promise when we did the expropriation that partners involved in the generation of electricity on the Exploits River will be kept whole. We are still working through that process. We hoped that it would be concluded sooner than it is. The legal processes that Abitibi has engaged in under bankruptcy protection have slowed all of that process. We are working through it, but we intend to stand by our word.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to ask the minister again: Is there a legal obligation now by the government, as a result of this expropriation, to pay out compensation to Fortis and to Enel? If so, how much has been done and where is it, at what stage?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Deputy Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, we are in discussions with Fortis and Enel. There are a number of arrangements that have been made with them as we work through this process. We made a commitment to both of those companies that we would keep them whole at the end of the day. We have not moved off that premise, Mr. Speaker. It is a complicated process. It is taking some time to work through it, but at the end of the day those companies will not be penalized because of the action we took with regard to the expropriation.

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

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

Mr. Speaker, between 2004 and 2008, Newfoundland and Labrador lost more physicians to other provinces than it gained in each year. Net losses are mainly due to family medicine physicians moving to other provinces. One glaring example of this problem that the Province was given last week by family doctors was that in thirteen years in Botwood alone there have been twenty-three different family doctors for the same five positions.

Mr. Speaker, the basic themes and the presentations by the doctors over the past few weeks that they have given to government is that in order to have a well functioning health care system we have to have a stable workforce.

So, Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier to tell the House what plans his government has not just to recruit but also to retain doctors in this Province.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As the Premier indicated a couple of weeks ago, sometimes it is a matter of looking at whether the glass is half empty or half full. We currently have 1,042 physicians in active practice in this Province, Mr. Speaker, the most ever. In the last eighteen months, we have had a net increase of fifty-three physicians. Between September 2008 and September 2009, eighteen specialists were recruited and we lost seven.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Speaker, our present physician-to-patient population ratio is the highest in the country. We have now, between 2008 and 2009, recruited 72.5 per cent of Newfoundland and Labrador medical students who graduate. In 2008, Mr. Speaker, seventeen new family medicine physicians took up practice in this Province. So it is a question, Mr. Speaker –

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. KENNEDY: Again, interrupting me.

It is a question, Mr. Speaker, of whether or not you look at the situation that it is better today than it has ever been or you look at the fact that, like elsewhere in the country, we are still trying to recruit the physicians we need.

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.

I am sick and tired of hearing about the glass being half empty or half full.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: I would like to point out that we need to decide where we look for reality. If we look to rural Newfoundland and Labrador, those figures that were just quoted do not mean anything, Mr. Speaker.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair is having difficulty hearing the hon. member pose her question.

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

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

Let's take an example from rural Newfoundland and Labrador, Mr. Speaker. We heard today that rural Newfoundland is operating on 50 per cent capacity for psychiatrists.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: Mr. Speaker, we also heard that there are no psychiatrists full time in Labrador nor on the Northern Peninsula, which places great strain on other psychiatrists in the Province to visit those regions, or the patients who must travel to St. John's or other places where psychiatrists are. Mr. Speaker, we graduate four psychiatrists a year and we cannot even hold on to the four of them.

My question, Mr. Speaker, is: How is this government working with the doctors to recruit psychiatrists to our Province? It is a crying need.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Speaker, in this Budget we made several very significant investments in mental health and addictions. We announced a new addictions treatment centre for the Harbour Grace area, to deal with long-term substance abuse. With that, Mr. Speaker, there are oftentimes concurrent disorder and mental health issues.

We are actively recruiting physicians. We are opening up the youth residential treatment centre in Grand Falls-Windsor. We are opening up the centre for youth with complex needs in St. John's.

When you look at the steps we have taken in the last two years in dealing with these issues –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: - and then you hear some psychiatrist today, in the middle of negotiations, trying to paint a picture that is inaccurate it is really, really unhelpful and, Mr. Speaker, I would suggest also not the way to be dealing with these very important issues.

Mental health and addictions is a very significant issue for this government, one in which we have invested approximately $20 million in the last number of years. We will continue to invest and, Mr. Speaker, what we will do: we will invest in counsellors, we will invest in treatment centres, and we will help people help themselves.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The time allotted for questions and answers has expired.

Before the Chair moves on to other proceedings, the Chair would like to recognize and welcome the hon. Mayor of Corner Brook, His Worship, Neville Greeley.

Welcome to the House of Assembly.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Tabling of Documents.

Notices of Motion.

Answers to Questions for which Notice has been Given.



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

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

I am proud today to stand and present a petition on behalf of the residents of Deer Lake, Corner Brook, Springdale, Norris Point, Hampton, Grand Falls, Stephenville and Stephenville Crossing, Port au Port, Kippens and St. George's. I will read the prayer of the petition, Mr. Speaker.

MS JONES: Where is the member? What happened to their member?

MR. BUTLER: There are a lot of members, I would say, (inaudible).

WHEREAS we, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, have always built cabins and tilts away from our houses for hunting, fishing, berry picking, or just spending time up in the country or places around our shores, sometimes just away from the stress of everyday living, a place to relax and enjoy the great outdoors; and

WHEREAS your government has come down hard on the thousands of cabin and trailer owners that are out on our land, with eviction notices and forcing them to move without providing them with alternatives; and

WHEREAS Kruger Inc. has timber rights to approximately one-third of all forest land on this Island and is refusing the vast majority of applications for cabin development;

WHEREUPON your petitioners call upon all Members of the House of Assembly to urge government to have compassion on the citizens of this fair Province and allow them the right to enjoy what is rightfully ours. We were born on this land and should have the right to enjoy it.

Mr. Speaker, we had a statement today from the minister, on Earth Day, and what better time to recognize the concerns of the people of this Province. They are not only in my district; they are right throughout this Province. I have 1,900 names on petitions that I will be presenting on their behalf.

There is no one saying – I know I heard the comment across the floor, when I was reading the petition: the Whiskey Pit. Nobody wants to see some of the issues that were involved in the Whiskey Pit, but I have to say, I spoke with the minister yesterday and she is dealing with the people from the Whiskey Pit and they are trying to come up with an alternative so those people can be looked after. That is all the residents anywhere in this Province are dealing with.

I remember back some time ago, up in the Wolf Pond area, where a deal was struck; and I know people in the government now are saying that should never have happened, but it happened. It happened under this government's watch, and I believe it was the right thing to do, to provide a place for those people to go out and enjoy the countryside. They have been there on those lands for forty years - and I know they are probably Crown lands. If there are environmental issues, I do not condone that. If there are environmental issues, that should be taken into consideration, Mr. Speaker.

Those people right throughout the Province have major concerns. There are some 5,000 or 6,000 of them, and all they are asking government is to consult with them. Do not just come and put a poster up on our cabin or on our trailer and say you are going to destroy it or burn it. Sit down with us and see if we can come to a conclusion that we can enjoy the great outdoors like we always did.

Thank you very much, 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.

From the Order Paper today, we will continue with the Budget debate. Therefore, we will call Motion 1.

MR. SPEAKER: Motion 1, the Budget Speech.

The hon. the Member for St. John's East.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. BUCKINGHAM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It has always been one of my favourite things when a TV show comes on and they give you a quick little recap of what happened last week so you know that you are keeping everything in sequence. I thought I might take the opportunity right now to bring people back up to speed as to where we are.

On March 29, just prior to the Easter break, the Minister of Finance brought down the Budget Speech and we spent the entire day on that. Now, according to parliamentary procedure, the Finance critic gets a certain amount of time - I believe it might be three times as long as the Finance Minister, up to three hours; I am not quite sure - but he gets that amount of time to give his perspective and to sort of walk through what he saw in the Budget and how he wants to present it. So, on March 30 the Opposition House Leader did take up his very significant amount of time to basically go through all those aspects that he saw of it. Anyway, he concluded with a motion which was essentially a motion of non-confidence. Now, for those people who are not familiar with it, a motion of non-confidence essentially says that if this motion goes through then the government falls and an election takes place; but, again, that is more of a technicality.

One of the things that people need to realize, though, about a Budget debate - and I am going to be guilty of it myself here today - is that any time you talk on a money bill you have a great degree of latitude in terms of what you can talk about. You can talk about your district; you can talk about what you brought to the laundry last week. There is really not a lot of emphasis put on relevance and, trust me, the Opposition House Leader played that card to the max.

A Budget is not only a money bill; it is the money bill. It is the plan that the government has to go forward to outline how it is we plan to address the business of government for the year coming up; and, while you might have a lot of dissenting opinions as to exactly how a Budget should be structured, eventually, through a process of compromise and discussion and all of that taking place within the framework of what we intend to do in the long run, a Budget is put together, it is put to paper and it is delivered and debated. There is quite a lot of process that goes on to making sure that this Budget does take place.

Unfortunately, on March 30, the day that the Opposition House Leader gave his remarks on the Budget, I was not able to be in the House that day; so, in preparing for these remarks today, I went to Hansard to see what exactly it was the Opposition House Leader had said. As you can imagine, reading two-and-a-half or three hours of discussion was a task, particularly given the author. It was quite a task, but I did go through it because I though it was perhaps important to find out exactly what had been said.

Well, I spent three hours reading not a whole lot of anything, to be honest with you. That being said, that being said, there is a certain amount of rhetoric that you expect to happen, and nothing out of the ordinary happened here. However, I was somewhat disappointed to come back into the House, and when the – sorry, perhaps I should backtrack a little bit.

As I said, at the end of this long discourse on the Budget a motion of non-confidence was laid down, and that ended the day on March 30. Now, because of that, we deal with that motion or that amendment right away. So as the mover of the amendment, the Opposition House Leader was then able to stand up for another hour and again continue on with the train of thought that he had. Well, as he was speaking my thoughts immediately went to the Minister of Environment, because it occurred to me that I was going to ask the Minister of Environment if there was an environmental award for speaking. Because without question, the one-hour speech that I heard on Monday was reused, recycled, and the only part of it, the only failing was that it was not reduced. Other than that, I think he could have been up for an MMSB award for speaking in the House of Assembly.

Now, one of the things that was brought forward and I guess was really harped on was the fact - and I will put it out there as a fact, because it was in the Budget document, that the GDP reduced by 8.9 per cent. Not only that, but it was significantly higher than probably the historical previous high GDP drop. That is just the reality. That is just the reality. In the global economy, being as it is, our economy dropped by 8.9 per cent. Okay, we live with it, we deal with it, but the question isn't: Did it go down, or did it go down a lot? The question really becomes: Did this government handle that economic situation in a manner that people would consider to be appropriate, in a manner that people would consider to be responsible, in a manner that people would consider to inspire confidence to know that the right people are at the helm to get us through this economic time? I would suggest, and of course I am perhaps a little biased or perhaps a lot biased, that this government has done the type of activities, the type of planning, the type of decisions that worldwide have shown to be positive steps in dealing with the situation as it stands.

Some of the standards you might use to judge the quality of the work that we did in this time might be: How did we compare to other provinces? How did we compare to the country as a whole and how did we compare internationally as to how things were dealt with? I think if someone looks at this in an objective way - and I have to emphasize objective here because as objective as I might try to be, I wear a very distinct stripe. In the same way the Opposition wears a very distinct stripe in terms of how they choose to look at it. It is up to the people of this Province to look at what has happened and say: Does this represent the kind of a direction that I would like the government to have? Does this represent the kind of direction of a government that when it comes time to vote again, will this government have my confidence and will I ask them to continue on for another four years? I would suggest, all bias aside, perhaps, perhaps not, that the people of this Province will in fact ask this government to stay in for another four years.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. BUCKINGHAM: One of the things about being in the House is that most people only get to see me standing here and do not get to hear a lot of what goes on besides. I have to say, the comments are always in good taste, meant to distract. The member opposite has done his job well, but I will continue on from where I left off.

When we talk about this environmental award for reusing and recycling, if you look at the context of what is there, a lot of it is just old catchphrases, clichιs; things that I am sure if you went back right through fifty, sixty years of Hansard you might find that it is trotted out every time. I suspect that if we looked at the Hansard of the time when this party was in Opposition, you might find some of those tried and true catchphrases there also. That is probably the nature of the beast.

The real turning point comes, and I think if you look back through where this party was in 2001, 2002, 2003, that we got beyond the point of just naysaying everything that came forward. We presented real alternatives, we presented different plans, we presented a type of an attitude that contrasted the current government of the time and people saw something and they liked it.

One of the things that the finance critic did was devote at lot of time to the many strategies that this government has, forty strategies, or perhaps there were more. Now, to my way of thinking, isn't that why we are here? Aren't we here to develop strategies? Aren't we here to have a plan? This is essentially what strategies are. We identify that problems exist. Now, do we identify those? Do we sort of sit here in an ivory tower and sort of cast our eyes about and say: problem here, problem there? Well, as representatives of the people, we come to this House fully in the knowledge of what some of these problems are, what the local issues are, what the regional issues are, and we extend our gaze and we look to what the provincial, and how we fit into even what national issues are.

The idea then is to deal with it, to move forward. It is a mistake, I think, to look at all of these things in isolation, and just deal with them and go forward on one track and then go forward on another track. Then, at the end, you might have a lot of things accomplished, but the question is: Have you done it efficiently and has it been part of a plan, has it been part of a process that brings us as a government and us as a Province further ahead in a unified way that was interdisciplinary, interdepartmental and efficient? Again, when you look at all of these strategies - and a lot of them, when they stand on their own might seem to be just that, but when you pull back from it and look at the totality of how they are presented, how they are integrated, how they tie in, how they create partnerships and require partnerships, you will find that a lot of these things do represent decisions that are made in an overall framework of how this place should be run.

One of the interesting comments I found was that the Member for Burgeo & La Poile took a certain amount of time to try and position the Premier and the Finance Minister as being a little at odds. Some statements that were proudly made might not seem to be all on the same page. I would suggest that probably there is. In fact, I would go even more than probably. I am sure there is a certain amount of disagreement between the Premier and the Finance Minister as to how things should go because that is the nature of government. We all have opinions of how things should happen.

I have had the privilege in the last two-and-a-half years of having a number of discussions with the current Minister of Finance. His position, I guess, on debt reduction is very similar to my own. I am very much in favour of some short-term pain to get the long-term gains that come from debt reduction. In fact, I am sure on a clear day the Minister of Finance would have loved to perhaps pull forward a balanced budget. We all would, but at what cost?

On the other side, you cannot go and have just this mad spending spree where you deal with all people's needs, just lay the money out there, money that we do not have, because a cost is associated with that. The cost of a balanced budget is the costs that are associated with cutting programs.

