March 21, 2011                    HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS            Vol. XLVI  No. 1

The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

Before we begin routine proceedings, I would like to observe an old parliamentary tradition. I have the pleasant task of formally welcoming two new members who have been duly elected in by-elections since the House last met in December 2010.

The new members are: Mr. David Brazil, representing the District of Conception Bay East & Bell Island; and Mr.Vaughn Granter, representing the District of Humber West.

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

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present to you Mr. David Brazil, the Member for Conception Bay East & Bell Island, who claims the right to take his seat.

MR. SPEAKER: Show the hon. member to his seat.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Madam Premier.

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present to you Mr. Vaughn Granter, the Member for Humber West, who claims the right to take his seat.

MR. SPEAKER: Show the hon. member to his seat.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: Mr. Speaker, the Justices of the court have arrived.

MR. SPEAKER: Admit the Justices of the court.

SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: Mr. Speaker, His Honour the Lieutenant Governor has arrived.

MR. SPEAKER: Admit His Honour the Lieutenant Governor.


[Mr. Speaker leaves the Chair]

[His Honour the Lieutenant Governor takes the Chair]

SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: It is the wish of His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor that all present be seated.


The Power to Grow

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

On the third of December, I had the privilege of swearing in the Honourable Member for Virginia Waters as the tenth Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador and, of course, the first woman to become Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador.

In her inaugural speech that day, she said, "Never before in our history have we as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians been stronger, or better positioned, or better prepared than we are right now to achieve the full measure of our potential. Never have we been more determined to succeed. And never have we been more confident that we can."

The very first woman to serve as Newfoundland and Labrador's First Minister brings to the role her unique experience, a fresh perspective, unshakable confidence in our power to grow, and unwavering determination to ensure Newfoundlanders and Labradorians reap the benefits of the wealth we are continuing to build – today, tomorrow and well into the future.

Of all the resources we possess in bountiful supply, none are of greater value to us than the deep reservoirs of strength, self-assurance and pride that drive us forward to make the most of every opportunity to prosper.

Newfoundland and Labrador took a giant leap forward in harnessing our power to grow with the announcement on the 18th of November to develop the hydroelectric potential of Muskrat Falls – Phase One of the Lower Churchill River Project, one of the most attractive clean energy projects in North America.

Muskrat Falls is a shining example of My Government's tenacity and commitment to securing the path of prosperity for all people of Newfoundland and Labrador. It has the potential to transform Newfoundland and Labrador from a jurisdiction dependent for much of its electricity on nonrenewable oil to a jurisdiction whose electricity system is 98 per cent carbon free. This project is the lowest-cost, long-term option to meet our growing electricity demand. What's more, Muskrat Falls will mean consumers' electricity bills will be stable for years to come, and lower than if the province had chosen the alternative: a future dependent on more thermal generation and exposure to volatile oil prices.

Every year, we generate a good portion of our electricity on our island from the oil-fired plant in Holyrood. This power is costly. In its Energy Plan, My Government committed to the communities and residents who live around the Holyrood Generating Plant that it would install scrubbers and precipitators if it did not proceed with the Lower Churchill Project. This would cost in the order of 600 to 800 million dollars and, ultimately, would not eliminate all the emissions from this facility. The plant is aging and would require outright replacement within a couple of decades; and growing demand would require additional capacity from our limited supply of small hydro, and some wind. However, our main source of generation to meet long-term growth in the province would ultimately be more thermal generation. All told, the capital costs for these alternatives could surpass 3.2 billion dollars. With oil prices rising and forecast to go higher, the costs of generating power at Holyrood would raise consumer electricity prices significantly, hurting families in their pocketbooks and employers on their balance sheets.

If we are to avoid these nasty consequences and keep our province on the path to sustainable growth, we need to shift from costly, nonrenewable oil-generated electricity to renewable clean energy, and we need to do it soon. My Government, with its comprehensive Energy Plan, charted a course for energy security. The objective was clear: long-term stability for the electricity ratepayers. The way to achieve that objective was equally clear: identify a secure and environmentally-friendly source of power. Phase One of the Lower Churchill Project, Muskrat Falls, is the means of achieving energy security.

At 824 megawatts and a total cost of 6.2 billion dollars for the Muskrat Falls generation project, the transmission link from Labrador to the Island and the Maritime link to Nova Scotia, this is a mega-project, but it is just one step in My Government's green energy development plan. The Gull Island Project has a capacity to generate an additional 2,250 megawatts of hydroelectricity, and together, these two pieces of the Lower Churchill Project will generate bountiful energy to fuel industrial growth in Labrador.

Indeed, the development of both Gull Island and Muskrat Falls will be a great enabler for future opportunities in Labrador and will greatly improve Labrador's ability to attract industrial development in the region.

The combined Upper Churchill recall, Muskrat Falls and future Gull Island power will provide the storehouse of renewable energy to fuel industrial growth in Labrador. Such projects could include IOC expansion, new iron ore projects, Voisey's Bay developments and other projects that may emerge. And by 2041, just three decades or thirty years from now, Newfoundland and Labrador will be released from the draconian provisions of the infamous Upper Churchill Contract and able to turn that energy to our own advantage.

What's more, the agreement with Emera provides Newfoundland and Labrador, for the first time in our history, with a link to consumers in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and New England, firmly establishing Newfoundland and Labrador as a clean-energy superpower in northeastern North America. This project is unequivocally in the best interests of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Muskrat Falls Project will generate 8,600 direct person-years of employment in our Province with 5,400 of these in Labrador. In its Energy Plan, My Government committed that Labrador residents would be the primary beneficiaries of the Lower Churchill Project, with jobs and business activity from the construction and operation of the projects as the first and most tangible benefits. Approximately 450 million dollars in labour earnings and business income will be generated for Labradorians and Labrador-based enterprises. Members of Labrador's Innu Nation will have first consideration for employment, then other qualified residents of Labrador, and then residents of the province generally. My Government is excited as it looks forward to the dawn of a new era of opportunity, prosperity and self-reliance for the Innu people of Labrador.

Muskrat Falls is also a tremendous project for Canada, generating 540 million dollars a year in labour and business income during the construction phase, totalling 3.5 billion dollars by the time this project has been completed, plus some 525 million dollars in federal tax revenues. Newfoundland and Labrador has wrestled in recent years to be heard, understood and respected by Federal leaders in meaningful ways on issues that matter most to our people, but today is a new day. Our Premier has presented to the Prime Minister Newfoundland and Labrador's compelling case for Federal support for this national green-energy project.

Securing a loan guarantee from the Government of Canada will mean savings in interest costs for the project, all of which will go to further reduce rates for consumers, putting more money directly into the pockets of residents here in Newfoundland and Labrador and in Nova Scotia. Regardless, this project stands on its own merits. It makes sense economically. It makes sense environmentally. It makes sense for the consumers of Newfoundland and Labrador. Developing Muskrat Falls gives us the power to grow.

An Invitation to Build

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

The power to grow resides in each of us. It is the Government's duty to create conditions conducive to growth: a strong commitment to fiscal responsibility, a solid foundation of reliable infrastructure, competitive taxation, minimal red tape and progressive public services, including a range of instruments and initiatives to help businesses grow and individuals prepare for opportunities. To make growth happen, individuals, businesses and communities must rise to the challenge and seize the opportunities before them. Through a partnership of collective effort and individual responsibility, we as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians can achieve goals others think impossible. Each of us has the power to master our own destiny, and each of us has the responsibility to use it.

The conditions for growth were not always as favourable as they are today. For too many years, for want of proper infrastructure, our province languished while other regions of the country prospered. My Government has taken action against this problem by implementing a multi-year infrastructure strategy currently valued in excess of five billion dollars to address the massive infrastructure deficit it inherited in 2003. Our roads and highways, wharves and bridges, ports and terminals, schools and hospitals: all needed attention, and since 2003, all have received it. Without those investments, developers would have stayed away in droves, but with the results of those investments clearly evident in regions throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, our province has never been more attractive to those seeking opportunities to grow.

Nowhere are the impacts of these investments more profoundly felt than in Labrador, where the historic interlinking of Phrases I, II and III of the Trans-Labrador Highway has been greeted with long-overdue celebration. In Labrador and elsewhere throughout our province, people realize infrastructure is not an end in itself but a beginning. It is a foundation – an invitation to build. Every dollar My Government has invested in building and fortifying Newfoundland and Labrador's foundation of infrastructure is a dollar invested in opportunities for our communities to grow.

It is because My Government has put in place a solid foundation of public investments that private sector developers are finding the conditions and the confidence to build. Region by region, resource by resource, industry by industry, and enterprise by enterprise, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are moving forward with boldness in the marketplace to generate the kind of economic activity that is going to sustain our communities for generations to come. More and more, new growth in regions throughout this province is going to be grounded in the enormous wealth of resources and opportunities all around us. With the vision, the ingenuity, the passion and the right public policies, My Government is ensuring those resources work to our advantage.

From Labrador West to Baie Verte, from Pine Cove to St. Lawrence, from Duck Pond to Beaver Brook, from Voisey's Bay to Long Harbour, the very rocks beneath our feet are fueling opportunities to grow. Valuable rare earth elements have been found from central Newfoundland to northern Labrador. Our iron ore industry is expanding to meet the growing global demand for iron and steel. The Iron Ore Company of Canada is continuing its half-billion-dollar expansion program to increase production to 23 million tonnes per year, and two new mines in northwest Labrador will tap the first new deposits of iron this area has developed since 1982. My Government is also close to completing its evaluation of a Crown-owned Julienne iron ore deposit in Labrador West as a possible further contribution to the economic growth of this region. Our future depends on the development of resources like these.

To ensure it is doing everything it can and everything it must to fuel growth in our mining sector, My Government will continue public consultations on the development of a Provincial Minerals Strategy for release and implementation later in the year. My Government believes this strategy will benefit the mining sector the way its first comprehensive Energy Plan has benefited our energy sector. The opportunities are real, they are rural, and they are happening right now.

When mineral deposits are identified, My Government will work with the developers to maximize opportunities associated with their development. Our Premier played a pivotal role in negotiating improvements to the province's agreement with Vale Inco to process nickel at Long Harbour. Work on the project is about to shift into high gear, and the economic benefits and employment gains for the province generally and for the Long Harbour region in particular will be tremendous.

Our Premier also played a pivotal role in securing unprecedented super-royalty and equity agreements for the White Rose Growth Project in 2007, the Hebron Project in 2008, and the Hibernia Southern Extension Project in 2009. At Bull Arm, work is about to ramp up in preparation for the Hebron Project, and Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are poised to reap significant benefits in jobs, economic spinoffs and revenues.

Global oil price increases will ensure Newfoundlanders and Labradorians reap even greater benefits from our province's equity participation in projects offshore. My Government's foresight is certainly paying off. Thanks to its extraordinary leadership, Newfoundland and Labrador is becoming the principal beneficiary of our offshore oil riches.

With massive hydropower resources across Labrador and huge oil and gas reserves both delineated and under active exploration, Newfoundland and Labrador is right to call itself an energy warehouse. But when it comes to energy, My Government is also thinking of ways to increase the benefits from the development of these resources. It is moving forward to develop an Energy Innovation Roadmap, consolidating research to date and charting a course to bring on stream new energy technologies offering new promise to communities and businesses looking to prosper. We are already beginning to see what communities can accomplish when they tackle old energy challenges in new ways. In an isolated community on the south coast of the Island, the people of Ramea have demonstrated the capacity of an innovative wind-hydrogen-diesel project to transform power generation and open new doors to long-term growth, not only in their community but in other isolated communities in our province and throughout the world. New schools in Torbay, Placentia and Paradise, as well as the Mount Pearl Glacier Arena are using the earth's own geothermal radiation to generate heat.

In Western Labrador, a reliable supply of competitively-priced electricity has been of great value to IOCC and Wabush Mines, both of which have benefited from the TWINCO arrangement that expires in 2014. Cognizant of the growth of the mining industry in Labrador and the demands this will mean for electrical power, My Government will soon announce a new policy on industrial electricity rates in Labrador to ensure that all industrial consumers, existing and new, benefit from a supply of competitively-priced power.

Labrador's people, land, diversity and culture are fundamental to our province's identity. To fuel further growth in Labrador's communities, My Government will continue, through the Northern Strategic Plan for Labrador, to open up new economic opportunities while ensuring the social and infrastructure needs of the region receive priority attention.

My Government has been working with the Nunatsiavut Government to finalize a Land Use Plan, subject to consultations that will be undertaken in the coming year. It was honoured to host, on October 28, a historic joint cabinet meeting with the Nunatsiavut Executive Council, demonstrating a shared commitment to forge even stronger government-to-government relations in the years ahead.

In regions throughout our province, our fisheries have the potential of sustaining many hundreds, and surely thousands, of people in rewarding careers. There is no straight path, however, from the overcapacity and structural inefficiencies we see now to the vibrant, profitable fishery we need for the future. My Government is not prepared to cut communities adrift. The fisheries Memorandum of Understanding involving the province, the fisheries union and the fish processors' association was intended to chart a course forward to where we ought to be – not just cutting but restructuring.

Certain elements of the MOU Report hold promise for enduring and progressive change in the province's fishery. The marketing initiatives put forth by the industry and the proposals advanced by several fleet sectors to enhance access to capital for licence combining warrant further discussion and will be pursued with the fishing industry. My Government will be receptive to proposals for structural change that hold the potential to meaningfully address the industry's long-term income and viability challenges.

