April 30, 2012                       HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS                 Vol. XLVII No. 23

The House met at 1:30 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Wiseman): Order, please!

Admit strangers.

Statements by Members

MR. SPEAKER: Today we have members' statements from the Member for the District of Bonavista South; the Member for the District of Port de Grave; the Member for the District of Signal Hill – Quidi Vidi; the Member for the District of The Straits – White Bay North; the Member for the District of St. John's East; and the Member for the District of St. John's South.

The Member for the District of Bonavista South.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. LITTLE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, hon. colleagues, I would like to recognize and congratulate the members of the Boys Volleyball Team at Catalina Elementary School for their recent victory. The team brought home the gold medal in Tier 2 at the 14-and-Under Provincial Tournament held in Clarenville on March 23 and March 24 of this year. Even more rewarding, it is the first time a banner was won and brought to Catalina Elementary since 1999-2000.

The boys' volleyball team was picked from an after school volleyball club that ran for students in Grade 6, 7, and 8. The team started playing and practising together last year; and due to hard work and dedication, went from winning only one set in a tournament they attended last year, to bringing home gold just one year later. Coach Janice Hayward and Assistant Coaches Kyle and Grant Johnson are to be commended for their help and commitment to this team.

Mr. Speaker, members of the House, please join me in congratulating Catalina Elementary Boys Volleyball Provincial Champs: Nathan Butt, Adam Cullimore, Zachery Duffett, Tyler Gould, Gavin Hart, Bradley Hiscock, Adam Lodge, Daniel Lodge, Nathan Lodge, Nicholas Lodge, and Evan Peddle.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. LITTLEJOHN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I stand today in this hon. House to recognize the recent passing of Mr. Nigel Mercer of Upper Island Cove. Mr. Mercer was well known throughout Trinity Conception for his work and involvement with the Trinity Conception Shrine Club.

Mr. Mercer was recognized as the 2011 Shriner of the Year by the provincial organization last fall. I had the privilege to know Mr. Mercer through our involvement with the Trinity Conception Placentia Health Foundation. He was a dedicated volunteer representing the Shriners and the Royal Canadian Legion at this event.

He has served as the Right Worshipful Master of the Masonic Lodge of Newfoundland and Labrador, served on many boards like the Anglican Parish Council, Helping Hands Goodwill Centre, the Royal Canadian Legion, and the Trinity Conception Placentia Health Foundation.

In paying tribute to Mr. Mercer a friend said "he will be remembered not only for his contribution to the Shrine Club, but also for his dedication to all fraternal organizations and worthy causes in which he was involved."

Mr. Mercer was person whose true wish was to make life a little bit better for those in need.

I ask that all members of this hon. House join me in recognizing a gentleman of distinction who will be sadly missed by his family, friends, and the causes he served so well for so many years.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Signal Hill – Quidi Vidi.

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

I rise today to extend congratulations to a young actor from my district, who I have known since her birth. Marthe Bernard made her film debut at ten in Mary Lewis' award-winning short film, When Ponds Freeze Over. Theatre audiences may remember her from the Avalon East High School Drama Festival as a Holy Heart student, or her two years at Grenfell College in the theatre program.

Her studies were, of course, interrupted when she landed the role of Tinny on CBC's Republic of Doyle. She has continued doing film and theatre work. Last year, she starred in local filmmaker Deanne Foley's feature film, Beat Down.

On Wednesday last week, Marthe won the Best Actress award at the FirstGlance Hollywood Film Festival for her work in that film. Deanne won Best Director. This week, Beat Down is at the prestigious Newport Beach Film Festival with screenings last Friday and tomorrow.

I am sure nobody is more delighted to see the international success of Marthe than her parents, the well-known actors Andy Jones and Mary-Lynn Bernard.

I ask all hon. members to join me in congratulating Marthe Bernard on her successes to date, and wishing her many more in the future.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for The Straits – White Bay North.

MR. MITCHELMORE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to extend an invitation to all hon. members in this House – and to everyone in the Province – to come and share some festive times this summer in my district.

From July 20 right through to August 18, I ask people to mark their calendars. Each week will be a come home year celebration in this order: St. Anthony, St. Lunaire-Griquet, Main Brook, and Anchor Point-Deadman's Cove.

Thanks to the tireless dedication of dozens of volunteers, we will see thousands of people flock to The Straits – White Bay North to relive their memories, catch up with old friends, and make new ones.

In all, it will be a four-week celebration of life past and present in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. I am sure I do not need to add the benefits for the local economy will be significant.

The planning is well underway, and I can promise you, Mr. Speaker, that from what I have seen, this will certainly be one of the most memorable summers on record for the Great – and I emphasize Great – Northern Peninsula.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to celebrate a remarkable woman. On Friday I had the pleasure of attending the one hundredth birthday party for Ethel Miller, who has been living at the Salvation Army's Glenbrook Lodge since 2002.

Mrs. Miller has had a long and eventful life, Mr. Speaker.

Born Ethel Pretty on April 27, 1912 in St. John's, she married William Miller in December 1940. They moved to Dildo, Trinity Bay. She taught school there for a few years. Ethel and William had five children: David, Jim, Roy, Judy, and Kay.

Just ten year later, William died, leaving Ethel to raise five children on her own. It was a challenge that she met more than successfully, teaching piano lessons from her home to subsidize the family income. She also played the piano for years at the Salvation Army Citadel in Dildo.

Ethel moved back to St. John's some seventeen years later, and at the age of fifty-three went back to school to train as a nursing assistant. She worked at the Veteran's Pavilion until 1977, when she retired.

I ask all hon. members to join me in congratulating Ethel Miller on her milestone birthday, and in wishing her many more to come.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John's South.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to recognize the Jimmy Pratt Memorial Kitchen for the contribution they make to the men and women in the downtown and inner city areas.

The Jimmy Pratt Memorial Kitchen, which is located at the George Street United Church, provides hot meals to those who need nourishment and a place to feel connected to others in the area.

Four years ago when I first volunteered at the soup kitchen, they were serving about sixty individuals every Friday morning. Today they serve upwards to 200 people with a hot meal, a warm smile, and friendly surroundings.

The clients of the soup kitchen are always appreciative of the company and the feeling of acceptance.

I congratulate the individuals who operate the kitchen, the community business partners who donate to the kitchen, government who has provided funding, and the volunteers who give so freely of their time so that others may have a warm place to go and nourishment that they need.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Statements by Ministers.

Statements by Ministers

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DALLEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise in this hon. House today to highlight the expanded cultural programming offered at the Province's six Arts and Culture Centres.

Residents in more communities throughout the Province are now getting the opportunity to enjoy performances on tour. For example, the award-winning Dying Hard, about the plight of the St. Lawrence miners, has been performed in twenty communities by St. John's native Mikaela Dyke.

Also ongoing is a partnership with Theatre Newfoundland and Labrador to bring Tempting Providence to an astounding seventy-one communities. This story of courage and strength about nurse and midwife Myra Bennett will arguably be the largest theatre tour ever to take place in Newfoundland and Labrador.

In addition, the Arts and Culture Centres are building Shakespearean productions in-house and presenting them to audiences of high school students. This classroom project is linked to the school curriculum.

A commitment to enhancing artistic direction is evident through such productions as Rig, which is an adaptation of Mike Heffernan's book, Rig: An Oral History of the Ocean Ranger Disaster. The show commemorated the thirtieth anniversary of the disaster last winter, and featured local talent, such as Andy Jones and Pamela Morgan. It ran for five nights to sold-out houses.

The Arts and Culture Centres have teamed up with the Marine Institute's Centre for Marine Simulation to present the 100-year commemoration of the Titanic sinking. The work, titled Calm Air, is a unique experience in which theatre meets technology.

Local talent and stories continue to be celebrated through such as Artistic Fraud's Oil and Water, written by Robert Chafe and directed by Jillian Keiley. The show tells the story of the recently deceased Lanier Phillips, who was shipwrecked aboard the USS Truxton, near St. Lawrence.

Mr. Speaker, this provincially owned network, the only one of its kind in the country, directly supports the work of artists as they build and showcase their talent. I encourage everyone to get out and see the incredible shows offered by the Arts and Culture Centres in Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

Certainly, the work of the six Arts and Culture Centres across the Province this year adds a lot to the development of tourism. We hear remarks about the positive events that have been seen at the Arts and Culture Centres across the Province. I know, in my case, as the minister mentioned about Tempting Providence and how that is going across the Island – and outside of the Island as well; I saw that show in Deer Lake just a few weeks ago on the way to Nova Scotia. It was well-attended; I would say that even outside the official Arts and Culture Centre the production was fantastic and well-attended, and the response was great to all of it. I would like to add, too, of course, that is the grandmother of the Member for St. Barbe. Of course, all of us who live on the West Coast are very familiar with that story. Many of us have seen it many times.

What I did not realize, however, was that Shakespearean productions would now be included in the school curriculum. I think this is absolutely a wonderful idea. When you think of all the events around the Arts and Culture Centres, and that gets complemented with the many festivals and events that are going on, I think we are in for a wonderful year. It is something that we are very happy to see because what it does, it highlights through our cultural community and it gives people an opportunity to come together, especially tourists and people who visit our area during the summer.

I compliment the minister on the work that has been done in this particular area. I will say that bringing the reservation system online, I think it has been great and it made it all much easier.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John's Centre.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS ROGERS: I too would like to thank the minister for an advance copy of his statement. I applaud the new commitment of Arts and Culture Centres to bringing performing arts, including our own local plays, to more communities and schools around the Province. Our Arts and Culture Centres are a provincial treasure, providing wide access to the arts. It is the way to build both future audiences and future artists.

The cut to the Arts Council on the other hand was short-sighted, making it harder for the council to support artists. The Arts Council is the only place where there is funding available for ideas, where artists can start work on a project. Oil and Water and Tempting Providence each started with a small Arts Council grant. Without strong support to the Arts Council there will be nothing to put in our Arts and Culture Centres.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to stand to provide an update on an important program offered at Her Majesty's Penitentiary. The Justice Project is operated by the Newfoundland and Labrador branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association and helps inmates diagnosed with mental illness make a successful transition to the community. This innovative program, Mr. Speaker, has been in operation now for two years and receives $280,000 from the provincial government.

The Justice Project was born out of the release of Decades of Darkness: Moving Towards the Light which was an independent review of adult corrections in this Province. The Justice Project provides a continuity of mental health services from the prison to the community. Through intensive case management, individuals have been able to secure and maintain appropriate housing and receive specialized support and interventions upon their release. By working closely with other community organizations clients are linked with individuals and agencies offering further specialized support. This is particularly important, Mr. Speaker, to those returning to other areas of the Province.

Mr. Speaker, the department recognizes the important progress that participants have made. To date, thirty-two people have received this service. Many individuals have been able to remain out of further trouble with the law for longer periods of time or return for lesser charges. Some, through the support of the mental health association program, have for the first time in years, maintained a healthy and crime-free lifestyle.

Mr. Speaker, the Justice Project has become recognized nationally for having inmates diagnosed with mental illness make a successful transition to the community. The Department of Justice is pleased to support and work with the mental health association as they operate this ground-breaking program. This relationship is a clear indication, Mr. Speaker, that change is possible and our correction service is moving in the appropriate direction.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Burgeo – La Poile.

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

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

I am very familiar with the Justice Project, recently when I took an extensive tour of the HMP the program was frequently mentioned in very glowing terms. It is highly regarded by inmates, as well as by the employees. It is an excellent program that helps people who really need this help. Following up on mental health issues for prisoners even after they leave the Penitentiary means more effective services, and that means a safer society for us all.

I applaud the minister on such a useful and effective service; however, this seems to be a good program delivered in a miserable environment. Report after report indicates that we need to have a new Penitentiary. The current pen is too old and too overcrowded, and at least safety issues for both the employees as well as the inmates. I look forward to the day when I can congratulate the minister on taking the initiative of announcing a new and safe penitentiary for this Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John's Centre.

MS ROGERS: I thank the minister as well for an advance copy of his statement.

This certainly is a good step; however, $280,000 is but a drop in the bucket when addressing the rehabilitation of inmates. Crime prevention must be worked on. Our long promised youth addiction centres are still not built, and this is where we can really see prevention. There must be more programs in the prisons, and the long-standing concerns regarding psychiatric care at Her Majesty's Penitentiary must be addressed. A lot more work has to be done to ensure that recidivism can be minimized.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Oral Questions.

Oral Questions

MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Official Opposition.

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Nalcor has hired SNC-Lavalin for millions of dollars of work on Muskrat Falls. This same company recently had its headquarters raided by the RCMP, the CEO resigned, $56 million is gone missing, a top executive arrested in Switzerland, and a consultant in prison in Mexico.

I ask the minister: How much money has Nalcor committed to this company, and have you brought your officials together with SNC and Nalcor to discuss these ongoing issues?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I can assure the member opposite that shortly after this matter came into the news that I made immediate contact with the CEO or President of Nalcor and we discussed whether or not this ongoing – what we expected to be an ongoing issue – affected the Muskrat Falls Project. He assured me that it did not, Mr. Speaker, that there was a team from SNC-Lavalin working with Nalcor on-site, doing extensive engineering. As for the actual amount, I cannot tell the member opposite the actual amount that has been spent to date, but it is part of the engineering work. That is certainly a number that I can find out and provide to him.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This is a serious issue, as Nalcor signed multi-million dollar contracts with a company that is currently facing allegations of fraud and money laundering.

I ask the minister: Since the SNC vice-president under investigation was the head of the construction division, did he have any involvement with the Lower Churchill project and will you disclose which SNC officials have lobbied the provincial government?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

I am not aware of the individual in question having any involvement with the Muskrat Falls Project. As for the lobbying, Mr. Speaker, that is not the way it is done. I think, if I am correct, SNC-Lavalin would have been involved in many major projects, both Hydro and other projects throughout the world; I think they would have built the line for the Olympics that connects the airport to downtown Vancouver.

I think they are a large company, a multi-national company. Again, I am not aware of any involvement with this individual. In fact, my information is that the person did not and that the procurement, or the way that contracts are awarded, Mr. Speaker, are in line with the way government business and Nalcor business is done.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

On Friday, the Premier of Nova Scotia abruptly cancelled a public event in this Province to fly to St. John's for a private meeting with the Premier and Nalcor.

I ask the minister: What was the purpose of this meeting?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am not aware of the Premier of Nova Scotia abruptly cancelling any meetings. I do know that the Premier of Nova Scotia, the NDP Premier, is very supportive of the Lower Churchill and Muskrat Falls Project.

Mr. Speaker, I was present at the meetings. We had a very good discussion about the status of the Emera-Nalcor agreements. We talked about the project in general. I can tell the Third Party opposite that the NDP in Nova Scotia are very committed to this project and it shows that Premier Dexter possesses some of that visionary scope that is possessed by this government.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. BALL: Mr. Speaker, it is surprising that Premier Dexter would be in Newfoundland and Labrador for an urgent meeting on Muskrat Falls, as the Province of Nova Scotia is not a signatory to the project.

I ask the minister: Was there a meeting with Premier Dexter and was Emera also present at the meeting?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

The President of Nalcor and the President of Emera were both present at this meeting. It was a wide-ranging discussion, Mr. Speaker, about the benefits of this project. Premier Dexter emphasized for us, Mr. Speaker, the importance of Muskrat Falls power to his province. Even though there could be power available from Quebec, Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotia does not want to be held hostage by Quebec anymore than this Province. What Muskrat Falls allows us to do, Mr. Speaker, is build that alternate route that will allow us again to develop our resources to their fullest potential.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the Bay of Islands.

MR. JOYCE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, this government announced a mere $1 million for the $750-million Corner Brook hospital. Meanwhile, last year – during an election year, no less – the site was prepared, cement was poured, and concrete connector roads were put in the site, giving the impression that construction would begin soon. Apparently the design work for this major project announced in 2007 is holding up the construction.

I ask the minister: What firm is doing the design work for the hospital? When did the design work begin? Will this $1 million be sufficient to complete the design work for the hospital?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, we are very committed to the hospital in Corner Brook, as we have stated time and time again in this House and in other venues as well. The $1 million that is in this particular Budget for the Corner Brook hospital has to do with completing a functional design for the hospital.

What we had in the past was a replacement design. Mr. Speaker, we are much more progressive than that. We do not want a replacement of the Corner Brook hospital; we want a hospital that is going to see us into the future. Therefore, we have asked them to go back, and with this $1 million we will look at a hospital that will meet the needs of the future in terms of essential services that are going to be in that hospital, Mr. Speaker. When that is done, then we will move forward with a design concept for the facility itself.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the Bay of Islands.

