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November 20, 2018              HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS             Vol. XLVIII No. 44


 The House met at 1:30 p.m.


MR. SPEAKER (Trimper): Order, please!


Admit strangers.


Interesting – I was going to welcome some folks to the public gallery but I don't see them.


AN HON. MEMBER: Admit strangers.


MR. SPEAKER: We have admitted strangers.


Well, let me announce them so that when they show up we'll be sure to recognize them. Hopefully, in the public gallery today, we will be welcoming Helen Sinclair, Skye Taylor and Mojca Bas from the Association of Early Childhood Educators of Newfoundland and Labrador. As well, we hope to see Valerie Collins and Jennifer Newman from Family and Child Care Connections. They are all joining us today for a Ministerial Statement.


So when we get that Ministerial Statement, we'll have an extra round of applause.


Statements by Members


MR. SPEAKER: For Members' statements today, we will hear from the Members for the Districts of Ferryland; Conception Bay South; Fogo Island - Cape Freels; St. John's Centre; Baie Verte - Green Bay.


The hon. the Member for Ferryland.


MR. HUTCHINGS: Mr. Speaker –


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. HUTCHINGS: It's great to be here.


Mr. Speaker, on Saturday, November 17, I had the pleasure of attending the annual dinner for the Trepassey Volunteer Fire Department and recognize their continued commitment and volunteerism to the people of the region.


At this event, I was honoured to present service awards to two outstanding volunteers. Gerard Ryan has served for 30 years as a firefighter with the department and giving unselfishly to his community and residents.


Ken Molloy has served for an amazing 45 years with the fire department. He has volunteered his time and experience, and has given back to his community by providing protection and securing the well-being of residents when called to do so.


The hours that each firefighter volunteers gives peace of mind to the residents of the region and ensures they have someone to rely on in the event of a fire or of any type emergency. I want to also recognize the partners, spouses and family members for all those that serve with the Trepassey Volunteer Fire Department for their continued support.


Mr. Speaker, I ask all Members of this House to join me in congratulating Gerard Ryan and Ken Molloy for their many years of service, and all the members who have served in the past and serve today.


Thank you very much.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. SPEAKER: Thank you very much.


The hon. the Member for the District of Conception Bay South.


MR. PETTEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


This past Saturday, I had a very enjoyable evening attending the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 50, 48th anniversary Veterans Dinner and Dance in Kelligrews.


On the heels of Remembrance Day, it was nice to attend this celebration and recognize Legion Branch 50 and what they do to support veterans and their families. The work they have done and continue to do in our community in educating our youth and helping us all remember and respect the sacrifices of those before us is immeasurable.


There were several awards presented on Saturday, and a special recognition Lifetime Member Award was presented to Mr. Gerry Kelly. He is 85 years young and was a member of the Queen's Own Rifles Military. He has chaired the Poppy Campaign for Branch 50 this year and, as a matter of fact, for many, many years prior. Mr. Kelly is also a Life Member of Hockey NL and, as a matter of fact, attended this year's meeting in Gander.


Mr. Speaker, I ask all hon. Members to join me in congratulating the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 50, of Kelligrews on their 48th anniversary and wish them all the best in their future efforts to assist the veterans and people of Conception Bay South.


Thank you.


MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of Fogo Island - Cape Freels.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. BRAGG: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize over 400 dedicated volunteers who are on call 24/7, serving over 40 communities within my district.


This strong group of volunteers are our neighbours, friends and our family members. Because of their efforts, we have 20 volunteer fire departments stretching from Tilting all the way to Hare Bay. They give us comfort on wicked windy nights when everyone else is tucked in.


I recognize the challenge of being a volunteer firefighter in my rural district, where most emergency response calls involve family members and friends. Our first responders are the backbone of our communities. They go above and beyond to serve.


It's the time of the year where most departments host their annual banquets. On Saturday, I attended the 40th anniversary of the Seldom Fire Department.


I want to take this time to thank each and every firefighter in my district of Fogo Island - Cape Freels. Thank you for the service you provide and the comfort you bring to our communities. As a lady from home once said, “On a wonderful bad night, I'm glad you guys are there.”


I ask all Members to join me in applauding these dedicated volunteers.


Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


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


MS. ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


How do you sum up a person's life in one minute? Mary Gillingham, of Froude Avenue community, died yesterday morning at the age of 96, a tiny feisty woman with a huge presence, definitely the matriarch of the family. Mary lived with her sisters Bertha, who passed away last year at 83 and her 91-year-old sister Hannah for over 50 years.


The sisters came from a hard-working family who moved to town from Whitbourne area, then called the Moorlands. Not able to read and write, Mary left school early to help the family. She did odd jobs in service, taking care of others, and made a solemn promise to her mother on her deathbed that she would take care of her sisters.


The Gillingham sisters were a team so interdependent they finished each other's sentences. Everyone in Froude Avenue knew them. Their lives mirrored a certain time in the history of old St. John's that is gone. It has been a joy to have known Mary. She will be missed by her community, her sister Hannah, her home care team and cats Fluffy and Tippy.


Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of Baie Verte - Green Bay.


MR. WARR: Mr. Speaker, a simple definition of leadership is the art of motivating a group of people to act towards achieving a common goal. He or she is the person in a group that possesses the combination of personality and leadership skills that makes others want to follow.


Anaconda Mining Vice-President, Allan Cramm, a fourth generation miner, is a shining example of what I just described. He is an innovative leader and an out-of-the-box thinker who has been at the forefront of the growth and development of Anaconda.


His leadership has taken pioneering ideas such as selling the waste rock from the gold mining operation as a construction aggregate product. It's these ideas that have Allan's co-workers witnessing how one person's ingenuity can effect positive change.


His leadership has seen so many young workers return to the Baie Verte Peninsula and has found ways of challenging them to grow the local economy. Mentors like Allan Cramm are critical to advancing the mining industry in Newfoundland and Labrador.


Allan was recently recognized as an honorary member in the organization of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Newfoundland and Labrador.


I invite all my hon. colleagues to join me in congratulating Allan Cramm on this well-deserved recognition.


Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. SPEAKER: Statements by Ministers.


Statements by Ministers


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Justice and Public Safety.


MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to recognize November 18 to the 25 as Restorative Justice Week. Tomorrow, with our community stakeholders, we will proclaim this week, showing our continued support for this growing movement.


I am also pleased to be bringing greetings tomorrow night at a panel discussion at 7 p.m. at The Lantern in St. John's. Organized by Relationships First: Restorative Justice in Education Consortium, the panel will explore the role of restorative justice in supporting healthy communities.


Mr. Speaker, restorative justice focuses on addressing the harm caused by crime, while holding the offender responsible for his or her actions. It provides an opportunity for the parties directly affected – victim, offender and community – to identify and address their needs in the aftermath of a crime. It is a philosophy that believes in the necessity of maintaining relationships.


This government strongly believes in restorative justice and recognizes that we need to find innovative ways to address the number of people incarcerated. Just last week at the Federal, Provincial and Territorial meetings of Justice and Public Safety Ministers here in St. John's, my counterparts and I committed to increase the use of restorative justice, acknowledging the critical role restorative justice can play at all stages in the justice system.


The Department of Justice and Public Safety is exploring initiatives like electronic monitoring, bail supervision and adult diversion programs, as well as looking at options to expand the Family Violence Intervention Court. And, we will soon have very much more to say about the Drug Treatment Court.


Mr. Speaker, I ask all hon. Members to join me in acknowledging Restorative Justice Week, and I look forward to continuing the efforts to address access issues and improve interactions within the justice system.


Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


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


MR. CROSBIE: I applaud the minister's statement and thank him for an advance copy. I'm pleased to hear the minister acknowledge the need to do more; to promote the application of restorative justice principles, which do not diminish people's responsibility for the crimes they commit, but address the needs of victims and the community and rehabilitate those responsible so they can better integrate back into the community when they have served their penalties.


When we hear of crimes alleged committed by people who are known to the police or have breached an undertaking, we realize more needs to be done to restore and rehabilitate people before they return to the community, for their sakes and public safety.


I hope the minister's plans to do more for people who are incarcerated include action on a new corrections facility, better care for mental health and addictions, and a public inquiry into deaths at our correctional facilities. This has to include real action on electronic monitoring, bail supervision, adult diversion, expansion of the Family Violence Intervention Court and the long-awaited Drug Treatment Court.


Thank you.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


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


MS. ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


And thank you to all those folks involved in the restorative justice movement who have educated both government and the public about restorative justice and have lobbied this government long and hard to incorporate restorative justice into our justice system.


It is interesting that government is now considering electronic monitoring, bail supervision, adult diversion and expansion of the Family Violence Intervention Court, all programs that were in effect years ago. It is time to relaunch them, and bravo to all those involved.


Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. SPEAKER: Before I recognize the minister, I would like to recognize five visitors in our public gallery. We have joining us today for this Ministerial Statement, Ms. Helen Sinclair, Skye Taylor and Mojca Bas from the Association of Early Childhood Educators of Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as Valerie Collins and Jennifer Newman from Family and Child Care Connections. They're all joining us for a statement.


Welcome to you.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development.


MR. HAWKINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


I rise today in this hon. House to recognize November 20 as National Child Day, a celebration of children's rights.


The Members of this House of Assembly are wearing blue ribbons today to recognize National Child Day, which commemorates Canada's adoption of two documents focused on children's right: the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.


National Child Day demonstrates our commitment to ensuing all children are treated with dignity and respect. This commitment includes the opportunity for children to have a voice, to be protected from harm, to be provided with their basic needs, and to have opportunity to reach their full potential.


Mr. Speaker, this past Friday I had the opportunity to tour the new Pumpkin House Child Care Centre in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, scheduled to open in spring of 2019. With a contribution of more than $905,000, through the Child Care Capacity Initiative, the new 93-space child care centre will mean greater child care capacity in the community.


As a government, we recognize that child care plays a vital role in the healthy development of children and the well-being of families throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. We remain committed to enhancing access to quality, affordable, early learning and child care opportunities through The Way Forward and the Education Action Plan.


In December of 2017, our government and the federal government signed a three-year bilateral agreement on early learning and child care that allocated just over $22 million over three years to Newfoundland and Labrador for early learning and child care investments. This funding is assisting the development and implementation of innovative approaches to address early learning and child care challenges through subsidies, grants, bursaries and professional learning opportunities. In addition, as of April 2018, the additional 180 space target for the Operating Grant Program was achieved.


Mr. Speaker, I ask children, parents, early childhood educators, teachers and Members to join with me in celebrating National Child Day. Working together, we can ensure that we are acting in the best interests of the child while ensuring that children have the right to primary consideration in all economic, social and political decisions that impact upon them.


Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Conception Bay East - Bell Island.


MR. BRAZIL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


I thank the minister for an advance copy of his statement. When Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, our country made a commitment to ensure that all children are treated with dignity and respect. This commitment includes the opportunity for children to have a voice, be protected from harm, be provided with their basic needs, and every opportunity to reach their full potential.


National Child Day is the celebration of children as active participants in their own lives, in communities and as active citizens who can and should have meaningful contribution in the decision-making process. Our children are our future.


As Members of this hon. House, we have a duty to defend and protect our society, not only for the present but for our children and their future. The Official Opposition stands with the minister and the government in encouraging the public to celebrate National Child Day.


Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


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


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


I, too, thank the minister for the advance copy of his statement. National Child Day underscores Canada's adoption of the UN recognition of children's rights, including the right for all children to achieve their potential.


It's nice to hear the minister say government is committed to enhancing access to quality, affordable child care, but this won't happen for every child without a fully funded and regulated public child care system available to all children who need it. It won't happen until quality child care is affordable for all parents currently challenged by the cost of this essential service.


Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.


Further statements by ministers?


Oral Questions.


Oral Questions


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


MR. CROSBIE: Mr. Speaker, when asked in this House, following the breach of Husky's ice management plan, the minister said there was a huge penalty to Husky by having to stop production.


Is the Premier concerned that his minister's opinion, that no penalty was needed, may bias the C-NLOPB in this current oil spill?


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.


PREMIER BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


First of all, I want to congratulate and thank the minister for the work that she's done with her staff in the last few days.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


PREMIER BALL: Mr. Speaker, what has happened on Thursday of last week with this recent oil spill is certainly something that is a priority and a concern for all of us to deal with.


Mr. Speaker, I take this opportunity to point out the role of the chief safety officer. There's been some confusion about the role that that person would play. Coming in 29(b), the recommendation from Justice Wells back a few years ago, that is an independent officer. The position and the statements, and the position that officer takes is not influenced by the board and it's not influenced by the conservation officer.


So there's a fair amount of autonomy that's there independent, even though they share the same office, its location, but his views and comments are independent of that of the board.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


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


MR. CROSBIE: Mr. Speaker, to the best of my knowledge, the safety officer does not impose penalties, the board does.


C-NLOPB regulates our offshore industry on behalf of the provincial and federal governments. Given this, has the Premier reached out to his federal counterparts to discuss the issue?


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.


PREMIER BALL: First of all, Mr. Speaker, there's an investigation that's ongoing. Coming from that investigation there will be a number of recommendations, we would anticipate.


The minister said quite clearly yesterday its position of this government. When the recommendations are back we will do whatever it takes to make sure that offshore safety, first and foremost, is a priority of this government.


At the time of implementation of Recommendation 29(b), it was Justice Wells himself who said that he was pleased and felt that 29(b), that recommendation, could actually do the service that's required based on the recommendations that he had made in the inquiry that he presided over.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


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


MR. CROSBIE: To the Premier, when Husky failed to follow its ice management plan the province lost revenue through oil royalties. Now Husky's oil spill has caused all four fields to shut down production and a further loss to our royalty revenue.


I ask the Premier: Will you recommend to the C-NLOPB that Husky pay for its oil spill and replace the lost revenue to the province?


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.


PREMIER BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


Well, the Leader of the Opposition, I'm really pleased with the fact that he's asking questions about what happened on Thursday. Yesterday, that wasn't his approach. Today, we're very pleased to be able to stand here, because it is a concern for all of us. But I will tell you, Mr. Speaker, the number one concern for this government is not the loss of revenue, it's the safety of our workers offshore.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


PREMIER BALL: Mr. Speaker, I would also say to the Leader of the Opposition, that the revenue is not lost at this point. The oil is still there, Mr. Speaker, but we're going to focus on the investigation. We're asking the C-NLOPB, which regulates on behalf of the province and the federal government, to get the investigation started. Coming out of that will be recommendations, Mr. Speaker, and we will all learn from this recent spill.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


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


MR. CROSBIE: Mr. Speaker, we on this side operate as a closely-knit team, a concept maybe foreign to the other side.


Because of the oil spill, all four facilities shut down.


I ask the minister: What is the financial impact of the shutdowns of the four facilities on the Treasury?


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.


PREMIER BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


Well, I'm not going to let the Leader of the Opposition talk about a closely-knit team. This is a government that's working on behalf of the province, working on behalf of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.


Speaking of a closely-knit team, if he was so close, why did your president resign last week?


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


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


Order, please!


MR. CROSBIE: Not everybody, Mr. Speaker, is a team player.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. CROSBIE: When that arises, action gets taken.


When the SeaRose was shut down because of failure to follow its ice management plan, the minister would not tell us what the impact was on the Treasury. This province is now losing revenue through no fault of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.


So I ask the minister: Who will pay?


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.


PREMIER BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


Well, I can tell you one thing, before anyone pays we're going to make sure that safety is a priority. That is our focus right now.


I'd like to remind the Leader of the Opposition, that oil is not gone. That oil will be there and pumped at a later date but only extracted from the ground at that resource when it's safe to do so, Mr. Speaker. We have concerns about what happened last week. That's the reason why the investigation will be done.


Speaking of a close-knit team, you talked about how close you are, how come you weren't in communications with your president? Because I was actually in my district last week and he said that your administration or your caucus wasn't going in the direction that he thought you would.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!


The hon. the Opposition House Leader.


MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


Mr. Speaker, all four oil production facilities were shut down because of the oil spill recently spoken to. Hebron has since returned to production, is our understanding.


Can the minister provide an update on Hibernia and the Terra Nova FPSO?


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


MS. COADY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


Again, I will emphasize safety and environmental protection is the focus and the paramount focus of this government. And I'll say that is what we've been focused on the last number of days since last Wednesday when we knew the storm was coming.


Mr. Speaker, Hebron has resumed production. The other installations will resume production when it's safe and when they are ready to do so.


Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


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


MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


I wonder if the minister could advise us: Have ROVs now examined all the subsea infrastructure of both of the FPSO vessels?


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


MS. COADY: Thank you for the question.


The remote operating vehicle spent yesterday looking at the flow line for the SeaRose, the Husky FPSO. That was the priority, to look at the flow line to ensure there was no further leak, and I can confirm that was what the remote operating vehicle did find, was that it was what they call a batch spill, an instantaneous spill that occurred because of a faulty – because of a weak link on the flow line, which is there as a safety issue around ice management.


Thank you.


MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.


The hon. the Opposition House Leader.


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


Recognizing the type of weather we had and the reference was it was some of the worst weather on the planet at the time: Does the minister think it's appropriate for the Terra Nova FPSO to be examined as well in regard to flow lines to ensure that the safety, both from an environmental and worker protection safety, should be completed and completed immediately?


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


MS. COADY: Thank you very much for the question.


I will say this; there is a safety and environmental protection plan that must be followed by all operators. There is a chief conservation officer, as well as a chief safety officer, Mr. Speaker. They will make the determinations as to what is required to ensure the safe and environmental protection of our environment.


Thank you.


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


MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


A lot of questions in the last couple of days about an oil production facility and when it's shut down because of an oil spill.


I ask the minister: Can she inform the public today, what steps need to be taken to be completed for production to resume after that shutdown?


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


MS. COADY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


As I indicated yesterday, we do have a chief conservation officer, we do have a chief safety officer with C-NLOPB that is there; very important positions to ensure the safety and environmental protection.


They monitor with the operators, obviously, the safe and environmental protection of the offshore. There is a plan in place that is part of the operating licence of the operator. So in order to be able to have a good operating licence, you have to have this plan in place. The plan is the responsibility of the operator, in conjunction with the C-NLOPB, Mr. Speaker.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


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


MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


So I'll ask the minister: The operating plan for the licensed operator, was that followed in the last number of days?


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


MS. COADY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


That is indeed what is under investigation, whether the protocols in place were followed and whether they're adequate for future. We will take the information that the investigation is going to present to us, Mr. Speaker, and determine. If protocols weren't followed, I'm sure there will be reaction by the C-NLOPB to Husky. If they were followed – what more must we do to ensure the safe and environmental protection of our offshore?