We see calls in the House everyday for more support for various programs, for the creation of new programs, and, Mr. Speaker, we never consider any of these calls to be frivolous. Many times, the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi will bring forth a program, and to my mind, her intentions are very, very well intentioned. A lot of programs that she requests and that she brings forward, we recognize the need exists. We are not blind to that. The question becomes: Can you do all things? The answer is, obviously, no, and this is where the decision part of it comes in.

I believe a number of years ago there was a call to eliminate the cost on textbooks. The call was there, the government did not do anything about it for a number of years, but then the capacity to do something about it existed and we dealt with it. That is just one small example.

Now, getting back to the business of balancing budgets, as I said, the Finance Minister and I are much of the same space as to where we would be on that, but I suspect the Premier probably got a little bit of a bigger heart than the Finance Minister and I do. He looked at what the cost would be and he turned around and I am sure he brought his own opinions to bear on this, as one would expect from the leader, and said: We have to balance off the cutting of programs, the maintaining of programs, with the building up of debt down the road.

I think that this Budget that we see right here is an excellent compromise between the two. Was it exactly what I wanted? Not by any stretch of the imagination. Well, I should not say that; it was not exactly what I wanted, but it also did not meet the excessive demands of some other people who are there. It is a compromise and that is the very nature of it.

So, if anyone were to get up and say that I find fault with this Budget, their argument probably have some merit because we could not meet all requests, all demands. There is compromise involved, and I think that this Budget – a Budget that has been the catalyst for a non-confidence motion – in fact does not warrant that non-confidence motion. I think this Budget represents very, very closely what people want, the type of leadership that people would like to see. It is all about balancing the choices.

One of the real things about budgeting, I suppose, is that while you have to put these long-term plans in place, you also need to make sure that you retain the capacity to deal with day to day issues that come up. There are a number of things, whether it is a breakwater in Ferryland that no one would have forecast - a lot of things like that across the Province no one would have forecast. You cannot take all of your money, you cannot take all of your resources and say here is what we are going to do with it, we are going to lockstep it in, and if anything else comes up, too bad.

It is very similar, to me, taking any excess money I might have or projected I might have, putting it into an RRSP, because I know down the road that I will need that money in my retirement, and not have enough free cash to fix a leak. You just cannot do it. It does not make sense on a household level; it does not make sense on a provincial level. You cannot tie yourself down so that you do not have enough resources to react to what is going on.

Again, this Budget, I believe, allows us to engage in long-term planning, meet short-term plans, and also keep capacity to deal with day to day issues.

Now, Mr. Speaker, in the last few minutes I have, and of course, this might sound to be a little odd with an MHA for St. John's, but I just find it really disingenuous to constantly portray this party as being anti-rural, as being just only focussed on the urban areas and letting the rest of the Province just sort of go along its merry way, whatever might happen. The reason why I feel probably justified, as a St. John's MHA, to get up and talk about this is that I feel I can talk candidly and not in a self-serving way about the representation that the rural MHAs bring to this government.

Every day I see the rural MHAs off to meetings, representing their constituents, meeting delegations that come in, bringing forward the issues that are in their areas, making sure those issues are front and centre, they are dealt with, that they are integrated into the day to day planning of this government. To hear what is getting to be a fairly monotonous message that this government does not care about rural, I am sorry, but I just cannot stand by and say nothing about it. Mr. Speaker, I see the passion that these members bring to their positions, I see the problems, I see the pain that some people feel, and these members bring it forward every day in their jobs. As a St. John's MHA, I would like to assure anyone who is listening that from my perspective – and I consider it to be somewhat an objective perspective –your needs are being well represented, and in a year-and-a- half you will have the opportunity, of course, to decide if those needs have been met.

Mr. Speaker, rarely are great society problems solved in grand strokes. Little by little we find ways to improve, we find ways to integrate, we find efficiencies, we find as we see in the fisheries real, hard, solid discussions about what has to happen to make industries viable in the short term and in the long term. All of these things go into the whole thing of government.

Yesterday the Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development used the analogy of spokes on a wheel, and I do not know if it just came to him in a flash or was this something he had given some consideration to, but when I thought about that analogy and how the different strategies represent the spokes of the wheel, it really made a lot of good sense to me in terms of how it goes. We can see ourselves in the government as being the hub of that wheel, and these spokes go out and they support the outside of the wheel which is our Province, which is the different segments, the different regions, the different demographics of this Province. When everything is said and done, if you look at the structure, it is not the spokes coming from the hub that keep the wheel where it is, in fact, it goes both ways because without that wheel the hub does not get to stay where it is. The hub is what we are trying to be. The methods that we use try to support those spokes and eventually we are trying to make a stronger Province. Because of that and because of the plan laid out by the Budget, I really believe that this motion of non-confidence put forward by the Opposition House Leader is unwarranted and should fail.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

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

I am very pleased to stand today in response to the Official Opposition's non-confidence motion to the Budget brought in some weeks ago by the Minister of Finance.

I shall be supporting this motion, Mr. Speaker, for reasons that will become obvious. I consider what we do here today very serious and it is one of the reasons that - I do not do this very often - I am using a text today that I plan on sticking with. The reason being, I want to lay out very clearly where we come from as the NDP when it comes to economic analysis.

Budgets are very important because they are a clear statement of a government's priorities. The government has called Budget 2010: The Right Investments For Our Children and Our Future. The question I get to ask today, Mr. Speaker, is whether or not what the government says is actually what they have delivered.

Budget 2010, Mr. Speaker, is an excellent example of smoke and mirrors. The government is counting on their ability to fool people into thinking that spending money means investing in the future. My party is delighted, Mr. Speaker, that the Budget has money in it for new school construction and replacement; for new hospital construction and replacement; for the maintenance needs of Memorial University; for maintenance and reconstruction of our highway system; and for a host of other infrastructural expenditures. Guess what, Mr. Speaker? These expenditures are just that – expenditures. They are not investments in children and the future. They are expenditures that must be made to meet the needs of our society. New schools must be built where student populations are rapidly growing. Schools must be repaired and replaced when they can no longer be safe environments for the occupants. The same is true of hospitals and other medical facilities. Highways must be improved and maintained for the sake of safety of people on the roads.

The dollar signs that the government is flashing around in its Budget, Mr. Speaker, are only expenditures on what government is expected to spend money on; it is their job. A responsible parent does not expect praise for keeping the house in good physical shape, for making sure there is adequate money for food or for keeping children clothed. The parent is doing what a parent must do. If the parent does not do those things, the parent will be found derelict of duty and could end up losing his or her children.

A government, Mr. Speaker, that does not do its duty will lose its power. It is the job of elected government to ensure that systems are in place to deliver what is needed for the well-being and security of people as individuals and as members of a community. It is the job of elected government to make sure that the communal pot is shared so everyone is living in a healthy and nurturing society. It is the job of elected government to create systems that work for everyone, not just for some.

Where is the vision in Budget 2010, I ask, Mr. Speaker? My concern about this and previous budgets of this government, Mr. Speaker, is that there are no plans for the present or the future. The government says that this Budget is an investment in the future, but it does not talk about what that future holds, Mr. Speaker. This Budget shows a drop in provincial revenues in almost every area, Mr. Speaker. There is a drop in taxation revenue, a drop in investment revenue, a drop in consolidated revenue funds and other entities. The only major increase in provincial sources of revenue, Mr. Speaker, is in offshore royalties. This Budget floats on a pool of oil, a pool that began draining from the moment it was tapped. We need a long-term plan from this government for sustaining our economy and our society beyond when oil is being pumped from the floor of the Atlantic. Mr. Speaker, we need a vision, we need a plan.

Where is the $2 billion in revenues that we see in Budget 2010 going to come from in the future? From the fishery, a potentially, sustainable industry that this government is slowly watching die without any idea of how to stop the bleeding? From the creative, new environmentally friendly projects that they are planning but not telling us about? From new manufacturing industries that are connected to our natural resources, such as we see governments developing in other parts of the world?

Mr. Speaker, for all intents and purposes, this government has no plans. They say they have plans but what are they really, Mr. Speaker? Let's look at some them. They say they have a plan to reduce poverty, Mr. Speaker. However, in the past three years they have presented us with Budgets that benefit the wealthy rather than those with lower incomes. How is that going to help reduce poverty? What kind of a plan is that, Mr. Speaker? The so-called investments in poverty reduction, Mr. Speaker, cover everything from enhancing the Family Justice Services Division to budgeting $200,000 for the continuation of the home Heating Oil Storage Tank Replacement Assistance Program. I would like to know, Mr. Speaker, how being able to access the court system or having government pay for a new oil tank that government regulations say must be installed is helping reduce poverty in this Province. I do not see a plan, Mr. Speaker. I see spin; I see smoke and mirrors.

The government did take action two Budgets ago to raise the minimum wage. I applauded them for that. The last increase in that plan takes place on July 1 of this year. Already, Mr. Speaker, the increases that have been made are not worth what they were worth two years ago. Does this government have a plan to build in annual increases to reflect the increases in the cost of living that they forecast in the Budget? If they do, they have not told us. If they do not, in two years time the minimum wage increase will be worth half of what it is worth today. What kind of a plan is that? It is not a plan that will help home care workers who make just over the minimum wage.

Another of government's plans, and one that they are so proud of, Mr. Speaker, is the plan for this Province to have the lowest rate of personal income tax in the country. Once again, the tax levels will be reduced the most for the highest income brackets. This government is being absolutely aggressive regarding so-called competitiveness of our tax system. What are the implications of this approach, Mr. Speaker? What exactly has been the result of the tax changes that this government has made?

Mr. Speaker, when we get to the end of this fiscal year the average benefit to the wealthiest people in this Province will be an annual tax cut of $25,500. The tax break for those in the middle income bracket will be a small fraction of that while there is nothing new at all for the poorest taxpayers. Who is this government favouring, Mr. Speaker? Who is really being favoured by this plan? Is it people who feel the effects of poverty or is it people who benefit from the effects of wealth? I think the answer is obvious, Mr. Speaker.

The government started on the right track with the lowest bracket of income tax payers, when they changed the income tax rate for them in Budget 2008. However, the government stopped there. What they should have done is put in place a policy of no income tax for anyone with an income under the poverty line. Such a policy, Mr. Speaker, would go a long way to reducing poverty. Now that is a plan, Mr. Speaker; that is a vision for poverty reduction, no income tax for people with incomes under the poverty line.

In order to really reduce poverty there must be real changes to our whole social and economic system, Mr. Speaker. Poverty is the result of inequality caused by high unemployment, low wages, inequitable tax regimes, low education levels, gender inequality and discrimination on many levels. It is not enough for this government to say that it is reducing poverty by bringing the minimum wage up to $10 an hour while at the same time giving tax breaks to corporations and wealthy individuals. Those tax breaks take away from program spending that is needed in the real fight against poverty.

According to the Estimates document, this Province is going to receive an extra $308 million this year in equalization and offsets revenue from the federal government. I would have hoped, Mr. Speaker, that this increase in revenue would be used as investment in education and health. I have to ask the government if it is accidental that this amount almost equals the $332 million cut to corporate income tax, or did government plan the cuts to income tax based on the increase in federal monies? The money coming from the federal government, Mr. Speaker, is meant to give the people of this Province equal access to health care and education, our right under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is not meant to allow government to give tax breaks to those who do not need them.

Mr. Speaker, the government says that it is offering tax breaks in order to bring skilled workers and professionals to this Province. Mr. Speaker, I point out to the government that if there are jobs in this Province that pay salaries on a par with other parts of the country, workers will come. Especially if they are workers originally from the Province who have had to leave the Province to find work, and who want the quality of life offered here at home for them in this Province.

Changing our tax regime to the point where we are losing income needed to pay for services to the population of the Province is not going to benefit the people of the Province in the long run. If the government continues in this direction, we shall continue to have deficit budgets that are not necessary. I have no problem with deficit budgets, but you have to show me that they are necessary and that there is no other way to get the money.

This government likes to point out, Mr. Speaker, that it is unlike the Conservative Government of Canada in its policies. I say to this government, in actual fact, they are very much like the Harper government. Cutting taxes and cutting programs is the direction in which the federal government has gone. I admit, this government is not cutting programs, but it is not building the social infrastructure that is needed for our society to be healthy, an infrastructure that Canadians in other provinces enjoy.

It is noteworthy that a Budget news release from the government talks about supporting social infrastructure. I acknowledge that the items under that heading are all good; however, Mr. Speaker, I cannot read that list without wondering about what is missing. I have to ask: Where is the money for a child care program under social infrastructure? Imagine if the money from the increase in equalization and offsets revenue were used to start a child care program instead of for tax breaks that benefit mainly corporations and wealthy individuals. We would have a program that employed many new workers, a program that permitted more parents to join the paid labour force, and a program that contributed to the growth of our economy, as has happened in other provinces.

Imagine the benefit to people and our economy if some of the extra revenue went into fully meeting the need for affordable housing instead of just putting a band-aid on our housing crisis, which is all the government has done in this Budget. Money into maintenance is absolutely essential, money into upgrading the old stock of Newfoundland housing is absolutely essential, but it is not new money for affordable housing in the social sector. Imagine the benefit to government if $75 million of the $308 million that is coming from the federal government went toward offsetting income from addictive VLTs. Government would not have to advertise about the effects of addictive gambling if they did not have VLTs. It would save health care costs we now spend on people affected by the addiction. We would not have people unemployed because of addictions to VLTs. We might even have fewer people taking up space in our jails.

Imagine what would happen, Mr. Speaker, if this government had a vision that would see us look a lot more like the rest of Canada because of the programs they were putting in place, programs that Newfoundland and Labrador currently lack. We do not need more tax breaks for people making over $250,000 a year, or tax breaks for companies or subsidies for companies such as Rolls-Royce.

Guess what, Mr. Speaker? Putting in place programs and services, such as those I have just listed, would create not just more jobs they would build healthier communities which, in turn, would result in growth in the economy, more people in the workforce, more seniors able to stay in their own homes, more young people accessing post-secondary education, fewer young people dropping out of high school, a larger skilled trades workforce, more professionals trained at home to take care of needs in this Province, an end to food bank dependency; the list goes on, Mr. Speaker.

Imagine what would happen if this government had a vision of sustainable communities all over this Province and could encourage creative ideas that would help build those sustainable communities.

Imagine if the custodians of Nalcor, the government of this Province, had a fresh new vision for becoming leaders in the sustainable energy field. Imagine if the custodians of Nalcor understood that Nalcor could become directly involved in wind energy through turbine manufacture and ownership of wind farms, not just paying foreign companies to make electrical power for us. That Nalcor could become more directly involved in research about tidal power –


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair is having some difficulty hearing the member that is recognized to speak. We understand the need for discussions in the House from time to time to discuss business, but I would ask members to remain cognizant of the time allotted to the member speaking.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Imagine if the custodians of Nalcor understood that Nalcor could develop a vision for how hydro, wind and tidal power could be used together in this Province, thinking that is going on in other parts of the world.