MR. JOYCE: I say to the minister, I hope it is not like the wing in the long-term care with $3 million announced for three years in a row.

Mr. Speaker, publicly the city council of Corner Brook, Councillor Leo Bruce, and Israel Hann, seniors' advocate on the West Coast, like many others on the West Coast are disgusted with this year's Budget and announcement and thinks the lack of funding and progress is a disgrace. It shows a lack of commitment to this project.

I will ask the minister: When were the consultants hired for the new hospital? How were they selected? How many more years do you anticipate the planning before the construction of this hospital begins?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, the people of Corner Brook know when this government commits to putting up a building it delivers on its commitment, unlike the hon. member opposite when he was in power.

When we first took office, there was a need for an MRI machine. That is there. Also, we had to build the space to put it there. There was need for a new high school. That is there. We did it. There was a need beyond all for a long-term care facility, and we built that as well. In addition, we built a courthouse. In addition, we built a new Newfoundland and Labrador Housing building. In addition, we built an addictions centre. We built a courthouse.

Mr. Speaker, the biggest priority for Corner Brook right now is a new hospital. Eighteen million dollars has been spent so far. There is going to be a lot of roadwork leading to that hospital this summer. We will deliver on our commitment to build a hospital because we want to see one there.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Bay of Islands.

MR. JOYCE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This is the same minister who stood up in the 2010 Budget and promised autonomy for Grenfell College, the same person we have to listen to here now.

Mr. Speaker, several highway depots are scheduled to close for the summer months, mostly in rural areas. This comes at a time when several of our roads have been identified as the worst in Atlantic Canada.

My question is to the Minister of Transportation and Works: Why don't we use these very valuable resources – our workers – to provide maintenance on our substandard highways and roads, such as clearing culverts to prevent flooding?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Transportation and Works.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As the hon. member knows, really since 1996, under a former Administration of which he was a part, they did look at how to better allocate the resources within the structure of depots throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. A decision was made to basically muster a headquarters, get the workers to follow a work plan, and match up the resources that are necessary in order to carry that out. That has worked well back in the 1990s, and it is working well now, Mr. Speaker. We are doing everything we can to match up human resources with money so that we can get the job done.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Bay of Islands.

MR. JOYCE: I should remind the minister the depots were closed in 2004, not 1996, just in case you were not aware of that.

Mr. Speaker, it has been proven that if proper preventative maintenance had been done on our highways, the damage from serious storms, like Igor, would have been less severe. Mr. Speaker, storms will continue to occur and work such as culvert clearing, guiderail damage, potholes, and road shoulder washouts will not be done.

My question to the Minister of Transportation and Works: Will the preventative maintenance and repair program be compromised because of the closing of the highway depots?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Transportation and Works.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: Mr. Speaker, to continue on in the light of my last response, again I say to the member opposite that in 1995-1996 depots did close under that Administration, and in 2004 they were reconfigured, again, to match up human resources with the maintenance budget to carry out the needed work that needed to be done in any particular area. It is working well; we are addressing it. Again, when you talk about this government making sure that at least, over the last six years, we have invested something in the tune of a quarter of a billion dollars every year, Mr. Speaker, to get the roads up to a standard – addressing the deficit that was given to us by the previous Administration.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, early reports from 3K fishermen are that the crab season is shaping up to be a disaster with very low catch rates. These fishermen already agreed to a 22 per cent cut in quota. Fishermen are very concerned that there are no concrete answers as to why the resource is in such sharp decline. We must act now, rather than wait a few years before it is too late.

I ask the minister: Has he had discussions with the federal government on what they are doing to urgently address this ecological disaster?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The topic raised, indeed, is a very serious one. We have had a number of discussions – but I would say to the member opposite, it is a little premature to be raising thoughts of a catastrophic season. I had discussions just this morning with one of the fishermen in the area and understand fully the impact the ice is having. They are urging all of us not to panic and to give it a few more days and see how things transpire. I certainly want to tell people that we are top of that and we will do what we can to support the harvesters, but I would not want to jump the gun and be a little premature in calling it a catastrophic season when we are only a week or so in.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, while the federal government is responsible for fisheries research, the Province has invested money into our own research activities, including establishment of a Centre for Fisheries Ecosystem Research.

I ask the minister: Has he requested the centre to help find answers to this critical resource issue?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, the short answer is no. The member opposite stood in this House last week and practically condemned me and this government for taking on responsibilities that ought to be carried out by the federal government. Hansard would show that if you take the time to go back and look. Today he is standing and asking if we are going to put federal money at an issue that he describes as a catastrophe when we are only a week into the fishing season. Certainly, you can come up with something a little more credible than that. We are seven or eight days into the season, harvesters are at work trying to determine if in fact they are going to need assistance, number one; number two, it is not the role of the provincial government to provide resources. The member acknowledged that in the preamble to his statement.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, the short answer of no was actually complete.

Mr. Speaker, in last year's Budget the government allocated $25 million for the Business Attraction Fund, of that amount they spent less than $400,000, a mere 1.5 per cent.

I ask the minister: What went off the rails with this program? Were there any attempts to attract business to this Province last year?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Innovation, Business and Rural Development.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, again, in the Budget this year we have a suite of programs for business and economic development totalling almost $200 million. One of those is Business Attraction. Over the past number of years we have entered into partnerships with companies for $20 million. Over $16 million of that have been sent out to those employers. It is based on meeting labour targets with those agreements, but outside of that we do other programs. Recently, I had an opportunity to - St. Lawrence Fluorspar Mine - partner with the private sector, a $100 million project. We are in for $17 million, 375 jobs during construction stage, 250 at the time it is operational. It is a great project. We are partnering. We are there to partner, Mr. Speaker, when it is in the best interest of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, since 2004 government has allocated over $132 million to the Business Attraction Fund. Over that time the department placed just $19 million, or 7 per cent. A lot of that money went to businesses that closed down, went bankrupt, or laid off staff.

I ask the minister: Isn't it time to declare the Business Attraction Fund to be a failure and to use the money to grow businesses already based here in our Province?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Innovation, Business and Rural Development.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HUTCHINGS: Mr. Speaker, the negativism and the pessimism of the hon. member is unbelievable.

In this Province, all parts of the Province, we are seeing growth, we are seeing innovation, and we are seeing economic development in all regions of the Province. Mr. Speaker, that fund was built for business attraction. When opportunities come forward we engage with foreign investors to come to this Province but we are only going to engage and partner when it is in the best interest of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and we feel the risk is appropriate but that risk is not appropriate, we are not going to have expenditures of public money which we do not see is in the best interest of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and we will continue on that road, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Burgeo – La Poile.

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, one in 102 children in our Province are diagnosed with autism, a significant change from just 2009 when it was one in 132. There is no cure for autism, but early diagnosis and intervention is critical to the best possible outcomes. I am dealing with a family whose two-and-a-half-year-old son has been diagnosed with autism. The wait-list for him to see a speech pathologist is between twelve to fourteen months at the Janeway.

I ask the minister: Why are children who have already been diagnosed with autism, having to wait for over a year before seeing a speech pathologist?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, we are very concerned about autism in this Province and that is why we continue to invest in initiatives to try to better the system. We have spent to this point $144 million, and that is an annual expenditure, Mr. Speaker - $144 million and $18.3 million more in this particular Budget to try to address the issues around autism in this Province.

Autism is a growing issue right across Canada, Mr. Speaker, not simply here in Newfoundland and Labrador. We keep apprised of what is happening across the country. We will continue to invest and continue to make differences for the children of Newfoundland and Labrador, and for the adult population who also suffer from autism, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Time for a very quick question.

The hon. the Member for Burgeo - La Poile.

MR. A. PARSONS: The government announced $2.7 million for autism services last year. You would expect enhanced services but that is not the case. This boy's family was told last month that they have to wait two years to see an occupational therapist, contrary to the minister's claim that it was fifteen months. There are over 100 children on the wait-list.

MR. SPEAKER: I ask the member to get to his question, please.

MR. A. PARSONS: I ask the minister: With all the money your government has invested in autism, why are we not seeing improved wait times for these children?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services, a brief answer.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Mr. Speaker, as I have said in the previous answer to the question, we are continuing to invest and we are continuing to make differences. Our wait times are an issue of concern for us and oftentimes that has to do with the number of people who are added to the list year over year within this Province because it is an increasing problem in Newfoundland and Labrador. It is a very complicated issue, Mr. Speaker, but it is one that we have turned our attention to, it is one that we will continue to support.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Third Party.

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

In her January board of trade speech the Premier warned of austerity and lean times in her upcoming Budget. When her Finance Minister did table the government's budget, we saw instead a small amount of growth and a few lay-offs. Then last week we heard her Finance Minister say the Province was flush with cash.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: Would she give this House a definitive statement of the state of this Province's finances which will not change and which people can rely on in the future?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, as we said in the Budget address, the economy of this Province is very, very strong and our fiscal position is strong as well. If the hon. member would take time to read some of the bond rating analysis of the financial situation of the Province, you would see that we have been lauded for our prudent fiscal management, for paying down debt, and for accumulating liquidity.

We have liquidity. When we started this year, there was about $2 billion in our bank accounts, which would be used not for program expenditures, but also to be used to pay for tangible capital assets, which are the hospitals and the long-term care facilities that we build (inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Third Party.

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

I am sure the minister is going to want to continue his list there when he stands again.

Mr. Speaker, in pre-Budget comments to the media, the Premier talked of layoffs and budget cuts coming to the public service – this from a government which the Minister of Finance is admitting has $2 billion in cash and the strongest economic position they have ever been in. Her Budget showed, however, a smaller number of contract worker layoffs than feared. In her comments since the Budget was tabled, the Premier speaks of pending job cuts next year.

My question is: Why?


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: Then last week the Premier referred in this House to the wonderful people who work in the Province's public service.

So, Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: What does she have to say to these people who she has now given a full year to worry –

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, we all know that a lot of the wealth that has come to this Province has come from the revenues of non-renewable resources: oil and minerals. One day they will be gone. We have to be prudent in the management of fiscal affairs. We have to make sure we live within our means.

The way you do that more than anything else is that you run surpluses as opposed to deficits, because if you have a surplus, you have some money you can now use to fund your capital investment and to build your hospitals and long-term care facilities. So we have done that and accumulated cash to be able to do that. By running a surplus, you also have an opportunity to pay down some debt.

We are going to have some good years, Mr. Speaker, but over the long-term, as the oil revenues go, we will have less revenue. We have to take advantage while we can to diversify our economy –

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Third Party.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I have a very direct question to ask: With all of that flux that is going on – I fully understand that flux –why at this moment is the Premier putting fear into the public service sector, giving them a whole year to worry whether or not they will have jobs next year?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, the Premier is leading the government and is going to do the right thing for the future of the people of this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: We have set a plan. We have set a target so that we are not reacting to events. We are going to work towards that plan; if we can do that, we are going to reach a point where we are going to have lots of new capital things built in this Province, and we are going to live within our means and be in a very strong fiscal position, but most importantly of all, to diversify the economy so that we have renewable revenues for when the oil and gas is gone.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Third Party.

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

Mr. Speaker, as we know, members of NAPE are in Placentia today protesting the annual summer closure of highway depots. Between eighty-five and 100 people are laid off each year, leaving important work like cleaning out ditches and culverts, grading dirt roads, and filling potholes to be done by a reduced workforce.

I ask the Premier, Mr. Speaker: What is her government's justification for the reduction in service while people in rural Newfoundland and Labrador deal with dangerous roads and damaged vehicles?


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Transportation and Works.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: Mr. Speaker, to continue in the vein today, responding to questions from the Opposition, once again I can assure the people of Newfoundland and Labrador that this government is investing their money wisely into roads, making sure at this time of year, as we prepare for our summer maintenance, that we match up the workers that we have with the dollars that are required to put our roads in the shape that they should be in to ensure safe driving for the people of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Again, we have invested significantly, as I just pointed out in a previous answer, Mr. Speaker; we are running close to $250 million every year, making sure that we are doing what we can to ensure the safety of our driving public.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John's North.

MR. KIRBY: Mr. Speaker, government's decision to cut Job Creation Partnerships funding will seriously hinder community organizations and businesses across the Province this summer.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. KIRBY: Cuts and delays in JCP funding will mean that tourist sites and cultural festivals could be in danger of closing. This will be damaging to the small businesses all around Newfoundland and Labrador who rely on them for customers during the tourist season.

Mr. Speaker, why has this government suddenly decided to cut this important funding to groups who have relied on it for decades?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, let me clear that there have been no cuts to the JCP budget, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the first round of JCPs has a budget of $6.1 million. We received 297 applications, which would have totalled $17 million in requests for JCPs. Mr. Speaker, the due diligence was done, the evaluations were done on the application, and there was an approval rate of 38 per cent. So, Mr. Speaker, the budget for the JCPs has not been cut. What has happened is that this has become a very popular program within Newfoundland and Labrador because it has some very positive results.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Member for St. John's North.

MR. KIRBY: Mr. Speaker, that comes as no consolation to groups that have had their funding cut this year.

With government projecting tens of thousands of new jobs in the coming years, many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are looking to the Department of Advanced Education and Skills for retraining opportunities. Unfortunately, many individuals are being refused funding and opportunities of retraining because this government believes they already have so-called marketable skills.

Can the minister tell us how her department defines marketable skills, so that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who have been denied an opportunity for retraining and upgrading will finally have an answer as to why they have been denied funding.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, this government is committed to ensure that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador have every opportunity available to attach to the labour market. How we develop programs and services is to assist the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. That may be through the Job Creation Projects. It could be through skills development. It could be through the apprenticeship or the wage subsidy program that we have, Mr. Speaker.

We look at all the individuals who come in who apply for funding and determine if they have marketable skills, whether they have past training, and whether or not their training and their skills match the labour market skills that we need today and the gap that we are experiencing in the Province. Each and every individual will have a time to look at their skills and have the evaluation done, and based on the budget we will certainly fund as many people as we can (inaudible) –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Member for St. John's Centre.

MS ROGERS: Mr. Speaker, since we do not have a housing division in government, my question has to be for the Premier.

In the last election campaign, this government promised a program to help families with incomes up to $60,000 purchase a modestly-priced home. They promised to provide a grant to partially or fully fund a 5 per cent down payment.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: When can we expect to see the promised low-income home ownership program in this Province?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister Responsible for Newfoundland and Labrador Housing.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: As the Minister Responsible for Newfoundland and Labrador Housing, I thought we were taking care of housing, but from what I hear from the other side is that they want to develop another division of housing. I would have to go back with a question: What the heck would that division do?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Member for St John's Centre.

MS ROGERS: Mr. Speaker, I know that the people of the Province would like to know when the promised grant to help low-income home ownership will happen.

In the last call, the federal-provincial Affordable Housing Initiative had proposals to build affordable units, more proposals than money it had to fund. They were strong proposals addressing the crucial housing needs of seniors and people with complex needs. They will not be any more money in this program for another two years, if ever.

Will the Premier provide the resources and authorize the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation to have a unilateral proposal call to move forward with the projects that did not get funded through this initiative?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister Responsible for Newfoundland and Labrador Housing.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: Again I say, Mr. Speaker, let's go back to the original question, because it is an important one: You can get up on your feet and you can criticize but if you cannot come back with something positive and some solutions, what is the purpose of you getting up?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Leader of the Third Party; the member has time for one ten-second question.

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

Mr. Speaker, last week Canada's Budget watchdog noted government cutbacks have a negative effect on the economy. The opposite is true: Program spending boosts economic performance. So I ask the Premier: Why isn't this government (inaudible) –

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Minister for Child, Youth and Family Services.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JOHNSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In ten seconds or less: Where were you last Tuesday when we announced our ten-year Child Care Strategy?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The time for Question Period has expired.

Presenting Reports by Standing and Select Committees.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Presenting Reports by Standing and Select Committees

MR. SPEAKER: In accordance with section 43(4) of the House of Assembly Accountability, Integrity and Administration Act, I am informing the House that the Audit Committee has not recommended an external auditor to the Management Commission. Therefore, pursuant to subsection 43.(5) of the act, the Auditor General shall audit the accounts of the House of Assembly and Statutory Offices for the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Tabling of Documents.

Notices of Motion.

Notices of Motion

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Burgeo - La Poile.

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, as required by Standing Order 63.(3), I hereby give notice that the private member's motion to be debated on Wednesday will be the private member's motion placed on the Order Paper by myself, and seconded by the Member for the Bay of Islands, related to having a fixed schedule for the sittings of the House of Assembly.

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

Answers to Questions for which Notice has been Given.



MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Bay of Islands.