According to the report of the MOU Chairperson, in the absence of an imposed solution, the industry will adjust itself over time. Still, My Government is not prepared to wash its hands of the overcapacity challenges it inherited, but will focus on the measures it can responsibly take to grow the value of the sector and promote fishing industry renewal. My Government will continue to urge the Government of Canada to work with the Province on creative approaches to renewal and restructuring, but it will not wait for them to act.

In this year's Budget, it will announce measures related to fisheries technology and innovation. It is also working on other measures to clear the path to efficiency. At the same time, it will continue to engage our fish processors, fish harvesters, fish plant workers, fisheries union and fishing communities to identify innovative means to move the industry forward with minimal negative impact on those who rely on this sector for their livelihood. My Government believes the fishing industry is capable of sustaining families in communities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador for generations to come, and will move forward with this objective clearly in view.

Innovation has been a real game-changer in the fishing industry. Farming fish has revolutionized the economies of rural communities once reliant on the wild fisheries, and that is clearly evident on our south coast. By investing responsibly in biosecurity and environmental protection measures, My Government will ensure our aquaculture industry continues to grow safely and sustainably and leads the country for years to come. It is committed to ensuring that the fishing industry of the future is a sustainable and vibrant economic driver for coastal Newfoundland and Labrador.

My Government has focused greater attention on the sustainability of our wild fisheries as well by launching the province's fisheries science and stock assessment initiative, supporting the new centre for Fisheries Ecosystems Research and chartering the fisheries science and oceanographic research vessel the RV Celtic Explorer to examine stocks in Newfoundland and Labrador waters. It is learning valuable lessons to help better manage the fisheries sector on which so many of our communities and families depend. To complement these efforts and promote responsible and sustainable development, My Government will this year release its Coastal and Oceans Management Strategy.

There are also other opportunities in the very same regions where our fisheries have thrived. Take agriculture, a sector offering enormous promise that we have really only started to explore. Through a series of consultations, My Government has now developed a five-year Agriculture and Agrifoods Action Plan entitled "Our Farms, Our Food, Our Future" to address challenges and build on opportunities.

By tapping the power of research and development, we can further expand our opportunities to develop this sector. This year, My Government will be enhancing its Agricultural Research and Development Program to provide stronger research capacity at the government and institution level, to enable farmers and processors to undertake R&D work to grow their own operations and to give agricultural researchers enhanced educational opportunities.

New opportunities are also at hand for our forestry sector. Our province's Centre for Forest Science and Innovation is drawing together experts from Memorial University, the Government of Canada and the forest industry to identify ways to grow this sector while ensuring the best available science is used to manage the resource.

Since 2003, the Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development has invested more than 60 million dollars in a wide range of economic development initiatives throughout the province, with some 71 per cent of that money targeting rural communities. We have witnessed the emergence of regional clusters – cooperative networks linking private enterprises, post-secondary institutions, economic development associations and communities around core industries built on regional strengths. My Government's public investments have drawn people to the table and, as a result, its 60 million dollars has levered close to a quarter of a billion dollars from other partners, quadrupling the value of its initial investment.

That is truly exciting, and precisely what it intended when it launched the Comprehensive Regional Diversification Strategy in 2005. My Government is working to establish new clusters across our province, drawing more and more people together in cooperative partnerships that diversify existing enterprises, establish new enterprises and give businesses the strength and confidence to test markets beyond our borders where new opportunities abound.

This regional approach is already transforming two important sectors of our economy: the tourism sector and the cultural sector, which collaborated most recently to turn the Cupids400 celebrations into an economic success story for the Baccalieu Trail region.

In 2009, My Government released its long-term tourism vision for Newfoundland and Labrador, entitled "Uncommon Potential", which was developed in partnership with Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador. Surging forward on the strength of an amazing award-winning marketing campaign, our tourism industry for the first time in our history has reached and exceeded the half-million mark for non-resident visitors in a single season – this is remarkable on the heels of the global recession. This year, working with the Provincial Tourism Board, My Government is focusing on broadening and enriching the range of tourism products and experiences.

Successes in our cultural industries are reinforcing this work in tourism. CBS's incredible "Republic of Doyle" is showcasing Newfoundland and Labrador in homes around the world and proving a product second to none can be produced right here at home. Congratulations to Allan Hawco and his gifted colleagues for proving that the potential for growth in cultural industries is open-ended, limited only by our imagination. Through initiatives in this year's Budget, My Government will build on investments it has made under its cultural strategy to further support opportunity in the arts and heritage sectors in this province.

As exciting and rewarding as these traditional economic sectors are proving to be, many of our province's most amazing success stories are in sectors on the leading edge of research and development. R&D is critical to capitalize on innovative opportunities in resource development that achieve economic growth for this province. My Government believes that continued support of research and development in areas where we have a competitive advantage or can realize development opportunities will have a long-term impact on the economy of the province. Its Research & Development Corporation is leading the way to sustained prosperity by managing investments in, and support for, research and development. The RDC's work builds on My Government's Innovation Strategy, which has given local enterprises the tools to successfully commercialize new products and technologies - observation and monitoring technologies, marine simulation, e-learning, medical advances. My Government is expanding its programs to enhance support for innovative activities throughout the province that can make our traditional industries more competitive, open doors for rural businesses, and propel our strategic advantage in innovation-driven sectors.

Fulfilling a commitment in the Province's Energy Plan, My Government will soon release a new Climate Change Action Plan and Energy Efficiency Strategy to lead the way for communities, businesses and citizens to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, adapt to a changing climate and improve energy efficiency. Its focus on sustainability has already helped to fuel the development of innovative eco-friendly technologies.

Excuse me; I have to refresh my motor here.


HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: In one sector after another, we are building partnerships, selling all sorts of products, and showcasing Newfoundland and Labrador as a place to invest, a place to visit, a place to make a home. Through the delivery of targeted export education, awareness and outreach initiatives, My Government is helping Newfoundland and Labrador firms to recognize and seize the opportunities of globalization in high-growth countries like Brazil, India and China. It is doing more to explore emerging markets, to capitalize on the benefits of trade liberalization, and to help local enterprises make lucrative connections and plug directly into the channels of global supply chains. This business networking approach is transforming our approach to trade missions. My Government continues to promote and support new and growing trade relationships in longstanding priority markets such as the US and the European Union.

It has just announced that it will take a more active role in negotiations to develop a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union, the world's largest single market. From green technologies to life sciences, from ocean technologies to commercial services, we are finding new ways to capture the interest and the business of investors in foreign markets. By seizing opportunities far beyond our shores, we are fueling growth in our own communities in enterprises large and small.

Growth requires not only the free movement of goods but also the free movement of people. To open even more doors to growth, My Government will follow through in implementing its new air access strategy.

In all of these ways and others, My Government is fueling the kind of new growth that is needed for young people to make homes in our communities, to stay here, to sink down roots, to raise their families and to reap the benefits of the work we are doing to raise Newfoundland and Labrador to the full measure of its magnificent potential.

I must now advise you that I am halfway through this address. I have often been accused of being too long-winded; I plead guilty today. Thank God I have a glass of water here.



Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

My Government has no doubt that people are eager to rise to the challenge and seize the opportunities. As Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, we have long been celebrated for our skills, our ingenuity and our industrious work ethic. But some have faced barriers in their paths to employment and opportunity. My Government believes lowering barriers will clear paths to opportunity and enable more to succeed.

My Government understands that a family's path to opportunity may require access to child care. Parents in our province who would like to balance parenting with careers are not always able to do so because they cannot find child care spaces. Many have little choice but to put their careers on hold. My Government believes insufficient access to child care is not only a barrier to employment but also an obstacle to economic growth. My Government is determined to create the conditions that will enable families to grow and children to develop, conditions that will support people in fully participating in the workforce and contributing to the economic growth of our province. My Government is moving forward to develop a comprehensive child care strategy for Newfoundland and Labrador so more families will have opportunities to make balanced choices. In this year's Budget, My Government will announce a significant initiative in child care, with a focus on infant care, with the potential to increase child care spaces. The beauty of this initiative is that it will benefit families not only in larger centres but also in rural regions where child care spaces are especially scarce.

Children will also benefit from age-appropriate programs and services before entering the K-12 school system. In this year's Budget, My Government will introduce measures to advance the implementation of its early childhood learning strategy, entitled "Learning from the Start", to give children a firm footing in their emotional, social and cognitive development.

My Government understands how important it is for our children to receive a solid education and the targeted support they need in our K-12 system. In this year's Budget, it will build on its enormous investments in K-12 infrastructure and programming, and continue to ensure teaching is tailored to students' diverse needs. It will invest additional dollars in technological resources to support 21st century learning.

My Government understands that a person's path to opportunity may require assistance to access a post-secondary education. Building on the advances of the past seven years, it will extend its investments in infrastructure at College of the North Atlantic and Memorial University, and continue to ensure Newfoundland and Labrador leads the country in post-secondary affordability and accessibility. This year, it will also open the brand new College of the North Atlantic Campus in Labrador West and the new College extension at the Grand Falls-Windsor campus, and unveil the renovations at the College's Prince Philip Drive campus, following on the completion of improvements at the Seal Cove campus. My Government has been listening to students at the regular Ministerial Roundtables on Post-secondary Education, and is working together with students to realize the benefits that successive improvements in our education system are making to the quality of education they receive.

My Government understands that a person's path to opportunity may require access to apprenticeships. Through its White Paper on Public Post-secondary Education in 2005 and its Skills Task Force in 2007, My Government has opened wide the doors to rewarding careers in industrial projects large and small. It continues to collaborate with industry partners and is providing incentives so more graduates can work as apprentices and gain the hands-on experience they need to qualify for careers that can change their lives and our province's future.

My Government believes a person's path to opportunity should not be barred because she is a woman. Our Premier played a key role in securing gender equity agreements on major energy projects to help ensure women benefit fully while these projects are in high gear. My Government will enforce employment equity requirements for Hibernia South and Hebron, and will enforce similar equity requirements for new major mining projects and the Lower Churchill Project. It is going to do more to enable women to advance in all sorts of non-traditional occupations, from engineering to skilled trades, from law enforcement to corrections, and in positions of leadership. As women share fully in these opportunities, Newfoundland and Labrador will benefit more fully from the unique skills and perspectives our province's women bring to the table.

My Government believes a person's path to opportunity should not be barred because of a disability. By finding creative ways to remove these barriers, we can help ensure persons with disabilities have access to equitable participation in the economic and social life of our province. Having engaged people in a well-attended series of public consultations, My Government will soon unveil its Strategy for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities and put it into action.

My Government believes a person's path to opportunity should not be barred by poverty. In 2006, it set in motion a strategy to reduce poverty in Newfoundland and Labrador by targeting some of its causes. Each year since then, it has adjusted the strategy's initiatives in a concerted effort to make as great a difference as possible with the resources committed, winning the attention and the praise of national antipoverty leaders in the process. Some of those initiatives are improving the standard of living of those who remain reliant on the social support network; others are lifting people out of poverty altogether; and others are preventing people from falling into poverty. My Government has just completed a series of consultations and will soon release its next Poverty Reduction Strategy action plan, along with a series of new initiatives to help people slip the bonds of poverty and experience the freedom that self-reliance brings.

My Government believes a person's path to opportunity should not be barred by a lack of affordable housing. Few things are more fundamental than having a place to live. In consultation with many stakeholders, My Government unveiled a Provincial social housing plan, entitled "Secure Foundations", to help low-income families, individuals, seniors and others to access housing they can afford. As a follow-up to many major advances recommended by our community partners in the past few years, in this year's Budget it will announce further investments to make affordable housing even more accessible to many. Among those to benefit will be single-parent households led by women, persons with complex needs and low-income seniors, including those living in their own homes.

Measures we take right here right now can swing wide the doors to opportunity for many. Access to child care and early childhood learning; improvements in K-12 and post-secondary education; access to apprenticeships; greater career access for women; measures to support the inclusion of persons with disabilities; actions to fight poverty; and access to affordable housing – all of these initiatives place self-reliance within reach of many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who might not achieve it otherwise. My Government's priority this year is to enable individuals and families to seize opportunities that will have very real and lasting benefits.

Security for the Vulnerable

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

An individual cannot focus on seizing opportunities to grow when under threat of harm. In any society, if citizens are to be truly free, measures must be taken to protect the vulnerable from those who would do them harm. Preventing violence against women and other vulnerable populations in every region of Newfoundland and Labrador remain among My Government's highest priorities. It will move forward this year to evaluate its six-year Violence Prevention Initiative and develop priorities for a new action plan in 2012, building on the strengths of the current plan.

No population is more vulnerable to violence than children and youth. In 2009, My Government established the new Department of Child, Youth and Family Services – a department focused principally on the safety and well-being of children and youth. During the past year, the new department has begun to lay a strong foundation to address the systemic issues in child protection services. As child protection social workers move from the four regional health authorities to the new department in the coming year, their work will be transformed by the application of a new organizational model that will work towards establishing manageable caseloads and greater supports for frontline staff in fulfilling their responsibilities. The department will employ a new unit at the Stephenville campus of College of the North Atlantic to provide mandatory child protection training for social workers and supervisors and a consistent targeted approach to skills development across all program areas. My Government is determined to create the best-possible child protection system and is therefore moving forward with a clear focus and constant vigilance to ensure we get it right.