One has to wonder what bubble this government exists in, Mr. Speaker. They are listening too much to their own propaganda. They have convinced themselves that they are building the communities of this Province for a bright future. They actually believe that if they say something often enough, it will be a reality.

This government can throw the dollar signs around as much as they want, it will not take away the fact that the gap between wealthy and poor in this Province is growing. It will not take away from the fact that we have a growing homelessness problem. It will not take away from the fact that rural Newfoundland and Labrador is dying. They cannot convince a family who has to go regularly to a food bank that things are alright. They cannot convince the senior citizen who does not have enough heat in the winter or who is choosing between buying food or essential pharmaceuticals that they are being taken care of. They cannot convince an adult child who is stressed because of the unmet home care needs of a parent that their money is being well spent by the government.

This government does not have a vision of what can be done in this Province to build a self-sustaining economy for the future. If they have a vision, it is based on the belief that leaving it to private business will yield what we need to create employment and sustain communities. Obviously, that tact is not working as we can see from the lack of money being spent under business attraction in the Department of Business. We do not have people with amazing new ideas flocking to our shores; however, we have people here who do have great ideas and who need more help in gaining access to capital.

This government has to do more than dole out money to businesses that may or may not fail. They need a real blueprint, one that the people of this Province would help them with if they really sought the help, a real blueprint that is based on the values and principles of community development.

This government must become proactive in providing expertise and resources to communities so that they can develop their creative ideas. Strategic community partnerships will not work without resources to help them work. One reason why our Affordable Housing Program is not working adequately is because the not-for-profit sector does not have sufficient resources to put projects together. Neither is the government offering adequate incentives to the private sector to find it profitable enough to get involved. Government has to do more than to say money is there for 230 more units under this program. They have to ensure that the tools are also available to help people take part in the program.

The kind of growth that I am looking for, Mr. Speaker, is not flashy and grandiose. It is not based on large developments which seem to be the bent of this government, Mr. Speaker, not unlike other Administrations we have had in the past. Our future will be determined by the infrastructures that get put in place because of revenues from large developments we might be blessed with at this moment. We have to use that money, Mr. Speaker, for the future but that will only happen if Administrations understand that such community-based development does not happen automatically or from the top down.

Last fall I was quite excited, Mr. Speaker, about a presentation that I heard from a member of an Irish regional economic development organization who spoke of a model for stimulating regional enterprise and improving quality of life. This model, called LEADER, is quite impressive. It is based on the notion of bottom up planning and decision making. I do not have time to go into the details of the Irish program, Mr. Speaker, but I put it out as something that the government should seriously study. It is based on the concept of partnerships in special areas of disadvantage, both urban and rural. These partnerships are based on trust and a shared understanding between politicians, private enterprise, community and other sectors. It is also based on the principle that economic, social, and community goals must all mesh together.

The Irish model recognizes that if LEADER is going to work, there have to be resources put into it. The Government of Ireland anticipated in 2006 that they would need to put in excess of $1.6 billion Canadian between 2007 and 2013 into LEADER. That, Mr. Speaker, is what I call long-term investment in community; that is what I call a vision for the future.

If I could just have time to clue up, Mr. Speaker, I am at my conclusion.

When is this government going to realize - if I may? I know my time is up. I am in my conclusion; if I may have leave to conclude?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member has asked for leave. Does the hon. member have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: I remind the hon. member that her time for speaking has expired.

MS MICHAEL: I do not have leave from the government to make my conclusion?

MR. SPEAKER: We need unanimous consent of the House for leave.

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

The hon. the Member for the District of Ferryland.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, it is certainly a pleasure to rise here today in the House and speak to Budget 2010, and in particular to speak to the motion that was put forward –


MR. HUTCHINGS: Mr. Speaker, I cannot hear.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I recognize the hon. Member for the District of Ferryland.

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is certainly good to stand, Mr. Speaker, and speak to Budget 2010, in particular to the non-confidence motion that was put forward on this Budget by the hon. Opposition Leader. As well, I will make some comments certainly on the last speaker, the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi, in regards to her commentary which speaks to the issue of no plan by this government.

Everything this government has done since 2003 has certainly been well directed; strategically directed and is a plan. The results of those plans are certainly visible just about everywhere in this Province. Everything we have done, whether it is investment in health care, investment in education, social policies, rural Newfoundland and Labrador, urban centres, you name it, Mr. Speaker, this government is under the leadership - it is strategic, it is well directed plans, certainly fiscally we know.

In 2003, when this government came to power, certainly great fiscal problems; time to bring those in check, put the Province on sound financial footing, and that was certainly a plan by the government to do that and certainly has done it, bringing our overall liabilities in terms of this Province down from almost $13 billion to under $8 billion. So that is well planned, Mr. Speaker, and very strategic. It shows the leadership of this government and certainly moving forward in doing what needs to be done.

Mr. Speaker, I want to take a second too, if I could, this week being Volunteer Week in the Province, in appreciation for all those many people out there throughout Newfoundland and Labrador who give so freely of their time in volunteering in communities, towns and cities and the great work they do, all the way from fire departments, seniors clubs, youth groups, recreation, you name it. A tremendous amount of people out there who are giving up their time, giving so freely of it and doing very much in the communities that government cannot do, but the work they do and the delivery of service they do is so important to building our Province, making it a great place to be.

I know this Saturday evening coming up, Mr. Speaker, I will be in Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove for a celebration down there in terms of a great town, great work they do, a great community, great spirit. I will be there to celebrate with them as they say thank you to their volunteers.

Mr. Speaker, if I could, in regard to the Budget, I would just like to look at, I guess where we have come from over the past couple of years. We all know in the last year-and-a-half in terms of the global economy, we have struggled in terms of economically around the world. Newfoundland and Labrador, through its planning and strategic direction, was able to weather much of the storm. In many respects, it is one of the places across Canada that has done well. That was not because it was just immediate, but it was regarding long-term care planning that was started a number of years ago. So when we did get a downturn we were able to weather the storm. Many of the economic indicators show that we were able to do that. We were not as hard hit as many other places in Canada or even in North America. So we were well positioned, and that goes back to the planning again of this government and how we did it.

If we look back to 2009, Mr. Speaker, we saw that retail sales grew by 2.6 per cent, even in that environment. That was the strongest performance in the country. Even in that environment, in a downturn, our retail sales were up. We are one of only two provinces to record record sales growth last year, Mr. Speaker. So that is an indicator of how we did.

Labour income increased last year 4.2 per cent. It was the second-best performance among provinces right across the country. Once again, an indicator of how we were doing. Housing starts, an indication of people's confidence in the economy; consumer confidence, people are willing to go out and spend and invest because the future looks bright. They have confidence in their government, and confidence in the economy, and confidence in where we are going. So they were up over 3,000; the second-highest in twenty years, Mr. Speaker - significant.

Capital investment growth ranked fourth among all provinces in the country; once again, huge investment, both private and corporately. When the economy is strong and people are pleased with the direction the Province is going in – certainly from the corporate side. Private investment is there, they are willing to step up to invest, because they see the promise of what is happening.

Personal income growth, Mr. Speaker, 3.9 per cent, and disposable income growth of 4.7 per cent; once again, more money in people's pockets, in consumers' pockets, every Newfoundlander and Labradorian, so they can use that in terms of services. Once again, it talked about housing developments, goods and services, which drives the economy.

Again, Mr. Speaker, a population of over half a million people. We had an increase of 0.5 per cent, the largest percentage increase since 1983, and that is something we are seeing in terms of this Province, in terms of net in-migration. With many years of seeing out-migration, we are seeing now this Province continue to grow in terms of its residents, and it is so important in terms of the future and where we are going and where we want to be.

Again, a big economic driver in this Province is tourism. Last year we saw non-resident travel and tourist visitors' increase by 0.7 per cent to almost 484,000, with expenditures of 1.4 per cent, for $375 million. Once again, Mr. Speaker, I point out, that is in an environment where globally things were not well. Tourism was predicted not to do that well, but yet, here in this Province we even exceeded from the prior year, in terms of increases and the number of people who visited our Province, and certainly the amount of money that was spent. No doubt, that is attributed to the investments made by the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, in terms of the fantastic Newfoundland commercials that we have seen right through North America, and the return on those. A tremendous job done on those, and certainly have been recognized all throughout North America in a number of awards, so they provided a huge return in terms of the strategic investment in those commercials.

Mr. Speaker, we look to 2010, the economic outlook in terms of where we are going in terms of this government and what the economy is looking like on a go-forward basis. We are projecting forecast growth of GDP of about 4 per cent, which is indeed significant. We are looking again at employment growth of approximately 2.3 per cent, up to about 219,900 in that range, once again up from last year when there was a small drop due to, as we said, the economy and what was going on, and recognition of the global economy.

The unemployment rate is again forecast to decline this year; personal income tax, disposable income growth of 3.9 per cent and 3.3 per cent respectively, and that is by wage gains and employment growth. Once again, we are seeing a growth in disposable income for our residents and a sign in the economy that things are looking good.

We are seeing retail sales growth of 5 per cent, which again will be up from last year. Retail sales growth certainly is an indicator of the confidence that people have in the economy, in what they are doing, and bodes well for the economy. Capital investment last year was up. Again, this year we are expecting an increase of 23 per cent, almost up to $6.2 billion which is quite a figure, Mr. Speaker, in terms of capital investments. Housing starts again are expected to rise to 1.5 per cent to over 3,000 residential starts; a tremendous amount of spending, up to $1.6 billion, an increase of 3.5 per cent from the prior fiscal year.

Again, we are expecting a bounce back in terms of commodities. Natural resources are so important to this Province. We are hoping to see a rebound, especially in mineral shipments, expected to increase by almost 60 per cent; a significance of $3.1 billion.

Once again, our tourism industry; we are expecting to see an increase by 1.3 per cent, where last year it was 0.7 per cent; so, again, it is continuing to grow. I know in my district, Mr. Speaker, along the Southern Shore are a number of tourism sites very heavily travelled. The Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve, the Colony of Avalon, the bird sanctuary off Witless Bay-Bay Bulls, tourism, all of those are so important to the area and we have seen a great influx of tourism over the years.

As we look at the overall fiscal framework, Mr. Speaker, in 2009-2010 we are looking at a decrease in terms of the deficit of $294.9 million, a decrease of approximately 60 per cent from Budget 2009. That is certainly due in large part to the return from our natural resources.

Our taxation again, the direction given in this Budget in terms of freeing up monies and putting it in the pockets of the residents of the Province, we are seeing a total tax reduction of $48.5 million and a total since 2007 of about $1.2 billion. Mr. Speaker, that is enormous in terms of the amount of investment that is put back in people's pockets to drive the economy, and that is planned; that is strategic. That is the economic outlook this government has. We want to be the most competitive in terms of taxation rates in Atlantic Canada - in Canada as a whole – and this is the type of initiative, the type of plan, we are using to get there.

We see the age amount non-refundable tax credit increased from $3,681 to $5,000, and low-income seniors' benefits increased from $803 annually up to $900. So that again is an initiative to help out seniors. We recognize that in some cases that assistance is required and we are doing a whole range of initiatives to help them, and under the taxation scheme that is one area where we are certainly doing that.

We also look at, effective July 1, 2010 would see a reduction of personal income tax, income brackets, a reduction there as well. Mr. Speaker, we all know small business all across this Province but certainly in rural Newfoundland and Labrador is so important in terms of growth. They are the drivers of the economy in most small towns, and again this year the Province recognizes that and is certainly doing what it can. The income tax rate will be reduced from 5 per cent to 4 per cent, so freeing up money again for small business to make them more competitive.

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about, too, if I could, a couple of investments in particular in the Budget but I think I would like to highlight a couple of them that I hear from, from constituents and people in terms of what is important to them and where they would like to see investments. One of them is certainly education, and this government has done tremendous investments in education over the past years since coming to power. You know, whether it is new buildings - primary, elementary and high schools - whether it is repairs to existing facilities, certainly the investment has been huge: hundreds of millions of dollars in terms of education. This year from K to 12 we will be looking at $14.3 million invested to continue the high priority of building and maintenance projects throughout all the school districts in the Province, bringing the investment to a total of $34.3 million. It is certainly significant in terms of our education system, Mr. Speaker.

I also want to mention post-secondary. One of the opportunities that I had a few years back, when I was Parliamentary Secretary to Human Resources, Labour and Employment, was to be involved in the Youth Retention and Attraction Strategy. Interestingly enough, when the Opposition House Leader mentioned about the vote of non-confidence, he sort of mentioned strategies and all the strategies we had, and alluded to them and so forth and so on, but it is the strategies and the direction, and that we had consultation on those strategies and came up with sound and concrete public policy, that we were able to meet some of those objectives that I talked about in terms of financially, the investments.

So that is where it comes from. That is the result of sound strategies, to be able to bring direction, make people aware of where you are going and lay it out for people. The other side of it, too, people from that perspective, too, can follow your progress, as they should. As an elected government, you need to lay out what your strategy is, what your direction is. People can follow that, and people can see how you are doing. Sometimes you might stray from the course. Well, people know your strategy; you lay it out. Certainly, there is more consultation and they bring it to you as a government, that this is where you said you were going and this where you need to go. So certainly, from a leadership point of view, strategically you have to lay out your strategy so people can see where you are going, on how you are going to spend the public purse, on how you are going to guide people in the years to come. It is so important.

Mr. Speaker, we have done tremendous investment in post-secondary. I know, obviously, as everybody knows, we probably have the most competitive tuition rate in the country for our post-secondary students at university. I hear, and I know from students in my district, and others I speak to, how important that is.

The Youth Retention and Attraction Strategy; going through that process we were told, government was told, that second to finding employment the second most important initiative in terms of retention in this Province was ensuring that they were competitive in terms of post-secondary education, and that they could get it at the best possible price as anywhere in the country. That is some of the initiatives that we worked on, certainly, in doing that.

The Youth Retention and Attraction Strategy talked about priorities: affordable and quality education. Whether it is high school, primary, post-secondary, this government is committed to it and we continue to invest in it again in this Budget. Again, the priorities in the Youth Retention and Attraction Strategy, as I said, are affordable and accessible quality education. They wanted initiatives from school to work transitions, some assistance; obviously, entrance to quality-level jobs. Look at things existing, like the Graduate Employment Program, which was one of the programs that this government has continued to invest in, in the last Budget, and again this year, in terms of allowing young people who get a trade or get post-secondary training, that they can make that transition from that formal education into the workforce, and get that experience they need. Again this year we saw a particular investment in terms of engineering programs at Memorial. This government stepped up and put more money into that program because it was much needed.

