May 9, 2011                            HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS                Vol. XLVI  No. 21

The House met at 1:30 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

Admit strangers.

Before we begin today's proceedings, I would like to recognize the untimely passing of Mr. Paul Reynolds, which occurred on our last sitting day of the House of Assembly, Thursday, April 21.

Mr. Reynolds served as an officer of this House in two capacities since May 2007. He was the Chief Electoral Officer and also the Commissioner for Legislative Standards. Paul performed both roles with skill, diplomacy, and fairness. He directed a number of changes to our Elections Act, such as those respecting special balloting. He was also the Chief Officer for the 2007 General Election, as well as a number of by-elections since that time.

Members would also have worked with Paul on their financial disclosure statements and will remember his patient assistance in those matters. Paul Reynolds was always a gentleman in his dealings with members of this House generally, and he will be deeply missed.

On behalf of the House of Assembly, I extend the House's condolences to the Reynolds family, and I would also like to recognize a number of Mr. Reynolds' co-workers who are present in the public galleries today.

The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to express condolences on behalf of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to the family of Paul Reynolds. We were sorry to hear of the passing of Mr. Reynolds, who served as the Chief Electoral Officer in Newfoundland and Labrador since May 2007.

Mr. Reynolds had a distinguished career in the public and private sector and served the people of Newfoundland and Labrador as Chief Electoral Officer and Commissioner for Legislative Standards with impartiality, sound judgement and utmost integrity.

Mr. Reynolds had an extensive private sector and volunteer background, including serving on the Wedgewood Park Recreation Commission, as councillor and Deputy Mayor for the Town of Wedgewood Park, and later as councillor for the City of St. John's. He was a member of the Board of Directors of the YM/YWCA and the St. John's Port Corporation, as well as a Director for the Drivers Licence Review Board and the Pippy Park Commission.

I ask all Members of the House of Assembly to join with me today as we remember Mr. Reynolds' contribution to the Province and extend our deepest condolences to his family.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I would like to take this opportunity as well to pass along our condolences and thoughts to the family of the late Mr. Reynolds.

I did not actually know him until after he became the Chief Electoral Officer, but of course anyone who knew him well before I did, and certainly my experience after was that he was a perfect gentleman and he was very kind and considerate to anyone who had any involvement with him. I did find out he was an avid golfer and, in fact, we attended the same gym together, so it was a great opportunity to keep up on what was happening in the electoral system through Mr. Reynolds.

There is no doubt that he was very involved in community life and improving the community of Wedgewood Park. I understand he was actually the mayor. He was very proud of his town and very proud of this Province.

He was fair to all of those he dealt with, regardless of what your political stripe might be in this Province, and we extend our condolences to his family.

Thank you.

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

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

I am pleased to have the opportunity to add my voice of condolence to yours, to the Premier, and to the Opposition House Leader, to passing on to the family of Mr. Paul Reynolds and his co-workers my voice of condolence, and saying that he really was a very fine person to work with.

I, too, had not met him before he took on his role as Chief Electoral Officer. I found him committed and dedicated in his role. In any discussions that I was involved in with him, I understood how much he wanted to help the democratic process be accessible to everybody and to be fair and to be just. I really admired that in him.

As well as the Speaker, yourself, has mentioned, on a one-on-one as an MHA in our dealings with him, I found him to be very understanding of his role in helping us be open and transparent with regard to revealing our financial situations, and I just found him understanding and a very personable man in every way.

I know that his family, his friends, and his co-workers must miss him terribly, and I am very sorry that we had to lose him in such an untimely way.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: I thank members for their commentary.

Today, I would like to welcome two Deputy National Commissioners of Scouts Canada, who are attending meetings here in Newfoundland and Labrador with the National Leadership Team. I would like to welcome Mr. Jason Anderson and Ms Kathleen Provost.

Welcome to the House of Assembly.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Today, the Speaker would also like to welcome fifteen members of the Templeton Branch of the Women's Institute here in St. John's.

Welcome to the House of Assembly.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Statements by Members

MR. SPEAKER: The following members' statements will be heard: the hon. the Member for District of Cape St. Francis; the hon. the Member for the District of Burgeo & La Poile; the hon. the Member for the District of Mount Pearl North, and the hon. the Member for the District of Humber West.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I rise in this hon. House today to congratulate the Holy Trinity Senior Concert Band and Senior Jazz Band. They participated in the Heritage Music Festival in Anaheim, California.

Mr. Speaker, with 1,700 other students from seven states in the US and bands from British Columbia, the Holy Trinity Band represented our Province and our country very well.

Mr. Speaker, the students had fun visiting amusement parks, beaches, they walked along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, they visited the Walt Disney Concert Hall, and they toured the Grammy Museum and saw many other different sites.

With the guidance of their instructor, Mr. Ron Collins, the groups achieved Silver Awards. Their school and their parents are very proud of how they performed, and how respectful and well-behaved they were.

I ask all hon. members in this House today to join with me in congratulating the Holy Trinity Concert Band and Jazz Band on their Silver Award, and also in congratulating Mr. Ron Collins on a job well done.

Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of Burgeo & La Poile.

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

I rise today to recognize ten bright and talented students from St. James' Regional High School in Port aux Basques. Nine of the students under the direction of teacher-mentor, Ms Vanessa Hillard, travelled to St. John's to compete at the Marine Advanced Technology Education Centre in the remotely operated underwater vehicle competition which took place on May 6, this past Saturday.

This year's competition was based on oil spills and the four tasks assigned to these small-scale ROVs must simulate what real life ROVs would do. An example of a task is the capping of an oil well, which involves using one of the ROVs claws to carry the cap and cover an apparatus. The St. James' ROV team has named their robot El Capitano.

Since January, these industrious students have spent a great deal of their spare time in the classroom and at the local swimming pool building to test their robot and their project. This project was completely extracurricular and the students, as well as Ms Hillard, are to be commended for voluntarily participating in this highly educational undertaking.

I had the opportunity to meet with the students and view their work on Saturday, and was very impressed by their intelligence, their creativity, and their enthusiasm. They totally enjoyed the competition and were looking forward also to a tour of the simulator at the Marine Institute.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this House to join with me in extending congratulations to Ms Hilliard and her students, Marcus Carter, Rebecca Carter, Neil Mauger, Joel Goodyear, Liam Carter, Myles Green, Arshad Razack, Julia Skinner, Patrick Mercer, and Kyle Standing on participating in this worthwhile and educational project.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise in this hon. House today to congratulate Gail Brittain on her outstanding achievement on being named a lifetime member of the Kin Club of Canada. I attended a celebration in February of this year. It was a celebration of Gail and her significant contribution to the Kinettes in Mount Pearl.

Mr. Speaker, the Association of Kinsmen, Kinette and Kin Clubs is proud to be an all-Canadian service organization made up of outstanding community volunteers. From coast to coast, members are enhancing quality of life in their communities by promoting service, fellowship, positive values and national pride.

It is important and significant to note that Kin members have proudly contributed more than $1 billion to Canadian communities since their association was founded in 1920.

Mr. Speaker, there is not one person who knows Gail Brittain personally who would not attest to the fact that Gail is a great Kinette. She epitomizes the essences of what it means to be generous and giving in her community. Her contribution to the Kinette Club of Mount Pearl has been acknowledged by this recent honour bestowed upon her.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this House to join me in congratulating a long-time resident of Mount Pearl and a friend of mine, Gail Brittain, on her Lifetime Achievement Award from Kin Canada.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. GRANTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I stand in this hon. House to congratulate yet again an exhibit of the great theatrical talent coming from the Corner Brook area.

What started out nine years ago as a pet project of Stephen Perchard culminated in fine fashion on Saturday, April 30 at the Newfoundland and Labrador Drama Festival held in the beautiful Town of Grand Falls-Windsor. Eight amateur theatrical groups from across Newfoundland and Labrador participated in the festival.

The staging of Sam Sheppard's play True West earned Corner Brook's Off-Broadway Players the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador's Drama Festival Award for best presentation of a full length play.

In addition to this award, individual awards were handed out to members of Corner Brook's Off-Broadway Players. Troy Turner took home best male performance for his role as Lee, the shady brother in Sheppard's tale of sibling rivalry. Along with Elwin Murley, Turner was also co-winner of the Oz-FM Award for excellence in sound.

Off-Broadway members Sandy Wiseman and Erin Smallwood took home the Award for Excellence in property management. Greg Davis rounded out the impressive haul by winning the Allan Power Memorial Trophy for lighting design.

Mr. Speaker, Corner Brook has become a rich and inviting place for amateur and professional theatre, and it is through the work of people like Stephen Perchard and others that this tourism draw will only grow and foster.

To that end, Mr. Speaker, I congratulate all members from Corner Brook's Off-Broadway Players for their promotion of theatre in our city and region and ask all members of this hon. House in sending best wishes and congratulations on their impressive individual and collective accomplishments at the most recent Newfoundland and Labrador Drama Festival.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Statements by Ministers.

Statements by Ministers

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. O'BRIEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This part Friday I had the opportunity to attend the Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador 2011 Municipal Symposium in Gander. This conference brings together municipal leaders from across our Province and I was pleased to have my first opportunity to speak to them as the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

There was a very positive energy at the symposium and while there I had the opportunity to highlight the many initiatives contained in Budget 2011 for towns and communities. Clearly, our budget measures have been well received and reflect our commitment to the municipalities in Newfoundland and Labrador.

In particular, Mr. Speaker, those in attendance were pleased with our $4.6 million injection into Municipal Operating Grants. All towns and communities will receive increased funding, while municipalities with populations below 1,000 people will receive a 50 per cent increase in their current grant. As acknowledged at the symposium, this will make a substantial difference for smaller municipalities which are mostly contained in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

Through Budget 2011, we are also continuing our commitment to help municipalities improve infrastructure. This year, we have allocated over $140 million for new and ongoing municipal infrastructure projects. This funding will leverage further funding and bring total spending to $219 million in this current year. As well, we have allocated an additional $14 million for the continued implementation of the Provincial Solid Waste Management Strategy, for a total of about $116 million for the total commitment to date, Mr. Speaker.

Budget 2011 also allocated $30 million for recreational and multi-purpose facilities in Newfoundland and Labrador. Our government recognizes the importance of such facilities and set aside this specific block of funding which is expected to allow us to leverage an additional $40 million, for a total of approximately $70 million.

One of the major themes of the symposium, Mr. Speaker, was co-operation. As a government, we encourage municipalities to work together to achieve positive benefits for our residents. It was stated that the relationship between the provincial government, this government, Mr. Speaker, between Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador and the towns and communities is stronger than it has ever been in the history of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. O'BRIEN: As I said to the delegates, they have my commitment as minister to continue building this strong relationship, and I look forward to working with them in the coming months and also to joining them at their annual convention this fall.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I, too, attended the symposium this weekend in Gander. It was a good symposium, it was well attended. The minister is right when he says municipal leaders were pleased with the increase in the MOGs and the investment in municipal infrastructure, and so they would be. They are concerned that it is for only one year and not certain of what to expect the following year, but we trust in good faith that we will see at least what we see this year on the table.

Mr. Speaker, I have to say as well, there were also many concerns expressed by municipal leaders in the Province over these past few days in Gander. I could mention many, but just one or two, the waste management strategy or lack thereof and the frustration that exists throughout the Province about the operating costs that may arise from this strategy and the uncertainty of it being dragged out as long as it has been. There is a lot of concern about that. Mr. Speaker, I also heard concern about the over 200 boil orders that are still in place, many of them for years, decades actually for some, and again, really no direction or initiative to address those issues.

When it comes to sustainability, probably the largest concern municipal leaders have in this Province is the sustainability issue about their municipalities. Many are in small municipalities, as we know, and with the limited funding and the uncertainty of MOGs and so on, they have certainly put that issue forward. The MNL had taken the initiative to have Dr. Wade Locke do a study and come up with some suggestions, some of which were presented on Friday morning by Dr. Locke at the MNL.

It is great; there is a lot of money going there. Listening to the minister today, it would sound like all is well but there are a lot of issues and I would urge the minister in his new capacity and his commitment on Friday evening, in his lengthy speech, I would urge him to make sure that he follows through on those commitments.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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 thank the minister for the advance copy of his statement. Unfortunately, I was not able to get to the Municipalities NL symposium. I always liked being with the municipalities and I too look forward to the fall.

Obviously, I was pleased to see in this year's Budget that municipalities will be receiving an increase in their operating grants and that more grants will be available for infrastructure. Obviously, the municipalities were pleased. They were not going to say we are unhappy to receive more money, especially with all the needs they have. We are all aware that many municipalities, especially the small ones, have faced big challenges trying to pay their bills, keeping fire departments open, rebuilding water systems, trying to have clean water for their people, not to mention the extra cost this year associated with

Hurricane Igor, and then what they are facing with regard to the new waste management regime.

So, the needs are great, Mr. Speaker. I encourage the minister and this government to put into effect an operating grant formula similar to the old formula, something permanent so that municipalities will have a steady, predictable revenue increase to cover the steadily increasing costs they have as municipalities so that they do not have to see what is in the Budget as a gift. It is the money of the Province; it is the money that they need to run the municipalities.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers?

The hon. the Minister of Justice and Attorney General.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure today that I announce that Ms Kelly Rowsell has been appointed Assistant Superintendent of the Newfoundland and Labrador Correctional Centre for Women. This is a senior appointment reporting to the Superintendent of Prisons and now makes Ms Rowsell the highest ranking female correctional officer in the system at this time.

This is a great achievement, Mr. Speaker, and shows the dedication and professionalism that Ms Rowsell brings to her duties everyday. Ms Rowsell has held successively more responsible positions since she first became a correctional officer in 1992. She has worked at the St. John's Lockup, Her Majesty's Penitentiary, the Labrador Correctional Centre, and at the Newfoundland and Labrador Correctional Centre for Women, both when it was located in Stephenville and now in Clarenville. Now as Assistant Superintendent, she is responsible for the planning, organizing and directing day-to-day operations of the centre under the direction of the Superintendent.

Mr. Speaker, the Department of Justice now has seventy-three women working as correctional officers throughout the Province in the Adult Custody Division of Corrections. Just recently, I attended the graduation for the Correctional Officer Recruit Training Program, and of the eleven proud recruits I presented certificates to, six of these recruits were women. Since October 2008, the department has hired ninety-three correctional officers, twenty-five of them women. It is becoming clear to me, Mr. Speaker, that more and more women are now seeing corrections as a valuable and rewarding career path.

Women such as Assistant Superintendent Rowsell are an inspiration for other women entering the field. In these senior positions, they are able to provide advice and insight to these recruits and demonstrate that women hold an important role in the corrections system.

Since the 2009 release of Decades of Darkness: Moving Towards the Light, the provincial government has made significant strides toward revitalizing corrections. This could not have been done without the commitment, dedication and co-operation of our correctional officers. Officers such as Assistant Superintendent Rowsell have made a positive impact on work to improve the delivery of corrections in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate Ms Rowsell on her appointment, and I wish her all the best in her new role.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

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

We also would like to congratulate Ms Rowsell. We are pleased to see that more women are engaging in the professions and also pleased to see, of course, that women are rising in those professions to take positions of prominence as it should be.

The minister mentions the Decades of Darkness report, and he says while the department has taken what he calls revitalizing moves as a result of that report, we would suggest, Mr. Speaker, that yes, some actions have been taken but we would not necessarily call them revitalizing. That same report noted, for example, that HMP here, the Penitentiary, has outlived its life expectancy, was in decrepit condition and in desperate need of repair. A number of other correctional facilities throughout this Province as well were noted to be in dire need of repairs.

It is great to see some things happening in corrections, but of course you have to start with the foundation. I mean here literally the foundation when we talk about where we house people who are incarcerated and people who work in the system. If the department truly wants to revitalize corrections, Mr. Speaker, it should start with addressing these conditions.

In addition to the physical conditions that exist, of course, the recent citizens' call to replace the current prescribing psychiatrist at the HMP is another example of where revitalization can take place.

Again, we offer our congratulations to Ms Rowsell. We hope that her example motivates even more women to become involved in corrections and in professional capacities in general.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

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

I am happy, very happy, to congratulate Assistant Superintendent Rowsell on her new appointment. She has quite an impressive work history in our correctional system and brings an experience that I know will serve very well the facility where she will now be in a particular role.

It is wonderful to see women moving into the high ranks in our correctional system, as they are coming up at the bottom. The minister has indicated they are certainly increasing the numbers coming up from the bottom. It is good to see we are breaking the glass ceiling that exists for women in many systems and that she is moving now into the upper rank of management.

I also join the government and the minister in applauding the commitment of our correctional officers. The work they do is extremely important for our society and they do it well, but we do have to give them the facilities and the resources that they need to do their work.

I, too, have to mention the crying need that we have for a new penitentiary to replace Her Majesty's Penitentiary here in St. John's. I have heard at least two ministers say that something has to be done about it and that we will even move ahead without Ottawa if necessary. So I am looking for action from this government, Mr. Speaker, on the need for a new penitentiary.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers?

Before the Chair calls Oral Questions, the Chair would like to recognize a former Member of the House of Assembly who I think was elected in 1989 in the former District of Twillingate and Fogo. I welcome Mr. Sam Winsor and his wife Issabelle.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Oral Questions.

Oral Questions

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, my questions are for the Premier. The partners in the Hebron project announced last week a 66 per cent increase in the cost of the project. Instead of $5 billion, the construction cost is now pegged at about $8.3 billion.

I ask the Premier today if she can give an update to the House on what that means for the Province's equity stake in this project and also outline for us how much we have paid to the partners to date, and how much more we will have to pay in total?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, Hebron costs are driven by reserves, as are most projects in the offshore. So as we do our delineation work and we find out exactly how much oil is there, then capital costs increase or decrease accordingly.

Mr. Speaker, as a result of this work on Hebron, reserves have gone up by 11 per cent. Our costs in capital construction have increased from $360 million to $480 million, Mr. Speaker, and it will also mean an increase of over 50 per cent to the Treasury of Newfoundland and Labrador in royalties and benefits.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I understand that Newfoundland and Labrador, through Nalcor, obviously owns a 4.9 per cent stake in the project and the stake is actually managed by Nalcor.