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


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


MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


I understand what the minister is saying from the long-term, to make sure there are amendments made, but the concern now is the immediate and these wells functioning out there today.


So any activity that caused this spill, what immediate action is going to be taken today to ensure it doesn't happen tomorrow, next week or next month when we have similar weather conditions? What are you going to do to ensure the safety of the workers and the environment today?


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


MS. COADY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


An excellent question. We're going to, as this government has been doing, continue to monitor what's been happening with C-NLOPB; ensure that the processes that are in place for the safety and protection of our environment are there.


We're going to make sure the chief safety officer continues to have paramountcy over decisions that are made in our offshore. We're going to ensure that the chief conservation officer is protecting our environment. We hold them to account. They will continue to be held to account. We will make sure that if the protocols were not followed, then they must be followed, and if the protocols were followed, that better protocols are in place so this doesn't happen again.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


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


MR. HUTCHINGS: I agree fully with the minister, Mr. Speaker, but if the protocols weren't followed, we need to act today to make sure what happened in the past number of days doesn't happen tomorrow, next week or next month.


The CEO of the C-NLOPB says it is the responsibility of operators to shut in and restart when it's safe to do so, and that permission is not needed from the C-NLOPB to restart operations.


So I ask the minister: Will she advocate through the province's representative to give the C-NLOPB additional overnight so that companies will have to receive permission in order to resume production in similar situations?


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


MS. COADY: Mr. Speaker, over the last number of days the chief conservation officer or the chief safety officer, the CEO of C-NLOPB, myself as minister, and I know federally, have been engaged. We are making sure that everything that must be done in our offshore for safety and environmental protection is being done.


I know the chief conservation officer and the chief safety officer have been in constant contact with operators around the world. Operators do have the safety and environmental protection plans. If there's something new or better that we can do to ensure that nothing happens in our offshore, we'll continue to do so, Mr. Speaker.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


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


MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 


Yesterday, I asked the minister if she would indicate to find out if SeaRose had a controlled or an emergency shut in.


Minister, have you determined what happened in regard to stop production, whether it was immediate or whether it was planned?


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


MS. COADY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


Here's what I understand about the SeaRose. It was taken as a precautionary measure. The shut in was taken as a precautionary measure following the safety and protocols that are required. It was a precautionary measure that was taken based on the sea state at the time.


I can inform the House that the Terra Nova was already shut in because of a planned maintenance. Hibernia didn't need to shut in based on its plan. It did shut in on Friday because of an issue with something offshore on one of their lifeboats, and that Hebron was shut in due to the weather.


Thank you.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.


MR. PETTEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


According to Husky, 11 oiled seabirds were found up until Monday evening.


I ask the Minister of Environment: Can the minister provide an update on the impact to sea life?


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


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


As we've been saying over the last two days, immediately upon this oil spill, vessels were dispatched with personnel onboard, mostly from Eastern Canada Response Corporation. They have independent observers as well. The Coast Guard is involved, Canadian Wildlife is involved, and Environment Canada is involved. There have been 11 seabirds. I understand that several of them have been taken for cleaning to the response centre here.


We'll continue to monitor this, Mr. Speaker. We'll continue to do what we can to ensure the protection of the environment and the protection of wildlife.


Thank you.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.


MR. PETTEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


I ask the Minister of Environment: What action is your department taking to monitor the impact of the spill? What interactions have you had with Environment Canada and other involved federal agencies?


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


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. LETTO: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


Well, as the Member should know, the offshore is the responsibility of the C-NLOPB and we do the onshore environmental activities. Nevertheless, we are deeply involved in this particular incident. We're certainly not neglecting our duties.


We are monitoring it very closely with both the C-NLOPB and the Natural Resources department, as well as Environment Canada, and we are taking precautions as well. We are monitoring the effects that this may have on wildlife, and as the Minister of Natural Resources already said, we are aware of 11 seabirds that were affected by this and action is being taken to rectify the matter.


Thank you.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.


MR. PETTEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


I thank the minister for that response, but what precisely – what federal agencies have you spoken to? You say Environment Canada. What specific federal agencies have you spoken to?


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


MR. LETTO: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


And just to add on to the previous question; we also have flown seven surveillance flights around the area to make sure there is no other damage being done and that the environment is under control. As I said, Mr. Speaker, we are conversing mostly with the C-NLOPB and being kept in the loop by Natural Resources, who are dealing with Environment Canada and the other agencies. So we're taking our direction from them, as the offshore is their responsibility, but we are there anytime they need us to provide any information that they may require.


Thank you.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.


MR. PETTEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


Minister, have you directly had any involvement with the federal agency, the federal department of environment? You, yourself, as minister.


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


MR. LETTO: Mr. Speaker, as I've said, this matter is being directed from the Department of Natural Resources. I myself, as minister, have not had any direct contact with the minister of Environment Canada, but I'm sure that C-NLOPB and the Minister of Natural Resources is doing that. It's their responsibility. But as I said, Mr. Speaker, we are there if they need us and we will provide any assistance that may be required of us.


Thank you.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.


MR. PETTEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


The Minister of Natural Resources has said that the oil sheen has dissipated, which is impacted by the temperature, tides and other water conditions.


I ask the Minister of Environment: How does dissipation of the oil impact the cleanup efforts?


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


MS. COADY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


I have indicated that the sheen is no longer being seen as of yesterday's reports from the flights that are going over. There are over six vessels in the area considering and monitoring wildlife and sea life, Mr. Speaker.


If the oil has dissipated and has evaporated, there will be no cleanup effort, except for the wildlife, but we're continuing to monitor. We're continuing to send out flights. Mr. Speaker, it's very important to us, environmental protection is, and we want to make sure we're doing everything that can be done to ensure the cleanup is there.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.


MR. PETTEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


Minister, how can oil be cleaned up if it cannot be seen? What percentage of oil is expected to be cleaned up?


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


MS. COADY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


I think I just answered that question, but let me try again.


Several flights, over seven flights have been out there monitoring the sheen, the spill itself; the 250 cubic metres that have been spilled. We have multiple vessels patrolling offshore, looking for sea birds and other mammals, to ensure we're doing everything we can as a province, as C-NLOPB, to ensure that we have the safety and protection of our offshore. We'll continue to do that. Efforts are continuing. Things are still happening today, Mr. Speaker. We are on this situation, have been really since last week when the weather set in.


Thank you.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of Cape St. Francis.


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


The offshore of our province provides for our oil industry as well as our fishing industry.


I ask the Minister of Environment. What does a spill like this mean to those who fish on the Grand Banks?


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Land Resources.


MR. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. minister has indicated to this House on multiple occasions that the situation continues to be monitored. What we do know is there is a very, very strong scientific program that is in place by our offshore operators to ensure that the integrity of the marine environment is checked and rechecked.


Part of that integrity process includes sampling of fish, both benthic and sub-benthic. So we'll find out the answers to that when those tests occur, but that is part of the standard protocol that exists in our offshore and we're very, very pleased that it does exist.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of Cape St. Francis.


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


What effect will spills like these have on our offshore and inshore fish stocks?


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Land Resources.


MR. BYRNE: I would suspect, Mr. Speaker, the hon. Member alludes to a hypothetical question. Of course, until we find out the exact scope and duration of the spill itself, we won't be able to answer that question.


So for the information of the House, I'm sure that in the coming days, weeks, if you were to re-ask that question, we may have better information at that point in time.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


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


MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


We've heard from the 120 workers from Astaldi who have not received their payroll payments and now feeling like, as they have said, feeling turned into pawns. These workers advised us that Nalcor has all the information required to complete the payroll.


I ask the minister. How come these employees have not received their pay?


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.


PREMIER BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


As we know, within recent days there was a court injunction that was put in place by Astaldi. So this has really prevented the flow of money that would've happened yesterday, as Nalcor filed to have this appeal of this court injunction overturned. That did not happen.


So my understanding now, as early as next Tuesday, there will be an arbitration that would allow for some of the transfer of these funds. So we are working with Nalcor, as the minister is.


We're concerned about this as well, those 120 managers now that find themselves waiting for the salaries and pay for the days that they have worked. But really, this is caught up in the legal proceedings right now because of the court injunction put in place by Astaldi.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


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


MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


So my understanding is the court injunction now freezes the bonds and securities that would've allowed payment to these workers.


So I ask the Premier or the minister: Why wasn't action taken prior to this to meet the needs of the Astaldi employees?


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.


PREMIER BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


I think, as the Member opposite would know, there were some difficulties around getting information, access to the information of those people that, obviously, rightfully deserve to be paid for the work they have done. So this information wasn't forthcoming. Then it got tied up in the legalities of what is happening now with the injunction that was put in place and remains in place now.


Hopefully, next week, when the arbitration takes place – we want to get those workers paid as well. They deserve to be paid for the hours they have worked, Mr. Speaker, and I know the officials at Nalcor feel the same way. But right now we're back and forth with this legal proceedings that are happening, and we'll see what happens next Tuesday.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


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


MR. HUTCHINGS: Mr. Speaker, our understanding is Pennecon has now been brought into Muskrat Falls to mitigate costs and schedule risk in light of Astaldi's shutdown.


I ask the minister: Have you asked Pennecon to give priority to individuals, unionized and non-unionized, who lost their jobs because of the Astaldi shutdown?


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


MS. COADY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, a very important question.


Pennecon has been given a limited notice to proceed, really to re-engage and to determine how to really re-engage in this project. Of course, all the requirements that were in place prior to will remain with Pennecon; but, as I say, the contract has not yet been let. It is a limited contract to proceed so that we can mobilize workers.


Thank you.


MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


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


MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


Last week, the minister indicated that the removal of Astaldi had no impact on the project timeline because Astaldi's work was 95 per cent complete. Now Pennecon is being brought in to access timelines and work to be completed for the situation.


So I ask the minister: Has anything changed from her previous answer last week to what we're hearing today?


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


MS. COADY: No, Mr. Speaker.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


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


MR. HUTCHINGS: So, last week the minister said there was no interruption in the timeline, yet Pennecon is in assessing the timeline.


So, is Pennecon in doing work that doesn't need to be done, or why are they there if there's no timeline to be reviewed or determination made?


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


MS. COADY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


I just answered that question. Pennecon has been given a limited contract to proceed. They're looking to mobilize. So there is work that has to be completed; 95 per cent complete and there still is 5 per cent outstanding. The timelines have not been affected; the flow of work continues. We still anticipate the end of 2019, early into 2020, full power, and that is continuing.


We do have other contractors on site, Mr. Speaker, doing their work. Pennecon has been given that limited contract, that temporary contract, so that they can start mobilizing workers so that we can complete the rest of the Astaldi work.


Thank you.


MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.


The hon. the Leader of the Third Party.


MS. ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


The C-NLOPB was created in 1986 – 30 years ago. Since then, the industry has changed. There have been expansions, moving into deeper water and further offshore, and climate change has meant more frequent and severe storms. We are now much more experienced and knowledgeable in this industry.


I ask the Premier: Will he commit to working with the federal government to revisit and modernize the C-NLOPB to ensure it is given the proper legislative tools to deal with the changing dynamic of our offshore oil industry?


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.


PREMIER BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


First and foremost, the safety of our offshore workers is always the top priority, as the minister just mentioned so many times today.


I think the Member opposite is going back to recommendation of the Wells inquiry back a few years ago, 29b and, even then, Justice Wells said that he was actually pleased with the decision. He felt that 29b could actually do what was required.


But we understand, too, that things do change. We understand that, so there will be an investigation that will be done now on the recent events, Mr. Speaker. And when we get those recommendations, we will work with all the federal government and the industry of course but, more importantly, our offshore workers and make sure that that environment continues to be safe.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


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


MS. ROGERS: Mr. Speaker.


Yesterday, the minister said our province was a leader in the offshore oil industry, and that safety and environmental protection are paramount. She also said, today, that if there is anything new or better that could be done, that we would do them.


I ask the minister, once again: If she believes this, in the light of this serious environmental incident that we've just experienced, will she work the federal government to establish an independent offshore safety authority, similar to the gold standards set by Norway and Australia?


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.


PREMIER BALL: Mr. Speaker, first and foremost, probably once again just to remind them of the role that chief safety officer does at C-NLOPB right now. That individual, that office right now has the authority – any decisions that are made by that person, that person first and foremost makes the final decision on the operational plans on our offshore.


The C-NLOPB board themselves cannot overrule the decision of the chief safety officer. The environmental officer has no impact, cannot overrule, so the chief safety officer, as it exists right now, has the independent authority to make the final decision on what is required.


Justice Wells had said that he felt that 29b was in place and could do the work that needed to be done. But, Mr. Speaker, if there's any way that we need, based on the recommendations, to strengthen the safety of our offshore, we are more than willing to work on this. But let's get the investigation done first.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


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


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


The investigation of Husky's 2017 iceberg incident took 10 months, only then, at the end of the investigation, did we learn the full story.


So, I ask the Premier: Will he assure this House that he will push that the investigation that's going to take place will have timely interim updates that will provide answers along the way about this latest incident?


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.


PREMIER BALL: Mr. Speaker, I think that's a fair question but we got to let the investigation – what's important is we get it done right. But we'll always continue, as a government, to support and reinforce that safety is paramount. We've said that time and time again and that will continue.


I know the minister, I know ourselves, our office have been working very closely with C-NLOPB on this looking for answers. We, too, are concerned, as people all across this province are concerned for the offshore safety, not just the environment but, first and foremost, the safety of our workers, Mr. Speaker. We will take whatever measures are required that can be done to make sure they are protected.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


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


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


The penalties levied on Husky by the C-NLOPB regarding its iceberg incident apparently had no effect. Husky took another gamble and lost.


I ask the Premier: What corrective measures is his government going to apply this time?


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


MS. COADY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


An investigation has to ensue. We do not know at this point what has occurred. We do know that there was a problem with one section of the flow line, Mr. Speaker, that incurred here. So, there will be an investigation and if Husky has indeed done something that is not part of their protocol, if there was something they should have done and they did not do, we'll hold them to account, Mr. Speaker.


If there's something that we as a government, or as the industry itself, C-NLOPB, should have done, we'll hold that to account as well. I will say this to the questions that are there. In the Advance 2030 it talks about reviewing and modernizing governance structures. We will do so in the best interests of the people of this province.


Thank you.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. SPEAKER: Time for Oral Questions has ended.


Presenting Reports by Standing and Select Committees.


Tabling of Documents.


Notices of Motion.


Answers to Questions for which Notice has been Given.






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


MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


I'm glad to rise today to present a petition on behalf of constituents of mine related to an application that was made for a Crown land grant for 46 hectares of property off the Old Witless Bay Line just off Route 10 and extending to the water's edge of the large body of water known in the region as Gull Pond.


THEREFORE we petition the hon. House of Assembly as follows:


We, the undersigned, call upon the House of Assembly to urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to immediately suspend a Crown land application for 46 hectares of land adjacent to the Old Witless Bay Line until the residents of the region and concerned citizens have the ability to express any concern and have questions answered related to the environment, watershed, Butter Pot to Witless Bay environs, development and control regulations, deforestation, possible flooding, private road management effects and destruction of hunting and recreational land.


Mr. Speaker, last Sunday afternoon, I had a meeting with about 40 residents and concerned citizens from this area who just recently became aware that an application had been in for a vast piece of property – 46 hectares. My understanding is because it was under 50, there was no requirement for public consultation or public notice.


So with this information becoming available to the people in the area and the concerns being expressed, this is the reason for the petition. To ask the department to put the brakes on this so that people can have their questions answered, there can be discussions about the process and there can certainly be public engagement and discussion where all parties and persons with concerns can be heard. There can be disclosure of full information for the intent for what this would mean for this particular area, that for the most part over the past number of years because of the environ regulations development has been frozen. There are homes there that have been built in past years, but new development is not allowed. So there are a lot of questions in regard to this actual application, and we certainly ask the minister and government to take a look at this and to hear from those concerns before any direction or any further consideration is given to this application.


Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.


The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Land Resources for a response, please.


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


I do sincerely appreciate the hon. Member bringing this petition forward for discussion and for consideration by the House. He touches upon some key issues. One, of course, is the promotion of agriculture is vitally important and sensitive for our province. We as a province have directed that we will initiate a program to double our food production in Newfoundland and Labrador.


As the hon. Member is aware, we only produce 10 per cent of the food we consume. We import 90 per cent of our food stocks. This is a situation that has to be dealt with, and this government is taking action on that.


We also recognize there are huge opportunities above and beyond providing food security. There are opportunities of expanding our economy, doubling our employment in the agrifoods sector, making sure that we are ready and able to meet the challenges of the future. This government is taking agriculture very, very seriously.


The hon. Member raises a point, however, that this has to be in balance with other competing needs. I put this as a moment of notice by the Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland and Labrador, that they are taking this with great concern.


We experienced just a few short weeks ago, a situation where a family farm on the West Coast, the Aucoin family farm was met with almost universal support, near universal support for that farm to continue. People understand the value of farms.


What I can assure the hon. Member, however, this is simply an application, and a review is underway at this very moment.


MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl - Southlands.


MR. LANE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


At a time when the people of Newfoundland and Labrador are dealing with high levels of taxation, increased unemployment rates, increased food bank usage, increased bankruptcies, many are being forced to choose between food, heat and medications.


Newfoundland Power and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro are continuing to seek numerous power rate increases through the Public Utilities Board. Once the Muskrat Falls Project comes online, these rates are predicted to further increase significantly to unmanageable levels for the average citizen of our province. While government has indicated they are working with Nalcor to mitigate rates, they provided no detailed plan as to how they intend to do so.


Therefore, we petition the House of Assembly as follows: To urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to publicly provide all of the potential options for rate mitigation and develop a comprehensive detailed plan to deal with current and impending power rate increases. This plan is to be provided to the public as soon as possible to allow for scrutiny, feedback and potential suggestions for improvement.


Mr. Speaker, I've presented this petition many times and I will continue to do so on behalf of the people who ask that I do.


Today, I have approximately 450 signatures. These are all coming from the Conception Bay North area, Bay Roberts, Bareneed, Coley's Point, Upper Island Cove, Shearstown, and Clarke's Beach and so on. Mr. Speaker, 450 concerned citizens as it relates to where power rates are going in this province.