MR. JOYCE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I stand here today to offer a petition on behalf of the family caregivers. I will read the petition:

WHEREAS home care allows the elderly and people with disabilities to remain within the comfort and security of their own homes, home care also allows people to be discharged from the hospital earlier; and

WHEREAS many families find it very difficult to recruit and retain home care workers for their loved ones; and

WHEREAS the PC Blue Book 2011, as well as the 2012 Speech from the Throne, committed that government would develop a new model of home care and give people the option of receiving that care from family members; and

WHEREAS government has given no time commitment for when government plans to implement paying family caregivers;

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to implement a new home care model to cover family caregivers in the 2012-2013 Budget.

Mr. Speaker, as we know, this has been a big issue all across Newfoundland and Labrador. This issue has been brought to attention during the election, Mr. Speaker, and there was a commitment made. A lot of people, Mr. Speaker, as you are aware, are fully under the understanding that there will be a program implemented where a family member can give family caregiving in the home. If need be, they - and the assumption a lot of people had, Mr. Speaker, is that they could receive pay if they had to quit their own job to help keep the family because they could not get anybody.

I will give you a couple of examples, Mr. Speaker, of why this is so important. I remember, Mr. Speaker, on a couple of occasions that I was aware of - they are in communities where they cannot get a caregiver, they just cannot get one. Even though because of the bureaucracy and the things that are in the system and the stumbling blocks that are in place, they are still not allowed to take a family member and put the family member in place, Mr. Speaker. It is tough, and I know the minister committed to come up with a program; yet, Mr. Speaker, we hear the Premier saying that is not the case.

Mr. Speaker, what the people hear and are petitioning me on their behalf is that we need a clear direction. We need somebody, the Premier or whoever, to give clear direction, to change the legislation, and to change the program where family members can be caregivers through the family and not have to go bankrupt, sell their homes, or whatever.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I present this petition on behalf of all the people who are looking for care giving from a family member.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John's Centre.

MS ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

WHEREAS as a result of a recommendation in the Green report about wrongdoing in the House of Assembly, there is now legislation that protects anyone who speaks up with evidence of financial abuse or other impropriety in the legislative branch; and

WHEREAS it is unfair for one group of civil servants to be protected by whistle-blower legislation when another group is not; and

WHEREAS Justice Green stated that the financial wrongdoing in the House of Assembly might have been discovered sooner if whistle-blower legislation had been in place; and

WHEREAS the Cameron inquiry into ER-PR testing found that problems with tests would have come to light sooner, therefore lessening the impacts on patients, if whistle-blower legislation had been in place; and

WHEREAS the Task Force on Adverse Events recommended an amendment to the Regional Health Authorities Act to provide legal protection for employees reporting occurrences or adverse events; and

WHEREAS whistle-blower legislation is in place elsewhere in Canada and the provincial government promised similar legislation in the 2007 election but has not kept that promise;

We the undersigned petition the House of Assembly to urge government to enact whistle-blower legislation to protect public sector employees in provincial departments and agencies, including public corporations, regional health authorities, and school boards.

As in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.

Mr. Speaker, we know that during the 2007 election campaign, the Conservatives promised that whistle-blower legislation would be passed in the first session of the House. We are in 2012. Then in 2008, in the Throne Speech, the government promised to introduce whistle-blower legislation. Now, recommendation number three of the 2008 report on the Task Force on Adverse Events called for an amendment to the Regional Health Authorities Act to give legal protection to employees who report occurrences.

Mr. Speaker, they cited Manitoba's Regional Health Authorities Act, which states that no one should be punished or otherwise disadvantaged for complying with the requirement to report an occurrence.

In 2008, Eastern Health asked doctors to sign a confidentiality form to stop them from commenting on internal operations, and the Cameron Inquiry highlighted the need for legal protections to encourage people to report occurrences in unsafe conditions. It is time now, Mr. Speaker, for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador to make it safe for all workers and for all people in the Province. It is time now for our whistleblower legislation.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, to the hon. House of Assembly for the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador in Parliament Assembled, the petition of the undersigned residents humbly sheweth:

WHEREAS home care allows the elderly and people with disabilities to remain within the comfort and security of their own homes; home care also allows people to be discharged from hospital earlier; and

WHEREAS many families find it very difficult to recruit and retain home care workers for their loved ones; and

WHEREAS the PC Blue Book 2011, as well as the 2012 Speech from the Throne, committed that government would develop a new model of home care and give people the option of receiving that care from family members; and

WHEREAS government has given no time commitment for when government plans to implement paying family caregivers;

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to implement a new home care model to cover family caregivers.

As in duty bound, your petitions will ever pray.

Mr. Speaker, in support of this petition – and this is coming in from a lot of people in small communities. To provide one example of why the home care program is not working in some small communities: in addition to being able to find properly trained home care providers, if a home care provider is a family member, then that person is ineligible to receive as much home care – in this one case – as if it were strangers.

In the case of a man in my district who is in his thirties, who is blind and has other medical difficulties, he would be eligible for fifty-six hours of home care per week if he received that home care from strangers; he would get eight hours per day of home care. His mother is a home care provider. That is her full-time occupation. She is in her late fifties; she cannot afford to stop providing home care and work in a regular job so she can care for him. However, if she cares for him, she receives only forty hours per week. Because he is being cared for by a family member, he does not get fifty-six. That means that the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador is expecting this person to get by on forty hours per week from a paid home care worker who is a family member, and expect other family members to provide free home care or to go with none. It is a complete disparity which should be addressed and addressed promptly by this government.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for The Straits – White Bay North.

MR. MITCHELMORE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

To the hon. House of Assembly of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador in Parliament Assembled, the petition of the undersigned residents of Newfoundland and Labrador humbly sheweth:

WHEREAS the need for cellular coverage is far reaching in the District of The Straits – White Bay North; and

WHEREAS there is limited cellphone coverage in the Route 430 from St. Anthony Airport to St. Anthony, and there is little to no cell coverage in the communities surrounding Route 432, Route 433, Route 434, Route 435, Route 436, Route 437, Route 438;and

WHERAS residents of these communities require cellphone coverage to ensure their safety and communication abilities; and

WHEREAS the residents of The Straits – White Bay North district feel the Department of Innovation, Business and Rural Development should also develop incentives for further investments in cellular phone coverage for rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

We the undersigned petition the House of Assembly to urge the government to support the residents of The Straits – White Bay North in their request to obtain adequate cellular phone coverage in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

As in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.

Mr. Speaker, this petition currently has over 1,000 names on it, which reflects more than 15 per cent of the people in my district over the age of eighteen. That is quite a significant number of the people seeking the need and showing concern that cellular coverage is certainly inadequate. This is where we truly do need to look at an advanced telecommunication strategy that includes not only a rural broadband initiative, but things such as cellular coverage and things like telecommunication centres, so we can find ways to better communicate. There can be appropriate investments made through various avenues.

Other provinces are doing it. We really should look at, as a Province, maybe the mapping of the Province and where we do not currently have any service of cellular coverage and see what we can do to further expand that. When we are putting in towers for broadband, they are using fibre; I have been informed by mobility companies that they also use fibre, but because the cellular companies and the mobility companies are not – even if they are part of one larger corporation, they do not always work together, so we are not getting the best bang for our buck sometimes when we are investing public dollars. We do need to see where we can cover these areas and where we can really extend a few towers. That is something that will be continuously pressed, because it is so imperative that we have public safety when it comes to cellular coverage on our highways. How can we ever institute a 911 strategy across the Province if we do not have cellular coverage on all the highways across Newfoundland and Labrador? It is something that other governments are making a priority, and I certainly ask that this government make this a priority as well.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John's North.

MR. KIRBY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise again today to present a petition on needed changes to the Department of Education school bus transportation policies.

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

WHEREAS school district restructuring has resulted in longer bus travel times and more hazardous winter travel for rural students of all ages; and

WHEREAS due to recent school closures, children living within 1.6 kilometres of school face increased barriers of congested streets and busy intersections in the walk to school, and parents without cars are having more difficulty getting children to different schools on foot; and

WHEREAS only those child care centres outside the 1.6 kilometre zone and directly on bus routes are included in kindergarten noontime routes, causing hardship for working parents; and

WHEREAS the 1.6 kilometre policy has been in place since 1975 and student transportation policies have not been reviewed through public consultation since 1996; and

WHEREAS parents are expressing the need for more flexible policies for student transportation and school restructuring to meet the current needs of school children.

We, the undersigned, petition the House of Assembly to urge the government to conduct a review of school bus transportation policies and school restructuring to ensure safe and quality education for all school children in the Province.

As in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.

Maybe some of the members opposite remember me presenting this petition a couple of times since the Legislature has convened since the election. I do want to go back to something the Minister of Education has said previously. He talked about how busing is structured in other provinces. I think one thing I would suggest to the Department of Education is to maybe create a graduated system, whereby children of different age groups have different busing policies applied to them.

I have had a number of open houses and public meetings around my district since the election, and students continually raise this with me. This petition has residents from my district in Wigmore Court and Eagle Court, Keane Place and Sinnott Place. Then I also have a petition here that was kindly collected by the Town of Gambo, and it has parents and concerned Newfoundlanders and Labradorians from all over that region.

Incidentally, I think part of the solution to this problem may actually be all-day kindergarten, because that way we do not have a situation whereby parents are trying to find transportation for a portion of the day for children only in school for a portion of the day and in child care for the other portion. I hope the government will finally see the light on this one before it is all over.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. KENNEDY: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

I call from the Order Paper, Motion 1, the Budgetary Policy of the Government. I assume we will continue with the Leader of the Opposition's speech from where he left off the other day.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We finished up on Thursday, and what I would like to do is take a few minutes just to recap on where I was when we finished off. We started up the Budget Debate a few days ago discussing a number of the charts and indeed the Budget Speech itself.

What we learned there was that in 2012-2013 we are expecting a total revenue of $7.2 billion and a forecasted surplus of around $258 million, that goes against net expenses of about $7.5 billion. The figure that jumped out, as I mentioned on Thursday, was the unfunded liability and the interest charges being $830 million. I will highlight this again for the sake of people who are watching, so we can understand where it is indeed we left off last week.

The Budget outlook, however - which is something I really did not speak much to last week - was what happens between 2012 now and 2015. 2012-2013, as I said, a $258 million deficit; 2013-2014, the anticipated deficit being around $432 million, and hopefully back into surplus in 2014 and 2015. What we have noticed in all of this is programming expenses year over year will increase, as well as the debt servicing expenses, which is something I believe a lot of jurisdictions right now are having to pay close attention to, simply because most of those funds are underperforming and are actually not delivering to the amounts that would be anticipated to keep pace with the expenses that are coming from those funds.

Currently, in 2012-2013, that liability exists to be around $5.6 million. In 2011-2012, however, it is around $5.2 billion and will grow to about $5.26 billion in 2012-2013. As I said, this is a trend we are seeing within many provinces, governments, and indeed some corporations around the world, not just in Canada but around the world. Mr. Speaker, these are concerns when you look at the full financial picture and where it is that we are as a Province.

The other thing I would like to go back to just for a few minutes now are some of the selected economic statistics we have. These statistics have been compiled since 2008-2011. For the most part, we see what I would consider to be certainly lots of positive news through this. In some areas, we see, for instance, our unemployment rate still at 12.7 per cent. That is down over last year's 14.4 per cent. Back in 2008, it was at 13.2 per cent. The unemployment rates of course in many parts of our Province, and particularly in rural areas, we see those at extremely high numbers, in excess of 20 per cent in many cases. When you add about a 20 per cent unemployment rate in many rural areas of the Province and then you look at the aging demographics, you see an older population and not so many people working in those areas. You can actually see that the financial picture in many of our small communities is just not that great. It is fair to say that in those areas people do not feel like they live in a have province today.

One other thing that jumped out that I did not mention a few days ago was the oil production in the millions of barrels per year. In 2011, that was at 97.3 million. That is actually the lowest amount that we have had in four years, down from 100 million last year and in 2009 at 97.7 million. In 2008, we saw the number being at 125.2 million. That goes to show, indeed, how the economy is so much dependent on oil.

One other area that jumped out a bit as I was reviewing this on the weekend was the whole idea of the iron ore shipments. I was surprised to see that in 2011 that declined and put us at 16.9 million metric tons; that being down from 19.2 million. In 2009, that number was at 16.9 million, and in 2008 it was at 19 million. So, these are numbers – and as we know, in Labrador, we would actually expect to see and fully anticipate that we will see significant growth there as the iron ore industry, certainly in Labrador, will play such a significant role in the next coming years in terms of the budgeting process and the revenue that it generates for the Province.

Some of the other areas that we talked about last week – and specifically in terms where we get downloading to the provinces, which indeed impacts our budgeting - some of the areas that I did mention were six or seven areas in federal cuts; one around Employment Insurance. There were three different programs there at different stages where we anticipate that the federal government, some time this year, will cut out those programs. This, again, will have a significant impact on the residents of the Province because many of those rely on those – especially on Employment Insurance, that is a big part of their employment.

These are people who have lived in communities and right now are comfortable where they are, their situation is indeed stable, and what they want to do, in many cases, are at a stage in their life where they really do not need a whole lot to live on so seasonal employment becomes a big part of what they do. I know in my own district, for instance, we see that in the White Bay area in particular, where many people have been working in the fish plant or working in the forestry sector, or working even in the Department of Transportation, and in the summertime or the wintertime they would be laid off, so they would be relying on unemployment as a source of income. Their network, or what they do within their family, their lifestyle, is generated around and is guaranteed by this Employment Insurance that they depend on.

The other thing, of course, in terms of the federal cuts, one of the biggest things that was making news was around the OAS and the changes in the OAS program. We understand even though the marketing piece of it or the communication around it meant that it would be pushed out and you would not be affected if you were born after April 1, 1958, even though, when you look at that, it seems a long ways out but if someone were in their mid-fifties right now, this is something that would impact them and it really impacts the way that they actually plan for their retirement.

Search and rescue is actually where we did end up on last week. Of course, we all know the impact that search and rescue is having in our Province. Now with the closure of the Maritime Search and Rescue Sub-Centre, that becomes part of our history now, that centre no longer existing.

One other thing that is having significant impact in even our schools and our libraries would be the CAP, Community Access Program. This allows people – in particular, in smaller communities who really do not have access to high-speed Internet. On one hand you get the federal government saying that we should be doing more and more on-line, and on the other hand you are getting programs like community access not available anymore.

I spoke to one librarian over the weekend and they were very concerned that this program would not be available. We would encourage government – it is only a small number, I know, when you look at the overall budget for this, but yet the importance of this is very significant. It is something that as a Province, I would encourage the Province to stay involved in and to continue to lobby the federal government to come up with their share. If not, I believe that this is a particular program that as a Province we need to take a serious look at and see that we should take ownership of this.

Mr. Speaker, those were some of the federal cuts. There were others – the Marine Atlantic and the ACOA offices, they being at a significant impact on our Province. One other one that we spoke about was the Health Accord. In 2016 and 2017, we will see significant changes and downloading of the health care dollars – for instance, money that the federal government would have paid for in the past. That will no longer be available from the federal government, but indeed would be downloaded to the Province.

The magnitude of that is when you look at last year's or the 2011-2012 Budget, they would cover about 15.3 per cent of the overall Budget. This is a big figure, and when you look at this amount of money, it goes to show once again that the relationship with the federal government is really not working to the extent that it should. The federal government will be very content to download this money onto the Province and it will be left up to us then to have to pay those bills. This is in the aftermath of an accord that was in place since 2004 and signed for ten years. This accord – by many, I believe, of the day – was seen as something that was very positive.

I will not go over all the health care things that we talked about last week, but one in particular that I will highlight today is about the ambulance services and the ambulance drivers. I know, speaking to some people over this weekend, who are working in this particular industry, we realize that as of March 31 they are without a contract. There are even some policies and standards that they have been expecting to see put in place for now about four years that have not been done. I believe it is timely right now; this was fully anticipated to be in the last contract and it is still not done.

The big thing that I am hearing from most operators right now is the recruitment and the retention. This goes back, I believe, to the number of spaces that we have available within the Province where we can actually train paramedics. This is very important, because in many cases, they are the first responders, so it is important that we actually try and find a way to educate and to train as many paramedics as possible. There is a need right now in the Province for paramedics to support our ambulance systems.

Mr. Speaker, there was a lot of things that we covered right back to wait times, to home care, to electronic health records, and on and on it goes; I will not review all these, but a significant amount of time on Thursday was spent on health care, because health care is such a significant part of our Budget – about $3 billion this year. Of course, with the demographics that we have, and with the aging demographics and the challenges that come with even new drugs, new equipment, this puts a burden on provincial coffers. It was said in the Budget Speech that this would be seen as a – that we would easily be able to tell that this government was committed to health care, but I will say that when you see what is facing us, the options that are existing for many people as they look for appropriate health care dollars, there will be challenges in the future, I am sure. We will need to be looking for innovative and creative ways – in particular, the use of technology; and I did mention, I will mention again for a few minutes, the use of electronic health records and how important they will be in the future delivery of health care.

