May 7, 2012                        HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS                    Vol. XLVII No. 27

The House met at 1:30 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Wiseman): Order, please!

Admit strangers.

Today I would like to welcome to the Speaker's gallery, the Chief of Police of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, Mr. Robert Johnston, accompanied by his wife, Gloria.

Welcome, Chief.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: In our public galleries today we are joined by twenty-one members of the Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps #67 from Windsor. The cadets are from the District of Grand Falls-Windsor –Buchans and Grand Falls-Windsor – Green Bay South, and are accompanied by their Commanding Officer, LT(N) Mark Whiffen and Officer, LT(N) Jenelle Carter.

Welcome to our gallery.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Statements by Members

MR. SPEAKER: Today we are going to have members' statements from the Member for the District of Humber West; the Member for the District of Grand Falls-Windsor – Green Bay South; the Member for the District of Bay of Islands; the Member for the District of Burgeo – La Poile; the Member for the District of Mount Pearl North; and the Member for the District of St. John's North.

The hon. the Member for Humber West.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. GRANTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Today, I stand to pay respect to an individual that left his mark on the lives of many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

Dr. Thomas Christopher (T.C) Farrell passed away on April 14 at the age of eighty-seven. T.C. came to Newfoundland in 1950 after studying medicine in Dublin, Ireland. When his plane landed in a raging snow storm, he was wearing only a light rain coat and worn-out shoes.

Tom had not planned on staying, but there was a dire need for doctors at that time. He travelled the coastline from Bay St. George to Corner Brook providing for the sick. T.C. eventually married and Newfoundland became his home away from home.

His medical practice was extensive and he was loved by his patients. He was always there for them in their time of need.

Dr. Farrell represented the District of Humber East from 1971 to 1979. During those years he held many portfolios and served as President of the Executive Council and as Deputy Premier.

Dr. Farrell was a great story and joke teller. He was an avid fisherman who loved to spend time at the family's property in the Codroy Valley.

I ask all members of this hon. House to join me in extending deepest sympathy to his wife Margaret, his children, and extended family.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Grand Falls-Windsor – Green Bay South.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HUNTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, hon. colleagues, I rise in this hon. House today to congratulate Si Thompson for winning Citizen of the Year for Grand Falls-Windsor. In our town, when you hear volunteerism, Si Thompson is the name that comes to mind. Even though there were twelve fantastic people nominated, Si deserves top recognition for his hard work. He has been a friend of mine for forty-two years.

Si is retired from the Royal Newfoundland Regiment as an officer. He is the founding member of Exploits Ground Search and Rescue and he served as President of Environment and Resources Management. He is an executive member of Ducks Unlimited.

Si was involved in the first-ever Relay for Life and donates his time to the Status of Women Central as well as volunteering with the Red Cross, which of course takes in 9-11.

I ask my hon. colleagues to join with me in congratulating Si Thompson as Citizen of the Year for Grand Falls-Windsor.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. JOYCE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to recognize one of the newest members of the Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Hall of Fame.

Former powerlifting champion, Joy Burt, of Gillams in the Bay of Islands, was inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame at the gala held in St. John's on April 14. Joy was a word champion on the powerlifting stage from 1986 to 1992 when she represented Canada at the World Powerlifting Championship. She won silver medals in 1986, 1988, 1989, and gold in 1987 and 1992. At the 1992 championships, she was named the Champion of Champions, which is a designation indicating the strongest competitor pound for pound in the competition.

Joy was also an elite soccer player and won numerous awards over the years including three-time winner of the provincial Elizabeth Swan Senior Female Athlete of the Year and four-time winner of the Corner Brook Female Athlete of the Year. Joy is also the first female inducted in Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Hall of Fame.

Joy is currently the Mayor of Gillams and a Grade 5 teacher at Templeton Academy in Meadows.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members to join me in congratulating Joy Burt on her tremendous accomplishments over the years and her contribution to sports in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to pay tribute to an accomplished, dedicated, and devoted individual, a spouse, mother, doctor, teacher, mentor, and friend to all who had the honour of knowing her.

Dr. Meridith Marks passed away on April 22, 2012, after a courageous battle with cancer. Dr. Marks was born in Channel-Port aux Basques and raised at the Cape Ray lighthouse.

She completed her medical studies at Memorial University of Newfoundland and residency at the University of Ottawa, where she later became a professor in the Faculty of Medicine and assistant dean of the faculty's Academy for Innovation in Medical Education.

A specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation, Dr. Marks brought her skills and calming touch to clinical practice at the Rehabilitation Centre in Ottawa with a focus on amputee rehabilitation and a steadfast commitment to excellence in medical education. Dr. Marks was honoured by multiple clinical care and teaching awards that noted her local and national contributions. She leaves to mourn her partner, Peter Bruneau, and a large circle of family, friends, and colleagues.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all hon. members to join with me in paying tribute to the late Dr. Meridith Marks.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to congratulate a resident of Paradise and a great friend of mine, Damian Follett, on his recent success in the music industry.

In March of this year, Damian's song, Long As You're A Good Man, made the independent Christian charts, and remained there for approximately six months. It peaked at number thirteen. Overseas, this song also made the independent European country charts and stayed there for approximately three months, peaking in the top twenty. Damian's second release, Summertime, made it to number fifty-nine in the independent country charts as well. Another release, One Of These Days, peaked in the top ten.

Damian has been writing songs and performing for several decades. He is well known locally and is another example of the amazing talent we have here in Newfoundland and Labrador. I have been enjoying his music for many years.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this House to join me in congratulating Damian Follett on his significant achievements in the music industry and we wish him continued success in the future.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. KIRBY: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to the tireless volunteers of an organization that has been serving the people of my district since 1985. The West Heights neighbourhood association was started in 1985 by Joe Wells.

Now, thirty-seven years later, the association is thriving with a volunteer board led by Lisa Stoyles and Gail Chaulk. The City of St. John's named Lisa their volunteer of the year three years ago, but she is very modest about her work. Like many noteworthy volunteers, she insists that she does the work not for recognition but to make a difference in her community.

The West Heights neighbourhood association is very active, and celebrates most of the usual calendar events. It also sponsors a neighbourhood cleanup day, a garden party and family barbecue, and right now they are delivering an Arts in the Community program in conjunction with Vibrant Communities.

Mr. Speaker, we know the huge importance that a solid sense of community makes, especially to young people in this sometimes challenging world.

I ask all hon. members of the House to join me in thanking these outstanding volunteers, Lisa and Gail, whose work makes such a difference to so many people in their neighbourhood.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Statements by Ministers.

Statements by Ministers

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to acknowledge National Nursing Week. In recognition of the dedication and achievements of the nursing profession, the second week of May has been celebrated as National Nursing Week since 1985.

The theme of National Nursing Week 2012 is Nursing – The Health of Our Nation. It reflects the positive impacts nurses make to the lives and well-being of the public.

Mr. Speaker, registered nurses and licensed practical nurses represent over 40 per cent of our health care workforce. In fact, we have more nurses working in our Province than we have ever had, including 6,307 registered nurses and 2,685 licensed practical nurses. They guide decisions related to patient care and health care delivery each day. Whether they are interacting directly with patients or working to advance education, research or policy, nurses play a vital role in our Province's health care system.

Mr. Speaker, our government will continue to support efforts to enhance the quality of the workplace and the quality of work life for nurses and all of our health care professionals. On April 23 and 24, the Department of Health and Community Services hosted the 2012 Nursing Leadership Conference. This was a very successful conference attended by over 300 nurses from across the Province. The conference focused on quality work environments.

In the interest of further improving the quality of the workplace for nurses and licensed practical nurses in the Province, we are in the process of implementing an Injury Prevention Pilot Program for Long-Term Care. This program will be piloted at ten sites across the Province with a goal of reducing injury rates for nurses.

We are also committed to continuing to address the recruitment and retention needs of the workforce. I am pleased to say that there are now thirteen nurse-specific recruitment initiatives in place, made possible through an investment of more than $2.5 million annually.

Mr. Speaker, nurses make invaluable contributions with their skills, expertise, and commitment to quality care. On behalf of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, I want to thank all nurses in the Province for their continued leadership, and extend best wishes to them for National Nursing Week.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Official Opposition.

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to thank the minister for the advance copy of the statement. It is certainly a privilege to be able to stand here and recognize this week as National Nursing Week. The theme, Nursing – The Health of our Nation, this indeed does reflect on the positive impact that nurses and their profession make upon the health care system, not only in our Province but across the country.

Whether it is the 6,307 registered nurses or the 2,685 licensed practical nurses, they play a valuable role, especially in what we have been saying and we have been hearing. They will play an even larger role when we get to the chronic disease management strategy, certainly in the wait time reduction. I believe there is an area there where we can utilize nurse practitioners even more.

We are very happy to see that there is a pilot Injury Prevention Program put in place. This is certainly well needed right now. As we know, this profession is one where we see large injury rates. We are pleased with this initiative.

Whether it is a nurse who is working in construction, working offshore, or working in one of our institutions, we are certainly pleased today to be able to support and recognize National Nursing Week. Not only National Nursing Week, but we want to say thanks to all the nurses for the work they do on a day-to-day basis.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Third Party.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I, too, thank the minister for the advance copy of her statement. I am very pleased to stand here today with the minister and with the Official Opposition Leader to celebrate the dedication and tremendous work of our nurses. They are an essential part of our health care system.

I am very pleased to see the introduction of an Injury Prevention Program for nurses and, I presume, others who work in long-term care. I also encourage the government, Mr. Speaker, to look at proposals from the registered nurses' association, which they are publicly promoting regarding the positive contributions nurse practitioners can make to quality health care in the Province.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, I rise today in this House of Assembly to congratulate Chief Robert Johnston of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary on his appointment as Officer of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces. Chief Johnston is just the second Newfoundlander and Labradorian working as a police officer in this Province to receive this prestigious honour at the officer's level. Assistant Commissioner Larry Warren, retired, of the RCMP and brother of the Premier was the first. Chief, you are in good company.

The Order of Merit of the Police Forces was created in 2000 to recognize conspicuous merit and exceptional service by members and employees of the Canadian police forces whose contributions extend beyond protection of the community. There are three levels of membership which reflect long-term, outstanding service: Commander, Officer, and Member.

Mr. Speaker, Chief Johnston joined the RNC in 1979 and was assigned to uniform patrol in St. John's but soon found his niche in the Criminal Investigations Division. Throughout the years, he progressed through the ranks of the RNC and, in 2010, became the twentieth Chief of Police. During his career, Chief Johnston has shown outstanding leadership resulting in a number of achievements. Mr. Speaker, he leads by example and is looked up to by all those within the ranks of the RNC. His dedication to service and integrity makes him an excellent choice to be included for this honour.

In addition to Chief Johnston's appointment, Inspector Sean Ryan of the RNC and Inspector Patrick Cahill of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police will also be inducted as members of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces. They now join five other current members in Newfoundland and Labrador who have achieved this great honour.

Mr. Speaker, the provincial government continues to support both the RCMP and the RNC in Newfoundland and Labrador. Since 2004, policing budgets have increased by over $52 million and there are an additional 145 uniformed police officers on the street. Budget 2012: People and Prosperity provided funding for an RNC officer for the Child Exploitation Unit and $4.1 million towards the new RCMP contract.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all hon. colleagues to join me in congratulating Chief Robert Johnston, Inspector Patrick Cahill, and Inspector Sean Ryan on their appointments to the Order of Merit of the Police Forces. They will receive their orders at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 9.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I would like to thank the minister for an advance copy of his statement. Our heartfelt congratulations go to Chief Robert Johnston, Inspector Sean Ryan, and Inspector Patrick Cahill. It is certainly great to have the chief here with us today in our presence. We already knew that members of our provincial police forces were equal to any in the country. It is certainly nice to see the country recognize that.

When you ask a small child what they want to be when they grow up, police and firefighters often top the list. They often top the list because even small children understand and respect these professions. Police officers are held up to a higher standard than almost any other profession. Their power to arrest and detain means they have to exercise a level of responsibility that few others ever have to exercise, and it takes a special person to do that job.

The recognition of Chief Johnston, Inspector Ryan, and Inspector Patrick Cahill shows the world that the RNC and RCMP are professional, competent, and extraordinary forces. These individual members could not reach this level of achievement if their values and standards were not shared by their fellow officers. This recognition reflects well on all the law enforcement police officers in this Province. So again, congratulations.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MS ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Congratulations to Chief Johnston, as well as Inspectors Ryan and Cahill, on the awarding of these honours. They reflect well on them and the Province's police services in general. Thank you for your dedication – bravo.

Government has supported the police services of this Province, and I hope they will step up and provide these hard-working men and women with the resources they will need to deal with some of the new problems that we may see that come with our newfound prosperity in the Province.

Again, thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Oral Questions.

Oral Questions

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

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, recordings related to the Burton Winters tragedy indicate that a call for assistance left Makkovik on Sunday night, and the coordination centre in Makkovik was told to call back the next day for support.

So I ask the Premier: Has the internal investigation into the Burton Winters tragedy confirmed this call, and why did it not reach Fire and Emergency Services until Monday morning?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. O'BRIEN: Mr. Speaker, it is a terrible tragedy, in regard to what happened in Makkovik back on that particular date, but I have to re-establish the facts here in this House, as I have established them before. The RCMP have also confirmed, in regard to a press release and a press conference today, that no call was made to Fire and Emergency Services until Monday morning – I think it was January 29, whatever it was – and Fire and Emergency staff also have confirmed that, in regard to their own internal log; also, that can be confirmed by the facts and the log of Aliant itself, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The recordings also reveal that the provincial Fire and Emergency Services were not aware of a specialized resource known as the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association, CASARA, which was available to them for the search for Burton Winters.

I ask the Premier: Why wouldn't Fire and Emergency Services personnel in the Province be aware of all the resources available to them for their search?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. O'BRIEN: Mr. Speaker, as I stated in this House some time ago, the lead agency when it comes to ground search and rescue in this Province and elsewhere in Canada is the policing agency that has jurisdiction in that particular region. That policing agency has the sole responsibility of engaging any resources that they might need in regard to supporting them in a ground search and rescue operation. CASARA is one of those and that would be the lead; they would take the lead in regard to engaging those as spotters.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Official Opposition.

MR. BALL: There seems to be certainly a lack of communication in terms of resources. Mr. Speaker, the role of the provincial search and rescue in the Burton Winters tragedy has been questioned by the Opposition and others on several occasions. The minister has repeatedly stated that proper protocol was followed and that the FES did everything it should have done.

Given the latest information, will you now table the internal investigation to the House of Assembly?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. O'BRIEN: Mr. Speaker, as stated by the Premier in previous questions, we have no problem with regard to tabling any of the documentation that we have within Fire and Emergency Services and any of the correspondence that we have had with the minister in question, Minister MacKay. I am waiting for one more response with regards to a letter I wrote about a week or so ago and once that is in, I will be ever so happy to table any of my documentation in this House, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Official Opposition.

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The latest recordings released by DND cast even more doubt on the Province's role in the search for young Burton Winters. The recordings clearly indicate that a call for assistance left Makkovik on Sunday night, the same evening that Burton went missing. We understand that it was the RCMP; there is a coordination and a communication problem here.

Given the latest information and the need to revisit existing protocols, will you now initiate a public inquiry into the Burton Winters tragedy?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the government has been consistent in its iteration of the facts regarding the Burton Winters tragedy since the very first day. There is no new news that has come to light in the last twenty-four to forty-eight hours, Mr. Speaker. As the minister has said, the police in charge of that jurisdiction are the lead in search and rescue activities. They go to the resources available to them – and FES-NL is one of those resources – to request support. FES-NL received the first request for support on the Monday morning, approximately 8:30. That has been confirmed by the minister, by FES-NL's own logs, by the RCMP and by Aliant, Mr. Speaker. There is no new news here.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We are asking for the public inquiry because what happens, there seems to be a clear breakdown in communication. The RCMP did not notify until the next morning, we lost the services that night. It is clear now that resources of CASARA were not notified, and they were available to help in that search. We believe at least that a public inquiry into this matter would identify all those problems. The family, the people of Labrador, obviously, and for the people of the Province would know that in future what resources exist.

My next question is, Mr. Speaker, people are reeling from the recent blow to the economy on the Burin Peninsula. They have seen the Marystown plant close, last week the Burin plant, and the future of others are in doubt as well.

I ask the Premier: What have you done at this point to address the serious situation developing on the Burin Peninsula and to give the people of that region some hope for the future?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Indeed, the member phrases it very accurately that we have been dealt a very damaging blow on the Burin Peninsula as we have in other parts of the Province. As I articulated here in the House last week, we will be announcing a Cabinet committee in the coming days that will step up not only for the Burin Peninsula but for all plants.

Mr. Speaker, we need to understand that the changing demographics in the industry is what is causing the problems and it is going to give us more challenges to deal with. Just to give you a quick example, in 1989 we had 16,600 harvesters in this Province, today we have 10,000; we had 214 fish plants, today we have 100; we had 21,000 plant workers, today we have 10,000.

The industry is changing, Mr. Speaker. We all have to be prepared for it, but we will step up to help those as they go through this transition period.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BALL: Mr. Speaker, in the 2003 Blue Book and in subsequent news releases in statements of the House, the current government committed to building replacement ferries in this Province, now they are stepping back from those commitments.

I ask the Premier: Does it make sense to have these vessels built at the shipyard in this Province, especially given the economic benefit that could bring to the hard hit Burin Peninsula?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In response to the member's question on the other side, basically we are moving forward with our vessel replacement strategy. Currently, in the works would be the third boat which would be built in Marystown. As well, we are moving forward with the Winsor replacement which we hope could be built in the Province. If not, obviously there might be other alternatives, but right now we are concentrating on moving our strategy forward.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Premier was part of the Administration that made these commitments. The situation with the Bell Island ferry over the past weekend is the latest example that we need these new ferries.