Violence often has its genesis in childhood, and intervening early may prevent a lifetime of suffering. My Government will focus on improving its Safe and Caring Schools policy and procedures to promote respect and cultivate self-esteem among our students.

In this year's Budget, it will also build on initiatives taken to date to combat child exploitation. The Department of Justice is making changes to the legislation governing our province's corrections system to make it contemporary and comprehensive. The new Correctional Services Act will replace the Prisons Act and the Adult Corrections Act. These legislative changes will be taken in the best interest of our corrections staff and inmates and are intended to improve the delivery of correctional services in our province.

Other measures related to law enforcement and corrections will be announced in conjunction with the tabling of this year's Budget and will build on the measures we have taken in the past seven years. Among those is support for Transition Houses, where women and children in fear of their safety can find refuge. When it is functioning optimally, our justice system takes those who pose a danger away from those they mean to harm, and sends an unmistakable signal that people who harm or threaten others will be punished.

Intolerance of violence is important for us all, young and old, to embrace and communicate in our homes, workplaces, schools and communities. Living free from the fear of violence is vital to the achievement of true self-reliance.

Shared Responsibility for Health

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

The first principle in promoting health is personal responsibility. One of the most effective things a person can do to promote greater self-reliance is to take individual responsibility for choosing a healthier lifestyle - to exercise more, to eat healthier, to quit smoking, and to make other sound choices. Prevention has the added benefit of reducing the cost of health care delivery, but its primary benefit is the improved quality of life an individual enjoys. Unhealthy diet and physical inactivity are linked to the relatively high rate of diabetes and the prevalence of certain chronic disease factors such as obesity in Newfoundland and Labrador communities.

This year, in collaboration with community partners across our province, My Government will build on the measures already taken under the recreation and sport strategy to better integrate physical activity into the daily lives of people of all ages. A vital, vigorous and engaged population is the wellspring of productivity.

As My Government follows through in implementing its provincial wellness plan and its healthy aging strategy, it is also turning its attention to chronic diseases. Arthritis, cancer, chronic pain, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, lung disease - unlike many acute illnesses that can be treated and cured - are chronic conditions which can remain with people for the rest of their lives. My Government will move forward this year to release a new Chronic Disease Management Strategy which will include a comprehensive and collaborative approach to chronic disease prevention and management throughout the province.

My Government recently launched a new Cancer Control Policy Framework that aims to reduce the incidence and impact of cancer and to improve the quality of life of those living with cancer in Newfoundland and Labrador. This strategy calls for measures to diagnose and treat cancer sooner. To that end, My Government will work with stakeholders throughout the province to identify opportunities to enhance screening programs.

When concerns about cancer diagnostic testing errors extending back to 1997 were brought to light in 2007, My Government moved swiftly to appoint the Cameron Commission of Inquiry to determine what went wrong and what needed changing. My Government also moved swiftly to implement Justice Cameron's recommendations when they were received in 2009. Complementing her report were the recommendations of the Task Force on Adverse Health Events. In light of the lessons of the Cameron Report, My Government this year will roll out a new adverse events reporting system to ensure all such events are properly reported and properly managed within our health care system.

Early diagnosis and treatment require timely access to health care professionals and the various services they provide, from CT scans and MRIs to surgery. Delivering health care to a population as dispersed as ours presents challenges, but My Government has proven these challenges can be overcome. For example, since 2003, the number of sites where individuals can access dialysis services has gone from seven to 14 – a doubling of sites. In the year ahead, My Government will continue to ensure all residents of our province have access to quality health services as close to home as possible through investments to purchase new equipment and maintain existing health care infrastructure that means so much to the people who need it.

My Government has also invested in health care professionals, successfully negotiating agreements which have not only resulted in fair compensation for those whose expertise we rely on, but also improved the prospects of recruitment and retention efforts. It is by continuing to focus on recruiting and retaining the health care professionals we need that we will continue to reduce wait times.

Essential to building a stronger health care system is the strengthening of relationships among health care professionals across all regions and disciplines. Our health care system functions best when it functions effectively as a partnership – an integrated network, with each element supporting and being supported by the others. My Government will ensure the Regional Health Authorities as well as its own officials identify and seize every opportunity to build partnerships. Many of the most effective measures to shorten wait times are essentially partnership-driven. Such measures can reduce not only wasted time but also wasted resources, and support better health outcomes.

In this year's Budget, My Government will also build on initiatives announced last year to strengthen mental health and addictions services in the province, which included work on a new residential treatment centre in St. John's for children and youth with complex mental health needs; a new residential treatment centre in Grand Falls-Windsor for children and youth with addictions; an adult residential addictions treatment centre in Harbour Grace; enhanced child psychiatry services at the Janeway Hospital; and new community-based projects focusing on mental health and addictions issues.

As people age, needs change. Seniors generally require a greater level of care. Still, like most other Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, they would like to maintain as much independence as their health and circumstances will allow. By emphasizing a progressive continuum of care, we can enable many seniors to enjoy a greater degree of autonomy well into their golden years. Last summer, My Government undertook extensive consultations throughout the province to engage the public and other stakeholders in a discussion on the future of our long-term care and community support services system. During August and September, twenty public consultations were held in nineteen communities throughout the province to allow input and dialogue. This process has enabled My Government to establish priorities and identify strategic investments that it will continue to make this year to make the system more responsive to the needs and aspirations of the people the system is designed to serve.

Closely related to health care are the approaches we take to occupational safety and emergency response. The tragedy of Cougar Flight 491 two years ago remains fresh in our minds and continues to weigh heavily on our hearts. Justice Wells issued recommendations last year to improve the safety of workers travelling offshore, and My Government has accepted all of them, including Recommendation 29, which calls on the Province and Ottawa to agree to establish a new Independent Safety Agency for our offshore. In the coming year, My Government, in concert with the Federal Government, will also bring forward amendments to the Atlantic Accord Act to implement a new Occupational Health and Safety regime for the offshore.

Public safety also arises as an issue whenever natural disasters strike. When Hurricane Igor struck in September, My Government's officials, municipal governments, volunteer fire departments, nongovernmental organizations such as the Salvation Army and Canadian Red Cross, area businesses and construction companies, local residents and many young Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and their colleagues in the Canadian Forces worked side-by-side in many regions of our province to rescue people from danger and to bring help and supplies to people in need. Tragically, one man lost his life, but how much worse the suffering would have been without the concerted efforts of all who stepped forward to make a difference. The worst of circumstances brought out the best in people, as so often in this province it does, and we have learned valuable lessons that we can apply in years to come. We celebrate the efforts of our elected municipal leaders, their officials and community volunteers who helped to mitigate the damage to municipal infrastructure caused by this unprecedented storm. Their leadership is ensuring that appropriate rebuilding is continuing to take place. We also acknowledge the many acts of kindness of people who reached out to their neighbours to ease their pain.

New Ways to Work Together

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

Is there any clearer demonstration of the power of working together?

As our Premier stated in her first address in this House as Premier on the 6th of December: "We as a team are blessed to have surrounding and supporting us many thousands of people in communities throughout the province who share our commitment to a brighter future for Newfoundland and Labrador, and are willing to work with us cooperatively to advance us toward our goals, region by region, initiative by initiative."

On the 22nd of February, the people living in the communities of Fogo, Joe Batt's Arm-Barr'd Islands-Shoal Bay, Tilting, Seldom-Little Seldom, Stag Harbour, Island Harbour and Deep Bay and the centre of the island participated in the very first election in our history for the new Town of Fogo Island. Some thought the divisions were too great for that day to ever come, but the goodwill and practicality of the people of Fogo Island prevailed, and they have set a shining example for all of us.

On the Southern Shore, the communities of St. Shott's, Trepassey, Biscay Bay, Portugal Cove South, Renews-Cappahayden, Fermeuse, Port Kirwan, Aquaforte, Ferryland, Calvert, Cape Broyle, Admiral's Cove, Brigus South, Burnt Cove-St. Michaels-Bauline East, Tors Cove, Mobile, Witless Bay and Bay Bulls have combined forces on a contract to collect and transport solid waste to Robin Hood Bay, allowing them to decommission their local dumpsites.

On the Bonavista Peninsula, the communities of Lethbridge, Morley's Siding, Brooklyn, Charleston, Jamestown, Portland, Winter Brook and Sweet Bay have formed a local service district to deliver fire services to their residents.

On the shores of Conception Bay, Clarke's Beach, Cupids, Makinsons, North River and South River have created the Bay de Grave Regional Fire Service to serve all the residents of these communities as one.

Trinity Bay North and Little Catalina have entered willingly into an annexation agreement to create a single municipal council to deliver municipal services.

Each of these initiatives is unique in its own way, but all of them are improving services for residents and showing the difference cooperation can make. These are win-win situations in which nothing of value is sacrificed and much of value is gained. Regional cooperation will enable us to make great gains in addressing waste management challenges, providing safe fire fighting services, securing safe drinking water systems and attracting the kind of investment that will keep our regions thriving in the decades ahead. Regional cooperation is at the heart of self-reliance.

"Neighbours helping neighbours' is the approach that enabled Newfoundland and Labrador's communities to survive for centuries against the greatest of odds in the toughest of circumstances. We have moved far beyond the toughest of circumstances, but the legacy of sharing and volunteering is a birthright that endures, and we wear it with pride. My Government's Volunteer and Non-Profit Secretariat held a Community Priorities Summit a year ago to identify new ways to foster resiliency in our communities and to seize the opportunities ahead. Emerging from that Summit is a Roadmap charting a course forward to new opportunities for sharing and celebrating who we are. A second summit will be held in a year to measure progress and refine priorities. To bolster the spirit of civic involvement in the coming year, My Government will continue to build on the very successful "Who Cares?" awareness campaign and the URock Awards and, with the Department of Education, will also honour a deserving student in each of our province's secondary schools with the High School Medal to celebrate the difference a student can make by volunteering.

Cooperation is also at the heart of the Strategic Partnership that has linked labour, business and government in our province to advance the economic and social interests of Newfoundland and Labrador. Calling this process unparalleled anywhere else in North America, the Conference Board of Canada has lauded this partnership for developing cohesive policies and practices and building strong relationships.

Our Premier is wholly committed to building teams of people around her, embracing all regions, all sectors and all points of view that need to be considered as we map out the challenges we need to address. Cooperation is at the heart of our Premier's approach.

Cooperation should never be mistaken for capitulation. My Government's first priority is the best interests of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. The self-confidence and pride My Government has inspired among Newfoundlanders and Labradorians since 2003 is fueled by our collective determination to master our own destiny. On that, our Premier and My Government shall never compromise. At the same time, we also believe we can achieve more by pulling together than by pushing apart.

As My Government cooperates in building partnerships to achieve greater gains within the province, so too it is determined to collaborate more effectively regionally and nationally within Confederation. This approach is best demonstrated in Atlantic Canada by the power of joint action to promote green energy development. We believe the Government of Canada has a golden opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to national leadership in green energy generation and integration by supporting the Lower Churchill development. To the Prime Minister, we extend this invitation to build and encourage him to invest in our power to grow.

As our new Premier stated in her inaugural speech, "[Changes of consequence] happen when good people resolve to make things better." My Government has provided the conditions on which good people can build. It has reduced the public debt by a third, demonstrated an unwavering commitment to fiscal responsibility and earned the confidence of the bond markets in the process. It has made unprecedented investments in public infrastructure and fostered industrial growth. It has improved public services, cut red tape by a quarter and reduced personal income taxes to among the lowest levels in the region. It has provided a wide range of instruments and initiatives to help employers grow and employees get hired. It has cleared paths to opportunity, safeguarded the vulnerable and strengthened our health care system. This secure foundation is an invitation to individuals, businesses and communities throughout our province to join My Government in building a future of prosperity and self-reliance unprecedented in our history- a future truly befitting our incredible potential as people o f Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

I am just about at the end. I know you thought it would never come.


HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Estimates of expenditure will be laid before you in due course and you will be asked to grant supply to Her Majesty.

I invoke God's blessing upon you as you commence this new Session.

May Divine Providence guide you in your deliberations.

That concludes the Speech, Mr. Speaker. Thank you for being very patient and listening. It has been a bit of a challenge to do it, but I do not want the government to try to outdo itself next year.


HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, Madam Premier, and Leader of the Opposition.

[His Honour the Lieutenant Governor, Mrs. Crosbie, and the Justices of the court leave the Chamber]

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act Respecting The Protection Of Adults, Bill 1.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House that the hon. the Government House Leader shall have leave to introduce Bill 1, An Act Respecting The Protection Of Adults?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.


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

The motion is carried.

Motion, the hon. the Government House Leader to introduce a bill, "An Act Respecting The Protection Of Adults", carried. (Bill 1)

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Health and Community Services, that Bill 1, An Act Respecting The Protection Of Adults, be now read the first time.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 1, An Act Respecting The Protection Of Adults, be now read a first time.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion that Bill 1 be now read a first time?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.


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

The motion is carried.

CLERK: A bill, An Act Respecting The Protection Of Adults. (Bill 1)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 1 has now been a first time.

When shall the said bill be read a second time?

MS BURKE: Tomorrow, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

On motion, Bill 1 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor has been pleased to make a Speech to the Members of the House of Assembly, and we shall now take a few moments to deliver His Honour's Speech to the hon. members of the House.