One of the areas that I think I will start for today as response will be a review of some of the comments that were made by the Auditor General. Again, the debt of course is significant in the Province and has been around now for a number of years. There is no doubt that we have been able to pay down debt, but in doing so, when you look at the overall debt or the net debt, when you factor in your liabilities around your pension fund and your insurance plan, the Province's net debt is significant. It is estimated by the AG that a surplus of $270 million would be required over the next thirty years to eliminate the $8.1 billion. That is the debt we had last year, and we can expect that this will grow, of course, in future years simply because the surpluses will not be available to us, at least in the short term. This goes to show that it is very prudent on us that we do whatever we can to diversify the economy, and trying to move away from the dependence on oil is extremely important for us as a Province. How you do this, however, comes with its challenges, but it will mean investment in areas like agriculture, forestry, and certainly the energy area.

The other thing we talked a little bit about last time was this per capita debt and the commitment we have to bring our debt in line over the next ten years. For instance, as a Province right now we are second to last, next to Quebec, with a per capita debt of just under $18,000. That compares to around $25,000 for Quebec. Ontario, for instance, would be around $17,000. The low one on the end there would be Alberta, leading the way with just $3,300. I will give you an example. A province like Saskatchewan would be at $10,000 per every man, woman, and child, and British Columbia is just over $8,000. So we are certainly on the low end of the scale. To get this under control, to put a strategy in place to deal with the debt situation for us as Province is indeed challenging. It will mean no doubt in the future there will be some decisions that will have to be made and priorities that will have to be made. I think it is incumbent on us that we make sure we get the priorities right so we are not passing this debt on to the next generation.

When you look at the situation and where we have come from over the last ten years, in 2001, for instance, we had revenues of about $4 billion, and in 2011 they were at $8.1 billion. Just to let you know, in 2006 that was at $5.6 billion. Of course, this all comes from, as we all know the offshore royalties, and now mining is starting to play a more significant role than it has in the past. We fully anticipate that is one area where we will actually see some significant and substantial growth in. However, even though there has been a considerable amount of money available to us, it has been often said that most of the infrastructure debt, the financial debt that we have had in the Province, and even the social debt to some degree that we have had in the Province, has become part of an inheritance back in 2007. At that time, too, there were some very good offshore deals that had been negotiated. We knew in time, that as part of that inheritance, there would be some substantial resources that would come from the offshore projects; that being Hibernia, White Rose and Terra Nova, and, of course, the Voisey's Bay deal that today are seen as major contributors to our overall economy and is often touted as the reason why, right now of course, we are the have Province that we are today.

When you look at our expenses as a Province, not only has the revenue side grown but there has been significant growth on the expense side as well. In 2001, $4.4 billion was being spent by the Province; in 2006, $5.4 billion; and in 2011 that would go up to $7.5 billion. When you see the income side, of course the revenue side continued to grow, and also on the expense side as significant investments have been made within the Province.

When you factor in the aging demographics of the Province - just as an example, Mr. Speaker, people who are over sixty years of age and over have increased from 99,000 or 19.5 per cent to over 119,000 in 2011; the 19.5 per cent of people over the age of sixty in 2006, in 2011 that will now be at 23.3 per cent. We know that as you get an older workforce there are more – as you get an older demographic of people who live in your Province, there are certainly significant challenges that come with that. One of the other things we found is that people, as they retire home - for instance, people from Alberta, as they move back what happens is they come back at later stages in their life, either fifty-five, sixty, sixty-five, whatever the ages are, but as they retire back home what happens is they come back home at a point in their life when they use the health care system more at that time. Of course, added to that is the change in the OAS.

Mr. Speaker, I will just flip through some of these here. Some of these things are charts that we have heard of and have seen a little bit of last week. Where does it go? When you look at the expenditures for 2012-2013 there is no question that health and education will certainly be taking almost 50 per cent of the Budget, Mr. Speaker. This is similar to what we have seen in past years; of course, with oil royalties adding significant revenue to that.

This is a new chart and one that did not get discussed last week at all. This has to do with the consolidated summary of financial statements and the annual surpluses or deficits that we have seen over the years. We know back in the early 2000s, we were consistently having deficits simply because the revenue from the offshore resources had not really shown up yet. It was around the year 2006 before we really started to see, and started to feel, as a Province, the impact that the offshore royalties were going to have, that would have on the future revenues of our Province. As an example, back in 2004, we were actually in a deficit position of $913 million. That dropped almost by half in 2005 to $488 million. So these were significant deficits; of course, all of us at the time were just waiting for the impact of the offshore as this royalty money would have the impact on the Province that we knew it would at some point.

Of course, in those times it was very difficult to – you really did not know what would happen with currency; you really did not know what would happen with the price of oil. I have talked to other people that have been around finance in the early 2000s when we were looking at oil prices in the mid-twenties; of course, over the last few years that has grown significantly. So not only did we see that the price of oil, but the volume – and now we can actually see today the impact that this resource development has had, largely because of the significant negotiations that we have seen over the years. We can go back to the mid-eighties, when we you look at where the oil industry started in the Province; when you fast forward some twenty years later, twenty-five years later, we can now see the impact that it is having.

In 2006, we saw a surplus of almost $200 million. That dropped a bit in 2007, but in 2006, other than the offshore, it was the government of Canada at the time, too; they were a major influence in the surplus of 2006, at least according to the AG's report here. We have seen some very volatile years since that, and in 2008, that surplus actually went up to almost $1.5 billion. Then in 2009 it was a record year of $2.35 billion as a surplus. When you go back probably just ten, fifteen years prior to that, that would almost be what you would see a Budget in those times.

Then, in 2010 we went into deficit – of course, a lot of this related to the global economy – and then in 2011 bounced back to $597 million. In 2011-2012, there was the surplus that we heard about last week being finalized, and this is consistent with the mid-year review that we had in November, that being around $776 million. In 2012-2013, however – as a result of less production, less volume offshore, as we will see two of our platforms down – we will be into a deficit of $258 million. Forecast again for 2013-2014 of that year will be $433 million, and then back in a surplus in 2014-2015.

The reason why I raise those numbers and I draw attention to them is that it goes to show that our economy right now is absolutely, completely dependent on offshore resources and that it is has been now close to about eight or nine years. The diversification of the economy really has not provided the dividends that we once thought it would, so it is expedient on us to make sure that we do whatever we can to get this diversification started, because if not – as it was said in the House today, we know that this oil will not last forever; indeed, we will need to know to make sure that we have the debt under control so we are not passing on significant amounts of debt to the next generation. There is an economy that is somewhat diversified so that we can actually put somewhat of a stable future and a stable economy as we pass it on to the next generation.

One other thing that I want to talk about now, this is obviously – and I will spend a bit more time on this before I move on to some of the other programs; that is, of course, the debt expense. What we have seen here is that there is a chart here. This comes from the AG's report again; this was totalled at $837 million for 2011, but what is important here is to really look at where this $837 million in debt expense – this is the amount that the Province has to pay to service this debt. As I said, in 2011, this was recorded to be $837 million. This consists of $298 million for the unfunded pension liability, $103 million for the debt liability for group insurance, group health and life insurance retirement, and $436 million for the Province's borrowings.

When you look at all this and you say this is the amount of debt that we have as a Province for 2011 on the annual basis here, this is the amount that we pay on an annual basis, and you go back and you say let us compare this. In 2002 for instance, that number was at $942 million, and I was surprised to see that was just about $100 million in the difference over the ten or twelve-year period. This debt expense is anticipated to be, in 2011-2012, $790 million. In 2012-2013, this, as we have seen in the Budget last week, is to be at $831 million. It is a significant portion when you look at the overall Budget of how we handle this debt, this being the unfunded pension liability and the supporting of the retirement benefits.

It is difficult to be able to just say that those numbers are available, but how do you manage this? That is the big question. You look at where do you get the sources of revenue? Where do you go to get other sources of revenue? When you do that from your economy you must also look at the federal responsibility for this. Over the last ten years, this has just continued to decline. I can assure you that with the changes in the Atlantic Accord in 2016-2017, this number will decrease again. In 2011, that was at 21.7 per cent. For instance, in 2004, that was at 36.6 per cent. We are seeing a significant erosion of federal government revenues to the provinces. Of course, someone else has to pay for that, and that is us as a Province.

When you look at the offshore royalties and you compare this to your to the Budget, when you compare the Budget to the actual in offshore royalties. Back in 2005, for instance, we had budgeted $121 million and in that year it came in to be $265 million. It seems to me when you look at the chart, it has always been under budgeted; some years more than others, except for 2007 when in 2007 we had budgeted $703 million and it actually came in at $423 million. Other than that, most years it has been under budgeted and we have been able to make more money on the offshore royalties than we anticipated. This, of course, is because of the volatility that is around oil prices and around production, to some degree.

There is no question – and it came up in the House today – about the credit ratings of the Province. If we had to borrow, it would be a little easier for us today because we have made significant gains with our credit rating agencies. In most cases, we are certainly well in the Aa2 range with Moody's and Standard and Poor's A+. From a credit rating position, at least in my opinion, we are in a pretty good position there. When you compare this to the other provinces, we are still pretty much in the middle of the road. Of course, Alberta leads the way there with an AAA rating. This is as of 2011. Certainly, we are in the middle of the pack there as it relates to other provinces.

Mr. Speaker, these are some comments that I have made from the AG's report, but there is one other that I will just spend a few minutes on before I move on to some of the specific programs within the Province. These are from the Newfoundland and Labrador Pooled Pension Fund. When I went back here, I just wanted to do some reading to figure out where this fund actually started, where did this all come from. One of the things I did find out was it was in 1981 that this legislation was enacted in the Province. So we had this Pooled Pension Fund and this required both the employer, being government, of course, and the employee to pay premiums into this fund. Prior to that, this did not exist. When this fund was established, of course, it was important then that contributions, we would hope, would be put in this fund to support the people who would now be paid as pensioners.

When you look at it and you look at the active pensioners versus the active members, or people who are actually paying into the fund, we have seen a 17 per cent growth from 1995-2010 in terms of the people who are active members of the pension fund. Yet we have seen a 54 per cent growth in people who are now pensioners. When you look at it, we are seeing obviously a lot more people now who are taking money out of this fund than are actually being contributors. This is obviously something we need to be constantly mindful of when you look at the overall responsibility and indeed how you keep this fund going.

This fund includes the Public Service Pension Plan, the Teachers' Pension Plan, Uniformed Services Pension Plan, Members of the House of Assembly, and the Provincial Court judges. As of December 31, 2010, that plan had 38,650 employees. This included Members of the House of Assembly, as I said, and the employer paid pension contributions. The total there was at $329.1 million into the pension fund, but during the same time the fund provided benefits totalling $494.2 million to some 24,254 retirees. When you look at that, there is a significant gap just in that year alone of some-$168 million. It is a significant gap there that we need to look at. When I went through this, and I did go back to the AG's report just to look for the comment on that, as one would expect, this is one of the things he highlighted in his report. It is something that we need to be very careful of as a Province as we move forward and how we manage this pension fund.

Mr. Speaker, I want to go back to, as I said on Thursday of last week, as I was getting ready for this response, what I did, in particular, I picked a certain number of departments or actual areas in the Province that all of us, I guess, have been impacted by the Budget to a certain degree, but in some of the major issues around the Province that we hear from on a day-to-day basis. When I finished up on Thursday I was talking about search and rescue. Certainly, that has been a subject of much discussion around the Province and remains to be, as last week with the Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre, we saw the closure of that in St. John's. Of course, that has been something that has been high in public priority, in terms of coverage and, I guess, the discussion around the Province for many months now.

In January, we had the death of young Burton Winters. As an Opposition of course, one of the things we have been asking for is an inquiry to clarify what actually happened. Even now, here we are some three months later and there still remain a lot of questions. I know in some of the contact we have had with the family and with lots of people in Labrador, there are still lots of questions. As part of the inquiry we were told that, obviously, it would include federal involvement, and we understand that. What I did is I went back and looked at some of the other provincial inquires and I did speak to some people who have actually participated and took part in some of those inquires, and it was their opinion of course that this could happen. I just went through a list of some - my goodness, there must have been twelve or thirteen or more here and I know there have been many, many more that have been done in the Province over the years. Indeed, in speaking to one particular gentleman, he said that was certainly one where the federal government got involved and was quite willing to participate in the inquiry. It was, in his opinion, something they would be willing to do again right now if they were called upon to do so.

Just last week in Question Period, when asked about the Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre in St. John's, the response being from Rear-Admiral Gardam that we should be comfortable that those services would not be cut back. However, I will say that it was the Rear Admiral who was the one who was directly involved in the call on young Burton Winters. I am not so sure at this point that we get any degree of comfort when you look at access to search and rescue, that we are as safe today. The unfortunate thing is that it will probably take some event or some tragedy, and we certainly hope that is not the case, then we will know if that is the case, if something was to happen that you would get - that it would ignite again what could have happened, or what if this centre were still available to us.

Moving on from that, what I would like to talk a little bit about is the volunteer piece, the search and rescue organizations that we have across the Province. This is not something we spoke about on Thursday, not something that you will hear much about in the House. Although a few weeks ago we did see where there was an announcement made of some thermal imagining cameras, and they would be used – I think purchased some twenty-five of those. I know the feedback from most of those volunteer associations have been very good. I know we have, according to their Web sites, some twenty-seven teams, but in the press release it made reference to twenty-five teams. The twenty-seven teams across the Island that the Web site talks about would be nineteen on the Island of Newfoundland and some eight in Labrador, for a total of twenty-seven teams.

They have a mission statement that the Newfoundland and Labrador Search and Rescue Association assists the GSAR, the ground search and rescue teams, in their effort to provide superior and dedicated level of service to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. They do, Mr. Speaker; I can tell you a lot of examples over the years where these volunteer associations have assisted in many, many searches for individuals.

They have done so with evacuations around fire season, we have seen that. We have often seen them get directly involved in the recovery of drowning victims. As I mentioned about the Maritime Search and Rescue Sub-Centre earlier, it is not unusual at all to see volunteers. I know I have seen them in my own community. We have a fantastic group of individuals there as they participate in many of those searches.

The other thing that they do is they use the opportunity to volunteer at many of our events and festivals across the Province. You see those young men and young women as they use their time to help communities in many, many different ways. There is a great structure in place; it has been in place now for about forty years and in excess of 1,000 volunteers helping in our communities, and always there when called upon to participate in a search and rescue mission.

One other group that I will mention here, because it is simply one that we have been close to and I know many people in the Province, would be the Stephan Hopkins Foundation. They have participated in a number of searches. This is a group that even though not formally part of the volunteer search and rescue organizations across the Province, they have done a significant amount of fundraising to buy side-scan sonar equipment. These are typically used now, unfortunately, in recovery of drowning victims. All this came in place because of the use of side-scan sonar a few years ago with a drowning victim in Bonne Bay Pond, of a young man by the name of Stephan Hopkins. The family and volunteers had spent seventy-three days looking for that body, and in less than thirty minutes this equipment was used to locate the body.

Mr. Speaker, as I move through a number of areas that have been impacted by the Province, I want to speak for a few minutes now in terms of what has taken significant debate within the Province and here in this House. I know since the House opened in March, it has led off Question Period on many, many days. This, of course, is the Muskrat Falls project, the project being to develop on the Lower Churchill in Labrador, being 824 megawatts.

There is significant cost to it: the generating station of $2.9 billion, the Labrador-Island Transmission Link of $2.1 billion – for a total of $5 billion – and then the link to Nova Scotia, which is the responsibility of Emera, being $1.2 billion. So, it is a $6.2 billion project; this agreement, of course, is something that is seen by many people right now as our first mega-development for many years within the Province.

Our question as Opposition, what we have always asked, is consideration for detailed analyses on all the other options. It has been unfortunate, at least through the process so far, that we have seen the Public Utilities Board – what they have been asked to do is discuss two options, one being the isolated island; that would mean the development of some small hydro in certain areas of the Province, and then use of wind, the replacement of Holyrood, and some turbine technology that would be used to satisfy the energy needs of the Province – this being for the next fifty years, starting in 2017.

So, in concept, Muskrat Falls – being 40 per cent use on the island, 40 per cent for export, and 20 per cent given to Emera for the construction of the Maritime Link, and with capacity on that of some 500 megawatts; we would be able to use the remaining portion of that, obviously, for export power. We have always been led to believe that if this power needed to be pulled back for development in Labrador, well, of course, that would be available there.