Again, the Skills Task Force report, working on that in terms of apprenticeship programs has been successful. We have had some challenges in regard to the downturn in the economy. Once again, the government stepped in, did an investment in terms of the apprenticeship program. Actually, government itself stepping up and making more spots available for those who are looking to get in and get that training in government. That strategy looked at connecting graduate students with the voluntary sector. So once again they get the experience, but the volunteer sector gets the experience of those individuals working for them, and their knowledge as well, which is so important.

So, Mr. Speaker, that is just an example of a strategy that was based on consultations with the public, not only here in Newfoundland and Labrador but in Ontario and Alberta, young Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. Four hundred youth sessions across the Province, asking them what was important to them as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. They came up, they told us, and we set forty-one priorities. We are following up on those priorities and we are seeing the results of them and it is quite positive.

Mr. Speaker, that is just an example of a strategy this Province has adopted and is working towards it and is doing quite well in terms of meeting those objectives – and in laying it out too. I guess the point is that the public can follow it, and so they should, in terms of how the government is doing, what government's priority is, and exactly how they are doing overall on meeting those.

In the couple of minutes of I have left, Mr. Speaker, I just want to comment on a couple of great initiatives of this government just recently in terms of - an ongoing one from the Department of Health and Community Services, the whole wellness program launched in 2006 and looked at the overall health and wellness of the Province, because health too is about prevention. It is about us leading healthy lifestyles, taking care of ourselves, and the results from that are obvious in terms of our health care system. Some of the things that focused on in the initial phase, the first phase: healthy eating, physical activity, tobacco control, child and youth development, as well as a number of other wellness initiatives. That is so important and that was a strategy, obviously, of this government as well. As part of that, this year and every year there are wellness grants that are given to various organizations and groups out there at the community level.

Those volunteers I spoke of when I first spoke, in terms of them administering it on the ground and knowing what types of activities they are doing in terms of youth, seniors – it does not matter. There is a whole array of activities that are put out there, on the ground, all over the Province that this government is investing in and people are taking a lead role in them. Certainly, we are seeing the results.

I know even in my district, I see it as well. There was a program in St. Bernard's in Witless Bay, an after school program for the children there. As we know, studies show that the most inactive time of our youth is from 3:00 to 5:00 in the afternoon. This program directs funds at that to allow the Bay Bulls-Bauline Athletic Association to run a program there for those kids to stay after school. They are active, whether it is indoors or out, and it is certainly a benefit to those kids.

Mr. Speaker, those are just a couple of strategies that I identified that we had referenced to before in terms of all our strategies. Well, all our strategies are laid out for the general public to see. It is the direction we are taking. The public can see how we are investing. They can monitor and see how we are doing. We are doing well and we are investing, and to say this government does not have a plan or is not strategic, you just have to look at what we have done since coming into power, our success in doing that in a whole range of activities.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity and I look forward to speaking again on the Budget.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I certainly am pleased to rise today and to participate in the debate around the Budget. Obviously, there is no shortage of things that we can talk about as it relates to this particular Budget or indeed about the current circumstances and issues that are ongoing in the Province.

Mr. Speaker, over the next little while I would like to take the opportunity to talk about a number of the initiatives that government has indeed embarked upon, but also to talk about a number of the gaps that exist within the system right now where they are not meeting the demands that are being placed on them by the general public and by people in general.

Mr. Speaker, every day in the House of Assembly we have the opportunity to raise issues that are of importance to people in the Province. We do that around many different issues, and oftentimes some of the positions and some of the lobby that we engage in is what really form the initiatives and policies that government launches. Over the course of the last year we have been successful in getting the attention of government to move forward with some of these initiatives. However, we have not been able to move forward on many of them.

Just recently, Mr. Speaker, when we had the Budget introduced in the House, I guess we were all somewhat surprised to find out that government again this year was going to run a deficit that would reach almost $300 million; that they were forecasting deficits for the next two to three years, Mr. Speaker. We were surprised to hear that because this was a government that had really made a decision and almost went as far as to invoke legislation that would forbid deficits as a part of the budgetary process. They were adamant that we should have balanced budgets in this Province. Yet, Mr. Speaker, they continued to run deficits.

What was even more surprising to me is that back in the fall of 2009, when the Minister of Finance was doing media interviews, this is what he said: We have to get control now. Regarding and referring to our spending as part of the budgetary process. He said: I am not talking about cutbacks. There will be new initiatives and programs but we have to temper our expectations and we need to keep things under control. We have to make sure that the spending we do today is sustainable for the children of the future.

This was the message that the Minister of Finance was delivering to the people of the Province in the fall. It is a very different message that he was delivering in the spring, just a few months later when he introduced his Budget. He also went on to say that he felt that the pace of government spending was too fast and he issued a warning to people. He said: We have to ensure that the investments we make, whether we make them in health or in education or anywhere else, are sustainable over the long term.

Mr. Speaker, the messages were very confusing because we were getting a message from government that our spending was not sustainable, that we had to get control of it, but yet we continue to see that same spending climb on an annual basis in programs and services and we continue to see the government forecasting deficits.

Mr. Speaker, this is a government today that has twice the money to spend than governments before them. In fact, Mr. Speaker, in the last five to six years the amount of disposable income to spend on people and services in this Province has nearly doubled. We have a government today that has twice the money to spend on people than any other Administration ever before them and they are still not able to manage that in a fiscally prudent way even when they recognize themselves that what they are doing as a government is not sustainable, and not sustainable for the future for the people of this Province. What is the problem, Mr. Speaker? Is it that they do not want to make any tough decisions? Is it they do not want to be critical of where they have spent their money because they know where they have spent it? They have created all kinds of secretariats and agencies and divisions. They have appointed people in every single facet. They have put out money for all kinds of events and celebrations and ceremonies and all the rest of it.

So, Mr. Speaker, they have also spent a lot of money investing in the oil and gas industry. They bought equity shares in the industry because they wanted to be a player. They wanted to be at the table, so they bought their way in the door. They have been able to buy, Mr. Speaker, support around the Lower Churchill in terms of settlements. It seems like every single major deal that they wanted to do they have had to try and find their way to buy it out, to buy their way through the process. Just like they are buying their way through the process with Abitibi now, just like they are buying their way through the process with the Upper Churchill, just like they are buying their way through a process with the Lower Churchill, and it seems like all of this money is going out but we are not seeing a lot in return. We are not seeing conclusion on these deals. We are not seeing successful negotiations being reached. We are not seeing the fine print in which there is going to be money returning to the Province at some stage.

Mr. Speaker, where they are not spending money is also important. That is that they are not spending money in the fishing industry, which is in absolute crisis in the Province today. They are not spending money in rural Newfoundland and Labrador where we know that the urban-rural divide has grown. The gap is wider than ever under this current Administration, and we are not seeing the investments there.

We know, Mr. Speaker, that they are not spending money to alleviate the financial hardship of middle class and lower income families that they have, and the significant issues that they are dealing with.

So, Mr. Speaker, one needs to sit back and have a good, long, hard look at where this government has been putting their money. Now, we know there is a lot of money going into strategies. We have seen more strategies, heard of more strategies - I cannot say we have seen them all, Mr. Speaker, but we have heard about a lot of them. We have heard a tremendous amount about strategies. In fact maybe we should rename the Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development to the department of strategies on behalf of the Williams government, Mr. Speaker, because it seems like that is what they do there; that is what the whole operation has been all about.

Mr. Speaker, in all of these strategies, we have not seen strategies that have allowed for more prosperity and growth in rural areas of the Province. We have not seen strategies that have reduced our unemployment rate or our dependency on it. We have still not been able to create jobs that people do not have to move out of this Province and out-migrate to other areas. None of the strategies have been able to address those particular issues. We have not seen strategies that have addressed the gap between the rich and the poor in this Province, which still exists. We have more people today in Newfoundland and Labrador that are using it food banks than ever before. The statistics are going up. That tells me that there is a need. That is one of the most indicative pieces to tell you that there is a gap and that people need to have more financial security and disposable income. So, Mr. Speaker, a number of the things that have been out there certainly was not addressed in this particular Budget.

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about a number of issues, and I think I will start by talking about the situation that we have today within the medical system. Every day in this Province under this current Administration, we have had issues around health care. They have been continuous, they have been prominent, they have been serious and, Mr. Speaker, they have affected large numbers of people.

It seems that government is really quick to make commitments. They are really quick to say: We are on top of this, we are doing this, we are moving forward with this – we have a strategy for this is one of their very famous ones of course. Mr. Speaker, what we have continuously seen under this Administration is issues that have plagued our health care system.

I want to talk a little bit about the Cameron Inquiry because this is one of the particular areas – and as you know, the Cameron Inquiry was all to do about the fact that there was faulty testing done in laboratories within Eastern Health in this Province. There were hundreds of people whose lives were affected, many of these people who actually died, Mr. Speaker, many others who had faulty testing and so on; and as a result of it had wrong treatments, and as a result of it has had continuous medical problems.

Mr. Speaker, after the initiation of the Cameron Inquiry by Justice Cameron and the results were submitted, we were told by the government that they would move very quickly to ensure that all of these particular recommendations would be enforced and that these problems would no longer continue in our system. Well, Mr. Speaker, what we have seen a year later - a year later on the anniversary of the Cameron report, a year after government made the commitment that they were going to fix the problems within the laboratories in this Province and that people could be assured that they would have confidence in the system that we have. A year after that, Mr. Speaker, what we saw were more problems - a year after that what we saw were more problems.

We saw errors around cyclosporine testing and errors around those tests that resulted in one young boy being very critically ill and in hospital in ICU for many, many months. Mr. Speaker, it was all because there was no accreditation done in those laboratories. Although it was one of the number one recommendations that came out of the Cameron Inquiry, it was one of the things that government committed to do immediately, but a year later, we find out that there is still no accreditation process within those labs. As a result of that, Mr. Speaker, we end up in the same situation that we had with the faulty hormone testing, and faulty results and treatments being produced as a result of the work in those laboratories.

Mr. Speaker, what happened? Well this is what happened. Government failed to learn the lessons of Cameron. They talked a good talk. They made their speeches. They talked about all they were going to do and how they were going to rule, they were going to oversee and they were going to ensure that these things never happened again, but yet they did.

When they did, Mr. Speaker, guess what happened? It was not about them accepting responsibility for not overseeing the process and having a full account of what was happening in these labs. It was about whose head should roll and how many. It was about fighting with the people who work in the system.

Mr. Speaker, I have no problem with the fact that if there are individuals who work in any job within the public service and they do not do that job and they do not perform their duties to the expected level in the capacity to which they are hired, that yes, they should be let go. They should be let go, but they should never be the scapegoat for governments who have failed to do their own work.

Mr. Speaker, in light of that whole incident, we had the minister out running around with his head bobbing everywhere, saying all kinds of things, whatever was needed to be said at that time. Even things that the University Health Network would be stepping in, they would be going to run the laboratories over at Eastern Health. We had situations, Mr. Speaker, where pathologists were resigning key leadership positions. In fact, a number of them have. We had a shortage of pathologists to start with. We had the minister with the gloves on fighting with the pathologists, the very people we are depending upon to work in this Province for a lesser wage than they can make anywhere else in Central Canada or Western Canada, the very people that we are depending upon to provide the medical services for the people of this Province. All of sudden we had the minister out there taking pot shots at them. Taking shots at them everyday, putting all the blame back in their lap for a system that is what? For a system that government failed to implement the right solutions. They did not provide for the accreditation in the labs. They did not provide for the training for the workers that were identified for the lab technicians. They did not recruit the extra pathologist that was required. The documentation systems, Mr. Speaker, were not implemented. So who was supposed to take responsibility for all of this?

The first thing government does is not own up to its own responsibility but point the finger somewhere else. They pointed it fair and square into the laps of pathologists who got up the next day and said, I do not need this, and said we are not going to tolerate this. Therefore, they resigned a lot of their leadership positions. That is still the current the situation, which has not been remedied by the current government or by the Health Care Corporation.

Mr. Speaker, there was also supposed to be a plan to recruit and retain pathologists for the Province. We have right now, I think, still three pathologists who are on sick leave. I think we have several who were on vacation leave, and we had a number who were resigning their positions. As a result of it, others had to be brought in to take over those positions from other health care facilities in the country. This is where the University Health Network came in. Mr. Speaker, what does that say about the relationship between government and our professionals in this Province and those people who are entrusted with delivering health care for the people when you have those kinds of issues that are going on?

Mr. Speaker, we still have not gotten any answers on why the training was not provided for lab technologists. We are still looking for that. We understand that there is supposed to be legislation introduced in the House of Assembly. We have been through two sessions of the House of Assembly since that commitment was made. We have still not seen the legislation. So I guess we are going to have to wait and see some more if that will be the case.

Mr. Speaker, the other thing is that there was no oversight committee put in place. Although the Cameron Inquiry was done, although there were pages and pages of recommendations, although all of these things were meant to improve our system, to build confidence in that system for the people who use it, there was no oversight committee in place on behalf of government. That is one of the reasons, I think, why a year later a lot of these things were not done, they were not addressed, and we ended up again with faulty testing in our labs, this time around cyclosporine, and other people's lives were affected. So, Mr. Speaker, what we did see from the government in light of all of this was a lot of attacks. They were out attacking pathologists, they were attacking the corporation, they were attacking people who work in the labs, but they did not own up to their own responsibility.

It was just like in the Cameron Inquiry, Mr. Speaker, when you had Cabinet minister after Cabinet minister going before that inquiry and when they were asked about the situation around faulty hormone testing, you had one minister who did not read his briefing notes, did not read his briefing notes in which several hundred people died as a result of that faulty testing. We had other ministers, Mr. Speaker, who were in and out of the department so quick I do not even know if they had an opportunity to know what was going on. We had other ministers who then came into the department and said they did not need any briefing notes. Now, that minister did not stick around too long. He was there a couple of months and then he resigned and went off to private life again.

This is the way the department was being run. This is the kind of irresponsible actions that we have seen from ministers. In one of the largest departments in government, in one of the most fundamental departments that deals with the health of every single Newfoundlander and Labradorian, every single child, every single man and woman in this Province who uses that system and here we have ministers going in and out the door like yo-yos over there. I think we went through three ministers last year in that particular department. One would get in, they did not read their notes, then we would get another minister in there who did not want any notes, and then we would get another minister in there and all they are doing is just fighting with whomever mind to have a fight with them. That is all we have seen from the current Minister of Health. That is all we have seen, is confrontation with anyone who dares to step up with a problem in the health care sector, whether it is the ambulance operators, whether it is nurses, whether it is doctors, whether it is pathologists, whether it is boards, whether it is local people, whether it is employees, that is all we have seen is direct confrontation every single day by the minister opposite. We have certainly not seen any result that is for sure.