[The Pages distribute the Speech to all members]

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. GRANTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to thank His Honour the Lieutenant Governor for delivering the Throne Speech to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador today. As the newest member of this Province's House of Assembly, let me say what a tremendous privilege it is to stand here amongst my fine colleagues and speak to the Speech from the Throne on behalf of the people of Humber West.

I must take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation to my constituents for supporting and entrusting me with the responsibility to represent them in the House of Assembly. I am truly honoured to be the MHA for such a wonderful district and to serve as part of this formidable team of elected members. The Humber West former MHA left me with pretty big shoes to fill but I am dedicated to working hard and to representing the best interests of our residents. It is especially exciting to serve under the new leadership of our Province's first female Premier. Guided by her vision and her deep passion for this Province, we will continue on our journey to building a bright future, one that is filled with prosperity, self-reliance and great pride.

Newfoundland and Labrador, what a glorious land, and we are so privileged to call it home. It has certainly undergone a drastic transformation over the past seven and a half years, a very positive transformation. The accomplishments that we have made together will no doubt have a long-lasting impact on this Province's future. Through a host of strategic investments, coupled with prudent fiscal management, our government positions Newfoundland and Labrador well; not only were we able to survive the global economic downturn, but we continue to grow and prosper while many other places nationally and internationally struggled. In my District of Humber West, one quick look around will show tangible examples of such investments and growth. The Corner Brook area is thriving as the economic hub of the Province's West Coast.

Over the past seven and a half years, this government has demonstrated a strong commitment to advancing the health and well-being of the area's residents time and time again. In Budget 2010 alone, government made a record investment of $2.7 billion in the health care system throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. Since 2003, approximately $45.5 million has been invested in capital equipment, repairs and renovations in the Western Memorial Regional Hospital; this includes nearly $33.6 million for the purchase of equipment, such as a new MRI machine and CT scanner, a digital mammography unit and diagnostic urology and laboratory equipment. Also included in the approximately $11.9 million for repairs and renovations, such as a new fire alarm system and panel, departmental upgrades, roof repairs and asbestos abatement, new medical gas monitoring alarms, a reverse osmosis water filtration system and the installation of eight new wheelchair accessible washrooms. Other significant health investments have included the Humberwood Mental Health and Addiction Centre, a new 236 bed long-term care home and protective community residences, at a total investment of $68.5 million, and work continues on the construction of a new hospital in Corner Brook.

Mr. Speaker, this government continues to work toward ensuring all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are equipped to benefit from the growing prosperity and opportunities that exist right here at home. On the West Coast, residents are benefiting from a new Career Work Centre network located in Corner Brook. Only two years ago, Corner Brook Regional High celebrated the completion of an $18 million redevelopment and extension. As a former educator, I can tell you that Newfoundland and Labrador has a quality education system which is helping to develop the young minds of this Province. In fact, since 2003, our government has increased its investment in education by 55 per cent, from $851 million to $1.3 billion. We recognize the importance of ensuring that we cultivate a well-educated population so that we, as a society, can not only compete but excel and prosper into the future.

Having just experienced a very successful by-election campaign, and speaking with people of all ages, backgrounds, throughout my district, I can assure you that there is a great sense of optimism among Newfoundlanders and Labradorians today, particularly among our youth. With so many exciting projects happening right here in our own backyards, more and more of our young people are deciding to stay at home, to build their lives and raise families here. This trend has resulted in the second consecutive year of population gains after sixteen years of decline.

Today, people of this Province are enjoying a new era of prosperity, self-reliance and great pride. We are holding our heads high as serious contributors to the nation's economy. In fact, just last week a report on provincial spending was released by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. The report, entitled, Restoring Canada's Physical Fitness, described Newfoundland and Labrador as being in a good financial position.

Over the past seven and a half years, we have reduced our public debt by approximately one-third or close to $4 billion. Employment increased by 3.3 per cent in 2010. This was the highest growth rate among the provinces, and it was also more than double the national rate. Capital investment is estimated to have grown last year by 23 per cent to $6.2 billion, and our capital investment growth ranked fourth among all provinces.

Of course, infrastructure investments have always been a priority for this government. That was especially true during the height of the global recession. Budget 2010 allocated $1 billion for provincial infrastructure investments, for a total infrastructure strategy valued at more than $5 billion over the next several years.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. GRANTER: This substantial investment has made and continues to result in tangible improvements throughout the Province, and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador appreciate and are benefiting from that daily.

Mr. Speaker, as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, we are also appreciative and protective of our rich natural resources: our fishery and aquaculture industries, our mining and exploration activity, our forestry sector, and, of course, our oil and gas industry, to name a few.

As a Newfoundlander and Labradorian, I am also excited about the development of Muskrat Falls which will deliver some of the cleanest, most economical, and safest power to this Province. I believe that as a Province we have never been better positioned to take advantage of the host of opportunities that lay before us.

Smart governance is the key to building an even brighter tomorrow for Newfoundland and Labrador. Together, this government and the people of this phenomenal Province have shown the Nation and the world what we are made of. We are invigorated, confident, and proud of who we are and our many achievements. I look forward to the many great projects ahead as we continue to build on these successes in the coming years.

On behalf of my constituents in Humber West, I proudly move that a Select Committee be appointed to draft an Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of Conception Bay East & Bell Island.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. BRAZIL: It is a privilege to rise in this House, representing the people of the District of Conception Bay East & Bell Island, to second the motion that a Select Committee be appointed to draft an Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.

First, I want to thank His Honour the Lieutenant Governor for speaking so well to the plan that will guide our government's actions over the coming year.

On December 2, the people of Conception Bay East & Bell Island elected me to represent them in the people's House of Assembly. I want to thank my constituents for entrusting me with the responsibility of standing up for their concerns and rights. I promise to work hard on your behalf, to listen to you, and represent you well in this hon. House.

I have to tell you it is an exciting time to be part of this government, under the guidance of our Premier Dunderdale. The future is bright and promising for this Province, and our Premier recently stated: There is a lot to be excited about right now in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The government has developed a comprehensive plan to continue on the path of success and our Province has never been in a stronger position. The promise of success is no longer something in the near or distant future, it is a realization that we can now feel today. The confidence we have as a Province today is highly contagious and makes us a leading force in this country.

During my campaign, I experienced a great sense of optimism from the people in my district who were buoyed by the good news that has become a reality. I was particularly struck by the message from the young people in my district who said the options for them to study and work in Newfoundland and Labrador were full of promise and offered them so many possibilities.

It is truly amazing when we look back at the achievements of our government over the past eight years. The blueprint this government developed in 2003, when we entered government, has been realized in many areas, bringing prosperity across this Province. We no longer have to dream about the positive future for this Province, because the truth is that we are living it right now.

We have continuously heard great news stories in such areas as tourism. For example, this past year alone over 500,000 non-resident visitors came to Newfoundland and Labrador spending in excess of $400 million. We saw housing starts increase by 18 per cent and our population continuing to increase for the second consecutive year. This really is the Province to be in and these are sure signs that our work and investments are succeeding.

When the people of our Province first voted our government into power, there was a sense of hope that the momentum would begin to change, that Newfoundland and Labrador would rise to its potential and become the leader we always knew it could be. Well, due in part to good planning, a strong vision, hard work, and fiscally sound decisions we met and surpassed those expectations.

We can now proudly say that we, Newfoundland and Labrador, are a have Province. We can now proudly say we, Newfoundland and Labrador, are the leader in growth across this country. We can now proudly say that the economists and the banks all over this country point to our Province as the example to watch.

The fact is we always knew we could do it; we just needed the right government to take the reins and guide us in a responsible manner. Sometimes we had to fight for what was ours, defying doubters who said it could not be done; but when you set your sights high, there will be those who will try to bring you down. Thankfully, they did not succeed, and our Province is leading this country in economic growth, social program development, and infrastructure spending.

Under Premier Dunderdale, we can look to the future, to further plan and guide this Province on a course of responsible growth and development. The commitment of responsible governance, fiscal responsibility, and vigilance in ensuring we receive maximum benefits from the development of our resources, will thrive under the guidance of Premier Dunderdale and this government.

The Budget is a prime example of fiscally sound decisions that our government is guided by. We know that striking the right balance is fundamental to our success, by investing in infrastructure and developing social programs, while at the same time reducing public debt, we place this Province in the best of situations for current and future generations of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. Our investment in infrastructure, education, health care, natural resource development, innovation, and economic growth have given this Province a new energy, setting the example for the rest of the country on how it can be done.

The total infrastructure investment for the past year alone was over $1 billion. That is a significant investment that serves multiple purposes, in that it creates jobs, stimulates the economy, and provides new and improved infrastructure that benefits the people of the Province.

In my District of Conception Bay East & Bell Island, the government has invested a total of $7 million in road infrastructure since it came to power. The positive impact it has made on local jobs and improved services for the people in my district has been considerable.

As a government, we know that our Province will fare best when the government's social and economic policies are designed to function in ways that complement one another. That is why we have invested in schools and programs that prepare people to take full advantage of the new opportunities that are arising from our new-found wealth.

For the first time in many generations, we have young people choosing to stay in this Province because the possibilities are better here than anywhere else. Our government has made huge advances to our education system, giving our young people the tools and environments necessary for them to learn and grow.

Since 2004, we have built six new schools in the Province, while eight others are under construction or in the planning phase. In addition, there have been 1,400 infrastructure projects approved province-wide. With each infrastructure project, we are ensuring that our students will have the needed training so they can succeed now and well into the future.

For young people who wish to continue their post-secondary studies, this Province remains the top choice because of decisions made that positively affect our post-secondary education system. Freezing tuition at Memorial University and the College of the North Atlantic and helping students reduce their debt have helped our young people achieve their goals and receive national recognition.

Our Premier has consistently stated that supporting students in their learning will allow them to adapt, think outside the box, rise to meet challenges, and exceed expectations. We are giving them the tools so that they can achieve anything they want to, and become the leaders of the future.

Employment opportunities are steadily improving in Newfoundland and Labrador. In fact, the overall rate of employment growth in this Province last year was more than double the national rate, while the annual labour force increased 2.2 per cent to 259,900 and our participation rate rose by almost 1 per cent to stand at 60.2 per cent - the highest annual participation rate on record for this Province.

These numbers point to the fact that the plans we have laid out and the actions we are taking are working. Newfoundland and Labrador has been cited in the past as "the economic bright spot for 2010" and "as the economic model for the rest of this country".

When we entered into government the fiscal picture was not quite as bright as it is today. We knew that there would be big challenges to face and some of the decisions we had to make would not be popular. Yet, the people of this Province were patient. They supported us and we delivered.

We established agreements in the oil and gas industry that were unheard of before, but today are the standards in this Province; agreements that benefit fully and fairly both industry and the Province. We have built a reputation on providing a fair return to investors while maximizing the benefits for the Province. This is a good way to conduct business and will continue into future negotiations.

Looking ahead, we are developing green energy projects such as Muskrat Falls, building a sustainable economy around renewable, clean energy. The employment benefits alone from this project will be felt not only in Newfoundland and Labrador, but throughout Eastern and Central Canada. Our government has laid the foundation on which sustainable growth can be built for years to come. Investing in roads and highways, wharves and bridges, ferries, schools and hospitals, our government allocated a record $1 billion for provincial infrastructure investments last year for a total infrastructure strategy valued at more than $5 billion over the next several years.

Our ferry replacement strategy is working to replace old ferries and improve transportation services throughout the Province. We have seen great improvements on wharf systems in Bell Island that helped commuters and transportation move more freely. These investments have been successful because they generate economic activity and create investment optimism throughout the entire Province.

This government has a clear vision for the future and sees this Province build on a foundation established in the past eight years. It is clear that we will continue on the course of sustainable growth and responsible development. The future is incredibly promising in Newfoundland and Labrador. I am proud to be part of this government and look forward to working with my colleagues and the Premier to continue with the success we have achieved as a government.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I especially wanted to thank His Honour the Lieutenant Governor today. It is always nice to see him here in the House of Assembly. It is certainly a place where he had a tremendous impact as a former MHA and Cabinet Minister. I am sure it is still talked about and remembered in many places around the Province.

Mr. Speaker, I also want to thank the Member for Humber West and the Member for Conception Bay East & Bell Island for moving and seconding today's Speech from the Throne, and to also congratulate them both on their election to the House of Assembly. Finally, Mr. Speaker, I want to welcome all of our distinguished guests who are here today, thank them for their time and thank them for their interest in the affairs of our Province and of our government.

Mr. Speaker, I want to start by congratulating the hon. Member for Virginia Waters on her promotion, on accepting the position of Premier, and becoming the first woman to hold that position in Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, her elevation to the leadership of her party and the fact that we have women leading the two Opposition parties – myself and the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi – have made history not only in her own Province but in this country. It has left a strong message to girls and women everywhere that all things are possible. As women leaders, the Province will see a different dynamic in the fall election: all three of us bring a spectrum of experience and values that will give the voters of Newfoundland and Labrador distinctive choices in the coming months.

I am looking forward to this session of the House of Assembly, having been away through the last session. Let us just say I was a little more than eager to get back. Mr. Speaker, before I get into the main part of my remarks that I want to make today, I would also like to say a few words of personal thanks.