There has been a significant amount of questions about the Muskrat Falls project, one around the forecasted need, the demand. I have been on record and have been quoted that I do not have a problem with the demand side of this because I believe, given all the activity that is going on in Labrador, that somewhere there will be a demand for power, either on the island or in Labrador. So, having this power available for industrial development in Labrador certainly could be more important than this.

I think in 2010, when this deal was put together, it was actually a much different environment than we actually live in today. In 2010 there was not a whole lot of discussion about much of this power being used in Labrador, and there is still some significant challenges that exists there simply because of some of the problems around transmission. I have spoken to a number of people who are very close to this in Labrador, just to get their impression, and I must say what I have been always told is we have to be very careful because the transmission ability in Labrador right now – I guess to repeat the words of one man –


MR. SPEAKER (Verge): Order, please!

MR. BALL: – who has been very close to a lot of this, he said: In some cases, the transmission is considered to be just held together. He said duct tape, but I would not want to be an alarmist. We all know that there are certain challenges within the transmission ability within Labrador and if indeed we were to use much of that there, do we have the transmission ability to be able to get it to where the customers are.

We have asked lots of questions in the House over the last few weeks around financing. We have been told that there is about $2 billion that is available from government to support the equity position into Nalcor and Nalcor would then go out and borrow some $3 billion. When you look at this, even though we own Nalcor – this is a company that we own as individuals in the Province so we are indeed the shareholders – it is important to us, if you are going to enter into that kind of relationship, you have to make sure that the cash, number one, is available to support the equity. We have been told by the Minister of Finance that we do have the $2 billion, but there is no question there are going to be other demands on that amount of liquidity as we look at some of the other major projects that we will need to be doing in terms of infrastructure within the Province – that being hospitals, continuing roadwork, bridges, and so on. There will be lots of people who will be coming looking for other infrastructure programs. When you consider that in the next two years, at least from a surplus position, we will probably not be in a position to actually add much to that surplus simply because of the deficit position that we will be facing within the next two years. In three years, hopefully, we will return to surplus.

When you look at the partnership arrangement here and with the declining surplus – I have not seen the cash flow analysis beyond 2016-2017; these are numbers that I would absolutely like to see. A few weeks ago, one of the things we did hear about, and this was coming from the CEO of Nalcor when you talked about the equity position is that if you had to go to the market looking for money – soundings I think was the word that he used – they were looking at the time of about a 57 per cent to 43 per cent equity. This is a huge amount of equity that you would have had to raise, and you would have to do this. Of course, the one thing that you need to be very cognizant of – a major megaproject the size of this – is indeed the budget itself. How do you make sure that you do not get yourself into overruns? Right now, what we do know is that Decision Gate 2 numbers, we are in the position where we could be 30 per cent lower or, indeed, we could be 50 per cent higher.

That level of variance, I believe, for anybody who is going out to look for financing is certainly something that we have to tighten up. I do understand that once we get access to Decision Gate 3 numbers this will change. From what I have been told about Decision Gate 3, there will still be a significant variance in terms of where we would be in overruns in that this project, getting this to a degree of comfort that many people would be used to in the routine business. Because I will agree it is important that we do as much work upfront in terms of budgeting at least. I am not talking about roadwork here, I am not talking about ordering turbines or those sort of things, what I am talking about is the work in preparing the budget and the engineering, it is essential in getting this project right.

At 57 per cent to 43 per cent equity, based on keeping it on budget, that is a significant challenge in this environment, especially when you are doing a project over five years or more in Labrador and coming down the Northern Peninsula with a transmission line. The cost overruns are something that are very concerning because it could have significant impact on us as shareholders on this project. We have seen lots of examples of cost overruns – Hebron itself. We have seen our own local hospitals, and we have even seen the work that was done in Parsons Pond and the difficulty of even keeping that on budget.

Mr. Speaker, we are very familiar, with most of the construction that we have seen within the Province, both either private or public, we have seen many cost overruns. One other thing is that when you look at partnerships, one of the things about this whole agreement that I found to be a little unusual was we have assumed 100 per cent cost of overruns on the transmission line from Labrador to the Island; then we take 50 per cent of the Maritime Link. Based on a certain per cent, Emera would participate in there; I believe it is 5 per cent and then it rotates. The 100 per cent overrun we absorbed on the Labrador to the Island link, yet the amount of ownership, 71 versus 29 – 71 per cent for us and 29 per cent for Emera – just does not change. Regardless of what the cost, we take all the risk in terms of the overrun; in this case, Emera will get the same amount of return, and that is a regulated line.

Now, one of the things we have been continually asking for is indeed what the cost is. We have heard numbers around 23.9 cents. That is the cost to bring this to Soldiers Pond. Then I went back through some of the debate that has been happening in Nova Scotia and what it is to their cost. We know that Nova Scotia has a goal of about 20 per cent renewable energy by 2020. In their debate – I am not so sure about the cost structure and how they price up their energy in Nova Scotia – one of the things they said, and I did read this, was that at more than sixteen cents, they would not be interested in power at that level.

The concept of Muskrat Falls in itself is, no question, an expensive one for us. I have tried to figure out using my own experience here; given the level of investment, and when you take this project out, say, ten or twelve years, at what point will this project – under the current Budget – actually make money and return the dividend to the Province? We do not have that information yet.

The other thing about the Island forecasting that we have noticed, and this has been public in recent days, is that the forecasting for the last ten years is certainly not something we can be proud of in terms of the accuracy of it. We have not seen within the last ten years where the forecasting has been correct at all. Therefore, when you do your forecasting out fifty years, it obviously makes it that much more difficult. There will be lots of questions around forecasting.

What was the forecast, for instance, in 2011? What is Newfoundland Hydro forecasting for the Island demand in 2012? These are still questions that we do not have. Then we need to know and do the thorough review on what the other options are. We have been told now for months that these options are not options, but yet we have not really seen the report, the studies, or the detailed information that I think Newfoundlanders and Labradorians will need to make that decision.

I think it is important regardless of the politics not to be the naysayer to any project. I think it is important no matter what it is we are considering. This is about the future of the Province; it is a significant investment and it is a significant responsibility that we are about to take on here to satisfy those energy demands.

What about those other options? We have not seen – and I am hoping that in the debate, we will have the level of detail on natural gas, on things like imported LNG. Again, 2041: do we really have any serious options of taking this Province into 2041 so that we can actually get this resource back from the Upper Churchill – demand management and wind, adding wind to the overall Energy Plan.

In 2007, when the Energy Plan was released, there was no question that there was a lot of celebration about how great this warehouse is. You know what? When you read it, there is a significant amount of opportunity in there. It is important that we make the right decisions here and that we also know that there are many – I spoke a few minutes ago, and I want to just highlight this again; when it comes to demand management, there are many, many opportunities around the world and many, many examples around the world that we can see where countries and other people have made significant power changes, or use of power, or power savings, as they focus on demand management.

We are looking for the best option and this is a necessary part of the debate. It is important because we are looking at putting significant resources to this. In doing so, if we do not get it right, there will certainly be a lot of other things, a lot of other programs that the next generation will have to pay for and will be left to do without if we do not get this decision right.

I would also like to draw attention to the debate in the House of Assembly that will happen sometime in the fall. It is important that we will have all the information that would be available, the complete analysis of the power purchase agreement with Nalcor and Newfoundland Hydro. That is such a significant part of this debate on how this will work for us as a Province, the agreement with Emera and time for review; we have been told we were getting that. This will be an historical decision.

As I have looked at the obligations of Nalcor as a company – because as I mentioned earlier, it is important that we know that your partner is in a position that it has enough cash to support the debt that it is at – right now, we have Nalcor's share of Hebron being at 4.9 per cent, Nalcor's share of Hibernia South being at 10 per cent, and White Rose at 5 per cent. So, these are investments; we are part owner in those companies. Nalcor's shares are around $1.5 billion. So, what we have to do is that we will have our own obligations for those projects, and it is anticipated that this could be as high as $1.5 billion between now and 2020. This is one of the reasons why I have been looking for the cash-flow analysis of Nalcor just to see that if these numbers are accurate, well, then, this would mean whether we are into a partner here that has the liquidity and the ability to pay their way.

Mr. Speaker, we are getting close to my three hours, and I do have a non-confidence motion to the Budget that I would like to present. That would be:

I, as the Member for Humber Valley, move, and seconded by the Member for Burgeo – La Poile, that all the words after that be struck out of the Budget motion, and be replaced with the following:

That this House condemns the government for its failure to present a fiscally responsible program which addresses the immediate economic problems of rural areas of the Province as well as the serious social needs that exist in this Province and its failure to create a climate of sustainable economic growth within the Province, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

We have an amendment put forward by the Leader of the Official Opposition, seconded by the Member for Burgeo – La Poile.

This House will now take a brief recess to consider whether the amendment is in order.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

We have considered the amendment as put forward by the Leader of the Official Opposition and the amendment is in order.

The Leader of the Official Opposition.

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We finished up prior to the non-confidence motion talking about Nalcor's obligations through to 2020. The information we have had is the $1.5 billion US from now until 2020 is what we understand to be the obligation. That is the reasoning behind the questions when we have been asking for the five-year cash flow from Nalcor.

We also understand that in this year's Budget the $655 million would be used for tree clearing, road construction, the access road to Muskrat, the procurement of towers, insulators, as well as some hardware that goes with that, and right-of-way. These are not something that you would actually see in a project that is really not brought to sanction yet. Also, the ordering of four turbine generator units, we understand that is probably as a result that there would be long lead in. Yet, it would be a significant investment if indeed this project never got to sanction. The engineering piece of it and the budgeting piece of it, you would almost understand that to be legitimate expenses as you try and develop a project to get to the budget that would be dependable. To see turbines and towers ordered, it seems to be a little odd.

Mr. Speaker, there is no question of the significance of this project in terms of the Budget, where we will be in the next four or five years as a requirement and the pressure that it would put on future Budgets, there is no doubt. When you look at that, you say: Okay, what is it? Where are the programs? What are the programs? I just want to go back to some of the other programs that as a Province we deliver on a day-to-day basis. I can certainly guarantee you that within the next few weeks and coming months, there will be lots more debate and lots more questions about Muskrat, especially as we have the debate sometime in the fall. We will be looking forward to the information and the terms of reference around that debate in general.

I want to talk a little bit now about one of the programs I have had some familiarity with in terms of my district, that being supportive employment. We have been part of this program now for a number of years. This program has been around for awhile. It comes from the previous Administration, that being started by the Liberal government, I am sure. This has been seen to be very, very successful in many areas. They have a model of: Nothing About Us Without Us. So, 21 per cent of income support clients for the year ending March 31, 2010 had an illness or a disability. Then you have to ask, I guess the big question is: What happens in their lives? How employable are they? What about the people with disabilities, can we in some way - how do we integrate them into the workforce?

Even though we have made significant gains, 60 per cent are still not attached to the workforce. Almost 50 per cent more unemployment amongst this group provincially. The national figure is 44 per cent of people with disabilities are not attached to the labour force. So we have some work to do here. The unemployment rate is still high, but I can guarantee you there are certainly employers and groups out there who are willing to participate and work with this program. It is a tremendous program.

I know in our own place of business, we have been working and have had lots and lots of good results with individuals with disabilities. As a matter of fact, I will tell the story of one particular person we have had there for over twenty-five years now, who came to work with support and is there now fully integrated into the workforce. She is certainly someone that I do not think would have gotten the chance without this type of program being available to her when it was. She is there now, still there as a very active employee.

Mr. Speaker, this is one particular initiative that I believe raises awareness of disability issues and certainly promotes inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of our society. It is something that we really need to see more work done with because it makes a significant impact on individuals. The Opening Doors program, one that we saw in a ministerial statement just a few weeks ago, and of course the good news that came with that. These are areas that we can make a significant impact on, and areas where we need to make sure we get the appropriate amount of funding so that we can actually make a difference in people's lives. The other thing is that it requires a tremendous commitment from volunteers who provide the oversight on many of those associations, the business partners and the association partners that we have.

One thing during the campaign that we heard a lot about was affordable housing – and it came up today again in Question Period – the availability of affordable housing units. I know in our own particular community, we have had about thirty over the last couple of years that have been done. It is very difficult to keep pace with the amount of calls that you get for this and the amount of money that is spent. In recent years what we have been finding is that the mix of those units, being a two bedroom or a three bedroom, is becoming a problem because what it does is the three bedroom units, obviously, are most costly to operate for many of those families. So, what people are looking for, I believe, are the two bedroom units.

The other thing is the subsidies for low-income people and the number that are available. Even when you can actually find housing, the number of subsidies available to low-income families is very limited. I know in my own community of Deer Lake, from what I understand, there is only eight available. There is certainly much more demand for this. We have seen in recent weeks where there have been media releases – I know in particular on the West Coast – where we have had people complaining because there is just not enough subsidies available for people.

The other thing is – I heard this on our visit to Labrador, and we hear it in the Northeast Avalon all the time and throughout the Province – this whole idea of rent protection, how do we protect the people that are actually living in units right now from the escalating costs of rent when you get a landlord who just really sees the opportunity and just unilaterally decides to put rent up. This is something I really believe that we need to consider. I realize the costs of construction are high these days, especially in residential development, and we have not seen a whole lot of apartments being built, especially in the St. John's area. I would expect that this is because of the cost of construction. The units that are in place, I think rental protection, people taking advantage of the opportunity that exists because people figure that they can charge, yet individuals who are there actually living in those units now really cannot afford – and it is certainly well beyond inflation, and we understand that it is about four times, in some cases, the rate of inflation that we have seen. This is really not the way it should be, and there is no question that these people need to be protected.

In the last few weeks I did have the opportunity to visit the Salvation Army Wiseman Centre and take a look at the operation that they have there and the supports that are required to keep that facility running. I can guarantee you that this is one of the highlights, I believe, of the services that are delivered when you look at partnerships around the city.

Some other things that we need clarification on, and we have really not seen much of it, is the status of the Patton house in Happy Valley Goose Bay. Where there is such a shortage in that area right now – and on our visit to Happy Valley-Goose Bay there near the end of February, this was one of the things that no matter which meeting we went to, it was loud and clear that it came up, the shortage of housing in the Happy Valley-Goose Bay area. There is a major concern for people up there. It is really impeding development and it is really interfering with the number of people who they see would actually move into that community.

One of the other things about the affordable housing and supportive housing is a question around the residential tenancy authority, which is part of Service Newfoundland and Labrador, and this is as it applies to boarding houses which house some of our most vulnerable. The question would be: Why doesn't it apply to boarding houses? Why doesn't the residential tenancy authority apply to the boarding houses? What supports are in place? The other thing is we have seen the event that happened on Springdale Street and what supports are now being in place, because I know that was brought into question at that time.

Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of areas that we could have a lot of questions around housing. I know in a lot of cases it has actually prevented people from moving into certain areas simply because there is just none available. We understand even in places like St. Anthony, I know on the West Coast, and here within the St. John's area, we are actually seeing vacancy rates of zero or less than one for sure. It is just not on the Northeast Avalon; it is throughout the Province everywhere. I understand the vacancy rate, when you look at it at a provincial level, is probably less than 2 per cent right now.

I did talk about Happy Valley-Goose Bay and the severe housing crisis that we are seeing up there, the transitional houses in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, the need for secondary and transitional houses for women who are living in violent situations up there, no homeless shelter there, and of course the questions around the Patton Home. Also, one of the things that obviously there is huge demand for – and as the office of the MHA, one of the things I will say that we get lots of questions about is the Provincial Home Repair. I know the staff at the various offices, the amount of questions they get for those repair programs - I know through our office it is on a daily basis. In particular, most of those would be seniors.

It is certainly an area where you could put almost unlimited resources into, but it is an area that we need to be able to see if we can find an easier, more efficient way to address this. A lot of it will need increased funding. There is no disputing that because the number of applications we are getting for the Provincial Home Repair Program, right now we see this increasing. People fear the fact that they will see utility bills increasing. We are going to see another 6.9 per cent increase in July. This is on the minds of many of our residents as they look at the housing needs within their own homes.

One other thing about people with disabilities and one of the populations that needs to be considered is given that 65 per cent of Newfoundland and Labrador Housing units were built between thirty and fifty years, few of them are accessible. The wait time I am told now for accessible housing units can be years for people, up to three years waiting for accessible housing. This is unfortunate because when you look at people who would be in a wheelchair or would have mobility problems this is probably the most important piece of their lifestyle. Having to wait this long for housing is certainly a problem. I did mention youth finding affordable housing, and safe housing for youth is a problem for us right now.