I ask the Premier: Will you now personally get involved and resolve the impasse with Kiewit so that the people of the Burin Peninsula can see benefits for this work?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: Again, Mr. Speaker, this government is committed to making sure that the vessel replacement strategy moves along in a timely fashion. As well, we are talking with Kiewit. We have made representation, and they have made representation to us. I am sure that in due time some resolve will come to that situation.

Again, I say that we have made a commitment as a government. The strategy is in place and we are determined to carry it out.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, five fish plants have closed in this Province in less than four months and the Fisheries Minister, all he does is manage the fallout of displaced workers.

I ask the Premier: Why is her government content to sit on the sidelines when it should be taking a more active role in shaping solutions to the fishery amid changing times?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, the only members sitting on the sidelines are members opposite who are living in the past. This government has been very active in the fishery for the last number of years. There is only one significant thing that we have not done to help this industry, and that is to pump hundreds of millions of dollars into the pockets of some in the industry to get them out of the industry quicker than natural attrition is going to do.

The fact of the matter is we have been very supportive of the fishing industry by way of marketing, by the way of investment in technology. To all plants that ever came forward looking for support from us, we have been extremely supportive. We support harvesters through the Fisheries Loan Guarantee Program. We support plant workers in times where there is adjustment measures needed, Mr. Speaker, and we would do it again on this watch.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, the secondary processing plant at Burin is slated for closure at year-end. Seven months notice should be adequate time even for this government to find a solution.

I ask the Premier: What is her government doing today to find other opportunities for this plant?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, I can assure members opposite that we will be very aggressive in trying to support the Burin Peninsula and the plant in Burin. We understand the devastation.

Mr. Speaker, let's be very clear here on what this government has done. We have supported a business in Grand Bank that is arguably one of the best success stories for small business in Newfoundland and Labrador: Dynamic Air Shelters. We have pumped in nearly $20 million to reactivate a mine in St. Lawrence. We have supported investment in a marine industrial park in Marystown. We have built two ferries in Marystown.

This government will not walk away from the Burin Peninsula, Mr. Speaker, but we will not make foolhardy decisions like herring factories, as the member opposite does.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Member for St. Barbe.

MR. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, there is less and less seafood processing in this Province.

I ask the Premier: What is she doing to address this issue and to bring more value-added processing to our plants in our Province?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, the fishing industry is going through challenging times. I try to be as clear as I possibly can in this House and through the media that government provides policies and programs to support the industry. It is the vision of this government not to be involved in the day-to-day operations of fish plants any more than we are going to be involved in day-to-day operations of oil companies and those kinds of businesses.

We will provide whatever supports are required. The fact of the matter is the industry is changing. It is a challenge for some processors and operators in Newfoundland and Labrador to compete in a global marketplace. If we are going to do that, we have to make changes, we have to accept there are going to be changes, and manage the change as best we can. Mr. Speaker, we will do that.

I say to the member opposite, as I said before, if we can find another operator to go into Burin, we will be there tomorrow to do whatever we can to support that, Mr. Speaker. We are not going into Burin and operate a fish plant ourselves with nothing to do.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, the tragic overdose of Chrissy Pearce illustrates numerous shortcomings in the system, little to no follow-up, no long-term counselling, and no available beds at detox. Despite all efforts from a family desperate to save her, the system failed Chrissy.

I ask the minister: Lack of addiction services in this Province is not new; now someone has lost their life as a direct result. Why was she not admitted to Homewood in Guelph or in another facility to help her deal with the root causes of her addiction?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite well knows that I cannot speak to specific cases in this House of Assembly or in the media; however, what I can tell the member opposite and to all who are listening is that we have a number of services in place with regard to the treatment of mental health and addictions in this Province.

In the last three years, we have invested over $29 million in terms of possible means of supporting people who are suffering from addictions and from mental health issues within this Province, Mr. Speaker, and we will continue to follow up on those. There are numerous options for counselling, Mr. Speaker. We have a Recovery Centre. There is the Opioid Centre. There is option to be sent out of Province; that happens upon referral and once all other treatments have ceased.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, like so many with addictions issues, Chrissy Pearce suffered from depression. Pearce's partner recounts the involvement of Child Protection Services and a revolving door of social workers; none of whom enforced required drug testing or provided any substantial follow-up.

I ask the minister: Given all the investments this government touts, why did the system fail her?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Mr. Speaker, once again he is asking me to comment on a case that he knows I cannot comment on. Again, I will suggest that we have numerous options available to people in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, we can only provide the programming. There is a responsibility as well for people who are supporting and for family members and others to be involved in the support that an individual needs, and we provide help in providing the support to family members as well. Mr. Speaker, the protocols that we have in place around mental health and addictions are protocols that have seen a great deal of success over the past years, and we are continuing to invest, Mr. Speaker. Just last week, Eastern Health was able to announce the awarding of a contract for adult addictions here in Harbour Grace and (inaudible) –

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Member for Burgeo – La Poile.

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, families struggling with addictions issues will tell you there are not enough services available. There is no intervention program to help families come together and address these devastating behaviours. There is no guarantee a bed will be available, should their loved one finally agree to receive help.

I ask the minister: We are aware of treatment facilities on the horizon, but we need an emergency response now. What are you planning to do?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, if I might, I will just go through some of the options that are available in terms of addictions treatments. There are a range of services, of course, that are available. One is a crisis line. Another is a mobile crisis response team. We have a psychiatric assessment unit at the Waterford and other psychiatric assessment units as well, Mr. Speaker. There is a nineteen-bed Recovery Centre. We have Humberwood. We have the Opioid Treatment Centre as well.

Mr. Speaker, there are twenty-seven sites available across the Province for additional counselling and treatment. We have out-of-province available as well and, in addition to that, in last year's Budget, we continued to support by putting in place $3.2 million of investment to hire additional specialists to help out in this area, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. JOYCE: Mr. Speaker, government transferred a fast craft search and rescue vehicle from St. John's to the RNC detachment in Corner Brook; however, that emergency vehicle in Corner Brook is not operating. It has not worked since it was in Corner Brook.

I ask the minister: Are you aware of the fact that the RNC emergency fast craft vehicle in Corner Brook is not operational?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, we have a lot of vehicles in our system, both in corrections and in RNC and RCMP. If there is a vehicle that is not working in the system – I am sure there is probably more than one, but I am not aware of any one particular vehicle at this time.

If I can respond, Mr. Speaker, if there is something that I can find out and get back to the member, I certainly will.

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

MR. JOYCE: Mr. Speaker, I was just trying to get this because I know the Member for Humber East is aware of it; he was aware of the emergency vehicle that is not operational in Corner Brook. The people in Corner Brook are expecting this service, I say to the minister.

I ask the minister: Will you take it upon yourself to look and see if this emergency vehicle is operational? If it is not – because it was out for a test run in October; they identified the problem, they already have the request in to have it done, because the people in Corner Brook expect the service.

I ask the minister: Will you take it upon yourself to look into this matter and have this vehicle operational, please?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, as the Minister of Justice, I do not get involved in the day-to-day operational activities of the police force or the police assets. That is an internal operation for the RNC in this case. Again, if there is something there that is important to the people of the community as the member suggests, it is something that I can place an inquiry on.

As far as the operation of the RNC, Mr. Speaker, and the operation of vehicles, I would not have any particular information on any specific vehicle.

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

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

In one year, six fish plants have closed around the Province, throwing communities into turmoil, yet we are hearing no answers from the government. There is a real lack of leadership, Mr. Speaker. To say we have a fishery readjustment plan is not enough; saying you can retrain workers is not enough when we are talking about older workers and isolated communities.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: What is this government doing to really help the workers from Burin, Marystown, St. Lewis, Port Union, Black Tickle, and La Scie?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, we are doing the same thing for these workers, and will do for others the same thing we did in Stephenville, Grand Falls-Windsor, and Harbour Breton. We are committed to communities in this Province that find themselves in economic distress. We do not always have the answers at hand. There are not easy answers to be found by anybody, but we walk the walk with communities, Mr. Speaker. We do not just talk the talk.

Wherever the journey takes these people, their government will be there with them, and we do our best to diversify the economy and meet their needs in the meantime.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I say to the Premier that in May 2011, the much-awaited MOU on the fishery came out, and government out and out rejected the document instead of seeing it as a basis for serious discussion. The MOU had concrete suggestions that still have the potential for restructuring the fishery and making things work for everyone involved in the industry. This government totally reneged on its responsibility by refusing to sit and talk about the recommendations.

So, Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier if this government will sit down now with all parties and get control over what is happening in the industry.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, it would be wonderful if this government did have that kind of control. Unfortunately, we do not. We are only one of a number of stakeholders in this industry. Where we have control, where we have influence, we exert it.

We did not reject the MOU out of hand. There were a number of recommendations in that MOU that are under very serious consideration, especially around marketing. Mr. Speaker, we were not going to invest hundreds of millions of dollars that took a handful of fish plant operators out, took a handful of licensed operators out, left fish plant workers behind – again, as many proposals that have been put forward have done in the past – and leave the other people in the boat stranded. That is not how we operate, Mr. Speaker. Our investments have to mean something for all of the people involved in this industry.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I point out to the Premier, Mr. Speaker, that the government was the one stakeholder who would not sit at the table and discuss the MOU. It was the government who was a stakeholder who would not sit.

So, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Fisheries told us last week that High Liner told him that there was nothing the government could have done to stop the closure of the Burin plant. It appears that the minister had thrown up his hands and accepts that there is nothing he can do now that the plant is closed. This attitude is a total abandonment of fishing people and communities.

So, Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: Is this what government will do from now on – just sit back and wait for companies' decisions and then surrender?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, one thing this government will not do is abandon people and communities. Our record has been very clear on what we will do to support individuals through challenging times.

Let me remind the member opposite – who obviously has not read the MOU, or certainly does not understand what she read – here were the recommendations in the MOU: that we support a marketing council, we are doing it; that we support a lobster buyout, we are doing it; that we support a massive $600 million buyout of processors and leave plant workers behind – the only thing in the MOU that we did not support was that, because it does nothing for communities and it does nothing for plant workers, Mr. Speaker.

We will focus on helping people through this process, but this government is not going back into the days of pumping money into operating fish plants.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the crisis is a crisis in the Province, not just a crisis in the industry. Everyone in this House has to be involved in dealing with what is happening. We need everyone's experience and input.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: Will she set up a special all-party committee, not just a Cabinet only committee, to deal with our current crisis?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, I have said it time and time again in this House, to have these all-party committees requires some confidence in that the people opposite know what they are talking about.

We have had the Member for Torngat Mountains this morning on every media outlet in the Province talking about a cover-up of the Burton Winters tragedy, Mr. Speaker, in the face of the correction put out by the RCMP, propagating incorrectness for political advantage, I suggest, Mr. Speaker, instead of a pursuit for the truth. It is very offensive, Mr. Speaker, and then he wants an all-party committee.

Now, obviously, we have the Leader of the Third Party who has not taken the time either to read the MOU or government's response asking the same thing. It is ridiculous, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Third Party.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, Friday on the On Point radio program, a government member said that they would consider inviting representation from the NDP and Liberals to the Cabinet committee.

I ask the Premier: Did your government member know what he was talking about?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, one thing that I can confidently say since I have been in this House is that when anyone speaks on this side of the House, they know a darn sight more about it than anybody on the opposite side.

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, the people of Englee certainly still feel abandoned by this government. Mr. Speaker, how we deal with plant closures is a true test to government and one that this government has failed. Mr. Speaker, the closures are very disconcerting to the people who live in communities with fish plants. We must help our rural communities become resilient. Adjustment packages are not the solution and government must work with these communities and others affected to forge the way.

Mr. Speaker, what additional measures is the minister planning on taking with vulnerable communities and stakeholders to help transition them into the future?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure where the member opposite is getting his information but everybody in the industry supports the adjustment package we have. There is some discussion about the level of compensation in some areas. The fact that we offer an employment program first of all for those who choose or cannot move on to something else is number one; number two, we offer retraining for those who want to do it.

Mr. Speaker, let me tell you a quick story. One year ago this past weekend I had the opportunity to attend an ABE graduation in Fortune, a man was displaced in the Fortune fish plant who just finished his Grade 12. Friday morning, I attended the graduation in Marystown where he finished a carpentry course. A true testament, Mr. Speaker, that there is hope for people, more hope than the member opposite wants to provide people in the Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. MITCHELMORE: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Fisheries points towards the vulnerability of small plants by suggesting that regional multi-species plants are the path to the future. By saying this, people around the Province working in plants are now worrying about their livelihoods. Some say this is fear mongering.

Mr. Speaker, will the minister tell the House of Assembly the information that he knows regarding future upcoming plant closures?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, government does not operate fish plants, so I have no knowledge about upcoming plant closures. When I spoke about possible closures several days ago, I spoke about it from the context of the trend we have seen since 1989, and I projected that there are going to be more plant closures.

Mr. Speaker, I am hearing from the industry all over that that is going to happen. That is not us, me, the government, or the Premier closing fish plants. We are stating a reality, that the industry is changing and if we are going to remain competitive in a global seafood industry, we have to change and ensure number one, that our product continues to be at the highest quality it possibly can be; and number two, that we can compete price wise with anyone in the world, 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, the problems encountered over the Burton Winters search all seem to be pointing the finger at EMO and the slow response to the call for help until the next day. Mr. Speaker, according to a CBC Radio report this morning, calls to EMO from the RCMP that Sunday show a request was made for assistance then.

Mr. Speaker, what is the minister doing to improve the department's protocols for responding to such requests?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the RCMP has clarified the reports in the media this morning with regard to the protocols followed. Mr. Speaker, the policing who are in charge of the jurisdiction where a search is being conducted are the lead on that search. They are the ones who call in the resources as they are needed. EMO does not run the search and rescue. Fire and Emergency Services does not conduct the search and rescue operations. The police were the lead in Makkovik. The rangers were second in command. Mr. Speaker, they called on resources that they needed them. The RCMP made the call to FES-NL 8:30 on Monday morning.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS ROGERS: Mr. Speaker, addictions are on the rise. There is one residential treatment facility to serve the whole Province. It has a wait-list of six to seven weeks. The Pleasantville detox centre does not have the resources to take the people waiting desperately to get in and there is no, absolutely no medical detox program in the Province. Mr. Speaker, families are in crisis, people are dying.

I ask the Minister of Health and Community Services: What is her department doing to fix the problem of people not getting the treatment and the support they need in a timely manner?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, as I outlined in previous questions that I answered here in the House today, this department is committed and this government is committed to seeing to it that the services that we provide through mental health and addictions are top-notch services in this Province, Mr. Speaker, and that is why we continue to invest. That is why we have announced just last week that Eastern Health has gone forward with a program that will see to it that the Harbour Grace adult addiction centre will be open very soon. They have issued the contract. We are moving forward with the two youth…

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The time for Question Period has expired.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Tabling of documents.

Notices of motion.

Notices of Motion

MR. SPEAKER: The Member for Mount Pearl South.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. LANE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I give notice that I will on Wednesday be moving the following Private Member's Motion, seconded by the Member for Port au Port:

WHEREAS over the course of the next ten years, Newfoundland and Labrador is projected to see some 70,000 job openings; and

WHEREAS our government since 2003 has laid the foundation for this growth by commissioning and delivering on both the White Paper on Public Post-Secondary Education and the Skills Task Force to prepare our people; and

WHEREAS our government, since the release of the Skills Task Force Report in 2007, has invested approximately $95 million in the areas of apprenticeship, science and technology, training and infrastructure; and

WHEREAS Budget 2012 invests $4.1 million in new funding to support the following initiatives to advance apprenticeship opportunities and support women and other under-represented groups in skilled trades in Newfoundland and Labrador, including: a Journeyperson Mentorship Program to help increase the number of certified journeypersons available to provide required workplace training for apprentices; expansion of the Apprenticeship Wage Subsidy Program that helps provide work experience to apprentices, with a focus on first and second-year apprentices including those from under-represented groups such as women and persons with disabilities; and registration of pre-apprentices in an Apprentice Tracking System to assist students completing entry level skilled trades programs to secure employment and progress to journeyperson status; and

WHEREAS Budget 2012 also invests $200,000 to establish the Workforce Development Secretariat, which will focus on ensuring that labour market policies and programs are strategically aligned to develop and deploy a highly trained and skilled workforce that can meet evolving labour market demands; and

WHEREAS a further $10.8 million in federal funding administered by our government through the Labour Market Development Agreement and Labour Market Agreement will support training and programs such as the Apprenticeship Wage Subsidy and the Office to Advance Women Apprentices; and

WHEREAS our government has extended the public post-secondary tuition fee freeze in 2012-2013, expanded the Student Financial Assistance Program to increase the study period exemption from $50 per week to $100 per week, and continued the up-front needs-based grants and the interest-free student loans as part of its progressive commitment to provide students in this Province with the best student aid program in the country; and

WHEREAS our government is also investing to expand programs such as Memorial University's Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science and the oceans sector of the Marine Institute, while also investing in new and improved infrastructure at our public post-secondary institutions;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that this hon. House supports the initiatives the provincial government is taking to prepare Newfoundlanders and Labradorians for career opportunities in the skilled trades in our Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Pursuant to Section 63.(3) of the Standing Orders, I am announcing that the private member's motion which will be debated on Wednesday will be the motion giving notice by the Member for Mount Pearl South.

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

MR. KENNEDY: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

I give notice that under Standing Order 11, I shall move that this House not adjourn at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 8, 2012.