I want to first of all thank my colleagues in the Official Opposition: the Member for Burgeo & La Poile, the Member for Port de Grave, and the Member for The Straits & White Bay North. Mr. Speaker, their support and encouragement over these past few months have been invaluable to me. They have shouldered extra work and extra responsibilities, and they did so without hesitation. They have been a great source of support and encouragement as I went through my treatment for breast cancer. I have come to value and rely upon their wisdom and their dedication.

Mr. Speaker, the same can be said for the staff in the Opposition Office. I could not have gotten through these past months professionally without their support and without them stepping in to do what was needed. I want to extend to them my thanks.

Also, I extend my sincere thanks to my colleagues here in the House of Assembly and to people all across the Province for their well wishes, their prayers, and their encouragement. It really does make a difference.

I want to especially thank the people of my district, the great and wise District of Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair, for their patience, their support, and their understanding during the time that I was away. I made my first official visit back to my district this past weekend after a number of months being away. I can say, it was really good to be back home.

Last, but by no means least, I want to thank those who provided me with such exceptional care and knowledgeable advice. I want to thank my doctors and all of those at the Cancer Centre for the wonderful care I received.

Our Province came through the Cameron Inquiry into faulty hormone testing, centering around breast cancer patients. While that will always remain a black mark in our history, as we remember the many women who were tragically affected, it opened our eyes as governments, leaders, and health care providers to understand the important steps that were necessary to restore confidence in our system; a system that with the right controls and the right leadership continues to improve.

In light of faulty hormone testing I was given the option to leave Newfoundland and Labrador to seek medical treatment. I chose not to because I believe in our system of health care. I believe that we have a better system today than we had six or eight years ago. I have that confidence. Does it mean that everything is perfect? No, it does not and you will hear lots from me, I am sure, on heath care issues in the days to come. The Cameron Inquiry may have been a painful disclosure of information from government and from Eastern Health, but I think it was an exercise in openness and transparency that served to strengthen health care in this Province and not weaken it. It is openness, transparency, and accountability that strengthen all aspects of our society because when people have information, they have full understanding, and they are better able to contribute to public debate and decision making.

As a government you have been anything but transparent. You have been the most secretive, controlling administration in the history of our Province. This is evident by the legislation that you passed regarding Nalcor which deprives the public of ever knowing what that government agency does with the millions and millions of taxpayers' dollars that are funnelled into it. This is also evident in how you continue to keep information on major projects such as Hebron and Muskrat Falls secret. It is time for a complete overhaul of these suppressive pieces of legislation and the Access to Information Act. Use of the words open and transparent is empty when your actions deprive people of information. Keep the facts hidden and you deny individuals and the public the right to be informed. You are never accountable for your actions, as you claim to be, when people are denied the truth.

With regard to the political culture of the Province, there is room for change as well. The selection and appointment process must be based upon more than patronage but rather on merit and experience. People will no longer stand for multimillion dollar legal contracts, engineering contracts, and government work being passed to political friends without public tender. It is time to make a change, not only in the political culture but a change that will strengthen our rural culture as well.

Eight years ago, your government committed to an action plan for rural development to ensure that our small towns and rural regions are viable, healthy and growing; yet, out-migration in rural areas continues and the challenges they face continue to grow. Communities around the Province are concerned about sustainability. Due to the lack of resources and capacity, municipal leaders in our Province today find themselves at a crossroads when trying to make the best decisions for the future of their municipalities. Strategies from government, such as waste management, put financial burdens on towns and residents. Smaller communities are struggling to find the necessary resources to provide the services expected of them from their residents without putting the burden on the residential taxpayer. Municipalities have lobbied government to introduce a new fiscal framework, and for two successive budgets now government has failed to move on this. This is critical to the survival of small communities.

Fifty years ago the government of the day recognized the severe impediments to economic development that face this Province. One of those impediments was a lack of affordable and reliable electrical power. In response, government marshalled funds from the provincial and federal governments, and the private sector, and created the Rural Electrification Program. From 1954 until the 1970s, this program and successor programs coordinated power generation to ensure there was ample power available for both the people of the Province and for economic development. Affordable and plentiful power over the years improved the quality of life for people in the Province and provided the opportunity for economic development.

Today, we face a similar challenge. Today, the challenge is accessible and affordable transmission of electronic information in the form of cellphone and broadband Internet access. While still in Opposition, your government had some good concepts to ensure that every community would have the opportunity to connect to broadband, but once you became government, minister after minister bungled the job and failed to provide results.

The former Premier kicked $15 million of taxpayers' money to friends and former colleagues for the fibre optic cable which remains unused today. The government put out a request for a proposal to lay cable across the Province and then cancelled the project more than a year later. The result, Mr. Speaker, is that we still do not have access for cellphones and broadband in many areas of this Province and this is unacceptable in an information age. It is the equivalent, in this era, of not having electricity or roads. The Internet is as basic to the world economy now as money itself.

Mr. Speaker, just like the rural electrification program of fifty years ago, we need a rural broadband program to ensure rural areas have the same opportunity for quality of life and economic development as the urban areas of this Province. Neither the struggles nor the successes of rural communities can be separated from the fishing industry. From a government that said, and I quote, "We have acknowledged collectively that the status quo" in the fishery "in Newfoundland and Labrador is not an option." Yet, Mr. Speaker, they have taken no action to change it. In the past eight years we have seen promises, yet we have not seen spending and investments, and we have not seen results or a clear path forward for the fishing industry. Government's publicity exercise in 2006, called the fisheries summit, derived nothing only a photo opportunity for government members.

Under the MOU on the fishery, you led people in this Province to believe that it would be the saviour for the industry. You used it to give people hope and at the same time you failed yourself to give this process clear direction. Strengthening the fishery requires more than planning and publicity; it needs leadership, and that leadership should start at the top with you, Premier, and with your minister. The MOU may have cut too deep and it may have offered up an unrealistic view of rationalization; however, it is naοve to think that some rationalization is not necessary.

Mr. Speaker, the majority of workers in fish plants in this Province still make less than $10,000 a year in wages. Every year it is getting harder for people who work in these plants to get enough weeks to even qualify for Employment Insurance benefits. Harvesters are having problems, enterprise holders are finding it harder every year to outfit their vessels for the water and processors are under mounting pressure; yet, after more than eighty meetings over eighteen months, the minister and his department rejected the final report out of hand, with no Plan B, with nothing else to offer, absent of ideas, and noncommittal to any new direction in the fishing industry.

The minister wonders why his rejection of the final MOU report was greeted with disappointment and frustration. Well, I will tell the minister why, because the MOU process represented hope for a solution for harvesters, plant workers and all who depended on the fishery for their livelihood. The minister complained that people were left out of the process. He asked: Who speaks for the deckhands and the plant workers? I tell you, minister, today, that it was your job to speak for the plant workers and for the deckhands. It was your job to ensure that no person or sector or community was left behind. The MOU was your initiative and you lacked the leadership to see it through properly. Now the fishing industry has been abandoned by government to allow the free market to close down plants and to take people out of the sector in a haphazard and disorganized way with no compensation or adjustment funding that will come forward. Government has failed the people of this industry.

We need a fishery recovery and renewal action plan, Mr. Speaker, as soon as possible. We need to take the input from communities, harvesters and processors that we have, and others, that we can nurture the fishing industry in the future. We need to develop a fisheries workforce plan to ensure that there are opportunities for young people to choose the fishery as a career and sustain the industry in the future. We need to consider the fishery as a bright part of our future and not neglect it as a part of a dark past.

Mr. Speaker, the dream of every government, of every government since Frank Moores, was to develop the Lower Churchill. Gull Island and Muskrat Falls were supposed to be our economic salvation, a dream that would see energy sales into the US markets that would fill the coffers of this Province and help right the wrongs of the Upper Churchill Contract. It was supposed to be about making money and bringing prosperity to people.

Mr. Speaker, the hon. members on the government side want to develop Muskrat Falls, the smaller of two potential hydroelectric sites remaining on the Churchill River. They want to do it on the principle of legacy, not on the principle of making a profitable future for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. In short-sighted terms, Mr. Speaker, we can look at this and we can speak of the short-term jobs, of the short-term contracts but we need to look at the long-term, something that this government has failed to do in their idea of developing the Upper Churchill.

Mr. Speaker, the Muskrat Falls deal, as it is, will double electricity prices for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and add a minimum of $4.4 billion additionally to our debt.

Why will electricity prices double, Mr. Speaker? Why will we have to take on so much debt? It is pretty simple: someone has to pay for this legacy project and there are no markets for the power outside of Newfoundland and Labrador. Not one buyer has signed on to purchase Muskrat Falls power – not one buyer, Mr. Speaker, has signed on to purchase Muskrat Falls power. I have –


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JONES: - heard government members, Mr. Speaker –


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JONES: - say what about Emera Energy? Well let me tell you about Emera Energy of Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker. I will paraphrase the words of Chris Huskilson, the CEO of Emera who gave a speech to Nova Scotia offshore industry association last week. Mr. Speaker, he said – and I think he let the cat slip out of the bag when he said this. He said that originally Nalcor wanted to sell Muskrat power to Emera but the price was too high. Instead, Nalcor decided to provide them with free power for thirty-five years if Emera would build a power line from this Province to Nova Scotia. Power with no associated costs is how he explained it –


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JONES: - to the investors of the day. I know they do not want to hear it, Mr. Speaker, but I sat down already for two hours today and listened to what they had to say. I ask them for the same respect and grace in the Legislature, Mr. Speaker.

Power with no associated costs is how he described it and how he explained it to the investors on the day the term sheet to develop Muskrat Falls was signed. They build a line and in exchange they can help themselves to our power for thirty-five years. What kind of deal is that, Mr. Speaker? Free power for Emera, but certainly not for the residents of Newfoundland, and definitely not for the residents of Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, I want to speak about Labrador for a minute. If there is one region of our Province that has been underdeveloped in terms of infrastructure, it has been Labrador. The irony, Mr. Speaker, in all of this is that Labrador continues to be, outside of oil and gas, the greatest potential for future wealth of this Province. Over the next two decades it will be projects in Labrador that will drive the GDP and the economic growth of this Province. Yet, Mr. Speaker, today the people of Labrador are being told that electricity lines will pass over the heads of their communities. They are being told this while they are paying the highest commercial rates of electricity anywhere in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, the people of Labrador, not unlike the people of the Island, always expected great things from the Lower Churchill deal. They expected it to be the great contributor to wealth for them and for their communities. But, Mr. Speaker, the people of Labrador who have continuously asked that they see some kind of a legacy fund for Labradorians, that they would see some kind of benefits – and even the Member for Lake Melville, Mr. Speaker, in his famous speech in 2003, on MacDonald Drive at Queen of Peace hall, stood and outlined that these things were the very minimum that Labradorians would accept, but yet today, he sits as part of the government that is willing to give away the development with nothing in return for the communities. Mr. Speaker, the people of Labrador have always only asked for fairness from their government in the development of this resource. Unfortunately, there was no chapter for them.

Mr. Speaker, Muskrat Falls may be a Progressive Conservative legacy project but it is a millstone for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador; a millstone that will sink the economy of this Province. As the deal is today, Muskrat Falls power will see the Province go from having the lowest cost of electricity in Eastern Canada to the most expensive. Mr. Speaker, simply put, this deal is not good enough. It is not good enough for the Premier to just say that energy prices are going up anyway, or that Holyrood is dirty power, we need to go green.

Mr. Speaker, 91 per cent of the energy generated in this Province is green energy. If this government was really committed to going green then they would lift their moratorium on small hydro and wind energy projects.

Mr. Speaker, instead of the dream of the Lower Churchill selling vast amounts of energy to fill government coffers, the people of this Province are left footing the bills. We are not only doing it now but we are leaving it to the next five generations of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to pay down the debt on this project.

That is not good enough, Mr. Speaker, and it comes at a time when the Auditor General has already warned, year after year, that the spending of this government is unsustainable. Since the party on the other side of the House came to power eight years ago the money spent on running the government has doubled. Government spending and lack of future planning has jeopardized future growth. The population has not doubled, Mr. Speaker, the number of students in our classrooms has not doubled, the number of people needing medical care has not doubled, but the amount of money the Premier and her ministers spend has doubled. In fact, Mr. Speaker, that has been the hallmark of their government. This is a government that likes to talk big and spend big; the results are something else altogether.

Mr. Speaker, oil resources are being depleted. However, the Administration continues to blindly rely upon oil revenues to increase government spending to reckless levels. As the Auditor General has pointed out, the large surpluses of the past few years are behind us. Yet, the level of expenditure is incredible. We still have the second highest per capita debt in the country and our net debt increased in 2010.

Mr. Speaker, there is a time tested logic that says; save when times are good so that you are prepared when challenges arise. Oil revenues are inherently volatile by nature and affected by factors completely outside of government's control. It is also a finite resource. Government is doing our children a disservice in two ways: first by failing to effectively pay down the debt and second by growing government at an alarming rate which cannot be sustained once oil revenues begin to decrease. By spending the vast bulk of what it receives in oil revenues and planning huge multimillion dollar projects that do not derive dividends. In the meantime this government is failing to live up to the long-term planning needs of the people of this Province.