I ask the Premier today if she can clarify how our share of the Hebron construction cost is being paid, will the money flow directly from Nalcor or will it first flow from the provincial Treasury into Nalcor to be distributed?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the costs that we are responsible for are directly related to the amount of equity we own in each of the three projects. If we own 4.9 per cent of Hebron, then we are responsible for 4.9 per cent of the capital costs. Mr. Speaker, it depends what equity is built up in Nalcor at the time. It will be done through a series of instruments, money that is already within Nalcor, financing that might be available to Nalcor or financing from the provincial government, Mr. Speaker. Either which way, through either one of those different agencies or governments, our commitments to the project will be met.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Given the fact that Nalcor is managing the 4.9 per cent stake in Hebron, can you clarify for the House where the profits will go from that project? You were unable to clarify for us whether we would be investing the money from the provincial Treasury or if it would actually come out of Nalcor itself. I find it ironic that the government has not thought that far ahead to know where that investment is coming from. Having said that, Mr. Speaker, I ask if they have thought far enough ahead to see where the actual profits will go once they are paid out on the project.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Yes, Mr. Speaker, we will set the irony to one side for a few moments and remind the Leader of the Opposition that when we negotiate these projects we negotiate royalty and benefits agreements that state quite specifically where the different benefits will go. The bulk of the benefits will come to the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador through royalties. The rest of the benefits, Mr. Speaker, are arrived at through employment by the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and by companies who do business here in the Province.

Mr. Speaker, in terms of the profitability of the project, that is paid out because of the equity you own, that will go directly to Nalcor of which the people of Newfoundland and Labrador are the one shareholder and own 100 per cent of.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Maybe the Premier could outline for me how much money we may have paid already from the provincial Treasury into Nalcor for investment into the equity shares in Hebron and if there is any money forecasted in the Budget for this year and if there is any immediate forecast in the next couple of years for investment in that project?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I would be more than pleased to table that information in the House. This is public information. We have disclosed every inch of the way in terms of what we have committed to on these projects, what the responsibility of the Province is going to be in terms of their commitment, and what the return to the people of the Province is going to be as a result of that investment.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

What we are seeing with Hebron in terms of the increase in capital cost rising to 66 per cent more than was forecasted when the deal was signed is not unusual for large projects which brings me to the concern that I have with Muskrat Falls.

I ask the Premier today if she can clarify for the House of Assembly what would happen to the economics of Muskrat Falls if you experience a cost increase along those lines that have affected almost all big industrial projects like this.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the fundamental flaw in the reasoning of the Leader of the Opposition is she is comparing apples to oranges. The cost of Hebron has risen because reserves have risen by 11 per cent. We have much more oil than we originally anticipated, so it is going to cost more to extract it and we are going to earn more once it is extracted. Those returns are going to come back to the Province.

In terms of Muskrat Falls, we know exactly what the output of Muskrat Falls is going to be. We know the type of infrastructure that is going to be required and we have made the best estimations that we can do with this amount of time, and we have also allowed for overruns in those estimates.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The public's concern is that this particular project on Muskrat Falls is structured very poorly when it comes to overruns and who is on the hook. We are on the hook as a Province, not Emera and not the other partners.

The Joint Review Panel on Muskrat Falls raised some questions around the financial information that Nalcor presented. Nalcor outlined to them that if the cost goes up by 10 per cent on Muskrat Falls then the profits would drop by 32 per cent. Under that scenario, Mr. Speaker, Nalcor would have to raise electricity rates even higher to guarantee a rate of return on its investment or on this project.

I ask the Premier: That was with the information we got on the 10 per cent overrun, can you provide to us what that would mean if the overrun was 20 per cent, 30 per cent, or even 40 per cent on this project?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Yes, we could go on and on and on to infinity I expect, Mr. Speaker, in terms of what we might be able to do in projecting overruns. It is only a mathematical exercise after all. Mr. Speaker, what is important here is we have brought the best financial minds and the best minds that do the work around these kinds of projects, not only here in Newfoundland and Labrador but in the Americas and the world, to construct a project that is very solid, Mr. Speaker. We have had two independent audits of this project and the methodology used to arrive at our conclusions.

Mr. Speaker, anyone paying attention to the paper would have seen that we are now advertising for a completely independent third audit just so that we can provide assurance to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador that the planning that has gone on around this project is absolutely solid.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I need to remind the Premier that it is more than a mathematical exercise when you are asking people in this Province to reach into their pockets and pay more for electricity costs. Now, if Nalcor is outlining that with a 10 per cent overrun on the project the profits could drop as much as 32 per cent, I think it is important for the government to put their head around what that would mean to the consumers and what that will mean to people in this Province who have to pay for that electricity at the end of the day.

So, I ask the government – whether you consider it a mathematical exercise or not – I ask you today to provide to us what it would mean if there is more than a 10 per cent overrun on this project; what that transfers into for the price of electricity for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition assumes that work has not been done. Mr. Speaker, she also assumes that whatever the next best option that might be available to provide the generation of electricity here in Newfoundland and Labrador would not be subject to the same triggers that would cost overruns. The biggest issue is going to be commodities and labour in terms of driving overruns.

Mr. Speaker, we have to build new generation in this Province; we either do it through Muskrat Falls or we do it through the refurbishment of Seal Cove, the development of more small hydro, the development of wind, and even the addition of more thermal generation here in the Province. Mr. Speaker, if we have to go that route, those projects will also be subject to overruns if it affects commodities and labour. So, Mr. Speaker, that is the situation we find ourselves in.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We are debating the deal that you have on the table, Premier, not the other options that are out there right now. Our concern with the deal that you have on the table is that the people in Newfoundland and Labrador will have to pay the greatest amount of the cost towards this project.

What we are saying is: What are you going to do to ensure that the price is stable, that it is sustainable, and that people do not get gauged even further than what you are proposing if you go ahead and end up with overruns on this project? What protection is there for the ratepayer in Newfoundland and Labrador?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, a great deal of work has gone into the assessment of the needs of the people of this Province for power and how we might best meet that need over the next twenty to thirty years. Muskrat Falls is the answer to the energy needs of Newfoundland and Labrador in 2016, and beyond.

Mr. Speaker, there are two variables that are hard to predict. They are the price of labour and the price of commodities. Now, whatever we do - and it is relevant if we are not going to go with Muskrat Falls because we have to go somewhere else and do something else - whatever that something else might be, still has the same dependence on commodities and labour and will run the same risk of overruns.

Mr. Speaker, we have done the best analysis that we can do. We have had it audited externally. We will audit it again. It has been endorsed by the banks and our lenders, Mr. Speaker. It is a good project.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, as we have all heard in the news, the people of the Northern Peninsula have taken to peaceful protests along Route 430 to bring attention to an emergency situation that is happening in their communities. There are millions of pounds of unprocessed fish being shipped past their idle or underutilized plants, destined for other parts of the Province. During a four-hour highway protest last week, protestors snared more than 100,000 pounds of product being trucked out, Mr. Speaker; something that we feel is simply unacceptable.

I ask the minister today to tell us in the House: How many million pounds of unprocessed fish can the plant workers expect to be shipped off the Peninsula this year?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, I cannot give him the exact amount that is going to be shipped off the Northern Peninsula this year. All I can say to you is that we monitored the situation on the Northern Peninsula over the past couple of years. On a percentage basis, the Northern Peninsula, if we were going to share everything up evenly across the Province, they get more than their share. They have and I expect they will do the same thing this year.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, in 2005, all regional shrimp landings were processed in the region under what was referred to as a regional processing protection mechanism to ensure employment opportunities were not exported out of the region. During the Raw Material Sharing debate of 2006, this restriction, or what was known as a cap, was lifted by this government.

I ask the minister: Will he commit here today to reinstate the processing restrictions which prevent the raw materials from being exported out of the region and deny the people of the Northern Peninsula much needed jobs?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, my understanding is since that policy was lifted, in fact, the Northern Peninsula is doing more processing of shrimp than they would have done previously.

I go back to my point that we have companies that opt to buy here in the Province. Fogo Island, for example, they land product there, they take it from Fogo Island, ship it to different parts of the Province. The Province's requirement around the minimum processing is that if it is landed in the Province, it has to receive processing in the Province. It has not specified where it has to be processed. So, unless we are willing to look around changes into that entire structure, as it stands, Mr. Speaker, it will remain in place.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DEAN: Mr. Speaker, that process was in place and it was changed. I can assure the minister, in the past three years that the plant in Black Duck Cove, in particular, has not seen an increase in their production numbers. As a matter of fact, this went from about 16 million down to about 8 million, and this year they have absolutely no idea where those numbers can be.

Mr. Speaker, the fish plant workers of the Northern Peninsula feel they are being totally abandoned by this government when it comes to the fishery, in particular. To add insult to injury, the minister was on the media last week chastising the people for their protests. He said it was their rite of spring - he referred to it - and he belittled them by saying it was their little problems.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister today: Even though their problems are so little in nature, as far as he is concerned - he had a meeting scheduled with them in February which he cancelled and has not rescheduled as of yet - will he commit here today to meet the frustrated workers, to listen to their concerns and try to get this matter resolved?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, it seems the hon. member is playing some politics here now. He may not have known it, and he may not be in tune enough, but I met with a delegation from the Northern Peninsula, in fact, two people from Black Duck Cove, people from the shrimp processing, about a week and a half or so ago.

I do not know if the man is in tune with it or not, Mr. Speaker, but I do not choose not to meet with people because of a particular issue, Mr. Speaker. I met with them –


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. JACKMAN: - and my point to them is that I am not willing to meet and be held ransom by someone saying that they are not going to stop their protest. When they get past that, Mr. Speaker, I am more than willing to sit down and meet with them.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. DEAN: Mr. Speaker, I would suggest to the minister that if he were handling things properly, there would not be a protest on the Northern Peninsula, or anywhere else in the fishery for that matter.

Mr. Speaker, the people of the Northern Peninsula are facing the uncertainty of the interim Northern shrimp quota cuts that were announced during the federal election last month. As we have heard, the inshore sector will face having their quotas slashed by up to 40 per cent.

I ask the minister today: What representation, besides the letter he informed the House about some weeks ago, has he made with the federal counterpart on this matter? Has he been informed of the final quota numbers? When can we expect an announcement coming?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: I am glad he straightened that out in his question because in the first part of it he said it had been announced during the election. Clearly, it was not. The number of 40 per cent was put out there, Mr. Speaker. My information tells me there will be a cut, but it is likely to be in the area of 10 per cent to 15 per cent, Mr. Speaker.

While we recognize that any cut has an impact on the work that will come to a particular area, we are more than willing to work with the people. We know the capacity issue is there. We know for the resource that is declining we have more processing facilities than we probably need in the Province. That is going to mean working together with the industry, Mr. Speaker, to find the way forward and as well working with the people who are on the ground.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DEAN: Mr. Speaker, the minister must be confused as well because my understanding of what came out was an interim quota. It was an interim quota, and that is what I said in my preamble to the question. The interim quota came out and the quota numbers in that particular announcement were 40 per cent less than what they had last year.

My question to the minister again is: Are you speaking to anyone? Is it a concern? What can we expect to be done?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Yes, Mr. Speaker, if he said interim in the initial part, I missed the interim. Clearly, it is an interim, no different than in the past three years previous. Prices were set in May, and in 2008, I believe it was, it was set in July.

Mr. Speaker, we have been making the inquiries and the indications are it will be to a 10 per cent to 15 per cent cut.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the lobster industry in the Province is also in a crisis, as we know, with the association SPONL representing the majority of processors rejecting the standing Fish Price Setting Panel's decision on pricing. The association to date has not been willing to buy lobsters this season at the price set by the panel, although we did hear today there may be some who are buying. Some fishermen, as we know, have taken their product to buyers outside the Province to salvage some income.

So I ask the minister: What is his government's involvement again in this crisis? Is he prepared to offer any solution to the problem?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, I hope in his next question he will lead off by telling me if he is in favour of outside buying or not. Mr. Speaker, on Friday we had –

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. JACKMAN: That is it, Mr. Speaker.

On Friday we know that both parties met and there was a small reduction in the price that was going to be paid but not enough to make a difference. This morning at 11:00 o'clock, SPNL members met to discuss how they are going to move forward. I do not know what the outcome of that was, but I think everyone would hope that they can reach an agreement.

As to the outside buying, it is something that we are considering now. It is not something that is simply you can decide today, you are going to have outside buying and that it be in place tomorrow. If we are going to have people who are going to come into this Province, then they are going to have to be on the level playing field, Mr. Speaker, and we will decide whether or not we will go that route in short order.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, last month I asked the minister a question on a lobster licence buyout proposal that was presented to the government by the FFAW. The minister stated that his department was reviewing the proposal which would help rationalize the industry. Our understanding in that proposal is that the federal government supports it.

I ask the minister today if the Province has made a decision and if so what it is? If not, when can the FFAW and the fishermen expect to receive an answer?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, to this point my understanding is that the approval that they have from the federal government is a verbal approval. Mr. Speaker, I certainly will not be moving until we see the thing that is in writing. In the meantime, it is something that we are very seriously looking at, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, a number of the protesters at the rally last week included those who are totally fed up with what is happening at their plant in New Ferolle, the only multi-species plant for most of the Northern Peninsula. The plant was sold to Deep Atlantic Sea Products owned by Greg Mullowney for $1 back in 2009. It has been basically inactive pretty much ever since. It is clear that Mr. Mullowney has not lived up to the terms of his agreement which states that he must use the crab licence by April of 2011 or lose it.

I ask the minister to reassure the people of New Ferolle this licence will be taken back from Mr. Mullowney immediately and given to another processor or the community to ensure the plant reopens and that plant workers get back to work this season.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, I suppose if we were not going to work with Mr. Mullowney and the community up there that licence would have expired by now. We have met with Mr. Mullowney and there were certain prerequisites, I suppose, put to him; those were that he had to do some work around the plant; that we had to see signs that he was moving ahead. Mr. Speaker, Mr. Mullowney, to my knowledge, has installed equipment on site, he is looking for workers, and, I am assuming, he will be in production this year, which means his licence will be valid and he will be able to continue on into the future.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

Before the Easter break I asked the Minister of ITRD some questions about the NewLab Life Sciences issue that was unfolding in the media.

My questions today are for the Minister of Health and Community Services in that regard. Why are thousands of dollars, I ask the minister, of medical testing going to labs outside the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador when there are fully accredited labs, staffed by fully qualified technicians here in this Province?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have had the opportunity to explore this issue with Eastern Health and I am informed that there are issues there in relation to Newfound Genomics.

Mr. Speaker, it does not come as a surprise to anyone that after the Cameron report and the Cameron inquiry that the emphasis on quality in the labs in this Province is one that has to be given prominence and great consideration, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I am informed by Eastern Health that they have looked at all aspects of this proposal. That what they looked at, Mr. Speaker, when it came down to it was that this appeared to be monies looking for start up costs as opposed to increasing what this company was doing in this Province, Mr. Speaker.

There were also, I have been told, operational issues which caused concern. Eastern Health, as they govern themselves in terms of operational issues, has made certain decisions. I, at this point, have no reason to question that decision.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

Mr. Speaker, on Thursday, April 28 after much delay government released Captain Mark Turner's report on this Province's offshore oil spill prevention and response practices. The revelation in Mr. Turner's report, subsequently confirmed by the Minister of Natural Resources, that there is no plan in place to deal with a deep water blow out came as a shock to many in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: What is government doing to ensure that the C-NLOPB immediately addresses this very serious oversight?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Natural Resources.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SKINNER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I do not know where the hon. member opposite gets the information that I confirmed something related to no plan in place. In the media interviews that I did upon release of the report, I indicated that there are plans in place, that the companies themselves have plans, that the C-NLOPB has plans. The C-NLOPB, as per Captain Turner's report, is one of the best safety regulatory agencies in the world, based upon the review that he had done.

We do not direct the C-NLOPB; we work in conjunction with them, and we will use the information in Captain Turner's report to ensure that the high level of safety that they have built in to the systems that currently exist is only made more safe, Mr. Speaker, as we move forward.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

Well, the minister and I have read a different report, because Captain Turner does say that there are no plans in place for a blowout. So, I would like to have the clip from the minister where, supposedly, he did not say that he agreed with what was in the report. I ask for that clip, Mr. Speaker.

I ask the Premier, now, in the face of the disaster –


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: – in the Gulf of Mexico, questions from this side of the House and public debate, do you not think that it is prudent that there are concrete plans in place, and people in this Province know what those plans are?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Natural Resources.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SKINNER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, again, I must emphasize for the people who are here in the House, and for the people who will be watching this proceeding at home, there are plans in place. I would not leave them with the false impression that there are no plans in place should something happen in the offshore. There would not be approval given by the C-NLOPB if the companies that are looking to do work out there did not have plans in place. There are plans in place, Mr. Speaker.

Relative to the hon. member's point about the interviews and looking for a clip, she made the assertion that I had somehow confirmed what Captain Turner had said, and I indicate again, Mr. Speaker, that what I had indicated is that there are plans in place. Captain Turner has indicated that there are plans in place, so I am moving forward on that assumption. I did read the report, I assume it is the same report that the hon. member read as well, Mr. Speaker.

He did indicate that we have a good safety regulatory regime. We will use his recommendations to improve upon that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

We will pursue this one further, but there is another point I want to get at today.

A report, to be thorough and balanced, Mr. Speaker, must examine and report on all aspects of the topic it addresses. In his report, Captain Turner did not speak with any of the Province's most prominent environmentalists or seabird experts. Their concerns are not included in his report, despite being widely reported in the local, national, and international media. Mr. Speaker, it appears he was not interested in what they had to say.

So, I ask the Premier: Does government accept Captain Turner's rejection of the concerns and opinions of our Province's internationally respected scientists?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Natural Resources.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SKINNER: Mr. Speaker, Captain Turner's mandate was to assess our ability to be able to respond in the event there was an incident that occurred offshore. Captain Turner did that review; he did it with other assistants and other experts who were able to assist him in determining our ability to respond should we have an offshore incident. He came forward with twenty-five recommendations. Those twenty-five recommendations covered four key categories: offshore response, pollution from the marine transport, offshore activity, and offshore prevention. He has indicated that we have a good safety regulatory regime in place. We will use the information in his report, Mr. Speaker, to build upon that and to incrementally make our regime even safer. That is what we are hoping to do with the report. That is what we intend to do with the recommendations from the report.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The time allotted for questions and answers has expired.