Further, I give notice, Mr. Speaker, under Standing Order 11, that this House not adjourn at 10:00 p.m. Tuesday, May 8, 2012.

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

Answers to Question for which Notice has been Given.



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

MR. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, today I bring a petition on behalf of people from another electoral district than my own.

Mr. Speaker, to the hon. House of Assembly of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador in Parliament assembled, the petition of the undersigned humbly sheweth:

WHEREAS with declining enrolment, distance education by Internet is now an accepted way to deliver educational services to students living in small communities; and

WHEREAS students have little to no say in where they or their families reside; and

WHEREAS many families do not have the ability to relocate so that their children can access educational opportunities in larger centres; and

WHEREAS many small businesses rely on the Internet to conduct business; and

WHEREAS high-speed Internet permits a business to be more competitive than the slower dial-up service; and

WHEREAS no high-speed Internet service exists in the community of Loch Leven and the electoral district of St. George's – Stephenville East; and

WHEREAS there are no plans to offer high-speed Internet to residents in those communities;

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge the Government of Newfoundland to partner with the private sector and offer high-speed Internet service to these communities.

In duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.

Mr. Speaker, the government's Broadband Initiative is a good first step and it has provided some high-speed Internet service generally to larger communities that are close to each other, with large pools of people. However, a very large number of communities with smaller numbers of people have been left behind.

The people in these small communities are very, very concerned because it is as if the road went by and you did not get hooked up. It is as if all of the communities have telephone services and you do not have telephone service. High-speed Internet, today, if someone is going to carry on business or take part in distance education, is a necessity.

Clearly, with young people and students using high-speed Internet for distance education, to compare the cost to supply teachers and to supply everyday schools is a much, much greater cost. Clearly, in comparison to what these costs would be, high-speed Internet would seem to be a very viable way to carry on business in small communities and also for young people to acquire education through distance education.

Mr. Speaker, the word is out that people all over the Province realize they may get left behind. They are very concerned. Small communities are coming forward and saying: Is there anything you can do? Please present a petition on our behalf in the House of Assembly.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. KIRBY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This is a petition for review of the Department of Education school bus transportation policies, and it reads:

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 those child care centres outside the 1.6 kilometre zone and directly on bus routes are included in kindergarten noon-time 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.

Mr. Speaker, I am sure members of the House of Assembly are familiar with the urgency of this issue, and today this petition has petitioners from Burin Bay Arm, Creston South, Marystown, and Woody Point – quite a number of petitioners from Woody Point on this one.

One of the important topics for this proposed review would be looking at school bus transportation policies for pre-school-age children in child care. Oftentimes, parents are unable to get a seat for the children on a desired bus route, and that is the bus route that would go by the child care provider who cares for their children during the day. Parents often have to wait for what is called a courtesy seat, which has to be applied for each year, year after year, and sometimes that can be taken away; if a family moves in with children, the seat becomes unavailable to them.

My constituents have been told by the Eastern School District that the only alternative is to find a child care provider that goes by their homes. Because of the child care problems that exist in the City, that is often not a possibility, so switching child care providers is really not an option, Mr. Speaker. So, there is another ongoing problem that would be the subject of an in-depth review of school bus transportation policies, and I hope that Members of the House of Assembly will see fit to put forward this review before long, Mr. Speaker.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: 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 in the District of The Straits – White Bay North, despite the $4 million Rural Broadband Initiative announced on December 22, 2011, only one community, Ship Cove, is slated for broadband coverage; and

WHEREAS the communities of Pines Cove, Eddies Cove East, Bide Arm, North Boat Harbour, L'Anse aux Meadows, Great Brehat, St. Carol's, Goose Cove, Grandois, and St. Anthony Bight still remain without services; and

WHEREAS many small businesses within the district rely on Internet to conduct business; and

WHEREAS broadband Internet permits a business to be more competitive than the slower, dial-up service; and

WHEREAS broadband Internet enhances primary, secondary, post-secondary, and further educational opportunities;

We, the undersigned, petition the House of Assembly to urge the government to reinvest in the Rural Broadband Initiatives in Newfoundland and Labrador.

As in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.

Mr. Speaker, although many of these communities do not have high populations, I just take, for example, one of them like L'Anse aux Meadows, which has a UNESCO World Heritage site, that just received some cuts from Parks Canada in terms of a reduction of staff. This as well has impacts on visitation and on the greater business community and what they are able to do to foster further development. Having something as central as broadband Internet allows a company to truly market, to have on-line stores, to do on-line sales.

There is so much missing when we talk about doing an initiative and doing it strategically so that we are spending the taxpayers' dollar in the best possible way. If you look at Pines Cove and Eddies Cove, these communities were missed out in a string of communities, as well as Bide Arm which is part of the town of Roddickton – Bide Arm, part of a town that does not have access to broadband Internet. If the plan was done strategically, all of these communities certainly would have received broadband Internet service. We are in a period of time where the information highway is where we need to go in the future if we are going to build resilient, vibrant communities.

Let's take stock, investing in rural broadband has already leveraged quite a lot of money from the private sector, as the Minister of Innovation, Business and Rural Development has noted. That is a good thing, and we certainly need more of it. The $2 million in this year's Budget is not going to see all of these communities and maybe not any of them receive the broadband. I present the petition and I ask for assistance on behalf of the people.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Orders of the Day.

Orders of the Day

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

MR. KENNEDY: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I call from the Order Paper – finish quick; I bunkered down for the petitions – Motion 1, the budgetary policy of the government.

MR. SPEAKER: The Member for Mount Pearl South.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. LANE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Let me say, first of all, what a pleasure it is to rise in this hon. House today and to speak to what I think was another great Budget by this government. I am so pleased to have the opportunity to speak. I was so pleased when I heard the hon. House Leader last week when he said that there would be lots of opportunity for those of us on this side certainly to speak and that we would be sitting day and we would be sitting night, if necessary. I was very pleased to see that because I have a lot to say. I know I have spoken to a lot of my colleagues; they have a lot to say about this Budget. I am prepared to stay here as long as it takes, Mr. Speaker. That is what I was elected to do. If they want to camp out all night, I will bring the marshmallows, absolutely.

Mr. Speaker, I think it is important before we concentrate on where we are to today, it is important that we look at where we came from. When this government came to power, we know the legacy that was left behind by the Opposition Party for sure. They left us basically on the brink of bankruptcy. We were over $12 billion in debt – and I see the members across with their heads down, and I do not blame them. They should be hanging their heads in shame for the mess that they left this Province in, but, thankfully, this party was able to take the reins to show some responsible fiscal management and turn this Province around.

In 2004, Mr. Speaker, the servicing of our debt took 23 per cent of our gross revenues. That is twenty-three cents out of every dollar that came into this Province for required services for this Province had to go out to pay on the debt. Now we are down to something like ten cents. This is using our calculator, not the NDP calculator of course.

Mr. Speaker, besides the debt that we found ourselves in, we can look at the situation we had with our roads, with our infrastructure, and with our schools. If you look at the roads, and this is not just side roads and roads in some of the smaller communities, even the Trans-Canada Highway, we never had potholes; we had craters. As far as our hospitals go, they were in a state of disrepair. As far as our schools go, they were in a state of disrepair. As a matter of fact, when we talk about schools, coming from the health and safety industry – and I know a lot of people in that industry - I know guys that basically made a living for the last number of years just in writing reports condemning schools as a result of the mismanagement by the previous Administration.

Firefighting infrastructure, as well, the fire trucks were practically non-existent; they were not fit to use, most of them. The RNC-RCMP, the people who we depend on to protect our citizens, our property, and so on; you look at the state of that infrastructure, you look at the lack of resources for training, the lack of equipment so that these fine men and women could do their job and protect our society. It just was not there.

In terms of municipalities, you look at underground infrastructure, drinking water issues, recreation facilities which were non-existent – non-existent recreational facilities, and the few that they had were in total disrepair. So there is no doubt, I think it is fair to say, and I think everybody in the Province knows, that in 2003 when this government took over, she was definitely in shambles as a result of the now-Opposition party. Yes, you should have your head down for sure.

AN HON. MEMBER: Keep it up, now.

MR. LANE: I will keep it up. I would say to the hon. member that I could keep it up; I could stand here for the next two hours talking about it, but I am going to move on.

So, anyway, since taking the government in 2008, I think it is fair to say that we have seen a remarkable change in this Province for the benefit of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. I know when I look in my district, the District of Mount Pearl South, I can certainly see how the investment has gone in my community in terms of the infrastructure.

In the City of Mount Pearl, our roads have never been in better shape. We have recreational infrastructure second to none at the Reid Community Centre, at the new Glacier, at the Team Gushue Complex. On a regional basis, we have seen investment in the waste-management facility at Robin Hood Bay, the wastewater treatment facility at the south side; there have been upgrades to Bay Bulls Big Pond. We are now seeing the Team Gushue Highway being completed. All kinds of good things happening in the City of Mount Pearl, and it has all happened under the watch of this government, Mr. Speaker.

It was interesting when I looked at some of the stats that were presented in the Budget based on 2011. I have just noted a few: retail sales rose in 2011 by 5.1 per cent; personal and disposable income both increased by 6.3 per cent in 2011. In 2011, Newfoundland and Labrador enjoyed the lowest annual unemployment rate in thirty-six years, Mr. Speaker; I think that speaks volumes. Employment grew by 2.7 per cent to reach 225,400 in 2011, which is an all-time high here in this Province. It is the strongest employment growth rates in the country, as a matter of fact, 2011 was for Newfoundland and Labrador. We had mineral exports which grew by 22 per cent to about $4.6 billion, which is the highest mineral shipment value on record in this Province. Construction employment in 2011 was the highest ever recorded as well. Investment in Newfoundland and Labrador increased by 21.9 per cent to $7.4 billion – and that is billion with a B, Mr. Speaker – in 2011. I think it is fair to say that 2011 was a great year for sure.

In terms of 2012, we also have some very positive forecasts as well. We are expecting retail sales to increase by 4 per cent this year, and that is going to surpass the $8 billion mark for 2012 in Newfoundland and Labrador – absolutely fantastic. We are going to have a personal income, a disposable income, projected to grow by 5.4 per cent in 2012; employment, Mr. Speaker, is expected to grow by 1.8 per cent in 2012, and capital investment in Newfoundland and Labrador is expected to rise by 30.1 per cent in 2012 to $9.6 billion. I think that is absolutely phenomenal. That is going to represent the strongest growth – once again, that is going to represent the strongest growth in the country, Mr. Speaker.

As I said, Mr. Speaker, when you look at the debt servicing that we had when we took over in 2004, it was at 23 per cent; now for 2012 we are forecasting that we are going to be down to 10.8 per cent. We have more than cut the debt servicing cost in half, which means that basically we have an additional 13 per cent to 14 per cent in debt servicing money that we were paying out. That is an additional 13 per cent that we have to spend on much needed programs and services in Newfoundland and Labrador. I think it is fair to say that we have certainly turned the corner and we are doing well as a Province. How have we done this, Mr. Speaker? We have done this by investing responsibly; that is how we have done it.

It is important to note, Mr. Speaker, that we are a have Province. Quite often, particularly we hear the Opposition and the Third Party talking about have-Province status. I think it is important that we all need to realize as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians what have-Province status really means. Being a have Province is basically just a calculation that is done by the federal government, which determines whether or not we are going to receive payment from Ottawa. We have reached the point in our history as being a have Province where we would no longer receive those payments from Ottawa. That all sounds great and it all reflects where we are today in terms of our economy, but the one thing, Mr. Speaker, that is not reflected in the have-Province status is the debt that was left to us by the former Administration. That is why the Atlantic Accord was negotiated in recognition of that, to try to give us the opportunity to get ahead and pay that debt down. We have been successful in paying this debt down by some $4 billion, and I think that is a remarkable achievement for sure.

I would say to the Third Party in particular, Mr. Speaker, being a have Province does not mean we have the magic formula for growing money trees. That is not what have Province means. Every time that you decide you are going to spend money here, you do not have it to spend somewhere else. Just like your own personal finances, Mr. Speaker, and just like your own budget, you cannot have it and spend it too.

I believe it was at our last session, last Thursday, Mr. Speaker, in the House I heard the hon. Minister of Municipal Affairs. He said it right. Everything that he said to the Third Party I certainly want to say ditto, because he nailed it. He was absolutely right when he talked about the Third Party's irresponsibility when it comes to spending money.

It is important that we need to invest wisely, we need to understand the costs, and that is what we do, Mr. Speaker. I just want to give a couple of examples, and I gave these examples I believe in my maiden speech as it relates to the Third Party. It is important that I highlight these again because it only speaks to their concept of money and money management, or lack thereof shall I say.

We had one example there, Mr. Speaker, of course on the full-day kindergarten. The Third Party in the last provincial election promised full-day kindergarten. Elect us; we are going to implement full-day kindergarten. Now, that all seems fine. It sounds great in theory, but most of us who live in the real world I think we understand that it is not just as simple as just implementing something. When you implement programs it costs money.

There is also a difference between capital costs and operational costs. Many of the things that I hear from the Third Party relate to operational costs. They are not just one-time expenditures like you would spend on capital. Every time you add an additional program or you hire more people, then there is that ongoing cost, not just for this year but for years to follow. I am not sure if they understand that because it does not seem like they do.

MR. MURPHY: (Inaudible).

MR. LANE: Well, yes. The Member for St. John's East, I think he kind of gets it a little bit, but I am not sure about the rest of them for sure. They were going to implement full-day kindergarten. When asked, Mr. Speaker, by the media: How are you going to pay for this? What is it going to cost? The Leader of the Third Party, their response was, I do not know. I do not know what it is going to cost. We have not costed it out yet. We do not have the resources; we do not have the people to cost it out. That was their response. This is the people's money we are talking about here.

Let's just talk about the people's money for a second, because one of the demographics that never seems to get talked about a lot here are the average working person. I think it is important to understand that dynamic. In an average family you have a husband, a wife, and you have probably two kids.

AN HON. MEMBER: Two jobs.

MR. LANE: At least in my area, Mr. Speaker, the husband is working, the wife is working, and they have a couple of kids. They do not have two jobs like the hon. Member for St. John's North. They generally have one job apiece. They have to go out, they have to get up every single morning, get the kids to daycare or get them to school, pack lunches. They have a mortgage they have to pay for; they have a car payment that they have to pay for; they have groceries they have to pay for; they have to pay for their heat, their light, their phone and so on, their cable, their normal expenses. Maybe, if they are somewhat thrifty with their money and they put money aside like most of us do, at some point in time they are actually going to get to enjoy a little vacation; nothing wrong with that, going to get a little vacation.

Now, Mr. Speaker, these are the people that are working hard every day. When they get their paycheque, as we all do – and you look at your pay check, you look at your gross pay and then you look at your net pay; everybody gets that real shock when they look at it and say: My goodness, where did all the money go?

AN HON. MEMBER: The net pay is gross.

MR. LANE: Yes, the net pay is gross, somebody said. That is true.

When they get up and they look at that, Mr. Speaker, they are saying: My goodness, where did the money go to? They went to pay for all of the programs and services that are provided by the various levels of government. These are the people who work hard every day to pay for all this. Every time the members opposite get up and say we need to spend more money on this, more money on that, more money on something else, these are the people generally that have to pay for it all.

Most of us, I think, sort of would represent that class of people. Now there are people who do well and there are people who do not so well. I think we all realize as a society we need a social conscience; there are people, through no fault of their own, that fall upon challenges or they have various issues preventing them from earning a good living and access to programs and services. As a government, we recognize that and we do our best to provide those services for those people, but we cannot be all things to all people. There has to be a reasonable balance. That is what this government is all about: finding a reasonable balance.

I think that when you sit back here as I do, day after day, week after week, listening to the Opposition –and, in particular, the Third Party, Mr. Speaker – they know nothing about balance. All they know about is spend, spend, spend. That is all they can do is spend, spend money.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. LANE: They have no concept. They seem to have no concept from where the money is coming from – like I said, except for the NDP money trees.

Now, another way, though – they had a great idea, a brilliant idea of where they thought some of the money was going to come from. The Leader of the Third Party, Mr. Speaker, decided that she was going to –


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. LANE: – breach all the oil contracts, Mr. Speaker, right? In the last provincial election they promised more in spending than they would ever be able to take in revenues, so they were going to breach the oil contracts. That was their solution, Mr. Speaker, right? Now, how great is that for our Province? There would be nobody – under that type of administration, nobody would ever want to do business with us. There would be no remnants, no remnants whatsoever of the oil industry in Newfoundland and Labrador. As I said when I spoke one time previous, the only thing that would be left from the oil industry in Newfoundland and Labrador under an NDP plan would be the lawyers that would be left behind to sue us for what we were worth for trying to breach these contracts, and nobody would ever want to do business here.

So, Mr. Speaker, the NDP obviously have no plan – or, I am sorry, the Third Party. They have no plan. A Third Party's plan is bankruptcy. That is what it is; it is bankruptcy to Newfoundland and Labrador. It is bankruptcy for us today, it is bankruptcy for our children, it is bankruptcy for our grandchildren. That is what it is.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. LANE: Now, Mr. Speaker, I could go on forever speaking about the Third Party, but you know what? Here is a secret; here is a little message to them: I think the people are starting to catch on to you. I think they are starting to figure it out. Every time, after every Question Period, people are starting to catch on. They are getting it.

AN HON. MEMBER: They tell us every day.

MR. LANE: And I am hearing it. That is right, and I am hearing it, right? I am going to predict that next time around, there is not going to be an orange crush, there is going to be an orange crash. That is what there is going to be.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. LANE: Now, Mr. Speaker, I am going to move on, because I have only got – and that is the sad thing about this; I have so many things in this Budget I could speak about, and I am running out of time. Now, I am hoping –

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave. By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Order, please!