No confrontation, Mr. Speaker, is any more evident than what we have seen in the last number of weeks with the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association. Mr. Speaker, the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association is the association that represents all of the Province's doctors. They represent all of the Province's doctors. Whether you are in family practice or speciality services, Mr. Speaker, whether you work in Eastern Health or Central Health, or Western Health, or Labrador Grenfell, you are included in this group.

Mr. Speaker, it is unbelievable that this particular group is supposed to have been in negotiations with government to reach a new collective agreement and to deal with the issues around physicians in this Province for the past sixteen months. Guess what? For sixteen months absolutely nothing got done. Absolutely nothing was resolved. Mr. Speaker, after sixteen months you finally had doctors out there saying, this is not good enough. We need to do something. As soon as they started to speak up on their issue and raise their issue, what happened? We seen nothing only shameful behaviour by the Minister of Health, absolutely shameful behaviour. In fact, Mr. Speaker, he called a press conference a few weeks ago, calls a press conference and says that we are cancelling our scheduled, one and only scheduled meeting, to have a discussion with physicians in this Province because we think they gave the Opposition some information. Now, can you imagine? This is a minister of the Crown. This is every single doctor that deals with the health care of every person in this Province, and he is shutting down a negotiating meeting, a discussion meeting, that finally he is going to sit down with them after sixteen months, because he thinks they gave information to the Opposition. Well I have news for the minister, they did not. The Opposition has lots of sources in this Province, and it did not come from the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association. It did not. It was a conspiracy theory on behalf of the minister, because that is the way he operates. He operates on conspiracy theories, temper tantrums, aggressive behaviour, Mr. Speaker – I think there are programs for that kind of stuff too. Anyway, that is what we have seen.

The shameful behaviour that he showed to the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association could only be topped and followed by the behaviour of the Premier, Mr. Speaker. It could only be topped by one individual and that was the behaviour of the Premier, Mr. Speaker. The comments that were made about the offer on the table by physicians in this Province, it is no wonder they went public and released all the information. How bad is it, how desperate are you when your government that is there to govern, to negotiate, to set examples, to provide leadership, cannot even have a discussion with some of the top professionals in this Province, who will not talk to them about an offer that is on the table, can only say it is through the roof and it is too high – all of those kinds of comments – but, nothing about, listen, it is a bit elaborate, it is more than we expected, we are prepared to talk to them. We never once heard that kind of language. We heard anger; we heard bitterness. That is what we heard. We heard confrontation. We heard personal attacks on the individuals who were involved with the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association. That was what we heard. We never heard them talk about doctor recruitment. We never heard them talk about Atlantic parity for doctors. We never heard them talk about what they were prepared to offer. We never heard them talk about sitting down at the table and having negotiations and discussions.

Everything was being done through the media. Everything was being done through the media. Today, Mr. Speaker, it is still being done through the media. Even when the Minister of Health was questioned about where the gaps are in our system and the shortage of physicians – and he keeps saying again today that we are recruiting physicians in this Province at seventy physicians a year and so on. Well, Mr. Speaker, we have like 100 physicians turning over in our system every year. What they are recruiting is not even filling the gap that has being left. I can stand here today and name at least a half a dozen different hospitals that I know, right off of the top of my head, without even looking at a paper that have shortages of physicians, that are unable to recruit doctors.

Mr. Speaker, yet they will say that it is not a problem, that there is no problem. Mr. Speaker, we know that there is a problem. We have heard from people. We know about the numbers of people in this Province that still do not have a family physician; still are unable to get one. We know that this particular issue is not going to go away – it is not going to go away. If we are going to be able to continue to recruit doctors and retain them in this Province to provide the services that our people need and want, well then we are going to have to start dealing with the real issues that are on the table and just stop throwing the temper tantrums, just stop getting on with all the anger issues, and start dealing with real issues.

When all of this was occurring, and still occurring, and physicians were going out in the public and launching their information, letting the public know what their position was, forcing government's hand to put something out there on the table to do something publicly, they also asked that they be allowed to go to binding arbitration. Government has said no to binding arbitration. Yet, Mr. Speaker, when they were on the other side of the House, when they were standing in the Opposition, when the Premier of the day was the Leader of the Opposition, he had a very different view on the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association. In fact, at that time he felt that the parties needed to get a settlement. He felt that the physicians in this Province were too important, that they should not be underpaid. In fact, you know something, Mr. Speaker, he uses the fiscal argument today: We cannot settle with doctors because we have to be fiscally prudent. Now we can invest in oil companies; we can give money to the big oil. We can do all that, but we cannot invest in doctors because we have to be fiscally prudent; we have to manage our finances.

Guess what he said, Mr. Speaker, when he was the Leader of the Opposition? He said: Any government that cannot pay and reward their doctors shows that they are not good fiscal managers of the Province's purse. Well, how the shoe fits today, Mr. Speaker. How the shoe fits today on the same Premier. The same Premier who, a few years ago in 2002, felt that there needed to be a deal, it needed to be done in a timely manner, that the government of the day was not giving all of this the attention and the concern that it needed, that these issues were too important to be let go, that they needed to be dealt with. He felt that the government, at the time who did not have the financial resources to rewards their doctors and pay them adequately, was an indication of a government that could not manage the financial purse of this Province. Today, Mr. Speaker, he stands in his place, he stands in the media, and he says: We have to be fiscally prudent and we cannot pay doctors that kind of money.

So, Mr. Speaker, to use his own words, I guess what he is telling us is that he has not been very fiscally prudent either; he has not managed the wonderful wealth, the tremendous wealth and finances of this Province in the last five years in the way that it needed to be managed so that we could stabilize and sustain a strong health care system in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, in the last few days, there has been a number of other issues that have been taken on with the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association, the doctors, and the government. In fact, Mr. Speaker, the Premier rushed into the House of Assembly a few days ago with an e-mail from a doctor who is apparently one of his hockey buddies. I do not know if he plays left wing or right wing on the team, but one of his hockey buddies. He came into the House of Assembly reading this e-mail about this doctor who was discrediting the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association, the association that represents all of the doctors in the Province. Mr. Speaker, he was very quick, very eager to jump up in the House of Assembly and to tell the people of the Province here is the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association - here they are; they are a house divided. They are a house divided because he got one e-mail from a hockey buddy who happens to be a doctor.

What I have learned since then is that this doctor, Dr. Jewer, who happens to be a plastic surgeon, is one of three or four in the Province who has already achieved wage rates that are at parity or above parity with other Atlantic Canadian doctors, who stands to gain very little in any kind of pay or salary settlement, Mr. Speaker, as a result of this ongoing negotiation with the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association. Mr. Speaker, having said all of that, what Dr. Jewer wants is a whole lot more for his group than has ever been requested by the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association, and I guess that is why they have been offside and that is the reason this one doctor felt the need that he could degrade the organization that was out there to represent them.

Mr. Speaker, we have all seen houses divided. I am sure there are lots of people today who voted for the government opposite who do not support everything that this government does. I know that for a fact, because if I did not, if they were all out there supporting everything this government does I would never get an e-mail. I would never get a phone call; I would never get a letter. I would have no reason to because everyone would be happy, but just because, Mr. Speaker, you support something or you are a part of something it does not mean you agree with everything they do and the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association is no different.

Mr. Speaker, what I found really funny was the Premier's comments about a house divided, because no one should know that any more than he himself, because how soon we forget what happens inside our own houses some days. Mr. Speaker, I can tell you there has been lots of division inside the Williams government, lots of division. In fact, Mr. Speaker, one of the best examples of seeing the Williams house divided, or the Williams government divided, is when Fabian Manning, the Member for Placentia & St. Mary's, the crime that he committed as a member of the Williams government, the crime that he committed is unbelievable. He stood up for his constituents. What a crime that was! Guess what, Mr. Speaker? His constituents at the time, and still is in that district, are predominately engaged in the fishing industry, predominately engaged in the fishing industry.

Mr. Speaker, there was a crab strike on the go in the Province and at the time Trevor Taylor was the Member for St. Barbe, was the Minister of Fisheries, and I remember sitting in this House and the galleries were lined with fishermen and they were throwing jelly beans at the Minister of Fisheries because he was up trying to explain the fishery using a jelly bean analogy. Mr. Speaker, it turned into a jelly bean day in the House of Assembly, but there were many hot and heavy days in this House around that crab fishery. Guess what? One Conservative member of the Williams government from rural Newfoundland had backbone. He had enough backbone, Mr. Speaker, that he stood up to his government. He said, I have to support the fishermen in my district, this is their livelihood. They are the people who sent me here, and I have to do what is right and in their best interest.

He was standing against government's idea to push raw material sharing, as a solution to the fishing industry, down the throats of every harvester in this Province; every harvester who did not want it. Finally, one member – well, guess where Mr. Manning is today, Mr. Speaker? Guess where Mr. Manning is today? He is bringing all the federal cheques to the Province. Him and their other former colleague, Ms Marshall, who was removed from Cabinet; who was removed from Cabinet when she was the Minister of Health because she had a disagreement with the Premier. You talk about a house divided, Mr. Speaker. Well, when Ms Marshall disagreed because she got overturned by probably the Member for Humber West, I believe it is, and the Premier on the VON issue out in Corner Brook, she ended up stepping down as the Minister of Health because of differences with the Premier; differences in leadership style.

What did she do, Mr. Speaker? She sat in the backbenches for a number of years until Mr. Harper comes in and appoints her to the Senate. Now her and Mr. Manning, Mr. Speaker, they are in the Red Chamber in Ottawa. One stood up for his constituents; that was his crime. The other one would not kowtow to the Premier; that was her crime. Look at their sentencing, Mr. Speaker. They are in the big Red Chamber now up in Ottawa. They are in the Senate. Mr. Speaker, they went from the blue room in the Williams government to the Red Chamber, and guess what? They are delivering all the money, Mr. Speaker. They are bringing every dollar right now that comes to Newfoundland and Labrador on behalf of the federal government. They are standing up and they are presenting the cheques. Oh yeah, they are doing it, Mr. Speaker, but did they get any support? Did Mr. Manning get any support in the benches of his caucus when he stood up for his constituents? Oh no, oh no. They were all told by the Premier.

He came right from Texas – he was down in Texas at an oil show when everything went down, when Fabian had a weak moment and supported his constituents, Mr. Speaker. Maybe one or two more might have followed within a few days. Maybe the Member for Harbour Main might have gone out and followed, I would say, within a few days, but then the shot came from Houston, Mr. Speaker. It came right across the bow in the blue room of the Williams caucus and they were told either Fabian goes or I go. Those were the words. It is all out now, everyone knows now. Everyone knows the story now, Mr. Speaker. It is all out there now. Mr. Manning got picked up by his Conservative cousins and he is doing all right. So, we have seen lots of cases of a house divided on the other side.

For example, Mr. Speaker, what happened to the Member for St. John's South? He used to be a big, prominent Cabinet minister in this Province. He sat in the Cabinet for a number of years in the justice portfolio, in the health portfolio; probably one of the most popular MHAs in the St. John's area, Mr. Speaker, strong constituency support. What happened, Mr. Speaker? All of a sudden one day he was gone from the Cabinet. Taken right out of the Cabinet, and he has never seen the inside of the Cabinet room, I would say, since. He has been sitting in the benches doing his work as a good MHA should, trying to stay out of trouble, trying to stay under the Williams radar because he does not want to get booted right out of the blue room like the others. He would like to stay in the blue room, although he might never see the Cabinet room.

I just laugh when the Premier's attack on the doctors in this Province is that they are a house divided because one doctor, who happens to be his hockey buddy, says he has a problem with the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association because they are not going to lobby to get enough money for him. He wants more money.

Mr. Speaker, there are lots of other cases. Actually, I might mention a few because I have to mention the Member for Lewisporte. I have to mention the Member for Lewisporte when the whole issue was going on with the X-ray and the lab. I have to mention it, Mr. Speaker, because I still cannot believe it. I cannot believe it to this day. When I think about it I still shake my head and say it cannot be true. Mr. Speaker, for about twelve hours I had great admiration and respect for that member because what he saw is he saw through what his government was trying to do. They were trying to cut health care on the backs of people in rural areas in this Province and one of those areas happened to be in his district in Lewisporte. When the people got together in Lewisporte and they started to rally in the streets and they started to look to this government to save their service and they were not prepared to sit back and let this happen, they put their ads in the media, they put their ads on the radio, they buried the Open Line shows to get their message out to this government that what you are doing is wrong. With enough pressure, guess what the Member for Lewisporte did? He has a weak moment. He had a weak moment, Mr. Speaker, and all of a sudden he said: My, these are the people that elected me and sent me to the House of Assembly and they need me; yes I am going to support them.

He went out to the media, and he made the statements in support of his constituents. Twelve hours later, he was backtracking on every one of them. Twelve hours later, Mr. Speaker, he got the call from the blue room and he was told: You buckle down, you withdraw, you haul back or you walk. Yes, Mr. Speaker, the call came in. Within twelve hours the Member for Lewisporte was out praising his government up. He could not say enough good about them. Yet, they were ready to cut the guts out of health care in his district. They were out to cut the guts out of his own services in his own district. So, all of a sudden, he backtracked. He went low; he crawled under the radar. We did not hear too much out of him after that.

The Member for Grand Falls-Windsor-Green Bay South - we cannot forget the Member for Grand Falls-Windsor-Green Bay South, because this member tried to speak up for his constituents one time too. He tried to speak up for his constituents on one occasion as well, Mr. Speaker. He was causing a bit of division in the Williams government House on the ferries. It was on the ferries out in his district, but now they are losing ferries, they are only getting one ferry and it is going to take them longer to get to where they have to go. They are not going to have as reliable a service as they used to have but, he does not open his mouth any more. He does not say a word any more because the Member for Grand Falls-Windsor-Green Bay South got his knuckles rapped. He got his knuckles rapped, because he went out and supported his constituents. He stood up for his constituents, which is almost like a crime in the Williams government House, Mr. Speaker. So he got his knuckles rapped. Now they are out there, they are losing ferries, they are going to have a worse service than they ever had, they do not have the response times to emergencies, and they have to share a boat in Long Island with Little Bay Islands and not a peep out of the member, Mr. Speaker, not a sound, not a word. You would not know for what they could walk on water out there now, that they would not even need a boat.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, what did we see? The member right now, I do not even think he ever got appointed to a committee. I do not think he got appointed to a committee after by the government. That was his punishment. They let him stay in the blue room. He is still in the blue room, but he never got appointed to not even a committee since then. In fact, they have him set so far in the back benches and so close to the door over there, I am afraid if he falls off the chair and rolls out the door the cleaners will have him. He will not even be in the Chamber any more; he will be gone. I am really afraid for the member, Mr. Speaker. I am really afraid for him because his crime was he tried to stand up for the people that represented him. Isn't that something, Mr. Speaker? Isn't that a crime?