Presenting Reports by Standing and Select Committees

Tabling of Documents.

Tabling of Documents

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

MR. MARSHALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Pursuant to section 26(5)(a) of the Financial Administration Act, I am tabling four Orders in Council relating to funding pre-commitments for the 2012-2013 to the 2014-2015 fiscal years.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further tabling of documents?

Notices of Motion.

Notices of Motion

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I rise to introduce the following private member's resolution; introduced by myself and seconded by the Member for Topsail, the following private member's resolution:

WHEREAS in the 2011 Budget the government introduced a $3.2 million two-year pilot project focused on the development of child care spaces in family homes throughout Newfoundland and Labrador; and

WHEREAS this initiative increases from $2,500 to $5,000 the start-up grant to become a regulated family child care provider; provides start-up grants of $7,500 for homes that care exclusively for children up to the age of two; and provides for an ongoing stimulus grant to infant care homes of $200 a month per infant space, in recognition of the higher cost of operation in terms of staff ratios; and

WHEREAS this approach will help keep rates attainable for parents requiring infant care, the very type of care that, right now, is in the shortest supply; and

WHEREAS this approach is also of particular benefit for families in rural and under-serviced areas because it is feasible on a small scale; and

WHEREAS this pilot project has the capacity to support the creation of up to 400 child care spaces over two years; and

WHEREAS since coming to office in 2003, this government has increased the number of child care spaces by 50 per cent, adding 168 spaces in just the last couple of years, and in addition to the 400 targeted in the new pilot project, the government is planning to continue with the capacity initiative next year to provide for yet another 460 child care spaces; and

WHEREAS because of the $3 million the Province has invested this year under the Child Care Tax Credit to complement the federal child care tax credit, two parents in this Province earning minimum wage and raising two children will pay only $5 a day for child care, less than the $7 a day that this family would pay in Quebec;

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that this hon. House supports the government's decision to proceed with the two-year pilot project focused on the development of child care spaces in family homes throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

Answers to Questions for which Notice has been Given.



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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I stand today to present a petition on behalf of the people in Labrador with regard to the Trans-Labrador Highway. Mr. Speaker, the prayer of the petition reads:

WHEREAS the Trans-Labrador Highway is a vital transportation lifeline for the Labrador communities, providing access, generating economic activity, and allowing residents to obtain health care and other public services; and

WHEREAS Route 510 and connecting branch roads of the Trans-Labrador Highway are unpaved, in deplorable condition and are no longer suitable and safe for the traffic volumes that travel this route; and

WHEREAS Labrador cannot afford to wait years or decades for upgrading and paving of their essential transportation route;

WHEREUPON the petitioners ask the House of Assembly to urge government to provide additional funding for much needed improvements to Route 510 and connecting branch roads of the Trans-Labrador Highway.

Mr. Speaker, this petition is being circulated all throughout Labrador. It is a concern not just for Labradorians but for all people in the Province who have to use that section of highway. Every single day I am bombarded with e-mails from people who have to use that particular section of road. The horror stories, Mr. Speaker, the horror stories of travelling over this section of gravel road at this time in the year. It is absolutely ridiculous that people in this Province could be left and expected to travel over such a road in such a deplorable condition.

The government and the Department of Transportation and Works have not deployed people to that part of the Province, Mr. Speaker, to look at these sections of roads and to address what the need is. People there are beating up their machines, businesses are doing extensive damage to their trucks and tractor-trailers, and they have gotten no response from the government.

Now, Mr. Speaker, it is unreasonable and irrational even for government to expect this area of the Province to continue on and carry out the kind of business and traffic volumes they have without having suitable roads. The people are desperately asking government to look at this section of road and to do something about it.

One truck driver in the Corner Brook area just started his own Facebook site because he travels that road with one of the largest trucking companies in the Province. He goes in and out of that section of the Province on a weekly basis. He has done that much damage to their trucks in the last number of weeks they even started a Facebook site so he could continuously update people in the Province about every one of his trips and the sections of highway that are the worst. People by the dozens are signing onto that site and writing their own experiences. That is what the people in this part of the Province have had to come to, to try to get the attention of government to address the need to upgrade the highway in that area. It is a gravel road. It is in bad condition. It needs at the very minimum to have crushed stone put on it and to have it grated so that the volumes of traffic that have to depend upon it, Mr. Speaker, have a suitable road to drive over.

I do not know how many members realize this, but all of those small clinics along the Coast of Labrador have no other choice but to take all of their patients out by road ambulance to a larger hospital, ones who are not air medevaced. In order to do that, Mr. Speaker, they need suitable roads. Last week there was one gentleman –

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MS JONES: Thank you.

May I have leave to clue up, Mr. Speaker?

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


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

MS JONES: Thank you.

Mr. Speaker, just two weeks ago I had one patient from the Coast of Labrador who had major back surgery at the hospital, Western Memorial, in Corner Brook. They were trying to transport him home to Labrador. They got him to St. Barbe and the ambulance operators would not pick him up in St. Barbe, take him across on the ferry, and take him over the road because the road was too bad. It was too bad for a man in his condition, who had just had this surgery, to be transported by road. That is how bad these roads are.

I think it is time for someone to start opening their eyes, Mr. Speaker, paying attention to what the plea and the need is for people in this area, and address the road concerns that have been raised by these individuals.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased again this afternoon to stand and present a petition on behalf of residents of Newfoundland and Labrador. I would like to read the prayer of the petition into the record.

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

WHEREAS we the students of French Shore Academy in Port Saunders from the towns of River of Ponds, Hawke's Bay, Port Saunders, Port aux Choix and Eddies Cove West appreciate the facility we currently learn in; and

WHEREAS unfortunately the sense of fairness and equality existing at school is absent on the outside due to essential services not equally available in all our towns; and

WHEREAS the lack of high speed Internet in River of Ponds, Hawke's Bay and Eddies Cove West, put some students or our school in an unacceptable disadvantage at learning today in the twenty-first century.

WHEREUPON your petitioners call upon all members of the House of Assembly to urge government to direct funding to ensure high speed Internet services are provided in these towns to allow equality and fairness for all members of our student body.

And as in duty bound your petitioners will ever pray.

Mr. Speaker, it was interesting to listen to the minister give his statement on the MNL symposium last week and it was interesting to be there. It was a very good week.

Mr. Speaker, one of the sessions in the very early stages of the symposium, one of the speakers talked about the importance of communication, basically talking about cell phone service and the high speed Internet as well. How in this day and age it is a given, it is a must – it is one of the fundamentals of doing business; it is one of the fundamentals of education, or really of progressing and advancing as individuals, as communities, as schools, as businesses and anything else that is in the communication field today, as we all, at one stage or another, talked about the importance of communication from that perspective.

In response to that presentation, one of the people in the question and answer portion of the symposium was the Mayor from Hawke's Bay, Mayor Bennett. He spoke to the disability from a communication point of view that his community is experiencing today because of the fact that high speed Internet is not available.

Mr. Speaker, what is ironic is that there are actually two fibre optic cables that run through the community of Hawke's Bay, for example. They run straight through the middle and yet for some reason or another there is no access. I realize there is a lot of regulation and so on around all of that, and that is not the concern that I bring to the House of Assembly. It is not the concern of the regulation that governs the process and so on. The concern that I bring is the concern that is in the prayer of these students, in particular, that really represents a concern throughout this Province. That, Mr. Speaker, is the absence of high speed Internet.

I present it again because of the importance of the issue. Mr. Speaker, I would only urge the government again, and the minister who is responsible for this, government members, the Premier of our Province, to ensure that what can be done is being done, and that very soon we will see high speed Internet being available to all of our communities.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

That is not good enough to accept that, by the way.

MR. SPEAKER: Further petitions.

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I stand today to present a petition on behalf of the people in the District of the Isles of Notre Dame.

WHEREAS there were fifteen acute care beds in the Notre Dame Bay Memorial Hospital Health Centre – and I know the member stood up on a point of order last week. In fact, the only time he spoke to address this issue. He stood up on a point of order prior to the House closing, and saying that it should be seventeen acute care beds, but I have to read what is in the prayer of the petition, I say to the member from the district. So, if your constituents, the thousands who signed this, are wrong, Mr. Speaker, he should take it up with them.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, I will read the prayer of the petition as is stated:

WHEREAS there were fifteen acute care beds in the Notre Dame Bay Memorial Hospital Health Centre; and

WHEREAS five of the acute care beds closed last summer and did not reopen in the fall; and

WHEREAS the availability of acute care beds is critical to the people of Twillingate-New World Island; and

WHEREAS the shortage of acute care beds is resulting in people being denied admittance to Notre Dame Bay Memorial Hospital Health Centre; and

WHEREAS the people of Twillingate-New World Island do not want to see their health care services cut;

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to reinstate the five acute care beds in the Notre Dame Bay Memorial Hospital Health Centre.

Mr. Speaker, the people who have signed this petition, from communities all over the district, and I have read a number of these communities already into the record; the bottom line is they want to have the five acute care beds that were in their hospital put back. They did not want to lose these services. They feel that there is still a need for acute care beds in this particular hospital, and they feel that there is a need for them in the region. They find that government made the wrong decision. Government made the wrong decision, supported by their MHA, to cut these beds at a time when they were needed in the area. What they are saying, Mr. Speaker, is that they want government to put these beds back.

Now what government did is they actually reclassified the beds from acute care services, Mr. Speaker, to beds that would be used for other services in this particular area.

People may have expressed the need to have alternate services but they certainly did not want to have their acute care beds converted to restorative care beds. That was not the solution that they saw to the growing need for services in that particular area. In fact what they wanted, Mr. Speaker, was their government to listen, to listen attentively and to act in a manner that would have provided for enhanced services in the region and not decommissioning of services. That is exactly what they have received.

They feel that they do not have a voice on this issue because their MHA did not stand up, Mr. Speaker, and fight for them, but rather participated in the plot by government and participated in the announcement on the ground that was made in a very public way out there to take the five beds that they had closed, to reconvert them to restorative care beds and to try to make it sound like a good news story for the people of that area, for the people of Twillingate and New World Island area. Instead what they were actually doing is taking five beds that were used for acute care services directly out of the region, leaving less beds for less people who depend upon that service. They certainly feel that is not the direction that government should be moving in with regard to health care in that region. They are asking government to put those beds back.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further petitions?

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

I would like to table this petition on behalf of the residents of the Cape Ray area in the District of Burgeo & La Poile.

The petition of the undersigned residents humbly sheweth:

WHEREAS the Department of Transportation and Works of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is responsible for the funding and maintenance of roads in the community of Cape Ray, in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador; and

WHEREAS the roads at Cape Ray are in deplorable condition, including the road leading from the community to the J.T. Cheeseman Provincial Park; and

WHEREAS the citizens of Cape Ray demand that the roads be upgraded;

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge government to provide sufficient funding to complete the necessary repairs to the roads at Cape Ray.

And as in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.

Mr. Speaker, for the last couple of years we have been approaching government, particularly the Minister of Transportation and Works and the personnel who he has on the ground working in Western Newfoundland about the road condition in Cape Ray. It is not only this member presenting this petition on behalf of his district; we have seen here today the Member for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair, for example, has a similar type issue in her district.

Despite the fact that government are saying they are putting super amounts and record amounts of money into infrastructure and roads and so on, there are still a lot of problems that exist in this Province that are not getting dealt with. You just cannot ignore people who have these needs by saying we are fine when it comes to St. John's.

I heard the Minister of Transportation and Works on the radio out in central talking about the four major projects that are underway here in and around the Outer Ring Road. Well, the Outer Ring Road does not help people who live out in Western Newfoundland and South Western Newfoundland, and places like Cape Ray. They have needs as well in their communities, and they ought to get their fair share of the pie.

Now, I know we have some government members here who will not stand up and speak for their districts, but we have to stand up and speak for our districts. That is why we are here, Mr. Speaker. In particular, the justification that government has in the classification – not the community of Cape Ray, but the road from the community to J.T. Cheeseman Park, which is, by the way, a provincially-funded, provincially-operated provincial park. People go in through one end of the park, they drive around through the community of Cape Ray, yet, the road that connects the park to the community is absolutely deplorable. Government will say, oh, we are doing this for tourism; we want to attract people to the area. They attract them in through the front door of the J.T. Cheeseman Park with a nice paved road, no problem, but you kick them out through the back door of the park onto nothing but ruts; inaccessible.

I call upon the Minister of Transportation and Works to get your head around this topic, for God's sake, and try to do something for these people, not only who live in the area, but people who come here and put money into our economy as a result of tourism. If we are going to have a good product, make sure that it is a good product and that it is useable. It is great to have fancy ads and everything else on TV to get people here, but once we get them here we have to give them roads fit to drive on.

So, Mr. Speaker, this is just my one of many I will be introducing throughout the remainder of this sitting, and I appreciate the indulgence of the House for allowing me this opportunity to present this.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further petitions?

Orders of the Day.

Orders of the Day

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

MS BURKE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We will continue where we concluded business or adjourned before the Easter break. I call from Orders of the Day, Order 2.

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, to clarify, from the Order Paper, Order 2, the Ways and Means Resolution and Bill 26, the Loan and Guarantee Act – oh, no. I thought it said in progress. I meant the Budget Speech.

Mr. Speaker, Motion 1, Budget Speech.

MR. SPEAKER: Motion 1, the Budget Speech.

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

I appreciate an opportunity to continue having a few words on the Budget Speech. I am just looking at the clock up over me here. I am not exactly sure; I think I ended off before Easter –

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).


I am not quite sure here, Mr. Speaker, what the Government House Leader is –

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Yes. I am just assuming it clicks over onto the new time after I enter the sub-amendment, Mr. Speaker. I just wanted to confirm that. I doubt if I will be speaking a full hour. I am not given to longwinded speeches or whatever. I usually try to keep what I have to say, Mr. Speaker, concise, accurate, and certainly relevant to the topic at hand. Now, needless to say relevancy has been given in this House, and other Legislatures, of course, a broader berth when it comes to conversations.

Mr. Speaker, I had a first-hand experience. You talk about experiencing reaction to a Budget so close in time to when the Budget was actually delivered in this House, and I had that opportunity during the Easter recess. Some people may have chosen to spend time with their families or relax and have a vacation. That is great. People need an opportunity to do that as well.

Mr. Speaker, I took the first week of the Easter break from the House of Assembly and went back to the district, as I do at least every second weekend and whenever the opportunity provides when the House of Assembly is open. It was a real eye opener and really informative because it is where, as they say, the rubber hits the road. That is when you can see the impact or what is likely to be the impact of the government's Budget on people. It is all about people. You govern because you want to govern people, govern in their best interests, and do what you can for them as best you can.

That is where you see it, of course, is when you get up close and personal and you are face to face with these people. You have an opportunity to see what they heard from the media, what they heard from the government about the Budget, and how they think it is going to impact them; how it is going to impact them in their pocketbook, what they think it is going to do maybe on a provincial basis, and what they think it is going to do for their children, their families, and their neighbours. So that opportunity was there.

I went to Burgeo. I do what they call clinics in my district. I have been doing them now for over a dozen years. I find them very beneficial because albeit you can have a constituency assistant and albeit you can be in your communities in your district as often as you want to be, there is always a circumstance where somebody, whether it be a council in your district or whether it be an individual who wants to sit down and meet face to face, usually, quite often in the privacy of their own home. Sometimes it is shut-ins who cannot get out and would like to have the member drop by, have a chat, have a cup of tea and they can express confidentially, privately, what the nature of their concerns are, and they prefer to do that. It is more personal to them. I had the opportunity to do that, besides doing a clinic, for example, where I usually use a town hall or a facility in the community to arrange for people to drop by when I am there to visit and go through their problems and issues. I also take the time to visit these people who want one on one in their homes, for example, or people sometimes as I say, shut-ins who just cannot get out. They cannot easily access where you are.

I must say, in terms of the constituency assistants, over the last dozen years we have kept a record of every phone call that has come into our district. We are averaging somewhere between 7,000 and 8,000 phone calls a year. Now I spoke to some of the members who live in urban areas, like the St. John's region, for example, and they were flabbergasted that we have so many phone calls in rural Newfoundland when you represent a rural district compared to what they have in the city. Besides the geographic challenges of course that you face - it takes me, for example, if I leave home in Port aux Basques and go to Burgeo, it is a three-hour drive, minimum. Then, of course, if you are going to Ramea that is an hour on the boat; if you are going to Grey River, it is another two-and-a-half hours on the boat. Besides the geographic challenges - members in the city, for example, can buy a Tim's coffee on one end of their district and before they have their coffee drank they can walk through their district pretty well, but we as rural members do not always have that luxury.

Anyway, back to the clinics again. I had that opportunity. I did them in Burgeo; I did them in Ramea. I visited in Burnt Islands, Isle aux Morts, Fox Roost, Margaree, and Port aux Basques of course where I have a constituency office. I was there for a few days as well. I met with councils; councils had a lot of issues. Basically, the concerns of most of the councils right now are: What is in the Budget for us? Verifying what is in there for them. What about our project that we applied for? What is the status on it? Where is it going to go, for example, and is it going to get done? Sometimes it does and sometimes the government cannot do it all. Nobody is suggesting that the government do it all, but people like to have an answer, of course, if you cannot do it.

When it comes to the municipalities, I say to the Minister of Municipal Affairs, we had a conference before the Budget came out saying he knew what we had requested throughout my district for various projects, sewer projects, and water projects and so on. I must say it was a very helpful discussion and obviously some of these things will get done. We cannot get it all done for everybody, but you try to be fair about what you do get done.

I believe he is in the process now - the Budget was just delivered a few weeks ago. So, now that the minister knows what was requested from Burgeo & La Poile, for example, and he knows now what the Minister of Finance has delivered as a Budget and what is in his department, he has to make some decisions around those issues. Then, of course, notices go out to these various municipalities saying this is what is done and proceed to get your tender calling done, your engineering done, for example, and proceed with the project.

In terms of the clinics, very helpful besides understanding what is going on, you get an appreciation of some people's issues. I visited with one lady in Burgeo who asked specifically that I come to her home to discuss the problem, and I will not mention any names, of course, because of privacy issues and whatever. She said the reason she wanted to meet was she needed more home care for her son. I attended at her home and it is worth two days of reading and listening when you actually visualize and see with your own eyes what some of these people live with today and who are asking for some help from government.