So let us talk about some priorities, Mr. Speaker. I am sure a great many people were surprised to learn from the Atlantic Business Magazine that the Premier is considering giving millions of dollars of royalties back to the oil companies in exchange for exploring for more oil. As the Premier counts on oil prices going up to $200 a barrel she wants to give the oil companies a break on what they pay to the people of this Province; this from the government of no more giveaways. Mr. Speaker, it just adds to a growing list of giveaways; like the $23 million they gave to oil companies on the West Coast of Newfoundland for oil exploration; like Muskrat Falls power that they are giving to Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, oil production is forecasted to decrease continuously over the next fifteen years. Hibernia, Terra Nova and White Rose have all reached peak production, and peak production levels will continue to go down from here. We will not get another bump in production until Hebron comes on stream, and that bump will be only temporary.

Mr. Speaker, oil companies are profit-driven enterprises that have recognized the value in our Province's offshore. They do not need the taxpayer to prop them up, I say to the Premier. Statoil has successfully applied for a significant discovery licence related to exploratory drilling in 2009 at the Flemish Pass. Chevron recently drilled in the Orphan Basin, which is the deepest well in Canadian history. Three recent calls for bids from the C-NLOPB resulted in over $110 million in work commitments for the Flemish Pass and the Jeanne d'Arc Basin. Mr. Speaker, there continues to be great interest in our offshore. This government should not be giving away money to promote exploration by businesses already earning vast sums from our industry. This is not the direction our Province or our energy policy should be moving in; not at all, especially at times when there are so many other social priorities that need our attention.

It is a well-known fact that children live in poverty because families continue to live in poverty. While there have been significant investments made over the past four years, a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy with dedicated financial resources is still needed. As well, specific areas of government strategy, including the importance of food security, the need for regulated child care, the widening economic income gap, and the focus on persons living with a disability, and low-income seniors continue to need the priorities of their government.

In 2003, the Progressive Conservative Party plan committed to transform Newfoundland and Labrador over a ten-year period from the Province with the most poverty to a Province with the least poverty, comparing after tax income. It is a well-known fact, Mr. Speaker, that food bank use is a true indicator of the economic struggles experienced by Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. Here we are, eight years after your government made that commitment and our finances have doubled. Let me tell you where we are; food bank use is higher in our Province now than it was ten years ago. Food banks across the Province serve 6 per cent of the population, the highest ratio of any Province in Canada. For the third year in a row, we have seen an increase in the demand for food bank services throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.

Last year, the government's St. John's poverty forum was told that, despite the boom in offshore oil revenues, the gap between the rich and the poor is getting wider. Last year's report on child and family poverty in Canada showed that Newfoundland and Labrador had the third highest rate of child and family poverty at almost 15 per cent. While this government continues to invest in big oil companies, spending millions and millions of our money, children and families are not growing and they are taking cold comfort in government's words. There is a need to bridge the gap. It is not only the right thing to do, but we have a responsibility to do it as a Province. Government talks about how it has made its mark in addressing fundamental social issues like poverty, but the indicators speak differently. Again, they have failed to give leadership to the critical issue at hand.

Closely related to poverty is housing. Housing is in a near-crisis state in this Province. While economic prosperity has improved the lot of those who have housing, it has hurt those who need housing. In the St. John's region, Western Labrador, Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Corner Brook, and in other pockets across the Province, the vacancy rate is such that there is no affordable and accessible housing for families who need it. We need to look hard at our land use policies and the municipal regulations which make our housing situation worse than it needs to be. Rather than depend upon government-owned social housing, we need also to adopt policies to make housing affordable for everyone out there. The availability of affordable, nutritious food and the opportunity for a home of our own has to be considered a fundamental human right in this Province.

Health care spending in the Province reached an all-time high of $2.4 billion last year. That is the highest amount ever spent in our Province's history. We are spending $270,000 per hour, and our spending is just one statistic. We also have the highest rate of heart attack, by-pass surgery, blood pressure, diabetes, and arthritis. We have the highest per capita spending on health care with the lowest outcomes for our patients.

The consumer health index report says this is "perhaps the most glaring case of throwing good money after bad in Canadian healthcare." Yet, there was no action from government on the heels of such a statement. I ask the government: Why have you not taken the lead? Why have you not chosen to do a full review of our health care system to find out why it is we are spending the most money per person and have the poorest outcomes of any Province in Canada when it comes to health care? I think it is a responsible thing and it shows tremendous leadership by governments when they look to find out what the real problems are so they can deliver real solutions.

Day after day I hear stories from people who are disadvantaged by health care decisions of this government. Just this week people in Twillingate lost five of their acute care beds, but government hid that under the guise of another pilot project. A child at the Janeway needs life-saving medication, but our health care system will not allow for this drug to be covered. Many communities still lack family doctors, many regional hospitals still lack specialists, and many people wait far too long to see those specialists. Yet, I reiterate, we spend the most money per person on health care but have the poorest outcomes in the country. It shows there is a lack of leadership.

We have the fastest aging population in Canada. By 2025, one in four people will be over the age of sixty-five. The Auditor General's most recent report states that officials at the health authorities have failed to develop a chronic disease management strategy and the lack of provincial leadership in the area of chronic disease, prevention and management, and diabetes care in particular. Our wait lists are long and the health care system will not be transformed unless it is matched with equal success in the prevention and management of chronic disease.

The problem in health care is not about money. Despite the massive investment in health care, we still have the worst outcomes, as I have stated, in all of the country. Health care costs are the fastest growing part of our budget. Unless we get a grip on what the problems are that are facing us as a people, the costs are going to continue to rise much higher and the problems are going to continue to get worse.

This government is too busy spending money on photo opportunities instead of addressing the real problems in our health care system. We need a health care system with true accountability. We need to ask the physicians and health professionals for input and ideas about how to reduce wait times. We need to seek a more co-operative working relationship with these professionals and we need to implement new programs so that we set ourselves on the course for the best health outcomes in the country. I believe this is possible, and it is government's responsibility to set the course and provide the leadership. What we need is leadership that spends less time on PR and more time on fixing the O.R., the kind that does not treat every comment or criticism as a crisis but rather fixes the crisis in our emergency rooms. That is the kind of leadership the people of Newfoundland and Labrador are looking for and deserve in health care today.

Mr. Speaker, this is a government that is all about controlling the message rather than admitting there is a problem and facing it head-on. We saw an example of that recently here with the school system in St. John's. The Eastern School District and the Department of Education are closing some schools and rebuilding others, all based on decisions that were made within the department before Christmas.

Yes, Mr. Speaker, they went through the sham of district-led public consultations and an independent consultant's report, but this government forgot one important thing: listening to parents.

Mr. Speaker, I sat in the audience when the trustees at Eastern School District voted. They voted in secret to close these schools and one thing was clear: They were not listening to anyone except the officials within the Department of Education and to government themselves. The complete lack of transparency and accountability was shocking and made it perfectly evident that there was little regard for the effects on children. The result is that school trustees are voting on a plan they have been handed by the minister, not one they have developed with the parents. So, we will see children throughout the City of St. John's playing musical chairs in the next few years. Some of them, Mr. Speaker, will be changing schools nearly as often as the Minister of Natural Resources changed his statements last week on Elizabeth Matthews' appointment to the C-NLOPB.

Mr. Speaker, the whole idea of school councils and school boards is to give parents a say about how and where their children will be educated. School boards and health boards are supposed to be run by elected members who represent the people of their communities, or they should be run by elected members who represent the issues of their communities. It is the people in those communities who understand what the needs are, and they understand them far better than any minister in government trying to shave a few dollars here or there within Confederation Building.

How do I know that, Mr. Speaker? I know that because of the facts. The facts tell us that despite all the bragging and boasting from the government, this Province still has the lowest rate of literacy in Canada. We have some of the poorest rates of numeracy and some of the lowest graduation rates in terms of high school, university, and college.

Mr. Speaker, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador deserve better outcomes. They want a government that makes education for our children the highest priority, and they lead those priorities to success. I want to say, Mr. Speaker, that there is no higher priority item on the agenda of our party than the future of our children in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, what we heard today was not a Throne Speech but a last grasp from the government that has run out of ideas - run out of ideas, Mr. Speaker. It is a government that is grasping for anything that it can to try to spin itself into success for the October election, Mr. Speaker. Despite all the PR and all the spin, the successes of this government have been few and far between.

While I sit here today, Mr. Speaker, with baited breath, waiting for the creative new ideas and new directions of the government, there was nothing in the Throne Speech, absolutely nothing only glorious words and lots of praise but no ideas, no direction, no creativity, nothing that will sustain the appetites of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. It was a PR spin to take them into the fall election.

So, Mr. Speaker, whether it is a fishery that has been ignored and betrayed or an education system that fails to meet our children and give them the best education in the country, as I said, this is a government that talks a big game but does not deliver the goods.

From the crowd that cried no more giveaways, we get a deal that is the biggest giveaway since the Upper Churchill. We are supposedly a have Province, yet the Minister of Finance is out telling chartered accountants that the loss of federal transfers could mean cuts to health and education. That should not be, Mr. Speaker.

Our people continue to rise to every occasion, to make us proud as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. Hurricane Igor, again, gave witness to our generosity, our coming together as a people, our caring nature and the strength that we show in times of adversity; but people always need leadership from their government, Mr. Speaker, as well. So, how do we make this a better place for ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren? We need openness and creative ideas with leadership, Mr. Speaker. We need to see a balance of power between government and the power of the people. We need to realize that there are no political saviours who are going to lead us hand in hand down the road to prosperity. We do not need a government that keeps everything secret, looks after its friends, and claims to know what is best for the rest of us. What the people of this Province need is a government of substance, not mirage. A government that understands what its people need and want for us to be a full, self-reliant people. A government that shares its power with the people across health care, education, and economic development, not a government that hoards its power inside of Confederation Building. We need a government, Mr. Speaker, that offers opportunity and is not obsessed with control. We need a government that has confidence in the people of Newfoundland and Labrador to provide for themselves and to create a prosperous future, a future where opportunity is available to all.

Mr. Speaker, we live in a place that is blessed with natural resources. We are a people blessed with the intelligence, desire, and drive to succeed and to share our success. It is good leadership and compassion that will ensure that all of us get ahead as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

No standing ovation?


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

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

I am very pleased this afternoon to have the opportunity to respond to what I heard in the Speech from the Throne this afternoon. First of all, I want to thank the Lieutenant Governor for taking the time to be with us and to deliver his Speech to us. As usual, he is a Lieutenant Governor who manages to get a laugh whenever he is here with us, and I thank him for that. So, I say back to him this afternoon: I hope that it was not too much effort for him to have to come to the House twice today. So, his humour back to him.

Having said that, I want to wish the Lieutenant Governor, even though their Honours are no longer with us, a happy eightieth birthday, because I have not had the opportunity to do that in the House of Assembly, and I am sure we all join in wishing him many more years of good health.

I want to also welcome the two newest members in the House of Assembly, the Member for Conception Bay East & Bell Island, and for Humber West, and to thank them for using today as the day for their maiden speeches and to stand here and give their response on behalf of the government to the Speech from the Throne.

I would also like to join with the Leader of the Opposition in recognizing our new Premier, the first woman Premier in the House of Assembly, and to recognize the fact that the three party leaders in the House of Assembly right now are women. One thing I have noticed since December is that every public event I have been at – and not just at public events – people are talking about the fact that we have made history here in this House of Assembly. I have not spoken to my two sister leaders but I suspect they are probably feeling the way I am. I feel a great sense of responsibility. People are expecting something from us and, Mr. Speaker, I do not know what people are expecting, but they are expecting something from us.

I noticed in the Speech from the Throne that it speaks about new ways to work together. Maybe that is what we have to look at here in the House; new ways to work together. We do have proposed changes coming to the committee looking at the Standing Orders of the House. Maybe that would be an opportunity for us to see how we look at our rules and regulations from the perspective of how better we can work together here in the House.

I use this opportunity today to throw out a challenge to all of us to look at – one way, for example, that we could work together in the House is to really have House committees; full party committees where we really take legislation in committees and work on the legislation together so that when we do come to vote on legislation in the House, we have worked on it together. I use the example of the House of Commons, though many of the provincial Legislatures have fully operative Standing Committees. In the fall when the Parliamentary Committee came to Newfoundland and Labrador to hold their hearings on the issues around the Cougar helicopter crash, and came to listen to what we had to say here in this Province with regard to that crash you had representation from the government – the Minister for Natural Resources made presentations – you had a presentation from the Third Party, and you had a wide variety of voices sitting before that Parliamentary Committee listening to us.

One thing that came out that day to me very, very clearly was that the majority of the representatives from all three parties really listened together to what was being said to them. You had a chair of that committee who represented the government – usually the chair is a member of the government – but, a person who was totally open to really hear the voices of those who sat in front of them. Even though a member of his party actually said things that I think he found embarrassing, you had this committee together making a real commitment to those of us here in Newfoundland and Labrador that they really wanted to make, I think, some radical recommendations back to government with regard to safety in our offshore, especially with regard to the use of helicopters.

The use of Standing Committees is one way in which we can work together better in this House. I think it would be really good for us as members in the House. I think it would be really good for members of the government who are caucus members but not members of Cabinet. It would be good for all of us to have that opportunity not just to come into the House in this setting and very briefly and in very strange settings try to deal with legislation, but actually sit together, talk about it and use the wisdom of all of us in the House. Maybe that is a challenge to us with a different leadership in this House. Maybe we can find a way to work better together.

Having said all of that, as a leader of one of the opposition parties – the Leader of the Third Party in the House – we do have a responsibility to monitor government; we do have a responsibility to bring the voice of people who we hear into the House of Assembly. One of the jobs I have today is to respond from that experience to what I have heard.