MR. LANE: I am hoping that the opportunity is going to come that I am going to be able to stand up again –

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. LANE: By leave? By leave, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: Does the member have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. LANE: Now, Mr. Speaker, I am hoping that I am going to have the opportunity to stand again, and again, and again, to start talking about some of the things in the Budget, because I have spent twenty minutes here and I really have not had an opportunity to speak to a whole lot of things here, and I certainly could. I have seen investments here in health – all kinds of investments here in health, Mr. Speaker – investments in K-12, investments in post-secondary, investments in the fishery, investments to skilled trades, into seniors' programs, and child care.

So, Mr. Speaker, I am going to conclude now. I realize my time is up. I hope to have the opportunity to speak again, and I know I have many people on this side who are anxious to get up and speak to this Budget.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Member for St. Barbe North.

I apologize for misidentifying your district. It is the Member for The Straits – White Bay North.

MR. MITCHELMORE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will certainly take the time to talk about the investments that were made in Budget 2012. Budget 2012 should be a model for change, one that builds resilient communities because too many of them are not in prosperity, as is being promoted. Many are being sustained by oil revenues, and not necessarily our oil revenues, but Alberta's. There are too many communities across Newfoundland and Labrador with transient workers and transient families that are being sustained by other economies happening in this Province. This is largely a very short-term mechanism to sustaining these rural communities.

Mr. Speaker, we need to really take the time, because we still have the highest unemployment rate anywhere in the country in this Province. We have to really focus on and build transitional towns in this interim process because, Mr. Speaker, this transient work sustaining rural communities will not last forever. There must be sustainable urban and rural planning. That is something that is truly, truly missing here in this Budget.

There is much revenue being touted in Budget 2012 and there are a lot of expenditures as well. I question: Are we getting the best value for all of this money that is being thrown out there? It is our tax dollars and we need to make sure we are getting the best investments from these tax dollars.

After travelling around the Province, we listened to people – myself and the MHA for St. John's Centre. We visited many communities and we did a housing road show. We visited the communities of St. Anthony, Norris Point, Stephenville, Corner Brook, Grand Falls-Windsor, Clarenville, and St. John's; we were in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, as well as in Marystown, absolutely. We heard about housing challenges from students to seniors to working individuals. The needs are very great and they are diverse to find not only affordable housing, which is what Newfoundland and Labrador Housing deals with, but also housing affordability, being able to get in and buy those homes for the very first time. We have seen many of our smaller urban centres as well as the metro area here start to explode when it comes to housing prices. They are starting to really escalate, and people are not able to keep up to those standards when it comes to getting in and affording those homes for the very first time.

I want to talk a little bit about in a town like St. Anthony. There are many, many employment vacancies at the hospital, one of the key employers in the district. This presents a lot of problems. Certainly, we cannot recruit and retain employees. The Minister of Health and Community Services had talked earlier about how we have more nurses employed than any time in our Province's history, yet we have a great level of vacancies still at that hospital and we are not able to recruit professionals that are needed because we do not have housing for them. There is no housing stock and availability, so we are not going to retain those services. There is no plan in the Budget to look at helping to address that. The hostel there in St. Anthony to help patients that are coming in from the outside area for overnight surgeries and their families, it has been several times that nobody can get a booking there. It is not just St. Anthony; this is happening all across the Province.

We look at education is starting to increase, enrolment is increasing in many of institutions, and this is a wonderful thing, but what is being done for student housing? Many of the institutions do not have dormitories. There have been investments made to expand residences in Corner Brook – 200 beds. This is absolutely wonderful, but the problem is there are only 200 and there is an incredible wait list.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MITCHELMORE: This is being in the process. Fifty of them are being allocated for the College of the North Atlantic and another 150 elsewhere, but to be able to fill when you have a wait list of 600 you are not going to meet the demand. There needs to be planning when you are looking at expanding hospitals and services, as well as long-term care to look at providing temporary accommodations. There should be a plan to look at that when it comes to housing.

There is something that the provincial government must give further consideration. Work, especially with municipalities, municipalities that are struggling, municipalities that are seeing high levels of growth, we need a land use plan. We do not have that here in the Province. We need to further reduce red tape. Lots of measures can be taken. I am experiencing where we are seeing people who are living in homes and communities for quite a number of years and they want to sell their homes now because they have moved out to Alberta and elsewhere. It is changing and they want to sell these homes to be able to retire. Because of red tape that exists and a long level process to get the land approved and to go through it, we need to find a way to reduce that in Crown lands and maybe make some Crown land available to municipalities that are within their boundaries so that they can have development and create revenue generators for these towns, especially the small ones that are so strapped for cash. This would help enhance the economic development and small business development in the regions.

As my colleagues have called for, we need to see an investment when it comes to looking at the long-term care and home care strategies that are there. One of the ways is looking at housing. When we plan for hospital developments and expansions, it is to make sure that we do have that adequate care, not just more attempted plans and reviews without actually seeing any development. People are continuing to wait – wait for basic needs in communities and regions. That is very bittersweet for many of the small municipalities.

Health care and community services are imperative to regions and sustainability as with educational services that I have talked about. I can say that the government has planned for a future in the Straits region in my district, as we have seen a hospital that is going up, a health clinic or centre that is going to serve twenty-six communities from Castor River to Eddies Cove East.

However, the planning process was plagued with much confrontation; it was during a time when Lewisporte, as well, was in danger of losing vital health services. The power of the people certainly prevailed here, but yet I am really unsure if government has planned for the added care, or if it is just going to be additional office spaces. We do not really know what is going to be inside this health centre.

It has been announced and re-announced, and we are seeing the structure go up, but will we see therapy services there? Will we see a satellite dialysis? Will the people in this hospital have a dedicated nine-to-five nurse practitioner clinic? They have a nurse practitioner, but there is no nine-to-five dedicated clinic which can improve the outcomes and continuity of care for local patients.

The centre has had locum doctors for several years and they have had an inability to retain them. A lot of professionals are looking for additional services, services as other members have talked about, recreational services, other things in communities and supports. How can you provide these additional services that professionals and other members of the community are demanding when you are not able to provide basic clean drinking water, and have water boil orders and the worst roads in Atlantic Canada?

This does not look at really building a vibrant community. Regions have to be unique; they really do. To have those additional services, they need to build those vibrant communities, especially in rural regions. I have seen many dollars announced in the Budget; however, as a young person and a trained business professional – I am trained in business; I have operated my own business for period of four years. I have helped youth get into business in rural regions, more than sixty of them get started, as well as hosted and trained a number of people and provided lending to a number of clients on the Great Northern Peninsula to get into business and get business started. I know the importance of budgeting and what it is to look at the value of money, and the value of investing, and investing dollars strategically and doing it not only in urban but also rural and growing centres.

We cannot just throw money at problems and spend the most amount in health care across Newfoundland and Labrador and not get the best value and services for the people. There are ways to do things better. This is something that I say; we need to look at more long-term planning, more inclusive planning that actually is constructive and co-operative, a way to be rational and reasonable across the board.

We have seen this government that has been unable to plan for the short term, unable to deliver on commitments that we have seen around ferries, or attract business from abroad from a failed Business Attraction Fund that has used so little money in Newfoundland and Labrador, when that money could be put to so much better use. It is a way of structuring programs to get the best value for people; we can do that, but we have to work together on that.

In health care, we see the retention and recruitment and utilization of staff as being one of the key issues, especially in my district, as a way to move forward.

I want to take some time to talk about the fishery, because we are seeing plant closure after plant closure in the Province. I do believe that there are models for change. They can only be found if people work together on a regional level to really, truly build vibrant sustainable fishing communities. This can involve many forms. It can be co-operatives. It can be partnerships with companies. It can be large corporations. It can be community quotas. It can be bridging the small-scale value-added for our future smaller fishing processing sectors that have potential in some shape or form. Maybe it will not be in seafood, but maybe it will be in something else. If we see where large corporations can just go into a community and take everything that is in a plant, from the steel doors to the heaters, to everything that is in there, well then that facility is going to have no value and no use to a community, and cannot be used in the future to attract new business. We do need to see some stronger leadership and legislation.

Where I have seen in my district, the fish plant of Englee be completed destroyed, with equipment that was left in it, such as refrigeration and other equipment. So, it is not that they took everything out of it. It could have been used for something else. There are ways where we can work with industry to help bring down costs and save money, such as bulk buying, or whether it is working with harbour authorities to create storage facilities, ice making machines, and do refrigeration, so that bait can be stored over winter. Maybe this will not be done alone. It could be done with a company so that they do not have to ship the product and then ship it back, and everybody can have a win-win situation, from the harvester to the plant owner.

My district is one that has the highest dependency on the fishery in the Province, according to those who are employed directly in the fishery and then those who indirectly get the economic spinoffs from the fishery. We have a very diverse sector when it comes to my area. We do have aquaculture from a mussel farm that is there, and there certainly could be more, but that is a very small section, a small portion of the industry in my district but I do think there is potential. When we look at char and we look at the limestone ponds that are there in Cook's Harbour, there is potential.

We have harvesters that are there, both big and small, buyers of all shapes and forms. We have a number of plant workers and processors who own small plants, they are independents; processors who lease plants that are owned by community groups and non-profits; processors that are very large players in the industry, and processors that partner with the community, such as the SABRI model, which has sixteen communities working together with not only operators, but the sixteen communities are made up of plant workers. They are made up of towns, they are made up of rural economic development, and they put back. They invest in infrastructure in the community, and a small quota is owned by the community. The people there are certainly seeing the greatest economic benefit. Because the quota is there, there is commitment to the people.

There are processors that are certainly uncommitted to my region, failing to meet minimum processing standards and reneging on promises, as there are across the district. We need where there is greater enforcement, whether it is through the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture or Service Newfoundland and Labrador, where closures such as the Englee fish plant do not happen in other communities and are dealt with.

Sandy Cove is falling apart as a fish plant, which is owned by a company. It is failing to employ any people, and it has been for the last several years. Smaller plants are shipping versus creating local employment. Can there be something that we can do? Can we have that discussion as a Province, as a people with communities, with people?

We have had a very productive fisheries forum in Plum Point that had a number of stakeholders at the table that used good adaptive technology from the Rural Secretariat. It was a way to work on initiatives to move the industry forward. There is a lot of emotion in the fishery, but if the forum and the aptitude is done right and we have that will, the political will from the provincial government as well as with the federal government, we can have some very constructive dialogue on the fishery.

We have no idea where the industry is headed, but we all have a role to play. I think it is time to certainly involve all players from all political stripes. We do need to see something like a standing committee or a special committee going forward to be willing to be part of the process, because I certainly am.

I want to see ways that we can really invest and really look at building these vibrant communities and transitioning towns. Whether it is building fish markets or farmers markets, or whether it is retraining people in other skills, or doing fisheries tourism. Whether it is using culinary experiences with seal, as we saw with the Seal of Approval Dinner, how successful that was, adding seal in the menu. I am very encouraged by some of the initiatives the current government is taking and an interest into the seal fishery. We need to see more of that and we need to look at how it can benefit small, rural communities. We need to see a higher level of enforcement and monitoring around the fishery when it comes to looking at auditing fish plants and the processing facilities, and making sure that the standards are being kept and that quality is there because quality is something that is highly important.

This government has announced in the past and continues to announce seafood marketing and talks about all it is doing in seafood marketing, but we really do need to get beyond that. I put out we need to have a provincial marketing strategy, as we have had with the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, very unique, very award-winning ads that sell Newfoundland and Labrador. I have travelled thirty countries around the world and when I tell people I am from Newfoundland and Labrador, they can identify Newfoundland and Labrador. They talk about these brilliant ads that they see on airplanes, that they see on the Internet, that they see elsewhere. This is something we should be very proud of, as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

We need to continue to do this with the fishery, to create a brand around the fishery. It has been a mainstay of the Province since the beginning. We have so much potential to look at, not only in training but looking at the role of fisheries, harvesters, and plant workers, looking at the unique food, and the unique aquaculture. All of this can be put in different ads and can be sold as a mated Newfoundland and Labrador brand, not niche marketing around companies and things like that. These large companies have marketing budgets and dollars. They can invest and they are doing their own thing when it comes to marketing brands. That is something that has been a failure because we have wanted to get all players at the table to do this. When we talk about marketing consortiums, we are talking about corporate lingo and corporate language. There is stuff that can be done that can really, really benefit Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, market our industry, and show pride in the fishery around that.

There are things that we can do, and government can take a stronger leadership role around marketing and marketing the Province. Not necessarily does that mean having all players at the table when it comes to doing their campaign. We need to see movement on this. The money has been announced, re-announced, and promised, and people are getting very, very tired of that. We do not to see that further in the Budget.

I have talked about different things around tariffs. We really do need to look at what is going on in CETA. I will have a chance to talk about that a little bit later. We need to look at licensing and making sure we are getting the best process when it comes to certification, how we are going to do certification, and investing money on that. We see that sometimes things that government invests in do not work, like the cod demonstration plant with Cooke Aquaculture. The minister stated the economics are not there, but the effort was made to try to see if we could grow cod there. We have to continue. We have to keep looking at alternatives to make sure that we can have things going on in the fishery. I want to talk more about the fishery, and I will have an opportunity to do so as I get up to speak.

If I could have a few seconds to say some of the challenges undermining the strength of our rural economies flow from deliberate interventions in the economy over years by government at all levels. If government has created many of the conditions that damage rural sustainability and viability, they have the power and obligation to intervene and strengthen these communities to enable them to survive and thrive in a modern world.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER (Verge): Order, please!

I recognize the hon. the Minister of Education.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am looking forward to a short chat, Mr. Speaker. I have listened to the member opposite and people have often said the easiest place to be in government is on the other side because all you have to do is get up and criticize day after day after day. That is all you have to do.

Now, Mr. Speaker, in amongst all of his bemoaning and his wish lists and everything else that comes from it, I will just touch upon a couple points that he made. He talked about long-term planning. The man has to be out of it if he thinks that people on this side, or anybody in government, just all of a sudden snaps their fingers and say we are going to do this, that is it, over with, let's go on to the next thing. That is what he is kind of alluding to. Mr. Speaker, I will ask him to take a look at his own district. Talk about a new health facility, let's talk about the construction of a new school up there, and let's talk about dialysis that has gone into his district. Let's take a look at the Opposition House Leader; two new schools went into her district. Mr. Speaker, that is about planning and it is about being genuine to the people you serve. That is it. It is as simple as that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, I am not glad that he won his seat, but I am glad on one account. I see the other four members of the Third Party looking to him, Mr. Speaker, when he speaks. They are starting to try to understand the fishery, Mr. Speaker. I would say he is the only fellow over there who knows what a fish is. I am going to say, Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Third Party, I spent twenty-three months in that portfolio and I would challenge anyone to Hansard and see how many times during Question Period the Leader of the Third Party asked a question on fishery. Mr. Speaker, I would challenge anyone to go to Hansard in the time that I was in that fisheries portfolio to see – I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, zero – zero. She did not ask one question during Question Period on the fisheries.

Mr. Speaker, I do not think she understood it. She did not understand it then and does not understand it now. I am glad the Member for The Straits may be able to enlighten her just a little, as he might be able to enlighten some of the others, because they do not always listen to what we say, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)

MR. JACKMAN: Yes, I heard; flatfish and gravy. Mr. Speaker, I have heard of fish and drawn butter, dry fish, the works of it. I have to be honest with you, Mr. Speaker, I have not had gravy with my fish. I have not had gravy with my fish. Mr. Speaker, I have to be honest with you too, I do not intend to. I do not intend to have gravy. I will have it with my beef and my chicken but not with my fish.

Mr. Speaker, in all seriousness, I would like to speak for a few minutes on what is happening on the Burin Peninsula. This is a very challenging time. There is no doubt about it. Being an MHA is challenging in the best of times, but when you face some of the things that the Burin Peninsula face, it is very challenging. That is the role of the MHA.

I went to a South Coast music festival this weekend, and when I stood up and spoke, Mr. Speaker, I talked about thanking the folks who performed on that night. The reason I did was, I said to them, it has been a very difficult week, not only for me but for the people who were in that audience. Whether they work on the plant or not, they know somebody who worked there or have someone who did work there. It is exactly what brought us to the Burin Peninsula in 1968. It is what brought my father there. He was a lumberjack who went to work in the fish plant in Marystown because there was a job available to him. I said to the people there that night - for two hours we sat and we listened to young people and old people sing - what I said to them is: We will get through this. Working together we will get through this. Will there be challenges? There certainly will.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: There certainly will be challenges, Mr. Speaker, but we will get through it. I am going to say to the people across the way, anybody who knows me I do not operate in a negative world. I have not, cannot, never will. I suppose I might be the eternal optimist because I see a future on the Burin Peninsula.

The Minister of Fisheries who answered questions today, he talked about two industries that are happening. Look at our investments in industrial parks; in Marystown, another industrial park in Burin. Go back to the member's statements about planning. Does he think that we just threw money there just to say, okay, we are going to build an industrial park? No, Mr. Speaker, it is about planning for the future which we know will happen in these areas.

AN HON. MEMBER: We stood by Harbour Breton, we stood by Fortune, and we will stand by them.