Here was a young man who was in his mid-thirties and he has been incapacitated. He was a healthy, active worker for years and years. He has a disease - apparently it was genetic - and he has not been himself since, sometimes in a near vegetative state. Here is his mom who has some home care, trying to have a life for herself as well, yet cannot get outside the door to even engage in any kind of expected social activity, some shopping that you need to do, or looking after payment of your bills and so on. Seeing that stuff first-hand, really lets you know what people have to live with sometimes - that is no fault of their own, absolutely no fault of their own - and they need and deserve to have government assistance for it.

I am pleased to say that is one thing, as an MHA, you take pride in. Once you understand what the needs of your district are and of the people who you represent are, then you know where to take that to in the system, what are the options that individual or that family has, and being able to point out where they can go to look for help.

Sometimes the help is readily available and it is just that the person is not aware of where to look. There is nothing more pleasing than being able to help someone find out where they need to go, to tell them where they need to go, but also to help them get there. Not just to say you have to call such-and-such and this is what you can do. Once you understand the nature of their problem, to actually give them that information but also work with them, and your constituency assistant to work with them, so that you actually walk them through the process if need be.

A lot of people are intimidated by the system; a lot of people are not into understanding complicated forums. A lot of people are very shy about even calling up someone who works in the health care system, for example, to ask what is available for me, what can you do to assist me. Sometimes it might be embarrassment, not only intimidation; some people are embarrassed that they might even have to ask for help. Giving these people a level of comfort, giving them some information and helping them walk through the system, that is probably the most important role of an MHA because that is all about helping people.

A lot of people do not see that. You hear of people debating sometimes: Well, we have not seen such-and-such in a long time, we do not know what he is doing as an MHA. Of course, they do not see the 7,000 or 8,000 phone calls that you and your constituency assistant deal with on a yearly basis. Some days it might be forty, fifty, other days it could be ten. It always keeps you extremely busy, but the busyness does not matter, your job is to look after these people.

So, I had a very successful visit throughout the district. I say to the Minister of Finance, some of the things that were in the Budget were quite pleasing to some people, for example, the HST. The HST percentage is going to be removed from home heating and electrical. People were pleased with that, and so they should be. God knows it is tough enough to make a living and to pay your bills. There is no question, people were pleased with that.

I am sure members opposite and the government are going to say: Well, it is about time that you finally found something that is positive to say about the Budget. It is not the first thing I have said positive about Budgets because God knows you cannot spend $8 billion and not do something to it. If you can spend $8 billion and not do somebody some good, you have a real poor track record. So sure, there should be some things in there that are positive.

That is not to say that we are all in love with the Budget or that the Budget is everything it could be and should be – far from it. That is why I brought the non-confidence motion. Albeit there are some good things there, albeit there is a pile of money being spent, there are a lot of questions as to about what it is being spent on and are the priorities proper.

For example, I have stood up here in this House, Mr. Speaker, on eight occasions now. I know some government members do not get up and bring petitions forward from their district. For whatever reason, they might feel they have to toe the government line. There is a concern that comes out of their district and they will not get up here on the floor of the House of Assembly and bring the concerns of their petitioners to the floor of the House of Assembly.

Mr. Speaker, that is one of the ultimate responsibilities that you have as an MHA. If you, as an MHA, are provided with a petition from someone in your district with a legitimate concern, whether it be health care, roads or whatever, and you do not have the courage to bring it before this House of Assembly; you are failing as an MHA I say. You are failing as an MHA if you refuse to do that. We have had it right here in this House on numerous, numerous occasions where government members who represent districts for example, who are on the government side, have refused to do that.

I have been approached myself to deliver petitions for districts in this Province that are not mine because their own MHA would not do it. We had one today again. The Member for The Straits & White Bay North was up here presenting a petition in this House on behalf of the residents of the St. Barbe district. Now, their member is sitting in this House for a number of years - ten, twelve years - and will not stand up and do that.

I think there is some concern, Mr. Speaker. Maybe the MHAs do not understand their role when they sit on the government side. For example, if you sit in Cabinet and you are a Cabinet minister, there is a principle called Cabinet solidarity. You were invited to be in that Cabinet by the Premier and once the Cabinet makes a decision, you are solid in your decision. You do not get the right, as a minister, to run outside to the media and say although Cabinet said this, this is what I think and it is different from what they did. You do not do that because if you did that, you are no longer a part of Cabinet.

That Cabinet solidarity and that solidarity principle are not binding upon members of government. You can agree with the general government policy, but when you disagree you have to stand up for your people. You just cannot, because the government decides as a general policy they are going to do something that you have to accept it. You have to stand on your own two feet and represent your people. That is who put you here. You cannot ignore them, Mr. Speaker, which we see often happening here from many of the government MHAs. That is not good enough.

Anyway, we discussed, as I say, face to face some of the implications of this Budget with people in my district. I had a meeting with the mayor and councillors down in Isle aux Morts. In fact, they had several concerns ongoing. I have to pass out a bouquet here to an individual who does work within the Department of Municipal Affairs. I will not mention his name but he will know who I am talking about. I am sure the people of my district will know, particularly the councillors who have met him. He probably has his hands full, overworked on the West Coast, trying to look after all of the municipalities.

Anyway, before I went to the clinics and before I went to the districts' councils to discuss their concerns, I arranged for this gentleman to travel with us. The council takes the information. The MHA was advised of it. We forwarded it to the right sections of the department. Then you start the process to try to get it to evolve, hopefully, to a successful conclusion. This gentleman in particular has been more than helpful when it comes to helping expedite that system, absolutely helpful. He attended the meetings in Fox Roost-Margaree; he attended the meetings in Isle aux Morts. His level of knowledge and his commitment to his job was very evident and very obvious. He could cut through two hours of conversation because he knew the issues. Get rid of the guff, this is what you need, this is what your options are, and this is what I can do for you. That is very good to see when you are dealing with people within the bureaucracy and you get that level of commitment and dedication to their job. Hats off to that gentleman for what he did during those particular visits.

There have been other things, of course, that have happened positively for the District of Burgeo & La Poile. Like dialysis, for example. I was here in the House; I think I gave over 100 petitions over the course of three or four years on behalf of the District of Burgeo & La Poile for people who needed dialysis and could not get it.

Governments, of course, will take credit when governments do something to solve a problem and help people. That is all part of the political game. Of course, you do not get to that point where a government can take credit sometimes, not because of their own thoughtful, wishful, considerate thinking; sometimes they get there because of criticism, because of opposition, because Opposition members inform them about what is going on and what is going wrong, and what needs to be fixed. One of the ways, of course, of bringing that to government attention is through petitions here in the House of Assembly.

I gave, as the Member for Burgeo & La Poile, over 100 petitions here in this House of Assembly concerning dialysis, or the lack of dialysis in the Port aux Basques area. We were every day, day in and day out, in fact, I have no doubt – we saw it going to some places. The ministers or successive ministers in the Department of Health always told me: well, we cannot do it because you do not have the numbers. We cannot justify it; you do not have the numbers. Well, sure enough, we ended up with the numbers. The Minister of Health, the current Minister of Health actually, came through with the commitment on the dialysis for the Port aux Basques area. You would not believe the trouble and the aggravation that that saves people, and the anguish.

I described here day after day, and I am sure anyone who lives in Newfoundland and Labrador, or probably in Canada, knows about the famous Wreckhouse and the notorious winds that blow there. Literally, folks, there are days when you cannot go through the Wreckhouse. They flip tractor-trailers like cooks flip pancakes. It is that simple. We are easily getting a dozen, two dozen tractor-trailers a year just flipped off the road because of the winds. People had to drive through that. People actually had to try to leave their homes in Rose Blanche, Burnt Islands, Isle aux Morts, Fox Roost-Margaree, Port aux Basques, Cape Ray, and drive through that kind of weather.

By the way, that just does not happen in the winter. It is tougher in winter, of course, because you have the snow and you have the ice, but those high winds happen twelve months a year. Twelve months a year you will get the same kind of thing. People had to go back three times a week, drive from those communities into Corner Brook, get their treatment, and drive back home. Can you imagine the disruption that causes in your life? This is not like driving from Outer Cove to the Health Sciences, or from the Outer Battery or Water Street to the Health Sciences. You actually, physically, have to be sitting in a car for two-and-a-half hours. Multiply two-and-a-half hours in, two-and-a-half hours out. That is five hours of your day, plus the time of course you had to spend for your treatment.

Finally, government came to the realization that one of the priorities we ought to have in health care is for people who need dialysis, and they did come through with that. I applauded the government at the time for coming through with it because I think they did listen, and they did listen to an Opposition member. They did listen to an Opposition member.

You hear people say out there: oh, you cannot vote for such and such because if he is in Opposition he is not successful. Well, Mr. Speaker, I have been in Opposition since 2003. I was in Opposition when the dialysis came. There has been any number of fire trucks put in Burgeo & La Poile in the last few years. We have always gotten our municipal projects done. It is not about what your colour is politically or what party you represent. It is about whether or not you are prepared to do the job. Nobody should be denied because of your politics. If you have a need such as the dialysis which you can demonstrate to government, nobody is foolish enough to leave people suffering. If you can make your case, point it out and be persistent in your case, you will succeed. That has been proven. At least it has been proven for the last eight years in Burgeo & La Poile.

Now, talk about something else that is positive in the Budget, and this is the fire departments. For years and years the fire departments have been asking - and a lot of them in this Province are volunteers. For example, in the City of St. John's, Gander, the bigger centres, Corner Brook, you have paid fire departments. To my surprise, actually, the one in Stephenville is a paid fire department; which I was not aware of until some time ago. It is a pretty onerous responsibility to pay for a paid fire department. Most of them in communities are volunteers. I would say in the last dozen or more years that I have been the MHA I have not missed too many firemen's balls, not at all. It is a great opportunity to know what is going on with the fire brigade but also, of course, you have other guests in attendance besides the MHA; like town managers, town mayors, town councillors and that gives you an opportunity to talk with them. In one sitting you can get a lot of information and feedback. Of course, firemen, in the eyes of this MHA, are the ultimate volunteer. I mean no disrespect to the hundreds of thousands of people who volunteer in this Province, because if we did not have volunteers our communities could not be as successful as they are.

We have people, for example, in Kinsmen's clubs, Lions Clubs and in Legions, minor hockey coaches, teen sports and so on. If we did not have these volunteers, our communities could not be the nice places that they are to live in. You can have a good, economic base in your town, you can have a low crime rate in your town, but if your citizens, and particularly the youth and children in your community do not have volunteers you do not have the quality and standard of a community that you need to have. We certainly have them in our communities in this Province. Particularly, I can speak from personal experience in Burgeo & La Poile, and in particular firemen.

I say they are the ultimate volunteer because they are prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice. While most of us sit home, in our homes in the night time, weekends, relax and whatever, it is the firefighter who gets called out 12:00 o'clock in the night, 2:00 o'clock in the morning, 4:00 o'clock in the morning to go try to help someone put out a fire or save someone's life. You cannot compare that to other volunteers and that is why I put volunteer firemen on a whole different plateau than other volunteers.

It is not only a case that they sacrifice their time to be there when an emergency happens, but what we do not realize is the countless hours that they have to spend to be properly trained in order to do that when the occasion arises. It is for these hours and hours of training that these people need what the government has finally, after many years now, recognized – and it is going to be a tax credit for volunteer firefighters in this Province. I think it works out to be about $231 or something per person. There are going to be certain rules and regulations around it, as there should be. I have had volunteer fire brigades in my district asking me about it.

From what I understand, Mr. Speaker, there is going to be a level of hours that you have to commit to your brigade. For example, if it is 200 hours a year, you have to attend at least the minimum to get the credit. Of course, it is pretty easy to get the minimum, 200 hours for a volunteer firefighter; you go through numerous training courses in the run of a year; you have your meetings; you are cleaning your trucks; you are making sure your equipment is working properly and is clean and so on. It is pretty easy if you are a member of a volunteer fire brigade to get the 200 hours of volunteer time in order to qualify for a credit. Albeit it is not a substantial amount of money, it is recognition that these people are contributing a very important service to their community.

Can you imagine what it would cost the government of this Province if you replaced all the volunteer fire departments in this Province? We think we have problems now. If you had to take the hundreds of volunteer fire brigades and turn them into government funded – whether it is the municipal government, or whether it is through the provincial government, for example, pay the firefighters – we would never be able to do it; certainly not on the monies that we have now. Albeit we have a lot of cash floating around, it would add substantially to the problems that our Minister of Finance would have. It is nice to see that we have this little perk, I call it, but it is a worthy perk and it is a good perk. It is good to see that government has given this tax credit.

The other thing is you talk about volunteers in your community. Well, I had the privilege this weekend of spending some time with a group of young people from the District of Burgeo & La Poile, specifically from St. James Regional High School in Port aux Basques. As I mentioned in my member's statement earlier today, you want to talk about energetic, enthusiastic, bright, intelligent, young men and women who are seeing opportunities that exist in this Province that my generation when I was in Grade 11 back in my day did not have. Even the opportunity, for example, to come to St. John's to see where Confederation Building is; to appreciate what the Marine Institute is all about, not even to see it on a video, to physically be here; and to be involved in a remotely operated vehicle competition with other youth from Labrador. Bay Roberts was there. When I saw the demonstration from St. James Regional High, they were in one part of the flume tank and the team from Bay Roberts was in other part; all competitive friendly of course. Not like hockey competitive, it is intellectually competitive.

Even the fact of engineering, they get to see, for example, the mechanics, the engineering possibilities, the robotics possibilities that they have in terms of employment opportunities done in a very serious environment. We are talking, for example, about possibly what if one of our oil fields – Terra Nova, Hibernia – what if something goes catastrophically wrong? How do we fix it? How do we cap it? Now, to get youth of that age involved in those types of very real life situations – and we certainly had a humdinger of that situation down in the Gulf of Mexico just some months ago.

To see that the youth of our district have those opportunities to take advantage of and see and experience and actually work with that, it is actually very inspiring because these are, of course, these are going to be the leaders of the future.

The other thing I noticed about it when I was chatting with them, this was absolutely voluntary again on their part, extracurricular. They were doing this because they have an interest in it. They actually took the time to design this machine, test it in the swimming pools. Had to do the research on it to see what they needed, what was required in terms of materials. Researched the issue that was being looked at – what if you had a major catastrophe in the oil industry and you had to cap a well. All of that initiative, it was amazing to actually see that take place.

The other thing, just to stay on the district thing for a moment, because we often take time in this House, this member does anyway, people hear you up shouting and screaming and protesting and opposing government and it might have something to do that they feel well what is our MHA doing up talking about the oil industry? That does not impact us out here in Burgeo & La Poile. Of course you do that as an MHA, particularly in Opposition because you have to; that is part of your job as Opposition House Leader, in my case, to oppose the government because the government does not do everything right. They think they do, and they would have you believe that they are doing everything correct, but there are lots of things that they do not do right. As an MHA you have to do that part of your job but of course people like to hear about what you are doing for your own district as well. One thing, I have to say, albeit a minor issue, that I have not been successful in resolving so far - and I say so far because I refuse to relent and give up until it is solved - is the restroom situation for the people of La Poile. Now, people here might shake their heads and laugh. I see certain members nodding their heads and laughing. It is no laughing matter to the people of La Poile. I called it the porta-potty petition before, and that happened, of course, in the incidents at Ramea and Grey River, who took the ferry systems to Burgeo and had no washroom facilities while they were waiting for or came off the ferry. It is absolutely deplorable and unacceptable that anyone who uses our provincial ferry system should have to put up with that kind of inhumane, unhealthy, inappropriate, unacceptable circumstance.

Now, of course, I shouted and bawled enough and delivered enough petitions that the former Minister of Transportation and Works got tired of hearing from me, and sure enough, today, on the wharf in Burgeo, just up from the wharf, is a nice little facility. It is nothing like you would see here maybe in St. John's, no marble floors or stuff like that, but it is what they need. They have a little building there now just recently built two years ago, and guess what? It has running water, it has lights, and it has a washroom – it has a toilet. Can you imagine in this day and age that you would feel so proud because you have a room with a toilet that your public can have access to when they are using public facilities?

So, as minor as that might seem, it was pretty important to the people of Burgeo, and Ramea, and Grey River – and the tourists, by the way, who came to visit our Province each year. They think it is a great little facility. It has a nice little parking lot. It actually has a little patio on one end of it. So, on nice sunny days while they are waiting for the boats to come - because the boats are not always on schedule, sometimes there are mechanical issues. It is a nice little facility.

There is no reason in the world that the people who live in La Poile should not have the same kind of facility for their ferry. I do not think the member for – the new name of the district escapes me, but I will call it Twillingate-Fogo Island.

AN HON. MEMBER: The Isles of Notre Dame.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: The Isles of Notre Dame, I think they call it now, Mr. Speaker. I bet the people of Fogo do not have to stand in the snow bank if the ferry is late and they need to use the washroom. I do not think the people on Bell Island who have to wait for a ferry to get to Bell Island have to worry about that. I do not know of anywhere else in the Province where they have to wait and have nowhere to go if they do not have a washroom facility.

Mr. Speaker, I have talked to the Minister of Transportation. I do not know if it is in the Budget for this year, but it is not for want of trying. It will not be for want of trying that I will keep talking about it, making the government be aware of it, and not just once because government tends to forget you see, Mr. Speaker. You can tell this government something one day, but it is like Pavlov's dog: Unless you consistently, deliberately, and relentlessly pound the question home and pound the issue home, they turn a blind eye and a deaf ear. They just do not listen. Once they see the absolute embarrassment of it and the necessity for it, I must say government ministers have usually delivered. It is just too great an embarrassment to have someone like myself up in the House of Assembly every day pointing out to the public in this Province what it is: such a trivial matter to most people that is not being done. We are not asking for The Rooms. We are not asking you to build a new penitentiary out there. We are not asking for a multi-million or even a $1 million facility, folks. It is a basic human need: a washroom.

So, the people of La Poile know. Again, it is another area of my district, as I say, that you have these concerns and you go out around and do that. You make sure that you constantly informed. You just do not listen to them. It is not good enough just to be a good listener; you have to actually take their concerns and go do something with them. I do not get a report card based on the fact that I listen. I can be a great listener, but your report card usually comes back based on what you achieved and what you did. That is why it is important that you keep going to government when you have these concerns.