One of the things that became clear to me today is government once again is showing that it is very heavily focused on business and big development. The Lieutenant Governor began the speech with a strong focus on the Muskrat Falls, Lower Churchill development. The government has been making a very big deal – they did it here in the speech and I have heard it outside of the House – of connecting the Muskrat Falls development with Holyrood and the decommissioning of Holyrood. While I certainly want to see Holyrood decommissioned, I do not like this thing of connecting the two together because it makes it sound like the only way to decommission Holyrood is to do Muskrat Falls.

There are other ways, Mr. Speaker, to decommission Holyrood and these ways have not been explored in any kind of public way. This is something that I really am concerned about, that neither the government nor Nalcor seem to understand that we need an open discussion about how to diversify with regard to energy in this Province. They say that they are interested in it but there is no major commitment.

In the Speech from the Throne we have a reference to what has happened in Ramea – the hydrogen convertor and how that is looking promising – but no commitment to this as something that we really are going to plan around. It is something that could be good for us, could be good internationally, but no plan for saying this is really working, let's make it work, and where else can it work besides in Ramea and on the South Coast.

So they are putting all their eggs in this one basket right now, Mr. Speaker, the basket of Muskrat Falls. We do not even have an environmental assessment process finished yet. So, is this government really listening to people? Are they going to be listening to the presentations that are being made right now? As we sit here, hearings are going on in Labrador with regard to the environmental impact of that proposed project. For this government, it is not a proposed project at all, it has happened; they have their plans made. Are they going to listen to what people are saying up there? Are they going to listen to the needs of people? Are they going to listen to what the Mayor of Happy Valley-Goose Bay said? A mayor who said he does not even know how they can possibly cope with the impact during the construction phase. What has the response from this government been? I have not heard anything public, Mr. Speaker. What is the response to the people going to be? Or are they just so committed themselves that for them it is a done deal? Well that is not how I understand environmental assessment processes.

I was very, very concerned when I heard – and it was not the government who said this – but I was very concerned when I heard people saying publicly last week – actually calling the environmental assessment process something that has no teeth; it really was not important; this was only a part of a process; they are not decision makers. Well, a lot of money – I would imagine millions – is going into this environmental assessment process, and you have a panel made up of experts who know what they are talking about, who will be making recommendations. Are those recommendations going to be paid attention to, Mr. Speaker? That is not the way I hear it from what is being presented by this government. They have their plan made, they are moving ahead, and come hell or high water it is going to happen.

Mr. Speaker, the benefits that the government talks about, in terms of employment benefits with regard to Muskrat Falls, are very, very short term; it is only during the construction phase. Yes, there will be a lot of employment during the construction phase, but the amount of employment once the project is in place is actually quite minor. So where is the long-term benefit for employment in Labrador? It is not there, Mr. Speaker. The people in Labrador are presenting their concerns in the hearings that are going on now, and I am not liking what I am hearing. What is the government's response to that going to be? People saying are we going to benefit from energy ourselves? Are we going to benefit on the coast? Are we going to benefit in Natuashish? What is the benefit to us of having energy coming from Muskrat Falls? What is the benefit in energy; not just the benefit in general, but in energy? What will be the benefit be in terms of employment? Yes, during construction phase there will be employment but that is only during the construction phase. It is minor employment after that, Mr. Speaker. I want the government to listen to what they are saying. They are talking all these big plans, but, Mr. Speaker, when it comes to the actual benefits to the people I am not seeing them. That is why, Mr. Speaker, I say that I see a focus on business and large developments but not enough focus on people.

For example, Mr. Speaker, in the Speech from the Throne today I hear a lot about investments into infrastructure, investments into roads. We have to have it. We have to have it. Investment into hospitals and into schools, we have to have them. We have to maintain older buildings and we have to build newer buildings where necessary. What I did not hear, Mr. Speaker, is equal investment into our social infrastructure. I hear promises with regard to child care. I will be waiting with bated breath for the Budget, because I heard promises with regard to child care which is an essential part of having a social infrastructure. I want something concrete around that.

We have promises with regard to long-term care, but, Mr. Speaker, were is the long-term care plan? I do not see that referenced in the Speech from the Throne at all. For example, we now have a new structure being built here in St. John's replacing Hoyles Escasoni and we know that the structure that is being built - I know it has twenty-six more beds than the current facility but we also have a waiting list of hundreds of people in this area. The new facility that is being built, yes, we have a new building but is the building going to meet the needs of the people? Is it going to be adequate? The answer is no. It cannot even meet the present needs of our waiting list let alone the future needs of an aging population. Mr. Speaker, this government has an awful lot more to do with regard to looking at our social programs in this Province.

In 2003, there was a commission set up. I know it was set up by the government before the Williams government came in, in 2003, but the report came out in 2003 and it was the report on Renewing and Strengthening Our Place in Canada. I am not sure how I came across it. I was looking up something, and in looking it up the reference I was looking for was actually imbedded in this report. I said, well, that is interesting, and I started to read the report again. I remember when it came out. I was not in government at the time. I was not in an elected position, but I did read this report at the time because I had made a presentation to the commission.

There is something very important that they say in this report. They talk about what are generally recurring elements we have had in our history here in Newfoundland and Labrador over the years. The generally recurring elements that they were looking at were elements that were creating the deficits that we have every year. I know we do not have deficits now the way we did in the 1990s; I am aware of that fact. However, there is one point that the report of the commission makes that I think is extremely important. They say "an overall assessment of the expenditure and revenue trends over the years reveals a number of generally recurring elements". One of the ones they name, and this is the one that really caught my eye and that I speak to quite frequently, is what they call "The need to ‘catch-up' in public services". What they say is: "Since Confederation, Newfoundland and Labrador has been in a continuing struggle, first to provide for the most basic of services and then, to improve the level and quality of public services to the standards generally enjoyed by other Canadians. This applies to health care, social services, education, transportation and municipal infrastructure." Mr. Speaker, that statement is as true today as it was eight years ago when the commissioners first made it.

The thing that really bothers me is that even though we now have the revenues that we have from the offshore, even though we have those revenues, I do not think we are adequately using those revenues to help catch up in those public services. We are using it in a lot of other ways, but, Mr. Speaker, when I look at things like our health care system and the lack of things that I see in other provinces, I worry. When I look at things like our long-term care program, our lack of an adequate long-term care program, when I look at the inadequacy of our home care and the fact that we do not have a universal home care program, when I look at the poor child care system that we have in this Province, we are years, years, behind other parts of the country.

I had somebody say to me not too long ago - a few weeks ago actually I met this person, and it is a person who had come from outside the Province, loves the Province; this was not said out of any kind of distaste for the Province or anything else. He came from another province in the country and was working in a similar field here as he was working there. He said to me: Ms Michael, I have to say it was very discouraging, because I came here and I found everything was about twenty years behind. That unfortunately is true for an awful lot in this Province. This is what we have to deal with, and that is what the commission was referring to in 2003 when it was talking about the catch-up that needs to be done.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The only difference between 2003 and now, Mr. Speaker, is that we now have revenues that we did not have in 2003. If we do not start putting the social infrastructure in place that we need to put in place, Mr. Speaker, if we do not start doing that now, then we are going to be as bad off with regard to these services when oil and gas revenue is gone as when they are not. If we do not put, for example, a universal child care program in place now while we have revenue, there is no way in twenty-five years time, if we do not have that revenue, that we will be able to put that infrastructure in place.

We have to be planning for the infrastructures that we need, that we are behind in, get them in place and then build our budgets around them. We have to, Mr. Speaker, because if we do not, we will never catch-up. That is my fear, that is my big fear, is that we will never catch-up. We will always be behind, that we will always be repeating things that others have realized: Oh, that did not work for us. Let's try to get ourselves to where other provinces are now in the area. Some of which I have already mentioned, Mr. Speaker.

When we look at something like – and this is where I want this government, Mr. Speaker, to think about the needs of people. When we look at something like the thing that I am speaking to, doing it publicly - and now I am going to be able to start doing it in the House again, so I thank the government for coming back into the House - that is helping people with the cost of living and the cost of home heating by removing the tax from home heating. It works in Nova Scotia, it works in PEI, it works in New Brunswick, it works in Saskatchewan, it works in Manitoba, but for some reason, no, it cannot work here. Why can't we, like other provinces, take the tax off home heating, still do a rebate for those who are in the lower end of the economic scale, why can't we do that when other provinces are doing it? No, it cannot happen here. Well, our people here have a need for that to happen. Our people here have a need for us to look at how we regulate the cost of gas that affects the cost of food in this Province. We have a very serious situation in this Province with regard to the cost of food, and the cost of food is going up and up as the cost of gas is going up and up. We know right now, for example, that we have about an estimated two to three day supply of fresh vegetables if we have a disruption to the supply system. That disruption to the supply system could be caused by anything under the sun. It will not be an earthquake and a tsunami, we know that, but there could be a major disruption to the supply system.

Where is that in government's five-year plan with regard to agriculture? We have to look at it in a much bigger picture than just the small picture of agriculture. We need to make sure that we are developing our own resources here so that if we cannot control the cost of gas that is being used to transport food in, we can control the cost of our food by producing more than we are able to produce in this Province.

So, Mr. Speaker, this is something that really has to be considered by this government, and I do not hear it. I hear words, but I do not hear concrete plans around these concrete kinds of things that I am talking about.

I could not possibly, Mr. Speaker, not make reference to the fisheries. I am glad to see that the government has spoken to the fisheries in the Speech from the Throne. I am obviously very glad about that, and I am really delighted to see that there is going to be investment in technology and innovation. I am waiting for the Budget to see what the concrete plans are going to be, Mr. Speaker, but I am really concerned about the government not showing the leadership that it needs to show with regard to the fishery. They just cannot sit back; they have to be totally engaged. They talk, in the Speech from the Thorne, and I am glad to see it, about being engaged with all of the players and they include the communities, which is absolutely important; but I did not hear the government say, for example - maybe it will be in the Speech from the Thorne - or I will say what I did hear, I did hear the Speech from the Thorne say that were some good things in the MOU that came out. There were some things, and they mentioned the marketing issue and that that is good. Well now, are they going to take steps immediately to start putting that in place? If that is one piece they actually agree with - and it certainly is something that I was calling for and that I agree with - are they going to take steps right away to put that recommendation in place, that we will have a body set up to do marketing and give leadership in doing that? They speak words, Mr. Speaker, but I do not hear – okay, well, give me the concrete action and when it is going to happen. That is what I want to hear: concrete action and when is it going to happen.

It is the same way with the child care that they talk about in the Speech from the Throne as well. It is all up in the air. Now, is the Budget going to be more specific? I will have to wait for that, and I am going to have to see if it is going to be more specific. Mr. Speaker, child care is not just something that maybe people need, child care is something that people do need. It was really interesting when the Conference on Women in Oil and Gas was taking place two weeks ago here in the city, and I remember hearing one of the spokespeople for the conference on the news saying that the biggest block to women being involved in the oil and gas industry in this Province was the lack of a good child care program. It was as clear as that. It was not maybe some of us need it and some of us do not, it is the biggest block to participation. When you get women involved in high-paying jobs – it is not just families, it is women – number one, you get an increase in the economy. When you have a child care program, you have more people employed in that industry, and if it is a regulated, universally accessible child care program under government, you then get people trained and paid the wages they should be paid.

So, it is not just a social program, it is an economic development, and it is an investment. It is an investment in children, and it is an investment in families. This government just does not seem to understand the word investment in that way. They only see it when they are talking about rocks and water. Rocks that we are walking on that have value in them, water that can become energy. They understand investment when they are talking about it in that sense. When it comes to investing in social programs, they do no understand that that word investment is a real word. It has economic spinoffs, it has other spinoffs too, but it also has economic spinoffs.

There is so much I could speak about, Mr. Speaker, and I am not going to take every line in the Speech to talk about it.


MS MICHAEL: No, there is no clock on, Mr. Speaker; I would like to point out to the members in the House today. This is a day there is no clock on, so I can keep going. I am going to use my time, Mr. Speaker; I am going to use my time.

Mr. Speaker, one of the things I would like to recognize in the Speech from the Throne and I am not saying this in a negative way, there is absolutely no doubt that the Premier when the Premier was Deputy Premier and also Minister of Natural Resources did a lot in working with the oil and gas industry with regard to women's participation, but I would also like to recognize here today that it was women in the Province, of whom she was one by the way at the time -


MS MICHAEL: She knows what I mean, Mr. Speaker.

There were women in the Province who, back in 1996, began meeting around getting women into what was called then - they do not use the term now - non-traditional jobs, getting women into trades and technology. The group just gave itself a loose name called Women in Resource Development Committee. They were a committee. The first time they did something public as a group of women who were concerned; they made a presentation to the Voisey's Bay Environmental Assessment Panel on getting women working in Voisey's Bay and having women benefit from Voisey's Bay. It was a joint effort of women from the Island and women from two of the Aboriginal groups in Labrador. I was on that panel. I was not living here at the time; I had been living outside of the Province for seven years. When these women made the presentation, well how excited did I get because I did not even know the woman who was making the presentation. I said: Well, where did she come from? She is fantastic. I had not met her in the years - I had lived here all my life up until 1990.