MR. JACKMAN: We stood by Fortune, we stood by Harbour Breton, and we are standing by Port Union. We will stand by the workers in Marystown as we will the workers in Burin. We as a government have never abandoned the workers when they have found themselves in plight –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: – and, Mr. Speaker, we never will. We are now putting – the Minister of Fisheries will speak on it – a committee in place. I have to say, the announcement in Marystown came in December and we had been doing some work through it for the future, for the people in Burin. As a matter of fact, I would say in the last couple of months there were three or four times I and the Minister of Fisheries met with the mayor, met with the local of the fish plant union. We were planning and hoping that we might be able to avoid this, and we were looking at opportunities. Well, an unfortunate thing happened last week, but look, as I have said, we will not abandon these people. We will work with them and we will find a solution, Mr. Speaker. There is no doubt about that, I am convinced of it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, I want to speak about the department. I have to tell you, some of the members opposite, there is no way in the world they believe in what they are saying. Mr. Speaker, they have people who are writing political statements for them. They get up and they say them, I do not think they believe in them. I truly do not think they believe in them. I am willing to bet you, and I know this to be the case, in some particular instances if you go and speak to some of the members opposite and they will tell you, what government is doing here, there and there, are great things.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Great things, but that is politics, Mr. Speaker. They are not going to get up in the House and say they are great things. I am going to take you through some of the initiatives in education. Mr. Speaker, just listen to this statistic.

We have increased the K-12 education budget from $604 million to $867 million. That is a 44 per cent increase. Listen to this one: The per-pupil investment – I hope the Member for St. John's North is listening, for the love of God, and hopefully I will say something that will sink in and he will stand up some day in this House and acknowledge it. Listen to this: Our per-pupil investment in K-12 has increased from $7,400 to $13,229 – a 78 per cent increase.

I am going to ask the member opposite. Schools fees are gone. No more school fees in our system. Textbooks for K-12 are free. You tell me, Mr. Speaker, in the history of this Province when that existed. This government has invested in education like no other government in this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: We spend $1.3 million annually on inclusive education. This one is the one I would like to remind members opposite. In 2008, we brought in a needs-based teacher allocation model. It costs us $32 million a year. Mr. Speaker, if the old model previous to 2008 had existed, we would have 822 fewer teachers in the system today. Just imagine the impact if we said tomorrow we are going back to the old formula and 822 teachers are coming out. Mr. Speaker, it would be devastating. I would say to you that the education system we have today, because of initiatives like this around the teacher allocation model, is better than at any time in this Province's history.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: I would like to speak a little bit to our commitment to teachers. We have, Mr. Speaker, a student-teacher ratio in this Province better than any other province in this country. Our student-teacher ratio is 11.9 to 1. That includes the guidance teachers, special education teachers, and whatnot, but the average class in K-9 in this Province right now is eighteen. Mr. Speaker, any of us on this side who were teachers, any of those on that side who aspired to be teachers, will remember the days of the thirties and thirty-fives and the forties – class sizes of thirty, thirty-five, forties.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. JACKMAN: Some members opposite experienced, I can see that.

Mr. Speaker, we have gone with a class size caps in our grades. Now, senior high is different because we know that is based on courses that are offered and whatnot. We have in our classrooms today classroom sizes and teachers, I will contend to you, which equal and better any across this entire country, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: Highest grade in masters (inaudible).

MR. JACKMAN: Highest grade in masters, the member reminds me, of across this country. So, we have qualified teachers.

Mr. Speaker, we talk about the special education allocations. In 2010, we allocated an additional 25,000 special education hours to support teachers and students in our classrooms. We spent $15 million annually on student assistants. We have spent $7 million over five years on special planning thorough the ISSP process for student support and to offer teachers supports that they need in their classrooms.

I ask everyone to listen to this one: One in seven teachers in this Province is allocated to special education. When the members opposite get up and that Member for St. John's North who gets up and talks about what we are doing for special education, there is one in seven teachers allocated for special education services. Mr. Speaker, he either misses the point or more aptly, Mr. Speaker –

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Member for St. John's North, on a point of order.

MR. KIRBY: Mr. Speaker, no one over here, especially me, is missing the point here. In fact, this minister has gotten up now – I believe this is exactly the same speech he gave in Committee of Supply just a short time ago, so there is nothing new here to me, Mr. Speaker. I got the point.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There is no point of order.

The hon. the Minister of Education.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, I did not get the point, just did not get the point.

All I am saying, Mr. Speaker, is that I do not think that the member opposite dismisses it. He knows it, but politically he cannot acknowledge it. He just cannot acknowledge it.

AN HON. MEMBER: MUN does. His colleagues do.

MR. JACKMAN: Oh, yes. Oh, definitely.

Mr. Speaker, I want to speak a bit about infrastructure. This year in the Budget alone, we have allocated $115 million. Listen, get this, Mr. Speaker – the member opposite, listen – since 2004, we have allocated over $567 million in approved school construction – $567 million.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Now, Mr. Speaker, listen to where they have been allocated: Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Torbay, Placentia, Port Saunders, L'Anse-au-Loup, Port Hope Simpson, Baie Verte, and we put two in Paradise. Five more new schools are under construction in St. Anthony, Carbonear, and St. John's. We have added replacements for St. Teresa's, we are working on the Virginia Park situation, and now a new high school in the West End of St. John's.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: This year we have announced the first step in the planning for five new schools, and in Corner Brook, doing work on the reorganization of the Corner Brook situation.

We, Mr. Speaker, this government – and the Member for The Straits is talking about not planning. Mr. Speaker, my goodness gracious; just what have I listed off? Did he think we just happened upon these and said, let's build these on a whim? Not likely, Mr. Speaker; this is around good planning, good, sound planning, and for education.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: And for education, Mr. Speaker, it means a better education for the people of this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Mr. Speaker, I would just like to get into some of the initiatives. I have to say, I have been pleased to see some of the members opposite taking part in them. Just a couple of days ago we were at a school where a school won an inclusion award. We have to commend these teachers and these students, because they have moved mountains from where we were ten, fifteen years ago, Mr. Speaker.

When we talk about Safe and Caring Schools, we are moving more towards action than paying lip service to those programs that we roll out. Mr. Speaker, we have been acknowledged nationally for moving and putting a resource into our schools around My Gay-Straight Alliance, putting a resource in the schools that recognizes the young people who struggle with sexual orientation in our schools. For so long, Mr. Speaker, we kind of let it slide by, maybe looked at it as being out there. Today, rather than paying lip service to Safe and Caring Schools and saying that we respect and care about every student, we are actually moving into taking action to show that we support the things that we do.

MR. JOYCE: That is a good move. That is a good move.

MR. JACKMAN: I hear the member opposite saying, a good move. Indeed, it is a good move, Mr. Speaker. It is indeed a good move, and a good member opposite who acknowledges it.

AN HON. MEMBER: The Member for the Bay of Islands.

MR. JACKMAN: The Member for the Bay of Islands, he wanted me to mention that, Mr. Speaker, and I would not deny him that. It truly is a good initiative, it is a good acknowledgement, and I would hope that members opposite would say that this initiative, like so many other initiatives that we have introduced in our education system, has made our school system one of the best in this country of Canada, Mr. Speaker.

My time is winding down, but I am looking forward to more opportunities. On a bit of leave, Mr. Speaker, I can go for a bit longer, because I can open up more of the notes that I have.

Mr. Speaker, to clue up, two points that I would make –

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I remind the member –

MR. JACKMAN: Just a minute, if I could, to clue up.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Education, by leave.

MR. JACKMAN: Yes, if the Member for St. John's North had not interrupted me so much, Mr. Speaker, I would have been finished by now. I can assure him that.

Two points, Mr. Speaker, that I want to clue up on. One is that I truly am pleased to be a minister in the Department of Education. I think it is at a better time in education than we have ever had before, Mr. Speaker. Second, as I started out in saying, a very challenging time in the District of Burin – Placentia West and on the Burin Peninsula.

I will say the end result, the end product, will be very positive. It will mean that, working together and putting politics aside, we all collectively work together for the betterment of the people we represent, Mr. Speaker.

Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Official Opposition.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

First of all, this is actually my third time speaking to the Budget. I guess by nature I typically try and give credit where credit is due. During my first two opportunities to speak, what I have done –

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. BALL: The member opposite says I will need more than twenty minutes, so we will see where this goes.

What I have done is I tried to take certain programs, certain departments, and actually drill down in some of the areas; some areas that there has been some good work done, some areas that we think we could actually make some improvements and obviously get some better return on some of the money that we invest in those programs. I spoke at length about health care, about the impact on our communities within the Province; about forestry and agriculture, where we feel that some diversification within those programs could actually help, especially the rural areas of our Province where we could obviously keep some people home.

One member mentioned today, I guess during the speaking time, that there was no doubt that if you move off the Northeast Avalon, indeed some of the biggest employers within the Province are Alberta bound. I talked about the apprenticeship program, a lot about affordable housing, and about search and rescue. All those programs and projects in particular, affect all of us in Newfoundland and Labrador, Mr. Speaker.

Today, as I said, this is my third time speaking. I will try and be as fair as possible. I will give credit where credit is due; there is no doubt about that. You cannot have a budget of over $6 billion and not have some good things associated with it. There is significant value when you spend that kind of money in a budget. There will be some benefit, of course, to many people in the Province.

One thing the Member for Mount Pearl South said, as he stood up and started speaking, no matter what we do as MHAs and as we play our role here in the House, we must too, I believe, accept our responsibility. This is the third term for government and there was no question that back in 2003 there was significant debt within this Province. We had social debt, we had infrastructure debt, and, of course, we had financial debt. There just really was not a lot of money to go around.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. BALL: That is right, it was there obviously. This debt was accumulated over successive Administrations, and there was no question it was a serious problem for the Province. When I look back at those years in 2003, and you see the amount of revenue we had in this Province, it was really no comparison to where we are today. What happened over many governments, I would suggest, and even back into the 1980s, there was a foundation that was being put in place for the Province that at some point we would actually get to the point where we were in 2005 when we saw substantial revenue increases in the Province. Of course, projects like Hibernia, like White Rose, like Terra Nova, and like Voisey's Bay, they all now contribute a lot to the revenue of our Province. Now we have billions of dollars that come into our Province on an annual basis, which lays the foundation for some of the work that we are seeing today. So it has been successive governments that have led to these successes, just as there have been successive governments that have led to some of the deficits that we currently have to deal with.

There is no question that the change started, I believe, in the 1980s. There is no question with the negotiation of the Atlantic Accord that actually formed the basis for the success we are having today. When you look at the amendment in 2005, that amendment actually reduced the terms of the Atlantic Accord. Nevertheless, we took that opportunity to take the $2 billion and put down towards debt. That was significant when you look at the ability to address your overall debt for this Province. This was, I believe, and I have said it lots of times in this House, in my opinion, this was the right thing to do at the time. The success today, I would remind all members opposite, did not start in 2003. This all started years and years ago. The Member for Mount Pearl South is agreeing with what I am saying, I am sure. We must give credit where credit is due.

One of the things I have often said as I spoke to many members opposite is that as a pharmacist and working in communities, there is no question that you would see, especially when you get into rural areas, people who were on low incomes finding it very difficult to make ends meet. One of the things this government has done is the Poverty Reduction program. It has been very successful and we have seen the benefits of this. We are not quite there, there is still some work to be done, but there will always be work to be done. If you deal with situations like this, especially in health care, the perfect health care system will always be, in some ways, arm's-length to where we need to be. That is what we have to do. We have to strive to make those benefits and those programs available for people who need them the most.

The member opposite just spoke at length about education. There was no question that some of the major investments in education have made a tremendous difference today. I have to go back on the basis of those investments have happened because governments, this government, previous governments, and others as well, have taken the time to build a foundation and create the programs where we are today. It is kind of refreshing to hear, sometimes, people talk about where indeed the money did come from, because we realize that even though you may want to take credit for most of this, in actual fact, the credit for most of the things that have happened within our Province goes from one generation to the next. We will pass on something to the next generation. There will always be a legacy to some degree that we pass on.

Mr. Speaker, the other thing that was mentioned was about the have province. The Member for Mount Pearl South made mention about where we are today in particular, and the feeling of being a have province. Indeed we are, and I think he is correct in saying that in some ways we are a have province simply by formula, because no matter where you go in the Province right now you will find that there is a degree where you see much more benefit in some areas than in others. We notice that certainly within our population declines. I know last week when I spoke – I think it was probably last Monday when I spoke in the House – I talked a bit about personal debt and where we are. Through the Estimates I was informed that indeed, we are not the second-lowest anymore. We are climbing, so our personal net debt has improved; we are somewhere over $15,000 per person right now. Just before I really get into some of the things I want to talk about today, I think it is important that we acknowledge those improvements and also identify areas where we can make improvement.

Mr. Speaker, last week much of the discussion around the Budget – we have heard issues around Muskrat Falls surface, and there was no question that we look forward to the debate in the House of Assembly. Last week the Minister of Natural Resources used his twenty minutes to speak about Muskrat Falls. I was thinking about it this morning, actually; when you go back to 2010 and the announcement of Muskrat Falls, we all wondered where indeed this would actually lead us and how big a role this would actually play in our future, Mr. Speaker.

What it does is it brings us to the point where we analyze what we know. We take the time to revisit and review and do the analysis of the term sheet and the conditions of the Muskrat Falls agreement, just to see actually where we are and how it fits into the future of our Province. When we speak about Muskrat Falls, the question comes down to two really simple things: do we need the power and what is the least-cost option. These seem to be the two questions that we often want answers for.

So, do we need the power? We have been told that we have had independent reviews and analyses done on this, one by Manitoba Hydro, and we have seen reviews by Navigant and others about the Muskrat Falls Project, but to provide balance to the argument, it is fair that we look at both Manitoba Hydro's analysis of this, but yet the analysis of others as well. By that I mean the joint review panel and the in-depth analysis that they have done on this. They came back and said they were not brought to the point, or they were not completely satisfied, indeed, that the need for this power actually existed in the Province. So, they put questions, and there were a bunch of recommendations that we understand are being worked through at this time. As Manitoba Hydro has said yes, we can identify that there is a need for power; the joint review panel, on the other hand, said, well, maybe in their case they were not satisfied that question was answered.

So it was with the PUB, the Public Utilities Board. They actually hired Manitoba Hydro International to do the analysis. In the opinion of the PUB, the need for power was not demonstrated. They came out of this asking more questions. So, I think there is a need for balance here.

One other thing that we look at is the need for the domestic demand, and indeed, the Island's total energy. I will talk a little bit about this as I get more into this, and that is the difference the between the domestic demand, and indeed, the total energy demand for the Province. Manitoba Hydro were mandated to evaluate those numbers, and they did, and they came back and actually said that maybe Nalcor has underestimated the numbers for the domestic demand for the Province – that being, I think, 0.8 per cent. But, the margin of error, typically, from what I understand, amongst utilities is indeed in the 1 per cent range. So, if that is the acceptable range here that we are going to accept when you do these analyses, from what I understand, we were within the industry standard of plus or minus 1 per cent.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. BALL: The other thing that I think, when you look at the energy demand, is what is required for the total energy demand. Mr. Speaker, I am talking about what industry needs as well. There is no question that when you look at the Island's total energy demand, what the industry needs is usually I believe to be around a 50-50 balance that indeed industry –


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Leader of the Official Opposition, to continue.

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Indeed where our industry is and where we are seeing industry go into the future is really hard to determine. I have been on record and have been quoted as saying: Do I believe that as a Province will we need the power? Yes, I have said that. As a Province to me, I mean Labrador as well, just not the Island demand, Labrador as well. So members opposite shake their heads, it is nice to hear that we need to include that.

Back in 2010, we had the opportunity – when the deal was struck, it was 40 per cent for the Island domestic use, 20 per cent for Emera in return for the investment that they would be making in the Maritime transmission link, and then 40 per cent for other uses. In 2010, typically, we often use the word export. What would happen here is that we would see power exported and sold on what was called to be the spot market. They would be substantially lower prices and not something that would even cover the cost to develop Muskrat Falls. There would be subsidized or discounted rates on the spot market.

When you go back to the announcement and where we are today, I think the argument and the discussion is certainly becoming much different. Labrador is playing a much larger role in terms of how we would use the power for industrial development in Labrador. That is the reason why I have made my comments in the past consistently saying that as a Province we will need power. The issue to me is how much will we need on the Island, how much will we need in Labrador?

In some ways you are seeing the deal or the proposed deal for Muskrat Falls, the focus is shifting a little bit more towards the Labrador power needs. I will get into that a little bit later because we all know that the industrial development – and I have seen this first-hand on the visit that I made there in February, there is significant demand in Labrador for power.

Mr. Speaker, as I look back at rates – and I understand the minister in his upcoming Budget responses will address rates. One of the things that we have not heard is that we know the cost to construct Muskrat will be somewhere around 23.9 per cent, if it stays on budget; this is where we are. We understand that the rate to the consumer based on the power purchase agreement that we will see between Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro and Nalcor will actually sell that power for the last figures that we have been hearing, something around 16.4 cents. This is a number that has been fairly consistent during the argument here, that this is what ratepayers will pay once Muskrat Falls comes on line. In a media interview that I did hear a few weeks ago with the CEO of Nalcor, all of this is contingent and conditional upon building this project on budget, which is a considerable task, I might say, in this day and age.

What we have not heard and what I would like to see is the analysis on what an overrun would be. For instance, if we run this project at 10 per cent over, if there is a 10 per cent overrun, what would the impact be? If it is 15 per cent or 20 per cent, what is the impact on rates to the consumers and to the industrial users as well? These are questions that I am being asked. Usually, people ask: What is the rate? During that same, I guess it was a VOCM Open Line show, there was a caller that kind of struck me, as I remember certain individuals and how they put their thoughts and their comments together it becomes sometimes a little unique and it triggers things in your mind. The caller actually asked the CEO: Don't tell me how much it is going to go up; don't tell me that my bill is $280 and this is going to be $15 more. The actual person on the phone said: Don't tell me that. Tell me what my kilowatt is going to be; I can understand that.