Now, that is just a few comments about the district. Another one that is going to hit us very soon is the Burgeo road. For those who do not know the history, of course, we had a paved road in Burgeo from the Trans-Canada to Burgeo of some 153 kilometres. Back in 1988, when the Peckford Administration agreed to get rid of the Newfie Bullet, they took a chunk of money from the federal government. They said: Yes, we will give up our railway; in return, you give us a chunk of money. The feds said: Great because we do not ever have to worry about the old railway any more, it is off our hands. Government took that money and the intention was because you are getting rid of your railway that you upgrade your highway to a point where you would have a good transportation system. As part of that as well, trying to develop properly the road infrastructure in Labrador which never existed basically.

There are other places in this Province as well such as the Burgeo road. It was put there back in 1989-1990. There are a few very rough spots there. Now I say, and you have to be fair about this too, I have travelled on roads in some other parts of this Province that are absolutely worse, there is no question about it. For example, the Baie Verte-Springdale area, I can understand why the people up in Baie Verte-Springdale would be absolutely frustrated with their road systems. We have bumps in the Burgeo road, there is no question. We got nine or ten kilometres one year, we got nine or ten kilometres another year. Government is saying: Well, we cannot do it all on the same road one time and we are going to try to fix the worst that exists. That is fine. We need you to work at it at least, you cannot ignore it. The problem has to be dealt with.

Baie Verte is no more improved now than it was when they had their former member. That was when the former member who was a former Premier left the government because he got in a racket and supposedly beat up on the minister for Mount Pearl, the Minister of IGA. Apparently, he said he wanted an extra $1 million. So anyway, he got flicked. He was flicked out of government. We came in here one day and here was the former Premier, former Minister, former House Leader, down in the corner hanging off the end of the benches here in the House of Assembly.

I went over several times to console him. I could not figure it out. I said: What happened? He said: I asked for more money for my district for roads. He said: I asked for $1 million and he kicked me out. Now, can you understand why the man was frustrated and left politics? I think I would leave too if my buddies treated me that way. He is a member of the government; I do not know but at the time he was Deputy Premier. No, I do not think there was anybody Deputy Premier under the former Premier's watch, Premier Williams, because some people did not want to share that kind of a responsibility either.

Anyway, I do not want to digress because I have been trying to explain what it is you need to do as an MHA and what I have hopefully done. I am sure there are some things that we wanted to achieve that we have not been successful with, and there is a lot more to be done.

Of course, you have to make sure that you get your share of the budget, which is exactly what we are here talking about today. We usually take the Budget in our office, Mr. Speaker, and we do a Budget comparison, we call it. None of this stuff here is made up; this is all very factual stuff. What we do is take every department and we break it out for all the years, so each year, of course, it just becomes an exercise of adding on to the facts when the new budget comes out. You just look at it to get an overview of where you are. We take all of the departments and break them out. For example, we have Consolidated Revenue Services, Executive Council, Finance, Government Services, Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs; you just list them all down and you put down what their budgets were and then you do some comparison. We have actually gone back, we actually started in 2005 first, we have 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and, of course, now we are into the 2011-2012 budget, but we went back as well to 2002 so we would have a ten year comparison; where we were ten years ago; how much were we spending? What are we spending today? It gets into the issue of sustainability.

I have heard the Minister of Finance myself speak about it and it must be a matter of concern. Albeit you might be sitting on a pot of change right now, a big, big pot, because of some fortuitous circumstances that we are having in the mining industry and in the offshore industry, but we have to hope, of course. When the oil runs out, where are we going to be? When the minerals in the ground run out – because they are not renewable; I have not found anyone yet who has ever talked about being able to renew the oil, or renew the silver in the mines, or the copper, or the iron ore. That is going to be gone one of these days.

Meanwhile, just to take an example, if you look at, and we break these out into what we call one certain group, we have Consolidated Fund Services, Executive Council – that is the Premier's shop, by the way; they call it Executive Council; that is where the show is run up top by the Premier. Then we have the Department of Finance, Government Services; Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs; the Public Service Commission; Transportation and Works and then the Legislature itself, the House of Assembly. They have all of those lumped together. If you were to lump those together, since 2002 we have had an 82 per cent increase in those sections of government, 82 per cent. That is a pretty big increase in ten years.

If you take another, what they call general government and legislative pieces, you take the Department of Business, for example; that is my favourite department for having a conversation about because I call that the department of – they call it business but it is the ‘department of do nothing'. There is no question about it. That is the red tape department that has existed; the department that pays out more for staff to keep the department running than they do putting out to businesses to start businesses. Now, can you figure out the logic of that? We pay more to keep a staff around to try to attract business than any business we have ever attracted. I think for most people, certainly in the private sector, that would be a losing proposition. I do not think you would have your doors open very long if you were running a business like they run the Department of Business.

Anyway, if you look at those sections of Business; Environment and Conservation; Fisheries and Aquaculture; Innovation, Trade and Rural Development; Natural Resources; and Tourism, Culture and Recreation – if you take those groupings, since 2002 we have increased the government expenditures for those groups 266 per cent; 266 per cent increase in ten years in those departments of government.

If you take Education – and by the way Education is, I believe, the second biggest expenditure in the government behind Health – Education; Child, Youth and Family Services; Health and Community Services, which is the biggest by far; Human Resources, Labour and Employment; Justice; Municipal Affairs; and Newfoundland and Labrador Housing – what they call the social departments – in ten years we have had a 79 per cent increase in those departments. In the social sector department we have had 79 per cent increase in ten years; resource departments we have had 266 per cent increase; and in general government and Legislative 82 per cent. That is where we come to the sustainability piece.

Overall, I do believe that is a total 87 per cent increase in government expenditures in ten years. I just wanted to break it out so you have an idea of just how much some of them have increased. This government spends more today – 87 per cent more today – than it spent ten years ago. There is no doubt we are a bit better off, no doubt the price of a barrel of oil has gone up. It used to be around $25 – if you received $30 a barrel back then you were doing pretty good. You had to make a certain basic amount to recover your investment to build the thing. We have been very fortuitous in the sense of what we are getting for a barrel of oil in terms of what goes into the government coffers because it allows government to do more things.

Can you continue to do that? I know the Minister of Health and Community Services, he is left scratching his head sometimes because – he must be. No matter what you try to do in the Department of Health, there always seems to be a more urgent, greater need. At what point do you ever run out of enough money to do all the things that you need to do?

I am sure the Minister of Health, if he had all of the money in the world, there would not be anybody in this Province who had a need that did not get satisfied. I have no concern about that in terms of his compassion and understanding of being helpful to people, none whatsoever. Unfortunately, the dollars are not all there to do that. You cannot do everything for everybody and sometimes you have to – what is it they say? You cut the cloth to fit the garment. That is what government has to do. I am not here as an apologist for government because they do not satisfy everybody's needs, far be it. I think I usually, amongst others, give a few bricks to government from time to time too, whenever I feel it is warranted. Not often, but I also think I give credit where credit is due.

Back to the sustainability piece – how are you ever in this Province going to sustain 87 per cent growth every ten years? Where are we going to be ten years out if we do not have the Voisey's Bay project, if the oil runs out or there is a catastrophe, for example? That is where I am sure the minister has but we have not heard; he must be having this debate with some people. It is great to say: well, we are going to develop our hydro, for example, so that is a renewable resource because we will have a Muskrat Falls, a Gull Island, and we will have the Upper Churchill back. Hopefully that is all going to come to fruition and give us sustainability; the dollars that we need to sustain the things that we have. Hopefully, we are going to find ten more oil wells offshore in the Jeanne d'Arc Basin and the deep water drilling, and that will replace it.

I am just curious as to whether the minister ever thought about: What if we cannot get those things done? That is not to be pessimistic. That is not to be the glass half empty, as some people say, or half full. I am probably the biggest, most optimistic person you want to meet. I hope we get fifty new oil wells and find ten more Voisey's Bays, and develop Gull Island and Muskrat.

In fact, one of the greatest concerns and criticisms I have of this government is not about developing Muskrat Falls –


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

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It was getting kind of loud here, I agree.

On Muskrat Falls, Mr. Speaker; that is, no doubt, one of the sustainable pieces or developments that the Minister of Finance is going to get up and tell us we are going to need to sustain it. He is right, that we need it. It is not the concern of the Opposition that we should not do a Muskrat Falls and that we should not do a Gull Island. I do not think there is anybody in this Province who has ever heard anybody in the Opposition say: Do not do a Muskrat Falls deal; do not do a Gull Island deal.

You quite clearly heard this member, and the Leader of the Opposition who has spoken about it quite often and asked questions in this House everyday, say do not do this deal. This is not the right deal. There is a difference between doing a deal and doing the right deal, and that is what the concerns are here. It is about the right deal. Government can sugar coat this deal all they want. They can take everybody, including Mr. Martin, and send them around this Province twenty more times if they want to try to convince the electorate of this Province, the ratepayers, the taxpayers of this Province, that Muskrat Falls is a good deal.

I say to the people, particularly those who are watching this on TV, because often when you are sitting at home you get time to reflect on some of this stuff. Somebody right off is going to come on this Muskrat deal and they do not want to tell you if they already have not, because they have hidden it pretty good. They are going to double your light bill. Now, right away, every one of these members here – and maybe some people do not care. Maybe some voters do not care and they have bought into the government spin.

For example, take in my District of Burgeo & La Poile. I have to go out to the district when it comes election time and knock on doors. I hope that when I am knocking on a door, I hope whoever my opponent is, that he is knocking on the door with me, or just across the way, because one of the very central, important questions you are going to have to ask people is: Excuse me, Mr. and Mrs. Such-and-such, if you vote for me and I come back here, or I speak for you, I am against you having your light bill doubled unnecessarily. The other person who is going to run for the PC Party is going to be knocking on a door. Are you going to want to forget it, or do you think the people are not going to ask you about it? People are going to say if I vote for you I automatically am agreeable to getting my light bill doubled?


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Now I do not know how that is going to sell with some people, but, Mr. Speaker, the people who I represent do not like to buy stories. They do not like to be told what is good for them, and they certainly do not like to be told they are going to get their light bills doubled unnecessarily. So it is going to be very interesting when we see that unfold in the fall. That is going to be some media campaign. That is going to be some marketing campaign. The person who lives in Isle aux Morts, who gets his bill come every month from Newfoundland Light and Power looks at it and says: oh my, the one I got last year in January for $200, I am going to get that now and it is going to be $350, $400 next year. Yes, I will vote for you, a government that is going to do that to me. The 8 per cent that you are going to get off your HST does not do much for you.

By the way, the great HST piece, 8 per cent, while the government and the Minister of Finance was on his feet telling the people we are going to knock 8 per cent off your HST, Nalcor is over at the Public Utilities Board asking for an increase of 7 per cent. That is the truth. The Minister of Finance cannot get up here and disagree with what I just said. We are going to give you 8 per cent off your HST. Take the HST portion, 8 per cent off your bill. Meanwhile, and I do not know if anybody in Burgeo knows, or Ramea knows, but they are going to know now if they do not, while they are giving you the 8 per cent off your HST they have their hand in your other pocket taking out 7 per cent, because they are asking for an increase. So you have to factor that in. That is to say nothing, by the way, nothing that is going to cost you on your light bill because of the Muskrat Falls portion. That is something else again.

Some of the other things, Mr. Speaker, that need to be talked about because government - anybody who watches the press releases that come out of government, I am glad they come on my Blackberry and not on my printing device attached to my computer because if they did we would have Stephenville Pulp and Paper, and the pulp and paper in Grand Falls-Windsor back up and running again, because it takes that much paper to look after the press releases that come out of this government about good things that they do. We would never have had the Abitibi fiasco that we had from this government in Grand Falls-Windsor if we could only just use it for government printing sources.

We have had schools announced by this government, not once, not twice; it is typical fashion. The Member for Lake Melville, the Minister of Labrador Affairs, he got up here once and I think one of the facilities up in Labrador, one of the schools, he re-announced it seven times; seven times. We actually found the press releases and brought them into the House where he had done it on seven different occasions telling people that he is going to do it and that it was going to get done.

Some of the things that get glossed over, too, by this government - I do not know if you would call it failures, but do not get properly explained that need to be explained, is like the Kiewit operation down in Marystown. A major, major employer for that area, well-trained staff, and for two or three years or more we had opportunities that were going to come out of the bidding process. Thirty-five years of guaranteed future employment. It came and went like a whisper a couple of weeks ago. Like a whisper the government said: oh well, they are not going to do it now. The company said we are not going to do it. It just disappeared; do not talk about that. There is nothing we could do about that, so we do not want to talk about it. Some people were not too pleased that there was not a greater effort put in trying to get it done.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, my final comment. I have to say, this ties in with the recent election. It is great to see that the Member for Random-Burin-St. George's was re-elected, with greater numbers by the way – greater numbers. Despite having four Cabinet Ministers out from the provincial government doing radio ads against her and MHAs on the ground saying do not vote for Ms Foote, she did it, increased her numbers actually. I think that is indicative of what she has done and been successful doing as an MP. She deserves the credit for it because she is a very hands-on, helpful person as well who looks after her constituents on a daily basis. Regardless of who was out to try to take her out of her job, she certainly succeeded against some very ‘pressureful' – as did Mr. Byrne in his district. The Minister of Finance was out working feverously against him and it did not translate into any lessening of votes in his district either.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to speak on the Budget. There will be some other opportunities as the debate unfolds in the next few weeks. I wanted to take this opportunity just to speak more about the people of Burgeo & La Poile who I have dealt with on a daily basis and for the last twelve or thirteen years and will continue to do so.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is a pleasure for me to have an opportunity to get up today and speak once again, this time on an amendment that was made to a resolution that I put forward in my capacity as Finance Minister. The resolution was that this House of Assembly and the people in it who represent the people of Newfoundland and Labrador support, in general, the budgetary policy of the government. What has happened is that the Opposition today - as is normal - has moved an amendment to that resolution to the effect that the House should vote otherwise. I do not know if a reading of the resolution is necessary, but essentially, it is the opposite of what I had proposed when I stood in this House and moved it.

Mr. Speaker, the Budget contains many things. The Budgets that this government has given in this House over the years have generally been Budgets that have been called generous Budgets, and this is another generous Budget to the people. I know the Western Star and The Telegram referred to them as generous Budgets, but they are also Budgets that are fiscally prudent.

Now, if you read the Auditor General's report - and I do not know if many people do, in fact, read the Auditor General's report; he puts out a number of reports - one of which deals with the financial position of the Province, one of which deals with the financial accounts of the Province, he says that to determine whether or not a government is living within its means - and that is what you are talking about when you talk about sustainability - is based on whether or not the government is running a surplus. After many, many years of the government of this Province refusing to run a surplus, and running deficits instead, that meant at the end of every year they had to borrow money to finance that deficit. When you do that every year for a lot of years, the debt of the Province grows and grows and grows until it hit a point where it was just under $12 billion.

Mr. Speaker, we knew when we came into office that we had to reverse that trend and we had to be fiscally prudent and we had to be responsible. We had not to spend every cent that was coming in, that we had to ensure that we ran surpluses. We had to ensure that we spent less than was coming in and to use the surplus for other very important causes.

Mr. Speaker, I realized over the Easter break - I was home in the district in Corner Brook and I had the chance to talk to a number of people. I met two people who expressed concern about the fact that we had a surplus because they thought a surplus was something that the government keeps. Well, the government does not keep the surplus. The government also spends the surplus, but instead of spending it on programs which require money to be spent every year to keep the programs going, to keep the programs sustainable, the surplus, if you do nothing, goes to pay down that $11 billion or $12 billion debt that I talked about. Also, as an alternative, you can take that surplus and you can build infrastructure, you can put up buildings which are very, very important.

One of the things that we found when we came into office was that there had been years and years and years of no new infrastructure being built and no repairs and maintenance of the infrastructure that we had. We had terrible roads, we needed new hospitals, and we needed long-term care facilities. We needed water bombers, we needed new air ambulances, and we needed new ferries, and road and bridges. Those things had been neglected for years. I think of things like in housing. There were two things in housing. For example, the Rent Supplement Program where people are given a supplement to help them meet market rents. There had not been an increase in the rent supplements, an addition to the rent supplements, in over twenty-five years until we did that when we came into office.

In addition to that, there was spending on modification of our housing units. The government has housing units throughout the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador for people who cannot get affordable housing. There had been no repairs and maintenance to these units for over twenty-five years until we came into office and did it with investments, I think it was $25 million or $27 million.

I had the opportunity to visit some seniors living in cottages in the City of Corner Brook who complained about the railings in the front of their cottages which had been knocked over by the snow machines clearing the snow, and who complained about the fact that the windows and the doors were inadequate, and that water was actually coming in. I found out that the landlord, which happened to be Western Health, had not been spending money on repairs and maintenance of those units because the health department of Western Regional Health was concerned that most of their emphasis was on health. We found, through the help of the Minister of Health, monies in his budget, in the large $3 billion health budget, to provide funds to Western Health so they, in turn, could provide new doors and new windows to those cottages in Corner Brook for seniors, and to also take care of the railings out in front. Although, there was one woman who pointed out there was one railing that was not put back, and that is a reminder to me to talk to Western Health to rectify that.

Now, Mr. Speaker, when government does a Budget, a Budget, of course, is a forecast. The Minister of Finance stands in his or her place and they give the up-to-date results on what happened last year, but they also have to forecast what the revenue is going to be for this year. It is not the government's money. People have to understand that the government has no money on its own. The only money the government has to use in the Budget process is money that comes from the people of the Province, and the businesses of the Province, and the families of the Province. The money comes from them. Because it is not our money, that is why we have to be very careful, and that is why we have to be very prudent in how that money is spent, because it is not our money, it is the people's money.

They hold us to account, they want to know what we are doing with it, and we have to be accountable, and we have to be open to them, and we have to be very careful in what we do. We hope that when the people look at how we spend the money, and when they look at all the options, because there is never enough to go around to meet everybody's needs, they will see that we are spending about 74 per cent of their money on health and education and the social sector. So, the great bulk of the funds is going to the social sector.

Because of the economic development that has been coming about, fortuitously or otherwise, since our government came into office and because of the great economic turnaround, that has made more revenues come into our Province and that has given us the ability to spend more. We do not want to keep the money; we want to make sure the money goes back to the people of the Province. That is what has happened. We take the money in things like taxes, fees, and royalties, but then we spend it.

