April 26, 2010                       HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS                  Vol. XLVI  No. 10

The House met at 1:30 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

Admit strangers.

Today the Chair would like to recognize three recipients of the URock Volunteer Awards and the three recipients are present in the gallery today; Ms Emily Elliott of St. John's, Ms Kristina Roche of Torbay, and Maggie Hynes of Dunville.

Welcome to the House of Assembly.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Statements by Members

MR. SPEAKER: The following members' statements will be heard: the hon. the Member for the District of Exploits, the hon. the Member for the District of Terra Nova, the hon. the Member for the District of The Isles of Notre Dame.

The hon. the Member for the District of Exploits.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FORSEY: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate Mr. Elmo Waterman on being inducted as a honourary firefighter in the Botwood Volunteer Fire Department.

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Waterman was a member of the Botwood Fire Department for over thirty years. On February 9, 1983 while he was serving as fire chief, Elmo was seriously injured while fighting a fire that destroyed the Botwood Integrated Junior High School. Elmo was named outstanding firefighter for that year and also received the Arthur Johnson Memorial Citation.

Mr. Speaker, the citation noted that after the ceiling of the school gymnasium collapsed, Elmo fell sixteen feet from the ladder. Despite having a compound fracture to his right leg, he managed to warn six members below, giving them time to flee from the area. A seventh member, Len Mills was caught halfway up the ladder and trapped underneath debris.

Mr. Speaker, despite the severity of the injury, the Chief dragged himself out to the exit and continued instructions to members and made sure that his colleague was rescued before he was taken to the hospital.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this House to join me in recognizing hometown hero Elmo Waterman.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of Terra Nova.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. S. COLLINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to recognize the significant milestone in the life of one of my constituents, Mr. Charlie Waye who recently celebrated his 100 birthday. Mr. Waye was born in Bonavista on March 17, 1910 and resided there until the age of seven. After the untimely separate deaths of both his parents, a ten-year-old Waye was taken into the foster care of Archibald and Melina Simmons of Lethbridge. Shortly after the age of twelve, Mr. Waye went to work for the AND Company in Terra Nova where he would remain for many years.

Mr. Waye and his late wife, Vera Keats of Bloomfield, had ten children, sixteen grandchildren and eighteen great-grandchildren.

In 2009, Mr. Waye moved into Greenwood Senior's Home in Musgravetown. He now spends his days contently watching his favourite TV programs and interacting with family and friends.

When asked what his secret to longevity is, he simply replied hard work. His birthday celebration was held at the Salvation Army Youth Hall in Lethbridge on March 17 and was attended by over 200 people. This was certainly testament to the admiration he has from others.

I kindly ask all members of this hon. House to join with me in wishing Mr. Charlie Waye a very happy 100 birthday.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of The Isles of Notre Dame.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DALLEY: Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise in this hon. House today to recognize a former student of mine, Mr. Ian Froude, an outstanding young man from Twillingate, in the District of The Isles of Notre Dame.

Ian always had a great passion for the outdoors and the health and welfare of those less fortunate. This became more apparent when he joined Engineers Without Borders at Memorial University. His leadership and devotion to Engineers Without Borders was evident through participating roles as Vice-President of Communications, Director of Overseas Programs, Coordinator of Outreach Events, MUN Chapter President and Co-Chair of the successful Engineers Without Borders National Conference held in St. John's recently.

During his tenure as President, the MUN Chapter was selected as the Volunteer Club/Society of the Year at MUN as well as the recipient of the Engineers Without Borders Chapter of the Year award among thirty-four chapters across the country. During this period, Ian also travelled to Ghana, Africa, to share his knowledge and to offer himself as a volunteer to help with water access, hygiene and sanitation.

As a result of his outstanding volunteer contributions, Ian was honoured as the Canadian Red Cross Youth Humanitarian of the Year for 2009. This distinction is awarded annually to an individual who has demonstrated the spirit of humanity through volunteer efforts.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this House to join with me in congratulating Ian Froude as the Canadian Red Cross Youth Humanitarian of the Year and wish him well as he continues his work with the Engineers Without Borders in the future.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Statements by Ministers.

Statements by Ministers

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DENINE: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to acknowledge the recipients of the inaugural year of the URock Volunteer Awards. This past Saturday night we had a fantastic awards gala where we presented the eight recipients with their awards while enjoying some of this Province's finest musical acts.

The URock Volunteer Awards was developed to acknowledge the unique and creative ways young people are volunteering in their communities. Nominations could be made in two categories: Mr. Speaker, individuals and organizations that are non-profits. Individual nominees must have made outstanding voluntary contributions, be thirty years of age or under and a current or past resident of Newfoundland and Labrador. Organizations or non-profit groups nominated must be led by young people or have made an outstanding contribution for the betterment of youth.

Mr. Speaker, when nominations closed, sixty-five nominations were received. The volunteer work of all these nominees was exceptional and everyone has made a difference in the lives of someone else. If those nominated are any indication, Mr. Speaker, the future of this Province of Newfoundland and Labrador is bright and exciting. In the end, eight deserving recipients who have done extraordinary work in their communities received these awards.

The recipients of the URock Volunteer Awards for 2010 were: for the group's category, the Allied Youth of Newfoundland and Labrador; individuals: Andrea Andersen of Makkovik; Kayla Carroll, St Lunaire-Griquet; Emily Elliott, St. John's; Maggie Hynes, Dunville; Kristina Roche, Torbay; William Short, Marystown; and Kendra Warford, Point Leamington.

Mr. Speaker, in honour of their unique creative volunteer activities, we presented the winners with the equally unique and creative award. Each recipient received a custom designed Garrison electric guitar. They really loved those guitars, I have to tell you.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DENINE: No, my hon. member is not getting one.

They were quite surprised to receive such an incredible piece of art and it was a privilege to be there to present them with this prestigious award.

These remarkable young people have gone above and beyond the call of duty. They have had a positive impact on their community. I would like to thank those who took the time to nominate these young people. Having the support of family, friends and mentors and getting this recognition from them is vital to these volunteers continuing their great volunteer work. The recipients of the URock Volunteer Awards are leaders in their communities and I hope by recognizing the amazing work that they have done will encourage other young people to get involved in their communities and in non-profit organizations.

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. The Leader of the Opposition commented that everybody should get a Garrison guitar. Apparently the government owns the company now, after some time ago.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, it is certainly proper and appropriate to acknowledge the contributions of volunteers, whether they are senior volunteers, middle-aged or youth of course. A lot of the associations in our Province could not function – minor sports programs, for example, just could not exist and function if we did not have volunteers involved coaching and at every level. It is great to say congratulations to the three recipients who are in the gallery today, as well as those other recipients who cannot be with us today.

It is not only rewarding, of course, to the person who does the volunteering, but also to the person who receives the benefit of those volunteers, and it is very much appreciated. Particularly if you see it in hospital settings and so on, that is when you really see the benefits of volunteers. Of course, there are not very many people who start volunteering at the age of fifty or sixty; most people started when they were young. It is great to see that we have an initiative here in the Province that encourages the people to get involved at that young age, because when they do, they normally stay involved for the rest of their adult life as well.

So hats off to these recipients. I hope they enjoy their guitar and all the best to them. We look forward to hearing the recipients again next year.

Thank you.

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

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

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

This was really a wonderful initiative and I am glad to see it developed. I want to use the opportunity to congratulate the winners, those who are here in the House with us today and those who are not.

As somebody who has been involved in the volunteer sector for most of my life – all of it, I guess, from the time I could volunteer – I am really happy to see a program that emphasizes the benefits of volunteering but also recognizes the work of young people in volunteering. It is really important that we continue to support young people, because every now and again we hear that numbers of volunteers are going down. The loss of volunteerism in our society would be detrimental to our society because of all the ways in which volunteers support the work in our society and the life of our communities.

So it is important to keep up that spirit of volunteerism, and things like offering awards for volunteers, especially for youth volunteers, is one way to do that; and to continue making sure that there is adequate money out there in the not-for-profit sector to support the work of the volunteers, through core funding as well, is also important.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity.

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers?

Oral Questions.

Oral Questions

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, today people from the St. Anthony region held a demonstration on the steps of Confederation Building as well as in the St. Anthony area. The concerned citizens group came here today to meet with the Premier; they came to deliver the message that moving the air ambulance from one location to another will not necessarily improve the services.

I ask the Premier today: Will he commit to meeting with these people who have come so far from the Northern Peninsula and hear their issues and hear their concerns? Mr. Speaker, we are of the understanding that there was a refusal to meet, and in fact his office had instructed them that they should send a letter, request a meeting, and when they get to it they would get to it.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Yes, thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, over the last period of weeks I have met with the Town Council of St. Anthony on a number of occasions. I have also met with the MHA for the region.

Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition stated today that the moving of the plane will not necessarily improve services. I can indicate that the moving of the plane will improve services to the people of Labrador especially and will not result in a diminished service to the people on the Island portion of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, it is also important to recognize how this issue came about. On December 15, 2009, the Leader of the Opposition presented a 3,000-name petition to this hon. House asking to establish a medevac team and a medical flight in Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, we have two airplanes in this Province. We were in a situation where we had to look at providing the best possible service. A consultant prepared a report and, based on a number of factors, it was concluded that the best centralized service is in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister knows full well that the request was for a third air medevac service for this Province to be based in Labrador to serve the people of the Province better. Mr. Speaker, we are getting no answer from the Premier today as to whether he is prepared to meet with these people from the Northern Peninsula who have come here to bring their message to government.

Mr. Speaker, a week ago the air ambulance team that works with this service in the Province took the opportunity to review the report from the minister's office and to counteract a number of things that they felt needed to be counteracted in it. That information was given to the minister, and what was evident was this: Both the consultant's report in the minister's office as well as the one by front-line workers indicated that the most critical issue was the availability of a medical flight team.

I ask the minister today: Why was there no further investigation into the lack of such a team being based at St. Anthony?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Yes, Mr. Speaker, in relation to the petition, again it stated quite clearly: to establish a medevac team in Labrador, and there was no reference to a third airplane.

Mr. Speaker, I have reviewed the report prepared by the Labrador-Grenfell employees and I have also had an opportunity to meet with one of them when the town council came to St. John's. Mr. Speaker, what is interesting is that the Opposition jumped up and down when the report first came out questioning the numbers, questioning the recommendations.

What has happened is that the numbers are correct that we have provided. Also, this Labrador-Grenfell report prepared by employees of Labrador-Grenfell indicates agreement with Recommendations 2 to 7. Essentially, they elaborate - and there are some good points raised. Essentially, Mr. Speaker, they disagree with the placement of the plane.

So at the end of the day, we have Lab West in a very heartfelt plea last week asking to have an air ambulance. We have Happy Valley-Goose Bay and we have St. Anthony. We had to make a decision. The Leader of the Opposition asked us to make a decision. She put the petition before the House and we acted on it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister knows the difference. Even in briefing notes in his own department going back to September, it was noted that the Official Opposition were asking for a review to enhance services in this Province, adding a third air ambulance.

Mr. Speaker, the consultant's report that was used to justify this move has been shown to be flawed, incomplete and did not consider the needs of the entire Province as a whole.

I ask the minister today: Why wasn't the location of all air medevac aircraft part of this full review?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Yes, Mr. Speaker, the petition presented by the Leader of the Opposition stated: We, the undersigned residents in Labrador, call on the Newfoundland and Labrador provincial government to establish a medevac response team and aircraft in Labrador. Mr. Speaker, there was no reference again to a third airplane. We have done what the Leader of the Opposition asked us to do and now we are being criticized for it. So is she saying that there should not be a plane in Labrador? Is that what I am hearing today?

Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition in a letter to me - and I replied to her letter - outlined a number of concerns with this report. She referred to diminished service in the rest of the Province. Mr. Speaker, the statistics indicate that outside of St. Anthony, 74 per cent of the flights on the Island portion of the Province are responded to by either St. John's King Air or the charter flights. Mr. Speaker, there are twice as many flights out of Labrador. The population of Labrador is twice that of the St. Anthony, Port au Choix region. We have heavy industrialization in the Labrador area.

Mr. Speaker, the arguments against this report are based on what might happen, but what I would suggest to the Leader of the Opposition: You should sit down with the Best family in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, sit down with the Mitchell family in Lab West and sit down with the Perry family (inaudible) -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is quite obvious that this minister hears what he wants to hear and the plea has always been – from the people in Labrador – for a third air ambulance for this Province, and that is the part minister that you ignored. The reality is this, Mr. Speaker, the decision is based on a study that has been flawed, that does not encompass the full air medevac services for the Province, and neither does it look at the response times to every single region of this Province, including the West Coast of Newfoundland.

I ask you today, minister: Will you not conduct another review that is all encompassing and looks at the full air medevac services for this Province, including those communities in Labrador that have to use a chartered Twin Otter aircraft?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, we have conducted the review of the statistics as to the Island portion of the Province and we have looked at Lab West. I met last week in Lab West, we had some good discussions. Well, Mr. Speaker, there appears to be a group that in the leader's mind are forgotten, and that are the people on the North Coast of Labrador, the people of the Nunatsiavit government, the people of the Innu Nation. I received, Mr. Speaker –

MS JONES: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

An important question is asked; an important answer is given. I ask members for their co-operation.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Speaker, we received a very nice letter today from the Mayor of Rigolet stating: this is a forward move for our people, and I commend you for it. I would ask you to not bend to the pressure to move the services. You made a good decision.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister not to go reading from correspondence and just to paraphrase.

The hon. the minister, to complete his answer.

MR. KENNEDY: So, Mr. Speaker, what we have looked at is all of the factors. We have looked at the recommendations by Mr. Drodge; we will improve the dispatch times. Last week, when I met with the doctors in Lab West I indicated, Sir, that we would –


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Speaker, I indicated last week, when I met in Lab West, that we would utilize Quebecair if necessary; we would utilize charter services as necessary, and what I am told by the experts in the area, Mr. Speaker, is that two dedicated King Air, along with charter services, allow for the services to be provided to this Province as a whole.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, a medical flight servicing from St. Anthony hospital was used up until two years ago when government implemented a new flight service program and discontinued the regular use of the team out of St. Anthony.

I ask the minister today: Why was this policy not re-evaluated and a flight team re-established at St. Anthony when problems were identified in the air ambulance services?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Yes, thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Difficulties with the air ambulance certainly came to the forefront in July of last year with the incident in Labrador West on July 15. Then on September 18, Mr. Speaker, we had a very unfortunate incident in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. What we did, based partly on the petition presented to the House and also on the meetings I have had with the Town Councils in Labrador West and Happy Valley-Goose Bay, we decided to commission a report. That report looked at all aspects of the air ambulance service in terms of the improvements necessary. We will improve dispatch times, Mr. Speaker. We have made a significant investment with a new airplane and also with a second medical flight services team.

What we are looking at, Mr. Speaker, is not the provision of services to one area. We are looking to the provision of services to this Province as a whole to best protect the interests of the residents of this Province. When you look at that, Mr. Speaker, we will now have a second airplane with a medical flight services team in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. We feel that, Mr. Speaker, the interests of all residents of this Province will be better protected and not of an individual town or region.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DEAN: Mr. Speaker, fatalities are very unfortunate, obviously, and my fear is that in the move we are going to have fatalities in my region instead of in Labrador, and we do not want it in either.

Recommended by the air ambulance staff, again I would ask: Is the government prepared to conduct a full investigation into all the fatalities with any connection to past air ambulance services and flights and determine the reasons for the fatalities, both in Labrador and the Island, in order to really identify the gaps in the system and make the necessary changes to improve them?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, one of the advantages of the plane being placed in Happy Valley-Goose Bay is that now all areas of this Province will be within sixty minutes of air ambulance service. That did not take place while the plane was stationed in St. Anthony. Also, Mr. Speaker, with the utilization of charter planes, improved dispatch, hopefully partnerships with Quebecair or the Quebec government, we will also be able to better serve the individuals of Lab West. Mr. Speaker, what I would suggest to the members of the Opposition –


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, what we are trying to do here is provide services to all residents of the Province. The people in the North Coast of the Province, Mr. Speaker, will be better served.

To the point from the Leader of the Opposition, we do have Fermont with mining developments there. We met with all the mining companies, Mr. Speaker.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. KENNEDY: What we are looking at are providing services that will benefit all residents of this Province and that is what we will continue to do.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Further questions?

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

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

That sixty minute policy is going to be difficult at times when 28 per cent of the respondents that St. Anthony does today are being done by Goose Bay. You cannot send a plane from Goose Bay to Gander in sixty minutes unless you really improve the speed time over what it is today.

Mr. Speaker, the consultant's report is missing key variables as well, such as geography, weather, services available, staffing levels and a host of other issues. These issues are highlighted by front line workers again in their submission to the minister.

I ask the minister: Why were these critical components not part of this review?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

If I could just use a couple of examples here to highlight, Mr. Speaker, how the service currently works. If you look at right now in terms of Stephenville, for example, Mr. Speaker, 59 per cent of the calls were serviced by St. John's air ambulance and 17 per cent by a charter aircraft. So 76 per cent of the calls to Stephenville were out of St. John's or by charter. In Deer Lake, Mr. Speaker, 68 per cent of the air ambulance transports originated from St. John's and 10 per cent were handled by a charter – so again, 78 per cent.

So what we are seeing, Mr. Speaker, is a response time that is coming out of St. John's, in any event. Also, Mr. Speaker, the forty-five minute drive to the St. Anthony airport will certainly now no longer be necessary as a result of the proximity of the Goose Bay airport to the hospital. So what we will see, Mr. Speaker, overall – at least I am informed by the experts in the air ambulance – is a very significantly improved service that will look after all residents in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, last week in Lab West I heard story after story of people with a plaintive cry to have an air ambulance in their area. Mr. Speaker, we have three areas now saying they want an air ambulance. We have resources that we have to try to use as efficiently, as effectively as possible to produce results and to protect all people in this Province, and that is what we are trying to do, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. DEAN: Mr. Speaker, the air ambulance staff, who could certainly have helped significantly improve the air ambulance service, were never questioned or never consulted in the whole process. Have they provided the minister with an expanded terms of reference that would clearly improve the air ambulance service and ensure the best possible for all of our Province?