Mr. Speaker, we have seen lots of examples. We saw the Member for Bonavista North – how could I forget the Member for Bonavista North? The Member for Bonavista North who worked in the fishing industry and worked in the fish plant side by side with his colleagues in Bonavista North in the fishing industry. The very plant, the very company that he worked for came to this government looking for a shrimp licence, came to the government to find a shrimp licence. Do you know something? It had to go a board, an independent panel, a licensing panel. It had to go to a licensing panel. So they sent it to the licensing panel, and guess what? They came back and they said that this plant in New Wes Valley should get a shrimp licence. That is what they said. Honest to God, it was reported in the public; it was written that this company should get a shrimp licence. Guess what? The Member for Bonavista North must have been ecstatic. Here was a company that he was affiliated with, plant workers and fishermen who supported him, helped get him elected to this hon. Chamber, and all of a sudden they are going to get a shrimp licence. Oh, no they are not, Mr. Speaker. Oh no, they are not getting a shrimp licence. Guess what happened? The almighty Cabinet in the Cabinet room -


MR. SPEAKER (Kelly): Order, please!

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, the Member for Gander is really being obnoxious I find. I do not know if there is anything that you could do to try and quieten the member down. I think he needs to start working off more energy or something because he seems to be over exuberant today, over exuberant in the House of Assembly. I say to the Member for Gander: Don't you worry, I will get to you. You sit back and you relax because we are going to get to you as well.

Mr. Speaker, let me finish telling you about the shrimp licence that was going down in the Member for Bonavista North's district and all of a sudden the panel, the committee, or the licensing board decides they are going to give them the licence, then it has to go to the Cabinet room, the same room that the Member for St. John's South never got to poke his nose in, in the last two years, but it went into that Cabinet room and guess what? They lost their shrimp licence. The government said: No, you are not getting it. You are not getting the shrimp licence - only 300 or 400 people down there depending upon it. So, the Member for Bonavista North, he must have been heartbroken. He had to have been heartbroken because he went on the Fisheries Broadcast and he expressed how upset he was that his own government would do this. But, he never expressed it the next day, did he? He never expressed it the next day.

It was the shortest lived protest - probably a little longer than the Member for Lewisporte when he stood up for his constituents. Mr. Speaker, I can guarantee you right now that he was disappointed. Within a few hours, the attitude was changed because if he did not smarten up and fly under the radar he would never get back in the blue room. He would get back in the blue room ever again.

Mr. Speaker, we have not heard a sound after. In fact, we thought there was going to be a big cranberry production plant going down in that area. Guess what? None of that happened, but we never heard the member for the area out complaining about that and what happened with that, and how the permits were not coming through, and how this was not coming through, and that was not coming through. The company ended up moving to another province and investing their money in the cranberry operation. I say to the Member for Gander, I know all about it.

Mr. Speaker, I will tell you right now that you talk about a house divided; we have never seen anything like it before in terms of a house divided. I can guarantee you now. Over there, Mr. Speaker, the division is short lived, you either get out or you calm down and you fly under the radar. Mr. Speaker, when you get under the radar we know where you go then. You are silenced, you are quietened; you never hear another word from them. That is the end of it, Mr. Speaker. That is all you ever hear. There are many other examples that I could use but there are more important things I have to get on and talk about now.

Mr. Speaker, government likes to pride itself on announcing things, getting it done, moving quickly and deriving results. Well, I went into the Estimates last night for the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services. The Member for St. George's-Stephenville East, who happens to be the minister of the department, I think she spent last year going around to most of the offices in the Province with the exception of the twenty-two that they closed because they no longer exist, they shut them down. They shut down those offices, Mr. Speaker, when they came into power; twenty-two offices that they closed up.

MS BURKE: A point of order, Mr. Speaker.

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I would just like to point out to the hon. member who is speaking that the information she is talking about, the offices that were shut down had nothing to do with Child, Youth and Family Services or that service. It was a different government department and completely different services.

MR. SPEAKER: Okay, no point of order, a point of clarification.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister opposite knows; she was at the Cabinet table. She signed on up in the big room around the oval table when they closed down the twenty-two social services offices in this Province, Mr. Speaker. They closed down twenty-two of those offices. People were moved, people lost their jobs, people were relocated; all kinds of transfers went on. Mr. Speaker, she was travelling around the Province last year but I know there were twenty-two offices she was not in because they are no longer there, because she sat at the big oval table and she closed them down.

Mr. Speaker, we have had the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services - which, by the way, let me say, is a good department and I compliment the government because it is a good initiative and it needed to be done.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, I take a lot of credit for the government doing that because I stood in this House every day –


MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, I stood in this House every day talking about the issues of children in this Province and the fact that the agenda needed to be elevated, and my God, Mr. Speaker, for once they listened and I compliment them for that. Let me just say, it is a good initiative and it is a good department and we are happy to see that it is happening, but what I was disappointed to learn last night is that it is still in transition and it is going to be in transition for another year before we start seeing this particular department operating in the way that it should be. We certainly feel that government needs to move as quickly as possible to be able to streamline the services, the programs, the initiatives and the response that needs to happen for children in this Province. We certainly feel that another year going through a transition is a worrisome piece. We notice in the Estimates that a lot of the money that is budgeted for that department is for temporary positions which tells me that they are going to be into a transition period for the whole year before they start backfilling some of those positions, and we know that should be happening sooner rather than later.

Now, Mr. Speaker, there are a couple of other issues that I certainly want to talk about, and one of those issues is around the fishery. We have talked a lot about the fishery in the last few days in the House of Assembly asking questions of the government. We are doing that, Mr. Speaker, for a very fundamental reason. We have seen a lot of industry in rural Newfoundland and Labrador close up in the last number of years under this current Administration. We have seen two pulp and paper mills close down which have affected hundreds and hundreds of people in this Province. We have seen declines in the fishing industry on a year over year basis which have affected a lot of people and communities in this Province. We also know that in rural areas of this Province - you know our resource sectors are very important, our renewable resource sectors, because we know the dependency that exists on the fishing industry, on the agriculture industry, on the forest industry in particular, but also on the tourism industry, cultural industries and small-scale manufacturing. So, I want to talk about those issues, about rural communities and the fishery, and I will do so in great detail.

First, Mr. Speaker, I want to take the opportunity to move a sub-amendment. I move, seconded by the Member for Port de Grave; that the amendment be amended by changing the period at the end thereof to a comma, and by adding immediately thereafter the following words: "and that this House also condemns the government for its failure to present a budget that reflects the possibilities which exist in terms of addressing the needs of the people and dealing with problems such as; retirement package for fisherpersons and plant workers, crisis in the fishery, the extension of the 911 service, the public service pensioners, and the lack of economic development in rural Newfoundland and Labrador."

I table that, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair will take a brief recess to consider the amendment.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair has taken the time to review the sub-amendment and has declared the sub-amendment to be in order.

The Chair recognizes the hon. Leader of the Opposition.

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

I accept the apology from the Member for Gander. I assure you, he is apologizing for the heckling he did a little earlier. He is feeling somewhat a little bit terrible about it now, but I understand fully.

Mr. Speaker, as I was saying before I concluded my comments to move the sub-amendment, I wanted to talk a few minutes about the fishing industry in the Province. I feel very strongly about this industry, as I know a lot of my colleagues do in the House of Assembly, on both sides of the House, because it really is one of the few industries that have provided for sustainability in rural communities around the Province. Mr. Speaker, it is a sad situation that we find ourselves in, and I remember even back in the early 1990s when the cod fishery closed in the Province, and what an unfortunate event that was in our history to see the depletion of a cod stock that had supported so many families in that industry over such a long period of time for hundreds of years.

Mr. Speaker, being the kind of resilient people that we are and the innovative people that we are, communities, fishers and processors around the Province diversify very easily. They diversify very easily and very quickly to look at other species, to look at other fisheries, to look at modern technology, to look at new markets, to look at better product development. As a result of it, we built a stronger industry, financially, than we ever had in our lives. Now, we did it with a lot of new players, because a lot of the people who were traditionally in the groundfish industry of those days exited the industry. They took retirement programs, they took buyout packages and they exited the fishery. What we saw were a whole lot of new players coming in. We saw larger enterprises building up. We saw bigger processing facilities. We saw more modernized technology being used.

AN HON. MEMBER: Triple the crab licences.

MS JONES: We saw more licences and more plants, I certainly agree to that. We saw more people engaging in an industry that was paying a lot more money. It was bringing a greater return financially to harvesters, to plant workers, to processors, and to communities, and it was also deriving a greater benefit to the Province as a whole.

So Mr. Speaker, the dependency in the industry changed. It had fewer people; it had more wealth. It had fewer plants; it had more sophisticated technology. It had a different species, but it had more product development and we had broader markets.

Mr. Speaker, today, here we are, we are twenty years later. We are two decades later, and we are going through another transition in the industry, a transition that needs to be led by government. A transition, Mr. Speaker, in an industry where there has been a great dependency for a long time, where people cannot just be left to their own devices to survive.

Mr. Speaker, I have had calls from fisherpeople in this Province who have investments of $150,000 to $750,000 in loans and mortgages on their enterprises. They have to make those payments. Today, they do not have anything to fish. They are tied up at wharves. They have nowhere to sell, but they have hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars invested. They have their houses mortgaged. Everything they own in on the line and not just them as an enterprise owner, but the people who fish with them, the four and five crew members, the two and three crew members that are on their vessels. They are dependent upon this as well. This is the same income and enterprise that helps them pay their mortgages, put their kids through university and buy their cars.

Mr. Speaker, right now they are feeling the pressure because we have seen a 20 per cent decline in the industry last year. That means for most of them it was a 20 per cent reduction in their revenue. I have two brothers in the industry and one of my brothers, last year, told me his income dropped by 30 per cent in the fishing industry. I would say that was pretty common for most right across the board.

When you have those kinds of losses then you still have the same expenditure, you still have the same repayments, you still have the same commitments financially and you do not have anything to fish. What does that mean for you? What does that mean for those fisherpeople who have only little over four or five weeks to catch their crab before it is the end of the season and it is closed up? It is a terrible situation to be in.

Not only are they faced with the price and not having a price that affords them to fish because what you have to realize is that these particular enterprises have to buy bait, they have to buy gear, which is expensive. They have to pay for licensing fees, which some of them pay $5,000 to $10,000 in licensing fees. They have to pay for monitors because that is a program that the government has brought in. So every time they dock everything has to be monitored and they pay the bill. They have to have observers because that is a government policy. You have to have observers on your boat. You get dinged a bill for the observers.

Then you have the fuel prices. We have Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro today coming looking for a rate increase again in hydro rates under the Rate Stabilization Plan because of the cost of fuel. We know that we have to subsidize other industry in this Province because of the high cost of fuel, but yet the cost of fuel and diesel is going up to all these fishermen and their enterprises as well. So their cost is continuing to grow; their income is continuing to drop. So, this is the reason that they cannot just say, listen, we will go fish for $1.20 a pound when that they know that that $1.20 a pound is not going to allow them to break even or to make any money. That is the reality of the situation that a lot of them are in. There are others in a worse situation.

Do you know, Mr. Speaker, I think I have around sixty or sixty-two vessels or something in my district in what is called the under thirty-five fleet? Do you know that most of those vessels have a crab quota of 12,000 pounds of crab? If processors are only going to pay $1.10 a pound, you are looking at less than $13,000. Around $13,000 is the maximum income that enterprise can make. Do you know that every one of those under thirty-five fishermen have to have one, most of them have to have two - I think they actually have to have two crew members with them. They have to pay those crew members. They have to buy their fuel, which is right now I would say probably at about seventy or eighty cents, even with the subsidy for them on diesel. No, I believe it is actually over ninety - I will have to check that - a litre. Then they have to buy bait. Bait is like fifty or sixty cents a pound. This is the cost that these enterprises have. How do you make money? You have 12,000 pounds of crab. You are being offered $1.10 a pound. Your expenses are going to be at least, before your crew's wages even come out, 70 per cent of that. Then if you have payments on your boat, loan payment on your vessel that you have to make, it is very, very difficult. I often wonder how these people have survived for as long as they have, because they are not making any money, they are not making any money whatsoever. They are maintaining a livelihood is all they have been able to do.

Believe me I see it from the other side as well. I see it from the side of where processors are oftentimes, the fact that they struggle with trying to get good markets. They deal with fluctuating prices with the American dollar. I understand all of that as well. I understand that they have to continuously invest in new technology, better equipment, upgrades in their plants in order to be able to stay in the industry and be competitive. I know that these things do not come cheaply, and I know that a lot of these processors are investing a lot of money. I know there were years ago when they probably made huge profits, but I also know that a lot of them today do not make huge profits anymore, Mr. Speaker, and I know that for a fact. I know that for them it is difficult as well. What are their options? We do not want them to close up plants in this Province because we have so many plant workers out there who depend upon this for their livelihood.

How many people in rural communities, if they do not have those fish processing plants, how are they going to exist? They will not have an industry. If they do not have boats landing at the wharf, if they do not have fish coming over the plant floor, a lot of these communities will not make it. That is why we have been stressing to the government that you just cannot be an observer. You cannot be just a person who tells one side and the other side how to push paper back and forth. You cannot be just a person who continuously asks for this in writing and that in writing. At some point, Mr. Speaker, you have to take some real action.

We have seen this government step up only recently with Kruger in Corner Brook, which they needed to do, and I am glad they did it because we have already had two pulp and paper mills close in this Province. We cannot allow the third one to close and eliminate an entire industry. What a legacy that would be for the Williams government, the entire industry was eliminated under their governance. Mr. Speaker, Kruger needed investment capital. They needed money in order to stay in operation and be profitable. Government made the investment, $50 million investment to ensure that it would happen. Mr. Speaker, what makes that industry any different from the fishing industry? That is the part that people out there cannot understand.

The minister was on Open Line this morning. I do not have the transcript in front of me, but what he said was this, basically: We cannot do short-term programs, we cannot invest money in the fishing industry; that they are going to expect that we invest year over year, every year, because we are not prepared to do that. Well, he has already said they are looking at long-term solutions. They are looking at their MOU, the objectives, the initiatives that they can bring forward to rationalize within the industry. In the meantime, action is required by the government and it is not good enough to say we will not do anything now because it will only be short-term; we are going to wait until July. Well, Mr. Speaker, come July the crab fishery in the Province will be closed down, and guess what? We will be into another issue. We will be into an issue with the shrimp fishery. That is where we are going to be headed come July. We are going to have problems with the shrimp fishery that are going to have to be resolved.