As is indicated, as I've indicated numerous times, this is not about blaming anybody about how we got here at this point in time. That's why we have a Muskrat Falls Inquiry; but, at the end of the day, people are very, very concerned about – if you ask the average person, what is your biggest concern? I would suggest that a high percentage of those people would talk about the concern they have with where power bills are going to go.


I appreciate the fact that the minister and the Premier and the government has said they're working on it. And I hope they are working on it, but, at the end of the day, people are still concerned and they want to see some sort of a detailed plan as to exactly how government intends to mitigate against rising electricity rates.


Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.


The hon. the Member for Fortune Bay - Cape La Hune.


MS. PERRY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


The background to this petition is as follows:


WHEREAS the Bay d'Espoir Highway and its branch roads, Routes 360, 361, 362, 363, 364, 365 have been overcome with very dangerous roadside alder growth; and


WHEREAS the Coast of Bays region is a very busy area with a high volume of industrial traffic for aquaculture, the fishery and hydroelectricity; and


WHEREAS the region has a transient workforce that requires workers to travel the highway at early morning hours and late at night, often in foggy, dangerous weather conditions with no cell coverage; and


WHEREAS there have been weekly incidents of moose accidents in the region this year, some very serious, and daily near misses; and


WHEREAS all residents are very concerned and worried to drive the highway due to a fear of a moose accident; and


WHEREAS every effort should and must be made to protect the safety of residents and reduce unnecessary road hazards for travellers.


Mr. Speaker, today's petition is 10 pages long from the community of Hermitage-Sandyville. There is a clear message that every community in the Coast of Bays region is sending to the Liberal government through these petitions that they're feeling very neglected when it comes to brush clearing.


The area has not seen any significant investment in the last three years in this regard, and it's our lives that are at stake. So we're going to continue to raise this petition, and hopefully one day the minister will stand to respond and tell us that brush clearing is forthcoming.


I read an article within the last day or two talking about how the department is open to more fencing across the Island. I would say that brush clearing would be far cheaper, and lives are at stake. This needs to be done before a fatality occurs, Mr. Speaker.


So I present to you this 10-page petition. I have many more to come until such time as we receive word that there will be brush clearing funding coming forward for the people of Fortune Bay - Cape La Hune and that our lives do matter.


Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.


The hon. the Minister of Transportation and Works for a response, please.


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


Mr. Speaker, every life of every Newfoundlander and Labradorian matters.


Mr. Speaker, this year we were able to do 367 hectares of brush cutting. Obviously, that doesn't get us near the 10,000 kilometres of road in this province.


It's interesting that the Member opposite gets up, and last week her leader was asking questions about moose fencing, something that's in my mandate letter and something that we're seriously looking at. But, I guess, Mr. Speaker, her tightly knit team is not that tight, because last week the leader of her party was asking for more moose fencing. Now, today, she's saying we don't want more moose fencing. So, Mr. Speaker, maybe they should get on the same page.


Mr. Speaker, the reality here is over the years there's been about $2 million each year provided for brush cutting. We are seeing a trend in the right direction on our province's highways when it comes to moose-vehicle accidents. In doing work with groups like SOPAC, it's very important. We provided a grant last year to SOPAC and we'll continue to do so in the future for awareness.


And, the hon. Member is correct; brush is one of the main areas I think that we can focus on, but the reality is there are 10,000 kilometres of highways in our province. It's very challenging. Driver awareness and driver abilities around this is very important, but we will continue to go forward with our brush-cutting program.


Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. SPEAKER: Further petitions?


The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.


MR. PETTEN: 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 many students within our province depend on school busing for transportation to and from school each day; and


WHEREAS there are many parents of school aged children throughout the province who live inside the Eastern School Districts 1.6 kilometre zone, and therefore do not qualify for busing; and


WHEREAS policy cannot override the safety of our children;


WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge government to eliminate the 1.6 km policy for all elementary schools in the province and in junior and senior high schools where safety is a primary concern.


And as in duty bound your petitioners will ever pray.


Mr. Speaker, as I've said many times, this is a petition that I will be presenting as often as I can. It's a very important issue to parents in my district, and I know parents in the districts surrounding me, and all sides of this House, Mr. Speaker. The safety of our children is a huge issue and it's something that can't be ignored.


As a matter of fact, there's a group – they originated in my district, constituents of mine, but they broadly reached out to whoever, right across the province, it's called against the 1.6 kilometre policy. It's a Facebook group, and they're doing 30 days of change. They're doing videos every day, interviewing parents and addressing their concerns, fears and issues.


Every individual issue, even though it's similar and may be safety oriented, every individual's concern is different and brings a different level. So I want to just give them a plug because this group of parents need to be commended, because they're doing it for the right reasons. It's not political. It's truly for the safety of their children. Any Member in the House, if you can't support that – I mean really, that's what it's all about. It's for the safety of their children.


I just want to highlight something. I think the last time I got up and done a petition the Minister of Education went back in time again in the past. You can do that every time on every issue, Mr. Speaker. I live in the present. I was elected in 2015. I've advocated since my election and I'll continue to advocate, and that's the way I think we all should portray it.




MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!


MR. PETTEN: And even if you were in the past, he wants to go back further than that. People change, things change and society changes. It's never a bad thing to change your mind and look at something for the right reasons.


These parents are advocating for the right reasons. I know I am, and I know my colleagues are, supporting these parents and doing what's right, and we call upon government to seriously consider this petition. It's a very serious safety issue and it's something that should be addressed now, Mr. Speaker. It's not about playing politics, it's doing what's right for the children of our province.


Thank you very much.


MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development for a response, please.


MR. HAWKINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


I'll contend that it is politics. Again, I'd like to know – I asked a question the other day to the hon. Members opposite. What do you want to do, remove the 1.6 kilometres? Does that mean for every 50 feet you pick up a student? Is that what you mean?




MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!


MR. HAWKINS: Pardon?


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!


Order, please!


MR. HAWKINS: If you remove 1.6, what does removing 1.6 mean? What does it mean? Does it mean every child that's in this province has to be picked up at their driveway? Does it mean that every child in this province has to be picked up 50 feet away from school?


If not, Mr. Speaker, if we're removing 1.6, we're saying to a certain area of the province, well, your safety, your child is important, but out to another district, well, it's not important for you, so you shouldn't have – you need to have 1.6 out there.


So, Mr. Speaker, there's a whole series of issues that need to be discussed, and that's why this government put in a courtesy stop. We are reviewing the courtesy stop. We're seeing how effective it is. It's a review of that.


We have not closed the door to anything; however, Mr. Speaker, to get up and play politics with this is somewhat unfair because the safety of our children is so important to the entire Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.


Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


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


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


We'll call Orders of the Day.


MR. SPEAKER: Orders of the Day.


Orders of the Day


MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to call from the Order Paper, Order 2, third reading of Bill 33.


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


MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Health and Community Services, that Bill 33, An Act To Amend The Public Sector Compensation Transparency Act, be now read a third time.


MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that the said bill be now read a third time.


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


All those in favour, 'aye.'




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


The motion is carried.


CLERK (Barnes): A bill, An Act To Amend The Public Sector Compensation Transparency Act. (Bill 33)


MR. SPEAKER: This bill has now been read a third time and it is ordered that the bill do pass and its title be as on the Order Paper.


On motion, a bill, “An Act To Amend The Public Sector Compensation Transparency Act,” read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper. (Bill 33)


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


MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I call Order 3, third reading of Bill 38.


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


MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Health and Community Services, that Bill 38, An Act Respecting The Reporting Requirements Of Public Bodies, be now read a third time.


MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that the said bill be now read a third time.


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


All those in favour, 'aye.'




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


The motion is carried.


CLERK: A bill, An Act Respecting The Reporting Requirements Of Public Bodies. (Bill 38)


MR. SPEAKER: This bill has now been read a third time and it is ordered that the bill do pass and its title be as on the Order Paper.


On motion, a bill, “An Act Respecting The Reporting Requirements Of Public Bodies,” read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper. (Bill 38)


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


MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I call Order 6, second reading of Bill 37.


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


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


I'm pleased to rise in this House to open the debate on Bill 37, An Act Respecting The Protection And Promotion Of Public Health.


I would like to move, seconded by the Government House Leader, that Bill 37, An Act Respecting The Protection And Promotion Of Public Health, be now read a second time.


MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 37, An Act Respecting The Protection And Promotion Of Public Health, be now read a second time.


Motion, second reading of a bill, “An Act Respecting The Protection And Promotion Of Public Health.” (Bill 37)


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


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


I, too, am tripping over myself in my enthusiasm for this piece of legislation.


I have been accused by some of my colleagues of using superlatives and hyperbole when we come to discussing this bill, but it is simply a landmark piece of legislation. It will replace outdated legislation and it's going to build a framework for the future of public health in this province.


There will be plenty of meat to go through in the clauses, clause by clause during Committee. Basically, the bill was developed by taking best approaches, concepts and language from other more recent public health legislation across Canada and around the world.


I would argue that by presenting this bill and adopting it, we have moved from the back of the pack in Canada to leapfrogging over everyone else to having a piece of legislation that will stand out as a beacon from the East Coast of what public health can be. We've also done it with evidence informed through best literature and public health, and also by listening to folk in our communities at home.


The bill is designed, essentially, to modernize public health legislation across the province. This fulfills a commitment from the Speech from the Throne to introduce a legislative foundation, which we would then use to drive improvements across public health programs. The aim of that, in turn, would be to improve the health of our communities and the health of our population.


The bill effectively will repeal the communicable diseases, which was originally passed in its current form in 1970. So it's nigh half a century old. It will also repeal certain sections of the Health and Community Services Act. The reason for that is that latter act contains instruction and regulation relating to issues and program areas that are outside the scope of public health. So we've left that act intact. It deals with things like development in restricted areas, long-term care services and the information sharing agreements we have between health and the Centre for Health Information.


Public health, actually, for the benefit of the House, is distinct from clinical services but it's a very important, I would argue, foundational part of the overall health system. It focuses on the health of population. It's designed to prevent disease, promote wellness and protect the health of the population.


The essential day-to-day work of public health professionals essentially goes unnoticed, as many potential issues are actually contained or averted. It's things that never make it to the public gaze. Public health only becomes visible when something really goes wrong, and that's when preventative measures are not sufficient or we have an outbreak of a communicable disease.


Everyone's familiar with the emergence of SARS some years ago, everyone's also familiar with Ebola, which has cycled round again because of the persecution, basically, in the Congo of public health workers. And that really has the potential for a worldwide health emergency. A Canadian example that everyone will recall was the enteric disease outbreak in Walkerton which resulted in some deaths.


At home, we have and are continuing to deal with an outbreak of tuberculosis and we share jurisdiction for managing that with the Nunatsiavut Government and the federal Government of Canada. So we're working through those processes actively in this province as we speak.


A strong public health system has a significant impact on our economy. It supports a healthy workforce. It helps ensure continued capacity in our acute care services by so doing. It then builds on that to improve the overall health of the population and, thus, ultimately reduces the need for health care, either directly or by mitigating the effects of diseases in the long term.


In our province, public health is a share responsibility. We share it between the federal government and the provincial governments, Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency all work together to produce a series of programs that look at public health research and surveillance, develop programs on pan-Canadian disease, because while we are an island, we have a mainland component, and these diseases are not respecters of lines on a map.


It also talks at the federal and provincial level about controlling the entry of disease into the country. The federal Quarantine Act has a role here and it coordinates the roles in those areas where there is an outbreak that crosses provincial boundaries. It also deals, as people here, I'm sure, are well aware, with the issue of food product recalls.


Public health is also a shared issue at the provincial level. The Department of Health and Community Services is responsible for the development of the legislation, hence I'm standing here as minister responsible. It's also responsible for policy and programs, it coordinates public health emergency responses, it manages our provincial vaccine supply and it collects and monitors communicable disease level data at the provincial level.


However, our department works very closely with the Department of Children, Seniors and Social Development and Service NL. CSSD is responsible for the development and implementation of healthy active living programs and initiatives, while Service NL deals with public health inspection and enforcement through its environmental health officers.


In addition, the Department of Fisheries and Land Resources is responsible for controlling diseases of animal origin which can have an impact on human health. The chief veterinarians are responsible for both aquaculture and animal health. They maintain close working relationship with our chief medical officer of health in that regard.


If we think even more broadly about the health of our population – and we have been doing – we could say that every provincial department has an impact and shares in the responsibility for public health. This is why I'm particularly pleased with the piece in this bill which addresses the social determinants of health through a Health-in-All-Policies approach.


I'm going to go into a little bit more about the nuances of the case behind this bill, the reasons for its existence and I'm just going to provide a little bit of history, because I'm that kind of guy. Firstly, the first board of health was appointed in Newfoundland and Labrador – we have a long history, it goes back to 1832, to deal with public health in Newfoundland –


MR. CROCKER: (Inaudible.)


MR. HAGGIE: Thank you very much, Minister Crocker.


AN HON. MEMBER: No names.


MR. HAGGIE: No names.


And in 1833, we had our first Public Health Act. I consider myself reprimanded.


The first smallpox vaccine in North America was actually given in this province in Trinity in 1877 and, three years later, smallpox vaccination was compulsory in Newfoundland. We had a diphtheria outbreak in 1893 and it was the first time diphtheria antitoxin was ever used in the province.


We had our first medical officer of health in 1892. The Cottage Hospital system, when it was established in the 1930s, also had a responsibility for public health. It was one, at the time, of the finest examples of government funding hospital and medical care plans in North America.


Over the years in public health, we've seen many significant successes. We've had a significant reduction in smoking rates, for example, and exposure to second-hand smoke with legislation that came out in the late 1990s.  


We have doubled, over recent years, breastfeeding initiation rates in this province. We have reduced significantly motor vehicle-related injuries by using public health measures such as seat belts, car seats and booster seats. We have the lowest reported rates of food-borne illness and we actually lead the country in childhood vaccination rates.


AN HON. MEMBER: That's all them home-grown vegetables.


MR. HAGGIE: Yes, that's right.


However, much of our public health legislation is based on the Communicable Diseases Act and the Health and Community Services Act. They address, primarily, issues around communicable diseases, sanitation and hygiene, but they don't talk about what has now become part of public health's core mandate, which is the delivery of public health programs essential to what are now regarded as the five pillars of public health. It was very much an issue around communicable diseases.


One of the things that happened really was that because of that kind of sidelining of communicable diseases – and it happened because of other developments, vaccination and antibiotics – everybody tended to sideline communicable diseases thinking, well, that issue is dealt with. Public health, as a discipline in this country, suffered because of that, and it suffered grievously. And we came into office, having inherited a system that had basically decayed to the point where public health consisted of environmental health officers in Service NL, and a random scattering of part-time medical officers of health who had very little authority and very little place in the health system.


But the national Advisory Committee on Population Health recommended that public health be viewed through a different lens, and it talked about five core functions. It talked about health surveillance, so that looks at disease monitoring and trends and injury, and using that information in a meaningful way. It talked about population health assessment, and that increases our understanding of health of populations, what factors underlie the health of populations and create risk. So that leads to better services and better planning and healthy public policies.


It talks about disease and injury prevention, those actions aimed at eradicating, eliminating or minimizing disease or disability. Or if none of these are feasible, slowing down and mitigating the disease. So we look at things like vaccinations for preventable childhood illnesses, to reduce morbidity and mortality from measles, rubella, diphtheria. Without giving my age away, I saw the effects of polio first-hand in children who had been born and succumbed to the illness shortly before the introduction of the vaccine in 1954.


We've introduced screening for blood-bone infections, and that has produced significant improvements in this area. The association also spoke to health promotion, which is a function focusing on enabling and encouraging people to increase control over their own health. We've talked in this House before about how health care has to be a partnership, it has to be everybody accepting they had responsibility for certain areas within health, and accepting that people had a degree of autonomy, and with that went a degree of responsibility for their own health.


So healthy eating, smoking cessation, exercise, using sensible measures like wearing a bicycle helmet, like using seat belts, and even by extension, not drinking and driving. I was fortunate enough to participate in what one could regard as an unfortunately necessary event, which was MADDs provincial campaign launched last week in Gander.


It also talks about health protection. That's the assurance of safe food and water, a regulatory approach around commutable and infectious diseases, environmental threats and emergency preparedness. It would provide advice to regulators, restaurant inspections, child care facility inspections, water treatment and monitoring. So you can see that this spans a whole range of government departments, not just Health and Community Services.


Our current legislation has been static. It really hasn't kept pace with our population health approach. The last revisions to the 1970 act were made in the mid-1990s. So that's why the bill formally recognizes and enshrines these core public health functions and creates a foundation to build on each.


Public health approaches consider actions that can improve the health of a population as a whole rather than focusing on individuals. I think that's worth emphasizing, because it is the difference between the responsibility of an individual practitioner, say, a GP or a specialist, who has a responsibility to do the best for the individual in front of them at that time; whereas public health looks at the population or groups of the population as a whole. It describes coordinated approaches to health inequities.


We're seeing public health impacts already with things like climate change. We're seeing movement of diseases that we haven't previously seen here, either Vector-borne diseases, such as Lyme disease, Zika, West Nile and Zoonotic diseases, as diseases like rabies that occur in animals and could be passed to humans, may actually start to migrate into areas where they hadn't traditionally been seen as the climate adapts. 


I mentioned Lyme disease; it's a tick-borne disease, so it doesn't go from human to human. It needs a little insect to do that for you. It sucks blood from an infected host and then basically poops the virus out onto your skin. So when you scratch it you infect yourself. It's spread very rapidly. It spreads very rapidly and it's coming up in the Maritimes and the East Coast. It is something that has not been encountered here in numbers and now we need to educate physicians about it.


We are living in a world with SARS and Ebola. You are one plane flight away from a significant public health problem, and we need legislation that can adapt to and deal with that. We saw the challenges around getting a coordinated response. The Ebola crisis, when I was on kind of the other side of the fence as chief of staff in Gander, where we are the major alternate for transatlantic flights.


Again, more recently and more sadly, since 9-11 we've seen bioterrorism. The white powder that comes in the mail could be anything, and it has been Anthrax in certain jurisdictions. So we need a system that is cognizant of that and can react to it.


We also should remember that the diseases that we regard as managed problems, the old diseases are coming back. We've seen tuberculous come round yet again. We have seen syphilis spike in the Avalon, and we have issues with gonorrhea and drug-resistant gonorrhea across the province coming back in numbers which we have not seen in recent years. They require new approaches and health promotion approaches to help deal with them. There is no single, magic bullet but there are coordinated approaches through legislation and a framework like this that can be used.