So I ask the minister: Have you reviewed the fourteen recommendations put forward and are you willing to undertake a broader review that addresses these concerns?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Speaker, I have reviewed the report prepared by the Lab-Grenfell employees, and it is important to recognize that these employees do work with Lab-Grenfell in the air ambulance, either as pilots or at the airport.

Now what we are doing here is attempting to provide the best possible service. It is interesting to note - and if you go back through Hansard, you will see all of the references to inaccurate numbers; you will see the references to an incomplete report. The report certainly elaborated on some of the recommendations made in the Drodge report, but at the end of the day, they agreed with Recommendations 2 to 7, and the only recommendation they did not agree with was the placement of the airplane.

What I said to the people of Lab West last week in a meeting with approximately 500-600 people there at least, and what I will say to the people here today, is our decision is made, there will be no review, the air ambulance will be transferred to Happy Valley-Goose Bay as soon as possible.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

[Disturbance in the gallery]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. visitors in the gallery here, while you are always welcome, you are not to show your pleasure or displeasure for anything that happens on the floor, and I ask you to immediately refrain from interrupting the proceedings here in the House of Assembly.

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

MR. DEAN: Mr. Speaker, during the by-election last fall, the Premier travelled to the Northern Peninsula and reversed the decision on the Flower's Cove clinic because he heard first-hand from the people of the region. So the Minister of Health, as he just mentioned, held a public meeting just a few days ago in Lab West regarding health care concerns in that region.

I ask the Premier: Will he and his minister commit to coming to St. Anthony to hold a similar meeting, so that he can meet with our people in the district and fully understand the impact their decisions are having on them and the health care delivery of our region?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Speaker, during the by-election, the Premier and myself and other ministers were present in the area; we heard the concerns of the people in relation to the health care system. I met extensively, Mr. Speaker, with the Town Council of St. Anthony; I have heard their concerns.

Mr. Speaker, in the last number of years, I think between 2004 and this Budget, we have invested, as a government, approximately $12 million to $13 million in capital equipment alone in the hospital and the long-term care facility in the St. Anthony area. We have also invested money in Roddickton, and we have announced that the new health centre in Flower's Cove will proceed.

We are aware of the issues, and we are acting on the issues as outlined in the Budget. There is, at this point, no need for a meeting with anyone in the St. Anthony region.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I guess they said a lot of things in the by-election they do not mean now.

Mr. Speaker, the government opposite continues to pour money down the drain in this Province; yet, they refuse to buy things like a third air ambulance for the people of the Province, or address the issues in the fishing industry.

My questions today are for the Minister of Fisheries. The crab fishery in our Province is affecting thousands and thousands of people. Their incomes are about to be lost; yet, the government is continuing to insist that they have no role to play in providing solutions or leading any solutions to the problem.

I ask the minister: Given the most manic approach with respect to the development of the oil industry, the assistance that your government has given to the forest industry recently, why have you not been more active in heading off the crisis in the fishing industry to date?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, I think we have been more than active in leading this process.

I have to remind the Leader of the Opposition that the first meeting of both sides in this negotiation was on March 30 - at my request. The first proposal that we received from either side was not this Saturday but the Saturday before. Again, that was at our request. If you look at the offers that we have made around buying the marketing arm, getting into marketing, getting into the MOU process whereby we have committed money, we have committed over and over again.

The issue here, Mr. Speaker, is if we want to make a change for the long term; that is what it is all about. There was a model put forward Tuesday by the processors; I would call it the Alaskan model. It is a model that is used in this Province around the sale of shrimp, off-shore shrimp and lump roe.

Mr. Speaker, I think there are merits of that program that can be worked in this Province. As a matter of fact, both the FFAW and the processors work together to bring it forward. The processors say they can get it working this year, and the union has some issues with it. I had my staff call both the FFAW and the processors to say that we are willing to help out in this. We are willing to bring the licence fees in line with Atlantic Canada; that means a commitment of $1.1 million from us. We are willing to put in cost association with the administration of this model.

Mr. Speaker, we are doing whatever we can to get this process through and get this fishery started.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, the meeting the minister talked about must have been the famous ten-minute meeting that lasted on the crab fishery and then it ended. Mr. Speaker, the reality is, for the past six months, the only thing that government has done is called on unions and processors to sit down and to have discussions. Mr. Speaker, what we are hearing is that they are bringing nothing to the table, only an empty briefcase.

I ask the minister today to lay out for the people of the Province what his government is prepared to do for investment in the fishing industry to get this industry going for this season.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, I have just outlined some of the finances that we are willing to put forward. Mr. Speaker, just listen to this: We have had the Dunne report; we have had the Vardy report; we have had the Jones report; we have had the Cashin report. These are reports that people have gone out and looked at why we find ourselves in this situation every year.

Mr. Speaker, I suppose we could issue another report, but it does not solve the problem. Two questions that need to be asked of the people of the Province: Why is it that every other jurisdiction can start their fishery on a timely basis? Why is it that the price of crab in this Province seems to be lower than in other jurisdictions?

Mr. Speaker, if we are going to find a solution and get this fishery started on an annual basis, we have to answer those questions. There are the three parties that were involved in finding that solution: That is us as a government - and I outlined some of the initiatives - the processors and the union.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, that is about the best admission I have heard from the Minister of Fisheries: that they have no solutions and there is nothing that they can do.

Mr. Speaker, the fishermen, through their union, are asking for about $10 million or $12 million in bridge financing for this season. The government continues to insist that they cannot do this because they would be in violation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Again, I think it was on Friday the minister stated this in a press release, and he also said that he had an external legal opinion.

I would like to ask him today if he is prepared to table that legal opinion in the House of Assembly, and has his department even evaluated what assistance they can provide to the industry without constituting a Free Trade risk.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, about the issue of inventory financing, we think there is merit to it – we really do - but we cannot put ourselves into a situation of countervail.

I will invite the Leader of the Opposition to come over to my office, to sit down and let us go through that legal opinion and then see if she is willing to lay it on the line that she is willing to take the chance of some of the inherent issues that arise out of that.

Mr. Speaker, this legal opinion is simply not wishy-washy, maybe, if. This legal opinion is very, very clear. Mr. Speaker, the solution to this is not to debate that. The issue is finding the longer-term solution that makes this fishery better for this Province, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, the violation of the NAFTA agreement did not hold this government back when they expropriated the assets from Abitibi that could cost the Province upwards to $500 million, Mr. Speaker.

Having said that, I ask the minister, why all of a sudden the NAFTA agreement is such an impediment to doing anything in the fishing industry, the very industry that could save 20,000 people in rural communities all across this Province?


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, maybe she needs to be aware that we have stepped in. The reason that Arnold's Cove is up and running and doing so well, we as a government stepped in and bought the quota of High Liner. We will invest in measures such as that, Mr. Speaker, but we are not willing to put ourselves at risk, and simply making the decision could put the industry at risk for the future, Mr. Speaker. We are not willing to do that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

Mr. Speaker, this government based their decision to move the air ambulance from St. Anthony to Happy Valley-Goose Bay based on the report that people who work in the delivery of air ambulance services call flawed. Mr. Speaker, people from Labrador West turned up to a meeting by the hundreds last Thursday, and people from St. Anthony came in protest to the steps of the Confederation Building today, at their own cost. Mr. Speaker, this government is dividing the people of the Province without looking at the implications of its action. The minister even stood here today and read from a letter from one of the communities in Labrador, from the mayor.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: Will this government admit that it has made a mistake in not putting a third air ambulance in place and show respect to the people of St. Anthony and meet with them as they have done with others?

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

When this report was commissioned there was urgency to the situation. That urgency, Mr. Speaker, was further outlined with the incident that occurred in Lab West, the unfortunate incident on March 18. What we are trying to do, Mr. Speaker, is to address the health needs of all the people of this Province. The numbers, Mr. Speaker, show that there are twice as many flights being picked up out of –

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for the District of Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi, on a point of order.

MS MICHAEL: The minister is looking at me as if I spoke. I did not say a word.



MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There is no point of order.

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services, to complete his answer.

MR. KENNEDY: Sorry, Mr. Speaker, I thought I interrupted her question. It is hard sometimes to determine.

Mr. Speaker, what I indicated was that we looked at the numbers that were present over the last number of years by accessing those numbers. We looked at the way the service is provided. We looked at flight times, Mr. Speaker. The report is not flawed. The report may not be as comprehensive as the Lab-Grenfell employees would like it to be and there are certainly some good suggestions in that Lab-Grenfell report.

Mr. Speaker, what we have to look at is the advice being provided by experts which say that two dedicated aircraft, in conjunction with charter services, can suffice. The two dedicated aircraft, Mr. Speaker, are best located in St. John's and in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. We then have to utilize a charter aircraft as necessary. We look at the other recommendations, Mr. Speaker, made in the report that were confirmed by the Labrador-Grenfell employees, such as the operation of the twenty-four seven service, Mr. Speaker, and what we have done here is made a decision that I would suggest just accords with common sense.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the minister indicated earlier in Question Period that he had been touched by meeting with people in Labrador West and by the experiences that they have had. Well, if he had bothered to come to the steps of the Confederation Building today, Mr. Speaker, he would have seen the stories of people who were helped by having an ambulance and a medevac team in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, or in St. Anthony.

So I ask the minister: Why wouldn't he come and hear the stories of the people from St. Anthony and been affected by their stories as he was last week by the stories in Lab West?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

In a meeting in Lab West last week there were numerous issues discussed. It was not simply air ambulance. We looked at the need for diagnostic equipment. We heard from the residents, Mr. Speaker, in terms of the need for hospital services. We looked at all of the issues that affect the people in Lab West. The issue here today, in terms of the people of St. Anthony, is to review a decision, which I have indicated, has already been made and will not be reviewed.

We feel, Mr. Speaker, that the decision which is made is the right one. We have not heard – earlier, I think it was around December 16, the Member for The Straits referred to the fact: What about the 603 other flights? Well, we have broke down about 603 other flights and showed that the majority of them, Mr. Speaker, are responded to by the aircraft out of St. John's or by the charter aircraft. So again, to reiterate, two dedicated aircraft with charter services, I am told, are sufficient to address the needs of this Province, and if and when a need for a third air ambulance is required we will look at that and even then, when you look at the report, Mr. Speaker, the numbers indicate that Deer Lake would be the spot for a third air ambulance and not St. Anthony.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The time allotted for questions and answers has expired.

Presenting Reports by Standing and Select Committees.

Tabling of Documents.

Tabling of Documents

MR. SPEAKER: In accordance with section 19.(5) paragraph (a) of the House of Assembly Accountability, Integrity and Administration Act, I hereby table minutes of the House of Assembly Management Commission meeting on February 17, 2010.

Further tabling of documents?

Notices of Motion.

Notices of Motion

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

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

Today being Monday, preceding Private Members' Wednesday, under Standing Order 63.(3) it is the Opposition Private Member's Motion, and the motion for this week will be moved by the Member for The Straits & White Bay North, seconded by the Member for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair.

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

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My private member's motion is around air ambulance:

WHEREAS air ambulance service is critical to the health and lives of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians; and

WHEREAS government commissioned a consultant to complete a review of air ambulance services in northern Newfoundland and Labrador; and

WHEREAS this report did not include all regions of the Province or all aspects of the air ambulance service; and

WHEREAS the consultant and government did not consult with local stakeholders including air ambulance staff and Labrador-Grenfell health board members during the process and before the decision to move the air ambulance was made; and

WHEREAS air ambulance staff have identified a number of problems with the consultant's report; and

WHEREAS the report only looked at a few aspects of air ambulance service and missed keyed variables such as geography, weather, services available and staffing levels; and

WHEREAS there is a CF(L)Co plane in Churchill Falls owned by the people of the Province that could serve as an air ambulance, but was not considered in this review; and

WHEREAS a more comprehensive review of the entire air ambulance program would ensure a more effective service for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that this House of Assembly calls upon the provincial government to place on hold the current decision to move the air ambulance out of St. Anthony until a complete and comprehensive review takes place that includes all regions and all aspects of the air ambulance service.

[Disturbance in the gallery]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Again, the Chair would like to remind the audience that they are not to show approval or disapproval of anything that happens here on the floor of the House of Assembly, and for the final time I ask the galleries for their co-operation.

Further notices of motion?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Justice and Attorney General.

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Small Claims Act. (Bill 11)

MR. SPEAKER: Furthers notices of motion?

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

MR. FRENCH: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Grand Concourse Authority Act. (Bill 12)

MR. SPEAKER: Furthers notices of motion?

The hon. the Minister of Government Services.

MR. O'BRIEN: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Consumer Protection And Business Practices Act. (Bill 13)

I also give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Private Investigation And Security Services Act. (Bill 14)

MR. SPEAKER: Furthers notices of motion?

Answers to Questions for which Notice has been Given.



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

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I present a petition again today on behalf of our air ambulance service in the District of The Straits & White Bay North. It is addressed to the hon. House of Assembly of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador in Parliament assembled.

The petition of the undersigned residents humbly sheweth:

WHEREAS it has been brought to our attention that Air Ambulance service is being removed; and

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

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

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

Mr. Speaker, government's recent decision to relocate the air ambulance medevac service from St. Anthony to Happy Valley-Goose Bay continues to be very disconcerting. It continues to be unacceptable to the people of The Straits & White Bay North district in particular, the district which I represent. I believe, as people across the Province get to understand the implications and the short-sightedness of doing what we are doing, I believe that it also is getting support across the West Coast in particular of people who realize that it does impact them negatively. Regardless of the statistics that want to be presented, of what the minister wants to say and so on, the reality is that the response time will be longer on the air medevaces that are requested out of Goose Bay compared to St. Anthony. I have said before and I would say again, just so people understand: you can fly from St. Anthony to Deer Lake much quicker than you can fly from Goose Bay to Deer Lake. So, I do not know how you can provide that same level of service when that second aircraft has to be involved.

A lot of assumptions are being made in numbers. You can make numbers do what you want them to do, and so on. As the MHA for the region today, these are people of the Province. These are people who have a voice, these are people who deserve to be heard, and these are people who deserve to have the same services as any other district in this Province.

So, I would call upon government again today to talk to the people, to listen to the people, to place this decision on hold. That service has been there for fifty-five years. It does not need to go away in the next three to four months or next year or two years, whatever the case might be. We can take the time, we can reassess this, and I believe that logical thinking and level-headed decisions and so on would bring us to a point where we would understand that, yes, perhaps we have missed some vital information. Perhaps, again, we have gone and made a decision kind of prematurely, and hopefully we would have the wherewithal and the willingness to accept the fact that this decision needs to be again looked at, and just changed.

I looked in particular at government policies and government structures – the Rural Secretariat and the rural lens - and I have read the vision and the mandate and so on of the rural lens and the Rural Secretariat. I have asked the question, and I have gotten the answer that in this case the Rural Secretariat was not engaged at all, so the decision that was made certainly flies in the face of what government is trying to do in the Province. On the one hand, they want to understand, they want to hear from stakeholders, they want to hear from people in the regions, and they want to hear from the local people and the local bodies and the councils and so on. On the other hand, they have gone and made this important decision, one that cannot be overemphasised and one that cannot be misunderstood, and they have made this decision with no consultation, with no Rural Secretariat involved, with no rural lens looking through that process and so on. So, again today I ask that government would reconsider this, and that they would look at it. Let's put the brakes on, and let us understand that what we are doing is what needs to be done.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further petitions.

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I stand today to present a petition, as well, on behalf of residents in the Province, with regard to the air ambulance services.

Mr. Speaker, many people in this Province are unhappy with government's decision to not improve service but rather to relocate an aircraft from one tarmac in the Province to another. People feel that this is inadequate in meeting the needs that are out there, and the gaps in the system.

[Disturbance in the gallery]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair is after giving two warnings already to the visitors in the gallery. I have asked visitors to respect the traditions of the House, and not to show pleasure or displeasure with what is happening with the proceedings here on the floor. Obviously, people in the galleries have seen fit not to adhere to our Standing Order 22. If there is one more interruption, the Chair is not going to ask a single person to leave, but the Chair is going to ask that the galleries be cleared. That is the final warning.

[Disturbance in the gallery]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask that the galleries be cleared and that this House be recessed.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to present a petition on behalf of the people in the Province with regard to the air ambulance services. This petition is signed by people from the West Coast of Newfoundland.

Mr. Speaker, the issue around air ambulance in the Province goes back to the last two years in particular. I think the first time I asked one of the health boards and the department to do an investigation into a case stems back about two years. In fact, last year, in July, a full month between July and August, there were three particular cases in which we asked for an investigation because we were recognizing that there were tremendous gaps in the air ambulance services in the Province that were not going to be fixed by moving an aircraft from one tarmac to another, but only by adding more flight medical specialists and by adding a third air ambulance.

Mr. Speaker, we did not come to that conclusion out of the air. We came to that from talking to people who deliver the services on the front lines in this Province, people who operate it every single day. We came to that conclusion as well by talking to families that were impacted.

Mr. Speaker, what has happened here is that government went out and hired some consultant. We do not know how he was hired, where he was hired from, or how much he was paid, but obviously he did not do very good work. It was a very shoddy piece of work. The terms of reference were inadequate. They were not broad in scope and they did not cover the premises of the full air ambulance services within the Province. Mr. Speaker, in fact, it did not look at even one-half of the variables that should have been considered in reviewing a service of this critical nature for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, today we had the people on the Northern Peninsula come to the House of Assembly to try and plead their case to government on the front steps. We had the people in Labrador West, on Thursday night, 700 people in a room trying to plead their case to the minister that their services were still going to have a gap as a result of all of this; because, not only in Labrador West do they not have an air ambulance, but they do not even have the basics of diagnostic equipment in their community to provide services to their people, and there is more urgency than ever, I guess, for people to be medevaced out and to have a reliable air ambulance.