In response to those questions, we have gotten into the power bill discussion. What I would like to see is: Let's be clear about this, where we are, and what the power rates are. If there is an overrun here of 10 per cent, what is the impact of that? If it is 15 per cent, what is the impact of that on this project? What are the impacts of the overruns on this particular project?

The other thing that needs to be factored into this equation, when you consider the other options, if it is a natural gas option or if it is an LNG or some combination of wind, what is the kilowatt hour price from those other options? We just simply cannot say that we are going to dismiss the options because they are not viable or they are not financially viable. We need to know what the kilowatt hour price is. I think these are things consumers out there are asking right now.

One of the other things that I still need some clarification on is how the escalator clause will work. We know that the power purchase agreement with Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro will include somewhat of an escalator for the fifty years of the contract. There is a different arrangement with this one. With Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, there will be a take or pay contract here in place so that as ratepayers, the residents of the Province, we will pay for this power if we use it or not. This contract will form the basis of how we actually pay for Muskrat Falls. So 40 per cent, the people of the Province will actually pay for the cost of the Muskrat Falls Project. This compares historically to the way we did it in the Province and that being the cost of service.

The escalator that I was referring to, there is some confusion in some of the commentary we have seen and even in some of the submissions at the PUB. What is the escalator? It is very difficult to determine it with any degree of clarity. Is the escalator going to be tied to CPI, the Consumer Price Index, or inflation? Is it tied to inflation or is it strictly a 2 per cent increase per year? What is it on an ongoing basis, or if it is even tied to inflation or not? These are just some questions coming out of the discussion last week.

One of the other things that was talked about is the 17,000 new ratepayers since 2005. Some of this, there is no question, is as we see the demographic shifts. As some people are moving from rural Newfoundland, it is not uncommon to drive through any of these smaller communities in rural parts of the Province and see empty houses. We see that in most of the communities from the rural areas we visit. So there is a demographic shift. No one will argue that these new ratepayers exist since 2005. When I look at that, I also see a tremendous opportunity there.

When we talk about areas of conservation, how is it that we have so many new ratepayers with so many new homes and smaller families? Is there an area there where we can implement some conservation changes and measures? We all know that with new houses and new housing developments, it does not necessarily mean that for every new house it is incremental and that the cost to provide energy to that house is the same as it would be for some of the older houses we are seeing close down. We do know that there are many energy efficient appliances available and there are ways to reduce your energy costs, especially with new home construction. What we are seeing in some other areas, of course, is the geothermal technology that is being used by many new homeowners right now.

The other thing, there was a cost of distribution analysis that was done when you look at the cheaper rates in areas that use large hydro projects, that being in Manitoba, Quebec and BC. One of the other things that – I have not seen the breakdown on what it cost in distribution. Some people have brought to my attention that in some of those other areas the distribution is done a little differently. In some cases, the large hydro owners themselves are part of the distribution. I really do not know with any degree of certainty what it is we pay for distribution right now, but it is certainly a factor that needs to be factored and some questions that need to be asked. Not to suggest that we can do it any other way, but it is saying that this is a factor that we may not have any control over.

Mr. Speaker, I will continue, but what I will talk a bit about today will be where we are with how we predict the demand, and that is very difficult to do. When you look at fifty years out, how do you predict accurately the demand that we will actually need in the Province?

One of the other things, as I just mentioned, is about the population shift. There is no question that we have large pockets right now or large areas of this Province where we are seeing economic benefits and growth within the Province. There is also a question that if you go through rural Newfoundland, as I have just said, Mr. Speaker, that you get somewhat of a different story.

The other thing is, we do need to look at economic indicators and just be very careful and mindful that when we look at the economic indicators, that we are not using them in a small time frame. We do know there was a connection made when you look at new housing starts and for instance, car sales. We have seen over the last few years some shift in that and the new housing starts were down a little bit last year, as were car sales.

As a matter of fact, if you go back over the last three years you will see that our new motor vehicle sales are really not much different at all, not much of an improvement. In actual fact, as I have said, from 2010 to 2011 there was about a 2.7 per cent decline. If you go right back to 2008, there were actually more cars sold in the Province in 2008 than there was in 2011.

Housing starts, we did see there was significant growth from 2009 to 2010, but when you look at the numbers last year – 3,488, according to the economic indicators and statistics that we have in our Budget – that was actually down a little bit from the year before. As I said, I think we need to be very careful and mindful that when we use those arguments, we really need to try to lengthen the time span on those indicators as much as possible to get the accurate information.

One other thing – and like I said, I will get to demand in some degree of detail in a few minutes – when you look at peak power demand in 2004, it was at 1,598; this is, of course, when we had paper mills that were operating at that time. If you go back to 2010, it was at 1,478 megawatts. That is actually lower, so in some ways you could make the argument that you really need to look at the demand much more closely to try to see where we are. I believe there are some areas here in demand management that really need to be considered.

The other thing is, when you look at Holyrood and the number of barrels of oil that we use at full capacity, I do not think anyone will question that at 18,000 barrels a day, this is significant cost. No one will also argue the fact that we had to do something with Holyrood, that it has been an eyesore and bad news, at least in my opinion, for this Province for a long time. If you go back to the 18,000 barrels per day, in some ways, yes, there is no question; at peak capacity, this is what you will need. But last year, Holyrood, I think the number was somewhere around 11 per cent of our needs. Even when you look at the worst times, that being in January, February and March, and you go back over a period of eight years or so, you will see that we only relied on Holyrood for about 50 per cent, even in our toughest times. Over the last six years you will see that number would have dropped again.

So, there is no question; we have to do something with Holyrood. There is no question that fuel costs are high there. There is no question, at peak capacity we will need 18,000 barrels a day, but we also need to analyze when we need that power, recognizing the fact that if you need it for peak capacity, you have to have it available anyway. There has to be a way that you can backfill; when Holyrood comes out, you can actually plan for the peak capacity, whatever that capacity is. There may be times when it does require something that is equivalent to the 18,000 barrels per day.

The other thing that we have seen that has been unusual, I believe, in the last – as many of you know, the area where I live, we do have a power plant there. It has been many, many years where I have actually seen any spillage from the reservoir. Last year, we saw that in some significant ways throughout the Province in most of our reservoirs where we have seen spillage. Of course, a lot of this comes from things we cannot control at all, like too much rainfall or whatever it is. I do believe and understand that with the construction of the transmission line we will be able to move power from the Central area into the Avalon. Maybe there is a way that some of the spillage can be avoided and we can actually make better use of this power.

The other thing is the pricing of oil. This has a tremendous impact when you look at the analysis for the development of Muskrat Falls. I was actually reading some reports this morning about the price of oil. I understand that even today it is somewhere in the high nineties per barrel. It is difficult to tell. All of us would like to have a crystal ball to be able to look into the future and see the impact. What is the impact of oil?

We do know that when you look at the inventory reserves in the world today, they seem to be increasing. A lot of this is determined by factors that are both political in nature and the economics of what happens in Europe and other places in the world. Lots of those things we have no control over. Getting off of oil, there is no question, will certainly offset the price of our energy. There is no question about that, but you are making an investment of billions of dollars based on forecasts when PIRA themselves are not comfortable.

When you look at a fifty-year forecast for oil, we do not know where we will be. All of us can sit here and make guesses, but I will bring up an article in a few minutes where we have a number of different analysts around the world right now, some predicting it is going to be up and just as many predicting it will be down. It is a very difficult situation to be in, how you take such a large part of your cash reserves and are willing to go borrow for a project the size of Muskrat Falls, when you look at the impact it can have on our future.

One of the things we talked about is the blackouts and the brownout situation we have occurring in 2015. We all recognize that this will go back to how we predict our demand. I will address that in just a few minutes here in detail, going back to 2001 in terms of where we have been in the demand.

I mentioned a few minutes ago about the need for power in Labrador. It is very difficult at this time when you look at the economic development that is happening in Labrador, Mr. Speaker, how much power is going to be required. If we could actually fast forward and go ahead in time, where we would be in a few years, we cannot miss the opportunity to be involved in that up there. How much power will Labrador need? We do not know. We are told that IOC themselves could need a significant amount of power. We know that some of the smaller mining companies in Labrador will need power, but it will beg to question: What role and how much power will we have available to meet the mining requirements in Labrador, and indeed, what kind of infrastructure is in place.

Speaking to some people I know in Labrador, they have significant concerns about transmission. Just a few weeks ago, I was talking to somebody that was involved, but they said, in their opinion at least, the transmission in Labrador is not that reliable. When we talk about Voisey's Bay and going underground in terms of needing 50 megawatts of power, we all realize that is a tremendous cost to get power into that area.

These are a lot of questions that we need answered. What is the industrial rate for the mining sector in Labrador? How can we partner with them to actually make sure that we can actually do this? Indeed, will we have the power available if Labrador requires the amount of power that we think, considering that we have committed 20 per cent of this or around 165 megawatts of firm power to Nova Scotia?

One of the things, when you look at describing Muskrat Falls – again, last week as I was leaving a meeting, two gentlemen pulled me over and they were asking questions – lots of political questions, I might add. They were just two citizens or just two regular residents of the Province. One of them looked at me, there were two there, two different opinions, and said: Dwight, I like the way you conduct yourself in the House of Assembly; you seem to be fair. The other guy looked at me and said: Dwight, I do, but I do not know about this Muskrat Falls Project. You probably need to get behind that. Anyway, I looked at them, I said: Do you want to spend some time talking about? I said: Why do you say that? He said: It is going to get us away from Quebec. I said: Okay, we can chat about that. Is there anything else? He said: It is going to get us in the position where we can actually export power. These two gentlemen, there was no question they were people who watch the news and read the news. I asked one question in return: The dependence of Quebec, what about the transmission line that comes from Labrador – and I say to the Minister of Natural Resources, as we look at this, that is a question I know we have had out there in the media many, many times. The person I was talking to did not realize that the transmission capability coming off Labrador into the Island was for 900 megawatts of power. In actual fact, it will help and I know that this has been framed up as being Phase 1 of the Lower Churchill Project, but it just goes to show where it is and the work that we have to do as MHAs here to get this message out.

The other thing that he was not aware of was the fact that only 500 megawatts of this could be actually carried into Nova Scotia and that we had committed 165 megawatts of that. They were actually surprised to hear that is all the space that was available. The other thing is where the customers will come from and how much they are willing to pay, and the fact that there are no power purchase agreements with anyone outside of the Province at this point, at least that we know of.

Mr. Speaker, as I just continue on here, there is no question as I said earlier that we have to do something with Holyrood. There is no question that in some degree there is need for power in the Province, if you look at the mining sector in Labrador. It still leaves many unanswered questions I believe in the minds of people within the Province. One of the things that I just mentioned that I will talk at length about and this is the demand. I spoke a bit about the domestic use and in terms of the total energy requirements. If you go back and you actually look back at the history of how we have forecast it, typically you can find a lot of charts that were available through the PUB hearings. There was a lot of information there, and I would encourage people to go take a look at some of those questions. You actually get a lot of information from that, and there was a very good job in some of the analysis that was done on this.

When you look at it, in terms of the MHI report, the domestic sector as I mentioned, this accounts for less than 50 per cent of the Island's total energy requirements. This project cannot happen just on the domestic sector alone, it has to be done based on our total energy requirements which will include the industrial use. When you look at the total Island energy requirements, you can certainly make an argument when you look at the forecasts from 2001, that there has been an overestimation on those demands. As a matter of fact, there was in the early days an argument that was made that we had, since 1970 I believe, seen annual increases on average of about 2.3 per cent. In actual fact, when you look back at that and you actually drill down and you do the analysis, most of that growth happened between 1970 and 1990. There has actually been very limited growth since 1990. When you look at that and you say: well, can I make my predictions on demand in ten years? We cannot do that to a great degree of accuracy. How in the world are we going to do this fifty-seven years out? You can see the challenges in trying to identify what it is our demand needs are going to be. We already know there have been questions raised by the joint review panel and the PUB, and that they were not satisfied that the need on the Island has been identified.

I just want to take us through - and I want to get into this because I think it is important that the people who are watching this today, I think it is important that we realize and we understand where it is that this demand has come from. I want to take us through a chart that I have here. This comes from the exhibits at the PUB hearings. I am going to go back over the last ten years.

If you look at the forecast in 2001 of what we would need in 2010, you would see that in 2001 it was forecasted that we would need 1,741 megawatts of power at our Island peak demand. In 2010, if you look at what we actually did use, it was 1,478 megawatts. So we missed that forecast, if you go back the ten years. We missed that by – obviously, it is a significant difference. If you go back to 2001 and you say what did we need in 2001, for instance? The forecast was at 1,576 and we actually used 1,435 megawatts. If you look at 2002, for instance, and say, what was the forecast for 2002? It was 1,602 and we used 1,592. If you look at 2003, we had a forecast of 1,611 and we used 1,595. You can actually see here that there has been a difference in every year. In 2004, it was 1,632 and we used 1,598; in 2005, it was 1,652, we used 1,595; in 2006, 1,673, we used 1,517 megawatts; in 2007, it was 1,696, we used 1,540; in 2008, we had a forecast of 1,719 and we used 1,520; in 2009, we had a forecast of 1,735, we used 1,601; and in 2011, those forecasts are just coming out now as we know.

You can see that not once in the last ten years do you under forecast ever, it was always over. You always overestimated and in some areas here there were significant errors in forecasting. When you do the analysis on that, you will see that when you look at the buffer that is required here, according to Nalcor and according to Newfoundland Hydro this buffer, that we will then experience brownouts which would be intermittent losses in electricity versus blackouts. You can see that on the demand side here that if we look at the rate of growth that we are seeing within the Province, that we can be still quite a few years out before we experience some of the brownouts that has been talked about.

If you look at the – as I said about the buffer which is really a number that Nalcor, Newfoundland Hydro puts in place where this is kind of a danger area. That if you go over that buffer from what we have in the overall capacity for the Province of over 1,900 megawatts of power, that once you get that level you are into that buffer area, you need to have a level of comfort in knowing that you are safe and you can provide power in a reliable way, which is important to industry and certainly important to our residents.

When you look at the analysis on the demand side, there is no question that you can see that we have had our challenges in doing the analysis on that. When you look at the overall Island capacity, I believe it is 1,958 megawatts that we can generate right now by the various sources of energy within our Province, and you look at that buffer area of 1,683, and you use the forecast that we have where we are today, with our Island peak demand last year at 1,478, and you do the incremental growth that we have had over the last ten years. For instance, in 2001 we used 1,435; 2010, we used 1,473.

You can actually make the numbers work. A lot of people can stand up and they can spill out numbers. The highest that we ever used in the last ten years in our Province was 1,601 and that was in 2009. We need to look at areas where we can – and that happened once; there was only once did we go over the 1,600 megawatts. As a matter of fact, on average, over the last ten years, we have required 1,547 megawatts on an annual basis to provide power to the Province. That is the demand side. I said that this is obviously something that makes it very difficult; the volatility and the prices of oil make it very difficult. It is a decision that will come with, no doubt, in my opinion at least, lots and lots of risk.

One of the other things that I want to talk about today, Mr. Speaker, is this whole idea of how we diversify the economy and how we use our resource money to actually diversify the economy so that we are not dependent on oil. We all know, and I spoke to this when I started, that most of the success that we have had within the Province right now, there is no question, comes from our oil royalties. Therefore, we look for ways to diversify the economy so that when the oil money is gone, when the resources offshore are no longer available, how is it that we actually have – what have we done to create a sustainable economy for the next generation? What is the legacy for the next generation? How do we use the oil money to create this diversification within our economy that will be required to sustain the financial viability?

We all know that we have made significant commitments to investment within the Province. When you just look at the list that was talked about in the 2012 Budget, we will see that we have a couple of a hundred million dollars in health care infrastructure. We have a hospital in Corner Brook that, if it stays on budget, will be in the vicinity of $750 million when it is completed. We certainly have challenges within our municipalities; we all know that there is a new financial arrangement that they are looking for, because they are seeing and finding the difficulties that they are seeing within their own communities in making ends meet.

We have the Trans-Labrador Highway; we know that Phase I will now be completed, but there are certainly huge commitments to infrastructure when we get into the next phases of that highway. We have new schools in St. John's and we have, as we have heard within the news today, the new ferry system. Most of this would seem to be very basic infrastructure that is required by the residents of the Province. We have huge demands on infrastructure and we have made commitments to infrastructure.

When you look at this, our energy company Nalcor, they have themselves made some huge commitments as part of their investment into the offshore and the equity position they have taken. They have significant investments to make as well. From what I know, that is probably in the range of about $1.5 billion. We do know that with Hebron, as that develops, we own 4.9 per cent of that, Hibernia South around 10 per cent; certainly, the White Rose satellites, we have an equity investment there. Our obligations through Nalcor will be significant and possibly in the billions of dollars will be required.

If Nalcor does not have the revenue to create that kind of investment, where is the money going to come from? We all know the answer to that. It will come from the people of this Province. We will, at the end of the day, have to backstop Nalcor on its commitments. These are things we have to consider. Yet, from what I know, we have not dealt with the Fortis commitment we have made to make sure that company is whole. It has come from the aftermath of the expropriation of the Abitibi mill in Grand Falls-Windsor.

When we look at the development of Muskrat Falls, we ask ourselves: Is this an investment or is this something we have to do to meet the power demands for the residents of our Province? When you look at the investment piece of it, there has to be a return. If you are going to invest money for the creation of Muskrat Falls, then you have to ask yourself: At what point will Muskrat Falls produce a dividend? Where is the return on the investment for us as a Province on Muskrat Falls?

This equity position that we are taking – we know that we have cash reserves in excess of $2 billion right now, but we also know that over the next two years we are going to see deficits. This will eat into our cash reserves. This is the way it works. Rather than go to a balanced Budget approach, we will have to use our reserves to keep the economy going over the next few years. We could actually see those cash reserves shrinking to some degree.