The bulk of it now is being spent on health care. Thirty-eight per cent of every dollar that government spends is being spent on health care. Twenty per cent is spent on education, which is of course number two. When you add the other social things we do the amount is 74 per cent. So you can see that the bulk of the money is coming from the economic development, that is producing the money, but it is going back to the people of the Province.

One of the things that I heard, somebody said to me, it was the former Mayor of the City of Corner Brook said to me: St. John's and the East Coast is benefiting because it is close to the oil patch. This is where the oil activity is taking place and that activity is not taking place in other parts of Newfoundland and Labrador. The money is being spent in other parts of Newfoundland and Labrador. The infrastructure that government is building – I think a couple of years ago, about 75 per cent of that was being spent outside the Northeast Avalon. It was being spent in other parts of the Province.

There was a story in The Telegram that WikiLeaks had released cables that were being sent from the American Consulate to the American Embassy up in Ottawa. There were some comments by the Americans on what is happening here in Newfoundland and Labrador. They said that the growth here has meant that this Province has gone from being the poorest Province in Canada to one of the richest, representing the biggest economic turnaround in Canadian history. Now, that is what the Americans think of us.

The beauty of the economic turnaround, the greatest economic turnaround in Canadian history, is that economic activity generates revenues to the government and the government takes those revenues and spends it on the people of the Province. It spends it all back. We are not like some of the dictatorships we see in Africa or in the Middle East where the oil money that comes in is kept by the dictator. It is kept for him and his family and some of their closest supporters; we do not do that. We make sure that everything goes back and is spent on the people of the Province. That, of course, is vital.

Mr. Speaker, I want to go firstly when we talk about the Budget, I want to talk about some things that we are doing for the seniors of this Province. This is our government's eighth Budget. It is our sixth surplus in the last seven years. In 2005-2006 was the first surplus of $199 million. The following year, the surplus was $154 million. In the Budget of 2007-2008, which was the first Budget I had the honour to deliver in this House, the surplus was $1,421,000,000. In the following year the surplus was $2,350,000,000. In 2009-2010, we thought we were going to have a big deficit; that was the year of the recession. We were projecting in the Budget a deficit of $750 million. In reality in the end of the year that deficit was not $750 million, that deficit was reduced to $33 million which was very fortunate for the people of the Province.

Last year in 2010-2011 at Budget time, I forecasted a deficit of $195 million. This year at Budget time, when we reviewed those numbers, we did not have a deficit. Instead of a deficit of $195 million we had a surplus of $485 million caused not by increases in oil prices but caused by the fact that production had actually increased, which was very surprising. We know that the three producing oil fields – Hibernia, White Rose and Terra Nova – are getting older and therefore the production that will come out of those oil fields will get less and less over time. Although, I must say there are new technologies that seem to be causing reserve growth. Last year we had an additional I think it was eight million or nine million barrels of oil more than we thought we were going to have which was quite surprising.

People say that in the future these fields will continue to deplete, which is normal. They will continue to mature and the oil will come out. The other surprising factor is the fact that oil prices are higher, we all know that. We all know that oil prices are higher than they were in spite of the fact that there was a major drop just last week of $10 a barrel. The experts that we get to advise us, they tell us that they expect that oil prices will stay relatively high over the medium and long term because the demand for oil is very high. The demand for oil is driven by emerging economies like China, India and Brazil. At the same time, the supply of oil is obviously getting less and less as oil companies have to seek new supplies of oil in much more remote and difficult lands than previously.

The oil is more and more offshore. The oil is more and more out in the north and the cost of drilling exploration wells are in the $200 million, $300 million range and as a result of that you do not have oil companies saying we are going to do five offshore Newfoundland this year because that would be well over a billion dollars. They are doing two or three, so exploration is not as active as we would like it to be but there is exploration; there is a great deal of interest in what is happening in offshore Newfoundland and Labrador and we expect to see more exploration. I would imagine that coming out of that we will see new discoveries, new fields, that will provide this Province with wealth for years to come. I cannot tell you how many because I cannot predict the future, I do not know. I have experts tell me that we could have another ten or twenty years of robust revenues or more; robust revenues coming out of these oil fields.

As the Opposition House Leader was saying a while ago, you have to be concerned about the sustainability; this is something we all recognize and this is something that I have said on many occasions, because someday, I do not know when, but someday the oil will be gone. Someday the minerals will be gone and if we do not want to go back to the way we were, we have to diversify the economy which is another thing we do with the surplus. I started off my remarks today by talking about what we can do with the surplus and what we have done with the surplus is that we have taken a moderate approach. We have taken a balanced approach and we are doing a number of things. One thing we did is we paid down debt. The net debt which I said was $12 billion, just under $12 billion at one point, that is now down, at the start of this year, to $8.2 billion. That is a drop of 31 per cent. We have paid down debt, which is important.

In one Budget cycle, I went around the Province and I had a debt interest clock. I let it run while we were having the meeting so people could see that the problem with debt is the fact that we have to pay interest on the debt. We have to service the debt. If we have our debt down we pay less interest on the debt. We therefore have that money, to spend that money on progressive social programs, to spend that money to build long-term care facilities, to spend that money to do good things that people want to see and that help people in their daily lives, and provide jobs and opportunities for Newfoundland and Labrador families.

One of the things I have tried to do in the four Budgets that I have had the honour to deliver in this House, and I am very fortunate because we have never had a deficit in the years that I have been finance minister. Now that is not because I am a particularly smart finance minister. It is because that is the way the economy has been. Our economy has been strong because of initiatives we have taken as a government, because of what has been happening in the world and it has enabled us to run the surpluses. Obviously, we want to make sure we use those surpluses wisely.

One of the things I have always wanted to do, and I would like to see in every Budget that I have done, is things that help our seniors, things that help our citizens who live on fixed incomes. I was very pleased in this Budget, and as the Opposition House Leader mentioned, that the people of the Province are very pleased that we, in this Budget, are removing the 8 per cent tax; the 8 per cent provincial share of the HST from heating costs and electricity costs. That is going to help a lot of people. It is going to help a lot of people deal with those costs, which are going up. We heard that Nalcor has made an application to increase their rates by 7 per cent. They have an application in front of the Public Utilities Board which regulates these matters.

As the Minister of Natural Resources has said on occasion, and as I have seen reported on CBC and I have read in a number of newspapers, electricity prices are going up throughout the world. They are going up at a higher rate if you are producing your electricity, if you are producing your energy based on oil. That, of course, is a problem that we have in this Province; in that a substantial proportion of the electricity that is being produced for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians is coming out of thermal generation at Holyrood, which means that a big chunk of our electricity, a significant portion of our electricity is being produced based on oil. We know, as I said earlier, that oil prices have risen, and they are projected to rise again. If we want to keep our rates reasonable, if we want to keep our rates low, if we want to have stable electricity rates to attract industry to come to Labrador, to attract industry to come to this Province, to maybe offset the low wages that are being paid offshore, then we have to have electricity that is renewable, that is based on renewable energy, and we have to get off oil. It is as simple of that. We have to replace Holyrood. We have to replace it with clean hydroelectric energy, and the sooner we can do that the better.

There are a number of options. How do we do that? We have asked the people at Newfoundland Hydro, which is a hydro company that is owned by the people of this Province – let's not forget that. Newfoundland Hydro is owned by the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and we have asked them to look at ways that we can replace the electricity being produced at Holyrood and to meet the additional capacity that is going to be needed in the future. We are seeing Vale Inco is going to go on. The demand for electricity in this Province went down when Abitibi shut down its two mills, but with Vale Inco going on at Long Harbour we are going to see demand increase. We are seeing houses being built throughout this Province at very high prices – I do not know how people can afford them – but instead of having ten people living in a home, you now have three or four people living in many, many more homes with flat screen TVs and with flat screen computer monitors. It seems that every device we use today, everything involves the use of electricity.

The demand is going up and we need more. We have to replace Holyrood because it is producing electricity based on oil, and we know that oil prices are going up. So we asked the experts at Nalcor, we asked the experts at Newfoundland Hydro if they would look at the various options that were available to us, and they did. They looked at bringing in electricity from Quebec, even. They looked at bringing in electricity from Nova Scotia. They looked at what they call the Isolated Island Option, which would be to do three small hydro projects on the Island of Newfoundland, and to do some wind, and to do some more thermal energy to provide the additional capacity that will be demanded in the future. They said of all those options, the one that will provide the people of this Province with the cheapest and lowest cost electricity was the Muskrat Falls deal. The project that has been put forward, Muskrat Falls, is to provide the people of this Province with lower hydro rates than they would otherwise be, because if we do not do it we are going to continue to produce electricity out of Holyrood, and rates are going up.

The Minister of Natural Resources tells us that if we do not do Muskrat Falls our electricity rates, because they are based on the price of oil, which is projected to increase and continue to increase, are going to go up by, I believe it is 4 per cent to 6 per cent a year, each and every year. That is going to happen at least until 2016-2017. If we do Muskrat Falls, if we build Muskrat Falls, that is not going to have an influence between now and 2016-2017. So the price will go up during that time.

If we do Muskrat Falls, if we build Muskrat Falls and it comes online in 2016-2017, from that point on your rates are still going up. No one should feel that the rates are not going to go up. According to the Minister of Natural Resources, according to Nalcor, according to the experts who work for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, the rates will go up by about 0.7 per cent a year, which is one heck of a lot less than 4 per cent to 6 per cent. In other words, the rates will go up less than 1 per cent a year, less than the rate of inflation; whereas, if we do not do Muskrat Falls, according to the experts, the rates are going to go up 4 per cent to 6 per cent a year each and every year.

It is shown on a graph, if people will go the Web site for Nalcor, they will see a graph which shows what the rates will be without doing Muskrat Falls and what the rates will be if we do Muskrat Falls. If we do not do Muskrat Falls, if we continue to rely on electricity, the rates are going like that. If we build Muskrat Falls so that we are providing electricity based on hydro the rates are flattened for the long term.

The Opposition says the rates are going to double. Well, I do not know where they are getting that. I have asked people on this side of the House, nobody knows where they are getting that. It is something they seem to have made up; they have grabbed it out of the air. From what I can see, rates will double in somewhat like seventy-five or eighty years, but for the most part, if we do not do Muskrat Falls rates are going to go up 4 per cent to 6 per cent a year. If we do Muskrat Falls, they are going to go up less than 1 per cent a year. So the choice is certainly obvious.

By reducing or eliminating the 8 per cent provincial tax, the HST on electricity, that is going to help a lot of people on fixed incomes. It is going to help a lot of seniors. Now, of course, the HST is more than 8 per cent. It is 8 per cent put on by the Province, and 5 per cent put on by the federal government, so it is a total of 13 per cent. The federal government's share used to be 7 per cent, but Prime Minister Harper's government reduced the federal share of the HST from 7 per cent down to 5 per cent. So we are going to remove the 8 per cent, the provincial share, from heating costs, residential heating costs, and electricity. That is in addition to the home heating rebate that we presently offer.

I ran into one gentleman in the parking lot of Coleman's in Corner Brook who thanked me for what we are doing. I asked him if he was pleased with the fact they were going to remove the 8 per cent provincial share of the HST from heating and light. He said: no, it is not going to do much for me, and I asked him why. He said: well, under the present program he gets $250, and he said, if you took off the 8 per cent, it would not be quite $250. Then I told him he is going to get both. So he was very pleased, I can tell you that. Obviously, if he did not understand, if he was not aware that the removal of the 8 per cent tax is in addition to the home heating rebate, I assume, therefore, there are a lot of other people out there who were not aware of that fact. So at least they now know, at least those who are watching this program today will now know that the removal of the tax is in addition to the home heating rebate, which will stay in effect.

The other thing we are doing for seniors and adults is that the Minister of Health will be introducing an adult dental program. Now, I remember how proud I was when our government introduced a drug program, because the drug program that existed beforehand was only limited to certain people. We expanded that plan to cover many more people, thousands of people more than were previous eligible under the former plan. I was really very, very pleased with that. In addition, we brought in a plan to address the needs of people who experience high drug costs in relation to their income. As a result of that catastrophic drug plan, it was meant to deal with someone whose drug costs were so catastrophically high that it would provide them with help.

In addition to that now, we are building on that by bringing in a dental program for adults. We previously had a program just for children, for students up to a certain age. We now are bringing in a program that is going to help adults; it is going to help seniors. People who cannot afford dental care are now going to be able to afford it and I am very, very pleased. That is $6 million annually going to that; $6 million annually is being spent to provide that benefit to the people.

The other thing the Minister of Health is doing – and this is certainly of help to people who live far from St. John's, far from the Northeast Avalon, people from Labrador, people from the West Coast of Newfoundland – there are enhancements to the Medical Transportation Assistance Program. He is going to do two things; there is a limit now but you have to have 5,000 kilometres – you have to incur 5,000 kilometres if you take your vehicle before you are eligible to be reimbursed so many cents a kilometre for your transportation costs. That now has been reduced in this Budget to 2,500 kilometres – that is like two trips to St. John's. You do the second trip, and you are now going to qualify for the subsidy which did not exist before.

The other thing he is doing that is going to help people is that previously you had to incur the expense and pay for it yourself. So if you and your spouse took a plane to come in here, you then had to file a form and seek to be reimbursed by the government. Now the Minister of Health is going to work an arrangement with travel agents throughout the Province so that if you and your spouse have to go into St. John's and you intend to fly, that you can go and 50 per cent of the cost is going to be paid for you upfront. That is going to make it a lot easier on people who have to come in here or people who have to come say, from St. Anthony down to Corner Brook, or people who come from Port aux Basques into Corner Brook, or people who come from Labrador fly into St. John's or fly to Corner Brook or wherever they go. This is going to help those people deal with those expenses and take some burden off them.

Another thing for seniors, Mr. Speaker, is that we are making enhancements to the Provincial Home Repair Program. There is an additional $24 million over three years to help people make repairs to their homes, to help low-income citizens, people on fixed incomes, make repairs to their homes so they can stay in their home. Most people want to stay in their homes; they do not want to go into a long-term care facility unless they have to. They do not want to go into a personal care unit unless they have to. They want to stay in their homes as long as they can but to do that they need some help in making some repairs and this program is going to allow them to do that.

In addition to that, we are going to partner with the federal government who are going to have a Residential Energy Efficiency Program of $12 million. One thing about rebates is when you get a rebate it helps pay the cost of energy. If you can make changes or renovations to your home – if you can retrofit your home with efficient energy measures – that will save you forever. That will reduce your energy costs forever.

We are also putting $4.8 million that is available in this Budget to community organizations to help people who are vulnerable to homelessness. That is very, very important. We hear more and more, especially out here in this area, we have a booming economy and housing is so expensive. Also, in a place like Corner Brook you have a very low vacancy rate and students have difficulty finding a home. This will help combat homelessness. It is a very important investment and it is one of the numerous progressive social programs that are contained in this particular Budget.

I remember I was up in Humbermouth, I knocked on a door and I was talking to this woman who expressed to me her hatred of the fact that people who are sick and people who are in a hospital or a medical facility, if they have to take an ambulance, whether it is an air ambulance or a road ambulance, to go to another facility, such as one in here, that they had to pay a fee. I think it is $130. I am told that some people would not do it because they could not afford to pay the $130. I am extremely pleased that what this government has done in this Budget – we are eliminating those inter-facility road and ambulance fees so that people will not be burdened with those anymore.

So these are examples of things we have done for seniors. These are examples of things we have done in this particular Budget. Of course, it ties into things we have done in previous Budgets as well, such as the home heating rebate, which I mentioned, the low income tax reduction and other tax initiatives, and the heating allowance. I mentioned the Provincial Home Repair Program and the Residential Energy Efficiency Program, and the drug program, which is one I will always remember. I do not think there is anything we have done since we have been in government that has been as valuable to people and important people as that particular drug program.

Now, Mr. Speaker, another thing we can do with that surplus is we can lower taxes. We can put money into people's pockets to help them cope with the rising cost of electricity, the rising cost of oil, and the rising cost of food. We have been in a deflationary period for a long period of time where prices were relatively stable, but now we are starting to see an increase. We are told about an increase in inflation in places like China. Over there, they are raising interest rates and they are raising the reserve ratio. The banks are making lending harder. In other words, it has slowed down the economy, and that will impact us in a negative way if they do things like that. Inflation is going to be a factor again, and we have to help our seniors, we have to help people on low incomes, we have to help people on fixed incomes, and we have to help them cope with that.

One of the ways we do it is: If we can take governments hands out of their pockets to leave them with more money in their pockets in order to pay their bills. That is something that I have talked about in four Budgets, and I will continue to talk about it as long as I am the Finance Minister. Let's take our hands out of people's pockets so they have some money to pay their bills.

We have done things like the Age Amount tax credit. That is a tax credit available to seniors, people sixty-five years old or older. We raised that last year. We raised that for people making up to $60,000 a year. We raised it from $3,681 up to $5,000. People do not talk about it much, it is a tax credit. Accountants talk about tax credits, but it is a credit that is the highest of any province or of any territory in Canada. That is an indication of how we feel about our seniors.

We have reduced personal income taxes. A few years ago, we brought in the biggest income tax cut in the history of Newfoundland and Labrador. We lowered the tax rate in the first bracket, in the low-income bracket, to 7.7 per cent, which is the lowest tax rate in Atlantic Canada. If you go to Nova Scotia, if you go to New Brunswick, if you go to PEI and you are in the first bracket, you are going to pay a higher income tax rate than the people of Newfoundland and Labrador do.

We also brought in Low Income Tax Reductions. I remember when Minister Sullivan was the minister. He brought that in and I know the present Health Minister, when he was the Minister of Finance, he enhanced it. That removed, I think, thousands of people completely from the tax rules, they pay no tax at all in Newfoundland and Labrador, and no provincial taxes. I think that was a wonderful thing.

We enhanced the Home Heating Rebate. One time, I think when we came into office there was about 11,000 people getting that; they were getting $100. Today, there are over 68,000 people getting $250. When we came into office, it was only the people who heated with oil would get it. We changed it so that people who heated with wood, people who heat with electricity would also get the benefit of that as well, and now they are getting the 8 per cent tax reduction on top of that.