Mr. Speaker, the people on the steps of the Confederation Building today, from the St. Anthony area, came here scraping together all the resources they can to try and bring their issues to government, to the House of government; and, Mr. Speaker, the Premier's Office and the Premier refused to meet with them. They were told over the telephone, by people in the Premier's office, to go home; to write us a letter; that we would put the letter on file in our office; it would be on the bottom of the pile; we would get to it in about so many months down the road.

This is what people were told when they were out there trying to save a service that affects the lives of people every single day.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I remind the hon. Leader of the Opposition that her time for presenting the petition has lapsed.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further petitions.

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

MR. BUTLER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is a pleasure today to be able to stand and present a petition on behalf of the residents of Twillingate, Triton, Brighton, Durrell, Summerford, Grand Falls-Windsor, Port Anson, Cottlesville, Parkview, Shoe Cove, Boxey, Springdale, St. John's and Placentia. Mr. Speaker, I will read the prayer of the petition again:

WHEREAS we the people of Newfoundland and Labrador have always built cabins or tilts away from our homes for hunting, fishing, berry picking or just spending time up in the country or places around our shores, sometimes just to get 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 an alternative; 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 hon. 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 enjoy it, Mr. Speaker.

I have many petitions, and I know when I was presented with those petitions recently I was asked why I was presenting them and not some of the members, probably, that represent those towns that I mentioned. Well, I said, all you have to do is to give them copies of petitions as well and I am sure whenever they get up in this hon. House to speak, regardless of what the topic is, they will stand and bring your concerns forward.

Mr. Speaker, where those people are coming from, it has been a long-standing tradition, I guess, forty or fifty years, or probably beyond, right throughout this Province, where people would go out in the countryside; they could take their trailers or they would have a cabin or whatever. I have stated before that the majority of those people agree that whatever has to be done to be environmentally friendly should be done, but they also want government to listen to their concerns.

A lot of those people are seniors. I know a lot of them personally, and they just cannot afford to go into our parks. Our parks now, I have to say – I know, I do a lot of camping myself. Last year, whether it was in Trinity Bay, here on the Trans-Canada or here in St. John's, the parks were full. Many of those people - I mean, everyone cannot afford it. I am not downing the price at Pippy Park, because it is a wonderful facility, but a lot of people in this Province cannot pay $40 to $45 a night to go camping on a weekend. That is $130 or $150, and generally our other parks cost anywhere from $21 to $25. That is why a lot of those people are carrying out a tradition that they always had, to go out and enjoy the great indoors.

All I am doing, Mr. Speaker, is calling upon the government. Without any long-term solutions to the problems, I just ask government to sit down with those people in the various areas and hopefully they will come to some successful conclusion to the problem that is there, and to the advantage of everyone: that it would be environmentally friendly and also a place those people could continue on. I mean, they have reared their families in some of those sites.

Then again, I know all too often we hear about the Whiskey Pit, and I stated the other day that the minister is dealing with those people. I know they have a couple of pieces of land, and hopefully they can come to a conclusion that those people can continue to enjoy the great outdoors.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further petitions?

Orders of the Day.

Orders of the Day

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

MS BURKE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to call from the Order Paper, Motion 1.

MR. SPEAKER: Motion 1, the Budget Speech.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am certainly happy to stand today in response to the 2010 Budget, and in particular to the amendment that was laid down, a vote of no confidence by the Opposition. I am happy to stand today to express my concerns about that particular amendment that was laid down, and speak from the perspective not only as the Minister of Human Resources, Labour and Employment but also to speak from the perspective of my district.

Before I get into any of that, Mr. Speaker, I would certainly like to take the opportunity to welcome to the fold, to our caucus, the Member for Topsail. I am certain that he is very aware that he has entered into a partnership with a party that is very forward looking, which is very much a can-do attitude party. We certainly welcome you and we are happy to see you in our ranks as well; and, no doubt, your experiences both professionally and your experiences in the community service in which you have been involved over the last several years will be very helpful to us as we continue our mandate, which is to serve the best interests of every Newfoundlander and Labradorian. I welcome you to the folds of the PC Party.

Mr. Speaker, in speaking to the Budget today, what I would like to do first of all is just provide a little bit of background, talk a little bit about where we have come from as an explanation to the particular decisions that we took in relation to the Budget.

This year, Mr. Speaker, has been a very difficult year, not only for Newfoundland and Labrador, not only for Canada but worldwide. The economic global recession that happened over the last year or so has certainly impacted all of us. Here in Newfoundland and Labrador, we were certainly not immune to that particular recession, especially in terms of real GDP. We acknowledged upfront that GDP in this Province was reduced by some 8.9 per cent due to a number of things, certainly industry closure. In my district, particularly, we were very aware of that with the closure of AbitibiBowater. Certainly, the slowdown of various other industry pieces, oil and gas for example, the mineral industry and so on.

This government's response, Mr. Speaker, to the economic recession and the global slowdown was what I would consider to be one of the best responses throughout the country. It was a very swift response, it was a considered response and it was a successful response by all accounts.

We survived the brunt of the recession here in this Province, again because of the forward thinking of this government, because of the swift action of this government and because of the leadership of this government. Particularly in the sense of putting forward infrastructure spending. The first announcements with regard to infrastructure spending that I recall were in the area of $800 million, Mr. Speaker. I believe in the end we arrived at a figure of almost $1.3 billion in terms of the spending of infrastructure that took place in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, we did that because we have a clear understanding in this party, in this government, of economic policy led by the leader of finance, led by the Premier of this party and of this government and of this Province. We understand that in times that are difficult economically, the solution is not in holding back, but the solution is in spending.

Mr. Speaker, that is precisely what happened when we put forward $1.3 billion in infrastructure spending. We were able to meet the problem head on and to provide some solutions - some solutions in the sense of job creation for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. Although the export sector of our economy suffered somewhat, consumer confidence in the tactics taken by this government, Mr. Speaker, were extremely strong. I would make reference to such things – and they are noted here in the Budget highlights that have been received in every household in Newfoundland and Labrador. I would note, particularly, in terms of retail sales. At a time when things were difficult worldwide, retail sales increased by some 2.6 per cent in this Province last year. Personal income grew by 3.9 per cent. In fact, it is projected that it will grow to about 4.7 per cent over 2010. Our residential construction increased by 11.4 per cent to $1.5 billion. Again, huge confidence is shown in this Province.

Our population increased this year, Mr. Speaker. For the first time since 1983, we were able to show, in this Province, an increase of 0.5 per cent in net migration. That is something that we are certainly very proud of. Though I recall that the House Leader opposite made reference to our strategies when he spoke at one point last week and questioned the efficacy of our strategies, the efficiency of our strategies, I would like to point out that our immigration and multicultural strategy is one that is certainly working. The proof is in the 0.5 per cent increase in population that we saw last year in a very, very difficult year.

Our capital investment in 2009 was $5 billion; again showing great confidence in this Province. It is particularly due to expenditures in oil and gas and the Vale Inco nickel processing facility that is in the process that is being built. Certainly it is true, in terms of recovering mineral production, and the aquaculture industry, about which I cannot say enough, and hopefully before I am done this afternoon, I will get a chance to make some reference.

Mr. Speaker, the other area in which consumer confidence was certainly very apparent had to be in the sense of our tourism numbers. Last year, it was phenomenal, we saw increases of 0.7 per cent in 2009 in our tourism numbers to this Province. That is expected to increase, as well, over the next year. Again, we need to remember that the backdrop for all of this was global recession. In all other areas of the country, people were reporting issues in these same areas that I have just identified. Newfoundland and Labrador, however, came through all of this, I would suggest, better than many other economies, better than many other jurisdictions across this country. Not only I, but economists around the world have pointed to that.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take the opportunity this afternoon to address two specific concerns as it relates to Budget 2010. First of all, I would like to be able to have an opportunity to talk about my district; and secondly, I would like to be able to talk about my Department of Human Resources, Labour and Employment.

Let's start with the district. If we talk about difficult years and coming through difficult years, I suspect that there is no district that has encountered the challenges that my district has in the last year or so. We lost a 100-year-old industry when we lost AbitibiBowater. It was certainly a very difficult period in our history, and it was a difficult period emotionally, if you can imagine 100 years of attachment to a particular industry, and the emotions that are felt when that particular industry went down. It was a very difficult year socially as well. It is a loss of our identity out there in Central Newfoundland as well. If you say Grand Falls-Windsor, generally the identity that is associated with that is that pulp and paper mill. So, it was a loss in that sense as well.

It was particularly challenging, Mr. Speaker, on a personal level for the workers to have lost their sense of self-reliance, to have lost a job, to have lost a way of life that they had known for a long, long time. It was certainly very, very challenging, not just for the 660 people who were laid off - and again recognizing that more than 130 of those people were eligible for retirement - but for their families as well it was a very, very difficult time, and certainly, economically, it was another challenging year.

Again, Mr. Speaker, I think what is important to point out is that our government's reaction and action taken was the same as happened during that global economic slowdown. Our action was swift, it was considered and it was successful.

There are many things I could point out, but I want to talk first of all about the fact that our initial reaction was care for the workers, care for those people in Central Newfoundland who lost their jobs, care for their families. I would point to the first initiative that I think was particularly important and that was particularly significant, and it was certainly an area that the people of my district are very grateful for.

In fact, just recently I had the privilege of bringing to the Premier and to other members of Cabinet some gifts that were prepared for them by many of those workers who have lost their jobs and who were grateful for the severance that were paid out to them. There is a great sense in Grand Falls-Windsor that this government has surrounded them; it has been there to support them and help them through this very, very difficult time. Though I sometimes hear members opposite speak to the fact that we have not done enough or that people in Grand Falls-Windsor and surrounding areas are still not satisfied with what government has done, I would sometimes like to be able to share the e-mails, share the phone calls, share the cards that are in my offices and many offices of people among Cabinet members here and others for the work that we have done, particularly in securing severances for them and other allowances for the affected workers.

The expropriation piece as well was very much appreciated by people out in my area. As well, in terms of the workforce itself, workforce adjustment payments that were made and the workforce adjustment team that was put in place by my department, by Human Resources, Labour and Employment, to help these workers find their way, to find another way, to transition to different jobs, to find another career or to find other opportunities for education, whatever it was, people were certainly very, very appreciative of it.

I recall that I heard an interview several months back now when the Leader of the Opposition said it was nauseating to hear me stand in the House and talk about such things. Well, again, I want to point out that that was a means of support that these workers needed, wanted and are very grateful for; not nauseating at all. When people were in need we were there to sit with them, to talk with them, to counsel them, to offer whatever advice and whatever support we could, and there are many, many people who are very grateful for that support, Mr. Speaker.

I would also like to point out that our concern, while it was for the workers and their family, was for the overall economic situation in the area itself. So we focused also on diversification in the area, and, Mr. Speaker, the task force that was put in place and chaired by my colleague, the Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development, is a very integral part of that piece of work that we are doing out there, as well as the CDC, the Community Development Committee, chaired by Mr. Cyril Farrell. We are doing tremendous work in finding opportunities to diversify that economy, to strengthen that economy to ensure that it is bolstered.

I am going to name just a few of the initiatives that we have undertaken. First of all, there has been a $5.8 million investment in the cranberry industry out there. For those of you who have never been out to Central Newfoundland or who have never taken the opportunity in particular to go to Wooddale and see the particular facility that we have out there, the facility that in actual fact did the initial work on validating the importance of the cranberry industry could have to this Province, the viability, the sustainability of that industry, I would encourage you to take opportunity to do that. Mr. Dick Oram and other people out there, who are involved in those particular studies and pilot programs and so on, do a great job on guiding people through and showing the real value of that. So we are working now on developing an extra 120,000 additional acres of land out there in the cranberry industry and I have no doubt that that particular investment will pay off long term.

Also, $5.5 million, Mr. Speaker, has been invested at the College of the North Atlantic in Grand Fall-Windsor. That is for the construction and the expansion of a convertible trades program. Again, I am sure we will see great pay off from that over the years.

There has been a $5 million announcement for the construction of a new residential treatment centre for youth addictions; one, again, that the Opposition objects to but certainly a great need. We have a number of services and supports already in place in Central Newfoundland that will lend themselves to that particular addiction centre. I have no doubt, again, that this will be a centre that will service greatly the needs of youth who are addicted throughout this Province.

There has been a $9 million commitment, both from Natural Resources and the Department of Environment and Conservation dedicated to the clean up of a mess left basically by ASARCO and AbitibiBowater in Buchans, particularly around the tailings dam area and also around the tailings spill area. That is something that the people of Buchans have been asking for, for more than thirty years now, Mr. Speaker, and finally this government has seen that need, has responded to that need on first hearing it, and I am very happy that that particular announcement has been made.

Also, $800,000 for the expansion of the Mary March Museum; $30.1 million for the redevelopment of the Central Newfoundland Regional Health Centre, Mr. Speaker, other ways that we are looking to continue to strengthen the economy of the area; $3.9 million for the downtown development of Grand Falls-Windsor for the maintenance and redevelopment of that area; $500,000 to commence the redevelopment of Exploits Valley High, the high school in the district. It is the largest school in the district and it is timely that we are now going to invest money in that. Again, sending the signal that this government is holding fast, that this government is there to support a region and an area in need; $350,000 was just spent on the Newfoundland 2010 Winter Games held in Grand Falls-Windsor and we were so happy with the support that was received. Economically, the community received a great boost as there were more than 1,500 people in town over the period of that week, and in the sense of a boost in our own confidence, our ability to be able to host events like that. It was just a great event all around.

Now, Mr. Speaker, these are just a few examples. I only have twenty minutes to speak and I am fast running out of that time, but I can tell you that I could go on and on and on; $100 million last year. Tens of millions again in this Budget this year, Mr. Speaker, to sustain an area that was hard hit. The reason we do that is because this is a government that is able to see the needs of particular areas and respond, and respond in ways that will stimulate that economy and that will make a difference.

Mr. Speaker, my colleague, the Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development spoke last week and made some comments with regard to reaction from the Mayor of Grand Falls-Windsor, from another councillor out there, but I can tell you that those are just a couple. I am hearing responses as I go home every single weekend from people in the area who say to me that they are so happy that this government was the government in place when that mill went down because they have felt so supported. They have the very keen sense that this government knows how to make a difference and that this government will continue to support them.

Economic indicators in our region, Mr. Speaker, are very, very good. The retail sales sector is still extremely strong; retail sales have been very, very good out there. Housing starts are extremely encouraging. In fact, people tell me that there is not another lot of land to be bought for this year. I have not checked that out in any detail but I have heard that time and time again. The housing market is exceptionally strong. The business community, particularly in the sense of what I hear from the Exploits Valley Economic Development Corporation and the chamber of commerce, are all very happy with what is happening in Grand Falls-Windsor. When we talk about budgets and not being confident in budgets, Mr. Speaker, that is not what I am hearing in my district at all. People in my region are very, very happy with this Budget. They are very, very happy with what this government is doing to support them in a time of need.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I am going to turn my attention for a few minutes - and I see I only have about three-and-a-half minutes left. I would like to be able to speak with regard to my district as well because there are a number of issues there that I think bear some looking at through this particular Budget. Again, I want to go back to the fact that we heard last week that strategies are not a way to go; strategies are not effective. Mr. Speaker, in my department we have many strategies that I am exceptionally proud of that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador have hailed over and over again as being working strategies for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, who appreciate the fact that they were consulted, who appreciate the fact that this government listens and responds based on those particular consultations.

I want to talk, first of all, about the immigration and multi-cultural strategies that we have. In 2007, Mr. Speaker, we launched our very first immigration strategy here in this Province and it has been met with great success. We also have put in place a policy on multiculturalism because we recognize that cultural diversity stimulates economic growth in this Province and is good for all of us. Mr. Speaker, guess what? Those strategies are working. How do we know they are working? Well we have seen a 0.5 per cent increase in our immigration numbers for the first time ever, Mr. Speaker, for the first time since 1983 at least. That has to be proof of the fact that these strategies and the monies that we are investing in them are working.

I want to refer to some other strategies in my department as well. I want to talk about what we are doing particularly for persons with disabilities and the inclusion of persons with disabilities in all aspects of this society. Mr. Speaker, I am particularly proud of the work that we are doing there, particularly in the establishment of the Disability Policy Office and also the establishment of the Provincial Advisory Council for Persons with Disabilities under the chairpersonship of Ms Joanne MacDonald. I think we are doing phenomenal work there. We are listening and we are acting. We are ensuring that across government all programs, all policies, all services are being inspected with the lens of: How do we ensure that persons with disabilities are being totally included in all aspects of our society?

Mr. Speaker, there are some tangible aspects of that, that we can note right away. For example, when we first went to make the announcement back in June of this year, here in this House of Assembly, with regard to the Disability Policy Office, we found that we did not have enough wheelchair accessibility. Mr. Speaker, thanks to your efforts, that was attended to immediately, and we now have accommodation for ten extra wheelchairs in this House of Assembly, and I certainly thank you for your work there in that area, Mr. Speaker.

There are other areas. We would have heard the Arts and Culture Centre here in St. John's, for example, Mr. Speaker, was unable to accommodate a young person who wanted to participate in a music festival. Immediately upon hearing that, the Minister of Transportation and Works acted and saw to it that access to that stage was put in place right away. As well, Mr. Speaker, we heard reference by a young advocate of the difficulties of access to washrooms, both in Eastern Health and in Western Health, and immediately, the Minister of Health and Community Services met with these people, we had some discussions, and I was happy to be with him when he made the announcement of additional accessibility for people at both the Health Sciences Centre and St. Clare's, as well as at Western Health.

RDSPs, which I just announced over in my department, the Registered Disability Savings Plans, where we allocated $300,000 for persons with disabilities to be able to set up and start these savings plans; again, tangible evidence that this government has strategies in place that work, that this budget has attested to and sees the value of putting money into particular strategies that work.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to talk as well about the Youth Retention and Attraction Strategy, a strategy that is near and dear to my heart, that the Premier and I announced in November of this year. That particular strategy is a three-year commitment of $15 million, Mr. Speaker. It is a bold strategy, it is a visionary strategy, Mr. Speaker, and I hear some of my colleagues on the other side of the House giving recognition to that strategy as well. It provides some opportunity for young people to stay in this Province, to live and work and raise families in this Province, Mr. Speaker, which they very much want to do. It provides opportunities for us, as well, Mr. Speaker, to create that labour pool that we need for the many megaprojects that we know that we are bringing on in this Province.