Mr. Speaker, we could go on for hours talking about that one particular item on housing, but I just want to talk a bit more. There was lots of discussion about this in the last few years, for sure. This is the apprenticeship program and how this fits into the vacant positions we are expected to see between 2011 and 2020, with the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers' Council estimating some 77,000 jobs that would become vacant from this time. Up until December 2011, we had 6,000 apprentices available, with 30,000 registered journeypersons in Newfoundland and Labrador, and fifty-six designated occupations. There is no question that finding the journeypersons and getting the apprentices trained to be available to meet the market demands indeed is going to be a big problem as a Province. We have to find ways to use our journeypersons, or if it is condensing the way the blocks are arranged, because it is a big problem. I spoke to many apprentices who find it too easy to jump on an airplane and end up in Alberta somewhere because right now, at least what I am being told is that they are finding it very, very difficult. I have heard this too, I will say, from employers.

When you look back at 2006, when the Skills Task Force was established, it was that Newfoundland and Labrador would be diligent about building a qualified and skilled workforce that meets industry requirements, especially those associated with large-scale development projects. The intent here was to increase our global competitiveness and attractiveness as a place to do business. The apprenticeship program should be the foundation to meet the needs of our workforce; yet, when I look at it, this is not something that is years out there. This is really right around the corner when those positions are going to need to be filled. Of course, one other way to find it a little easier and faster to advance women as they get involved in many of the skilled workforce.

An apprenticeship can range between one and five years and can average lasting up to four years, but there is no question there is a lot of difficulty around finding the right fit between the journeyperson and the apprentice right now. Many apprentices, as I say, are having a great deal of difficulty finding placement within the Province. That would be like electricians, welders, carpenters, millwrights, heavy duty technicians, and many others. Indeed, they find it easier to go to Alberta. Now one thing I will say is that the hours of work in Alberta do apply and is a credit towards their apprenticeship program. They can come back or do the block funding, which is important, but why we cannot do that in other provinces I am not sure but it is something that we should explore so that we can get those apprentices moved through the apprenticeship program as fast and as efficient as possible.

As I mentioned about the apprentices, and indeed our trades in general moving, living and working in Alberta, there is no question, I think all of us in our communities - if you are not living right here in St. John's, you will know that one of the biggest impacts that we have on our economy is the Alberta workforce. That is estimated to be between 13,000 and 17,000 people who are currently working in Alberta; many of those are travelling back and forth on a monthly basis.

I want to move into municipal affairs, if I can just find it here. This is an area that we are finding we get an awful lot of questions on and in particular, on the West Coast, around waste management. I will speak to municipal affairs in general first.

We currently have 276 communities in Newfoundland and Labrador; this is MNL, Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador, representing about 89 per cent. One of the big questions that we have seen – and it came out of last week's Budget in terms of the responses – is: Where are we with the new fiscal framework? Communities right now are finding it difficult just to keep their budgets in place and they have been asking for a new fiscal arrangement so that they would have the resources and the revenue available to meet what has become basic services.

A couple of proposals, one is the 1 per cent of the income tax. There is a sense or belief that would add about $116 million to communities across the Province, or what is considered to be – this would be a 20 per cent increase. One thing that has become loud and clear is they feel that the property tax right now is not where they need to be, and that funding this new arrangement in terms of how you would meet the finances is something that MNL, that represents those communities, is looking to see. They have been told now that you would be looking to the point where we get into the next surplus, which would be a minimum of two or three more years. That seems to be, at least in their minds, a long time to wait.

Some of the other issues that we hear from our municipal leaders are around the transfer of Crown lands within the community. What is happening – the difficulty in all the questions that are being raised is not making anyone being a councillor or a mayor these days to be too attractive. What we know is that we have about 50 per cent of our mayors and councillors who are between the ages of fifty and sixty-five. This just really shows about – I do not want to say – for want of a better word, the lack of interest that we have in community government. Just imagine if we did not have those town councils, or city councils, or local service districts. If all those volunteers were not there doing the day-to day-work, what would happen to those communities? So, it is important that what we do is add to those resources so that it actually makes their work a little bit easier.

The new fiscal arrangement is something that is seen to be very important; the property tax, at least in their mind, is seen as regressive, and it really does not keep pace with inflation at this point, in their opinion. So, the two proposals that were put forward – and this was by Dr. Wade Locke, of course; this was a redirection of the provincial personal income tax, or 1 per cent of the provincial income tax, I think their preference being the 1 per cent.

The other thing was the MOGs. We have seen now that in this Budget, last year's money did stay; the other one that we have seen a lot of discussion on is the federal portion of the GST or the HST, and the call from municipalities across the Province in having the provincial portion of this removed so at least they would not be paying – that their own government taxes, similar to what you have seen with the federal government.

The other thing is water and safe drinking water. I will speak a little bit more about that after in more detail, but there are a number of issues that MNL right now have problems with, and particularly with government, in how they will actually deal with their finances in the next few years. The infrastructure is estimated to be at a deficit, when you look at collectively the infrastructure deficit across the Province to be around $3.5 billion. This comes from a report that was done a few years ago out of McGill University, where we have said that 65.2 per cent of small communities, 76.3 per cent at the medium size, and 58.8 per cent of large communities reported that their water systems were more than twenty years old. When you look at this and this expectation of this deficit or this infrastructure deficit to be at around $3.5 billion, that is certainly a large number. In actual fact, this becomes part of and a problem of the overall debt of the Province.

One other thing we keep hearing about is communication. There is no question, in particular in my district, if you go into White Bay, you go into the community and you say to them: What do you see as the biggest problem right now? Certainly, the answer always becomes: Our roads are desperate, we do not have cell coverage, and our broadband coverage is limited. In 2012, the three of those things would be seen by most people as being very basic services. Just to think that you could actually drive off the road just a few minutes and you cannot use a cellphone. It is just really hard to explain and it is really difficult to grow rural areas and small communities. Even around tourism, it is very difficult to explain to a tourist why it is those so-called basic services are just not available in those communities.

I know in one particular case, we did an exit interview with a professional who was leaving the White Bay area and the discussion came back – because he was such a contributor to the community – we said: Why is it you are leaving? We are of the understanding that you are enjoying your life here. For him, it was simple. It was high-speed Internet and he could not use cellphones for his kids. These are important, basic services. It is very difficult to understand unless you have to live without it. In this particular case, this individual has now left. In actual fact, what it has done now is it has us recruiting for another physician for that area because he was a community doctor there.

I know at the MNL convention back in 2011, the whole idea of Crown lands became an issue for them to the point where they were willing to put forth – and the following resolution was passed unanimously. That was about how Crown lands are dealt with within their communities, to the point where they wanted to see Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador continue to lobby the provincial government to review how Crown lands are sold and to consider land transfer options not currently available, such as long-term leasing and lease to buy. I know no matter where you go and whichever community you talk to, this is an issue for them as they keep bringing it up, as now of course with the fiscal framework for communities.

I mentioned safe drinking water there a few minutes ago. As of last Thursday, the numbers in our Province with boil water advisories in place would be 154 communities with 229 boil water advisories in place, with around 20 per cent of those have been around for about ten years. When you talk about basic services, there is rarely very little that comes in mind that would be much more basic than drinking water. Right now, we are finding that many of our communities really cannot depend on that.

Mr. Speaker, there are many things, when it comes to the municipalities, that they have talked about. I know when I talk about boil water advisories – even in my own district, we have six of the communities right now that, for various reasons, have boil water advisories in place. These six are part of the 154 that are currently on a boil water advisory.

When I talk about municipalities, and certainly from the West Coast – I attended the Great Humber Joint Council meeting just a few weeks ago and there was representation there from the Premier's office too. I know considerable discussion was around the waste management strategy for the West Coast. When you look back at this, this has a long history. I think it goes back to probably 2002 when this was originally announced. Then, in 2007 the government announced the implementation would begin. At a price tag then it was seen to be about $200 million. Then, it was announced that you would see facilities in three areas: Eastern, Central, and in Western. What it was is this was meant to divert 50 per cent of waste going into landfills and then we would have a modern waste management in place by 2020. Of course, the removal of incinerators and those three super dumps within the Island, and then Labrador would be seen as a separate strategy altogether. In actual fact, the one in Eastern Newfoundland and Central Newfoundland have progressed, but in Western Newfoundland that is not the case. We now see communities out there now still struggling and still asking lots of questions about the solid waste management for the West Coast.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. BALL: As I mentioned, I actually attended the Great Humber Joint Council - Western Region – meeting there a few weeks ago. It was strong enough on their minds that they took the position that they had enough and they wanted a decision on this, and the idea of moving the site to Central Newfoundland is not something that they were too keen on.

What they wanted to do was build a site in Western Newfoundland, like it was first proposed, simply because there were a few things that they were looking for a commitment from. One was a subsidy of the transportation cost. They felt it unfair that they would actually download this to the residents in their communities. This would be a significant cost, and they were not satisfied that the actual proper analysis had been done in terms of the environmental footprint and those sorts of things. What they said was, let's go back to the original 2002 plan and let's go back to the 2007 implementation plan. We are in a position right now where we could actually build a facility right on the West Coast. There were two sites that they talked about, and just outside the community of Pasadena there was a willingness for them to consider that area as a possible site for this.

Right now, the Great Humber Joint Council, they have passed their resolution, I was there. It says that the Great Humber Joint Council lobbied the provincial government and the Western Regional Waste Management Committee to establish a Western waste management facility in the Western region. At that point, their concerns were about the carbon footprint study and questioning the accuracy of some of that, and lots of other reasons. Just feeling that even for the amount of employment that this could generate, they wanted to see this site built on the West Coast. That would be supplemented and supported by some transfer stations within the region as well.

One of the other things that always come up when you talk to especially smaller communities and this is about the amount of car wrecks that people take to old forestry access roads. When you ask why this happens, especially in some of the smaller communities, one of the things that always come back is that in order to take them to the proper area for disposal, they need to be able to dispose of the fluids and tires and those sorts of things. When you think about that, it is really a scar on the environment when you look at simply providing locations so you could deal with this problem. It would seem to be a much, much easier way to do it.

The other thing of course is the illegal dumping, and one of the things that is a big fear for all of our communities right now. It is simply because it leaves, again, as I said, has a tremendous impact on the environment, and we are seeing this more and more as we go through the forestry access roads. We are seeing much, much more of illegal dumping.

One of things about the regional waste management boards that the communities were really concerned about is how people sit on the boards. At least, in their opinion, they should be elected from municipal councils or local service districts. There was a requirement for travel subsidies; yet, by the Great Humber Joint Council what they want to see is a construction of a waste management site right in Western Newfoundland at one of the identified locations that we know is available.

Mr. Speaker, I will just move on here. There are certainly lots of areas to cover. I have not even touched on education yet. I have not touched on the fishery at all, and many, many other areas - forestry, agriculture - that I am going to try and get at least a few minutes on here now as we move this through. I am sure over the next few weeks we will have lots more opportunity to discuss this. One of the things from the education side of it would be the community access program. I mentioned this earlier, that I think there is a real need to reinforce this commitment to those sites as they are an integral part of the lifestyle in many of the smaller communities.

One other thing that I want to speak on, just for a few minutes, is the ABE program, or the Adult Basic Education program and what it is we can do to make it more readily available, because there are so many success stories around the Province because of the ABE program. I can give you loads and loads of examples myself of people who have gone back to school, either a young mother who, for some reason, left school early but have found their way back and right now are living meaningful and successful lives, many of them who are professionals, either social workers, nurses, and so on.

The ABE program I think is a huge opportunity, especially when you look at displaced fisheries workers or displaced forestry workers. No matter where they are, especially in the rural areas and having this online capability, which could very well mean that it could be done through the community access sites, that having this available in our rural areas and smaller towns is certainly important.

As I mentioned, education and schools, of course – one of the things that we have had lots of discussion on is the mould that has been identified in schools. We all know of the current situation that is existing in Charlottetown and the pressure that is putting on down there and, certainly, the cost that we seeing to actually deal with that. So, these are all important things.

I am getting all over the place here, but one point that I wanted to make is just a brief discussion; I did mention ground search and rescue a few minutes ago, but before I leave the volunteer piece of this and the firefighters, one thing that I did not mention that I certainly meant to was the hepatitis vaccine and how that is an area that we are getting a lot of questions on when it comes to voluntary firefighters, and if there is a way that we can actually get that included in the budgeting process.

I am going to go back – if I can reach down through here – and talk a little bit about some of the activities in the District of Humber Valley, as I have about twenty minutes left here. As I said, first and foremost throughout all this, it is becoming increasingly clear that the waste management issue is a big issue, as well as the safe drinking water and roads in the White Bay area and this overall community deficit of about $3.5 billion. I did mention the cell phones and broadband; I have covered off most of this, but one area that I will talk to a little bit later, as I move down through here, is the forestry sector and the impact of seniors in many of our rural communities, and access to homecare, and the problem that we are seeing there with recruitment and retention.

The impact of the federal cuts and tourism – most of this I have covered off on, and I will get back to that in a few minutes. The rural areas of the Province, there is no question that we are seeing a huge demographic shift within the Province, and the Northeast Avalon experiencing growth; yet in the rural areas, we are seeing a population decline to the point where right now we are about 52 per cent of people that live outside the metropolitan area. Of course, this was much higher years ago. So we have some serious issues, especially in rural Newfoundland, that we have look for solutions to as we continue to support this population.

When you look at the growth of the population, in Newfoundland and Labrador we saw a 1.8 per cent increase, but 5.6 per cent of that was right here on the Avalon Peninsula. In every other area on the Island except for Central area, which saw some modest increases, and for a small part of the West Coast, everyone else was in negative numbers. It is a problem for us and it is very difficult when you look at how you deal with this declining population and the changing demographics within our Province.

Mr. Speaker, one thing, though, where I would see some major opportunities, and we spoke a little bit about this today, is in the cultural development within our Department of Tourism. I looked for many years at the cultural zones within the Province, and certain areas are becoming – for instance, if you go to Cow Head; right now, because of the great work that TNL has done up there in the past, at least for tourism, they are certainly an area that people are attracted to simply because of the cultural events that they put up there. We keep telling people: If you want to see an iceberg, go to Twillingate, go to Fleur de Lys, or go to St. Anthony; these are areas where you have a good chance at least of seeing icebergs. These are certainly things tourists want to see.

When you look at diversifying the economy, tourism has a huge role to play. We need to look at other areas as well to support all of this. When the oil does run out, we will be in a position that we will be in the need of finding resources, at least financial resources, from other means.

Agriculture is one area that I believe, at least, there is some opportunity. Young farmers – in my area, around the Cormack area, there is quite a bit of agricultural work that is done. This is one way to include benefits for many of our small communities. Even in terms of food safety, what we do and what we grow in our own Province is very minimal when you consider what we actually consume and where we need to be. We have a lot of agricultural opportunities across the Province, and many of them are certainly not developed. An industry like the fur industry is, I am told, around 25 per cent developed.

I mentioned about importing food. I am told now that is about 90 per cent of what we still bring in. We still import about 90 per cent of what we eat, and about 99 per cent of all our red meat is still imported. There are some huge opportunities across the Province here within the agriculture sector that we could attract farmers or even young farmers and find ways where we could get them involved in this industry. That could be through a business attraction fund.

I want to talk a little bit now about the forestry. Where I live that has a huge impact, and we all know we have lost two paper mills in the Province already. The forestry industry itself has moved away from newsprint, or globally we are seeing not as much use for newsprint as people are driven more to the Internet. The need for newsprint is shrinking; we all know that, that is not new. We have seen that in our sector indicators this year where we have seen significant drops. Yet, the forestry itself, there is still major opportunities within the forestry. It will require management. I must say, there will be strategies that will need to be put in place because there are a lot of opportunities out there to use this. Especially with Corner Brook Pulp and Paper, it is important right now that this company - because it is such core to the overall effectiveness of the forestry industry itself. It is fine to say that you can go ahead and you can do pellet plants, or you can have sawmills, or you can have whatever other opportunities there are; yet, the core in all of that will be an effective and viable newsprint mill in Corner Brook.

What happens is when you look at the sawmill industry across the Province; it is supported by the newsprint industry. What happens is that mill will only use the timber that the sawmills cannot use. So it becomes the most efficient way to run a forestry operation within the Province. Logs will be logs and they will go and we will make lumber and they will make - if it is trim shops or whatever evolves out of those uses, then the rest of it will be used for pulpwood and eventually will be made into newsprint. It is important for us that this industry be sustainable, be viable. I think that we need to do what we can to support the industry, in particular the one newsprint mill that we have left.