We have a significant IV drug use problem. So we're going to see an upsurge in hepatitis C and we're going to see potential increase in HIV. That's the intercept there on mental health and addictions with traditional public health.


Our public health system was established to deal with communicable diseases, but one of the biggest health challenges globally on a public health scale are actually what are now called non-NCDs, non-communicable diseases. I would suggest that our biggest problem from a public health point of view falls in that category, particularly with type 1 diabetes; 11 per cent of our population are recognized as having some form of diabetes currently.


Heart disease and cancer can be viewed in that same light. And, indeed, public health approach with smoking has seen dramatic reductions over time. We, in this province, are unfortunate in that we have some of the highest prevalence rates of these illnesses in Canada, and it's a major public health issue which is left completely unaddressed. We have tools in our toolbox that we are not using. This bill addresses that.


To be effective and responsive, though, this kind of legislation needs to clearly identify who has authority for what and who is responsible to whom. Unlike other jurisdictions, our current legislation doesn't clearly establish powers, duties and functions for anybody, basically. It doesn't clearly identify who has the power to issue orders and how to manage emerging communicable diseases threat.


The current act does provide authority to order individuals to be detained or investigated, or even to be quarantined. The problem with that is they were written in the '70s and you could – essentially, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not permit those measures to be used. These are autocratic, they belong to a different era and they predate the patriation of the Constitution. So we're actually at risk currently, significant legal risk as a provincial government from a challenge to any one of these orders that would try to be used to curtail or deal with a public health issue.


Modern public health legislation should establish authority to address and control hazards which would affect the general public. The Health And Community Services Act and the old Communicable Diseases Act do not define health hazards. They are for limited authority for public health officials to even consider them, unless it's specifically related to specified areas of jurisdiction. So, for example, communicable diseases, sanitation and public pools. We don't have anyone in the province who has the authority to declare a location, an event or activity a health hazard outside a food premises or a personal service establishment. We've no ability to control that, not at all.


So, in summary, those are the problems. Those are the lack of structure which leaves us exposed. So what have we done about it? How have we ended up here today? Well, the end of last year and the beginning of this year, a lot of work had already been done through internal officials and consultations at an early stage with the Newfoundland and Labrador Public Health Association, but in 2018 we started going out face to face with internal and external stakeholders in a more formal way. We had a public forum with the RHAs and other partners and then we had several public engagement sessions. In the background, as it were, but concurrent with that, we had an online survey with EngageNL.


So we looked for issues that people would identify and also potential solutions. We have taken all of that, and particularly the dialogue with the Public Health Association, and we fed it into the bill.


So what is the bill, in broad-brush terms? Basically, it fills all those gaps, but it does it in a thought-out, rigorous framework, which highlights the five core principles of public health I've alluded to. They are laid out in Part I, which lays out the purpose of the act, and highlights those five key areas: health promotion; protection of individuals; healthy environment; measures for monitoring and surveillance – the goal is to improve the health of the population and vulnerable groups – and it also addresses health equity.


It's very similar to legislation in other Canadian jurisdictions. As I say, we've used those, shamelessly, and I believe we've leapfrogged over them. It also lines up with commitments that we made in The Way Forward, and that were in my mandate letters, both in 2015 and subsequent revision. And I just take a highlight and delve down to illustrate, from section 6, which talks about our Health-in-All-Policies approach.


This is a really modern, cutting-edge public health tool, and it has gained recognition because of the fact that it recognizes things, outside of traditional health, that determine health – the so-called social determinates of health. It looks at the obligation of government, as a whole, to have a mechanism to look at things like health through the lens of education, and vice versa, or employment and housing through the lens of health impact.


It solidifies this commitment and makes it a part of that. The Department of Health has to have a role in it. It doesn't necessarily have to own it. It could live with any other government department, or even with the Executive Council. But there's an obligation there for Health and its minister to have sight into it.


We are only the second province in Canada, after Quebec, that's put this out there. This is an example, however, that does come from other jurisdictions. The Antipodes of New Zealand, particularly, has this enshrined in legislation, and I think some of the Australian states do, too.


It also, in Part II, clearly outlines who's responsible for what. So the powers and responsibility of the minister are outlined. The chief medical officer of health is outlined, the RMOH, who are the regional officers of health, and the environmental health officers, insofar, as their duties are impacted by this act. Those environmental health officers live with, as it were, and are employed by Service NL.


In line with other provinces the minister, with the advice of the CMOH, actually has to prepare, every five years, a public health plan that lays out the goals and objectives to be met during that period. It requires the chief medical officer to actually monitor those things and report back for a report for the Lieutenant-Governor in Council every five years saying how we got on with the minister's plan. So, there's accountability.


These three areas, in addition to the ministerial powers to establish standards for core programs, actually then start to focus very much on public health and coordinating things towards a common goal.


The minister can also, with advice from the experts, establish standards and qualifications for public health personnel. It would include a wide variety of personnel; obviously the medical officers of health. It would also refer to public health nurses, health promotion consultants, parent and child health co-ordinators, communicable diseases control nurse, EHOs in as far as it relates to health and public health managers.


So, we look to training, education and competency and that ability is enshrined in the act and will be fleshed out in regulations. It also looks at public health laboratories and to give direction as to the nature and extent of their services.


For those who may not be aware, our Newfoundland and Labrador public health and microbiology lab is located within Eastern Health. It's a province-wide resource and it looks at diagnostics, support and surveillance, and is very active, for example, in the coming flu season.


Because, however, we have this lab, it has a record for doing rapid detection very well. It's another of those little things that we, as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, are very bad at, which is telling everybody else what we actually do quite well. So, E. coli outbreak that was related to romaine lettuce was first detected here and we triggered the national process with a recall.


This bill recognizes the role and also enshrines a relationship, a responsibility, authority and accountability between the minister's office and the lab.


It recognizes also then that the chief medical officer has to perform his or her duties with a degree of independence and impartiality to protect and promote the health. We've seen too recently and too often, unfortunately, a sad scenario, the most vivid one in my mind was the public abuse by then mayor of Toronto, Mr. Ford, of the medical officer of health for Toronto; totally unwarranted, totally bulled and harassed. That should not and cannot be accepted as a reasonable way of doing business because public health decision making has to have more to do with scientific evidence than political pressure.


That is why the role and responsibilities of the CMOH are boxed in to some extent and protected from interference on the whim of whichever minister might have indigestion that day. It does not excuse the minister, however, from making public health decisions. It anticipates that a sensible minister would actually have to listen to a qualified chief medical officer of health.


Of the 53 pages or whatever of this act, slightly more than 20 deals with one essential principle, and that's the balance between the individual's rights and freedoms under the Charter and the duty to protect the population health by building in some appropriate procedures.


A person with a communicable disease who is spreading the infection and who will not follow medical advice is a significant public health risk. That has to be managed. So these 20, 22 pages go into some considerable detail to take the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the constitutional law, as we understand it through justice and through our counsel, and to provide those protections for an individual who may be subject to one of these orders.


So while in an emergency, a medical officer of health can issue an order for compliance with recommendations and if that's ignored, then that can be taken as far as the Supreme Court. There are checks and balances so there are appeal matters. Our current public health legislation is actually silent on what those checks and balances are and simply because of that will not pass constitutional muster.


Talking of balances again, our current public health legislation is silent on the collection and use of personal health information. I mean, in 1970 the idea of an Electronic Health Record was something from Mr. Spock and Star Trek with his little scanner.


Part III of the bill goes into some considerable detail under which circumstances information can be gathered and shared and the responsibility of who gets to do what with this. Conscious of those sensitivities, OIPC, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, was engaged in the drafting and it was agreed with his office that this bill will further support the Personal Health Information Act.


So the way around that in the short term is for the CMOH to be designated as a custodian under that act and have all the duties and responsibilities that would accrue to an individual like that. It will, as part of the quinquennial review of PHIA – which I think is on the legislative agenda for our next mandate in 2019 – after the election we will come back and we will amend PHIA and we will put in there specific provisions about CMOH.


Part IV talks about non-communicable diseases, and I referenced that in my preamble. Essentially, in discussions with the CMOH, an NCD can be designated under the act in regulation. This section actually has potential for doing some really significant transformative things around our Chronic Disease Management Strategy. We have had considerable discussion around this and it will formally recognize non-communicable diseases as a public health issue rather than simply an acute or community care issue.


It also speaks of a code of practice in relation to issues around non-communicable diseases or a health hazard. This is a term that's more often used in occupational health and safety circles, but has moved into the public health arena and relates to a guidance document on how health and hazard issues can be mitigated through this act. It may relate to an industry, it could relate to a community, it could relate to residents, and would be used to reduce or mitigate occurrence of non-communicable diseases.


So we could use this provision to tackle issues around trans fats, if that was felt to be appropriate, lead paint, playground safety. What would happen to make this operational is that during the crafting of regulations industry would be consulted about a consultation mechanism that would then be embedded in the code of practice regulations. So not only would the code of practice have an obligation for the department or for government to consult with affected individuals, how that should be looked at and how that would look would also be addressed as part of the consultation in drafting the code regulations themselves.


Part V goes back to public health surveillance. This is around the authority of a regional medical officer of health or a designate to an inspector, to do the older style communicable disease stuff in terms of investigating the occurrences of injury or illness that are a risk and reportable events. It states a duty to report by health care professionals and environmental health officers where they become aware of an occurrence or a suspected occurrence of a disease.


It enshrines an onus of reportability. We've done that with a whole variety of things, or it has been done in the past with certain categories of injury. For example, gunshot wounds have to be reported, knife injuries have to be reported, this kind of thing. And this duty to report further bolsters the role of public health officials and public health physicians in advising government how to proceed; will, under regulation, identify those who have a duty to report health hazards or zoonotic diseases, those that we could get from animals. So that would be a discussion to be had with FLR, with chief vets for aquaculture, and for the province.


I think we recently remembered in this House, during the commemoration and honouring of those who served in the First World War, what gets forgotten is in the immediate aftermath of all those soldiers coming home, the Spanish Flu of 1918 and '19 infected half a billion people worldwide; 500 million people. At the time, the population of the planet was maybe a fifth of what it is today. It had an appalling effect on our population, and it wiped out Indigenous communities in Okak and Hebron, up in the Big Land.


So large-scale, public pandemics, health emergencies still need to be recognized, and Part VI of the bill does this. It talks about public health emergencies, and these are situations where extraordinary or unusual measures are required. It's time limited, it's subject to legislative mandatory review. There is an extension period possible, and these powers really give the chief medical officer of health considerable scope in acting promptly to protect populations.


We can, under this legislation, under the regulations, we could authorize voluntary mass immunization programs as a priority. We can divert resources to do that. We could establish lists of individuals, or classes of individuals, to be given priority for immunization. For example, health care providers, or for drugs or medical supplies and equipment. We could make orders restricting travel. We can do some of this already under older legislation, but, again, it's not done in a way that's constitutionally sound.


So the bill recognizes that link between public health and the Emergency Services Act. So where there is a conflict between the powers under the Public Health Act and the Emergency Services Act, the Emergency Services Act will take paramount. It will take priority.


Part VII looks at emerging challenges. It establishes duties and responsibilities for orders where really prompt, almost compulsory action is necessary, and there may be little time to debate some issues. We can, through a regional medical officer of health, make a communicable disease order where there's a risk of an outbreak. We could isolate areas or groups of individuals. We can, under the act, require an individual to submit to an examination. These are not new, but the terms of safeguards around there and the ability to appeal to the Supreme Court are enshrined in a way that is constitutionally responsible; unlike the existing legislation, which actually predates the Charter anyway.


Environmental health officers or regional medical officers of health can also now deal with health hazards. So if they're made aware of some issue – I refer to the bioterrorism white package – they can make on-the-spot orders to have it seized, dealt with in a certain way, disinfected. They can close the premises until it's managed and they can specify monitoring processes.


Part VII also is this big chunk which has a lot of words around how to protect the individual's rights. I'm sure at some point someone will pick a hypothesis where one end or the other of the spectrum is approached. At some point there is always going to be a soft and grey area in the middle to balance safety of the people, in general, against rights of the individual in particular. That is the beauty of the Canadian system in that there is a legal route where the courts can hone that down and find it, and it lays out processes for the protection of the public while these individuals still have rights to go to court, if need be, to maintain their rights.


If someone would be subjected to an order by an EHO or a medical officer of health, they can appeal that within 30 days. The chief medical officer would be required to review and respond within 30 days, so there are time limits. The more severe curtailment of freedom, apprehension or treatment orders would be issued under the authority of the Supreme Court. There's a section in there about telewarrants, but it's also the right of appeal to the Court of Appeal. So, it's not without its checks and balances.


We've modernized the powers of inspectors in Parts VIII and IX, including maintaining the primacy of a private dwelling as someone's castle. You can't just walk in there unless you have a warrant from a judge, and that requires just cause. So, you just can't go barging into people's houses.


Part IX establishes authority for LGIC and the Minister of Health to make regulations in a number of areas around the five core functions. That authority does run out into all five core functions, but it is done in a consistent and cohesive way so it makes for a framework.


Finally, like all good legislation, the bill establishes a mandatory review of the new act and the regulations in five years. It also recognizes now that we have precedents from the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement Act where there may be inconsistencies because Nunatsiavut has the right to make its own legislation in this area and where this conflicts with LILCA, LILCA prevails.


So just to wrap it up – I'm sorry I can't take my full hour; I've been told that maybe that wouldn't be wise. I get a bit evangelical about this. I have to say, I have been fortunate to have some excellent input on this and I think this is a huge step forward, taking us from the bottom of the pile in public health from a legislative framework to putting us right at the top where we should be.


As a bit of i-dotting and t-crossing, I'm pleased to also inform the House that Dr. Claudia Sarbu, who has been our interim medical officer of health, is now our permanent chief medical officer of health.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. HAGGIE: She is almost ecstatic when she looks at this bill. The grin on her face since the Government House Leader went through first reading with this has to be seen to be believed. It's long overdue. It really is long overdue, but it's a further evidence of my commitment, our commitment, to the health of the people of this province. And I would really ask for support of all Members of the House and I look forward to the Committee stage on this.


Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. SPEAKER (Warr): I recognize the hon. the Member for Conception Bay East - Bell Island.


MR. BRAZIL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


It is indeed an honour to stand in this House again and have a discussion and debate and speak to a very important piece of legislation. It's very intense by its nature. It's very intense by the size itself. It's very intense in what we're hoping will be achieved here when it comes to health safety in our society. I will start off, as I normally do, noting how I'm going to end, and that's going to be that I will be supporting this piece of legislation.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. BRAZIL: But I say that with some reservation, because I still will have a number of questions in Committee, relevant to some of the issues around the regulatory process and some of the operational policies that'll be part and parcel of it.


I do, and I have to get it out in front, with no disrespect to the minister or his staff, but particularly no disrespect to his staff, the size of this bill, for it to be given to us in such short notice to really get to the crux of what it's all about – and that's no disrespect to the minister's ability to be able to explain what it means. Particularly, we had a great briefing yesterday, went double what would normally be the time frames for it, by very competent staff, which included the now permanent chief medical officer who outlined exactly what the intent would be of this.


Very easily, I was bought into how we see this as a benefit and a necessity of modernizing exactly the pieces of legislation that we've had over the last number of decades to ensure that we, on a go-forward basis, have a better system in play, have legislation that protects both the citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador and anywhere, anybody who comes here, or Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who travel abroad and on their return from a safe point of view; but also those who may find themselves, unfortunately, inflicted by a certain particular disease or an ailment that is seen or acknowledged or diagnosed as being something that has to be dealt with differently than you would in your normal process of going to your GP and waiting for your interventions.


So the piece of legislation I wholeheartedly support that we've moved it to the next level, that we've modernized it, that there's been a fairly intense review of it by very competent people within the department and, my understanding, within the regional health authorities – and we'll get a better understanding later on of any other entities that may have been engaged here.


It's a unique piece of legislation when you talk about dealing with health because people just see health in isolation to what we do from the delivery of the service and that. But this also looks at legal issues here, and it looks at the bigger, broader picture here because you're dealing with freedoms on both sides. You're dealing with the freedoms of our society in a general context, in a larger context, their safety, their health and their well-being; but you're also, at the same time, having to be cognizant of particular individuals whose rights, privileges and freedoms may be infringed because of something that has to be done.


So you're talking about a balance. You have to find that balance to ensure that society is protected at the forefront but, at the same time, individuals are not wrongfully put in a situation that may be harmful to them physically, mentally, socially; while, at the same time, also being cognizant of how you would deal with those who find themselves in a particular situation from a health point of view that may warrant actions that may be taken under this new act.


I'm just going to quote on the press release that the minister put out today. “The new Act introduced today will modernize public health in Newfoundland and Labrador. It will make our legislation among the best in the country. We will be only the second province in Canada to include a Health-in-All-Policies approach in public health legislation, putting us at the forefront of public health innovation. Legislation supporting the health and well-being of our population will positively impact the province's economic potential and sustainability, and make an important contribution overall to economic progress.” 


I think it's a great sentence. I think it's obtainable. I think this piece of legislation is a step in the right direction to get to where we're going, and it does outline the fact about protection and the delivery of a health mechanism that ensures that we can move forward in every aspect of our life. Sustainability is around economic viability, it's about social viability and being able to have those safeguards to do that.


I will caution that the discussion will have to be around particular regulations because the old cliché in life, the devil is in the details, is important here. We need to be able to know that the time frames outlined here – and I say the time frames based on the parts. Normally, I would call them sections, but there are 65 parts to this piece of legislation, which is not the norm in any piece of legislation we have. But I can see why, because it's such an important piece of legislation that we need to make sure that we cover off every section, or every part of the legislation that will have an impact on people's lives and be ready for the unknown.


What I'm hoping when the regulations come out, it's not only that we're dealing with situations that we've seen ourselves face in the past or at the present, but things that we could foresee in the future. There are going to be diseases, there are going to be situations, there are going to be scenarios where society may be put in harm's way that things we haven't planned for but we need to be able to have a mechanism that the response time and the resources and the mechanisms are at our fingertips; there's no delay, there's no second guessing. There's no questioning whether or not who has the authority to do what.


So I think it's very important that we get to this point, and that's what I liked about this piece of legislation. Again, I'll reiterate this for the last time. I would have liked to have had, and I think my colleagues also from the Third Party and the independents, would have liked to have had more time to really go through it to get a better understanding of definitions, what that entails, particularly when we get to Committee so we could get clarification.