So, Mr. Speaker, it is a wonderful strategy that has great potential and that is doing some wonderful work, and is a strategy that we are very, very proud of.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I remind the hon. minister that her time for speaking has expired.


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


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

MS SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We are already seeing some success, Mr. Speaker, from that program and that strategy that we announced just in November of this year, early November of this year, in that, Mr. Speaker, we have already implemented thirty-four initiatives valued at $1.9 million. I made a Ministerial Statement here in the House just last week that referenced that. In particular, Mr. Speaker, we are giving top priority to what the young people of this Province told us through our extensive consultations with them. The top priority that we are giving is in the sense of providing job opportunities; it is in the sense of providing entry-level jobs and work experience.

Mr. Speaker, I could enumerate a number of particular initiatives that we have undertaken to do that. Eight hundred and seventy thousand dollars we invested this year, Mr. Speaker. In the winter 2010 semester, 130 students have benefited from expanded work-term placements. Our Graduate Employment Program, which provides wage subsidies to young people who are just finishing either their university degrees or college training certification and so on, we have doubled that program, Mr. Speaker, from 120 participants to 240 participants.

Mr. Speaker, this year there was a particular problem identified at the university in terms of placement of engineering students because there was a double cohort that had gone through. Through some work that we did using LMDA money, we were able to find, Mr. Speaker, opportunity for 130 of those engineering students to have work placements this term.

There were many other areas within work placements and internship programs that we have already implemented initiatives, far too many for me to enumerate here, especially since my time has lapsed and I am working on leave time, but I certainly appreciate the fact.

One that I would like to talk about, of course, is the internship opportunities within the public sector. Mr. Speaker, we are leading here; we are showing the way. We are simply not talking about making a difference for our young people; we are putting in place a program that would do it. Through Public Works, through Transportation and Works, through many of our departments, through Health and Community Services, through the Department of Education, through Government Services, we actually put in place particular internship programs, or apprenticeship programs, I should say, so that our young people could have opportunity to get started on their young careers. Mr. Speaker, we are very proud of that work and we will continue to do more of it.

Over the next year or two, we will be investing more money in that apprenticeship program. The Minister of Education and I, along with the Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development, will be conducting a labour market review. I can assure you that apprenticeship will be a big piece of that particular review, and finding ways to get young people more involved in apprenticeship will certainly be something that we are looking at.

SIFE Memorial University, we certainly plan to expand that program, but not only expand it, Mr. Speaker; we are looking at ways of providing new learning opportunities, particularly for young people still in high school, around financial literacy, because again that is an area of great concern for our young people. It was highlighted to us. Many of them have told us that they know of people who have gone off to university and been there for two or three years, never really knew how to handle money, never knew very much about financial literacy at all. So, through SIFE Memorial we are actually putting in place a plan to teach and inform our young people about financial literacy.

Mr. Speaker, there are numerous other initiatives that we are exploring through our Youth Retention and Attraction Strategy. Many of them I will elaborate on over the next weeks in this House, and I am sure I will have opportunity to do that.

Before I finish today, I want to spend some time talking about our Poverty Reduction Strategy. This is perhaps the most talked about, the most scrutinized and yet the most applauded strategy that this government has ever put in place, in my opinion, Mr. Speaker. We are seeing accolades not only from this Province, not only from the people living in and vulnerable to poverty, but from people all over this country from as far away as Australia who are writing and asking me for information and what it is that we have done in terms of our Poverty Reduction Strategy, and how it is that we have made such significant progress.

Mr. Speaker, our initial mandate was to prevent, reduce and eliminate poverty over a ten year period. Well, Mr. Speaker, we have come to the end of our first action plan, and the progress report that I released in December of this year shows that indeed we are making significant progress and that our achievements have been lauded all over this country. I said at one point I am having difficulty keeping my staff in the office because everybody wants to consult with our staff in terms of the successes that we have had.

Mr. Speaker, since 2006 we have invested $482.7 million in poverty reduction, almost half-a-billion dollars, in poverty reduction, Mr. Speaker; and, by all accounts, we are seeing progress. We have, according to all national standards, whether that be LICO, whether that be the LIM, whether that be the market basket measures, whatever standards are applied to our Poverty Reduction Strategy, Mr. Speaker, we are seeing significant progress. The incidents of low income have decreased from 12.2 per cent to 6.3 per cent, a decrease of some 30,000 people, Mr. Speaker, who are no longer considered below the poverty line. As well, the depth and persistence of poverty in this Province has shown considerable improvement. In fact, the depth of poverty in this Province, Mr. Speaker, is the lowest in all of Canada as a result of our Poverty Reduction Strategy.

Mr. Speaker, in terms of our own income support caseload, we are able to see huge differences. We now know that 4,000 fewer people are on our income support caseload, primarily because of the many disincentives that we have worked toward eliminating in terms of people going to work. As a result of our availability and presence to these people in trying to help them find attachment to the labour market force, many of these people have now gone to work. We are very, very happy with the work that we have done there.

Mr. Speaker, I hear the little quips from the other side of the House and by no means do we, at this point, stand up and say that we have done it all, that we have gotten there. We have not, Mr. Speaker, and we are the very, very first to acknowledge that, but we have made huge progress -

AN HON. MEMBER: The first government to (inaudible).

MS SULLIVAN: The first government - as my colleague reminds me, the first government to take this kind of approach, a very, very integrated approach to trying to solve the issues of poverty reduction. The federal government, Mr. Speaker, made all kinds of promises about what they were going to do. They accomplished very little, if anything, Mr. Speaker. This government made a promise, is working on that promise and is making progress, Mr. Speaker. That is our claim, we are making progress.

Do we acknowledge that there are still some areas in which we need to do some work? Absolutely we do. Housing and homelessness; absolutely yes, we recognize. Mr. Speaker, if I were to have a second or so to speak to that - and I do realize that my time has lapsed, but if I had a second to speak to that what I would like to say in terms of the homelessness issues is that if it were such a simple fix then I expect that all of these other jurisdictions around the world that have experienced homelessness issues for all of these years would have had it solved by now. These issues have been worldwide and known for decades and decades and decades. They are not solved yet, but I will tell you one thing, Mr. Speaker, this government is going to tackle it. This government is going to find a way forward.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Those particular issues require our attention. As we do the consultations for the next phase of our Poverty Reduction Strategy to take us through to 2014, I can guarantee you that those issues will be at the top of our list. I invite the Leader of the Third Party, and I invite any of the people from the Opposition to come over and speak to us and bring forward their ideas, because this is about working together, this is about making a difference. This is about seeing our mandate of eliminating poverty come to fruition, and we want the help of all in that process.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Mr. Speaker, there are a number of things that we have already done in terms of homelessness in this Province as a way to say that we are not simply studying, we are not simply consulting. We are making some initial investments in homelessness. The Supportive Living Community Partnership Program is one of those areas, Mr. Speaker, and I am particularly proud of that particular initiative because it has put some money into the hands of some great organizations throughout this Province who are doing some wonderful work in helping out the homeless within our Province.

We have invested, Mr. Speaker - well, we have doubled our investment first of all. We had a $1.2 million investment last year. This year it is a $2.4 million investment; $454,000 of that money is going to the Stella Burry Community Services Centre, and we all know of the wonderful work that they do there.

Again, when we talk about homelessness, Mr. Speaker, we are talking complex issues. For these people it is not a matter of simply bricks and mortar, the supports that a lot of homeless people need has to do with providing more than a home. It has to do with providing a job, it has to do with providing counselling; it has to do with providing counselling for additions. There are a number of issues involved in homelessness. The face of homelessness is very, very complex.

We look to providing some of that support as well to Choices for Youth, and this year we have given them $550,000. Recently, I made an announcement of $95,000 toward the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing and Homelessness Network as they do their part to help us out in this issue. Mr. Speaker, there are many community advisory groups around this Province, and for those particular organizations we are providing grants of $6,000 to $40,000 as they begin their work to tackle the issue of homelessness and of housing in this Province.

The Minister of Transportation and Works could elaborate better than I some of the initiatives that have been undertaken in the sense of social housing in this Province and some of particular programs and services that they have put in place through the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation. I am sure that we will continue to see advances that are made there.

Mr. Speaker, the bottom line on all of this is that our strategy is making a difference. We acknowledge that it is a journey and we are not at the end of that journey but we are making a difference and we will see our mandate fulfilled of preventing, reducing and eliminating poverty in this Province by the year 2014, which was our mandate.

Mr. Speaker, I could speak at length about this program and about many other of our strategies, but I know that I have been out of time for some ten or twelve minutes, or longer than that now.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

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

MS SULLIVAN: However, having worked toward our next action plan I do invite all of our stakeholders and our community partners out there to be ready for the consultations because we certainly want to hear from everybody, we certainly want to be making a difference in the right way. It is not about simply throwing money out there, Mr. Speaker. It is about putting money in places where money is needed and we do that best by responding to the needs of the people who live in and are vulnerable to poverty.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Mr. Speaker, we will be relentless in the pursuit of our mandate of reducing poverty in this Province. Having said that, Mr. Speaker, I will conclude my comments, but I want to say that I very much support Budget 2010 and all of the positive work that we are doing for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I do not know if I will ever give leave again. I did not mean to use the full afternoon, but I enjoyed her speech where she was patting herself on the back.

I am going to take a few minutes now, Mr. Speaker, and bring forward issues that the people of this Province, even though we know and we have said it – each member in the Official Opposition have mentioned about the good things in the Budget, but I want to bring forward some issues that people of the Province have asked us to bring forward. That was why we brought forward an amendment initially, and then a sub-amendment which was introduced by the Leader of the Opposition this past week. In that sub-amendment, Mr. Speaker, it states, "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 the 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."

Now, someone might say: well, why would you get up and bring in an amendment and a sub-amendment if you think so much about all that is good in the Budget? Well that is true, but then it gives us an opportunity to bring forward the concerns that people express to us on a daily basis. I am sure hon. members on the government side also hear from constituents, and they will also, when they get opportunity to get up and speak, bring forward the concerns that they have and want brought forward on the floor of the hon. House of Assembly. It give us, I guess, by the amendment and the sub-amendment - if we only just spoke to the Budget, our Leader would have a couple of hours, and each of us would only have twenty minutes, but with the amendment and the sub-amendment we all get an extra twenty minutes to bring forward concerns of our constituents and residents throughout the Province. Mr. Speaker -

AN HON. MEMBER: There is no substance to the amendment.

MR. BUTLER: Oh, there is lots of substance in the amendment, let me assure you, I say to the hon. member.

I just want to go back. I know the last day that I spoke, a lot of my comments were related to the fishery, and I got out the Budget of 2004 and there it said: In fisheries, we are moving quickly to implement the recommendations of the Dunne report to strengthen our fish processing sector and the cost will be fully offset by the industry. This year also, in the Budget of 2010, we read: Our fishing industry is tremendously important to our Province and to our government.

Those are very encouraging words, but then when we really size up the fishing industry we know that there was a reduction last year of some 22 per cent, I think, over the previous year, and we all know today what is taking place in this Province. When I returned to my district this weekend and I attended two or three functions, I have to say that the concerns of the people, there is a desperate situation not only in my district, in every district. I am not blaming all of this on government. I am not blaming all of this on the unions. I am not blaming all of this on the processors, but it is a combination of everything that has to come together to resolve this dispute before it is too late. I know right now there are some fishing vessels from my district that are fishing and travelling to Nova Scotia to offload their crab. That is happening as we speak, Mr. Speaker, and maybe it is happening in other areas of the Province. That, to me, is sad. They are not doing that because they want to do it, they have no choice, they are trying to save their enterprises and do what they can, but then again it is the outfall that is happening with the people who work in the plants in the communities where those fishers come from. Mr. Speaker, it is a sad situation there is no doubt about it.

It was only here yesterday I met a gentleman, a fisherman - not from my area – and he said one of the things I cannot understand - and I guess there are a lot of things that we do not understand when it comes to the fishery. Some members on the government side as well as the Opposition have said this is an ongoing thing. It seems like every year when the fishery is to start we find ourselves in this position.

Some people are asking how come the co-op in Fogo can buy the crab, they have a market and they are buying the crab - it is my understanding, I was told anyway - for $1.35 whereas our processors here on the Avalon and other areas are saying we can only afford to give you $1.09 because we do not have the market. I can understand someone might have a market over the other one, but I think this is where government should be getting involved and just see what the situation is, because the fishers are asking those questions.

Mr. Speaker, the industry itself, we know how important it is to this Province. There is no doubt about it. Many people out in rural Newfoundland will tell you that they feel that outport Newfoundland is on a slippery slope when it comes to what is happening in our fishery, not only this year but in years past. I do not care what Administration it was, this has been an issue that has been ongoing for many, many years. If we are going to survive in this Province and look after our renewable resources, something has to be done to bring the parties together. I know government are saying we cannot get involved with them to a certain degree, even though the minister is trying to arrange meetings and he has done that.

Mr. Speaker, when you talk about rural Newfoundland - and I am not talking about the divide between rural and urban Newfoundland and Labrador, I am talking about you cannot separate the fishery from rural communities when you discuss the future of this Province and when you discuss the future of our rural communities; they go hand in hand together.

I have been told, and I have read it in the papers as well that for every cent reduction in the price to fish harvesters we lose in this Province $1 million. That is a lot of money when you size up what has happened in recent weeks. I do not know, people are saying that there should be equity stakes in the fishery providing inventory, financing or possible guarantees and so on. I do not know if that is the answer but people are suggesting it. People are talking along those lines because they say in other jurisdictions this has happened, in the auto industry in the past, the pulp and paper, the forestry and the agriculture.

Mr. Speaker, it seems like while there is a division between the different sides and what is happening, people are saying: Well, why isn't government involved? It seems like, where they are in a dispute, they are opening it up and government can walk down the middle with no obligation. I cannot say that is 100 per cent accurate, but I am hoping that the Minister of Fisheries can come to some conclusion with regard to what is happening.

Another issue I have been told, Mr. Speaker, and I guess this can be clarified by the fishers on the Northern Peninsula and on the Quebec side. They are saying this year, like never before, that the seals are eating a tremendous amount of the crab. That is becoming a concern for the harvesters. We all know the stories that are being put around by the Humane Society International Canada. They are talking about a buyout, how popular it is with the seal fishermen in this Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. If you listen to, I think it is Mr. Mark Small, he is telling us that the seal industry will rebound, and hopefully, it is going to rebound next year and what those people are spreading is not correct.

The other aspect of our fishery is the cod fishery. It is some eighteen or nineteen years ago now that the moratorium came up on us here in this Province. I think, I have said this before, the first year I was elected I brought in a private member's motion on custodial management and other people have done the same thing.

It is time for the feds – and I think they are being let off of the hook. I think the Province should force them more because for whatever reasons I do not think they are taking any responsibility whatsoever with any aspect of the fishery, but more so in protecting the cod stocks so that we could have a good recovery.

Back at that time, there was an estimated 80,000 people who were involved in the fishery, probably left this Province or moved to different areas. In addition to that, there were some 25,000 direct and indirect service jobs, and all of this came about due to federal mismanagement. If rural Newfoundland and Labrador is survive into the future – and I know from time to time we talk about the royalties we have coming from the oil, and that is all very important, but we have to look long range even though I think today the government should in some way come to a – I know the minister said that he would not get involved in the financial end of it unless there was a long-term solution to it, but maybe with the state of the fishery this year and what is going to happen - I am sure we all saw the gentleman on the other day. He said: Look, there are enterprises going to go bankrupt, people are going to lose their trucks, their homes and so on. So I think we have to look at something in the short term as well, Mr. Speaker.

The other thing we have to stop comes to the custodial management issue. Fishing on the Grand Banks by foreign – foreign overfishing has to stop outside the 200-mile limit. We have talked about that for many years at both levels of government. It has been talked about by various groups and organizations, by the fishers and those who know the ins and outs of the fishery, but that has to stop. The Nose and Tail of the Flemish Cap has to be protected if there is going to be anything done to stop the overfishing and the resources to rebound like they were in the past.

I can see it, how that affects us here in this Province. In Bay Roberts, there is a service there where the foreign draggers come in and off-load. Anyway, the federal government recently – this is the second time they have done this to Faroese ships and that, and they have stopped them from coming in and off-loading because they say they are overfishing or they are breaking some of the rules on the high seas.

Mr. Speaker, what they do not do, they do not stop them from fishing. They stop them from coming into our ports or into that particular port. By that happening, they are just travelling, whether it is to St. Pierre or probably to the United States and offloading their catch. If they are overfishing, they should be stopped on the high seas and that is one way of doing it, I believe, by taking them down that way.

Mr. Speaker, when we talk about rural Newfoundland, and I know in the past the Premier has mentioned growth centres. A lot of people consider it to be something along the lines of a modern day resettlement, but I know he did mention one time about rural development. I think it was in 2005, he used the term regional hub. He said the government has to provide the infrastructure to give such hubs a chance. Mr. Speaker, what a lot of people think in the smaller rural areas of our Province and the message they are sending to us is that by providing that service - and I will just use, and I do not want to be critical to any particular area, but whether it be Corner Brook, Gander, Grand Falls or Carbonear, whatever centre it might be, the people in the outlying areas are going to be forced to move from the places they are, but what is keeping them in there now is their involvement in the fishery. I have to ask: Will the Northern Peninsula become a part of the Corner Brook hub if this should continue?

We saw here today, the people who were here referring to the air ambulance, I am sure there is not one person here who was not touched when we heard the story by the mother who had the little girl with her. Even though we know an outbreak like that cannot take place in our galleries, and the Speaker did the right thing by closing the House, but it sure sent a strong message to each and every one of us. It is not just an issue that people are complaining and asking for something just for the sake of having it, they know the service that they had, they know how important it is to the lives of the people on the Northern Peninsula.