So, Mr. Speaker, I was very disappointed, very disappointed this morning with the comments by the minister, because he threw his hands in the air as if to say there is nothing that we are prepared to do. When you say that we are going to have something in July, you have already said we are prepared to lose this season, we are prepared to let this season go and not have anything happen. Well, Mr. Speaker, that is not good enough. It is not good enough.

In fact, I had a call from an individual - a fisherman right after the minister was off the Open Line this morning. Mr. Speaker, that individual called my office because he was very upset. He is from the District of Bellevue, Mr. Speaker, where there are a lot of fishing people as well; a lot of fishermen, a lot of plant workers living in that particular district. Mr. Speaker, they were devastated, because they are looking for leadership on this issue, they are looking for government to lead a solution, not sit back and just observe what is happening while hundreds of thousands of them go without an income. Do you know that almost every one of those people would be without a paycheque today? Most of them, their EI claims ran out within the last two weeks. Do not think that they do not want to be on the water fishing, because they do. Do not think that plant workers do not want to be in the plants processing fish, because they do. Do not think that processors do not want to be in production, because they do. There are issues, there are challenges, and they need to have solutions that are led by government. Mr. Speaker, the minister knows this. He has two studies in his office that he refuses to release to the public. One that was done on the processing sector, and one that was done on the harvesting sector. He has indicated in the House of Assembly that he feels that both of those reports have a common message, and that is that the fishing industry is not sustainable as it is today for harvesters or for processors.

Well, there is your message, Mr. Speaker. There is your message. Now do something about it. Do something with it, because I can tell you right now that if this government is prepared to wash their hands of the fishing industry than they are washing their hands of rural Newfoundland and Labrador, and that is exactly what is happening. That would be exactly what is happening because the dependency on this industry exists in rural communities, but to think that they are the only ones directly affected is an absolute myth. Other areas in this Province are impacted as well.

You go to Gander on a Saturday, Mr. Speaker, and you walk through the shopping mall in Gander on a Saturday, and you will see who is in the shopping mall in Gander on a Saturday. They are from down Gander Bay, Mr. Speaker. They are from down in all the fishing communities around that area. They are from down in all of those fishing communities, Mr. Speaker.

MR. O'BRIEN: (Inaudible).

MS JONES: The Member for Gander is over there saying: yes, and I am in the Gander Mall every morning; 8:30 Saturday morning I am in Walmart. Well, I am going to tell those fisher families maybe they should go to Walmart on Saturday morning and start lobbying the Member for Gander, who is a member of the Cabinet, to see if he can find some solution for their industry, instead of over there shouting and bawling across the House, Mr. Speaker, making absolutely no sense.

The fact that this industry only affects rural communities is an absolute myth, because you can go in the Gander Mall and you will see people spending their money from all the outport communities, from all the fishing communities. The beautiful, picturesque communities in this Province, Mr. Speaker, that have built the culture that we are so proud of.

You go in to Grand Falls, and you walk through the mall in Grand Falls on a Saturday, Mr. Speaker. You go in and walk through the Grand Falls mall on a Saturday and you will see the people there from Triton and Springdale and Robert's Arm and King's Point, from all of those communities that depend upon the fishing industry. They will be there on Saturday spending their money in the Gander mall and the Grand Falls mall adding to the economy of the communities and the region, Mr. Speaker, because that is what this industry has always done. These people are buying vehicles, they are buying furniture, and of course they are contributing to the local economy. You go into Corner Brook, Mr. Speaker –


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair is having difficulty hearing the Leader of the Opposition. All hon. members are reminded that the Standing Order sets out certain expectations regarding decorum in this hon. House. It is the Chair's awesome responsibility to ensure that decorum is held. Thank you.

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Thank you for your protection, I really appreciate that, Mr. Speaker.

As I was saying, you go to Corner Brook on a Saturday – and I know because I have been there many times. Most of my district uses the West Coast of the Island for all kinds of services. Maybe we will start using Goose Bay more now because we have a road and I think that is already happening, but both ways, Mr. Speaker. It is not just the people from my district, but all the Northern Peninsula, all the Bay of Islands area, all of the White Bay area. Mr. Speaker, these people all go there to shop and to purchase and to do business. So to think that the fishing industry is only supporting rural communities is an absolute myth, but the dependency in rural areas on the industry is far greater, directly than it is in any other part of the Province.

Mr. Speaker, I have yet to go around this Province in any rural region where I have not met people in the fishing industry who live in all of these communities, and they will tell you how difficult it is for them. They will tell you how difficult it is to live in rural communities these days, because although the Province has doubled its wealth, although we have more disposable income to spend on people than we ever did before in our lives, a lot of that wealth is not penetrated into rural areas of the Province. A lot of these communities do not feel that they have been tremendously enhanced or invested in, in any major way. In fact, Mr. Speaker, most of them have seen no other employment to replace the jobs that they have.

I remember, actually I think it was back maybe almost a year ago now when I met with the Canadian Small Business Association. Mr. Speaker, they talked about, at that time, that there was over 300 businesses that had closed up in the Province. A lot of those businesses were in rural areas, they were not in St. John's. It was not St. John's based businesses that were actually closing up. It was businesses that were outside of this area. In fact, the statistics in the St. John's area were telling you a very different story, telling you a story of new business investment and new growth because of the direct benefits they were feeling from government's investment and industry investments, but when you moved outside of that you were not feeling the same thing.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, you go into many of these communities and for the last five years they have had the same issues, the same infrastructure problems that have not been addressed, they have had the same issues around jobs and employment, most of them are having to migrate to other provinces to find employment. They certainly feel that the wealth has not contributed to growth in their areas in any major way whatsoever. In fact, again, all of that comes back to the fishing industry, because if that is the only industry that they have to depend upon in all of these regions to be able to continue to sustain themselves as communities and government is refusing to get involved, refusing to leave solutions, well then I think it will be a sad situation for all those involved.

Mr. Speaker, we also mentioned today issues around the sealing industry. You just have to go back only about three or four years ago in this Province and the sealing industry was a major industry. It contributed millions of dollars in that year to the provincial economy. It gave fishing families in this Province a boost like they never had before, because they had a lucrative market, they had top dollar for pelts and they were moving along. They were moving along in this industry. Mr. Speaker, where are we today? The entire industry has collapsed around us. It has been eroded. Fishermen have been calling into our office because they have nowhere to sell a seal pelt this year. You have one buyer in the Province who happens to be the Barry Group of company, he is buying, I guess, what he is going to use himself or he can market, which is what any successful entrepreneur does, and he has selected who he is going to buy from, I guess people he does business with.

I know there are a number of fisher fleets in my district that are out to the ice fishing and I know that they have a market to sell with the Barry Group, but what about all of these other people who do not? I have gotten calls in the last week from all over the Province. Most of them are even small boat fishermen who normally would have gone out and gotten 200 or 300 pelts for themselves in the spring of the year and made good money on it, but because of the ban by the European Union and because we have been shut out of that market, the fact of whether we supported it or not is not changing anything. Of course, I am glad we did not support it. Why would we support it? Who stands up, Mr. Speaker, and votes to take away their own livelihood? Nobody! Nobody does that, but like the Premier said today, we are proud that we are the only ones who did not support it. Well, nor should you support it. It is like voting to take away the bread that you have to feed yourself. Why would you do that?

What have we done in return? How have we fought back? In the last year we have heard nothing, only complete silence on this industry from government. There is $100,000 in the Budget this year like has been there the last four or five years to maintain the Web site, to do the communications work, and that is it. Where is the new plan, the new ideas, the innovative work in new product development around the industry, breaking into new markets? Why do we just need the Government of Canada to lead an exploratory mission to China to look for markets? Why aren't we doing it? Why aren't we doing it with Nunavut and with other provinces that depend upon this industry? Why aren't we the people who are there in the meetings, securing the markets for the processors in our area? Those things are not occurring.

I like what Nunavut is doing. I really like the fact that they are having a good, long discussion about banning European alcohol imports in their territory. I really support that and I hope that they go through with it, and I would like to see the government in this Province look at doing the same thing.

The European Union has pounded us with a stick. They have beaten us with a stick when it comes to the sealing industry. Yet, we are still importing their alcoholic beverages, putting it into stores that are operated by the government in this Province. Why are we doing that? Why are we doing that? I think as a society we can live without Guinness beer and a few bottles of French wine, Mr. Speaker, absolutely no problem - not a problem at all – so I hope that is something the government will do, because these countries need to understand that this works both ways.

I know what the argument will be about the World Trade Organization and all that stuff, but none of these people have done us any favours. What has the World Trade Organization done for us lately, to help us break into new markets or be able to sell our products in other areas around the world? Absolutely nothing, so we hope to see some action on that.

The other issue in the fishery, Mr. Speaker, I want to raise is what is happening with the employees of Ocean Choice International. We have been getting calls out of the Burin area with what is happening at the Burin plant and the workers not getting the hours there that they were hoping to get. We know that one of the agreements that OCI signed on to when the government decided to give them the assets of Fishery Products International, was that they had to maintain the employment numbers and hours in those plants. They had to maintain the number of plants and the number of workers, a complement of work each year. Mr. Speaker, Burin was one of those plants. Now, all of a sudden we are getting calls from workers and we are into the forth year of the agreement. They are saying to us: We are not getting the hours; we are not getting the work.

Then we are into other situations with price negotiations between the unionized workers and OCI. I am really worried about where those things are going. I know that some of these plants are crab plants, but a lot of them are groundfish plants. A lot of these people depend upon this particular fishery in that particular plant to do what they need to do, to get employment; those are the only jobs that they have. I think there was a guy on the news last night from Bruin - or maybe I read it in the paper, I cannot remember. No, I believe it was on the news. He was talking about the fact that he may have to go away after twenty-five years of working in that plant in the processing sector. These things are hard for people. They are really hard for people because they have built their homes and they have their families established. They are in a job that they enjoy and they like and are comfortable with, and it is providing a living for them. The last thing they want to do today is have to uproot and move. That is the last thing that they would want to do.

Mr. Speaker, there are lots of issues I could raise in the fishery, but there is one other that I will raise. This is one that I brought to government's attention in the past, and we have not seen any action on it yet. I would like to remind them of it because I would like to see some action on it. Mr. Speaker, last summer there was a huge issue with trying to find buyers for cod. I remember going to different areas in the Province and there was no one purchasing cod, no plants were buying cod and processing it. They were saying they could not find a market. We have a limited commercial cod fishery in most areas around the Province, but we have a viable, strong commercial cod fishery in the Gulf areas in particular. They do not seem to have a problem, in the Gulf areas, in terms of selling, but it is on the Northeast Coast areas where we saw the fishery closed for a long time then reopen, the plants are not established there and they do not have the markets for their product.

One of the things that a lot of the fishermen did, Mr. Speaker, was they got their cod, most of it by hook and line, they salted their cod, they dried it and then they sold it to a local market. For example, if I wanted to buy 100 pounds of cod, I should be able to go in to the guy down the road and say I want to buy 100 pounds of cod off of you, and I would buy it. Guess what happened? They started getting taps on the shoulders by conservation officers in the provincial Department of Fisheries. They started to be told that what you are doing is illegal. Guess what? It is illegal because there is a regulation on the books that says you are not allowed to sell to a local market - sell out of the back of the truck, we often call it. How many times have you went around in the Province and seen someone with some dried salt cod in the back of their truck selling it on a Saturday or whatever, you pick up a couple of cod fish and you go home? It has been happening for years and years in this Province. Now, all of a sudden your government, you as a government, have decided to enact the law. So, all of these guys are getting tapped on the back by conservation officers at a time when they have nowhere else to sell their cod only to local people who are prepared to buy it. They are being told: You are not allowed to do this. If I catch you doing it, I will charge you.

There was no end to the calls that I got. I went home to my own district and I actually called up a fisherman to try to buy some cod and he was not allowed to sell it to me. I could not believe it; I was not allowed to buy it.

So, Mr. Speaker, I have asked the Minister of Fisheries and I have asked the government to either relax on the legislation or take it out of the act altogether. The least that you can do is give these people an opportunity to try to make a living. That is all they are asking for. They are asking for an opportunity to catch their 3,000 pounds of cod or whatever they are allowed or entitled to catch. Because they have they no fish plant that is willing to buy it, let them salt it, let them put it up, and let them sell it to the neighbours, to the locals down the road, to the people in the next community, out of the back of their truck in a parking lot on a Saturday afternoon, whatever the case may be. Is that too much to ask? So, Mr. Speaker, I hope that the government will move to take that regulation off the books and do it.

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about the air ambulance services now for a few minutes. This has been an issue that has upset many people in the Province, but none as much as probably the ones on the Northern Peninsula.

Air ambulance has seen gaps in the service. For the past two years, in particular, it has been relevant. I have raised six different cases myself of where there has been problems and delays with air ambulances or I have asked for investigations or inquiries through the Department of Health or the health board on these particular incidents. I remember last summer, in particular, dealing with three particular medevac cases out of Labrador West in the span of one month. Mr. Speaker, it begged for people in Labrador to take action and so they should have and they did. I supported their actions wholeheartedly. Their action was to have an air ambulance based in Labrador as a third air ambulance for the Province.

Mr. Speaker, I sat in a Combined Councils meeting in Labrador West of which not one government minister attended, including the Minister of Labrador and the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs. I sat in that Combined Councils meeting in Labrador West this year - I think it was in early February – and this issue was discussed around air ambulance. Guess who was there besides all of the mayors and councillors that were attending in Labrador? There was also the mayor of St. Anthony there, Mayor Simms.

Mr. Speaker, the discussion was about air ambulance services. The people in that room, the leadership in Labrador, made it very clear. They made it very clear, and Mayor Simms in St. Anthony knows this because he was there, and everyone else - almost all of the Federation of Municipalities, I think, were there. This is what they said: We want a third air ambulance for Labrador, but we do not want it at the expense of someone else. We are not lobbying to have this plane and this service taken out of St. Anthony. We want to have a third service for the people of Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, I told them in that meeting that I would support getting a third air ambulance but I would never support having it taken out of St. Anthony, because it was the wrong thing to do.

Mr. Speaker, what this government has done is they have played the lowest form of politics that any government could ever play, and they did it with one of the most critical files in this Province, air medevac, responding to medical emergencies when people's lives are in jeopardy. That was the file that they chose to play their little political game with. How sad that is, Mr. Speaker. How sad that is, but it tells you a lot. It tells you a lot about the people that you are dealing with, about the people that you have entrusted with decision making power. It tells you, Mr. Speaker, that when they get a little itch they will stop at nothing to get it scratched. That is what we have seen with the air ambulance service.