It's not that we're setting out in any way, shape or form discredit what's being done, but we would like to know in a bit more detail, an opportunity to talk to some other stakeholders and to talk to those in the field who have had a particular experience in this or have been included in it. Anyway, I put that out there only because if the people of the audience are watching when we get into Committee, if there's a multitude of questions that haven't already been answered through our debate, then obviously that'll be dragged out, and it's not dragged out for the sake of playing politics. It will be because for clarification, and I'm hopeful we'll get that as we go through that process.


I do want to note again, this piece of legislation will take us to the next level. I do like the fact that we're no longer trying to catch up with other provinces. We've done that over the times, but what we've done is move beyond that. I know the minister noted this, and so did the officials, that we've looked at other jurisdictions in Canada but sometimes you want to be a trendsetter and you want to lead. And because we're a unique entity, we're an Island to ourselves with a vast population, an Island that's separated. Then we have Labrador in itself, and we have some other unique situations there with the Aboriginal communities that we're dealing with. We need to be cognizant of how we provide the proper services there.


The fact that I know officials looked to other jurisdictions outside of North America, and I know some of them they looked at they thought would mimic how we do things here. The geographic and the social and some of the health concerns or issues we've had over the years has been South Australia. I could take that because it's a modern country. There's a kinship there between countries like us, coming from Commonwealth backgrounds, that there would be a similarity in how we would approach stuff.


So I give credit that they based that on data and information, and policy and practices that have already been tried and tested and successful as part of that. So we look at that and we look at the importance of what we're going to be doing as we modernize this whole process, but I also want to note, for people who may be listening here, that while we're modernizing a new health approach here under legislation, the key components here are what the act is all about.


I'm just going to take people through them again in case they weren't listening when the minister talked about most of those. “Promote the health and well-being of individuals and communities.” I mean, that's a fairly standard thing.


I think any health professional sets out, as their main objective in life, to be able to do that. We as a society, and I know we as Members of the House of Assembly, we set that out. We don't do it in a way where – or we don't, as I say, get on the front lines and do that, but that's what this act does here. It gives a little bit more meat to roles and responsibilities, particularly around this piece of legislation, so that the well-being of individuals and communities, particularly in extreme, adverse situations. And that's what we're talking about here when it comes to this.


Adverse situations; when there's a situation, be it an outbreak of a disease or potential outbreak. If there's a situation that may be adverse to a particular group or a part of our society or geographic area, that the bill itself outlines in a very explicit way, in a very structured way and a very time-effective way on how that can be addressed.


So that's what part of that whole thing about having, as one of the key components of the act, health and well-being of individuals and communities, because in some cases it may be a whole community. The community here may represent all of Newfoundland and Labrador. From an individual point of view, it could be a particular situation that an individual finds themselves in with a particular diagnosis of a disease, or a particular situation they found themselves in because of travel or something they had come in contact with.


On the other side of it, it's also talking about when issues like that come to the forefront and it's been determined or assessed that somebody may be at risk, you want to also protect their rights, because maybe it isn't. Maybe it's a misdiagnosis. Maybe it's eight of nine criteria meet that person, but the ninth one is not there and the other eight were relevant to something else in that person's life. So you don't want them to be, for example, quarantined if that became one of the issues. You don't want a certain intervention with that individual if it's not known that's exactly what needs to be done.


So there's a structure outlined in here that gives the health authorities, particularly at different levels, if it's going to be the chief medical officer or one of the regional medical officers or one of the health inspectors, depending on when they assess what needs to be done, who has the authority to make those decisions and what that includes. What other health professionals are included in that process.


So there are a number of things outlined there that before this afternoon, I'll go through some of them to explain, clarify or put my version on it. Then, hopefully, if it's not exactly accurate, then in Committee we can get a better clarification to exactly what is intended in the act itself.


Again, I want to note, and the minister did note this, too. Some of it will be flushed out over the next number of months when we come around outlining the regulatory process. This will be enacted, I believe it is July 1. So we've got seven months to really get this right. I think we've got the proper legislation right, in a sense of the headings, the parts, the structure and the information.


The regulatory process and the integral part of the implementation of that policy and those practices are – something is going to have to be flushed out. And that's better done when you deal with the multitude of thousands of health professionals and other agencies and individuals who will be part and parcel of ensuring that the piece of legislation we're putting forward is going to meet the needs of the individuals in our province and the province as a whole, and address the particular issue here that we're talking about.


“Protect individuals and communities from risks to the health of the population.” Again, we're talking on a global issue and a global perspective in Newfoundland and Labrador to be able to react in a very expedient manner to protect our society before it gets to a point where there's an outbreak of something that's devastating, and we've known we've had it.


The minister mentioned about SARS and the impact it had on people. We've heard about what happened in Walkerton, but we don't have to go too far. We know what happened with our Aboriginal colleagues in Labrador only a number of decades ago and the devastating effect that had on them with the Spanish flu. So we need to have a mechanism at play that includes all players, from geographic backgrounds, to cultural backgrounds, to the importance of how we deliver services and these type of things.


So there's an importance here to ensure we get it right. We have one opportunity to do this now, because we have the legislation that outlines the particular processes. We need to make sure the right groups are contacted so at the end of the day we can actually put the regulatory process in place that efficiently addresses their particular needs.


“Prevent disease, injury and disability.” Because it's not just specifically noted on a disease. That's the bigger picture here on preventing long-term effects or death to people from a disease point of view, but it's also about injury and disabilities. There are a number of other particular situations we may find ourselves in. It could be exposure to toxins, for example. It could be living in an environment where there's an asbestos issue that hasn't been addressed. It could be in an area where, from a hygiene point of view, there are animal issues that are causing potential health risks for people. So, there are all kinds of mechanisms here to ensure that we're taking care of the individuals or the community itself.


“Provide a healthy environment for individuals and communities.” Through the legislation that's here, there are proactive approaches to ensure that you look at things before they happen. If somebody is building a new building or somebody is tearing down an old building, or somebody is putting something in play or changing something that exists, that the community itself would have the ability to have input and, through this process here, the health professionals would have an ability to say no, stop, we need to move back; we need to engage these other agencies. It's not isolated to the Department of Health. They have the ultimate authority, the minister, the chief medical officer, the regional medical officers, the inspectors have a high level of authority to act immediately.


But there are other line departments that would have to be involved in this on a daily basis, depending on the scenario. It could be Service NL, for example; it could be Natural Resources; and it could be Education and Early Childhood Development, depending on what the particular issue is. That's one of the things – I will continue to reiterate this. What I read into it is the potential of foreseeing what may happen as we look and as we engage more people about what potentially could be coming.


One of the fortunate things in Newfoundland and Labrador, which used to be more relevant a few decades ago, we were always on the timeline, the backend of things happening here that were negative. If it was diseases, if it was particular negative trends, if it was challenges that weren't necessarily what would be in the best interest of our society, it was always a few years late before it got here. But now, we're in a global world, people come very quickly, things happen immediately, so we don't have that buffer anymore. If we have legislation that ensures the process that we're using on our day-to-day issue to deal with the immediate thing, the health risk, that people have that ability to be analyzing what could be coming, what they're afraid may be the next challenge, what may be a way to prevent something, we don't have to react in a reaction point of view, we can be proactive.


So there are ways of being able to do that. Some of the things I liked about reading that, and even in the briefing from the officials themselves who had talked about some of the things that they envisioned would be positive stages down the road, the next five, 10 or 15 years which included – what I like here – six to seven months that we have before the regulatory process has to be put in play to make this law enacted.


While you don't want to delay anything, because it's important, I think we've got enough of a safeguard there that if we do run into that scenario in the next number of months, it can be enacted fairly quickly. But if we get this, this will be our operational process for the next number of decades. Because, as the minister noted, something that was developed in the '70s changed, to a certain degree, but not dramatically in the '90s. From the '90s to now, time moved probably three times quicker than it would have from the '70s to the '90s. So we have to be ready for how we make those changes be efficient and be relevant. And that's what I liked about that.


“Provide measures for the early detection and management of risks to the health of the population, including monitoring of disease or health condition of significance.” Meaning you're going to prioritize exactly things. We already know there are dozens, if not hundreds of particular large-scale risks that we face every day. They may have to do with diseases that can be transferred from animals to humans. It could be from fruits and vegetables that are imported here. It could be from toxins. It could be from whatever it is.


We already know – there's already a list out there that on a daily basis we're monitoring and we're trying to come up with an approach or we already have developed a mechanism for treatment, a mechanism for identifying what are the key identifiers to determine that this is exactly what we have to address in an individual if we're going to do treatments, versus it being a hit-and-miss type of thing and trial by error.


So we've moved beyond that, but again it talks about here of looking at particular conditions that may change. We're in a different world with the offshore exploration. That may mean we're using techniques or we're using chemicals that are different than we would have ever have faced before. So we need to be aware of what impact that has. Our health, society itself, what does that mean for individuals when it comes to the well-being? So you need to be able to look at some of those key components.


“Improve the health of the population and of vulnerable groups.” Because you want to be cognizant of the fact if we're talking about seniors and seniors are more susceptible to, obviously, different levels of disease, which we know from an immune point of view that it does have that impact. You need to be able to ensure that you identify what those things are and you come up with a mechanism that works.


So in here we have at least the mechanism to have more open discussion and more components of how you move it. The gist of it – and I won't diminish anything – is about large-scale issues. But on large-scale issues to prevent those or better deal with them, you have to deal with the immediate things that are also in an everyday society, which is again identifying particular groups. If it's a geographic group, if it's a group that comes from a different background, genetic background, then you want to be able to identify how you best prevent major health issues with that particular group.


So, there are things here that I like where they segregate that. Very often, we use the word “segregation” or we assess segregation as being a negative thing but, in some things, when you're dealing with health, it's a good thing because you need groups to be broken down on their particular need or their particular vulnerabilities, and that's what it comes down to here.


If there's a group that's vulnerable, if it's premature children, if it's young kids, if it's elderly, if it's people who already have certain ailments, you want to be understandably ready to be able to address those –




MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!


MR. BRAZIL: If it's people who travel all over the world who may be more vulnerable or more open to being in jurisdictions that don't have the same safeguards that we may have in our health environment, so you want to be cognizant of those.


Also, “promote health equity within the population by addressing the social determinants of health.” We talk about that every day. We've had many debates here about legislation and programs and services about how do you ensure good health for everybody and equitable health, and that's what it becomes here.


You want to do that by looking at the social determinants. What are the needs, as a society, that we need to put in place? That might mean that not every community is going to have a clinic where they can go get tested but, within a range, there's an area where there's a lab to get blood tested. There's an area where there's X-ray so you can get that; you're not restricted by not being able to get it. There's a geographic area where there are certain specialists or there are certain treatment processes, be it chemotherapy or radiation, or whatever it may be, or access to certain things that are part and parcel of providing good health.


So these are the key things that are in this act. As we've gone through it – and it's not saying that the previous act didn't address those. It did, but it addressed them in a less modern use of inclusion, of technology, of the skill set we already have, of the mechanisms we know and of the practices that we've learned from other jurisdictions and that we've done here internally, so that's part of where we've come to get to this point.


It talks about some of the definitions here, communicable diseases: an infectious disease transferable as from person to person, or direct contact with an affected individual or the individual's discharge, or by indirect means. That's one of the key things that we're trying to do now. It's about health prevention of a major catastrophe here or major impact on large-scale members of our society, or even individuals as part of that.


Non-communicable diseases, also known as chronic diseases, are the results of a combination of genetic, psychological, environmental and behavioural factors. The main types are cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and strokes, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes.


So, obviously, this act will also give the ability to address certain things because we have a different environment here. We have a different social environment also when it comes to how we interact from a physical point of view to our eating habits to our drinking habits, to all the things that have an impact on your well-being and your holistic health. So this outlines these type of things, right.


Zoonotic diseases are caused by infections that are shared between animals and people. Lyme disease, for example, we all know the impact that can have and what it has had on people in Newfoundland and Labrador. We've had deaths because of it. I know we dismiss it as, nah, that can't happen, but we have a vast background of animals in our wild, and domesticated, in different farming areas, in our wildlife, in our hunting processes and that, that at the end of the day, if we're not cognizant that the diseases can be transferable from an animal who may have it.


We talk about everyday there are alerts about coyotes or rabbits or fox that may have rabies and to stay away. There are times that there are bounties because this is a danger to our society. So we need to be cognizant of that, and that gives the ability there to be able to react and act in a much more fluent process. So these are things here, having the act out there, regardless of the main key point that we have a structure in place that will work better, is the fact that now it'll become public knowledge.


Over the next number of months there'll be more engagement out there. People will become aware of some of the things they may have forgotten or taken for granted and not realize we're very susceptible to major negative impacts when it comes to our health environment here, and this could be another one related to transfer of diseases from animals to humans.


Social determinants of health; the economic and social conditions that influence individuals and groups, differences in health status found in one's living and working conditions, such as the distribution of income, wealth, influence and power, rather than an individual's risk factors such as behavioural risk factors or genetics that influence the risk of a disease or vulnerability to disease or injury.


Again, it talks about our lifestyle and it talks about what's acceptable in society. We talk about educating – I used to be president of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Newfoundland and Labrador, and at one point we brought in – drink machines are gone, candy machines are gone. It had to be healthy food in Boys and Girls Clubs, because we knew what trans fats were doing. We knew what obesity was doing for juvenile diabetes. We knew the impact it was having with inactivity. So simple things like that when you look at the economic and social conditions.


Now, did we know a kid who can get 75 cents because a tin of soft drink is cheaper than an orange juice? No doubt, but there are ways of doing that. And we were fortunate enough to be able to contract, partner with the private sector, who are public there but want to be good citizens. It's a good marketing tool.


At the time I didn't realize Coca-Cola – who we had put on a pedestal as being one of our key enemies because of the drinks and the sugar content and the caffeine and all that – have a variety of products they serve us that are much more healthier. So we worked a deal with them as a sponsorship where now we would have machines in our Boys and Girls Clubs, for example, that would have healthy drinks. Then we had other ones that would have healthy snacks, and we adopted a new philosophy around that. The old cliché, where there's a will there's a way. When there's a will to keep people healthier and safer, and who more than wanting to keep your young people?


Society will always find a way to do it, and the corporate world are smart enough to know: you know what, if we keep them healthy now we're going to have a customer for life longer and longer. They may have to diversity their product lines, and that's fine. There's nothing wrong with being able to develop partnerships, even with people you thought were enemies in the past, but, you see, the fact that they have an ability to offer something that's positive and get you to the stage of being able to achieve what you set out to do.


So there are particular things there that made sense, and I think that's where we're moving as a society. What I like about looking at the bill, and if you read it, if you ever get the chance to go through it, there are so many components of it. A lot of it is left to interpretation. That's where the regulatory process will come in and the regulations, but each one of the headings talks about the positive approach to better health.


The interpretation there, if I'm in a not-for-profit group, or if I'm with a health authority, or if I'm with a private clinic, I can interpret that using that piece of legislation, I can improve people's lives by getting the supports that are necessary. So it moves towards a number of things that the minister had talked about when he went through different components here of what things meant; you know, roles and responsibilities. I'll talk a little about some of those a little bit later, but I want to get to the crux of the intent here.


I don't want people to think that because a bill came in quickly and it's so large that there's something hidden in there – and there may be. If there is it wasn't intentional from my assessment of it, and I spent a fair bit of time in the last 10 or 12 hours trying to get my head around exactly, was there something there that needed to be explained a little bit more. And there's some clarification that we'll have from the minister.


The minister did outline, particularly, the crux of what this is about, but also some of the particular roles and responsibilities within it; without being able to go through them all, because it would take hours to go through each one of the sections and outline exactly what each means. But when you look at certain things here, you can get the understanding of where it starts and where it ends, how that section then filters into the next one and how that starts and ends, and how they all move in a continuum that at the end of it we have a better piece of legislation that addresses the particular needs of everybody here.


One of the other key purposes: “Health in All Policies was a term first used in Europe during the Finnish presidency of the European Union in 2006, with the aim of collaborating in cross sectors to achieve common goals.” So what this does here is open up the ability for health authorities, the department, all those who are engaged in health to reach out to other people who may not have normally been considered or saw their role as being very important when it came to engaging better health, and particularly if it came to health safety.


As I mentioned earlier, when you talk about Service NL, you may be talking about the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, for example, federally; you could be talking to the department of agriculture provincially; you could be talking to the veterinarian office within the provincial government. So there are a number of agencies here, or boards or commissions, or line department who would have a stake in this.


So adopting similar to what the Europeans were doing, a similar concept, or outlining it at least, outlines that other groups may themselves want to take a role in how we provide better health care. It's a very easy way of being able to do that by making sure all the players are at the table.


Also, when I went through it here, it's a strategy to include health conditions in policy making across different sectors that influence us such as transportation, agriculture, land; all these things that I just mentioned. Standard ones that people wouldn't think of.


If you want to have good health, do you know where you need to start? With education. What do we have in education? A captive audience. We have our young people. We have committed educators who want to do nothing more than ensure those students that they have are well educated, they're well versed in society's needs and they're particularly ready to go out in the world in a healthy environment to be able to achieve the best they can.


We have that ability to do that here because we have a piece of legislation now that opens it up. And not only opens it up, but it also says we're taking away some restrictions we had before because the norm was it was a protective that health did health, education did education, transportation did transportation only, but there's a collaborative approach here now and it gives that opportunity to develop partnerships.


Some partnerships might mean there is a two-day partnership on a workshop. Some might be there is a two-year partnership. Some might be they're a partnership for life, but they're all part and parcel of what we offer to people here. That continuum about healthy societies, healthy environments and healthy individuals are the key messages we're trying to send here.


It reaffirms public health's essential role in addressing policy and structural factors affecting health. It has been promoted as an opportunity for the public health sector to engage a broader array of partners. That's what I just talked about here. One of the key philosophies here is that there are people within the health care profession themselves who haven't been engaged in the way that they probably should have been, because they're segregated in different ways.


Earlier I meant segregation sometimes is good to be able to address it. Now I'm saying, internally, we can eliminate some of the segregation and get everybody on the same page to be able to have their input, to do their part. And some of it might be an everyday input into it. Some other ones it may be once a month, once a year; it could be once in a review of the policy. So we have that ability to do that through this process here.