When questioned about where the money will come from to meet the infrastructure demands that we have already made commitments to, some of the ones I just outlined there – and I am sure there will be newer ones that will come next year – we have no choice here. Our equity position in Muskrat Falls – we will have to make it. We have made that commitment. In a question that I asked a couple of weeks ago in the House, the equity position would be in the $2 billion range and Nalcor would borrow about $3 billion.

The question it will be is: What do we borrow for? Do we borrow for the Muskrat Falls Project or do we borrow for the infrastructure? Let's say you borrow for Muskrat Falls, well there needs to be a return. If this is going to be framed up as a way to diversify our Province, there has to be a return. What I would like to see is that there was no difference. If you were to make any investment, the financial advisor would come in and say well if you put in this much money here, this is how it would grow.

My question would be because of the Muskrat Falls investment, at what point with this $2 billion investment into this project will we actually see a return? We already know that about 40 per cent of this power we will be able to close down Holyrood and, therefore, we will meet that commitment, then with the other 60 per cent of this power, 20 per cent to Emera now for the thirty-five-year commitment. At what point will we see money that comes from Muskrat Falls that we can actually use for our own needs within the Province? This is a very philosophical-type question. As you try to build your economy, as you try to diversify the economy, where will the money come from and when will we see the dividends? The pro forma is what I am trying to say on the investment here is at what point we will get a cheque from Nalcor that we can recover and use some of the money, some of the equity positions that we have taken will provide benefits to the people of the Province.

I look at this and I use the analogy almost as if you were building your own house. The person would be able to rent upstairs and he had an apartment that is downstairs. You are going to expect the person upstairs to pay all the operational and maintenance costs and they are going to pay all of the mortgage. Somewhere, from the apartment owner downstairs, we should be able to see where we can use some of this money to meet the day-to-day needs of the Province. If not, if that is not the case, well then we will definitely need to reconsider if we consider this to be an investment opportunity or not.

As I look back at this – and I went back and was reading some old articles and this goes right back to 2010. This was a comment made about what will this project mean for the people of the Province. It says that Nalcor and the provincial government can finance the project with oil money. This would lead you to believe that this is indeed somewhat of an investment for the Province and that it would then see the benefits of this at some other point rather than just use the money for the day-to-day operations right now.

In recent days, we have heard comments about we need to get this started; let's get it done. We have been told that by 2015 there would be potentially brownouts in the area, although I would question just by the comments that I made a bit earlier there about the demand side, if in actual fact this is where we are today. When you look at why the project is delayed, from time to time people out there who have asked questions about the project they are almost led to believe, because of some questions have been put forth, that simply by asking questions that it is actually causing some of the delays. Well, indeed, that is not the case. When you look at some of the reasons why this project is delayed, we need not look any further than day one of the announcement back in November 2010. On day one, we were told that the term sheet would be finalized by November 2011. In actual fact, Mr. Speaker, as we know, that did not happen. That was extended to January 2012. We all know now that it did not happen on January 2012 either. We understand from some comments last week that we are getting close, but there was no imposed deadline.

The DG 3 numbers for review by Nalcor, we now understand that they have been delayed a little bit. When you look at the number of delays that we have had in this project, it is simply not because questions have been asked. It is certainly because of some of the work that has been done at Nalcor and even the PUB themselves in their own submission when they came back with the response and really not supporting it or came back asking more questions. One of the reasons why they took the position that they did was simply they said in this particular case, Nalcor, that there was significant delays in getting answers to some of the questions that they actually put to Nalcor. The decisions here and when you look at the delays in the project, is certainly not something that has been the responsibility of no one else here I do not believe, except by Nalcor themselves. We have to wonder, when we get into areas where there is considered to be an urgent demand or what it is by getting on with the project, indeed what does it actually mean.

The other thing, Mr. Speaker, is we often know that Emera and through Nova Scotia with the Government of Nova Scotia right now, that even though there is a commitment to the project, they are also committed to do a thorough review, even if it means changing legislation in Nova Scotia to see that this review is done. That is a commitment that they will make. In actual fact, there will be delays that will happen with our partners, with Emera and in Nova Scotia right now, that really are out of the control of anyone here in this House, or out of the control of Nalcor, I might add, Mr. Speaker.

Of course, the other questions as it relates to it: How will the loan guarantee be handled? Will it be an actual loan guarantee or will the other option by the federal government be something that is equivalent to a loan guarantee? What is it? Because if the loan guarantee itself is not there, what is the impact that this is going to have on interest rates with this project? Mr. Speaker, there are still lots of questions that need to be answered when it comes to Muskrat Falls and certainly how risky this project is.

Before I finish up, I have just a few minutes here. I want to talk about governance and where we are right now. We all recognize that we have some – I do recognize and I do compliment that we do have some very good people who work at Nalcor, but this was never about individuals, in particular, with me. This is always about – if people are good at what they do, well one thing they usually do not mind is they usually do not mind being questioned. One thing that we have noticed, I must say, and lots of people have noticed really, is right now we have a board at Nalcor that has, I think, five members. I think there is a vacant position on that board right now, but we have the same board of directors at Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro. In this particular case, they will be the biggest customer for Muskrat Falls power. They will be the only customer. That will be done through a power purchase agreement. You will have the same board of directors that will actually be representing Nalcor and then on the other hand, it will be the same board of directors willing to accept this power purchase agreement.

What I did then was said: Okay, let me go take a look at prints in some other corporations. I went to Fortis for instance, as an example. They do something that is completely different. The board at Newfoundland Power is certainly not the board at Fortis. It is very different. It is different people. As a matter of fact, on Fortis I believe they have about eleven board members and at Newfoundland Power they have twelve. I think this is an area that we really need to look at. It has nothing to do with the individuals at all, but it has a lot to do with the governance. Having the same board members on Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro as you would have on Nalcor, I believe there needs to be somewhat of a shift there. At Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, in actual fact, we need to consider that we would see a different board there, at least in terms of the board of directors, and maybe even a larger board, with just five members there, and with one vacant at this point. It is not unusual to see corporate structures shrink their number of board members, but five seems to be a little low.

The other thing right now is that as the owners of Nalcor, I understand we only get the annual reports from Nalcor. When you look at a company the size of Nalcor, it would not be unusual at all to see that a company like this would file quarterly reports. At such a sensitive time in the history of the company and how important this is, I think quarterly reports from Nalcor to us, the owners, is something that you would expect.

One of the things I have been asking for a number of weeks now is the cash flow projections for Nalcor. I made a statement here earlier that we expect there will be a requirement by Nalcor to be in the billions of dollars to meet the capital improvements that they have right now booked. It would be nice to see where Nalcor is in those five-year projections. How is it they have done their financial planning for those commitments?

Mr. Speaker, this is on the governance. I understand there are other reports filed by Nalcor, two interim reports, one to government each year, and that one comes in March, and the other one is the annual performance report that would come in June. The updated strategic plan is the one that comes in March. All of these, Mr. Speaker, are questions that - in such a sensitive time for Nalcor and in such a sensitive time for the people of the Province, it is important that we get a good understanding of where we are financially. We are not going to have this opportunity probably ever again to make such a significant investment into an energy company.

Mr. Speaker, there are so many other things that I thought I was going to get covered off today, one being the oil use that we have at Holyrood and where the predictors are going to be in the Province. There is almost a sense out there now that this project is sanctioned. When I look at some of the investments being made, I really would hope that we are still willing to look at all of the options and that we get this information back to the House of Assembly, giving everybody the time they need to do the analysis of the number of options that are available, including the availability of 2041 power.

Mr. Speaker, I will just close out my comments by saying that I will probably get maybe one or two more opportunities to speak in some fashion.

I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the time.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER (Kent): The hon. the Minister of the Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Affairs Secretariat.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. McGRATH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is a pleasure to stand up here in the House today and talk about the Budget. It is a little bit confusing when you are over on this side and you hear all the negativity. I looked up the word optimism in the dictionary and I saw Progressive Conservative. Then I looked up Opposition and they certainly live true to their word when it comes to Opposition. It is a little bit confusing when all you hear is negativity.

I am going to stay away from the negativity. I am going to talk a little bit about my district and what has happened there. I have to say, the Member for Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair mentioned that I grew up there and I was born and raised there. I was not born and raised there, I chose to go there when I was a young man and I have chosen to stay there ever since. It is a great place to live, but I have seen what some governments have done there and what some governments have not done there.

I am very proud to say that even under the Progressive Conservative government I had no problem speaking out when I did not like what was happening. I remember the Minister of Natural Resources commenting one of the first times he met me was when I spoke out that I did not like what was happening. There was room there for negotiation and we negotiated and came to a positive solution. I think that is what governing is all about. I am very proud to be a part of the Progressive Conservative government. What I have seen since 2003 is that, through those negotiations, how you come to positive results.

Certainly, since 2004, when the first Budget came down – and I have been involved on the other side; I do not mean the Opposition, but I mean through industry. I have been in business on my own, so you wanted to keep a close eye as to what was happening, Mr. Speaker, when Budgets came down.

In 2004, I am very proud to say as part of this government today that there has been over $3 billion that has been invested in the Labrador portion of our Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. McGRATH: That is more money than has ever been invested in the Labrador portion of the Province in the history of the Newfoundland and Labrador government.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. McGRATH: I remember in 1985, to leave Labrador West and go for a drive on the Trans-Labrador Highway you went to what we as western Labradorians call mile nineteen. It was exactly that; you were driving nineteen miles outside of Labrador City and then you came to a dead-end road. That is as far as you could drive. It was a common fact, to get on that road and drive the nineteen kilometres and then drive back. Then if you really wanted to be adventurous, you drive twenty-seven kilometres to Fermont, Quebec, and you drove back. The most you could drive in one day was maybe eighty, ninety kilometres and only nineteen of that was the extension of the Trans-Labrador Highway.

Last year I drove the Trans-Labrador Highway on a weekly basis. I would get in my vehicle and I would drive on what I consider a very comfortable part of the Trans-Labrador Highway, from Labrador City to Churchill Falls, which is about 254 kilometres, and I would drive back the same day. I would do business in Churchill Falls and I would drive back. There is only about ninety kilometres of that right now that is not paved. The rest of it, the other 170 kilometres, has blacktop on it, which I think is a huge improvement. Not only that, you can leave now and you can drive from Labrador City and you can actually drive right to Blanc-Sablon without stopping.

The Trans-Labrador Highway, when you think about it, from 1985 has come an awful long way. I think people quite often spend too much time talking about what we have not done when they could just say thank you. That would be nice every now and then.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. McGRATH: In Transportation and Works, since 2003 – I just want to run down through a couple of small numbers and then I will get into more detail about it – since 2003 or 2004, when the first Budget came down, Transportation and Works, $422 million. I will give a little bit of breakdown on that as I move on. Health care, we have spent $93.5 million in the Labrador portion of our Province.

You will notice I am saying the Labrador portion of the Province, because it is frustrating when you sit on this side of the House and you have two members who actually represent Labrador – and I thank them for mentioning Labrador every now and then - but every other member on the opposite side of the House, they refer to the Province as Newfoundland. Just for their benefit, it is the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. You get tired of hearing that. It is nice to be able to say the Labrador portion, which is the reason I am saying it is the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador but I want to focus on the Labrador portion.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. McGRATH: Education in the Labrador portion since 2004, $57 million. There are a couple of those schools that we talked about. I was in a school in the District of Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair in L'Anse-au-Loup and I guarantee you, I would love to have a school like it in my district. When you walk into a kindergarten class and they even have a small kitchenette and a whiteboard in their classroom, I tell you what that is state-of-the-art. There is nothing to complain about there.

In environment, and I have heard an awful lot about the caribou in the Labrador portion of the Province; this government, just since 2004, not including this year or this year's Budget, $8.2 million on the caribou. The justice department, we spent $63 million improving the justice system in Labrador. Municipal Affairs, $17 million; Natural Resources, $1.6 million; Labrador Affairs department, $350,000 annually we will spend, we will take $100,000 for the Combined Councils.

The Combined Councils is an organization that I am very familiar with. Take the Combined Councils; we fund them of $100,000 a year because they are the voice of the smaller communities in Labrador. I was accused this year at the Combined Councils convention of threatening to take away their funding. Certainly not, and I have to comment that it was also said that in my term as the President of the Combined Councils, I was told by the Speaker of the House on the Opposition side that I bankrupted them. It was really strange when they read the financial report for the Combined Councils that in the first three quarters of the fiscal year that I was the President, they had revenues still sitting there of $48,000 out of $100,000.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. McGRATH: To me, that is good fiscal management. I was doing something right there. In Tourism, Culture and Recreation, $5.6 million.

AN HON. MEMBER: How much?

MR. McGRATH: It was $5.6 million in tourism, just for the Labrador portion let me remind you. This year, in Aboriginal Affairs, and I will talk about it a little while later, we hosted the oil tank replacement fund. We put $500,000 into the fund, but by putting in that $500,000 we actually saved the people in our Northern communities $520,000.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. McGRATH: That is over $1 million. That is $1.2 million. Again, instead of getting a thank you from the MHA for that district, I was told: Well, you could have done much better.

AN HON. MEMBER: What district?

MR. McGRATH: Torngat Mountains was that district. I was told by the MHA up there that you could have done much better had you consulted with me when you put that plan in place. Let me remind that member, he was not in the government at the time but there was a Minister of Aboriginal Affairs in government at that time and she was heavily consulted when that plan went in place and did a very good job of saving the residents of the Torngat Mountains over half a million dollars, $520,000.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. McGRATH: I think we did something right there.

I look in my district in Labrador West, and my district is a little bit different. I am very proud to say it and I guess to a lot of the MHAs it the district to be envious of because my district is doing very well. My district is a prosperous district. I do not have to travel hundreds of kilometres to visit my constituents. When I go into my district it is normally a good news story. With the prosperity in my district, of course, you also have some poverty, and housing is a huge issue in the Labrador West district. We realize that, but this government is looking at that and moving forward and made an investment just this year of $1.8 million from Newfoundland and Labrador Housing to put up a low-income housing complex. That is one of the examples that we use.

Just the other day, on behalf of the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills, I went in and did a presentation for the forum there. It was amazing. I did a tour of the college. When you walk in through the college and you hear the students, because the College of the North Atlantic, the previous college in Labrador West, was actually a primary school. It was not built; the structure was not conducive to what you needed for a college. When you walk through this college and you listen to the instructors, you listen to the administrators, but most importantly you listen to the students who are studying there and they say what a pleasure it is to be educated in that college. That is one of the examples of a $24 million investment that this government has made since they have been in, in 2003.

Right next door to that college we have a beautiful hospital being built. That is long overdue. As I mentioned before, when the present Minister of Natural Resources was first introduced to me, I stood up and I spoke about how dissatisfied we were with government on that. That minister sat there that night – and people still talk about it in Labrador West; he walked into a room that night and he expected to see about fifty people in a room. When he pulled up to the parking lot of the Scout Lodge that night, there were over 300 people sitting in the parking lot and speakers set up outside. We had to call in our volunteer fire department that night because we were over the capacity in the building.

To me, this is what governance is all about. It certainly changed my respect for that man that night. He walked into that room, and I can guarantee you it was not easy to walk in over 1,000 – and I will use the word – irate people, because of the situation that we were going through in Labrador West at the time. That minister walked in, and they had the table on a platform so that when he sat there he was actually looking down at us. That can be a little bit intimidating when you have those angry people.

My introduction to the minister that night was when I stood up at the microphone on behalf of the residents of Labrador West and I had to speak out about my dissatisfaction. I remember one of the comments the minister made that night was: If I have to sit here all night to listen to your concerns, I will do it. I hear that same minister, who is Speaker of the House now, say if he has to sit here all night to listen to the issues, he will do it. The thing is, with that issue, he fixed the issue. He left Labrador West that next day and he said: We have an issue. He negotiated moving the issue forward. I guarantee you when that $90 million complex is finished, it will be a state-of-the-art health centre.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. McGRATH: One of the other big, significant things – and you talk about negotiations; for years and years, I am there thirty-five years, since the 1950s when Labrador West was established, you had a railway crossing that crossed the highway. The railway crossing would cross. Because of the economic boom in the last five to seven years in Labrador West, it was not uncommon to leave Labrador City to drive to Wabush or leave Wabush to drive to Labrador City and have to wait upwards of an hour for the train to cross the highway.

We went to government and we negotiated with government to negotiate on behalf of the residents. We went to them and asked them to negotiate. Without costing government a dime, except their time and good negotiations, we now have a $24 million underpass taking you from Labrador City to Wabush, and there are no delays. It was government that negotiated those deals with industry. That makes the difference, because the government thought it important to stand up and speak on behalf of the residents.

When you talk about that, just that little thing like that underpass that did not cost government anything except the time to negotiate, the industry, especially the secondary industries – your service industries such as your restaurants, such as your tire companies, your small rent-a-car companies that are trying to get back and forth – it makes a huge difference to them now because they are not delayed.

Imagine having a massive heart attack and having to wait at a railway crossing and a doctor having to come and administer services to you on a railway crossing on a highway. Those days are gone now. This government was the government who took care of it. That railway crossing was laid down in 1958, but this government took care of it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. McGRATH: I have an awful lot more to say so I am hoping that I will get an opportunity; I am sure I will to get up and speak again, but there are other things I have to talk about with the history of Labrador, a little bit more in general.

There is over $250 million that has been invested into Phase I of the Trans-Labrador Highway. For those of you who are not sure what Phase I is, that is between Labrador West and Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

MR. JOYCE: (Inaudible).