With that said, it is that we have seen significant spinoff industries as a result of that over the years. I know in my own area where I live, it was a way of life for us growing up as loggers. All my family were loggers, so it was certainly something that we well understood. I can tell you, we spent our summers in forest camps. In my boyhood days we would be there and we would be spending, as my grandfather being the contractor, it was there that we would go and spend our summers. I do understand the impact that the forestry industry can have on our Province. Indeed, the other example is, because it is there and operating right now even though at a reduced level. What it has done, it has supported sawmills across the Province.

I know even within our own community in Deer Lake, we are seeing the possibility of having two pressure treatment plants. One already has an application in and there is a potential for the second one. None of this would happen if the forestry industry as a whole was not generating the benefits to the region. It is important that we continue to support those. I know there would be naysayers out there who would be saying: oh, you need to be careful in how you support those companies; but it is important that they are viable because it has such spinoff effects in so many other areas.

Mr. Speaker, I will leave it there for now, but it is an area where I still see to be many, many opportunities. I believe we do have to work with the stakeholders, and that would mean all of them for all of the secondary processing and certainly the newsprint themselves.

Mr. Speaker, I have a few minutes left and I would not want to finish up without talking about Labrador and the tremendous opportunities that there are in Labrador right now, and the tremendous need that is there. On a recent visit to Labrador, near the end of February, it was quite clear that there were a number of things that came out in all of the meetings that we held. If it was with someone in the mining sector, there is no question they spoke about the need for power. There was no question that they spoke about the need for housing. There was no question that they spoke about the need for communications and better access to broadband and cellphone coverage.

This is an area of the Province where we will be making significant contributions to the revenues and we need to make sure that we do whatever we can to support the people of Labrador in their needs. We went to the North Coast and it was very obvious, in the meetings we had there, that they were not at all satisfied with the shipping. We heard stories about people having to crawl in over freight to take delivery of the goods they had actually ordered. In 2012, when you look at how important Labrador is to all of us as a Province, we need to be actually making that investment so they do not have a substandard mode of delivery and that it is dependable for them so they can actually count on getting their goods and services in a timely fashion. Certainly, that was not the case last year, through the experience that we had.

Mr. Speaker, there are so many other topics here. I have not touched on recycling. We have not touched on –

MR. KING: (Inaudible).

MR. BALL: The member opposite tells me I have about twelve minutes – the Member for Grand Bank.

There are so many other things, but when we look at diversification of the economy and when you look at the history of the Province – as the Member for Grand Bank would understand – there is no doubt that the fishery has played such an important role, where we are from a historical nature; yet, there is still significant opportunities that we have out there within this sector. We do ask questions about where we are with the commitment that we have made to this. It is such a labour-intensive sector. When I look at the opportunity and value added and where it is, how we handle our fishery in the future I do believe right now that we are at somewhat of a turning point.

We keep hearing about restructuring, but what we do not hear a lot about and what we do not see much of is if you want to indeed do any meaningful restructuring, it will mean leadership. Right now, because it has been so fragmented over the last year, we are not seeing the level of leadership that it requires to actually put the level of restructuring in place that is required. We hear it either from harvesters, or plant workers, or from our processors. I think there is a genuine desire to make this industry work and it can mean so many benefits, just the impact that it has on labour. We need to make sure that we put this meaningful leadership in place so that we can actually, once and for all, get the fishery on the right foot and get it moving forward, like many of the people who are involved in the sector would want to see.

One of the things that has been very positive when you look at it – and this stems from what was a Liberal initiative; that being the aquaculture program and the success we are having with that. There is certainly some significant opportunity left with that and we are still seeing investment in that. I agree that is certainly a very good initiative, but we need to be careful of the biosecurity. This could be a major concern. We need to get proactive in this area. Fifty percent of all fish products consumed are from the aquaculture industry. So, you can actually see how important this is.

When I look at the fishery, I need not go back any farther than the failed MOU from last year. Unfortunately, there were not as many people at the table as were required to make the significant amount of changes that were required at the time. One of the other things as an Opposition that we have been asking for and what we are really not allowed, as we are told, because of the public access is the implementation agreement that we have had with OCI as it relates to the sale of FPI.

There are many, many questions, but this time of the year, of course, there is a major focus on lobster. We have seen in recent days some suggested changes. We are not sure yet how successful this will be. As the springtime kicks off, there is no question we have seen much of the discussion around the seal harvest. I will say I did welcome the investment of the $3.6 million into Carino. I believe these are the types of initiatives that can be used to get others involved in the seal fishery as well. We need to be a little more creative and proactive because I believe there are still many opportunities within the sealing industry where it can bring benefits. It is an early season and it is a way to get most people involved in this to get some money flowing as they begin their year.

This year we understand there are about 100,000 pelts that will be sold and that should go to market. I was speaking to some people in that industry just last week; they think they will get there. It is important that we continue to support the seal fishery because it is part of our history. It is part of our culture. We cannot just idly sit by and let this be shut down for no good, apparent reason. We have to know that we are doing this right as a Province. This is not a black eye and this is an acceptable harvest. We need to continue to support it.

Mr. Speaker, the other thing that I will talk a little bit about when I speak about the fishery is that of the demographics and the need to get younger people into this sector. Worker retention, the incomes, all of these are becoming serious challenges. When you look at the longevity of this industry, there is no question we will have to attract younger people into the fishery. Right now we are not seeing a lot of that simply because, I believe, the incomes are so low there that it is a difficult way to be able to make money. It is a dangerous environment; when you have so many opportunities within the Island or be it within Alberta somewhere, these are too attractive. Therefore, we have to find a way to make the fishery more attractive for younger people. Let us help them get into this industry so that they too can be effective players, as we still see a number of opportunities left.

Mr. Speaker, as I finish up my comments, I will finish it up on the fishery buyouts; we have not seen much of that at all. Largely the blame is put back to Ottawa, but I did notice that in the 2011 Blue Book there was a commitment from this government to press Ottawa to work with the Province and fish harvesters to identify ways and means to rationalize the harvesting sector without harming harvesters in the process. I have read those words and I see this, but I really have not seen a whole lot of action on this. This speaks to the relationship that we have had with Ottawa. There is no question that this is having an impact on many of the decisions that we are seeing within the Province right now.

Mr. Speaker, as I finish up the discussion today, there was just one other area that I will just spend a few more minutes on, and this will be about tourism and the whole idea – I know in our particular region, I look to the member opposite; we have had some discussion around snowmobiling. I want to end it off in somewhat of an active note where I believe and there are certain areas of our Province that this is an industry that really needs an investment of money. There is no question that the return from snowmobiling will be significant if we can get this industry to where we need it to be.

I am sure the minister did notice, as I did, the very favourable comments that were made by those eighty snowmobilers that came in from Ontario this year. They spoke about the service; indeed, I would mention that the minister was quite open to getting involved in that. I believe that is just one example that we could use. We have some of those industries that are just sitting there, and they are actually just looking for areas and ways – and the volunteers are in place, too, I would add, that will actually support those industries and take them to the level where they need to be. Snowmobiling, there is no question, as a winter tourism sport, is one of those opportunities for us. I say that as a snowmobiler myself; there is no question that I have noticed it in many, many occasions as we go into either – if it is in Gros Morne, or if it is anywhere in the Northern Peninsula, we would see many, many snowmobilers who come with wallets full of money looking for opportunities to spend. It is certainly a way in some of our rural areas that we can make a significant difference.

I will finish up this time; I have a couple of minutes, but I am going to finish up on something that I do not know if it has ever been discussed in this House, and that is one of the things that is happening within –

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. BALL:-- the Province and I believe has significant potential for an economic impact, and that is the formation of the Qalipu band on the West Coast. It starts in the Stephenville area; we have seen significant numbers, I know, in my area in Humber Valley, and it goes as far west as Glovertown. What is interesting about this group, they put an executive director in place and they have access to federal money. They were looking for business partners throughout the Province. I believe that this is one group – and I understand that by November this year, they will be about 40,000 strong. They are going to be a significant impact, I believe, in terms of the way the economy is in our area. They will be investors. We have seen that already where they have made investments – not into our Province yet that I am aware of, but certainly in similar types of investments in other areas. I know of investments that they have done, for instance, in hotel chains in other provinces.

This is a significant opportunity. I spoke at length about how the federal government is actually downloading many of the federal programs on to the provinces, like the health accord. This is an opportunity also to put our hands in the pockets of the federal government and I am not talking about just thousands of dollars; there are millions of dollars that are coming their way, and they want this group to be an economic driver in the areas that they live. I believe they will provide significant opportunity. I encourage government, and all of us as MHAs, to watch very closely as this group evolve. They will not only be large players when it comes to the economics of the Province, but they will also be large players when it comes to the political environment of this Province.

Mr. Speaker, as I finish up, I want to thank you for the opportunity. I want to thank the minister for the Budget of Tuesday last week. Now that the time is running down, once again, I thank the staff for the great job that was done with the Estimates and through the whole budgeting process. I am looking forward to the debate here in the House and the many more opportunities that I will have to stand and speak to the issues that have been in this Budget 2012.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Child, Youth and Family Services.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JOHNSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is a pleasure to rise here to speak to this amendment to the Budget. I am going to start off by saying I am shocked and appalled that they are putting forward such a non-confidence motion. It talks about condemning the government for failure to present a fiscally responsible program, not looking at the immediate concerns in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, not looking at serious social issues and social needs, and our failure to create a climate for sustainable economic growth within the Province.

Mr. Speaker, I can say, with all certainty, that there has not been a government in the history of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador that has not been more fiscally responsible than this government.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JOHNSON: Mr. Speaker, when you talk about sustainable economic growth within the Province, here we are, we have talked about Muskrat Falls in this House since we opened in early March. I am getting a sense from the four-and-almost-a-half hours that I just heard from the Leader of the Opposition that he is almost there. Just a little while and I think he will be standing on his feet when we do a vote on Muskrat Falls. Certainly, Dean MacDonald is out there – a man who a lot of people believe wants the job of the Leader of the Opposition. He is a supporter of Muskrat Falls.

When it comes to the social needs which exist in the Province, I cannot believe that they have put forward a motion and amendment to condemn the fact that we are not hearing the serious social needs and the issues. Mr. Speaker, this Budget is called. The children of the Province are certainly the people who have benefited greatly from this Province, particularly around the social programs. As I said, I heard the Leader of the Opposition speak for about four-and-one-half hours. I tried to listen attentively to it all, but certainly there are times when you cannot hear it all. My recollection –and I stand to be corrected, he can stand up in his place and correct me if I am wrong – I do not think I heard one mention of child care, I do not think I heard one mention of foster care, or of the Department of CYFS or anything that goes on in that department for a matter.

Mr. Speaker, as you know, there have been issues in the department and government has taken a new direction in terms of forming a new department. Something as serious and important as child care, something that is critically important for children and the development of children, but for the economy as a whole in a four-and-a-half hour speech, not to mention it, and then to condemn us for not focusing us on the social needs is really too ridiculous to talk about.

Mr. Speaker, with the hour that I have and I will plan to use the full hour – with all of the good things that we had in this year's Budget for the Department of CYFS, it is a great opportunity to speak about the priorities that we have highlighted in the Budget. An hour will not be enough to speak about all of the great things that are happening in CYFS, particularly when it comes to this Budget. I will do my best to highlight some of the key issues.

Mr. Speaker, as I said government created a new department back in 2009. This came about due to a number of reasons. Unfortunately and sadly back in 2003, we had the tragic murder of Zachary Turner, and our condolences go out to their family. Then in 2008, we had a Clinical Services Review completed by Susan Abell who is an expert in the field. Our current Premier who was on the Turner review committee at the time and our current Minister of Advanced Education and Skills were key drivers in the formation of this new department. They had the vision and the foresight to see that a line department was absolutely needed so that staff could report to an executive and get the attention that was needed.

There were a lot of systemic issues in the previous system before coming into the department. We had an unstable workforce, there was high turnover in the department, and we had real difficulty in recruiting social workers. Mr. Speaker, no doubt, the work that is done in the Department of CYFS is some of the most difficult; it really, really plays at the heartstrings. Some of the cases that I have read leaves you sleepless at night. Just when you think you have seen it all, you have not seen it all until you read the case the next day. I know the social workers have training as to how to deal with this, and no doubt it is very difficult work. The social workers were also having their time consumed by non-social work duties. Social workers might have been doing clerical activities, things that social worker assistants could be doing, so they were not really focusing on the core mandate.

Other issues in the previous system, we had a poor computerized data system, IT system, and reporting system. From what I heard from staff, and certainly the previous minister, the Minister of AES went around to all fifty-two offices, and it was heard loud and clear that the system for reporting was cumbersome at best. When the system was working, it was very difficult to work with.

One of the other things we heard loud and clear was that there was insufficient access to supervisors. You had social workers who were making decisions and working with other social workers, but having that extra access and ease of access to supervisors was certainly needed. We saw that there is certainly a need for greater training and professional development.

Mr. Speaker, back in 2006, at that time government invested $24 million. That $24 million went towards creating 200 new positions. What we saw from that was that the issues still remained. Following that, Susan Abel did her report. As a result, we call her report the Bible. It has ten areas where the department really needed to focus, creating the department being the first one. We call that our Ten Commandments. This is just a little bit of history as to the systemic issues that were in the system.

When you look at forming a department, supporting your staff, and so on, there are performance factors that are well-known in business. Certainly, we applied that model here as well. When creating a department and getting back to your core mandate, we needed to ensure that the social workers had the skills that were required. Creating the training unit, which we did in 2011 in Stephenville, goes a long way to help with the training.

The supervisory ratios we heard were certainly an issue. Creating a new organizational structure so that there would be more access for supervisors was needed. Having clinical support from our headquarters, it was very disjointed before and there was not a lot of support looked upon from headquarters.

One of the other performance factors is that our social workers need the tools, not only our social workers, but all of the people who work in the system, the behavioural management specialists, the social worker assistants, and so on. They need to have the tools to do their job properly. We needed to revise our program and policy manuals. We needed to create more supports in terms of clerical and social worker assistants so that the social workers could do the job that was asked of them to do. We needed to create better guidelines around documentation. Certainly, we heard that with the AG report in January of last year, and create a whole new file structure and an IT case management system. So, these are the tools that social workers and others in the field needed to do their job.

Another important factor for performance is having setting clear expectations. This is simple things like having a regular meeting process, having performance indicators and tracking those performance indicators to see if we are doing what it is that we had set out to do. We had to micromanage some cases and some issues, and we have had many, many targeted improvement projects.

Another performance factor is having a supportive structure, Mr. Speaker. This comes back to, again, what the previous minister heard and what I have heard from time and time, and that is around the caseload ratios. Social workers said that their caseload ratios were too high, they were not manageable. Having another supportive structure is having regional consistency. One of the things that we found in the regional health authorities is Western was doing something different than Central, than St. John's metro, and than Labrador; so having regional consistency so that a foster family gets paid the same in Central as they do in Labrador, and those types of things.

The other part of a supportive structure is having a client-focused system as opposed to a silo-based system. One of the things in the department that was evident is that people were really working in silos. As a result, social workers were often bumping into each other when dealing with clients. One may be leaving a house or a child care centre, and another one coming. So, really having a client-focused system where one social worker would deal with all aspects of the family, and having that cross-training for social workers is certainly important when it comes to having good performance.

Accountability systems, is another thing, and having a strategic approach rather than a reactive crisis-driven approach. Really, that is how it has been, it is very crisis driven. When a child comes into care, if there are no foster families available, put them in an ALA. It is not the best thing for a child. It was very reactionary and not strategic.

So, having outlined some of the problems, I would like to now continue on to outline what it was that we did about those issues. Certainly first and foremost was the creation of the department back in 2003; this was a focus solely on children, youth, and their families. That is one of the things that Susan Abell said in her report, that there was not enough focus on the child. Again, having that line department, that executive to report to, certainly went a long way.

Having improved supports for social workers – as I said in the beginning, social workers were doing non-social work duties; when it came to supervised access or helping a foster family go out and purchase items for a child that is needed, those are things that could really be done by a social worker assistant. In terms of the clerical and processing and filing, a lot of things could be done by clerical supports.

We really improved the supports for social workers. We adopted a new organizational model where there would be a team base. There would be one social worker to twenty cases; this is on average on a provincial basis, because, Mr. Speaker, I have seen some social workers that have had four or five cases and they certainly take up all their time, probably just as much time as a social worker who has thirty cases on the go. As I said, some of them leave you with nightmares. So having that caseload on average of one social worker to twenty cases was something that we implemented. We did say we would get there over a three-to-five-year period, and I will speak to the Budget commitments that we made to that over the past two years and again this year.