Mr. Speaker, I believe, and many other people believe, that rural Newfoundland and Labrador, as we know it today, has to be protected. If it is to be protected for the long term it is totally directed to be in relation to the sea and the fishery. The demise of our rural communities, I think it can be reversed but it has to be a more positive attitude by government and by residents alike. You cannot lay all the blame on government, but each and every one of us has to share the burden.

We hear the Minister of Tourism from time to time and others within government, talking about all the awards that we are winning through tourism. That is all wonderful and it is good to hear that, but I can tell you one thing, just about every photo or every picture you see – and this is no disrespect to the larger cities that we have in our Province, but the majority of that work is taken in rural Newfoundland, in the little communities around this Province. We have to protect it, because that is where it is all about, and that is not talking about rural-urban divide either, Mr. Speaker.

The other thing I believe when it comes to the fishery, there has to be a way where the fish that is being caught – and I know we cannot process everything here, but there has to be a means where most everything that we do catch should be processed here in our Province. If it can be done in some other – if we can ship it to the States or Canada – I know there was one gentleman a few years ago in my district who worked in a fish plant on Yonge Street. Now I did not know there was a fish plant there, but I am sure he could have worked just as well in his own district as go to Toronto and work in a fish plant. Hopefully, over the next few days we will hear from other MHAs as they speak out, because just about everybody here represents rural areas of the Province that are with regard to the fishery and so on.

The other thing I want to touch on in the few moments I have, Mr. Speaker, is the in-migration, out-migration. We know we have seen that go from one extreme to the other in leaps and bounds, and here recently we have seen a turnaround that we can be very proud of. We also come to the – when it comes to jobs and the labour part of it, is the minimum wage. The minimum wage has been increasing, and that is wonderful to know that people – I think in July of this year the minimum wage will be $10.

I tell you one thing that is happening. I do not know if it is happening throughout the Province but it is happening in my area. As the wage goes up the smaller businesses have to cut back on the hours that they are paying those people, or some of them have laid off staff. That is sad to know that an individual gets to a point – some low-income earner, who all of a sudden is going to be trying to get out of poverty by having an increase in wages, and lo and behold, their hours are going to be cut back or they are going to lose their job.

Mr. Speaker, I read an article, I think it was out of British Columbia, that when their minimum wage reached $10 they estimated that they lost some 50,000 jobs. That is sad to know that a government would try to bring in an increase in wages and the effect would be, I guess we will say, a reverse order than what they thought. When it comes to jobs, Mr. Speaker, we know how many people are affected in the fishery. We know today some 20,000 people, I would say 20,000-plus are affected. There are a lot of good jobs coming with the offshore but the numbers will not make up for what we are looking forward to and people who are looking for work.

I know only recently, we heard how government is saying we are going to try and bring our young men and women home from out west to go to work. Well, I can tell you now of two unions only recently - and maybe the figures have changed - one is the Carpenters and Joiners Union of America, the other one was the Labourers Union. Each one of those unions - even though people are saying come home, there is lots of work here - they have 800 people on their wait-list today; 800 people who are in the union who are waiting to go to work. Like they say, it is wonderful for everybody to come home but there are a lot of people here who have to go to work first, and those people are qualified tradespeople, Mr. Speaker.

We hear recently that the net in-migration and increase in the Province's population is up to 508,925, at 0.5 per cent, which says that we have an increase –


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair is having some difficulty hearing the individual who has been recognized to speak.

MR. BUTLER: That equals to, Mr. Speaker, 2,484 people over the previous - the largest increase of in-migration we have had since 1983. I do not know if there is a breakdown or not, but I would love to see a breakdown of those 2,484 people. Are they residents who have returned from out west because they have obtained employment here and just came home for that purpose, or are they people who returned home because they lost their jobs and are back home now receiving EI? The most important one I would like to know, how many people in this number are people who have been away for most of their lives, people who are not even from the Province, but who returned home here and want to call this place home again in their retirement? I know during the last election, Mr. Speaker, I came across twenty-six to thirty people in my district that just moved there out of retirement. If you multiply that by the forty-eight districts - and I hope everyone has the same number coming home - a lot of those people, those 2,400 did not come home because the economy has been turned around and there is lots of work for them.

Mr. Speaker, I know that Memorial University and the Harris Centre, they projected in the year 2018 that the population here in our Province will be down to 500,000. I think they are taking into effect what we could see in the fishery, because that is a tremendous amount, and they say that the rural areas are the largest areas that will be affected.

Mr. Speaker, my time has elapsed; I will not be asking for leave in case I would go on for half of the afternoon.

Thank you.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is indeed a pleasure for me to get up and speak on the Budget. I suppose it more specifically gives me a chance to speak on some of the issues that are so relevant to the fishery right now and to rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, there has been the accusation that the members, the MHAs, are not concerned about rural Newfoundland and Labrador, that the Premier is not concerned about rural Newfoundland and Labrador and we should be doing this and we should be doing that. I just find it simply ludicrous for someone to say that. I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that with the ongoing debate and certainly the hope that we can get this fishery open, the MHAs on this side are in contact with me on a regular basis wanting to know what is happening, and more importantly, to find a solution for the fisheries and this ongoing annual debate.

The member who just spoke ahead of me, he knows what the fisheries issues are about. He was part of making them I say to you, Mr. Speaker. He used to be Mr. John Efford's EA. I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that many of the issues that we have today were there when he was there and passed on to us. The member, the Leader of the Opposition, was a fisheries minister whose quote was: Short-term measures are not the solution. I do not agree with her on a lot of things, but I will agree with her on that because that has been the problem in our fishery for far too long.

There has been much talk about us as a government investing and our talk about the legal opinion and the possibility of countervail and the breach of trade issues. Well, this is not something that is just a simple fly-by-night recommendation. This is a legal opinion that came from an international trade lawyer. I offered to the Leader of the Opposition today, if she wants to, she can come over to my office, sit down and let's read this.

On Saturday, Mr. Speaker, I offered the same invitation to Mr. McCurdy, the leader of the FFAW. I am saying to both of them: If you think that we are just trying to avoid doing this, come in and read the legal opinion and then tell me, with all sincerity and frankness, that they would recommend that we put this measure in place. Mr. Speaker, the ruling clearly says, in their opinion, there is the strongest of possibilities that you would get into countervail, and not only that, whatever else comes up when that door is opened.

Talking about the process and negotiation – well, Mr. Speaker, I will not talk about the work that we have done in the MOU and how, on December 17, I had to write a letter to both parties because up to that point we had received nothing, and that ongoing issue. The MOU is one matter. The issue that we have before us right now is the opening of this fishery. Well, we know that the FFAW submitted a price to the panel, but the first time that both of these parties met to get this fishery started on a common price was on March 30. This fishery was supposed to start on April 1. The first time that they got together was on March 30, and subsequently to that, the first proposal that we received from them was on Saturday – that was on Saturday past; that was on April 17. On a Saturday, 2:30 in the afternoon, there was a three-page document that was submitted to our department. We had to write back for clarification on Sunday about what it was that they were proposing. Well, just to put it in financial terms, they were asking for a line of credit for about $100 million that would pay for about 35 per cent of the crab that is caught.

So the request is that we do that, and that we roll it out to get the fishery started within the next week or so. Well, Mr. Speaker, anybody who has dealt with financial matters and justice and so on and so forth will soon recognize that you do not, by the flick of the fingers, ask for a 100-million-dollar line of credit with a potential loss of $20 million or $25 million and roll that out and have that out within a week or so

Mr. Speaker, you are talking about a subsidy here. Then, on the heels of the crab, comes the shrimp industry, and the shrimp is not looking to be more favourable. So, I am assuming that the same request would come forward regarding shrimp.

Mr. Speaker, the thing that we have said is the legal opinion is one thing; the second thing is that I think it is something that is very workable. I think it is something that if we sit down, plan it and structure it, it is something that can work. It just simply cannot be rolled out by the snap of the fingers within a week or so.

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite raised: While one fish processor can buy for $1.35, why can't others? That is quite simple, really. As long as there are only a few people buying, the market is not flooded. The minute it becomes flooded, the price drops. Very interesting though, was that when we had not received a response from the union or the processors to the questions that we asked last Sunday, and having had a call from the Leader of the FFAW to see if we would meet with him, jointly with the members of the ASP, we agreed. When they came in, we had to point out that we could not accept inventory financing because of market vale, but one of the things I heard that they have been speaking about was the name the Alaskan model. I will explain what that is, Mr. Speaker. I think more people in the Province could relate to it if they were in the offshore shrimp industry or the lump roe fishery because that is how a price is arrived at in both of those fisheries.

So, my thinking is: If it can work in the offshore shrimp and it can work in the lump roe, shouldn't it be able to work in the crab or other fisheries? So, I asked them to explore it. Anyway, on Thursday, we met again, Thursday of last week, and we learned that both sides had sat down, talked through it and agreed that there was much merit to implementing this system. I will outline some of the details of what was proposed. The ASP did request a meeting with me to come back and further give me more details, but here is the essence of what that model is about. Now, the numbers have been thrown out there, $1.07 starting, $1.09, but I am convinced through negotiations that number can change, but before that number can change we have to get both sides together.

One of the components of this was that both sides had talked about developing a seafood marketing council and doing some marketing, to develop a marketing mechanism. Now, you will recall that this is something that we have been talking about and we had hoped that they would engage in. Here was a commitment on paper, and to commit to follow up with more details; that they are willing to work toward establishing a marketing council. Well, Mr. Speaker, I can assure you that government would be very interested in hearing what they have to say about that. We have been attempting to get that all along. We offered to buy the marketing arm of FPI a number of years back. We were willing to put in $5.6 million in marketing the year when the Minister of Transportation and Works offered it to them, and it was rejected. So to hear that is very favourable.

A second point, because people are always talking about openness and transparency, that the processors indicated that they were willing to open up their books to auditors, and not just the companies and the processors auditors, they were willing to put in an auditor that the FFAW would bring forward. I thought well, this has to be one of the first steps in getting transparency and accountability, and that they would sit and negotiate a price based on present market prices. Included in that would be an auditor who could then monitor what is happening in the markets in Boston, or wherever else, and then would report back to both processors and harvesters so that at the end of the day there is the possibility of getting a retroactive cheque if markets improve. So I thought that was quite a good measure. The FFAW seemed to find that as a good measure. The only thing that they had an issue with is that they do not see how it can work this year. To quote the leader of the FFAW is that he feels that he did not have the mandate to negotiate that. Now, in the interest of getting the industry open, I would certainly hope that the leader of the union who represents his membership would sit down and negotiate with the ASP and the processors to get this fishery started.

Another important point, Mr. Speaker, is that we, as a government, are willing to put up $1.1 million to reduce the fees of the processors to current Atlantic Canada standards. Mr. Speaker, another important point in this that people have not talked about, but I can tell you one thing, fish harvesters are talking about, is they would like to have an investigation of the fees that they pay. The processors want compensation for what they feel is unfair, fees that they pay. I think it is incumbent upon the parties to look at what harvesters are paying because the fees that they pay certainly appear to be high. It is something that definitely needs to be looked at.

Mr. Speaker, the history of this; look at the history of it. Every year this seems to be an annual problem. Last year there was an occupation of the fisheries building by people demanding something be done for shrimp. We are in this ongoing situation right now around crab. I think that someone reported to me that five of the last seven years there has been a snarl and a disruption about arriving at a price to get the fishery started.

Mr. Speaker, I can go back to the reports. We have had reports done, the Jones report, we have had the Dunne report, we have had the Vardy report, we have had the Cashin report. I suppose, Mr. Speaker, we might be able to get the fishery started again this year if we called for another report. What does it do? It just simply gets us back to fishing this year, and next year we find ourselves back in the same old situation again. What has not been dealt with is that the processors and the union, in conjunction with government, have not dealt with the real issue here. The real issue becomes that the processors and the union have to open themselves up and say here are the issues. I think everybody in the Province should ask themselves two questions. Number one, why is it we are the only jurisdiction in the crab industry who find ourselves in these disputes year after year? Why is it that the crab prices that are in this Province are always lower than the rest of Atlantic Canada? Answer those two questions, Mr. Speaker, and we may be able to find a solution.

As to the involvement of the federal government here; the federal government has to be involved. Tell me, somebody in the Province, somebody in the union, somebody in the processors, tell me what it is that has been developed that we are going to bring forward to the federal government. I have not seen it yet. I have not seen a plan developed that we are going to go to the federal government and say, this is what we expect you to be a part of. I can tell you one thing that the federal government does know, that they can count on it, that once we start to work towards something it blows up and we know that people in the fishing industry in Newfoundland and Labrador end up fighting amongst themselves year after year after year. They can count on that. So if they can count on that, we are fighting amongst ourselves all the time, well they can count on that we will never come to an agreement as to what we are going to bring forward to the federal government. Until we do that, and until we sit down and map out the plan, we have nothing to go to the federal government with.

Mr. Speaker, if you want to talk about the industry as a whole look at the state of the fish plant workers. I had not heard very much about the fish plant workers. I was in this department, I would say, probably about three to four months before the words fish plant workers were even mentioned. I will tell you, of the first five times that it was mentioned, if I did not mention it, it was not mentioned. These are people who go into these processing facilities and their average income annually is about $15,000. Now tell me, a fishery of the future, what young person in this Province is going to step foot in a fish plant for $15,000 a year? It is not going to happen, Mr. Speaker. It is not going to happen, and unless we change the structure of this fishery and engage the young people and have people working in those facilities for more regular employment, a better wage, you are not getting them any more.

Another group that I think seldom gets mentioned are deckhands. What course do they have? A fellow takes them on as part of his crew. Next year he has someone, a relative who wants to come on board the boat. Quite simply, as far as I can understand, the skipper can say to him: John, sorry boy, you are not sailing with us this year; chappie is coming. I have not seen yet where there is recourse for a deckhand. So these two groups are involved in this fishery and seemingly to me, they do not warrant the time and the detail that they need.

The group of harvesters with the very small quotas is another group that needs to be considered. Many of them have quotas that cannot sustain them. I have gone around and I have met with many of these people individually. From up in 3K and 3PS, we cannot in this Province come forward with a blanket request for money that you think is going to solve the problem for all of our harvesters because a different plan needs to be developed for every different area. The Connaigre Peninsula down there needs something totally different than is needed on the bottom of the Burin Peninsula and on the Northeast Coast. Until we get into planning and mapping that stuff out, there will be no change to this industry.

Mr. Speaker, I know my time is winding up, but I have to get in a couple of points here before I close. One thing is we, as a government, cannot force people to fish nor can we force processors to buy. The only solution here is that both Mr. McCurdy and his negotiating team and the negotiating team from the processors have to get together and get this fishery started. Secondly, the model that has been put forward by the processors, I think, is workable. If we, as a government, have to provide funds to structure that and to put it into place, I am certain we can help out with that; but before we can do that, both of these parties have to sit down and they have to agree to negotiate.

Mr. Speaker, before too long we are into the first of May. The fish harvesters in 3K have until the end of May to catch their crab. It is going to be a shame if these people cannot get out. Many of them are ready and willing to go, but it is going to take the leadership from the two parties that I just mentioned that are going to put them on the water. We can help facilitate that model that was put forward. If there are costs involved in setting it up, we can be a part of that, but the onus rests entirely on their shoulders to see that this season starts. Around inventory, financing and the rest of it that is where government can come into play in terms of rolling this plan out -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. JACKMAN: Just a minute or so to finish up, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. member has asked for leave.

Does the hon. member have leave?


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, by leave.

MR. JACKMAN: My point, Mr. Speaker, is that the government's role in this is leading the process so we have a better fishery in the future, and that is what the MOU is about. I am calling on both parties now to sit at the table, establish a price and get fishing. We, as a government, will help along in the MOU process, and hopefully, see a different place this time next year.

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.

Members might want to tune out now, because what I am going to talk about this government does not want to hear, unless you want some of your own information – it is for information purpose, I suppose. I want to speak –

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DEAN: That is true; they did not want to hear it then, you are right. I want to speak again to the air ambulance decision and I want to draw some attention to the –

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DEAN: You should go get your figures right, my friend, and come back with it again and we will talk about it some day.

Let's talk about the air ambulance service for right now. It is all based on this famous Drodge report which, I would suggest, will go down in history as one of the most comprehensively flawed reports that government has ever requested.

You are talking about changes to such a vital service to the residents of this Province. When you are talking about air medevac services, it is so crucial; it is something that is the difference between life and death. It is not about days that we have or hours that we have, but often it is down to minutes that we have to get the medical services that an individual or a patient would need at that moment.

We set out to do a review and we set out this broad scope in the Terms of reference. Really, when you look at it, it is quite laughable if laughing was a good thing to do at such a thing, but we cannot. The Terms of Reference - we asked to review the current statistics relative to the air ambulance patient transports within a focus of the Labrador-Grenfell region. Not focusing on the Province, not focusing on the whole of the air ambulance program and so on that is offered across Newfoundland and Labrador, we wanted it to just focus on the Labrador-Grenfell area, and also to consider the appropriateness of having the fixed-wing aircraft located in St. Anthony, or alternately, as the possibility of Labrador City, Wabush or Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Of course, a piece of that, you would think, that no matter how broad the Terms of Reference were, you would go out and you would consult regarding making the best decision on the Terms of Reference that you have been given. Well, Mr. Drodge and his staff or himself, whoever else was with him - I know there was one government official with him when he came to St. Anthony and gave just a few hours notice of his intention to come. Discussions were held, it says, with the officials of the provincial government departments - I am not sure which departments, but some I would suppose - and the Nunatsiavut government and the municipal councils of Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Lab City and St. Anthony. So, the part of the Province that is losing the service once the report is completed was consulted on one occasion, this one town council meeting, for about twenty minutes that obviously appeared to be just somewhat of a general chit-chat.

The fact that they had fifty-five years of doing this service, the fact that all of the expertise that were there in terms of aircraft operations and all the other things that are there, medical staff and so on, yet it was a fifteen, twenty minute with the town council of that community that was the amount of consultation that was done. So, that in itself, really just discredits the whole process. Even if you had made a right decision, which in this case we know you did not, even if it had made a right recommendation, you surely would not bring that forward until you had taken it a little further.