One of the things that we brought in and that we have enhanced on three occasions is the Seniors' Benefit. That is cheque that qualifying seniors receive. I think it was about $370 when we came into office; we increased it last year to $900. It was only given to senior couples. We gave it to all seniors, not just couples because we recognized that if you have a couple and one of them dies, the cost of living does not go down that much. We were delighted to be able to do that and to enhance that three times, and that is a cheque that low-income seniors are going to get in October month.

These are the types of things that help people, as I said, by taking money out of people's pockets. There are two ways you can help people, you can give them money, you can give a cheque, or you can reduce what they have to pay for their heat and their light, and that certainly helps. It also helps us attract highly skilled people to this Province who are very concerned about what the tax rates are, and it helps us attract medical people in particular. Also, when you lower taxes, some people are going to invest, they are going to create a business, and that creates jobs. The policies must be working because employment in Newfoundland and Labrador today, I think it is 220,000 jobs. It is the highest number of employment ever in Newfoundland and Labrador's history, so the policies are obviously working.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, as I said, we ran six surpluses after fifty years of deficits, totalling over $4 billion. As I said, I am talking here today about what we do with those surpluses, what we do with them. I said we pay down debt. We paid down our debt by 31 per cent because that lowers the interest on the debt and frees up money that we can spend on progressive, social programs for people. We lowered income taxes. We take our money out of people's pockets so they have more money to pay their bills. They have more money to cope with the rising cost of electricity and oil and heat.

We are no longer on equalization. Now, who would have ever thought that this Province would not be on equalization? We were on equalization for many, many years and now we are off equalization. Then, we have the benefit of something called the Atlantic Accord which Brian Mulroney, Prime Minister Mulroney, and John Crosbie, and people like Pat Carney who was the Minister of Energy at the time, they worked with Premier Peckford and Bill Marshall, who I think was the Energy Minister if I remember correctly. They brought the Atlantic Accord in to help us become the primary beneficiary of the oil and gas business –


MR. MARSHALL: I cannot hear myself, Mr. Speaker.

SPEAKER (Kelly): Order, please!

I remind hon. members that the hon. Minister of Finance is the one who has the floor and is the one who is addressing the Chair. I ask all other hon. members for their co-operation.

The hon. the Minister of Finance.

MR. MARSHALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Not only are we off equalization, but that Atlantic Accord has done its job. That Atlantic Accord has enabled us to become the primary beneficiary of our oil and gas industry. That Atlantic Accord has done what it intended to do, which is to make that industry grow and let us benefit from it. We see the benefits of that today. That Atlantic Accord that started many, many years ago, that Atlantic Accord is going to come to an end next year. Not this year, not the year 2011-2012, but in 2012-2013 it is going to come to an end. Included in our revenues this year is about $550 million, approximately, of Atlantic Accord money. Next year, it is going to be zero.

The difference is that it enabled us to become masters of our own Province. It enabled us to get to a point where we are more self-reliant. It enabled us to get to a point where 80 per cent of the revenues coming into our Treasury – 80 per cent are now coming from provincial sources and only 20 per cent from Ottawa. We will still get the health transfer and the social transfer from Ottawa, there will still be some cost-shared agreements with Ottawa, but equalization is no more, the Atlantic Accord will be no more next year, and the Atlantic Accord of 2005, the $2 billion that Premier Williams was smart enough to negotiate from the Martin government, and the money all went into the pension fund, that is over as well. So, we are now self-reliant, and we can now look forward to prosperity, and we now look forward to control of our own resources. There will be no more giveaways to people in other areas.

Mr. Speaker, another thing we have done is we used the surplus to bring about a Poverty Reduction Strategy to help vulnerable people who need help and invest in infrastructure. Now, I said earlier in my remarks that infrastructure, when we came into office, was in terrible shape. There had been years of neglect, years of no repairs and maintenance, and years of no real construction. I know when the Opposition House Leader was talking – you put it in perspective when you are talking about your own district, and I know that our strategy consists of a $5 billion infrastructure strategy over the next number of years.

I have some notes here. In the year 2009-2010, our government invested $677 million of surplus into infrastructure. In the year 2010-2011, which is the year that just ended, our government invested $843 million in infrastructure. In this year's Budget, Budget 2011-2012, we are going to invest $1 billion in infrastructure spending.

To the person who said to me: Why are you having a surplus? Are you keeping a surplus? The answer is no. We are spending this surplus to build infrastructure, to build roads, to build the things that are needed for this Province.

I saw on VOCM recently on their Web page, a woman by the name of Mary Webb, a senior economist with the Bank of Nova Scotia who I happened to meet in Toronto. She said infrastructure spending is very important because it is a foundation of future economic development. It is a foundation of future economic development. When you see the break down, you can see that this year we are going to spend $343 million on buildings; $222 million on roads; on ferries, new construction, refits of ferries $51 million; on aircraft, such as water bombers and the air ambulances, about $18 million; the municipalities are going to get $160 million. We are increasing the MOGs, which is not infrastructure but that is something the municipalities have wanted for a long, long time. We are going to increase the MOGs and we are going to help them build facilities that they need for the citizens in their communities.

Repairs and maintenance is always important. I think I said once to the former Premier, I said: Why don't we take a year and not build anything new but just focus entirely on repairs and maintenance? We do it every year, and this year it is $135 million in repairs and maintenance. We are spending $61.5 million on equipment, for a total, as I said, of $1 billion.

When I think of my own hometown, when I think of the district that I have the honour to represent and I see things in this Budget that are going to be helpful to the people of Corner Brook, to the people of Pasadena, Steady Brook, Little Rapids and Massey Drive. There is a new hospital under construction. There is going to be $18.5 million being spent this year on that hospital. A contract has been let and there is some major land levelling taking place there now. That is very, very important, because it is not just for the people of that area. That is a hospital for the people of the whole West Coast of Newfoundland.

I have been told by the hon. Member for Happy Valley-Goose Bay, that with the new Trans-Labrador Highway and with the fact that the Bond was put on as a pilot project so that people can travel all year round, that we are going to see more and more people from Labrador who are going to come to the West Coast and probably take advantage of that new facility. You are going to see more and more people from Western Newfoundland who are going to go to Labrador to take part in what I can call an economic renaissance that is taking place in that part of the world.

In addition to that, there is $3 million in the Budget in order to fit out a floor in the long-term care facility for fourteen or fifteen long-term care beds. Now, what had happened, Mr. Speaker, is that when the project was being planned, it was proposed that one of the floors in one of the wings would be utilized by the Grenfell Campus of Memorial University to do research in aging, but what a number of people had forgotten, and I remembered it, thank God, was that the deal was that that floor would only be available to the university for research if the beds were not needed for long-term care. It was a new facility and people moved from the other facilities; the Interfaith home, the fifth and sixth floor of the hospital, and the O'Connell Centre. Sure enough, we found out that more beds were needed.

The Minister of Health and I met with the President of Memorial University, we met with the Chair of the Board of Regents of Memorial University, and we pointed out to them something they were not aware of, because they were new as well, that they could only take advantage of that facility if, and only if, the beds were not needed, and the beds in fact were needed. So, $3 million has now been placed in the Budget this year that is going to fit up that particular wing to provide fourteen or fifteen long-term care beds.

In addition to that, there is another $626,000 to utilize the fourth protective care unit which is now being utilized for a higher level of care. The protective care units were to be used for people who suffer from mild to moderate dementia, whereas the long-term care facility, the nursing home, is for people who have serious dementia, obviously. The fourth unit has now been provided with funds to provide a different skill mix to enable people who require a higher level of care than mild to moderate dementia. That will provide another ten beds, and that is great news. That is great news because our population continues to age and that aging of our population is going to have a major, major effect on all of us throughout the Province. It is going to have a major, major effect on the need for more and more facilities and more and more care.

I am also pleased that the Budget contains funds to provide the RNC with funds to establish a Child Exploitation Prevention Unit, which will be open in the City of Corner Brook. I am pleased there was $450,000 that went into Marble Mountain to help them do infrastructure changes to their facility, to help them make snow and to help them deal with some of the problems that they have been facing. That is very important to tourism.

We have the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation with his advertising program that is having people flocking to this Province. A lot of them go to the West Coast. They go and visit Gros Morne. They go up and visit the Viking site in L'Anse aux Meadows and they go and ski Marble Mountain. That is in record numbers the minister tells me.

MR. FRENCH: Five hundred and eighteen thousand.

MR. MARSHALL: Five hundred and eighteen thousand, a record number.

I want to say something to communities, such as the community of Pasadena which is looking for a multi-purpose building, that there is $30 million placed in this Budget for recreational facilities and multi-purpose facilities. In communities across the Province which are looking for new arenas, I know some here on the East Coast, and I believe in Conception Bay and Paradise, people are looking for facilities. There is a block of money there to consider those requests and help us provide recreation in these facilities to the people of the Province.

Mr. Speaker, the Government House Leader also talked about sustainability spending. That is something I have talked about in this House on many occasions. It is something I have talked about when I speak around the Province to various Chambers of Commerce, and Boards of Trade and other organizations, that obviously, over the long term our spending has to be sustainable. I have to bear in mind, and we have to remember the neglect that had happened in this Province so that when we came in office we had major problems to deal with. That justified a high level of spending. Then, after that, we ended up into a recession. The way you fight a recession, if the private sector is not creating jobs and if the private sector is not working, then government steps in. When the government steps in, the federal government lowers interest rates, or I should say the Bank of Canada, the central bank in Ottawa, lowers interest rates. Our government steps in, you build infrastructure, you spend money, and you run a deficit. We did that because it was good public policy at that time. When the good times come back, you then start running surpluses again and you use the surpluses to pay down some debt that you took on. You do not have to do it every year.

When I talked about paying down debt and when I went around the Province with that debt interest clock, I said: I do not believe you take every dollar you have and put it on the debt. You do not. Dr. Wade Locke from Memorial has told me that if we get our net debt down another $1 billion or $2 billion, then we are in good shape; we are down with the Canadian average. Now that the economy is moving again or the economy is starting to boom again, we can lower the rate of spending.

Mr. Speaker, it might be interesting, if I can find the numbers, to compare the rates of spending. Let us look at 2007-2008, which is the first Budget I had, and the rate of spending was 5.6 per cent; in 2008-2009, it was 9.5 per cent; 2009-2010 it was 9.8 per cent; and last year it was 6.1 per cent. Those Budgets were all called generous and those Budgets were all fiscally prudent. In this Budget for 2011-2012, spending is now down below 5 per cent. It is now down to 4.9 per cent. As the economy continues to do well and as our revenue stream continues to do well, we can lower the rate of spending as long as we keep it in line with the revenues that are coming in.

We certainly take the message, we certainly heed the advice of those who tell us to watch our spending, and we are doing just that. We have reduced the spending to 4.9 per cent, and of that 4.9 per cent only 2.2 per cent is for new spending initiatives. Of that 4.9 per cent, 1.9 per cent of it – just about 2 per cent of it – is the wage and benefit increase. It is the last year of the four year raise package that went to the public service in this Province. It is at 4 per cent and that was negotiated some time ago. The other part of the 4.9 per cent is annualization and inflation, which is another 1.5 per cent. I note that of the 4.9 per cent increase in spending only 2.2 per cent is for new initiatives. As our revenues continue to be strong, we can see that the rate of growth in spending will continue to moderate.

Now, Mr. Speaker, there is another factor that I should mention that is important to the people of the Province. We talked about the three operating oil fields maturing and the rate of production is obviously declining as the fields get older and more mature and as the oil comes out. I have said in this House that I have read about a Texas oil man named T. Boone Pickens who said that oil was very difficult to find, but once you found it and once you started taking it out of the ground, it came out very, very quickly and, of course, we are seeing that.

I also mentioned that more exploration is going on, and I said that I would expect that as exploration continues, that there will be more new discoveries and we will still have an oil industry for many, many years to come. The one thing I did not say was that given the high prices of oil and given also, and this is important, the higher royalty rates that this government negotiated with the oil industry – now the Opposition likes to say that our government claims credit for the oil being in the ground and they are all projects that they did, but the reality is that the royalty rates that we have negotiated with these companies are much higher and they are going to mean more wealth to the people of this Province.

That means that even though the production levels are forecast to go down this year – about eighteen million barrels lower than they were last year – that means our oil royalties will be lower, they will be about the same for the year after. Then for the three years after that, because of the higher royalty prices, we expect the royalties, we expect the revenues from the oil industry to actually go higher and to be higher than they ever have been in the past.

We have flexibility, we certainly have room to move but we have to make sure, knowing that these things are going to be gone one day, that we have to convert our economy over time to one where we replace the non-renewable oil and gas revenues and the non-renewable mineral revenues with renewable hydro revenues coming from Labrador. The Muskrat Falls Project will provide the people of this Province with lower rates than they otherwise would be. Because of that there will be a surplus from Muskrat Falls, a surplus of about three terawatt hours. That surplus can be sold into the Maritimes, it can be sold into New England and provide some additional wealth to the people of this Province that can be used by the government of the day to either lower hydro rates, or build hospitals, or provide progressive social programs for the people of this Province.

That is where we have to move and that is going to make our children and our grandchildren independent. When Gull Island comes on and we can get that power through Quebec through Ontario – and Nalcor is working on that, I can assure you, and the Minister of Natural Resources is working on that, and he can assure us of that fact. Then someday, I will not be around to see it, but someday when the Upper Churchill power comes back, that is when the children of this Province, our grandchildren, are going to be wealthy and know prosperity like has never been seen before.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I would urge everyone to ignore and to reject the amendment of the Opposition, and to get behind and support this government as it tries to advance prosperity for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair recognizes the hon. Member for The Straits & White Bay North.

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased this afternoon to be able to stand and speak to the Budget that has been put forth, and the amendment, more particularly, in recent days.

I am kind of interested in a couple of comments on the Budget, and then I want to really talk more particularly about how about it affects my district and the things that are ongoing there; things that are important to my people and so on. As the minister was speaking, the Minister of Finance, I listened with great interest, and appreciate his expertise and his knowledge and so on of the Budget that he has presented.

The Budget is entitled, Standing Strong: For Prosperity. For Our Future. For Newfoundland and Labrador. In the very opening remarks on page one of the Budget document, it is stated: "The government, too, has a role to play in creating "conditions conducive to growth: a strong commitment…"", and it says: "a solid foundation of reliable infrastructure". When I read those words, I, as an Opposition member, yet as an MHA representing a particular district in this Province, I get great comfort in that, Mr. Speaker, knowing that this Budget not only represents the districts that are represented by government members, but it also has the interest of districts like mine in The Straits & White Bay North at heart, as well. As I speak to some of the initiatives that are on the go there, and some of the things that are needed, then I am certain that the ministers who are responsible for administering the Budget that is contained in this document, and the dollars that are there to be spent are cognizant and aware of that for sure.

One of the things that interests me and that I have really become aware of in the past year and a half or a little better, since I was elected to the House of Assembly, is how easily this government takes credit for everything that is happening in Newfoundland and Labrador. It is almost as though there was no government in the past, or any government that was there wasn't any good. All projects and so on, and all of the good things, it is almost like it started in 2003. I am not really sure what we were before then, from the perception that this government has in this House of Assembly, but it is something far different, I believe, than what I would consider to be reality.

I like numbers as well. I enjoy finances. I am able to interpret them, for the most part, I believe. One of the things that I find interesting as I look at the incomes of this Province over the past ten years is the fact that our base revenues have basically remained the same. There has been nothing substantial that has happened in this Province to increase the revenues to the provincial government, outside of the oil industry, and a little bit of mining I would suggest. If you took that out of the equation for a moment, you would find that the income across Newfoundland and Labrador, the revenues into the provincial coffers as we call it, for the past ten years, basically, are flat. They are somewhere between $3.5 million to $4 million.

Obviously, while some things are performing well, and while some things are creating a lot of revenue, a lot of things that are the base revenues, the things that you depend on from day to day, the things that hopefully should always be there kind of thing, they really have not changed. So that, I would think, would be a concern. We realize, of course, that the change that we have seen, the increase in the income of the Province, in the revenues of the Province, is very much equated and connected to the oil industry, that we hear the government boasting of all the time – the revenues that are coming in. We are very pleased they are coming in. Fortunately, oil is over $100 a barrel, but also, fortunately, governments prior to this government had the wisdom to see the opportunity, to get things like Hibernia going, like Terra Nova, to make deals on Voisey's Bay and so on, that today we can be enjoying the wealth that we have.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I think it is only fair to acknowledge that is a process that happens in any development, in any country, in any province and so on, as governments come and go. Again, it just seems as though this government likes to present the case as though they are the end-all, be-all, and dare we ever be around in the day and age when someone else should take government, outside of this particular group that we have today. Nevertheless, that is where we are.

One comment I would also like to make in the Budget document as well, before I make a few comments regarding the things that are important to my district. The minister mentioned the net debt of the Province having decreased from a high of almost $12 billion to a projected $8.2 billion at the end of 2010-2011 and saying it was a decline of 31 per cent. Obviously, it would be, if we achieved that number. There are a couple of things that are interesting enough to be noted, Mr. Speaker, in that particular graph on page 9.

First of all, we have had four years now, including this coming year, if we come in at the numbers that have been put forward by the Minister of Finance and by this government, we will have had four years when our net debt has basically increased, not decreased. That would be a concern, and that concern was expressed in the media, in particular, and by economists and so on who spoke to the Budget that was presented just last month. The fact that again, for a fourth year straight, our debt in the Province is basically increasing.

What the government says is one of the key measures in this document of fiscal performance is the percentage of revenue which is consumed to service debt - the percentage of revenue that is consumed to service the debt. They brag, Mr. Speaker, quite openly, the fact that in 2004, debt expenses consumed over 23 per cent of our revenues, and the fact that by Budget 2011, forecasted debt expenses are down to 10.2 per cent of our revenues. That is a good thing, but again, I tie that in to the fact of where the revenues in this Province are, the oil incomes that we have, and the increases that we have seen in revenues because of that, allow us to basically service the same amount of debt as though it was a good thing, because we have been able to bring the percentage down. Not because we have been able to do anything, necessarily, with our debt, but because we have been able to increase our revenues to the point where, compared to the debt that have in the Province, the percentage of both is lower, and therefore it would appear to be a good thing.

Certainly, us, as Opposition members, presenting the case of the residents of Newfoundland and Labrador each day in the House of Assembly, we are very concerned that while we are enjoying high oil prices, good production and so on, at the same time, we are not able to see our debt decrease any more than is suggested in this document here before us today, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, there are good things in this Budget, obviously. The minister spoke to a couple of them.