Around the organizational structure, to respond to what we heard in terms of access to supervisors, now on that team-based model there will be one supervisor to six social workers. I just attended some sessions during Social Work Month, and the one thing that I heard most from the social workers is that it is wonderful; they even used the word magical. It is because they have that access to supervisors, and that was certainly something that we heard loud and clear. Then within that team approach of one social worker to twenty cases and one supervisor to six social workers, we are also attaching one clerical and one social worker assistant to that team-based approach.

One of the other things that we are in the process of implementing is the new IT system. As I said, it was very cumbersome; we did commit over $15 million to doing this and that is certainly well underway. We increased the delegation of authority. Previously there were five managers, regional managers; we now have thirteen zone managers, so this goes back to having access, again, to more managers and supervisors, and more people being responsible for the children that come into our care. Within those thirteen zone managers, we have two for Labrador; we have one for the Innu zone and one for the Inuit zone. In Labrador there are different issues, different cultural issues and so on, so we really needed to put a different lens on Labrador. That is why we have the Innu zone manager and the Inuit zone manager.

We also have a working group and a service delivery group for Labrador, and we have also hired an Aboriginal program consultant so that cultural lens can be added with everything we do. We just transitioned Labrador the end of March, so we are still going through the processes there, but that is the way we are going to move forward. Certainly, as I said, focus on our core mandate, and we have realigned the region so that they make more sense when it comes to Metro and Labrador.

We have really put a focused attention on quality and training. In Susan Abell's report, this is something that was highlighted as a key proponent to any system that you would have in a child system. With training that was announced, as I said, in Stephenville. Now our social workers are required to have 224 hours of training, and our managers are required to have 266 hours of training. All of this is being worked on, a lot of the training sessions have taken place already; there is more to come and it is ongoing. We announced in Grand Falls-Windsor, as well, the quality assurance division; this is an independent office that will do audits of the files. That was one of the things highlighted in Susan Abell's report.

We completed the transition of 700 employees at the end of March this year. All of this work was being done: the transition, putting in the policy, proclaiming the act, and developing the guidelines and so on around documentation. All of this was going on at the same time as we were managing a very high-risk area; you still had to deal with the cases that came in every single day.

Just to speak to previous Budgets, in the last two years since the department was formed we have spent approximately $33 million in 2010-2011 and 2011-2012. Mr. Speaker, then in the Budget again this year, which I will go into detail about those shortly, we spent $8.8 million. That is a total investment of $42 million over the last three years. It certainly speaks loud and clear to where our commitment is for children in this Province. It certainly speaks to the commitment of the Premier.

If there is anybody who gets this, it is absolutely this Premier. As I said, she sat on Turner, as did the previous Minister Responsible for the Status of Women. So the issues around child care and so on, it makes it a little bit easier when you go up looking for funding for Budgets when the Premier absolutely buys into how important this is. She continuously says it is so critically important that we get this right for the children of our Province.

In the last two Budgets, we did announce $23.7 million in 2010-2011. That was to create thirty-five more positions in the department. This would certainly go a long way in terms of helping with the caseloads for social workers. We also in that year provided a salary increase for the Foster Families Association. There was money there to support residential services. This cost has certainly been increasing over the years.

Then in 2011-2012, we announced $9.2 million in the Budget and again another forty-six-and-a-half positions were added at that time. There were also salary increases in there for the open custody group homes and agencies. There was $2.2 million for program growth. One of the things we are seeing is there are more children coming into our care, and the cost of caring for the children we do have is on the rise. There was also funding there for the regulated Family Child Care Initiative that we announced in last year's Budget. That was a two-year, $3.2 million project. I have to say so far, to date, it has been very successful. We have had thirty-two new regulated family child care homes opened and 156 spaces just under that initiative. We currently have forty-seven more at various stages of the process. If all goes well with all of those forty-seven, there will be another 282 spaces created in family child care homes. This is without any advertising. We did launch our promotional campaign Monday past, so we certainly hope to see even more uptake on that.

Sometimes people question: Are they really new spaces? Were they just homes that were there before? That is something we are going to track in the future. The importance of having regulated family child care is that we know what is happening in the home. We have social workers who work with the family child care provider on a monthly basis. With regulated family child care, you can take more children into your home. You can access our inclusion program where, if there is extra staffing requirements needed for a child who has a disability or needs some extra attention, then if you are a family regulated child care home you can avail of that. You can also avail of our subsidy program if you are regulated family child care provider. We have one of the top three subsidy programs in the country, Mr. Speaker.

There are great benefits to be regulated in terms of occupational health and safety, the Canada Food Guide, and the activities around the play-based learning – all of that is there. So, we certainly encourage people – and of course, there are start-up grants. So, $5,000 if you are a home that takes in all children of all ages, up to age twelve, or $7,500 if you take in infant only. With the infant-only homes we also provide a $200 a month subsidy per child to help offset the cost. It is certainly more expensive to care for infants when you need a crib and a highchair and those types of things. So, that has been very successful, and that was in last year's Budget.

Now, Mr. Speaker, to get to this year's Budget, this was a really exciting year for us in the Department of CYFS. When we briefed our stakeholders, who we work in great partnership with – I have to say we have wonderful stakeholders that we work with in the department, from the Foster Families Association to the AECENL, to the private operators, Family and Child Care Connections, and the list goes on and on. We have some really great people who we value all the work that they do. When we briefed them, they were just over the moon with what they heard in this year's Budget. In fact, they saw the Premier after the Budget announcement and one lady with AECENL, she pulled a list out of her purse – and this was around the child care piece – she said: I had completed my list last night to come in here and say what things you missed in the Budget. It was a full-page list, and she pulled it out and she said: I have to say, Premier, every single thing that was on my list – and we have been working on this list now for the past thirty years – everything that was on my list, your government listened, not only did you listen, but you addressed them all. So, certainly that was really good to hear that working with partners obviously does pay off.

To get to some of the major, significant pieces in our Budget this year, we are currently now at a Budget of over $200 million – $200.5 million, to be exact; and as I said, that has increased by $41.8 million over the last three years. So, to highlight some of the things in this year's Budget – and I will save the two big strategies for last, because those are the ones that I am most excited about and really pleased to be a part of this department and to work with our partners to unveil these strategies - one of the big things in the Budget was $2.4 million to create twenty-nine new positions, and this goes to creating our organizational model. This goes to rounding out that one-to-twenty ratio, one-to-six ratio, and having the clerical and social worker assistant. The majority of these twenty-nine positions are social workers and supervisors, but certainly they are all front line positions and it will all go to help ease the burden in terms of case management and working with the most vulnerable children in our Province.

There was also $3 million in this year's Budget for program growth. One of the things that we have seen over the years is that certainly, the cost of providing the services to these children has increased, whether it is in the form of courses that are required or just general increases in rates and so on. The other piece of the coin is that there are more children coming into our care. We currently have about 7,200 children on our caseload; that is children that we work with either in the home or they are in our care. The vast majority, 90 per cent of the 7,200, are still in the home with the parents, and that is certainly our focus in the department. We want all children to be with their parents. Unfortunately there are difficult but necessary times when the children have to be removed. If they are either at risk of maltreatment, whether it be obvious or predicted, then it is very difficult but it is very necessary that we do remove the children.

As I said, 90 per cent we work with in the home, whether that be a parenting course, a drug and addictions course, or what have you, but we are seeing a rise in the number of children coming into our care. We currently have 835 children in our care right now, whether it be temporary or continuous custody. We have 400 children in child welfare allowance homes; when I get to speak to our foster families strategy, our Continuum of Care strategy, you will see that the child welfare allowance homes – there is a new word for it, kinship, under the new strategy.

We are seeing more children come into our care. I have been asked many times why this is, and I guess there is no one real answer for it, but we did introduce a new child care and youth protection act and I think with that act and with some changes in it around the duty to report, there is more awareness now out there in terms of people's responsibilities to report what they see might or could potentially be happening or is actually happening.

That is one piece of why there may be more children coming into our care. The increase in drug and alcohol abuse could be a component of that as well. Whatever the case may be, Mr. Speaker, it is far better to have the children in our care than in a situation where they could be seriously harmed, whether it be physically, emotionally, and so on. Therefore, we needed an additional $3 million, and we looked at the historical increases in costs and predicted what we would need for the future.

One of the other key components to our Budget this year is a budget of $475,000, and this is to compensate seventy social work students per year. Previously, the social work students were doing work term placements with us and they were not compensated for what they did. We have now changed that, and as I said, being the difficult nature of the work that we do, particularly in this department and the field of social work, it is not always easy to attract and retain staff. We really believe by getting them in the door when they are students and making them feel part of government and seeing how wonderful it is to work for government and to provide a public service, especially when it comes to helping the most vulnerable in society – in our case, children and youth; four hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars to do with that. I talked to several social work students since this time; many have e-mailed me. This was really welcome news and they cannot wait to get in on the action and wondering when we are hiring.

We also had in this year's Budget $600,000 annually to provide the 25 per cent hour increase in the wages. This is to provide increases to home support workers within our department. These are workers who do respite or behavioural aid and so on, so $600,000 for that. I already spoke to the regulated Family Child Care Initiative, but again, there was another $2 million in this year's Budget for that.

For Labrador – we did provide $560,000 for housing in Labrador. That is to purchase staff housing in the coastal communities of Hopedale and Nain. One of the things that we see in Labrador is it is sometimes more difficult to recruit there because of the housing issue. We just took over from Labrador-Grenfell seven homes currently and two more. Vacancies used to be a major issue in this department in previous years, but I was really pleased and surprised when I saw the latest numbers, that in Labrador we only have two vacancies in all of Labrador right now for our social workers. This, hopefully, will fill that gap. Not only in Labrador, but I was really pleased and surprised to see that we only have fourteen vacancies overall for social workers in the Province. People do want to work in the field of child, youth and family services and we have come a long way in terms of recruiting and retaining the people when they are there. I really believe the case management piece and lowering those caseloads goes a long way into the retention of staff.

Now, to get to the two major strategies in this year's Budget. One that I was really, really pleased about, and I know the Premier, her heart and her head were in the right place on this one. I have to say, all of my colleagues in government, in Cabinet, and in caucus really get the child care piece. It is so critically important for children and the development of children. That has to be our first and foremost focus, is for the children.

Having said that, Mr. Speaker, look at our labour market. We are going to have, is it 70,000 jobs come up in the next five years? I am looking at the Minister of Advanced Education, she is nodding her head. When it comes to recruiting staff, one of the barriers that employers always tell us is that child care is one of the key impediments to finding workers. I particularly heard this even more so when I did consultations throughout the Province and within Labrador. It was shocking to see in Labrador that there is a lot of unregulated child care. This is one area where we really know we can increase our numbers both in family regulated child care and there is work going on there with child care centres, but a lot of unregulated child care. People are paying $100 a day for child care in Labrador. It really, really shocked me, and certainly a huge reliance on grandparents. What I heard from the people in the room is we want our grandparents to be grandparents, which means dropping them off from time to time, not relying on them five days, six days a week, eight to ten hours a day.

Labrador was really surprising. I spoke to Wabush Mines, IOC, the president there, and anything they can do to work with us to create more child care spaces they are there, they are committed. They have already done that actually at the JRS school. Some of the businesses really stepped up to the plate there to put funds into creating that child care centre. Certainly, all of our colleagues get it; people around the Province get it. It is really important for children. It is really important for the labour market, for employers, but for the economy as a whole.

In any of the studies that you read on child care and the early learning years, it is obvious that it pays off dividends in the long run. When it comes to even health care, people are healthier if they have child care at a younger age. The economy, you have more skilled people. Women can actually go to work now, and I will put on my Status of Women hat for a moment, because while this is an impediment for families, it is certainly more so an impediment for women. They are usually the ones that if somebody has to stay home, it is usually the woman who stays home. Now allowing more women to get into the workplace, or return to school so that they can be trained to go to the workplace, certainly pays off huge dividends in the long run when it comes to our economy.

Some of the key highlights of our ten-year strategy, and the actual strategy document will be released very soon, I suspect around June. There are lots of activities coming up around ECE Week and so on, so it would be at some point in the future. Some of the key highlights of the strategy is that we really tried to focus on sufficiency, affordability, and quality. Previously, we have invested tremendously into child care; but having said that, it has been sort of in a piecemeal manner. Certainly, dividends have paid off and we have seen increases, but we really needed to take a comprehensive, strategic approach, because really all three, sufficiency, quality, and affordability, they are all interlinked. If you do not have ECEs that are qualified, then you do not have spaces. There are child care centres that are licensed for sixty spaces, but because they cannot get the staff, they can only operate with thirty-six or thirty-eight spaces. Having the staff is important to have the spaces, and the affordability is important as well.

Around the sufficiency piece and creating spaces, our goal over the ten-year strategy is to create 70 per cent increase in spaces. Right now, there are 6,760 regulated child care spaces, or that is the numbers that I have as of September; 6,760 regulated child care spaces. At the end of the strategy we hope to have over 11,500. That is an additional increase of over 4,830 spaces in ten years. It is no small task but there is a lot of work that is required, and working with our community partners – the partners that I spoke about earlier, AECENL, Family Child Care Connections, and so on – and working with municipalities, and working with schools. The Minister of Education and I have had many a discussion on this, really putting child care spaces into the schools. If it can be done and the space is there, it is absolutely an ideal situation.

So we hope to increase spaces by 70 per cent, work with our partners, and really do a complete functional review of our legislation. One of the things I heard in the consultations in November was that there are some things in our legislation now that really are barriers or red tape to creating more spaces. We are already doing that review right now. Changing some little things here and there in the legislation will go towards helping create more spaces as well.

Around the quality, Mr. Speaker, this is a huge issue. When I went around the Province in November this came up. If there is any one thing you could do if you are not going to release your ten-year Child Care Strategy, at least do something around quality and training for the ECEs. I am pleased to say we did not stop there. We announced it on all three components.

Eighty percent of child care centres in the Province now report difficulty of finding ECEs with the educational requirements that are needed. In our legislation, we require that you have to have a Level 1 recognition to work with children in the room. Out of 935 people in our Province who are currently working with children, only 55 per cent have the requirements that are needed. So, we have to give out a lot of exemptions. Forty-seven percent of the centres do meet the requirements.

One of the things I heard was around the training piece. As I said, a Level 1 is required in the room, but right now with the program that is offered at the colleges and the private institutions, there is not really a clear exit for a Level 1 certification. Thirty-three courses are required at the college and you can get your Level 1 after twenty-one of those thirty-three courses. Some of those might be in year two, so it is going to take you two years anyway to get a Level 1.

One of the things that was suggested is to have an apprentice-like program. While we are not calling it an apprentice-like program, we are calling it workplace training where you can get credit for the work you have done in the workplace, but also have a classroom component as well. This is one of the key components and there is much relief from child care centres around this announcement.

Also, they talked about people who had other education who could qualify with some testing and so on. Having a recognition for prior learning, whether you are a nurse, a teacher, or whatever the case may be, giving recognition for that prior learning, perhaps completing a test, and maybe a little bit of classroom – the finer details are not worked out on that one, but that is certainly something that will go a long way in getting more people the requirements that are needed to get the Level 1.

Then, the main thing that we are announcing around the training for this coming September is that we have completely revamped the standards for the Level 1 component and that is worked with the Department of AES and then it would be up to the colleges and the private institutions to adopt that. We have no reason to believe that they will not and, in fact, we are very confident that this will be in place for September. There will be a one-year Level 1 program.

This will really work towards getting that 45 per cent that – sorry, I am just looking up at the clock there, Mr. Speaker. I was looking at the clock that said I had twenty-one minutes left; I was not looking at the clock that says 5:25 p.m. I will just clue up the piece on the quality and say that that Level 1 component will be there in September. I will now propose that we adjourn debate, and that is seconded by our House Leader. On that note, I will pick up where I left off tomorrow hopefully.

MR. SPEAKER (Wiseman): It has been moved and seconded that debate now be adjourned.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.


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

The motion is passed.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This afternoon, the Social Services Committee will review the Estimates of the Department of Health and Community Services commencing at 6:00 p.m. in the House.

Tomorrow, May 1, the Government Services Committee will meet in the House at 9:00 a.m. to review the Estimates of the Department of Finance and Treasury Board.

Also, Mr. Speaker, tomorrow afternoon, the Social Services Committee will meet in the House at 6:00 o'clock to review the Estimates of the Department of Justice and the Attorney General.

Mr. Speaker, I note it is now 5:26 p.m. and I do move, seconded by the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills, that we adjourn for the day.

MR. SPEAKER: It has been moved and seconded that this House now stand adjourned.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.


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

Motion carried.

This being Monday, the House now stands adjourned until tomorrow at 1:30 p.m.

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