It makes note of the fact that this report is not a complete analysis of the air ambulance system in the Province and it says therefore, it makes a note that these recommendations, these observations, can only mainly focus on a specific assignment and that is, of course, to look at the Labrador-Grenfell region.

What is interesting also to note is when you flip the page in the report, you get into the background on the very next page, the first thing that you see is that the air ambulance system is a key component of the health care system in the Province. So it is very important to health care delivery in Newfoundland and Labrador, and yet when we want to look at making changes and so on, we want to really narrow it down, look at a very small piece of it, and do very little consultation and so on with people who understand the whole process.

One thing, this flies in the face of the other, how it could be such an integral part, how it could be such a key component of a health care system, and yet not go out and talk to the people who understand it and do it well. Well, I guess it comes down to a political decision obviously, doesn't it?

It mentions about a number of specific incidents that involved air ambulance service which have given government sufficient concern to really undergo the review that has taken place. In the incidents that are mentioned or that are noted, location was never the issue. It is not about where the aircraft was. It is about the aircraft being available. It is about medevac teams being available. It is about the aircraft being able to respond and to look after that particular need at that particular time. Yet, this seems to be also important.

There are a lot of other things in there that are probably not all that interesting to most of us here today, but nevertheless, when the report comes out, professionals get an opportunity to look at it and to really delve into it and present to the department as well their logic, their understanding and their assessment of this report.

We have this report then that was posted just recently on the Labrador-Grenfell Web site that is done by the staff of the air operations and in this we again see how exclusive this report was in terms of who should have been consulted and was not. For example, none of the staff who operates the air ambulance system in the Labrador-Grenfell board, and I would suppose in the St. John's piece of the provincial one as well, none of the staff in the Labrador-Grenfell were consulted. No questions asked, no meetings, no observations made and so on; and to note that in that group of staff, in that groups of individuals, in that group of professionals there are over 36,000 flying hours of time, if you will, for the Province in terms of medevac service. Now, 36,000 hours this group of people have been flying medevac service across the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador and yet they are not important enough to consult with when it comes time to consider how we can do it better. That is an atrocity; 135 years, the summary of the report suggests, in terms of experience in doing medevac service. What an incredible insight. What an incredible amount of knowledge. What an incredible amount of experience to be able to bring a well-balanced, well-thought-out approach and opinions and suggestions to this review, and yet, not really important enough to consider.

In the executive summary of this report, also we make note that relocating the service from one position to another should be undertaken only if such a move would improve the services for the residents of the Province. This argument has been made day after day by (inaudible) Opposition, that we are not improving the service, that we are downgrading the service and yet, for some reason or another, it just seems as though minds are closed, decisions are made and there is just no way that you can get through to this group of individuals who make decisions around very important issues and around the lives and well-being of our families.

The unfortunate thing is, just today, half-an-hour ago I realized the directive is gone out for the minister to get this plane moving. We are not surprised by that. We assumed that would happen relatively quickly. There is no medevac flight team; that will not be available for some time. So I am not sure how the plane is going to operate and so on. I guess they do not really know anyway and probably, I do not know, he probably does not even really care. The plane is on the move and it is just amazing that things are unfolding so quickly. We had asked, as was suggested in the House last fall, that this second medevac team be placed with the aircraft, and of course that was ignored and now they are going to send the plane off to St. Anthony without the team as well.

One good, logical piece of discussion that came out of this report that I would have thought any minister in any department, in any government, would want to reconsider - and really if the homework had been done properly would have been considered even beforehand - and that is the fact that this new aircraft that is being purchased has the capability of responding to more medevac calls than the old, and obviously, in and of itself would enhance the service. The review currently did not explore the downtime of the St. John's aircraft, an older aircraft often putting a strain in the system, if you will, because it is not available and so on. Yet, none of these factors came out into that report. It was not considered. It was not meant to be considered. It was not important. If it had been considered, then I truly believe that even Mr. Drodge would have brought back a different set of recommendations and so on.

There is no mention of Transport Canada involvement. An interesting thought and the fact that even though this is a health service that we are talking about, the delivery of health care, yet we are regulated by Transport Canada in terms of the aviation regulations and guidelines and so on and yet no mention of them in this report as to how it would be impacted in relocating from one place to another, whether it would fit in terms of the schedule of times that are allowed for flying and all the other things; again, a major, major flaw, a major mistake if you will, in that whole process of not even looking to Transport Canada for some participation and some ideas of what should go on.

This committee did a lot of good work and in their terms of reference that they offered, as a logical way and as a more authorial way and as a more professional way of addressing the study of air ambulance in the Province, they came up with a lot of good recommendations. All of which have been ignored and all of which mean nothing. Again, coming from a group of people who have experience and who have flown for over 36,000 hours and through the medevac system, talking about planning for a long-term study and the effects of program changes and establishing a protocol for its review and analysis and so on. It also put forth a very good recommendation, suggesting that we, as a government, look at the ability of placing NLA, which is the old aircraft in St. John's into Goose Bay, to further complement the air ambulance fleet. As I read that I thought: well that is pretty logically, we own the asset. Is it valuable, is it worth something? Is there something we can do with it, and so on? Looking at it being there and investigating the possibility of having the King Air, of course, at Churchill Falls, which no one knew we had, which is operated by Nalcor as a backup for Labrador as well, I believe these are some of the things that certainly would warrant some investigation and some consideration.

Of course, as I mentioned earlier in the House today, a full investigation should be done of all the fatalities and any connections to the past air ambulance flights. I shiver to think that in short order we will have situations in Northern Newfoundland in particular, and the West Coast as well, where we have had fatalities; where the air ambulance has not been able to respond in time, has not been available, and yes, we will come back to realize that all we have done is shift the problem, we really have not corrected it. When we consider the older King Air that is currently in St. John's, and it fails to look into the complete picture with respect of that aircraft, as I mentioned, the fact that today it flies, statistics would suggest, about approximately 1,000 hours per year. If you look at it as a backup and if it was placed in Goose Bay or wherever in Labrador and flying probably 300 or 400 hours a year for as long as it possibly could, then that would be an improvement to what we have today. That would certainly make sense and given consideration, flying only when the two new aircraft that we would have – the one in St. John's, and the one that would still have been in St. Anthony – flying only as a backup to them. It sounds like a great solution but something that was not considered, something that was not thought of because the terms of reference that were given were not meant to take them in that direction. They were meant to take them in a totally different direction so that they could get to a conclusion whereby they could strip this service from the Northern Peninsula, they could take the air ambulance, relocate it in Goose Bay and make this a political move. Well, I want to tell you, there are consequences.

We heard today in this House from the gallery of a child who is basically living today because of this air ambulance being available. I would suggest it is just a matter of time that when it is moved out we are going to hear, unfortunately, of children and adults and other people who will not be living because the services were not available. Someone will have to live with that. Someone will have to accept the responsibility for that. Someone will have to be willing to stand and say, yes, the decision we made at the time, here are the consequences of doing what we have done. I want to tell you, I do not know about you, Mr. Speaker, but I certainly would not want that on my shoulders, and I do not know that there would be anyone here today that would want that as well.

Yes, decisions have to be made from time to time. That is what government is all about. Things have to be streamlined, things have to be reorganized and so on, but you cannot go out and just make knee-jerk decisions. You cannot just go out on a whim and do things that have such dire consequences to them as has been done here in these past few weeks. Yet, for some reason, out of all of the presentations in the House, out of all the e-mails - and I have seen literally hundreds of them - out of all of the letters that have been written, out of all the documents that have been studied and prepared and put together and so on, when everything has been done and all of it has been so professional and all of it has made so much sense and all of it has been so informative, and yet when it is all complete, when it is all done, it has not made one bit of difference. It is has been like throwing it to the wind, so to speak, unable to get the attention of the minister, unable to get the attention of the Premier, unable to get the attention of any of government that would say: Listen, folks, I wonder did we make a wrong move here? We have made them in the past. Other governments have made them. Governments to come will make them as well, I would suggest. So is it a possibility that this decision that we have made in terms of relocating this air ambulance, is it a possibility that we have made the wrong decision? Should we be men and women, should we be just diplomatic enough, should we be strong enough to go back and say: Let's take a look?

We have not been able to get there. We have not even been able to get a consideration of that. I want to tell you that if that is the way that a group of men and women believe they ought to govern on behalf of their people, then they ought to go back and consider those who brought us here in the first place to this Legislature, to this House of Assembly, because that is not the way I see it.

So again, I will continue, you will get tired of listening, but I will not get tired of talking and I will continue doing it. I will bring it forward, I will petition it and I will say again and I will go on record as saying that this is a mistake. It is something that will cost lives in the Northern part of Newfoundland. The lives of individuals, I would suggest, are just as important as any life anywhere else in the Province. I am not suggesting that they are any more, but I am suggesting that they are just as important. Yet, we are doing something that really just flies in the face of all of that.

So, Mr. Speaker, I want to just finish up again by saying that this report is – we have been using the word flawed. I think it is even more than flawed. I think it is ridiculously weak. I think it is inadequate. I think it is geared specifically to bring a certain outcome, the outcome of which we have gotten. It is all politics; it is all dirty politics. It has nothing to do with offering a correct and proper service, but it has all to do with attaining an objective, one which is not in the best interests of the people but in the best interests of politics.

I would just again urge our government - and I want to make sure that the people of this Province understand what is happening today, that the directive has gone out, the air ambulance will move. It is being done in haste, and very soon, again, as the aircraft is required from different parts of the Province, then I believe we are going to see delays and we are going to see problems. We are going to see the issues that are in Labrador now shifted to the West Coast, to Central Newfoundland, to the Northern Peninsula. Unfortunately, the case of fatalities that we have recorded in this document and as we have seen in recent months in Labrador, we are going to see them in other parts of the Province, and that is very, very unfortunate. It just speaks to government's unwillingness to listen to the people and so on.

I have heard so much about the statistics in this report. You can take numbers and you can throw them around, you can do everything with them. Yet, they have been taken and they have been misused; they have been misguided. Talking about the families who were interviewed in this review, they very readily acknowledged that their issue for them was just the absence of a medevac service team. Yet, we were willing for that absence to be there for the past three years since we implemented this new policy and so on.

Again, this is not the last that you will hear. Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for this time and the opportunity to present again today.

MR. SPEAKER (Kelly): The Chair recognizes the Minister of Health and Community Services.

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is my pleasure to stand today and have a few words on the Budget and the approach of this government. I am going to review a number of different things.

One of the things that have certainly come to my attention in my six months as Health Minister is the impact upon the health system, upon each and every person of this Province, how it affects all of us, every one of us in this room and everyone in the Province. What we recognize as a government, Mr. Speaker, is that we have to try to deliver accessible health care, health care that is efficient in terms of the use of government resources and that is effective.

Now, in the news, in the e-mails I receive what we hear oftentimes are the stories of people who have had difficulties in the health care system. We hear the stories of individuals whose loved ones, they feel, are not being treated properly or who need a drug that can help them along. The bureaucratic process oftentimes, in their opinion, impedes that access to the health care services they need.

So, what I want to look at today is to talk about our Budget, but not only the Budget but the approach of this government as a whole in terms of trying to address the needs of individual Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. When I became the Minister of Health and Community Services, I sat back and I said: What is it I am trying to accomplish? What can I hope to accomplish in the short term that I will have as Minister of Health and Community Services? I tried to identify a number of priorities that we could identify - and when I say a short time, politics is short. Most Cabinet ministers spend a number of years in a portfolio if they are lucky or unlucky, I guess, depending on how you look at it, but you do not have, generally, five or six years. Obviously, we go to the polls every four years and it is up to the people to determine who they want to elect and then it is up to the Premier to determine how he is going to construct his or her Cabinet.

So what I tried to do is say: What is it that affects people's daily lives? How are people affected? When I came in to this portfolio there was certainly no lack of controversy as there is no lack of controversy today. We had the issues in Lewisporte and Flower's Cove, which I dealt with. We then moved into the H1N1 crisis, and I have to tell you the e-mails that I received from people during that crisis in terms of their inability to access the vaccine was nothing short of very emotional. It was very difficult for me because as politicians - and I think sometimes people forget this - we are all here, we are all sons and daughters and fathers and wives and brothers and sisters and that we are also affected. You cannot be affected by the decisions we made. That is what we were elected to do, is to make decisions. So I looked at: Well, how can I help? How can I help affect people's daily lives? One of the first areas, Mr. Speaker, I looked at was the area of mental health and addictions. How can we deal with this issue – not that it has not been dealt with in the past, because this government in the last number of years has invested something like $17 million or $20 million in mental health and addictions.

I was asked a question last week by the Leader of the NDP in relation to the psychiatrists and the use of psychiatrists, and at that time I indicated that they are one part of the system. There is no question they are an important part, but when it comes to mental health and addictions a lot of times people are empowered themselves to seek help and to deal with their issues. There are also the peer groups out there that are so valuable in terms of assisting the individual in achieving recovery.

So what we have to look at, Mr. Speaker, is a continuum of care. A continuum of care that begins with the individual visiting his or her doctor's office, or it can be the family member saying: look, your behaviour is affecting me. Mental health issues and addiction issues affect the family. They affect society as a whole. So I started having discussions with various groups out there. Mr. Speaker, one of the things that we were able to do as a government, in a very short period of time, was to outline or to get some money out there to the groups of individuals who could help people. If I could use some examples, a number of groups - for example, we all know the Stella Burry corporation and the great work that they do. We were all aware, Mr. Speaker, of some of these groups, but there are a lot of other groups out there.

There is a group called CHANNAL, I think it is Consumers' Health Awareness Network Newfoundland And Labrador, and what they are doing, they are a peer support group for people with mental illness. I had the opportunity to read Senator Michael Kirby's report. The point made by Senator Kirby – and I think it is called Out of the Shadows. The point made is that mental health and mental health issues are ones that are affecting all of us on a daily basis, but as a society we are not addressing because it is not simply enough to look at: well, send the person to a psychiatrist once a month and hopefully they will get better. There are issues of housing, there are issues of employment, there are issues of peer support, education, there are issues of access to proper food, to medication, to the effects of poverty, so there has to be a more holistic or global approach.

So, Mr. Speaker, on March 3 we announced $362,000 in grants to various community groups to support their work in helping others. If you look at the effect of mental health and addictions on our society, if you look at the untold cost on the family in terms of the social cost, but then you also have to look at the economic cost. I do not mean to be harsh to talk in terms of economics but there is a reality that people miss work, the cost of hospitalization. If we take a preventative approach and we are going to help people help themselves, that is how we are going to get to the stage of a healthier society but we have to recognize that these issues exist, Mr. Speaker. We cannot simply say: well, no, that does not affect me; that is someone else. It affects all of us.

Mr. Speaker, in my previous life, and it seems like a long time ago, I practised criminal law. I used to estimate on a conservative figure that 80 per cent of what I saw going through the court system was alcohol, drug related, or people with issues of mental health. When you really look at it, and you look at the people who find themselves in that system, oftentimes, Mr. Speaker, they have not gotten the breaks in life that we have gotten. They do not have those opportunities that we have been afforded. Again, they grow up in lives of poverty. They grow up with lives of a lack of education, of parental support. What we have is a criminal justice system that turns people in and out, but it does not address the issue of how are we helping people.

What we have tried to do, Mr. Speaker, over the last period of time that I have been acting as the Minister of Health, is to deal with issues like that. An example, Mr. Speaker, there is a group out there that does great work. There is a gentleman by the name of Ron Fitzpatrick at Turnings. Ron deals with people out in the prison system as they are getting out into society in trying to help them accept responsibility and to reintegrate into society, because Mr. Fitzpatrick's theory is quite simple. His main goal is to protect the public, to allow for a safe community. If we simply put people in jail and we do not address their needs, well they are going to come out and they will re-offend again. Everyday that person does not re-offend is a day that our community is safe, but then we also have lots of people in our society who suffer mental health and addictions issues who do not have the opportunity to get the help they need because oftentimes, Mr. Speaker, they do not know there is something wrong.

There was a startling statistic in Senator Kirby's report of the number of teenagers who suffer from some element of depression or anxiety, and it is quite startling when you actually think about it. So it is one that we have looked at, and plans are underway to bring Senator Kirby to St. John's. We are going to have a full-day conference and we will hear from what he found as he went across this country in dealing with these issues.

Mr. Speaker, in terms of the addictions issue, in this Budget we announced a new long-term residential treatment centre in the Avalon region to deal with these issues. We have the Humberwood facility on the West Coast of Newfoundland which does great work, but what we also need is another facility that can deal with the more significant, or longer-term problems I guess is the way I would put, is that if we have issues with the – obviously, we have all heard the Oxycontin issues, the cocaine issues that still exist, the prescription pill issues, and sometimes these people need longer-term treatment. Also, apparently from the consultants that we hired to look at the facility, how we would go about starting this facility, there is also the issue of concurrent disorders. I guess it would not surprise anyone here in this room that oftentimes people who have mental health issues, have addictions issues. Although they do not have to be all in one, that oftentimes there are elements. So there is that issue. That is an example of how we are dealing with issues in terms of trying to help people help themselves.

Mr. Speaker, we have also recently, on March 17, 2010, announced thirty-five wellness grants in the amount of $579,750. These grants are spread throughout the Province. They can be for everything from youth groups to seniors groups, all with a view to encouraging people to live healthy lifestyles.

We had a couple of weeks before that, announced $247,000, Mr. Speaker, for food security grants to teach people about eating properly. Again, if we are proactive, if we take a preventative approach and we are going to encourage people to live healthy lives, to run around, whether they be kids, to walk around if they are seniors, then the longer that people live in the community - as seniors, for example - the less cost to us on our health care system. The more that we know that childhood obesity is a problem, that is something that myself and the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation have monies in this year's budget to address after school programs. So what we are looking at, Mr. Speaker, is trying to move toward a healthier society.

If we can move toward that healthier society, well then our emergency rooms will not be as full. We will not have the same level of chronic disease, because we have seen the connection between chronic disease and lack of healthy living. Now, this is not something, Mr. Speaker, that is going to take place overnight. This is going to have to be a cultural change. It is going to have to be a shift in the way we approach things, and all of us here will have to approach it.