Roles and responsibilities – and I'll say this tongue in cheek, but the last couple of pieces of legislation that the minister brought in, myself and him had a little banter about his role and his responsibilities, or his ability to make holistic decisions. Now, don't get me wrong. They would be based on information given by health authorities, health professionals and those in the thing, but in this particular case – and we just bantered back and forth at the time about clarification and sometimes there's too much power or influence given to one individual or one title.


But, in this case, the minister has an extreme amount of control or influence – control is not the right thing – influence on making the right decisions. But there's a holistic approach here and there's a team approach. The provincial chief medical officer has the ability to make decisions directly in a timely fashion to improve things. The regional health authority chief medical officers have that ability to do it.


So it's one of the times where I see – and the minister hasn't added, from my interpretation, new powers that didn't exist. What it's done is that they're across the board now that there would be no gap in an ability to react to a particular issue in a timely fashion, and that the system is there, and that the minister, which it's about health and it's the ministry of health, has to have certain authorities, if not total authorities to be able to direct how things go.


In this case, it is the provincial chief medical officer who is a specialist in that field who would take it on as their responsibility – and the individual who is here now, a very competent individual with a background who could then work with the regional health authorities and their medical officers to ensure that we have a timely fashion, that we assess things on the right modem, that we don't do a knee-jerk reaction, because these are people who have the professional knowledge to be able to ensure everybody's protected – the individual or society as a whole.


So we talked about that also instituting a provincial health plan, which, I think, is a great idea. It's been done over the years in different mannerisms and different labeling. But I think we're at a point now with our ability to use social media and our ability for so many other groups that exist, who may be not-for-profits, who may be charitable organizations, but also have a role and a responsibly, and have experience in providing proper health to people.


You look across from Stella Burry, for example, to Thrive, St. John's and you look at groups like Boys & Girls Clubs, who would have never thought would be at that level, who do as much in social recreation, or do equal into heath education as they do in social recreation. So that tells you how our society has changed, and how everybody sees their role as being a holistic approach to providing the services that people need, so that they're healthier, they're better, they're more engaged, they're more productive citizens. So that works in a way that I think is very positive.


Monitoring and evaluating public health programs and services – it's a living entity. It changes based on need, it changes based on how we address particular issues, it changes on society's wants and needs, but it particularly, in this case, would change based on if we identify a particular issue, and be it, if it may be an immediate crisis, that we have the ability to address that.


So, the minister having – and the department, particularly – it's not only the minister, but the department there, and particularly the chief medical officer also, and the officials, have the ability to be able to react to those things, and put these things in play, the health plan that we need. So, there are some positive things here.


The chief medical officer and the responsibility that they would have particularly here – what I like about it is it's defined, so we know. Who is it we have to go to if there's a particular issue? Who do we know is going to make the decisions? And how do we know that they're competent to do it? Because we know who they are. We know their titles; we know what they work at; we know, on a daily basis, what they're monitoring.


So, it gives you a bit more confidence that the continuum would be put in play in such a way that it's expedited to the best knowledge and ability that's possible, and that knowledge and ability is by the best people we have available. So there's no off-the-wall decision making. It's based on their knowledge, their experience and their ability to enact the best services that are necessary here.


Exercise powers and perform duties independently and impartially – that's what I liked, in the conversation we had in our briefing yesterday, that you could see this position, and regardless of the individual – and the individual in it now, you can tell, from her background, that is independent, very knowledgeable, but the fact that they have that ability that they can act. If other members in the medical profession, if the minister is not available, is out of town, this person is the person on a daily basis who is dealing with that particular, the general health, and would intervene there. So having these things spelled out is reassuring that we know that we're in a good place.


That they're employed by the department – you want to have it, because that's where our health plan is, it's where everything is coordinated from there to the health authorities. This is where the specialities are. This is where you can also call upon other jurisdictions if all of a sudden there's something you haven't faced before to get their input and their knowledge and maybe share resources depending what the scenario is as part of that.


Oversee provincial responses to public health incidents including emergencies – as we talked about, the whole intent of this, you know, the major gist of it is about that; having a mechanism and reassurance that in a case of an emergency, and having to deal with public health incidents that we have a response and a mechanism and a process and legislation that protects everybody involved. That there are no delays and that there is a process for putting in play the plans that we need.


I also note the other authorities that are involved here. I say this, why this is important, so people would know this is just not at the whim of one individual or what happens if that individual is not available or this process that there's a whole mechanism, at certain levels, there are things that are being monitored. That is not just well, this person is in St. John's. They may not know what's happening in Labrador. They may not know what's happening on the South Coast. They may not know what's happening on the North Coast. So, you want to be able to make sure that there's a mechanism.


We also have regional medical officers of health, and they're employed by the regional health authorities and they follow the direction of the chief medical officer. They know they have the same authority within their region and they would know exactly what it is that the legislation outlines and their responsibility with addressing particular issues that may come to the forefront when it is addressing health concerns, be it public health immediate needs or emergency needs.


There's a three-tiered system just automatically that ensures the whole Province of Newfoundland and Labrador is covered in a case that there is an emergency or particular intervention on public health that we have that mechanism.


We also have environmental health officers and they're employed through Service NL. They consult with the chief medical officer of health and the regional medical officers of health. These would be the foot soldiers, as I put it. These would be the people who would go in and inspect certain things because they would have the training in particular areas. If it may be around certain diseases, it could be around toxins. These would be people who would know what agencies that they need to call in at a given time to do an assessment and then they would look at that and, through their inspections, they would do the referrals to the health inspectors themselves too.


This is another mechanism where we have another realm where there are a number of players in play who, for something to be enacted, they all must be comfortable that this is indeed an issue, or aware. Again, you want to make sure this is not a knee-jerk reaction that you jeopardize people's safety, or community safety, by doing something that hasn't been acknowledged is a reality.


When you start going through these mechanisms, you start seeing – if all these players, when they're doing their thing, and the thing about this, it can be done in a very timely fashion once we know what the regulations are and the responsibilities based on that. But the mechanism outlined here in this piece of legislation, in my opinion, gives us that. Now, in six months I may have a different story. I would hope not, and I'm fairly confident we won't because of the individuals involved here, that this will be farmed out. It'll be designed in such a manner that everybody would know the roles and responsibility, the regulatory processes and how that can be enacted in the most timely fashion to ensure the health safety for everybody here.


We then have: Health Promotion and Disease and Injury Prevention. In this case here, the minister may prescribe a disease as a non-communicable disease; chronic diseases; the minister may issue a code of practice. So we're talking about things that would be noted here to outline exactly how things can be done and the education process we would want to use to ensure that we develop the partnerships necessary, that the mechanisms are in play, that the resources are there.


There's still a question around – and we'll have that discussion when we get to Committee – about what additional resources may be here. I know it's very easy for all of us to say we spend $3.3 billion in health care, isn't that enough money? Well, it may be. And people might say, well, maybe you can shift resources around – but maybe you can't. That's a decision that'll have to be looked at as you reassess everything.


Do you change roles and responsibilities? Maybe that works. Do we take a different approach to what we're doing? If developing our partnerships makes it more fluent and more efficient, well then maybe we can do this; change our legislation, enact the processes we want without it being a financial burden and with the confidence that those who are providing the services have the resources and the training necessary. So there are ways of doing this. We've got ways of using technology that we've never even imagined in the past to address particular issues like this.


We also want to look at the least intrusive means to ensure health of the population at large. Orders to detain an individual that could be carrying Ebola, for example. You want to be able to minimize the impact it's going to have on somebody because you want to make sure that it's so less intrusive.


It could be somebody who came back from another country and they may show some of the signs of having that particular disease. So then you're putting them in quarantine or isolation away from their family, or you're isolating their whole family, or you're quarantining their home or a particular area. So you want to be able to make sure that at the end of the day you'd make it less intrusive. You want to be able to make sure that all the mechanisms are in play, that what you're doing is indeed something that would protect the rest of society and that particular individual. You want to look at the mechanism you have.


We've had some discussions around the impact it would have on a particular individual. There may be some debate on how you would approach that, depending on – in the regulatory process how that would play out. But if you're talking with somebody who may be diagnosed with a particular disease when they're giving blood at a hospital, do you call them in while they're there and tell them, this is what you have, you're going to be isolated right away. That could be by a technician telling them or it could be by the nurse.


What impact does that have on their mental health? What impact does that have on their social health? Do you find a mechanism in play that our health professionals in all of these institutions have the ability to be able to do the immediate counselling? Because you may have to put somebody in isolation right away. You may have to tell them they have to change something dramatically in their lifestyle from that moment on, whatever it may be, and you want to be able to also not have such a negative impact on them that now that adversely has another impact on their health outside of whatever it is you've diagnosed that they have.


So there's a process here of making sure that it's less intrusive, while never forgetting the key objective here is our safety, the health and safety of our society as a whole, but every individual in that society has rights and freedoms that you don't want to be too intrusive on. You do know at the end of the day if there's a particular issue there are going to have to be restrictions on that individual in dealing with how you're going to address that situation and the impact it may have.


We talk about the Personal Health Information Act; we've talked about that. There has always been some conversations about the information you can share on an individual. Well, this legislation, from my perspective, talks about and outlines the health professionals in the system who all have the responsibility of keeping your health information private. It's to be shared with those individuals who are in the health profession who are trying to address a particular ailment of an individual or prevent something on a larger scale from happening that would have an adverse effect on our society.


Here you're talking about authorizing the collection, the use and disclosure of personal health information. You want to minimize the impact that has and who it has to be shared with, while at the same time realizing information in particular situations here, particularly if there are severe emergency situations, it may have to be shared with more than the norm that would be the normal process in health interventions. But you want to do it in such a way that you have safeguards in play that that information is kept. For two reasons: the protection of that individual, but also you don't want to have a scare tactic going in our society.


If somebody all of a sudden hears or finds out that there may be a particular issue or disease or ailment or impact on a particular neighborhood or community or a family, you don't want that adverse issue, because now you've got to deal with two issues. You have to deal with the interventions but you also have to deal with now, how do you maintain civil order with people? How do you keep people into the regular routine until there has to be an intervention for some reason if it's determined they were exposed to something? So you want to have all these types of things that are important.


We talk about health protection here, the protection itself. And that's the whole crux of what we're discussing here. We talk about communicable diseases and health hazard orders. So you have the ability here now. This is what we're getting to. The whole discussion I've had here was about the framework of what this is about, but it comes to the fact that now you can make that order.


The minister, the chief medical officer, the regional medical officers can make those orders in areas after doing pure investigative processes, doing their due diligence to ensure that what we're going to do is the last resort and as part of that, but they do have the authority to do that and they should have that, because their ultimate goal is protection of our society and individuals. They have that ability to do that.


To apply for a court order for apprehension and or treatment – because, unfortunately, in some circumstances, depending on people's status, people's state, mental state, whatever it may be, their adversity to something, their acceptance, their protest with society, they may not want to adhere to what is the proper treatment for dealing with whatever situation they may have. We may have to impose, through the courts, an apprehension process. That would include just what I talked about.


It's not isolated to just the Department of Health. You got the Department of Justice, you got our police forces and you got our court systems. So you may have to in some cases, and no doubt – unfortunately, we will have to do that down the road because certain behaviours or certain circumstances people either don't accept, don't care or their mental stability dictates they don't understand what's happening in certain circumstances of what has to be done.


We need to have that mechanism in play that protects the rights and freedoms but at the same time gives society an ability to protect itself, and that's one of the ones here. You need to have the ability to conduct inspections on premises, because if there's a fear or a potential understanding that there may be something that's a threat to society or individuals, you want to be able to bring in the authorities, the inspectors, the proper individuals, the trained individuals to go in to a property or to a vehicle or whatever it may be to ensure that. So you need to be able to have the authority to do that.


This act gives the authority on that call to be able to do that through the legal process, to declare public health emergencies. You need to be able to do that, because at the end of the day somebody needs to be able to make the call. We do it in other line – municipalities have RCMPs, RNCs states of emergencies, depending on the situation in a scenario and these type of things.


We need to be able to do that from a health point of view, and you need to have an authority that can do that in a timely fashion. This legislation gives that ability, either to the minister to declare emergencies or advise the chief medical officer for health for a 14-day period. They may be extended based on the circumstances.


So the thing about this is, in this case, if there's a declaration of a health emergency, that it doesn't stay forever and a day. That it's reviewed. Within 14 days there would have to be another assessment and then another decision on whether or not we have a process in play that is going to address this, or we need to extend it, or we're going to draw back to a certain degree, or it's going to be isolated to particular regions, or whatever it may be. That there is a process in the legislation that actually will protect every part of it, yet give the authority the responsibility and the rights to be able to do what, after research and their specialty and their professionalism, the decision that would be in the best interest of everybody.


Authorize the use of special measures, and special measures could mean we're going to demolish a building because that building has a potential for an adverse effect medically, health-wise on a neighbourhood, on society. I use asbestos, for example, as one potential example that could be in a particular building if there are people in it. It could be something else that's adverse. It could've been toxins in a certain area. So the authority is there, for special measures to be invoked, to do that.


Obviously, regulatory processes, we'll talk about who's responsible for the expense relevant to that. When we get into the regulatory processes there, that'll be fleshed out to know if it's something that was caused by a particular individual or a company, then what are they responsible for versus the taxpayers? If it's something that's been out of nobody else's control other than society in general, well then obviously we as a society and as a government, you have to pick up the cost of protecting our society.


Mandatory reports to the House of Assembly within six months. One of the key things when we got into it and when I saw that, that I sort of said, you know what, this takes us in the right direction. Because if something happens and the minister or the chief medical officer for health makes an emergency call on a particular issue, within six months the House of Assembly – we represent the people of Newfoundland and Labrador – would have a report that would outline how we got to that point.


What were the causes? What was the inspections that would identify that? The information relevant, how the authority dealt with it. What are the present and future risks assessed in that? What have we learned from it? What are the mitigating circumstances or interventions that are necessary to ensure it doesn't happen again or we're better prepared for it? What do we learn from that?


The House of Assembly being able to have that open discussion and the debate is only good. Talk about open and transparent, to me it's an extremely positive way of ensuring that everybody who has any stake in this has an ability to have input, to make sure what was done was done in the right manner and what we learned from it we build upon and we make it either more secure and more productive, or we find ways to eliminate whatever that particular emergency was.


When that was discussed I sat back and said, you know what, maybe this becomes the trend on everything else that is of major significance in this province that we do, that it would come back to the House of Assembly. And there are a multitude of other things that I won't get in and discuss other line entities out there that should come to the House of Assembly for debate, but this is about health and health and safety right now. We'll have a time to have that chat down the road over the next sittings of the House of Assembly.


It also talks about here, I like to think about surveillance and population health assessments. The authority to investigate illnesses, injury or death related to a risk to health of the population. So it now defines. The health authorities always had that ability, but having the definition that clearly outlines the roles and responsibility you have, and the mechanisms they can use.


So this is about if there's an injury or a death or an illness, that there's an investigative process that can be put in play. There's a protocol that can be immediately done so there are no delays and it's not after the fact. We've always heard somebody should have done this right away and you'd have a better understanding of what caused it or how it could be prevented. In this case, the ability is there right away to make that call, to be able to do things that are in the best interests of that particular situation or individuals that are involved.


Duty to report communicable diseases, zoonotic diseases and health hazards. So we have the ability here through reporting that now would be public knowledge of stuff that the general public probably wouldn't have known about. If you weren't particularly connected to a particular part of the health profession, or in some other entity, Justice or whoever else may be engaged through the Service NL inspectors, you wouldn't be aware of it. But now with social media and our ability to put out information, people will become more educated, more aware.


Who are the best people to be able to tell us and identify what might be potential risk? The people who live it every day. The people in our communities. The people who now understand what I saw two weeks ago that didn't seem to be an issue then, two weeks later is a major health issue. If I had known then what I know now, that wouldn't be a major health issue because I could have identified here are the five protocols, or here are the five indicators that this could be a risk.


It could be an ammonia leak at an arena, for example. Things like this that once this information gets out there, people become more educated. It's a very easy way for people themselves to become self-identifying, policing, and I say that in a very positive way. People then would be able to say, do you know what? I see this as a risk. I went into a building that I didn't realize asbestos was exposed, but now I do. Kids play there every day, for example; or seniors, it's a seniors home.


So there are ways here under this process that would give our society, people in our society an opportunity to have input and to do their part, because it's impossible – no other level of bureaucracy are you to be able to do the be all and end all for everybody. You need supports and you need help. What better way than to have our citizens be educated around those.


A requirement is that the minister develop a five-year public health plan. I like that also, because as we start this process – and I mentioned it right at the beginning of this – our society changes on a daily basis, but particularly on a five-year. One time it was generational, now it's on a five-year plan –




MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!


MR. BRAZIL: – that's maximum. In five years trends change, needs change, priorities change. So having a five-year public health plan is a very positive thing.


There's a five-year road maintenance plan which is good, because people don't understand me. Again, I won't discuss that but the concept is great and I like it. A five-year health plan, the same concept. Again, these are trends that I see in this that shouldn't just be confined to one or two departments. I think they can be the norm across how we activate and how we operate in the House of Assembly, or in government.


It doesn't make any difference what government is in, what party. It's the operational process. I think it's very positive, and this is another – now we've got two. Maybe next year we'll have three or four, maybe we'll have 10, maybe there are 25 five-year plans, and as you develop them maybe there's a connection between them all. You save resources and you have a fluent process there.


Also, the mandate of the chief medical officer for health to provide a regular population health status report. So we would have that. The question I'll have when we talk about the regulatory thing: Is that a report to the minister, is it to the department, is it to the House of Assembly, is it to the general public? I'd like to know. I think it's a fair question that I'll ask.


I would hope it's to the House of Assembly or to the general public as the Auditor General does. I think it's a positive. You're talking about your findings. You're talking about your challenges and your risks, but you're also talking about going forward on how you're going to address some of these things. So I see that as a positive.


I note my time is getting down –




MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!


MR. BRAZIL: – and it's perfect timing on the issues I made, but there's one other one before I summarize everything –




MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!


MR. BRAZIL: – the ability to identify the needs of the civic populations and to prevent chronic diseases and injuries. Because, as we talked about, we have a unique society here. We have a cross-section of different population areas, from an immigration thing to our Aboriginal communities, to people who come from isolated remote comminutes. We have different lifestyles. So we need to be able to do a population-oriented health needs assessment based on those particular challenges, and to be able to do that and then have that encompassed in our five-year health plan.


You can't just have a plan without having all the data and all the information you need. So this gives the ability in this piece of legislation to be able to tie all the things together. There are all dots out there, now you can put them all in a straight line so at the end of it we have better health for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.


Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


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


MR. A. PARSONS: To those Members suggesting leave, I say be careful what you wish for.


I would move, Mr. Speaker, that we adjourn debate on Bill 37.


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


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


I call from the Order Paper, Motion 2. I move, pursuant to Standing Order 11(1), that this House not adjourn at 5:30 p.m. today.


MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House do not adjourn at 5:30 p.m. today.


All those in favour of the motion?




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




The hon. the Government House Leader.


MR. A. PARSONS: Yes, Mr. Speaker.


I call from the Order Paper, Order 6, second reading of Bill 37.


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Stephenville - Port au Port.


MR. FINN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


It's certainly great to stand today and offer some thoughts on Bill 37, An Act Respecting the Protection and Promotion of Public Health.


Considering the Member for Gander, my hon. colleague, the Minister of Health and Community Services, and the Opposition Health critic, the Member for Conception Bay East - Bell Island, I'm not sure if there's much I can add, Mr. Speaker. The minister was very thorough in his delivery, and I understand we'll hear from all sides of the House.


To the Member for Conception Bay East - Bell Island, thank you very much. It sounds like you're very much in favour of this bill. Considering the bill is about the promotion of public health, I certainly heard that you were in great favour of promoting public health to all and, in particular, promoting this important piece of legislation.


Mr. Speaker, I'm just going to take a few moments, I won't belabour it. There are certainly a few very important things in this bill. It was great to have attended the announcement here at the lunch hour in the Media Centre where the minister gave an overview to the media, and public as well.


Mr. Speaker, this bill has been a while in the making, to say the least. This was some sentiments that were certainly echoed by the minister, and in particular, his staff. I've had the great pleasure, as being recently appointed the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Health, in the Department of Health and Community Services, to meet with his staff and to go over some deliberations about some of the important work and some of the length of time it has taken them to get here where we are with this legislation today.


Mr. Speaker, a couple of key aspects to the bill is around promoting health and well-being. We're talking about protecting individuals and communities from public health risks, preventing disease, preventing injury and disability. We're talking about providing healthy environments for individuals and communities. We're talking about implementing measures for early detection and management of risk to the health and of the health of our population.


We're talking about the monitoring of diseases and other significant conditions. We're talking about improving health to vulnerable groups, and this is around the social detriments of health. We're also talking about promoting health equality by addressing the social detriments of health.


Mr. Speaker, one of the key things, and this was noted, is around the Health-in-All-Policies. Health-in-All-Policies is something our government has been quite vocal about and something we're going to keep a lens on with respect to all legislation. But with this bill, essentially Health-in-All-Policies is now enshrined in legislation. This certainly makes it a mandatory component when we're talking about reviewing legislation.


The Health-in-All-Policies unit that was recently – and it was established by the Executive Council, I understand has currently been deployed to support the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and the Minister of Education. In particular, the Health-in-All-Policies unit there is looking at some of the ways around supporting the implementation and the recommendations and the focus that was on The Premier's Task Force on Implementing Educational Outcomes: Now is the Time. It's certainly great to see the approach there.


One of the most important pieces, and both the minister and the Member for Conception Bay East - Bell Island pointed to, was around the importance in this bill around what we're doing about communicable diseases. The minister referenced a number of communicable diseases and how things evolve over time. There was specific reference to tuberculous, Ebola. One can only go back a number of years and we look at the SARS outbreak, amongst other things.


The Communicable Diseases Act, the communicable disease services act – sorry, the Health and Community Services Act and the Communicable Diseases Act is very old legislation. The Communicable Diseases Act certainly predates me. The minister said it predates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I think it was somewhere in the early 1970s when this act was out there, and it's so much out of date.


I'm just going to give you a couple of examples as to what our current Communicable Diseases Act and some of the provisions in there. Currently, right now, for example, there is a duty, it states, for hotel-keepers to notify the medical officer of health when they suspect that a person in the hotel has a communicable disease that is dangerous to the public.


Further, it states, that a person with a communicable disease must not milk cows until they have a certificate from a health officer to say that they are no longer infectious. In addition, it's a current requirement for people that are in charge of laundromats to refuse “clothing from a premises where there exists or has recently existed a case of a communicable disease.”


So, Mr. Speaker, I think these examples alone, to get an understanding and to put this in context as to the significance and the necessity of this new legislation, that's just some examples of where our current public health legislation is in that regard. So the need to modernize was most certainly there.


One of the most important things that we'll do with respect to work around communicable diseases, it's going to formally recognize the roles and relationships among various public health officials, and in particular, as noted, during public health emergencies. So this is around formalizing the roles of the chief medical health officer, who the minister referenced earlier as well, Claudia Sarbu, who was very, very pleased to work in partnership with the staff on this legislation. It was certainly a pleasure to meet her just yesterday and discuss some of the important aspects of this legislation.


It's also going to recognize and formally put in place in a proper procedure for regional chief medical health officers as well. In addition to that, our environmental health officers will now have a specific role and there will be some specific tasks they will be charged with.


Mr. Speaker, this bill transcends, as is noted, a variety of departments. You can imagine when you want to look at putting a Health-in-All-Policies approach, I can only look just to the front bench here. The Minister of Children, Seniors and Social Development, certainly a significant role here when you talk about the health and promotion and wellness of our young people and children, particularly with respect to the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development as well.


It was alluded by the Minister of Justice, when you talk about enforcement and informing the public safety of our province when we talk about the spread of communicable diseases. So it transcends a number of departments and it's certainly very modern legislation. The minister noted, I believe, we'll be one of the first in the country with this type of an approach.


Mr. Speaker, for the first time these public health officials, and some of them I just referenced, they'll be legally protected from liability when they carry out their roles and responsibilities in good faith. It's certainly something that's very significant. So they're carrying out their roles in good faith to protect the health and the public health, and protect all of us from what could be a public health emergency and/or health hazards. So for the first time they're now being protected in doing their duty.


The rights of individuals are being protected, and the minister alluded to the fact that the bill, while certainly extensive – there are some 50-odd pages here – there's a huge portion, close to half of which is essentially all around ensuring that the rights of individuals who may have a communicable disease in any of the scenarios, and the rights of these individuals are protected.


Another first for the bill, Mr. Speaker, is the legal recognition of non-communicable diseases within the sphere of public health. For decades we've seen our public health system take an approach to prevent non-communicable or chronic diseases. So this bill is going to provide a legislative foundation for that work. The minister said it will just essentially put another tool in our toolbox.


This is specifically referring to what we're, in the bill, calling a code of practice, and that the minister can now issue a code of practice to prevent the occurrence of non-communicable diseases or health hazards. The minister specifically referenced, I believe when we look at things that could be detrimental to public health. It could be lead paint on playground equipment. It could be some areas around trans fat and what that means.


You look at some of these types of orders that the minister would now have the ability to provide. It's certainly something that – well, as technology and as science evolves and as research and development continue, we need to be in a position where we're not backtracking.


So if it's found that a new type of additive to a food, for example, could present a great concern to our public and to our public health, well then we need to have some provisions whereby the minister, in consultation with industry, of course, and that's certainly enshrined in the legislation, there'd be significant consultation. But we need to have a provision in which we'll be in a position to act as opposed to react.


Simply put, the code of practice is referred to as a set of guidelines. It's going to help us achieve a desired outcome. So once these are developed by the minister they would be legally binding and they would be able to be enforced by our medical officer.


This also puts into perspective the fact – as I said, the minister would have to have some consultation. A lot of consultation has to be done with industry, and you may be able to publish reports on industry, any industry sector or individual organization and performance in relation to these codes of practice.


It's certainly a very powerful tool and it's something the minister referenced in his earlier remarks as well, that we could look at other jurisdictions where these things are done. It was noted that in Quebec there are some provisions around the advertisement to young children, particularly under the age of 13, and what effects advertisement to children under that age could have on their overall health.


Mr. Speaker, with respect to some of the formal roles, I mentioned the chief medical officer and the regional medical health officers as well. Our environmental health officers within the Department of Service NL have a tremendous role to play in a variety of aspects in this province. Whether that'd be pertaining to service standards, whether it be building codes and restaurants and the types of things that are involved with the inspection of restaurants. So if they get to a point where they recognize something that could be a potential health hazard, we're giving them now a greater ability to recognize and clearly define what is a health hazard, and giving them the ability to do that.


Mr. Speaker, in doing so we're keeping in mind the rights of people, but we have to understand that we have a duty to protect. We have a duty to protect all of the citizens of the province. So identifying health hazards, clearly identifying what might be a public health emergency, it's these types of things that are extremely important.


Mr. Speaker, when it comes to the new enforcement and the new ability to enforce some of these things, there's obviously a great deal of consultation, particularly when it comes to the communicable disease piece. One would not just apprehend someone without some reasonable consultation and these types of things, and I think this was alluded to by the Member for Conception Bay East - Bell Island. But, as such, there are also times where we have to consider that people could take offence to this. So there has to be some offences, and there are lots of checks and balances in place.


So, Mr. Speaker, that's some of the key points in a bit of a nutshell. There's a huge piece around health promotion. I know as a government we have made great strides when it comes to health promotion. We only have to look at our Remote Patient Monitoring program, for example, initiatives that we've taken with diabetes, or dial 811 or dial a dietitian are just some of a few examples.


Mr. Speaker, in looking at some of the other things we've done, there are a lot of things that this legislation has to keep in check as well. This transcends not only departments, but it transcends other pieces of legislation that are currently in place.


We have to look at our Food Premises Act, the Personal Services Act, the Animal Health and Protection Act. The minister spoke with respect to the care of animals, and we could have airborne diseases, reference to hoof and mouth disease and certain things. So there are all kinds of things that could transcend, whether it be from animals to humans.


We look at this act and we have to only think of our Environmental Protection Act, the Smoke-free Environment Act, 2005, the Tobacco and Vapour Products Control Act. That's another point when it comes to – just to give another example – the codes of practice. Right now the federal government regulates the sale of tobacco. The warning labels on such packages of tobacco cigarettes certainly present a warning and something to identify to individuals that this is a public health risk.


So that's kind of a similar example to whereby if something new comes about in society – again, be it through science, research, development and technology – that under a code of practice the minister might be able to have a role in consultation with said industry and with medical professionals, that this would be something, a similar tactic could be used.


That just gives a bit of a scope, if you will. Again, I'm not going to take all of my time here today. The Member for Conception Bay East - Bell Island took a lot of our time. The minister I know will go to great lengths, I think, in particular, Mr. Speaker, when we get to the Committee stage. We'll probably get into some of the nuances of the bill and it will give folks here in the House of Assembly and folks tuning in listening at home, a greater understanding of what some of this means.


I'm very pleased to see the legislation coming in, to see the excitement of the staff. Certainly, a huge shout-out to the minister's staff and, as I said, just having the pleasure over the last number of days to get to know some of them in greater detail. They've been working on this for quite some time. This legislation is certainly a long time coming. We're talking about decades. I'm very, very proud to see that we'll be one of the leaders in the country when it comes to promotion of health and our public health legislation.


With that, Mr. Speaker, I thank you very much for the opportunity and we'll certainly look forward to hearing what other Members say as the debate unfolds.


Thank you.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. SPEAKER (Trimper): Thank you.


The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl - Southlands.


MR. LANE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


It certainly is a pleasure to stand once again and represent the good people of Mount Pearl - Southlands and to speak to this bill, An Act Respecting the Protection and Promotion of Public Health.


Obviously, the bill is pretty substantial which is not surprising, given the scope of what we're really talking about when we're talking about public health. There are numerous aspects to public health. Although, a number of the things that are here are not new. A lot of this already existed or exists, but it is taking basically what we had and is sort of expanding it to some degree, clarifying some things and it is modernizing the legislation. That's really what we're doing.


I'm not going to get into all the details because between the minister and my colleague from Conception Bay East - Bell Island, I'm not sure there are any details left to get into to a great degree. I think they covered it off pretty well.


I will say that I do support the legislation, as others have said. I'm sure every Member of the House is going to support the legislation. Why wouldn't we? It is a pretty inclusive piece of legislation. I think it covers all aspects. The minister has indicated it has taken best practices from all throughout the country and, perhaps, even added a few new best practices. By national standards, the minister has said that it will certainly be considered leading edge, if I can put it that way, to some degree, and that's good to hear. That's something that we all, again, would support.


A lot of this, Mr. Speaker, is talking about public health and public health emergencies, communicable diseases and so on. As it has been said by others, there has to be a balance between protecting the public but, at the same time, respecting the rights of individuals. Certainly, there are a number of mechanisms here, in place, that does both. There are appeal mechanisms here for individuals who feel that, perhaps, their rights have, in some way, been infringed by any actions that may possibly be taken toward them in the event of some sort of a public outbreak of a disease, for example, or something like that.


Obviously, we realize – that makes sense – that we have to respect individual rights but, by the same token, we also have to recognize that if somebody, just as an example, is a carrier of a particular disease that could be spread throughout the whole population, that could have detrimental impacts to the whole population, then, obviously, there has to be measures that health authorities, Department of Health and the government, in general, can take to protect the populous as a whole; but; by the same token, as is indicated, ensure that the individuals rights are protected to as reasonable an extent as possible, given the circumstance. And these would be emergency-type situations or potential pandemic situations, and so on.


So, it is important to have that there and to have that in place. It's important to have structures in place, and to have positions in place to deal with all these things, which is contained in here, and I'm sure, as I said, we would all recognize and would support that.


Part of this, as well, gets into things like when you talk about public health, we're not just talking about pandemics and communicable diseases and so on, but we're talking about public health in terms of restaurants and hotels and stuff like that, public swimming pools for example, water supplies, sewage systems and so on. Anything that could potentially lead to disease, I guess, in humans, or risk to humans, that the public would be availing of, it ensures that there are mechanisms in place to cover all of those things.


I would say, Mr. Speaker, that there's also a section here – and the minister sort of emphasized it and others did – it talked about the social determinants of health; it is emphasized in this legislation. I think that's important to do that, But when we talk about social determinants of health or when we talk about anything in here, really, one of the issues that will always come from something like this, is that it's great for us all to stand here and support this legislation and say how great it is, and how it's going to improve things and whatever – and certainly it does to the framework to do that, and we all support that. But, like any legislation, part of the problem, part of the issue will be that a lot of the details – and I know that this sounds repetitive when we come to other legislation. I remember the Public Procurement Act was the same issue; that there was a framework and then all the details are left to the regulations – well, no different.


This here does have quite a bit of meat in it, which is good, but there are going to be a number of regulations that are going to flow from this, and then there's going to be a number of policies that are going to flow from the regulations. And depending on what those policies, what those regulations, and what those policies look like, the specifics, which this House of Assembly will have no idea, or no input in developing, that's just the way it works – that's not pointed to this administration. It would be no different before but, at the end of the day, the devil is in the details.


So, while I support this from a broad perspective of what's here, I do sort of throw out the cautionary note, if you will, that it is all contingent upon: I have no idea what specific regulations that the Cabinet will decide on – because it's the Cabinet – well, the minister, but it goes through Cabinet of course, approval, and the minister – I don't know what those regulations are going to look like; the specifics.


I also don't know what policies, for example, the health authorities and so on, are going to develop in conjunction with the regulations. We don't know. That will be up to them to do. While it all sounds good and it covers it from an overarching point of view that we all support, we don't know what all those details are going to be. There may be things in there of how this is interpreted because, really, the regulations are kind of an interpretation of the legislation. What the minister's interpretation of certain clauses in this legislation might be and what someone else's interpretation might be, may not be the same. The interpretations of the policies based on the regulations could differ.


It is always important to note the fact that any time we support legislation in this House of Assembly, and we are supporting the general framework, but we don't know specifically what it's all going to look like at the end of the day as it becomes policy, on the ground, grassroots, applying to people. It is important to note that.


The other thing, of course, is it's one thing to have legislation, one thing to have regulations, it's one thing to have policy but then it comes down to resources. We can all talk about all the good things we need to do, the important things we need to do and the vision, if you will, but if there's not appropriate resources given to implement this stuff then that could be an issue, potentially. I'm not saying it's going to be an issue, but it could be an issue.


There are enforcements, because when we talk about a lot of these policies – like when we talk about, for example, just give as an example, restaurant inspections. I'll just throw it out there as a random example, or inspection of water systems or sewer systems or hotels or whatever. It's all good to say we're going to have all these standards but if we don't have enough inspectors out actually on the job inspecting these things, then it's a problem.


If we have inspectors – and I've heard these stories in the past. I will say, not in the recent past. So I don't know if it still exists or not, but I've certainly heard stories from people who had worked in health inspections in the past, former people, who have indicated that there were many concerns. Many concerns brought forward to the department at the time whereby – for example, a public health inspector might go out to a restaurant or something like that and flag a business with a number of violations and concerns, and be ready to potentially shut that business down because they thought it wasn't safe.


Only to arrive back at home base to be called into a director's office or whatever to say: B'y, you're going to have to ease off on this. You're going to have to ease off on these directives because the Member for that district called the minister and the minister, he or she, are going off their head: you can't go shutting down this business, blah. And for the inspector to say: Well, these are legitimate violations, this is public health we're talking about. And for them to be told: Well, I don't care what it is, you're not shutting down this business.


So I'm not saying that happens every day or whatever, but I've been told of numerous incidents like that over the years where inspectors, whether they be safety inspectors, whether they be health inspectors and so on, were hampered from doing their job because of the pressure applied from top bureaucrats through politicians. So, again, if we're going to have legislation like this and we're serious about public health, then we have to ensure that that type of pressure does not come to bear when we're talking about public health and public safety.


When we talk about the social determinants of health, Mr. Speaker, which is contained in here – again, it was indicated by the minister and others that social determinants of health is emphasized in the legislation. So it's fine to say that, and that all sounds wonderful. Again, when we're talking about social determinants of health, a big one is poverty, right? A big one is poverty.


So it's fine to have these policies and have this legislation, but if we don't address issues around poverty, issues around housing, issues around addictions, issues around how our seniors are being treated in long-term care, issues around personal care and the personal care hours they get, issues around dental programs for seniors, for example, issues around over-the-counter medications for seniors, all those who need it.


When we talk about all those things, the ability for our seniors or anybody, any of the marginalized people in our society, if we don't have policies that are going to make things that these people need to maintain their health affordable and available to everybody, then this policy or this whole idea of social detriments of health, writing it in this policy is not worth the paper it's written on unless we actually put the mechanisms in place and the policies and the resources to make sure that people who need services, people who can't afford services, people who are in poverty and so on, or on the brink of poverty, people who have no housing; unless we address those issues, than this is useless what's written here.