MR. SKINNER: (Inaudible).

MR. DEAN: Mr. Speaker, let me go back to that point because the Minister of Natural Resources seems like he wants to pick up on that a little bit. Reducing the debt, yes, it is obviously reducing spending, but I would suggest in this document, in this Budget that we have before us today, there are lots of areas where we can spend more prudently. There are lots of areas where we can spend more wisely. One of the comments that were made: If it was a Liberal government, you would not know how to spend it anyway. Well, I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, there is a lot of spending happening today in this Province that may not be the most prudent type of spending that can possibly be done. I will use the example of the Muskrat Falls piece, the investment into Nalcor, as an example. Just as an example of $380-odd million that we are spending this year to move that corporation forward.

I would suggest that there are some things good, and I will try to change track a little bit, because some of the ministers are getting upset and so on, and I would not dare want to be off track with them in case I have to gracefully go visit their office and look for something someday and so on. Mr. Speaker, I would commend things in the Budget. The HST removal on residential energy, absolutely a good thing, and certainly we are pleased to see that.

On page 17 of the document, as well, there is a comment there that really drew my interest when the Budget was presented on Budget day, and as I read the document a little bit later. It says, "Opportunities for innovation and growth in rural Newfoundland and Labrador are boundless…" Mr. Speaker, I do not want to be pessimistic by no stretch of the imagination in an optimistic world, but I want to suggest that in certain parts of rural Newfoundland and Labrador, opportunities being boundless might just be a little bit of a stretch. I think of my own district, and the Northern Peninsula in particular, and I believe the greatest opportunity that we have in that part of our Province is an opportunity that has been with us for generations, and that is our fishery.

I am very concerned today about where our fishery is, where this government is taking our fishery, where the future of the fishing industry in Newfoundland and Labrador is. Because I believe that if we do not have a viable fishing industry, then I really have grave concern about how parts of our Province, like the Northern Peninsula, that have basically small communities with a couple of larger centres that are service centres for those smaller communities, if you will, and so on; they are very dependent on the fishery, and if we cannot look into the future and see a viable fishery, I do not know that we can look into a future and see where opportunities are boundless.

I will use a community like Englee as an example. It is a perfect example of how a community did well for generations, for decades, for centuries, quite literally. This government chose to remove its processing licence and so on, and that community has not been able to recover. To this day, it is struggling to see its opportunity. It is struggling to see how it can diversify. It is struggling to see what tomorrow holds for that particular community. Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of communities in my district, not only in my district but the adjoining district on the Northern Peninsula as well, and other districts around the Province I am sure, that are dependent upon this Province having a viable fishery, a profitable fishery for many generations to come.

In terms of the Budget, I honestly have to say that from a departmental point of view, the fisheries department is probably – not probably, but it was the most disappointing piece to see in this Budget. The reason for that is because the fishing industry in Newfoundland and Labrador is at a point where it needs strong leadership, it needs a good vision, and it needs to see a government that really is on top of its game, so to speak, where we are at the wheel, kind of thing. Mr. Speaker, quite frankly, this Budget does not deliver that kind of vision when it comes to the fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Yes, I would say with aquaculture we are doing well. There are initiatives in this Budget that are meant to move the aquaculture industry forward in Newfoundland and Labrador, but I want to suggest to you that the aquaculture industry, that piece of the fishing industry cannot sustain all of our communities, all of our bay communities in Newfoundland and Labrador. That is very localized. There are only certain places which are environmentally friendly for that, which are really able to do that kind of an industry. While I am pleased as an Opposition member, basically, Mr. Speaker, just as a Newfoundlander and Labradorian, as a person of this Province, while I am pleased to see those kinds of initiatives moving forward, it does not do what needs to be done for this industry.

We a see a Centre for Aquaculture Health and Development, it is all good. We see money for wharves and infrastructure in Pool's Cove and other places like Hermitage and so on, it is all good. At the same time, Mr. Speaker, I look into communities like Great Brehat, and I look into places like St. Lunaire-Griquet, I look into places like Conche, and I can look into other places around the Province where fishing infrastructure is really dilapidated. Through storms and other things over the years, it is really just not suitable anymore. Some of it does not even exist any longer. Mr. Speaker, I do not see that spoken to in this document, I do not see it provided for.

What I do see in this Budget document under fisheries, Mr. Speaker, is a budget of $150,000 to go around this Province and remove some of the abandoned, closed, fish processing plants and facilities and so on in Newfoundland and Labrador. Mr. Speaker, $150,000, if that figure speaks to the commitment of this government to that industry, then I believe it is of grave concern to all of us.

I look at Englee again; they have had an application before this government for the past two or three years to be able to remove its old fish plant that is there, the one that was closed by this government a few years ago. It is of no value, it is of no use. No one wants to do anything with it. It is sitting there. It is an eyesore in the community, pieces of it literally falling off and floating in the harbour and so on. It is a hazard. Mr. Speaker, that project in itself, to be able to remove that and to be able to allow federal government initiatives under the Small Crafts and Harbours to come in and do some work there, to clean it up and get rid of the environmental issues and so on, that would exhaust more than the amount that is in that budget this year. I would assume all of that would not be earmarked for one community.

Mr. Speaker, I am concerned that is the situation that we find ourselves in when it comes to this Budget for this year and so on. There are many other needs that we would be interested in seeing some of the budget pieces as they are broken down. I believe it is $230 million or $240 million or so that is there for infrastructure. At this point in time we have no idea what that means in terms of transportation for this year.

I have some of the worst roads in the Province in my district, roads like Conche, roads like Croque, roads like Boat Harbour; small communities that still have gravel roads. I realize there are other gravel roads in the area as well, Mr. Speaker, but the more severe your winter climates are and the more severe your spring thaws are and so on, then obviously the worse condition that your roads are in. Every spring it is the same old, same old. The issue I have with it is that I really do not see where there is a plan in place to try and address those things. Will it be this year? Will it be next year? Can we look forward - at some point in time, can I tell the residents in my district today or tomorrow, or next month or whatever, when government is finished its analysis and whatever the case might be, Mr. Speaker, are we able to tell people in communities like Croque: Listen, there will be this much upgrading next year, or the people of Conche, so they can expect to see paving done within the next two or three years, whatever the case might be?

Mr. Speaker, there has to be a plan. Just throwing a number, a figure, a bunch of money into a Budget without really understanding the plan all that really does for us is frustrate us. It really does not help us to see where we see our future at all.

Mr. Speaker, there are good things on the go in the district, as I said before –


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

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have to turn the volume up louder and louder to keep going here, but that is okay. That just tells me someone is getting annoyed or whatever.

Mr. Speaker, I acknowledge the work that is on the go in my district. I am very pleased to see in the Budget this year that there is money for more dialysis units in St. Anthony, an extra four units. Those who are in St. John's today are looking forward to being able to go back to St. Anthony. They are not all from St. Anthony. They may be from the region, but nevertheless, they are able to get their services closer to home. Mr. Speaker, it is a good thing to see that. I would like to just let the government know and the Minister of Health, in particular, that there are many more coming down the pipe so to speak as there are across the Province, many more people who are going to be needing dialysis treatment in the very near future. The fact that it is acknowledged and the monies are there is a good thing.

The Polar Centre in St. Anthony is continuing to come along quite nicely and it is good to see that as well. Then we have things like high-speed Internet and cellphone service in different places around. Again, Mr. Speaker, some of the challenges, some of the things that are missing and so on.

Under Municipal Affairs, as the minister gave a statement today, at the symposium last weekend, a lot of issues that are there before us in this Budget. This has been an election Budget. We realize that, Mr. Speaker, it is an election year. There are a lot of pots of money thrown in different places to try and make it look as though we are doing great things and want to cover up all the bases and whatever.

Mr. Speaker, I will be looking forward to seeing what my district gets under the municipal piece of this Budget. My colleague from Burgeo & La Poile mentioned in his speaking a while back this afternoon, the fact that he had met with the Minister of Municipal Affairs. I, as well, had the opportunity to do that and certainly appreciate that opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to be able to sit and discuss –


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair is having some difficulty hearing the member who has been recognized to speak. I ask for the co-operation of all members.

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The noise in this House is almost like the rumble of a jet in your ear as you are trying to speak, so I appreciate that.

Mr. Speaker, it was good to be able to talk to and meet with Minister O'Brien and discuss these issues, and I look forward to seeing some things come together in the next little while for the district.

I will speak again to this Budget at some point, Mr. Speaker. Until then, I will take my seat and I appreciate the opportunity for speaking this afternoon.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am very pleased to get up and speak for a few minutes to the Budget. I am very pleased to get up and follow the Member for The Straits & White Bay North.

Mr. Speaker, in this place here we have to carry out our roles, and we have the people opposite to put forward their perspectives and how their governments in the past did this and how we are taking credit for this kind of stuff. Mr. Speaker, I have to say, the Member for The Straits & White Bay North, I truly do not find him to be too bad of a fellow. I honestly have to say that. Like I said, we have our roles –


MR. JACKMAN: He offered to come over here at one point, but we are still working on that.

I would just like to relay one story to him around one of the items that he mentioned in the Budget, that being the dialysis unit. I do not know if he knows it or not, but myself and the Minister of HRLE find ourselves in the same situation. We were having dialysis down in our health care centre three days a week, just the same as he was on the Northern Peninsula. I can remember myself and the Minister of HRLE going and speaking to the Minister of Health and speaking to the present Premier about getting dialysis down there.

Mr. Speaker, this clearly shows you that this Premier just will not let politics interfere with the right decisions. Her words to us were: We are not going to do this as a one-off. We have other areas in the Province, being the Connaigre, down the Coast of Bays. I remember her referencing St. Anthony as needing the same thing. To think that political favours were going to be given just because we are on the government side, the present Premier made it clear to us that was not going to be the case.

As a result in this Budget, dialysis was announced in St. Anthony. Like he said, and we are finding the exact same thing, people are very appreciative of the fact that it will allow more people to stay in their area and receive dialysis.

I was thinking, as he talked about 2003 and it seemed that is when it all happened. Well, Mr. Speaker, we cannot ignore some of the facts. I remember campaigning prior to 2003, and one of the things that stood out for me was a $12 billion debt and the fact that for each person in the Province it amounted to some $23,000 per individual. Now, over the course of four or five years, we can proudly say, for whatever reason, that debt has been decreased to around $8 billion. We have taken that debt down $4 billion.

Now, again, I suppose you could have gone and - politics being a part of it - invested it in other things that would have been palatable to people. One of the Finance department's and the minister's mandates and the direction that they moved into was to reduce that debt. As such, we have taken it down to around the $8 billion mark. I am sure the people of the Province and advice from people such as Dr. Locke will see that reduced even further down the road.

We do look to past governments. The Minister of Finance referenced today the Atlantic Accord and the days of former Premier Peckford when that was realized. We certainly have to acknowledge the efforts of Premier Williams over the last number of years and how the Province has changed under his rule. Now, under the leadership of Premier Dunderdale, you will see that we will take this Province in a direction which will be very positive and which will impact very positively on our children and our grandchildren. That is where we have to be thinking longer out.

Mr. Speaker, I want to speak to the fisheries for a minute because we are at a critical time in this Province around the fishery. There is no doubt about that. Today, we have the challenge of protests up on the Northern Peninsula and the fact that certain people up there are saying absolutely no shipping around the Province. Others are saying no shipping out of the Province. Then, at the same time, we have a group of lobster fishermen who are saying: Yes, allow it to open up.

It is very easy to be critical, and of course the target of criticism often is aimed at government, that government has to take leadership. I have to say, Mr. Speaker, in establishing prices and these types of things it becomes very difficult for government to intervene and to get into the middle of it. The way that prices should be arrived at is that the harvesters and the buyers or the processors are the ones who ideally would meet, decide upon a price, and then everything gets underway. In this Province, we have collective bargaining that is different from other jurisdictions, and we have a panel if the sides do not agree. Unfortunately, in this case, the union did go and attempted to negotiate with the buyers, but the leader, Mr. Joyce, and the buyers chose not to sit down and go to the panel and make their offer. They attempted to backtrack afterwards, which is often difficult and puts people in this type of situation which we certainly do not want to find ourselves in.

I go back to the point that the fishery is changing; there is no doubt about it. If you take a look at the budget, the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture budget, the budget of this department has increased fivefold over the past five years. The total budget for the Fisheries department is more than the other three Atlantic Provinces combined. We cannot say that government is not investing in the Department of Fisheries.

Now, how we get to a point where we manage our way through and we protect as many of the smaller rural communities as we can, is where our heads need to be, and that is the way we need to lead the direction in the future. It is changing, and government can take the lead as to what types of initiatives they put out there and the direction in which they go. We know, for example, that there is the need for research, and as a result we have invested $14 million into that. Now, some people might say - and I heard the hon. member mention that we have not put money into the fisheries. Well, if we are talking about how we are going to manage our way through some of the stuff that we are looking at now in terms of the number of licences that are out there, are there too many plants and those types of things, well those are issues that we have to work through with industry; there is no doubt about that. Out of the MOU, there have come some recommendations that I think we are seriously looking at and that we will hopefully roll out before too long, things like around marketing, another initiative.

If you look at the $14 million that we invested in the Centre for Fisheries Ecosystem Research, we have long talked about the federal government's lack of initiatives in that area and we have long advocated to Ottawa that you are cutting back on research as opposed to further investing in it. As a result, the provincial government has stepped up to the plate. We know that this February, Dr. George Rose, the very recognized and renowned fisheries scientist in the Province, carried out some research over a period of time. That is going to be continued for a number of years to come. Hopefully, Mr. Speaker, we might get to a point where we would have our own research vessel as opposed to leasing one from another country.

We put in another $450,000 here into cod recovery initiatives. We have invested money, a $1 million commitment for the next three years, into the Canadian Centre for Fisheries Innovation. We will work through Memorial and the Marine Institute to roll out those programs.

Mr. Speaker, if we are going to have a fishery in the future and if we are going to have processing a part of that has to be the technology. We know, for example, that it is getting more and more difficult to attract people into the plants. We know there are companies out there investing in new technologies. We know there are harvesters who now, when they purchase their boats, look to more fuel-efficient structure designs and they look to technologies that will lower their cost of operation.

We have had it for the past three years, but this year again we are investing – $6.6 million over the next three years – so a $2.2 million annual investment in a fisheries technology program. This program has struck with huge success. We did a survey of the industry this past year and there are companies and independent operations that said this was a program that was well worth it. They encouraged us to continue. As a result, that $6.6 million investment into the industry will see returns; there is no doubt about that.

Some of the companies have used it to get the marine stewardship certification. The world is fast recognizing that if we are going to harvest fish or our seals, everything is going to have to be done in a sustainable, humane manner. As such, before many of the European countries are going to buy the product, they will want to see that stamp of approval. This is the type of fund that provides for that.

The trade issues; we have to invest in sending our representatives to these trade shows. I recently attended the Brussels seafood show. There were some 24,000 to 25,000 people present there – these are buyers and sellers of fish – some 1,700 booths. While we recognize that we have quality products in this Province, the thing about it, it indicates that at these shows you better have your ducks lined up and you better have your promotion rolled out and be ready to make sure that your product stands equal and above products elsewhere in the world.

The member opposite mentioned the aquaculture industry; we are competing with countries all over the world around aquaculture. People are growing salmon, people are harvesting eels, trout and other products. There are white fish being grown through aquaculture which are competing with our cod. The way that we are going to have to make our cod more recognizable and the product that this is still a wild fish and as such we promote that as a product that people will want to buy and they will genuinely pay a higher price for.

As a matter of fact, I spoke with the members from Icewater and they have a niche market in Europe where they sell cod loins. They have done a good job on marketing and getting a good quality product from the harvesters, and they have maintained that as a high-end product. These are the types of initiatives that we need to continue.

More importantly, Mr. Speaker, as an industry – that being the processors, the union and government – getting together so that once we get to these events we market our products as one of the best in the world, one that people will want to buy.

Mr. Speaker, also we have invested again in our sealing industry. As a matter of fact, we have increased it by $100,000 this year. We have continued to battle the animal rights groups, Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt about that. We know that on an annual basis we are going to see groups of that nature coming. We have to now work – as we have done, and we have worked with the federal government – working and getting into the larger European market.

Mr. Speaker, we work on getting into the European market and this year a delegation went to China. We recognize the potential that exists in China if we can get our seal product into that market. That means research money. That means the fisheries technology program. That means being able to make sure that we have industry researching what needs to be done to make it the best product that we possibly can.

If I go back to the European market again and just look at the fish, there are 500 million fish loving people in Europe. They export 10 million tons annually. They import 10 million tons annually. Therefore, if we wanted to look at it, there is the potential for 4 million tons of fish to be put into the European market and we should be a part of that. The Canadian Government and we now are part of that negotiating team that are going in to look at the removal of the tariffs. We do not want to prejudge, but things are going relatively well with those discussions. If we can remove those tariffs, that barrier to our fish products going into the European market, that opens up a huge door for further sales of our product. More profits meaning a better return for processors and harvesters in the Province, and the need, as I said, about marketing to make sure that we do the tightest job that we possibly can around marketing so that we make our product the best that it can be on the European stage and the global stage. These companies then do further business with our Province, and of course there is a benefit to everyone who are involved in the industry.

Mr. Speaker, we do have a changing industry, there is no doubt about that. For the next number of years we are going to face the challenges of that. It certainly is not a time that politics is played with this industry. What we have to do, and I have said this before, it is incumbent upon the companies, it is incumbent upon the union and it is incumbent upon government that we three groups work collectively here. We cannot be battling each other in the best interest of the industry. What we have to do is we have to make sure that we make this the best industry in the Province.

Mr. Speaker, I know my time is winding down. I am looking to a further time in this Budget Debate and the opportunity to get up again and once more speak to the Budget.

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity this afternoon.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): The hon. the Government House Leader.

MS BURKE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am going to put forward a motion to adjourn, but before I do that, I just want to remind the hon. members of the House, Mr. Speaker, that the Social Services Committee will meet in the House at 6:00 p.m. to review the Estimates of the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation.

Tomorrow, the Social Services Committee will meet in the House to review the Estimates of the Department of Health and Community Services at 9:00 a.m.

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

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is 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.