Mr. Speaker, it is like the way we have come around now to recycling. I can remember clearly one of my children, when she first went to kindergarten I was going to throw a pop can in the garbage or something. No, no, that is not what you do any more, you recycle. So now it is something we do automatically. It would never occur to me to take something that can be recycled and throw it in the garbage can any more. So this is our way of thinking. It starts with our kids, and what we are trying to do is impress upon them the need for a healthier lifestyle. What we are doing as a government, Mr. Speaker, we are getting money out there into the hands of the organizations that can help get us our biggest bang for the buck.

Mr. Speaker, these are all good news stories. This is the problem with health care because oftentimes when we are dealing with today's crisis, that the good news is often lost.

Mr. Speaker, this year we announced - and I remember the day it arose in the House of Assembly, the colorectal cancer screening program. I remember saying that day: Yes, that is something we should be looking at. What do we do as a government? It comes up in the House of Assembly, it is raised – and I am not saying it should not have been done earlier. We announced, on March 19, the colorectal cancer screening program for the Province with a $4.3 million commitment over three years.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Again, Mr. Speaker, we are trying to get proactive, we are trying to move ahead and we are trying to deal with the issues as they arise.

Another example of an issue, Mr. Speaker, that arose in this House, one that as a government we addressed was the issue of wheelchair accessibility. In this day and age, and I acknowledged in the House that day, it is unacceptable that people in wheelchairs do not have accessibility to washrooms in our hospitals.

Mr. Speaker, I met with the Coalition for Persons with Disabilities and the representative. I said: Look, we cannot fix all of this up overnight. The Health Sciences was built in the 1970s; a lot of our hospitals were built in the 1970s. Can you work with us? Are you willing to work with us to try to deal with the situation at present, and then, as we are moving towards building our new facilities we can work all of this in? Mr. Speaker, what did we do? On March 23, as a government, we announced $1.72 million to complete renovations to help improve washroom and shower accessibility for patients at facilities.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: What we are doing is, as a government, we are responding to the needs of our people.

I just want to put in - this statistic is actually quite amazing. We oftentimes talk about our long-term care facilities and we will hear that we are not doing enough for home care; we are not doing enough for personal care homes.

Mr. Speaker, we have invested, since 2004, over $200 million in the long-term care and community support services. We have made investments of $110 million in infrastructure, new long-term care facilities in Corner Brook - I had the pleasure to go through the new long-term care facility in Happy Valley-Goose Bay the other day with my colleagues, the Minister of Labrador Affairs and the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, and this is a state-of-the-art facility.

We are moving now with Lewisporte. We will have long-term care beds in Labrador West. We have announced the Hoyles-Escasoni and then Carbonear. So we have all of these new facilities, Mr. Speaker, over $110 million. Do you know what else we have done that sometimes is lost in the mix? We have invested $103 million in home support wages and personal care homes. Mr. Speaker, there has been $38.5 million invested since 2005-2006 to increase the home support hourly subsidy rate. Since 2004, we have increased the personal care home subsidy rate from $1,172 to $1,717; that is an increase of almost $600 a month. So, when we hear that we are not doing anything in these areas, I just beg to differ and it is important that the public know. So these are good news stories; we are trying to deal with the needs of our people.

Mr. Speaker, when we look at the - and I heard my colleague the Minister of Human Resources, Labour and Employment earlier today talk about the redevelopment in Grand Falls-Windsor area, the regional health centre. We are investing $7.9 million this year in a total of $30 million in a period of four years to redevelop that hospital. We have a new MRI in the Gander hospital. There is a new MRI announced in the St. Clare's hospital.

Mr. Speaker, what we are dealing with, we are dealing with the issues of, as I indicated when I began, the priorities: mental health and addictions, reducing wait times, improving long-term care and community support services. We are addressing cancer care. We are looking at - and then I want to touch briefly on this in the couple of minutes that I have left. There is always the issue: What are you doing in rural Newfoundland and Labrador? There is always the issue: Well, you are not doing enough. If I could, just refer briefly to a couple of the areas - investments this year.

Down in my colleague's, the Minister of Fisheries, district we had some people come in from a number of small communities and they said: Look, we have these smaller clinics that are not really working. How about we take a building that exists and we will make it into a central location? So, in other words, we will shut down two, possibly three small clinics, and you give us a better clinic. Now, Mr. Speaker, that was something that we looked at, we had no problem and in this year's Budget, we announced $500,000 for the planning, design and redevelopment of a new primary health care centre that will serve 3,200 people north of Marystown. Now we have this facility north of Marystown, we have the Burin hospital, we have St. Lawrence and we have Grand Bank offering a good quality of care to people on the Burin Peninsula.

Mr. Speaker, this year we announced $430,000 for two new transition houses in Nain and Rigolet. Something like that speaks volumes about our government's approach. We have a new transition house out in Carbonear. So what we are trying to do is protect our women and children.

Mr. Speaker, we have announced this year - and I certainly acknowledge the petitions that were put forward by the Member for Burgeo & La Poile. This year we announced the satellite dialysis unit for Port aux Basques; we announced the satellite dialysis unit in Labrador City. We announced dementia bungalows for Bonavista, so we are spreading the money around this Province. We are trying to make sure that people have access to the services they need.

There is also a reality; we are a small population living in a vast geographic area. We have to make choices, and oftentimes, those choices are not pleasing to everyone. In order to utilize our resources wisely, we have to make these decisions.

This year, Mr. Speaker, our health budget will be $2.7 billion and we are currently spending, I think, it is $4,500 per capita, the most in this country, even more than Alberta. Yet, we are spending $1,000 more per capita than Ontario and one has to wonder how and why that is taking place.

We are addressing these issues, Mr. Speaker. We are trying to determine how we can streamline our services while providing the best services to the people of this Province. I would suggest that the steps we are taking show a very positive, a very proactive approach to health care and we will continue to do so.

Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I am very glad to have another opportunity to stand and to speak in response to the discussions that are going on with regard to the Budget. Today, of course, we are speaking to a sub-amendment of the non-confidence vote that was brought in by the Official Opposition last week. I am glad to have the opportunity to speak to that sub-amendment.

Last week in giving a response to the non-confidence vote, I took time to show where money could be found to pay for putting an improved social infrastructure in place in this Province. I pointed out, to people who are listening, that the Budget shows us that this year the federal government is sending an extra $308 million to the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador in equalization and offsets revenue, in offset payments that they have to make to us under the agreements that were brought down in the discussion of the Atlantic Accord. That $308 million, Mr. Speaker, if it is coming as part of equalization and offset payments would seem to me to be money that should be focused on education and health care because that is what the equalization payments are all about.

I also pointed out last week that at the same time that the government is getting an infusion of $308 million extra from the federal government, this government is giving a tax break to corporations that is resulting in a $332 million expense to government because of the tax break. So, one of the things I said last week when I was on my feet, Mr. Speaker, was what could we do with the $308 million if the government had not given the $332 million tax break to the corporate sector? I mentioned some things in my speech at that time. I talked about our housing needs, I talked about VLTs, I talked about home care, but only in a general way.

So I would like to talk specifically today about a couple of the issues that I mentioned last week and how we could spend some of that $308 million. One of the things I mentioned last week, Mr. Speaker, was the whole issue of VLTs, Video Lottery Terminals. As we know, that when government first got involved in raising money through the lotteries, back many years ago at the time of one of the Olympics in Canada, and governments across Canada set up lotteries, video terminals were not part of that. Lottery was basically selling tickets, but as time has gone on and as government has got used to raising money through gambling, the Atlantic Lottery Corporation introduced video terminals, which we of course use here in Newfoundland and Labrador. We, at the moment, are making about $75 million a year on the VLTs. They were $86 million in 2004, and the revenues here in this Province went down in 2007, but last year the revenues went up to $75 million.

We are now on the rise again, in terms of revenues. Government, I know, will say: well, how can we raise that $75 million if we get rid of VLTs? Well, if government did not spend the $308 million in giving a tax break to the corporations we could easily have taken $75 million out of that to go toward social and educational programs. Continuing VLTs does not make any sense to me. Government did do the gambling prevalence study and it showed that the rate of problem gambling in the population had dropped from –

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Minister of Finance, on a point of order.

MR. MARSHALL: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

I wonder if the Leader of the NDP would tell us – she has mentioned, if I heard her correctly, she has mentioned a couple of times tax breaks to corporations. I wonder if she would tell us what those tax breaks are, just so that we would know what she is talking about?

AN HON. MEMBER: A good point of order.

MS MICHAEL: Mr. Speaker (inaudible) the minister to read his own Budget and he will know what they are, because they are there and anybody else in the Province who wants to can read them as well.


MR. MARSHALL: I know what they are; I do not think you do.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Okay, no point of order. The Chair –

MS MICHAEL: (Inaudible) I am going through information that is in the Budget because I want to make the points that I want to make. So I thank you very much for finding no point of order.

In speaking about where we can be spending some of our money and how, the NDP would spend it differently because that is one of the reasons for having discussion in the House of Assembly. If we do that, Mr. Speaker, we look at VLTs and we ask: Why are we continuing to use VLTs? Even though we know that there has been some decline in use among the general population, the studies that have been done indicate that the use among young people is going up, not going down. So if that is going up, that is going to continue.

The other thing that the studies are showing is that the moderate risk and problem gambling rates among VLT gamblers is remaining the same. You are not getting a change there. In other words, people who are addicted to VLTs, people who are at moderate risk for addiction, they are maintaining the same percentage of the population of people who gamble. That number is not going down, and the rate of VLT gamblers and the rate at which they continue to use VLTs are much higher than the rates for other types of gambling. The rates for other types of gambling have gone down but not the rate for people who are at moderate risk or at high use of VLTs. They continue to use them at the same rate.

Seventy-two percent of problem gamblers had played VLTs in the last year. So there is a high usage among problem gamblers of VLTs which have been proven by all research to be shown to be much more addictive than ordinary gambling. The VLT Action Plan – and it was a good action plan – included 15 per cent reduction in the number of machines in the Province by the end of 2010 through elimination of multi-site establishments. It also included slower machine speeds; stop button eliminated, restricted use of hours, et cetera. So far, with regard to the number of VLTs in the Province, the VLTs have gone down by 9 per cent. We have another 6 per cent drop to go by the end of this year in order to reach the goal that was set in the VLT Action Plan. My thing would be to just get rid of them altogether, but doing it step-by-step I understand.

The Action Plan has not been very successful with regard to the VLTs. So, what I am concerned about, if government really does want to get at this problem, if it wants to reduce the number of people using the health care system because of addiction to gambling, if it wants to get at cutting its own costs with regard to people who are addicted, then the government should put another plan in place. First of all, make sure that by the end of this year they have met the goal of a 15 per cent reduction, and second, set another goal for reduction of VLTs in this Province. So far we have not been very successful. The interesting thing is this can become very addictive for government because even though they say they have a plan and they lowered the numbers, guess what is happening? The use of the high-use people and the moderate risk people is remaining the same and government's revenues are going up. It is very, very tempting for government to just continue VLTs at the rate that they are now at or will be at by the end of this year. I encourage government to not see VLTs as a cash cow. I would encourage this government to see them as what they are, something that really adds to a sickness among people who are prone to addiction. See the VLTs as what they are something which is taking from people who use them, something which is adding to illness in our Province.

Mr. Speaker, this would be one way in which I would like to see extra monies that we receive from government used. I would like to see this government do an evaluation of the success of the VLT Action Plan. I would like to see regulations tightened up to reduce access. I would like to see more prevention exercises by government to prevent more people using them. You know, Mr. Speaker, it is like with cigarettes, we now have cigarettes hidden behind locked covers so that young people cannot go into a store and see them and be encouraged to buy them. As long as we have VLTs on every corner in a community, people are going to continue using them. This is one issue, Mr. Speaker, that really disturbs me. We need to have an independent, economic and social cost-benefit analysis done of VLT gambling. I feel very certain, because of studies that have been done elsewhere, it would show us that we are better off without them and we are better off economically, not just socially, without them than with them.

That is one of the issues I wanted to speak to today. The other one that I want to speak to is the issue of housing. I mentioned that as well last week when I stood but as I said just in the general way -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS MICHAEL: Thank you.

I wanted to go a little bit more into the housing issue today because again it is a serious issue that we have to deal with in the Province. There is no doubt that there are things in the Budget for housing, and I am going to mention them and speak to them. What we have to deal with, and what the Budget needs to deal with, and our social programming needs to deal with, and our policies around housing needs to deal with, is the fact that for many, many people housing is not affordable.

For people who rent, for example, one of the issues in the Province right now is that rents are going up dramatically. They are going up in St. John's; they are going up in Corner Brook and Labrador City to name three areas in particular where the rates are going up and going up astronomically because we have no control over how far rates go up.

The other thing that has happened is that vacancy rates have plummeted and have plummeted very, very seriously. The vacancy rate in St. John's is only 0.9 per cent. The vacancy rate in Corner Brook, I think, is 0.4 per cent. These are the realities, Mr. Speaker. The Corner Brook vacancy rate dropped to 0.4 per cent from 0.9 per cent. They were 0.9 per cent and in the recent statistics they are down to 0.4 per cent. Out of a total - this is last fall - a total of 477 apartment units in Corner Brook, only two were available last fall.

That is the situation of what we are dealing with here in Newfoundland and Labrador with regard to rental properties in three key areas. Therefore, I had hoped to see more measures in the Budget to deal with this crisis in people's lives. The fact that their incomes have not kept up with the soaring price of housing is a serious issue that we all need to be concerned about.

The 2010 Budget did increase funding for services for homelessness and supportive housing. I recognize that and I am glad about it. The Supportive Living Community Partnership was doubled to $2.4 million to fund services and local housing committees. The Provincial Homelessness Fund is$1 million again this year for housing and homelessness related capital projects to provide space for services and training, and we need that. The supportive measures that are there in order to get affordable housing are needed, and we have to put money into those supportive measures as well, not just into the building of houses. Having those supportive measures in place, having an infrastructure that can get involved in creating more housing is an important initiative for people who need supportive housing because the way the situation is with supportive housing it is dependent on a partnership between government and the community in getting housing in place. So, there has to be support for the people working on the ground trying to do that in the community and government recognizes that and that is very important.

The investment in affordable housing was disappointing. There was $6.8 million for 230 more units under the federal-provincial Affordable Housing Program in its second year. This program allows for private and non-profit developers to build supportive, accessible and affordable housing for seniors around the Province. This is not new money; it is year two of money that was in the Budget last year. The money was actually allocated by July of last year and we will not have a new round of money until 2011 or 2012. So, we are looking at housing being developed, there is no doubt about that, and lately government has announced where some of that is happening. As I said, all of that has been allocated so it is not new, nobody out there can expect this year to make an application to build units because all of the money has now been allocated.

The Housing and Homelessness Network asked for a provincial Affordable Housing Program this year to meet the pent up demand. This was not done and I understand that the network was quite upset. They would have liked to have seen much more with regard to affordable housing.

The $1.2 million in the Budget for social housing units for NLHC's budget was fine, four new units in Nain, but four new units for housing that over 1,000 people, 1,000 applicants are waiting for because the waiting list for NLHC's social housing right now is over 1,000. Four new units of that type of housing in Nain are like a pimple on an elephant. I am happy for the people in Nain, but we have 1,000, at least, more applicants around the Province looking for and hoping for social housing.

We did have a budget increase for maintenance and renovation of NLHC housing, and that is great, but I am not sure that that is going to help the backlog. Even as the housing is being repaired, people are going to have to be moved out while the housing units are being repaired. So, while this is absolutely essential and needs to happen, it has nothing to do with increasing the amount of housing stocks that we have in social housing. An increase is what we need desperately, and what this government did not address, unfortunately.

The other thing is that the number of NLHC rent supplements was not increased this year. It was increased in 2008-2009, and it was increased in 2009-2010, but all of the applications were filled by July of last year, and there are no new ones in this year's Budget. So, these are some of the sort of pros and cons. Some things in there that are good, but how much more needs to be done? I appreciate that it is very frustrating for government, everybody looking and saying, well this is what the needs are, but we have to look at priorities, and certainly, affordable housing must be a priority in this Province for people.

One of the other things I would like to mention is the speed with which rents are going up. Because we do not have any controls in this Province, we have no limits on annual rent increases. This is leading to great problems. People who are having their rent raised, in some cases, up to 40 per cent. We do have a limit with regard to how often a landlord may raise rent – it is only once a year - but we have no limits with regard to how much they may be raised. This is something that we definitely need. The other thing that we do not have is security of tenure for long-term tenants in our act. We absolutely need it so that a landlord just cannot make a decision about something that he or she wants to do to the rental unit that would affect the tenant in it without protection for the tenant. We have long way to go with regard to having that protection for tenants, both from the perspective of how high rents are raised and what a landlord may do.

These are some of the issues around housing that I would have liked to have seen government improve upon in the Budget. We have a long way to go. We have a long way to go with regard to those who rent. We have a long way to go with regard to those who need supportive housing, and we have a long way to go with regard to having protection for people who are in absolute need of housing.

If we are going to get at the couch surfing with students, for example, we have to take seriously what is happening in Corner Brook right now – and I encourage the Minister of Finance to look at it because it is his territory – where Grenfell is putting up every semester - the amount of the housing for the students over there is going up every semester. It is getting more and more. It is no sense saying new housing, new residential housing is going to be put in if at the same time they have to spend more money each semester to live in the units that are already there. What is going to happen when the new ones are built?

So, Mr. Speaker, these are a couple of the issues that I think this Budget should have dealt with more appropriately and more strongly and with a greater sense of urgency.

Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for Trinity North and the Minister of Business.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am not sure if I am going to speak to the main motion, the amendment to the main motion, or the sub-amendment to the motion. It is all kind of confusing for the listening audience out there, Mr. Speaker, but I think the Member for Port de Grave summarized it nicely today when he got up and acknowledged that the amendments to the main motion, which is to pass the Budget and to endorse government's fiscal policy, that amendment to that one, which is a non-confidence motion, and the sub-amendment that followed was a tactic used to create and afford more time for members opposite to stand and to speak to the Budget; not that there is any substance to the amendments, not that there is any substance to the sub-amendments, but generally speaking members opposite want to buy more time to stand and speak about their thoughts on the Budget and some of their views on the fiscal policies of government. So I say, Mr. Speaker, my comments are equally as applicable to the main motion, the amendment and the sub-amendment.

Mr. Speaker, before I get into the text of my comments, I want to respond to a couple of things that the member opposite, the Leader of the NDP, has actually thrown out. I heard her speak last Thursday, I think it was, and she made some of the similar comments. Generally, for those of us who listen attentively to her in the House and for anybody out there who might be listening to her, generally there is a consistent theme that runs through all of her comments with respect to fiscal policies: you are not spending enough money on a list of things and you should spend more money in these areas, but you should not have deficits. You should not have deficits, but you should increase expenditures in a whole range of areas. Trying to balance a Budget is a little bit challenging.

The other fallacy, I say, Mr. Speaker, and I have heard her say this twice. She talks about a $300 million gift to corporations. As if we are out giving out money to major corporations who are very profitable, huge organizations, international organizations. She makes it sound like we are giving a gift through our taxation structure to major, profitable corporations. I say, Mr. Speaker, the tax policies of this government, announcements made in this year's Budget – I will tell you what the corporate announcement was in this year's Budget. We are going to take small businesses in Newfoundland and Labrador, 4,800 - Mr. Speaker, there are 4,800 small businesses that are impacted by a fiscal policy of this government this year. We are going to take the small business tax and we are going to take it from 5 per cent and reduce it to 4 per cent. That is what we are doing for corporate taxes in this Province. I say, Mr. Speaker, just think for a moment. We are not talking about IOC, we are not talking about ExxonMobil, we are not talking about major international players, what we are talking about is small business.

When she stands in this House and talks about stimulating the economy in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, she talks about small business, and we are giving them a break. These are the people who operate small enterprises, maybe just employing members of their family. These are people who have five and six employees, I say, Mr. Speaker. They may have ten, fifteen or twenty employees, but if you think for a moment, look at not just Newfoundland and Labrador but look at the nation. What businesses are driving the economy in Canada? It is small business. If we want to provide a financial incentive to businesses to generate more economic activity in Newfoundland and Labrador, who should we incentivize? We should be providing incentives to small business. So the member opposite, if we listen to her she would have us all believe, and the listening audience believe, that we have just made a $300 million donation to major international corporations, and nothing could be further from the truth.

A couple of other points have been raised opposite. The member would want to have more money invested in addiction services, more money invested in affordable housing, I say, Mr. Speaker, more money being put into services such as poverty reduction. These are the long shopping lists of where the member opposite would invest more money. I say, Mr. Speaker, Budgets are about balance. Budgets are about making decisions.

One of the unfortunate things, Mr. Speaker, one of the unfortunate things as we stand in this House every single year about this time, the Minister of Finance stands and he reads the Budget, which is the Budget for that particular fiscal year. That particular Budget for that year is one piece of government's overall strategy. So, when we sit in this House, one of the things we – we make this mistake every year. We stand in the House and we debate and talk about a particular Budget in isolation of other issues that are going on around us. So I think, Mr. Speaker, I just want to step back for a moment. I want to talk about the Budget that just came down a short few weeks ago. It is the 2010-2011 fiscal year Budget. I want to talk about it in the context of the last seven Budgets that we have brought down and talk about it in the context of the next several Budgets we are going to introduce.

I think, Mr. Speaker, when we evaluate this Budget, we have to evaluate it in the context of government's overall strategy. Many of you might recognize, in 2003 our party, in going to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, we distributed, for all to see, a platform, a blueprint for the future. I just want to read something from it. It says: Our plan recognizes the fiscal challenges facing Newfoundland and Labrador, but also embraces the potential embodied in this wonderful place that we call home – our human resources, our natural resources, our wonderful culture, our rural way of life. We will make significant achievements in our first mandate, the period from 2003-2007, and after eight years we will see a rejuvenated and re-energized Province poised to lead the country.

So I say, Mr. Speaker, when we talk about this year's Budget, it is important for us to talk about it in the context of an overall strategy. We are into the seventh Budget. My colleague, the Minister of Finance, just brought down this Administration's seventh Budget. We campaigned in 2003 on an eight-year platform. So as we talk about this year's Budget, just reflect on where we have come. In 2003, when we formed government, we were having a billion dollar deficit; a billion dollar deficit that we were running on annual basis. We had an accrued deficit of a little over $12 billion, Mr. Speaker. So that was the starting point, and look at what has happened since then.

When we start talking about our health care budget, this year $2.6 billion, or $2.7 billion I think it is, Minister of Finance – $2.7 billion budget. That has grown by over 50 per cent during that period. So the investments we have made this year are just one small piece of the significant investments that this Administration has made in health care. We now spend more per capita than any other province in the entire country. Look at what we are spending on education, $1.3 billion on education this year. Looking at the investments we are making this year has to be married with the other investments that we have made, when we have eliminated all fees in our school system; we put a cap on class sizes from K to Grade 9. Look at what we have invested in tuition fees. Look at what we have invested in student loans.

Just to give you some of the results of that - it is interesting. I saw the other day that the investments we have made in post-secondary education, for example, not only making this the cheapest place to have a post-secondary education in the entire country, not only having the best student aid program in the entire country, some of the results of that: Since 2004, the period between 2004 and 2008, we exceeded an increase of 108 per cent, the number of students from other parts of Atlantic Canada that are coming to Newfoundland and Labrador to go to university; in looking at other parts of Canada, a 21 per cent increase in the student enrolment from other parts of Canada coming to Memorial University and a 38 per cent increase of international students coming to Memorial. We have made significant investments in our education system; it is not just the investment we are making in this year's Budget. It is important and it is significant, but when you look at it in its totality, between 2003, when we formed government, and the first Budget that we tabled in this House in the Spring of 2004, and this is our seventh, if you look at that span of time and the seven Budgets and what we have invested in education, it is significant. We are now seeing the benefit of that. That is when we start seeing students from other parts of the country, international students, recognizing that not only will you get a quality education in Newfoundland and Labrador, but you will also have one of the cheapest tuition fees that you can find. Now these people, Mr. Speaker, when they arrive in Newfoundland and Labrador, get their quality education, they are a tremendous asset for us to tap into. Many of them will choose to stay in Newfoundland and Labrador to pursue a career and to make sure they stay here and to raise their family.

When the member opposite talks about taxation and making reductions in taxation, we are not doing it as a gift. It is somewhat self-serving in some respects. If we are able to provide a tax regime in this Province that makes it an attractive place to invest money, businesses will invest their money, and businesses will actually start to expand their businesses. As individuals, these same people who we are spending tremendous amounts of money to educate, when they want to pursue their careers, they do not want to have big chunks of their annual income carved off for tax purposes, they want to be working and pursuing their careers in a jurisdiction that provides them with a competitive tax regime. That is what we are trying to do, Mr. Speaker. We are trying to position ourselves so that we have some of the most competitive taxation regimes in the entire country so people will want to stay here. Those same students who came here to go to university, they will want to stay here and pursue their careers.

So when you start looking at the Budget this year, there are a couple of interesting things in terms of how successful this Budget has been relative to others. What I am saying is that we should look at the fiscal policies of government as being over a period of time. What I am saying to you is that when we stand here today and debate this year's Budget and look at in the context of the last six Budgets, and look at the total seven Budgets that we have brought in, let's look at what we see in Newfoundland and Labrador. We see the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council talk about the growth, the tremendous growth and opportunity that exists in Newfoundland and Labrador. They recognize that we had, last year, the highest capital investment of any other jurisdiction in the country. What does that mean, Mr. Speaker? That means businesses and governments are investing significant amounts of capital in expanding business, opening new business. What does that translate into? Construction jobs, people are spending money and money is in circulation.

If you look at the opportunities and the potential, again, the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council in 2009 talked about the major projects taking place in Atlantic Canada. Newfoundland and Labrador had one-half of the total dollar value of all the major projects in the entire Atlantic region. I can go on and list some of those, but everybody in the House would probably recognize the Lower Churchill project, we had the Hebron project, we have the Long Harbour nickel processing plant - all just a couple, Mr. Speaker. So if you look at what that will do for the economy, the number of jobs to be created, the number of new investments to be made.

The member talks also, I heard her talk last week – the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi, the Leader of the NDP – about the investments the governments are making as an expenditure. When we start talking about the $1 billion that we are going to invest as a government this year in infrastructure, we do not see it as an expenditure. We see it as a strategic investment in our future, a strategic investment in the future of the children of the Province, our children and our grandchildren. Future generations of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians will benefit from that $1 billion that we are spending this year, the $800 million we spent last year. If you look at that collectively over the next several years, we will be investing as a government some $5 billion, strategic investments, in necessary infrastructure. All with a view of making sure that we are well positioned for the future.

If you look at what government has done in its fiscal policies, not just this year, let me take another example - I know the members opposite may not be excited about the notion of creating tax breaks. If you consider what this government has done since its first Budget in 2004 with the tax breaks that we have given Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, we have infused back into the economy, up to and including this Budget, some $1.2 billion of tax savings, reductions in fees. It is just simple economics, Mr. Speaker. If we as a government, through our tax measures, reductions of fees, adjustments in personal income tax, if we are able to put $1.2 billion back into the economy, this year alone, this year's Budget alone will infuse another $49 million into the economy, what happens? People take that money, they now have more disposable income than they did before these tax policies and they now spend that money. Any time you have money in your pocket and you spend it, you are spending it and that starts driving the economy. You are building homes, you are renovating homes, you are purchasing cars, you are purchasing recreation vehicles, you are spending money on vacations and you are renting hotel rooms. All of those activities, Mr. Speaker, generate economic activity, and that is what drives our economy.

We as a government have a responsibility; our fiscal policies need to reflect our responsibility to provide some stimulus to the economy. I think Newfoundlanders and Labradorians would recognize the true value of economic stimulation by a government. In 2008 the world was hit with probably one of the worst recessions that we have seen since the Great Depression, but Newfoundland and Labrador was already in a position where they were spending tremendous amounts of money on infrastructure. When the rest of the country was just starting to talk about, they were waking up to the notion that as a provincial government they needed to actually start spending more money on infrastructure to stimulate the economy, we were already there. We were the first in the country to be there. We were there before the recession hit. So we were well positioned, Mr. Speaker, well on the way to economic stimulation. We just did not need to make new announcements, we already had activity. What we did, we accelerated it.

In 2009, last year, we invested some $800 million in capital infrastructure – a 50 per cent increase than the previous year. This year we have now increased that to $1 billion in this year's Budget. Again, Mr. Speaker, we are continually trying to stimulate the economy. That, coupled with the tax incentives that we have provided, creates more money injected into the economy, more money being spent by consumers. What does that mean? Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, in surveys conducted throughout last year, the surveys all indicated that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians had a higher confidence in their government, a higher confidence in their economy, than other jurisdictions did. As a result of that, we saw increased consumer spending last year. In fact, Mr. Speaker, we were the only jurisdiction in the entire country last year that recorded an increase in retail sales. Retail sales in Newfoundland and Labrador increased by 1.7 per cent last year. Forecasts this year are telling us, Mr. Speaker, that it will be increasing by another 5 per cent this year. Why? Because Newfoundlanders and Labradorians recognize that we not only have a vibrant economy today but we have a bright future. There is confidence in the future of Newfoundland and Labrador and consumers are expressing that confidence in increased expenditures, Mr. Speaker.

This particular Budget not only looks at economic issues, Mr. Speaker – and I just touched on some of the things that we were investing in to stimulate economic activity. Infrastructure investment, taxation policies, the kinds of things that we have done to reduce the cost of doing business in Newfoundland and Labrador, and we have been recognized by the Fraser Institute, we have been recognized by the institute for independent business in Canada – all recognize what we have done as a government to reduce the cost of doing business. We recognize that small business activities and taxation policies of government have great potential to stimulate the economy and drive the creation of employment.

This Budget, Mr. Speaker, does much more than stimulate an economy. The members opposite talk about social infrastructure. Just take for a moment, I just want to take a few minutes to elaborate on that. I am probably going to run out of time, because this is a list that can become pretty long. I mentioned a moment ago the unprecedented expenditures in our health system. It has grown – ever since we have been in government, Mr. Speaker, our health budget is continuously growing year over year over year, to the point we are now the highest on a per capita basis than anywhere else in the entire country.

I also said a few moments ago, Mr. Speaker, some of the investments we have made in our education system are some of the best in the entire country. Look at what we have done with our post-secondary education, making tuition fees the lowest in the country. Continuing the freeze on tuition fees, Mr. Speaker, to ensure education is affordable to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. The investments we have made in new school construction. I think there is something like sixteen or seventeen major new schools to be constructed in the Province.

Student Aid Program, we were again leading the country. We were the first jurisdiction in the entire country to eliminate the interest on the provincial portion of student debt. We have now introduced grants as a part of our Student Aid Program. So students now, on a means testing, are able to get outright grants, non-repayable funding, Mr. Speaker. They get non-repayable funding through a grant, they get a student aid package that has now increased the upper limits of those aids, and when they start the repayment of that there is no interest on your provincial portion; couple that with the lowest tuition.

I say, Mr. Speaker, that is progressive thinking on behalf of the government because we recognize that Newfoundland and Labrador is rich in natural resources. We are rich in human resources but we also need to recognize that the future of Newfoundland and Labrador, it will not be people like me in twenty and twenty-five years who will be leading this Province. It will not be people like me in twenty or twenty-five years who will be stimulating the economy in Newfoundland and Labrador, but it will be my children and my grandchildren. These are the people who will be driving the economy in Newfoundland and Labrador in the future, these are the people who will be leading the Province in the future, Mr. Speaker.

I recognize from the clock that my time is up, but if I might just have a few minutes to clue up, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

Does the hon. member have leave?

MR. WISEMAN: Just by way of –

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. member by leave.

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, if we reflect for a moment - I just want to summarize by saying something that I alluded to a moment ago. When we stand in this House and we debate this year's Budget, as great as it is, and it reflects a future for the Province that we can all be proud of, I think it is really important for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador to recognize that this year's Budget is but one piece of our overall strategy, Mr. Speaker. It is one piece of a strategy that we embarked on back in 2003 when we made a commitment to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, that if we present you with an eight-year plan we will commit to you that when we come back at the end of eight years, which we will next year in the fall of 2011, we will come back to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and we will say, here is our eight-year record. We told you eight years ago: give us a chance, here is our plan, and we will work that plan and at the end of eight years we will show you a Province that has been rejuvenated, has been re-energized and has a sound, economic footing, has a tremendous potential for growth, tremendous opportunities for you and your children and grandchildren to pursue careers here, provide a climate where investment will be attracted to Newfoundland and Labrador, where our economy will continue to grow and expand.

I say, Mr. Speaker, that is the test of a Budget. How does it fit into an overall strategy? Is it a one, single, twelve-month picture? No, Mr. Speaker. We are forecasting what we will do for the next twelve months, yes, and this Budget reflects how we will spend our money next year. It reflects the revenues that we are projecting to bring in next year. I say, Mr. Speaker, it has been, and is a part of an overall strategy that we embarked on in this plan back in 2003. We are well along in that strategy, and we will come back to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador in October of 2011 and we will then present a report card. We will say to the people: In 2003 we made a commitment to you that we would deliver certain things to you; we gave you a blueprint for eight years. We will back next year saying: Here is what we have done in the past eight years.

I think, Mr. Speaker, if you monitor the progress we have made from Budget to Budget to Budget, leading up to this now, what is our seventh Budget, I think the people of Newfoundland and Labrador will see a trend. A trend towards improved economic status for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, a trend towards continued growth in our economic activity, a growth in investment in social infrastructure, a tremendous improvement over that seven-year period in the quality of life of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and the social programs that we provide to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, leading the country on many fronts.

I heard my colleague earlier today talk about the tremendous work we have done in poverty reduction. I have heard my colleague, the Minister of Education, stand and talk about the tremendous things we have done in education; and my colleague, the Minister of Health and Community Services stand and talk about the tremendous improvements of their health services. We have also acknowledged, Mr. Speaker, again, as a part of any plan, it is always moving and we are moving forward.

Some of the shortcomings that have been highlighted, that exist in this Budget; we will acknowledge that this Budget does not address all of the issues that need to be addressed in Newfoundland and Labrador all at once, but they are a further investment in that overall strategy that we embarked on in 2003. We will continue to make further investments next year and in future years.

So, at any one year, anyone can stand in this House and say the Budget this year did not do such and such, you should have spent more money on this, or you did not spend enough on that, or you increased taxes when you should not have, or you have a deficit and you should not. Governments are not going to come to an end and the Province is not going to shut down in twelve months; we are a going concern. We are like any other entity, Mr. Speaker, that has a history, has a tremendous presence and a very prosperous future to look forward to. Our Budget this year is a reflection of a snapshot in time, a prediction of what we are going to generate in revenues and a prediction of what we are going to spend our money on for the next twelve months. It is one piece of a composite picture.

I say, Mr. Speaker, it has been my pleasure to make some comments on this year's Budget. I do disagree with the members opposite because I do wholeheartedly support the financial policies of this particular government. This Budget is a good Budget. It builds on the investments we have made in the past, and it positions us today for continued investments in the future. It positions us today for continued growth and prosperity on many fronts well into the future for generations. We all would recognize that this Budget talks about the right investments for our children and our future. That is what this Budget is about, Mr. Speaker. It is about our future; it is about our children. That is what we will continue to be focussed on as a government, Mr. Speaker.

Thank you very much for your time.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS BURKE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Before I move a motion to adjourn, I would just like to remind hon. members that the Government Services Committee will review the Estimates of the Department of Government Services and the Government Purchasing Agency at 6:00 p.m. The Social Services Committee will review the Estimates of the Department of Justice at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow.

With that, Mr. Speaker, 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 moved 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 Tuesday.

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