It was a wonderful presentation. Those women made two presentations to the Voisey's Bay Environmental Assessment Panel. Then, when that panel was over, they continued on their plan to get money to continue to push this idea. They are now, of course, the Women in Resource Development incorporated. I think corporation is what they call themselves keeping the WRDC. I was lucky enough to be hired, actually. After the panel ended, they approached me, and I was lucky enough to be hired as the executive director, which I did for seven years.

I want to recognize that this actually was an example of the working together that is talked about in the Speech from the Throne. Those women worked like Trojans, none of them were being paid for it. They started in about 1996 and they worked until they had the organization in place with money. Both the Premier and myself were fortunate to be part of that effort.

I want to recognize the women who drove that effort and who continue to do that work because that too, is another clear example of the working together that is referred to in the Speech from the Throne. I would like to think that is the kind of thing we can continue to do together here in the House, is recognize efforts like that and make sure that groups, not just municipalities, but other groups are supported by all of us as they bring their voice to the government, as they bring their voice to the Opposition parties. We have to be here working for the good of people.

Mr. Speaker, I have made reference to both long-term care –

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I would like to remind the hon. member that while we do not have defined times for responding to the Speech from the Throne; usually when people speak here in the House of Assembly we are guided by the amount of time that we allow members to speak. In the case of the hon. Leader of the Opposition, every time the Leader of the Opposition speaks she gets one hour to speak. If the hon. Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi responds she will get ordinarily twenty minutes to speak. The hon. member has been speaking for a half an hour. I just ask the hon. member if she would be guided by time in respect of what members are allowed here in time to speak.

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

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

I was going to clue up. That was what I was going to say, that I think of the main points I was going to make I have made reference to all of them. That is exactly what I was getting ready to say, so thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

My final point - and if I could make my final point, and I know I may. We may be a have Province and we know that. In the definition under the equalization payments we are a have Province, but when it comes to looking at where we are with regard to other parts of Canada we are below the level of services that other Canadians take for granted. We have to make sure - and this is what I ask of this government, Mr. Speaker. We have to make sure that all people benefit from our prosperity by making the social investments that I have talked about. Investing in everyone's health and well-being saves money in the long run, it creates jobs, it stimulates the economy, it makes lives better, and society more sustainable.

That is my priority, Mr. Speaker, and I hope it is the priority of this government. I hope that as we proceed through the rest of our session here in this House, right through until the spring and when the new Budget comes down, that we can continue to work together in trying to make things work, not just for business in this Province, Mr. Speaker, but for the people of this Province, that everybody in this Province is going to benefit.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, I thank His Honour for delivering the fourth Throne Speech of his term, and for doing so with characteristic grace and eloquence.

Let me congratulate the mover and seconder of the motion to draft an Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne, the newest members of the House and the newest members of our caucus. The Member for Conception Bay East & Bell Island was elected on December 2, and sworn in on December 20. The Member for Humber West was elected on February 15, and sworn in on March 16. This has been the first occasion for either of them to speak in the House as members representing their respective districts, and they have both done a remarkable job.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, they represent the spirit, determination and work ethic required of all members as they work to serve the people of our great Province.

I thank the Leader of the New Democratic Party, and the Leader of the Official Opposition for their comments today. I am so pleased to see that the Opposition Leader has returned to join us here on the floor of the House of Assembly. She has come through a tough battle, but looking at her here today in fine form, I have no doubt she is prepared to take on the full scope of her important role here in the House. It is clear that she is ready to engage in vigorous debate. As we discuss the issues of importance to the people of the Province in the months ahead, I am sure the exchanges will be spirited and feisty, and I look forward to it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: I acknowledge the many in the gallery above us and the Speaker's Gallery today, and those who are tuning in by television and the Web. I thank you for your interest, and the longevity of your focus and patience, especially as I begin my remarks now, following those of several others. I promise I will not be too long.

Today's Speech from the Throne opens the fourth session since the 2007 election, and the last before the election this fall. It is also my first in my tenure as Premier. The speech is an important statement of our government's vision and plans moving forward.

What has been outlined here today is not the full picture by any means, but it certainly gives a clear indication of our approach as we continue our work to secure a prosperous and bright future for Newfoundland and Labrador. The good news is, we have never been in a stronger position.

As the Throne Speech makes clear, laying the foundation over the last eight years was just phase one. Like any foundation, it is an invitation to build something even greater. We are progressing on the path to a new, self-reliant society that is economically sustainable, socially progressive, attractive to young people, supportive of families, attentive to seniors and rich with opportunities to grow strong, thriving enterprises -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: - harnessing our vast pool of talent and resources.

As we continue to make progress, we will take into account the things we have learned, the ground we have covered, the new opportunities that have emerged and the changing needs of our people. To be effective, a government must be tuned in and fully responsive to the needs and aspirations of the people it serves. It must not only listen but really pay attention, and its actions must demonstrate that it has heard what has been said.

We are seeing, quite dramatically, in other parts of the world how people are willing to put their lives on the line to ensure they have a government that cares about them and shares their aspirations. The importance of having a government that connects with the people it serves cannot be underestimated. All my life, I have been building connections and partnerships. All my life, I have taken full advantage of opportunities to stand up boldly to make a difference.

The freedom to participate is not something many people had the luxury of taking for granted. As I stated when I was sworn in, it was not so many years ago when my grandmother and many of her generation could not fully participate, simply because they were women. I believe in inclusiveness - in drawing people together, regardless of their differences, to build a better and stronger community that includes everyone - a Province that everyone can truly feel is theirs.

An effective government is both an expression and an instrument of the will of the people. It is imperative to ensure the government's approach and the people's aspirations are aligned. I am determined to ensure that the government I lead is a true partnership, uniting the people with those they elect to serve their best interests.

Partnership building and team building can make the difference in a great many areas of public policy. The Throne Speech emphasizes the importance of regional approaches to governance, community-building and economic development. Why? Because we stand stronger when we work together as neighbours toward common goals, than when we work at cross-purposes to the detriment of one another.

Since 2003, we have made huge gains by working together. Those achievements have been simply amazing, from equity stakes and super-royalties from our offshore to billions of dollars in infrastructure investments; from poverty reduction to education and health care advances; from the new Atlantic Accord to "have status"; and on and on the list goes.

As exciting as our past accomplishments have been, my focus is squarely on what is ahead. My optimism is grounded, not in how far we have come but on what I see before us. The prospects for new growth throughout Newfoundland and Labrador are enormous, and our people are better prepared than ever to seize them. For Newfoundland and Labrador, the best is yet to come.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: We heard this Mr. Speaker, reflected in the Throne Speech. I would like to highlight a couple of things in the Speech that will be very significant to our Province in the year ahead.

His Honour began with a discussion of Phase I of the Lower Churchill Project at Muskrat Falls, which is one of the most exciting developments on the horizon for all of Eastern Canada - indeed all of Canada, given its scope and reach.

The most powerful sign that things have changed for us as a Province is the leadership role we are now taking in energy development.

Our story is resonating far beyond our borders and people across Canada, the US, and beyond are sitting up and taking notice of the opportunities for development right here in Newfoundland and Labrador. We are an energy super warehouse!

There is so much on the horizon - with work ramping up on Hebron, Long Harbour, mining in Labrador West. We are seizing opportunities. As we are with the Lower Churchill

At the meeting of the Combined Councils of Labrador in February, where I appreciated the tremendous warmth and enthusiasm of the reception I received, my address included points on what Churchill development means for industrial and economic development projects in Labrador –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, something that has been talked about for a long time, but is now at last within reach.

As I said then and I reiterate now: The development of Muskrat Falls will be a great enabler for future opportunities in Labrador and greatly improve Labrador's ability to attract industrial development in this region.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: It will also bring 5,400 direct person years of employment to Labrador, along with generating approximately $450 million in labour earnings and business income for Labrador residents and enterprises. That does not sound to me like a development with no benefits for Labrador, as some have incorrectly stated. It is clear that Muskrat Falls is a very good deal for Labrador and for our entire Province.

It is the most cost-effective, sensible approach to meeting our energy needs, and in addition we now have the opportunity to export surplus power over lines that were simply not accessible to us before. I cannot emphasize strongly enough how significant this is for Newfoundland and Labrador. With Gull Island on the horizon and the Upper Churchill contract winding down, it is just going to get better.

Related to the development of the Lower Churchill, a historic and exciting announcement was made today by the Government of Canada and the Innu Nation: A financial agreement has been reached on the Innu land claim.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, my Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, the hon. Member for Torngat Mountains, proudly represented our government at this announcement. I congratulate the Government of Canada and the Innu Nation on this achievement. What an amazing day for the Innu people, for Labrador, for our Province, and for the whole country!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, another of the many initiatives we referenced today is that, in this year's Budget, we will take a step forward in expanding access to child care in our communities.

Access to child care is critical, not just to the families who need it but to our economy - and therefore to all of us.

Many parents are putting their careers on hold, taking their skills and expertise out of the labour force at the very time we need them when we are working to continue our economic growth. Mothers, in particular, are putting their careers on hold for lack of child care. When they return to the workforce, they have sometimes lost years of experience. They may find that others have leaped ahead of them in terms of seniority and promotions. They may have a tough time making up for the years they have missed and, as a consequence, may not be able to achieve their earning potential. We lose some of our most capable professionals because of this.

Our Budget will contain an initiative related to child care spaces that I am sure you will agree is an exciting one. We need young families raising their children here, filling our schools, growing our communities, pursuing their professional goals and helping secure our future.

As highlighted in the Throne Speech, we are taking action now to swing wide the doors of opportunity for many. Child care, early childhood learning, education, career access, inclusion for persons with disabilities, poverty reduction, affordable housing - our investment in these areas, Mr. Speaker, all contribute to placing self-reliance within the reach of many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who might not achieve it otherwise.

Everything we are doing, Mr. Speaker, is focused on giving people opportunities to be engaged in exciting things that are happening in our Province, to reap the benefits and, in turn, to give all of us the benefit of what they bring to the mix. As they put down roots and raise families, all of us reap the rewards, and Newfoundland and Labrador rises to realize its true potential.

I am so excited and enthusiastic about the amazing potential of our people and our Province as we move forward. Stay tuned for the provincial Budget in April, because we will have more to announce then. The Budget will have a range of progressive new initiatives to put into action the initiatives you have heard referenced here today.

As was stated in the conclusion of the Throne Speech, and I am compelled to reiterate, "[Our] government has provided the conditions on which good people can build…. This secure foundation is an invitation to individuals, businesses and communities throughout our Province to join… in building a future of prosperity and self-reliance unprecedented in our history – a future truly befitting our incredible potential as people of Newfoundland and Labrador."

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

It has been moved and seconded that a Select Committee be struck to draft an Address of Thanks to be presented to His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor in reply to the Speech from the Throne which he has opened the present session of the House of Assembly.

Members of the Select Committee will be the hon. the Member for the District of Humber West, the hon. the Member for the District of Conception Bay East & Bell Island, and the hon. the Member for the District of Port de Grave.

All those in favour, ‘aye'.


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

The motion is carried.

Notices of Motion.

Notices of Motion

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

MR. MARSHALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I give notice that I will move that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole on Supply to consider a resolution for the Granting of Interim Supply to Her Majesty. (Bill 2)

Mr. Speaker, I further give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Labour Sponsored Venture Capital Tax Credit Act. (Bill 3)

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

The hon. the Minister of Government Services.

MR. HARDING: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Public Accountants Act. (Bill 4)

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion.

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Smoke-Free Environment Act, 2005. (Bill 5)

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

The hon. the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

MR. O'BRIEN: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Standard Time Act. (Bill 6)

I give further notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Municipalities Act, 1999. (Bill 7)

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

The hon. the Minister of Justice and Attorney General.

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

I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Repeal The Law Reform Commission Act. (Bill 8)

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

This motion is being moved by the Leader of the Official Opposition, the Member for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair, seconded by the Member for Port de Grave. She had hoped to do it herself, but because of a scheduled treatment she had to leave early. This is the private member's resolution for this Wednesday, which order 63 requires that we have filed today.

WHEREAS breast cancer is the most common cancer among Newfoundland and Labrador women, excluding non-melanoma skin cancer, with approximately 370 women to be diagnosed with breast cancer in Newfoundland and Labrador this year; and

WHEREAS we have one of the highest mortality rates from breast cancer, and breast cancer in younger women tends to be more aggressive; and

WHEREAS the benchmark for Newfoundland and Labrador's organized breast screening program is age 50 years; and

WHEREAS women aged forty to forty-nine years are not eligible to participate in Newfoundland and Labrador's organized breast screening program, while women aged forty to forty-nine are eligible in British Columbia, Alberta, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Northwest Territories, and Yukon; and

WHEREAS the earlier breast cancer is diagnosed, the better the outcome in terms of health and the therapeutic regime women will be subject to; and

WHEREAS there is empirical evidence that routine mammography screening of women in their forties can reduce mortality from breast cancer by at least 24 per cent; and

WHEREAS Newfoundland and Labrador does not allow women in their forties to self-refer into the Provincial Breast Screening Program; and

WHEREAS Newfoundland and Labrador has the existing capacity to accommodate women between the ages forty and forty-nine years into the Provincial Breast Screening Program;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that this House calls upon government to establish a new benchmark by reducing to forty years of age the eligibility for self-referral to the Provincial Breast Cancer Screening Program.

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Natural Resources, that this House do now adjourn.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that this House do now adjourn.

All those in favour, ‘aye'.


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

This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock tomorrow, being Tuesday.

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