MR. McGRATH: Now when you take that $250 million – and I hear the Member for the Bay of Islands chuckling on the other side; may I remind him that in the late 1990s, when we were under a different Administration, there was $97 million taken by that Administration to balance your Budget at that time. That $97 million was never, ever put back there. When it was said that $97 million would be put back, if you equate the $97 million taken back in the last 1990s and you put it back in today, in today's dollars, I would say that a good portion of that Trans-Labrador Highway would have a lot more blacktop on it because that money was never returned. That was done to make you try and look good, but it did not work because you did not go back in power in the next election; people knew what you were up to.

One hundred and forty-seven million dollars has already been invested into Phase III of the Trans-Labrador Highway. When you think about that now, that is almost $400 million that has already been invested into the highway. Back when the highway was first started, it was only supposed to cost $300 million to complete it. This government realizes the necessity of it and they are making big investments.

This year, government has invested another $65 million into the Trans-Labrador Highway and that will send out the last tenders to finish off Phase I of the Trans-Labrador Highway for the blacktop and widening. That will finish that. That puts us right on par with where we are supposed to be. What this government – when they set and you talk about planning, that lets us know exactly where we were supposed to be. We will be on schedule with the Trans-Labrador Highway. So, that gives you an idea as to where we are at.

When you get down into the Straits and the North Coast, $23 million has already been spent on vessel refits for the service for Labrador. That is just to keep what we have afloat. We realize what we need there. I heard the Minister of Transportation and Works stand up in this House and say that the Request for Proposals is out to improve that.

I realize my time is running out now, so I am going to clue up a little bit. Like I said, I have a lot more to say. I have only gotten halfway through the history. I have not even talked about the present. I have not even looked at Budget 2012. I am just trying to bring you up to speed on what this government has done since 2004, just to let you know.

I am glad to see that this side of the House realizes how important the Labrador portion is to the Province. We only have a population of 27,000, but we are looking after those 27,000.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MS ROGERS: I am honoured to stand up today to speak to this Budget. Truly what a wonderful, grand time it is in the history of our Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS ROGERS: I would say bravo to all of us who have had a hand in making it a wonderful, grand time; to all of the elected officials who have worked so hard in their constituencies and in their portfolios; to all of the working people of the Province; to the entrepreneurs who have taken great risks, who have been innovative in their approach to life in their communities and in our Province; to our cultural workers and to our artists who have inspired us, dared us to dream, and have a vision; to people who take care of us when we are sick; and to people who take care of us when we have been wronged. It is a wonderful, grand time in our Province, and it is because of all members of our community who have participated in making it this wonderful, grand time.

What does it mean to be a have Province? Perhaps it should mean that all citizens have access to what they need in order to flourish and fully participate in our society to the best of their ability. Perhaps it means having access to the best education possible, from infancy on. Perhaps it means we can provide an affordable, safe, and decent place for everyone to live. Perhaps it means that everyone has access to excellent health care, and that everyone has access to an affordable, accessible, and inclusive justice system that responds to the changing needs of our society, a system that helps us live in safety and in fairness in our communities. Perhaps it means celebrating our culture, acknowledging and celebrating from where we have come, celebrating where we are, and looking forward to the future.

Being a prosperous Province, being a have Province, means enabling our artists to do the work that inspires us, that gives us hope, that gives joy, and that gives us a vision for a better community. It means having access to a healthy and active lifestyle, where everyone has access to the means of recreation and sport, regardless of income, age, or physical ability. It means having the resources to help our entrepreneurs to develop creative and innovative businesses that increase productivity and employment all over Newfoundland and Labrador.

Being a prosperous have Province means that we can afford to make mistakes; that we can afford to take risks; that we can afford to research, explore and push the boundaries further and further and further. It means the ability to research and invest in green technology borrowing from the incredible innovations being used in other areas of the world, taking advantage of the work that has been done before us and then taking it and adapting it to our own use. Prosperity means we should all prosper.

Our fearless Minister of Finance has said we are flush with cash. This is a good thing, so it is time to invest. To invest in our people so that we can all participate fully in our communities. It is not about spending money, it is not about throwing money at problems, it is about investing in our people. It is about not always approaching every problem or every challenge in the old way. It is about discovering new ways of addressing the challenges that come with our new-found prosperity. It is about finding innovative and creative ways that have worked for others or ones that we can design ourselves.

I have received many phone calls, as all of us have, from people in our districts. I mostly receive phone calls from people who are experiencing challenges. It is so rare that the calls come in celebration. Some of the problems and challenges that many people in St. John's Centre face are challenges that many of our constituents face all over Newfoundland and Labrador. Seniors are having a real difficult time around home care, seniors who want to stay in their communities, who want to stay in their homes. In our time of prosperity we can address this issue. We can respond to it in a more conducive, constructive way that is not about throwing money and spending money at problems, but it is about investing.

We know that if we have a true, universal home care program, a real universal home care program it will keep seniors who need not be in hospital out of hospital; it will keep seniors who need not be in long-term facilities out of the long-term facilities. This is not throwing money or spending money on a problem, this is investing. Spending money in this area, investing money in this area is a great savings. It can save us money.

Ontario just announced that they are going to provide 80,000 more seniors with home care so that they can stay in their homes and free up long-term care beds and hospital beds, and that they are going to hire more community nurses. We can do this in Newfoundland and Labrador. This is not irresponsibly spending money. This is not throwing money at a problem. This is about investment, it is about problem solving.

With our new-found prosperity comes the potential of some other challenges, particularly in areas of social programs. We are seeing a proliferation of drug problems and addiction problems. We know that our addiction programs are not adequate; we have been doing it the same old way. We know that we have to adapt. We know there are even greater challenges that will be facing us that are coming down the road in terms of drug and addiction problems.

It is our brothers, our sisters, our mothers, our cousins, our neighbours, our aunts, our uncles, our fathers. Addictions affect the whole family. We know there are families in crisis all over Newfoundland and Labrador, families who are desperately trying to seek rehabilitation programs for their loved ones. All of us have been touched by this in some way, Mr. Speaker. We know the devastating effects it has on our families and in our communities.

For instance, when we look at detox, we really do not have medical detox in our Province. We know that medical detox, in some ways, is more effective for some people. It may even make it unnecessary to go on to methadone programs. We know that the waiting list for methadone, treatment programs here in the Province, is eighteen months. Imagine, Mr. Speaker, if your twenty-five-year-old son has become addicted to opiates because of snowboard injury. Imagine what that must be like to see the devastation in his life and to go to the methadone treatment program, if that is the best route for him to go, means an eighteen-month wait. What do our people, who are hurting so much, do in the meantime if they have to wait eighteen months for treatment? Do they continue using street drugs? Do they just detox and stop cold turkey themselves?

I applaud the efforts and the accomplishments that the government have done in this area in the past few years. If they were listening, they probably would be clapping right now because I am applauding the efforts and what has happened in the past few years.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS ROGERS: We know that it is time to look at what is happening in other areas and perhaps use best practices, because we know that in fact what is happening is that the problem is increasing. It is not going away. We know that there has been successful treatment for many people, but we also know that the recidivism rate is very, very high. Again, we cannot stress enough the devastating effects of these problems in our families and in our communities. We know that in our drug treatment centre – the only residential drug treatment centre that we do have in the Province right now – there is a six to eight week waiting list. We also know that when someone has come to that point where they are ready for treatment, ideally, if they could access treatment right away, the chances of success are much higher. We cannot afford not to invest in this area. We cannot afford not to help people who are ill, people who reaching out for help. To not do so is more expensive.

Again, our addictions treatment programs are not adequate, but they can be. When we see the progress that has been made over the past few years, it is not time to stop now, it is time to push even further so that we can do even more prevention and help our own citizens.

Housing has proven to be an enormous challenge all over Newfoundland and Labrador. We have seen that the Province has taken some action by being a full participant in the federal-provincial housing and homelessness initiative. As a Newfoundlander and Labradorian, I am really proud to be able to acknowledge that the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador had the most uptake in the federal-provincial housing initiative for homelessness. We were the most successful Province in terms of taking advantage of that program.

There are aspects of that program that we did not take advantage of, and we have not done anything yet in the area of assisting low-income families in home ownership. Home ownership, we know, builds family wealth, builds equity in their home, and that is a positive thing. In our time of prosperity when we are flush with cash, I know that we can push the limits on this.

We also know that the federal participation for new proposals for this housing initiative has finished and that in the last round of proposal, less than half of the proposals that were submitted were turned down because there was not enough funding. All of these proposals that were turned down were not about vacation homes, were not about high-end condos, they were not about great big homes, they were about affordable housing among our people who are the most difficult to house because of the challenges that are in the housing market right now.

It would be a valuable investment in our Province to do a unilateral year where we can take advantage of all the work that has been done by mostly community groups that are willing to work hard, that have invested so much volunteer time, so much of their energy, so much of their expertise, to come up with proposals that in fact would work to help provide affordable housing, again, to some of our most vulnerable population. I do not need to go on about the housing challenge that we face right now because we have all heard it, whether it is in parts of Labrador or whether it is all over the Province. We all know about the housing challenge that we all face. We can do it better.

To point out the problems and challenges is not a negative thing. We can celebrate our accomplishments, but to point out where our challenges are facing us or what is coming to face us in the future is a commitment to look forward and how we can move forward together as a society. We can get it right. We can take risks and do it differently.

It is not about spending more money and throwing money at problems. It is about developing innovative approaches to come up with solutions that truly work. It is about having the foresight to look at: Well, we have been doing it this way for a long time, but maybe it is time to change.

I would like to speak about some of the other challenges I hear from my constituents in St. John's Centre. Justice – during the Estimates Committee on Justice, I realized, and we all know, what a complex department that is, what a complex issue it all is, and how very, very expensive our justice system is. We have to look at ways of letting us keep our people out of jail. For those who are in jail, how can we help them so we can reduce the rate of recidivism?

We know we have amongst some of the lowest programs in our justice system for rehabilitation and that we have a lot of people in our justice system who are locked up because of addictions problems. We do not yet have a drug court and we do not yet have a mental health court. Investments in these two areas, in fact, would save us money; it is far more expensive to jail somebody, to incarcerate someone because of the attendant problems with addictions, than it is for treatment and to help people with addictions. It is far more expensive to incarcerate someone because of mental health issues than it is to come up with programs that help them, that help them live justly, fairly, and safely in our communities.

When we look at the area of justice, the accessibility to our justice system is a huge problem for all people of Newfoundland and Labrador. When I talk about the accessibility to justice, it is not just simply about physical accessibility but economic accessibility to our courts, to experienced and high-level representation. There are a whole group of people who are being priced out of our justice system. We see an increase in self-litigation; it is harder for people to get assistance to appeal. We can almost guarantee with the introduction of Bill C-10, that will have a huge strain on our already strained justice system.

We need justice for all. We have to look at ways, again, to make our justice system totally accessible to everyone.

MR. SPEAKER (Wiseman): Order, please!

I remind the member her time has expired.

MS ROGERS: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank you for this opportunity and I look forward to addressing the House again in the not-too-distant future.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DALLEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I know time is a little short this evening. Hopefully I can get a chance to follow up tomorrow and have an opportunity to talk about the Budget, and particularly to talk about what is in the Budget. I know for my particular department, Tourism, Culture and Recreation, we are involved with so many stakeholders around the Province, Mr. Speaker; I know our funding has such an important impact right around the Province. I do want an opportunity to speak about the continued investment through this Budget and what impact it will have, and some of the good things that are happening in the tourism, recreation, and certainly the culture and heritage side.

Before I do I want to make a couple of comments, because we sit here in the House and we talk about what is happening with our Budgets, what is happening in the Province; everybody has certain opinions. Today, again, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite gets up – I guess I am thinking about some of the earlier comments – and says, it is not about investment; it is not about spending.

Mr. Speaker, how can you say it is not about spending when other days you stand up and complain, bemoan, and criticize because we did not put a little bit of money somewhere else? Mr. Speaker, that is very confusing and a very confusing message that is being sent. If we were to sit here today and listen, we would probably rename the Province to utopia or something like that because it is the absolute perfect world. Mr. Speaker, we do not live in the perfect world. We live in a place where budgets, responsibility, accountability, sustainability are all key words, Mr. Speaker, all key terms of how we have to operate the Province, how we have to be fiscally responsible, how we end up making decisions. We cannot live as though there is no end, as though we have money trees, as though the funding is unlimited, because it is. When you are in government and you listen to the concerns of people of Newfoundland and Labrador, we have an obligation, Mr. Speaker, to balance that. We have huge responsibilities, and housing and arts communities are an important part of it, but health care, education, our fishery, our economy and our infrastructure plans, the list goes on and on, Mr. Speaker. We cannot be all things and have the perfect system; the money will not allow us to do that. We, as a government, listen to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and do what we can to find that balance.

Mr. Speaker, I have to reference it because it comes up from time to time. I want to specifically speak about the culture and arts society of my department today, and maybe tomorrow I can continue with tourism and recreation and some other aspects of my district. Again, I go back to the reference today about investment, and it is not about spending. Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has had opportunity to ask questions about what is happening in the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council. I appreciate that, Mr. Speaker. I think the Opposition has an obligation to ask such questions, without a doubt.

Mr. Speaker, I want to highlight the important things that are happening in this Province in the area of arts and culture. I am not going to stand here in dramatic fashion, audition like. I am not going to make the statements and talk about the apocalyptic end to the arts, and the fact that there will be no more interest in our Arts and Culture Centres, Mr. Speaker. I am not going to make those kinds of statements. You see, Mr. Speaker, our government has partnered with the arts and culture communities out there. Over the recent years, we have doubled budgets, we have increased funding and we have increased programs. Mr. Speaker, I can say – and I know because I have had an opportunity recently to absolutely get out there in the arts community. Whether it is dance, theatre, film, visual arts, literary works, or music, I can say because I have talked to people in the arts community, we have probably never been in a better place than we are today. Our government has played a key role in that, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DALLEY: Mr. Speaker, without question, the contributions of the arts community is significant, not only in the promotion and preservation of our culture but certainly in terms of the contribution economically as well. Mr. Speaker, our government fully recognizes that.

Let us take our Arts and Culture Centres. Mr. Speaker, we have spent millions of dollars in upgrading our Arts and Culture Centres. We have new on-line ticketing to support the patrons of the Arts and Culture Centres. We have added to the facility, Mr. Speaker, in upgrades in seating, carpeting, and so on. Importantly, we have improved the programming. We are trying to reach out to communities. We are trying to get the arts programs, and particularly the Arts and Culture Centre programs, out into the schools and out into the grassroots, so we can celebrate our culture, but again to encourage young people to be a part of it.

Mr. Speaker, I had an opportunity recently to attend an event at the Arts and Culture Centre where we renamed the basement theatre. What a fabulous event. You could get a sense then the appreciation of the venues and the work that we have done – our government has done – to support the Arts and Culture Centres in this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DALLEY: Mr. Speaker, added to that, when we talk about the arts, some things that are not talked about very often. The Art Procurement Program, where we recognize and purchase on behalf of the people of the Province small amounts of artwork each year, to be a part of ensuring the preservation of our culture and the great that is done.

Mr. Speaker, the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council – I recently met with them in Twillingate. I attended the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council awards show on Saturday night in Gander, a fabulous event and a fabulous display of what exists in this Province, and a great opportunity to recognize the accomplishments of our artists. More importantly, Mr. Speaker, it speaks to the tremendous leadership and strength of the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council. Mr. Speaker, our government funds the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council. We are the ones who do that, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DALLEY: Mr. Speaker, an event that I had an opportunity to attend on the weekend was the Arts and Letters Competition. Mr. Speaker, it is a provincial competition sponsored by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. We are the ones who continue the investment and support the young people in this Province, the professionals and other amateurs to be involved in this competition. It has been there for sixty years. It started in 1952, Mr. Speaker, a fabulous event this past Saturday night. I have to say when we look at the investment it is small compared to what it is doing for arts in this Province. We have a tremendous blend of experience, Mr. Speaker, and I can tell you with almost 700 entries this year, we have so many youth in this Province who are skilled, talented, and focused on the arts. I can assure you the arts community will be strong in this Province for many years to come, Mr. Speaker, without question.

Mr. Speaker, added to that our government's support for the arts in the CEDP, Culture Economic Development Program, in terms of supporting so many of our associations, the writers' alliance, the visual artists alliance, the film corporation, the co-op. Mr. Speaker, so many large festivals in the Province and small festivals that help drive our economies, that help enable, not only the people in Newfoundland and Labrador but tourists as well to identify with our culture, to identify who we are as a people. Mr. Speaker, significant investments but again, support for the arts and allowing the arts community not only to continue their expression and creativity but continue to make us proud as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

Mr. Speaker, another aspect I guess in supporting the arts, I cannot be more proud when I walk into the building, and that is The Rooms. The Rooms is absolutely a tremendous place. I encourage all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to get an opportunity to go visit.

Mr. Speaker, given the time, I would ask that we adjourn debate. I move, seconded by the hon. the Minister of Justice, that we now adjourn debate.

MR. SPEAKER: It has been moved and seconded that the debate now adjourn.

All those in favour of the motion?


MR. SPEAKER: Against?

Motion carried.

On motion, debate adjourned.

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

MR. KENNEDY: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

This afternoon, the Government Services Committee will review the Estimates of Service Newfoundland and Labrador commencing at 6:00 p.m. in this House; and tomorrow, May 8, the Resource Committee will meet in the House at 9:00 a.m. to review the Estimates of the Department of Advanced Education and Skills.

Mr. Speaker, it now being 5:27 on the clock, I do move, seconded by the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills, that we now adjourn.

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

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

All those in favour, ‘aye'.


MR. SPEAKER: Against?

Motion carried.

This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 tomorrow afternoon.

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