Mr. Speaker, they had a committee in place. There was a committee in place through the Department of Health and Community Services that was already given a terms of reference and tasked with studying air ambulance in the Province; road ambulance, air medevac services for the entire Province. Guess what? Minister Kennedy went outside of all of that. He went outside of his own process. In fact, Mr. Speaker, he went out and hired his own consultant; someone out in the Member for Trinity North's district, from what I understand. They gave him some money; he went out to do the study. It was the most amateur piece of work I ever seen put together in my entire life on a critical service in this Province. I was absolutely shocked. You look at it, it is probably ten pages, six or eight of them are statistics. The rest of it is supposed to be a justification.

Mr. Speaker, 236 of those medevacs came out of my district, and guess what? Not one person in my district was ever consulted. We use St. Anthony hospital, not the Labrador facilities. We use St. Anthony hospital; that is our referral pattern. That is the air medevac service that we use. Yet, we were counted in the statistics with the rest of Labrador even. In addition to that, Mr. Speaker, 236 medevaced patients in my district and not one person gets consulted; not one town, not one councillor, not one mayor, not one public meeting.

All of the Northern Peninsula is affected, and guess what? There is one consultation session with a consultant and a senior bureaucrat in the Minister of Health's department. Why would a senior bureaucrat have hands on in what is supposed to be an independent study on air medevac services and air ambulance services? It does not make sense to me. It has kind of lost its independence right there don't you think? They call up the mayor and the council in St. Anthony on one night, they say we are going to be there the next morning and we want to consult with you on air ambulance. Not one other person was consulted.

The Member for St. Barbe sits in the caucus. His district is affected, and no one in that district was even consulted; no one on the West Coast of the Province, the Central region of the Province. How do you do a study on air ambulance services to look at where the deficiencies are, how do you improve response time and what other services are required if you only take one little area and that is what you look at? It does not work that way. The minister stands up and says the study told me that we were not justified to have a third air ambulance. I went through that study with a fine-tooth comb and I have yet to find where in that study there is an argument outlined for that. It does not exist.

So, Mr. Speaker, it was all pure politics. They lost a seat in a by-election. During that time the Minister of Health stood up in that district and apologized to people for making a decision to shut down their X-ray and lab services in the Flower's Cove area, saying we did not consult with the people, we did not do our homework, we did not have all the information, we did not have all the facts. These are the kinds of things that he was up there saying. Then, three, four months later, he is back doing the same thing all over again. It is talk, it is cheap talk. It means nothing. How can you have any confidence and trust, Mr. Speaker, in a minister who looks at you and apologizes because they made a wrong decision and did not consult with you, and then they go and make another wrong decision and they still do not consult with you? It does not make any sense.

Mr. Speaker, we feel that the study is inadequate. We feel that the people of Labrador should have an air ambulance and they should have a medevac team but it should be a third air medevac system for the entire Province. I really believe, and I say this based on the knowledge that I have from people who work in the air medevac system in this Province, and the conversations that I have had with them, that we will have a lesser service, that people's lives will be impacted by the decision that this government has made. Mr. Speaker, they made it for no other reason, other than the fact that they want to issue a form of punishment. Well, if you want to do that you could have picked a better way to do it. You do not gamble with the lives of people to capitalize on your own political agenda, and that is all I see happening here.

Mr. Speaker, we will continue to fight this issue. We will continue to fight this issue, and we will fight it and fight it every single day in this House of Assembly. We will do it either in Question Period or we will do it in petitions, or we will do it in debate, but we will do it every single day to remind the government of the decision that they have made. I just hope and pray, Mr. Speaker, that no one's life is ever lost as a result of it. I just hope and pray that never, ever happens, because there is one thing to play politics but there it is a whole different game when you play politics with essential services like this, and that is exactly what we see happening here.

Mr. Speaker, there are lots of issues that I could certainly talk about, and I want to talk about a few more of them because I am not sure how much time I have left. One of the issues I want to talk about are the issues around the caribou hunt in Labrador. I was kind of taken back with the response from the government as it related to the caribou issue in Labrador. I do not know how many people are aware of it or not, but I can tell you one thing, Mr. Speaker, and that is the people in Labrador are not happy with government's action toward the Quebec Innu on the caribou issue. In fact, Mr. Speaker, it has been going on for a number of years. I have documented everything here from 2004 onward. From the time this government has been in office, where the Quebec Innu has been protesting in hunts in closed zones in Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, even going back to 2004 in Cache River where there were 100 Quebec Innu hunters hunting in a closed hunting zone. This has been going on since 2004, and has not been addressed by the government opposite. In fact, Mr. Speaker, Labrador hunters are being charged. Labrador hunters are in court today for hunting in a closed zone – and guess what? Most of them did not even know they were in a closed zone.

I met with all of these hunters. They did not know they were in a closed zone, because the proper maps were not issued to them on that particular day. They passed conservation officers on their way to the hunting grounds, they told those officers where they were going, and they knew that was an open zone. They proceeded, and guess what? I think they were three kilometres outside of the open zone - now what a mistake to make. People can make those kinds mistakes. There were already carcasses there; there were dead animals there. When they got there, they thought they were in the right area.

MR. WISEMAN: Do you believe that?

MS JONES: Indeed I do believe that, I say to the Member for Trinity North. I do believe that, because I know these hunters – those twenty-one or twenty-two hunters. I know a lot of them personally in Goose Bay. I have dealt with them over the years, and I do not think they would be lying about this. I honestly, truly believe them. Do I think that there are people who think that they can break the law and get away with it? Absolutely, I do. Do I think that there are people who are doing it? Absolutely, I do as well.

I honestly believe that in the case of most of these hunters that were charged, if not all of them, it was honest, legitimate mistakes that were all made in that forty-eight hour period when they were all going into the same areas. In fact, I have the maps here. If I had the time, I could hook them out. I tell you, the department did not even change the maps and put out the proper information on their Web site until after.

Mr. Speaker, let me just say this. I have today, in my district, seventeen Metis hunters. Seventeen Metis hunters who hunted in an open zone, but guess what? They hunted with an Aboriginal licence that the year before was sanctioned by the government opposite and they were allowed to use. The next year, they went out and hunted with that same licence, and guess what? The government decided, we are not going to look at your licence as being valid any more and we are going to charge you. When did they do it? After the hunt. After the hunt, after people came back, after, when they were stopped by conservation officers, their information was taken, they were photographed, and four, five or six months later they were charged by the Department of Justice. That is what happened to seventeen Metis hunters in my district.

Look what is happening to the hunters in Goose Bay today. Every other day there is one or two of them getting called into a courtroom. Why, because they made a mistake? The government is all tough now. They are all tough on our own people in Labrador. They are tough on the people who have lived there all their lives and went in and took a caribou or two for their winter. They got the big guns out, they are flexing their muscles now, but what have they been doing since 2004 when the first 100 Innu hunters showed up in Cache River killing caribou in a closed zone, like an open season, a massive slaughter? You hear the minister out talking this morning that they charged one person because they did not have the technology and they could not get all the information. What foolishness, I say to the minister. What foolishness since 2004.

It is time for you as a government to do your job. What would you do if there was a terrorist attack in this Province, for God's sake? What would you do? You would just crawl in under a table and wait until they were finished the slaughter and leave? We have military forces in this Province. We have military personnel that are trained to deal with any situation in the world, but we cannot stop a few hunters from hunting in a closed zone unless they are our own people. Then we can throw the book at them. Then we can drag them into the court, throw the book at them, give them the big hefty fines, and lock their caribou up in the government freezers.

What do we see with the Quebec Innu? Drive up in their big pickup trucks, take out their big snow machines, go and do their caribou hunt, put a couple of hundred caribou in the back of their trucks and head for home. Where is the Member for Lake Melville? Why haven't we had him up speaking? Why hasn't he been getting his government to do better enforcement up there since 2004 when this has been happening, case after case documented of Quebec Innu hunters in Labrador land and territory, taking animals with no action from the government opposite?

Then the Member for Springdale stood up one day and said: We care. He made a fifteen minute speech about how ‘we care'. Yet, the fishermen down in his own district, today, that are calling me, are tied up to the wharf and do not know if they are going to pay for their boats this year, but he cares, oh yes. Yes, he cares. How about the fact that I bet there is not a person in his district who has a hunting violation who does not end up in the court. I bet his government drags every one of his constituents into the court, heaves the book at them on every single hunting violation. Just like they are doing with my constituents, just like they are doing with the constituents in Lake Melville, but they are not doing it to those that come from away, because they are afraid of them, they do not have enough technology. Since 2004, they cannot get the right camera shots to drag them into court.

Now isn't that something? That is what I heard the Minister of Natural Resources, the same minister who is going lead the negotiations on the Lower Churchill. She is the lead minister for the Lower Churchill file, for the Abitibi file, and she cannot stop a few hunters from slaughtering the massive caribou herds in Labrador. Well, Mr. Speaker, I have lost confidence, I have to say. I have lost confidence. It is no wonder I had to bring in the sub-amendment today. I had no other choice only bring it in.

Mr. Speaker, this is a serious issue. Do you know what is serious about it? It is when you live there and when you know these people, and you know that they are going off on their Ski-Doo, they are going in the country, they are getting their couple of caribou like they have done all their lives, they know the land like the back of their hand, and they were three miles away from an open caribou zone and thought they were in the right area, and all of a sudden they are in the courts every day in Goose Bay. These people are getting big fines. Who is standing up for them? They did not have to be charged. The Department of Justice did not charge anyone else from hunting in closed zone. Why couldn't you drop the charges against the people in the Lake Melville area? Why did they have to be dragged into court, and not the Quebec Innu? Why, Mr. Speaker? Why is there a double standard in how this government applies the law? Well, there is one and it certainly exists.

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about a few other issues, because I know that I am getting close to the end of my time, and there are some important things that I have not yet gotten an opportunity to mention. I would like to take an opportunity to do that now. One of those things has to do with the high-speed Internet access in the Province - the broadband technology.

Mr. Speaker, I never forget when the government brought in the $15 million to give to the friends of the Premier's company to go out and put fibre optic cables across the Province. I remember the Member for The Straits & White Bay North at the time, Trevor Taylor, talking about how they were going to do it up with duct tape. All of the fibre optics, they were going to use duct tape, kind of a duct tape material. I never forget it, Mr. Speaker, $15 million they invested. Guess how they sold it to the people of the Province? Guess how they sold it? They said: we need this because we are going to put broadband technology into all the areas, all the government buildings across the Province. Here you had towns out there with schools and no high-speed Internet, with hospitals and no high-speed Internet, with a wildlife office and no high-speed Internet, with a social services office and no high-speed Internet, all getting excited, because now as a community we are going to get broadband technology. We are going to get the Internet, high-speed Internet. They were so excited. The government said it is going to cost us $200 million to do this, in the vicinity.

They called for proposals. They let the proposals sit on their desks for over a year, without even responding to the companies that bid. I remember asking the minister questions in the House, the Minister of Innovation, who should be the minister of strategic plans. Mr. Speaker, asking him the questions, and guess what he was saying to me? Oh, we are looking at these options, we are negotiating, we are examining everything, we want to make sure we do all this right. Guess what, Mr. Speaker? The next thing we get is a little press release. We get a little press release slid in under the office door saying the broadband project is now cancelled. We will not be going ahead with the broadband initiative. No high-speed Internet. The $15 million is gone, but there is no broadband initiative. So we have a lot of questions around that. We would like –

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development, on a point of order.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SKINNER: Mr. Speaker, I do not mind when she stretches the truth and I do not mind when she twists it, but I have to respond and say that government did not say that we would not have broadband or high-speed Internet access throughout the government buildings in Newfoundland and Labrador. That was not in the press release, government did not say that. What we have indicated is that the project, as we were moving forward, was not going to be moving forward as we had anticipated and we would be having another plan.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There is no point of order.

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition, and I remind the hon. Leader of the Opposition of the time, and unless we are willing to return at 7:00 o'clock, to be mindful of the time.

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Okay, Mr. Speaker. Maybe I should adjourn debate now, or do I finish my time? I am not sure?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. Leader can adjourn debate now and use her time when we return on another parliamentary day, if that is her wish.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, considering we are within four minutes, and the Leader of the Opposition has had significant time and would probably like to conclude her remarks, we have no problem right now stopping the clock to allow that to happen as opposed to returning here at 7:00 this evening.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the wish of the House that we stop the clock for the three-plus minutes that the Leader of the Opposition has to complete her remarks?


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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I appreciate the opportunity to conclude my remarks this evening as opposed to on another parliamentary day. I am glad that the minister stood to clarify his position because he just reiterated for me that broadband will not be going into those communities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador that were led to believe that they would be getting this technology.

Mr. Speaker, there are so many communities out there that need it. In fact, maybe I should be asking the minister this question because I know that there is a proposal from my own district. Maybe he will fund that one in partnership with the federal government, and not only for my district, for the Member for Lake Melville, for the Member for Torngat Mountains, to put Internet service into, I think it is nine more communities throughout Labrador that I know would very much appreciate having that service. So maybe, Mr. Speaker, in light of the fact that the government cancelled the rest of the program, perhaps they will come forward and partner with the federal government to ensure that there are another nine communities, I think, in Labrador that will get broadband services. When he does that, Mr. Speaker, I will be the first in the House to stand up and pat the minister on the back in the Department of Innovation and talk about the great job that he is doing. I can assure him that, Mr. Speaker.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, I have had an opportunity today to talk about a number of issues which are very important to people of the Province. I am sure as time goes on in the next several weeks of debate in the House there will be lots of other issues that we will raise, but I certainly want to thank hon. members for their attention today, their attentive behaviour. Especially the Member for Gander, Mr. Speaker, whom I want to remind people, will be at Walmart in the Gander Mall at 8:30 on Saturday morning, according to his feedback earlier.

I certainly thank members for their co-operation, and I thank you as well, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, before I put forward a motion to adjourn for the day, which I am sure everyone would have preferred to stay here and further this debate, but we will have time on Monday, of course, to do that. Before I do that, Mr. Speaker, I would like to just inform the hon. House that Monday morning, April 26, the Resource Committee will meet in the House at 9:00 a.m. to review the Estimates of the Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development, and the Newfoundland and Labrador Research and Development Council, and the Rural Secretariat.

Further to that, Mr. Speaker, on Monday afternoon the Government Services Committee will meet in the House at 6:00 p.m. to review the Estimates of the Department of Government Services and the Government Purchasing Agency.

Mr. Speaker, my final bit of work for the day will be: I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board, that this 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 1:30 of the clock tomorrow, being Monday.

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