I'm not saying that government doesn't have every intention of doing its best to do that. I realize we have limited resources and all that. It's not being critical. It's just making the point, though, that putting this in place in writing as a piece of legislation, while it's admirable, while it's good legislation, while we all support it, it's useless unless the regulations, policies meet the needs of the people, meet the needs of the public, that the appropriate resources are put in place, appropriate enforcement is put in place and everything is done above board.


So I have no reason to believe that that's not the intention of the minister and the government. I'm sure his intentions are great. Again, in terms of this legislation and the framework that's here, I think it's very good work. I do support it 100 per cent. I'll have a couple of questions when we get to Committee, unless someone else asks it before I do.


Again, I will say with this one, because it's so large, it's so encompassing, all of the topics, if you will, contained within here, I will say that the devil will be in the details of the regulations. I will support this, but I cannot guarantee – the people who voted for me at least – that what's in here and what that policy ends up becoming at the end of the day is necessarily going to match up with what I'm envisioning here, because I honestly don't know.


I will support the legislation.


Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Children, Seniors and Social Development.


MS. DEMPSTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


I'm happy to stand and take a few minutes to speak to Bill 37, An Act Respecting the Protection and Promotion of Public Health.


I know, Mr. Speaker, my previous colleague across the way, he's a little bit skeptical. I want to talk for a few minutes about the fact that I believe this bill is truly a forward-thinking, innovative and progressive of legislation, Mr. Speaker, and I suppose, given where I sit, I've already read this bill in its entirety and the supporting notes, and it has been through Social Policy Committee.


I want to commend my good friend and colleague, the Minister of Health and Community Services, for bringing forward this piece of legislation. Also, like the hon. House Leader often does, to thank those behind the scenes. Because when you look at how thick that bill is, it was a massive monumental piece of work. It took a lot of time to put that together, Mr. Speaker, and I believe we're going to see tremendous, positive change.


Some of the things now, Mr. Speaker, that the chief medical officer of health will be allowed to do in this province, and I was sitting there and I was thinking back to SARS. I bet you everybody in this Legislature can think about SARS, where they were living through SARS. You'd turn on your television and somebody somewhere had passed away in our country. Primarily, it seemed to be in that large City of Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area, and the fear that was there for people travelling.


I remember myself in Toronto Airport, and my daughter at the time, just a little thing, worried to death. Mom, why does everybody have a mask on? Should we be here, Mom? And at one point, she asked me was I being responsible in taking her across the country to see her grandma because she was worried about it.


Well, now, Mr. Speaker, should things like that come, the chief medical officer will be able to make wearing of a mask mandatory and things like that. But I always get up and I go down a little side road when I do have some things that I want to talk about focused from my department here.


On this bill, An Act Respecting the Protection and Promotion of Public Health; Mr. Speaker, as a government we have committed to improving the health outcomes of people in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The Way Forward, basically that's our roadmap – that's our vision for sustainability in growth in Newfoundland and Labrador – is posted online for anybody who wants to see it.


In The Way Forward, we have set a number of healthy living actions and targets that we want to work toward achieving by 2025. A whole host of those, right now, sit in my department. I'm just going to reference a few.


Breastfeeding, for example; our target is to increase the breastfeeding initiation rate, Mr. Speaker, by 7 per cent. Just recently, I had the privilege to attend a breastfeeding symposium. I had an opportunity to talk about Labrador-Grenfell Health and the wonderful work they are doing up in Lab West in particular. And it seems they've got a group going and some people that are passionate about supporting those individuals and increasing the breastfeeding rates, and we all know the tremendous benefits that come with that.


When you live, in particular, in the north, there's a whole practical side if you're not breastfeeding when it comes to getting the stock in, Similac or whatever you might be using. So lots of successful things happening there, and we'll continue to work hard to work toward our targets.


Mr. Speaker, healthy eating; our target is to increase the rate of vegetable and fruit consumption by 5 per cent. I just attended an event in my district this past weekend, on Saturday, in Port Hope Simpson where it was a women's retreat. We had ladies from all across Southern Labrador come together for a day, and their theme was around healthy eating. A number of them talked about how difficult it is to make those healthy choices. I said to them, well, the number one easiest thing for me is to not have these things in your house, maybe, that you don't want to reach for or be tempted to, and that's one way to deal with staying healthy.


Anti-smoking; our target is to reduce the smoking rate in the province by 4 per cent. Just like some of the things my colleague, the Minister of Health, talked about earlier when it comes to government – and he did a very good job down at the press conference earlier this morning – but about government having a responsibility to protect the public.


Mr. Speaker, we all know the days when you got on a flight and you may have asked for a non-smoking seat, but two rows up there was probably some smoke that was hurling back over your head. So we brought in laws to prevent people from smoking in enclosed places like airplanes and taxis and hospitals and things like that.


Mr. Speaker, we have set targets around obesity. Our target is to reduce the obesity rate by 5 per cent. And physical activity, our target is to increase physical activity rates by 7 per cent.


So, Mr. Speaker, lots of goals in the department to increase, encourage, support and promote healthy living; healthy living physically. I think if you're physically fit you tend to be more emotionally, maybe, and mentally fit.


I'm thinking about – and you've heard me say it a number of times maybe in this House, but thinking about the Premier of Nunavut. My colleague for Torngat may have been there, then-premier, when we were at Northern Lights, and he talked about when they – and you might have been there yourself, Mr. Speaker. He talked about when they look to measure the success of their territory, he said: We measure the success by the well-being of our people.


I have colleagues all around me that work in transportation, and everybody wants a road fixed up, everybody wants another capital works project, but at the end of the day none of that really matters if our people aren't well. And that's what we're talking about here today with this public health act. It's what we're talking about with our targets for healthy, active living, Mr. Speaker. It's something that's near and dear to my heart, maybe because diabetes entered my home when my daughter was six years old, and all of a sudden there were a whole lot of rules that came with living with a Type 1 diabetic in your home.


So we had a choice as a family, we could say these are your rules and these are the things you cannot eat and this is the amount of activity that you need every day, or we did what I think any parent would do, we are now all going to live this certain way. In a way it's bittersweet, Mr. Speaker, because while that turned our lives upside down – and anybody who's watching that have dealt with diabetes knows it can be very difficult to live with. But in a positive way it made us more conscious, reading labels on things and looking at trans fats; sugary drinks, you never stop, you walk on past because you know how bad they are, and some of the fast foods and some of the gravies. A little small gravy, I say to my colleague, the Member for Grand Falls, might be equivalent to five or six slices of bread. So you're better off to stay away from that.


Mr. Speaker, as a department, we are responsible for promoting the values of inclusion, diversity and healthy, active living through the work of the department's various divisions. In particular, there's Healthy Living, the sport and rec. I think I've talked about that enough. So in the interest of time, I'm going to move on past it.


In supporting individuals, families and communities to achieve improved health and social well-being, our policy and program development work touches on many aspects of the public health system. We work very closely in my department with management and staff of the regional health authorities, along with a number of community partners. We were very happy, just under $6 million to support 39 community-based organizations, many that are out there on the ground doing very valuable work.


When we talk about our Participation Nation, our toolkits and things like that, are we going to run that from in here, Mr. Speaker? No. We're going to go out on the ground. We're going to reach out to municipalities, to our community partners, because that's where the value is. They are on the ground. They know their people. They're involved, volunteering every night with various things.


I'll highlight just a couple of the healthy living initiatives, Mr. Speaker, that we're very proud to support community groups in. Eat Great and Participate: $130,000 annually; promotes healthy eating in recreation and sport facilities and at recreation and sporting events. We are very proud to partner with ParticipACTION: $200,000 provided to deliver a digital marketing and social media campaign, as well as develop community-based toolkits that I just alluded to a few moments ago.


Mr. Speaker, Smokers' Helpline, we spend just over $200,000 to support the Smokers' Helpline. Lots of people that would like to give it up, but it's an addiction and you need help for that. So, we're happy to provide the support. My mom – she probably wouldn't mind me saying – smoked from a young age right up until just a few years ago and now she's out walking pretty much 365 days a year, very happy with her healthier lifestyle. People are making that healthier lifestyle every day.


The Tobacco and Vapour Products Control Act, the Smoke-free Environment Act, 2005, all of those sit in my department. Because we have a responsibility to protect the public, Mr. Speaker, we have brought in laws that prohibit people from smoking in certain places.


I'm going to clue up my remarks by saying I'm very pleased to see provisions in the bill that would provide provincial guidance with respect to the core programs and services of public health. What we're going to see here with this provincial guidance piece is we're going to see greater consistency across the province. I think that's going to resonate well with the public, because there's nothing that frustrates the general public more if you've got a number of health authorities and things are done different in different places or things are done different in different departments.


The Minister of Health this morning talked about closer collaboration across departments. That's going to benefit the general public, Mr. Speaker. When I came in, one of the things that really frustrated me was the silos that seemed to exist, but slowly and little by little, we are breaking down because, really, we all cross over. There are seniors that I am responsible for in my department, the Minister of Health would work with seniors, Mr. Speaker.


The other thing is when we now go to the Cabinet table, as a part of our whole Health-in-All-Policies approach; we are going to look at the papers that come to the Cabinet table through this new lens. Mr. Speaker, much of the work of the Healthy Living/Recreation and Sport Division helps to prevent and manage non- communicable and chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer and heart disease. That's all tied in – my department shares a responsibility, but certainly tied into health as well.


When we talk about these diseases, every one of us, we don't even need to look around our community, we probably don't need to look outside our own families and lots of people are impacted that are near and dear to our hearts, so anything that we can do to help improve this, to change the channel on this will be a very positive thing.


By prescribing these diseases in regulations, we can strengthen our prevention efforts to monitor and, Mr. Speaker, in the very, very least to limit their impact. The power to issue a code of practice will greatly support our collective efforts to create healthy, supportive environments – healthy, supportive environments that would make healthy choice an easy choice.


So, Mr. Speaker, I'm very happy to support this very progressive piece of legislation. I want to thank the Minister of Health and Community Services for bringing this bill in; and for the many people in his department and in public health that have put a tremendous amount of work into this. I believe this bill demonstrates our commitment to ensuring population health is a key priority in all future decisions at the provincial level.


And of course, I'm going to end with a quote before I sit down, Mr. Speaker. Thomas A. Edison – it's a quote that speaks to healthy living and prevention. This is what Thomas Edison said: “The doctor of the future will give no medication, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.”


I believe all of us, Mr. Speaker, would love to look toward a society where we become preoccupied with the human frame and the diet and we're no longer having those conversations right now in some of the areas in the province that we're leading in that we're not proud to be leading in.


So, I'm tremendously happy to support this very progressive piece of legislation today and I commend my colleague.


Thank you.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


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


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. LESTER: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise to speak to Bill 37, An Act Respecting the Protection and Promotion of Public Health. While the details of the act have been gone over in quite, I guess, certainty by the previous speakers, I would just like to add a little bit to the whole point of our food safety, food security.


Interestingly enough, the vaccine for smallpox came from observing that people who used to milk cows did not get smallpox. And what it was is cows carry a virus called cowpox. Cowpox, of course, doesn't affect humans, but affects cows and people who were exposed to cowpox did not get smallpox. So that's how it came about.


Now, the administration of that vaccine wasn't as benign or as acceptable back then as it is today. It actually involved you scraping a cow's udder and then scratching your own skin. So that's how it was administered. So it doesn't sound very humane by any means, to either the cow or the human. But it was observation that implemented that vaccine and possibly save a large portion of the human race.


As we move forward, the production of food went from backyard production, small-scale producer production, to now what we even have in our country is national supply by one or a couple of big corporations right from coast to coast. So that puts the population at a very serious risk of basically nationwide contamination, nationwide infection. And being able to react to such an element falls upon the respective departments and officials who would oversee that. This legislation will enable those such officials to act quicker, act with more – I don't want to say authority or power, but it definitely will enable us to circumnavigate or mitigate any effect of such a large presence of a pathogen or contaminant within our food system.


Because not only is it a pathogen such as something that would present disease or food-borne illness, it could actually be something physical, something that contaminated a food production line, be it a foreign body such as glass or steel or whatever it may be. Or even a purposeful contamination of our food system. I remember several years ago there was an instance where a potato production worker in Prince Edward Island had stuck or alleged to have stuck several needles in potatoes. That caused a big issue because, these potatoes, they were going all across the country, even internationally. And instead of having to find a needle in a haystack, we were trying to have to find a needle in a potato, which was amongst millions of pounds.


So, those types of issues also present a very serious risk to our health, the well-being of the public and this would also fall under the purview of this legislation.


Even locally, we had issues of potential contamination of our own food supply. That came in the form of a toxin that was carried in the local grain supply from an offshore site. It caused some severe havoc with our dairy industry, our poultry industries. Keeping that toxin out of the food chain and possibly affecting humans would also fall under this.


We also had legislation in place at one time to protect our pork industry. By protecting our pork industry, as the Minister of Health and Community Services would know, pigs and hogs, they share a lot of the same diseases that we as humans can carry. So, the instances of zoonotic transfer between pigs and humans is documented over and over again through time. That is, I guess, the basis why some religions, in particular, outlaw the consumption of pork, because of the close resemblance between human immunity and that of pigs.


We actually had the most healthy pork herd on the planet and it was illegal to import pigs into the province, and that has been removed, unfortunately. Now we have diseased pigs entering the province and posing an additional threat to the human side of our population for sure. That's something that we kind of really need to look at again.


Also, with the same consideration was – I remember as a child, any cow that came into the province had to be tested for several diseases. Brucellosis was one; tuberculosis was another. That, again, went to preserve our health of not only our herds of cattle, but also the human element.


As a child, I remember my grandfather telling me often they would have to come into a farm and wipe out whole herds of cattle because of the infection of tuberculosis. Prior to the widespread pasteurization of milk – that's where a major source of infection came from was unpasteurized milk, and cows that carried tuberculosis.


It came to a point where they would go in and test whole dairy herds, and any animal that was found to react to the tuberculin test was euthanized and the body was disposed of, usually burned or buried, out of human reach or other animals' reach.


But even that had its exceptions to every rule. Sometimes, an animal would not exhibit a reaction to the test, and that animal would go on to infect any new animals, or anybody else who it came in contact with. I know the Ruby family – they're a century farm and, basically, they managed to hold on, but a lot of farms did lose their farms because of this infection reoccurring over and over again. The Rubys actually had one particular cow that constantly infected everybody – all the cows in the neighbourhood, even though she was deemed to be healthy.


The power given to health authorities to be able to act swiftly and minimize or localize infections, localize pathogens or contaminants to our food system, is absolutely imperative. And again, it was brought by the minister, the threat of bioterrorism, because our food system has become so nationalized, and even 'continentized,' if that's a word.


It provides a great means to spread bioterrorism throughout the population. Right now, it takes a fair bit of time to document and to realize where that contaminant is coming from and, when it is recognized, the officials have to be able to act quickly.


The promotion of public health – I was actually at briefing this morning for another department to amend the Housing Corporation Act and I had opportunity to ask the officials there about something that would relate to this, and that is the promotion of public health. I think the promotion of production of food at home is going to make a big difference. Gardening at home, it provides people with, of course, food to eat. It provides people with interaction with their friends and family, and it also provides an incredible amount of exercise. I know, personally, since I haven't been doing as much gardening, well, this jacket is a little bit tighter to do up. It's something that can really promote the well-being of our population, and it needs to be given more focus.


Even in the Housing Corporation Act, we need to have direct language that will enable the residents of public properties to participate in gardening on these rented properties. We also need to put in common sense things like, well, it doesn't make sense for everybody in Newfoundland and Labrador Housing to own a rotavator or specific tools that would make it easier for them to get up and garden. I think that should be written in to part of the staff's agenda to get the gardens up and going and coach these people along.


I'm sure the public purse, of course, would benefit because people are more active, they have more food to eat, and also, most importantly, it would improve the overall health of individuals. That's all part about being healthy and culturing a new way of thinking and kind of changing a bit of a culture, getting people back outside.


The minister may shudder when I say this but, I, as a parent and a food producer, believe that everybody, in theory, should eat a pound of dirt before they're six, and that goes a long way to strengthening their immune system. We've come to a point where our food systems, and I guess our whole environment, has become too clean. It allows for these pathogenic bacteria and viruses free rein of territory to multiple and infect us, and our immune systems are just not challenged enough by natural bacteria. So when these super bugs occur it creates a huge challenge for our immunity, and resulting health care systems are overburdened with something that probably maybe generations ago would not have been an issue.


Mr. Speaker, it's something that's going to have to be monitored closely because we don't want to see people's individual rights infringed on but, at the same time, we want the officials and the intent of this legislation to remain virtuous to the general, basically protecting the general public. And while due diligence must be exercised before an action is taken, the principle of this legislation is to provide quicker response times and also to provide an opportunity to localize and minimize the effect of different things that would affect our food system; or it doesn't necessarily need to affect our food systems, either.


Even in public and open spaces, if there is an issue presenting to us, we need to be able to assess the risk of threat, assess how much it has spread and, most importantly, we need to be able to identify individuals or products or localities where the source of infection is coming from. One thing we do have in this is there is always the sober second thought, and that would be the analysis of actions that would take place would actually come back here and occur in this House of Assembly for all of us to evaluate.


I really think that if we are presented with a situation where we do have to evaluate as a House of Assembly, we have to do it, yes, with a critical mind, but not as critical as in criticizing and condemning the process, but as to how we can go forward and officials can act in better interest of our people and not look at it as we want to condemn somebody for their action. Because the worst action anybody, and especially in reference to this, can take is no action. We need decisions made quickly, especially when we're talking about people's health. Decisions need to be made quickly, and actions need to be taken and implemented that will reflect the intent of the legislation.


That goes to when it comes to disease management, when it comes to a disease threat, but also chronic diseases which the previous speaker had referred to. It's about changing people's perspectives and people's eating habits, and also about changing the amount of activity we do with this world of electronics and go home after work and close your door. That's really put an additional complication.


I was reading a report the other day, and one of the things that kind of really stood out was we, as a society, have 45 per cent more stressors in our lives than that of two generations ago. We went from basically having food and shelter and companionship as our needs, to now these things that everybody's holding in their hands. That in itself, not only the stress that it causes by us constantly being on demand and constantly being under scrutiny of social media and the negative press that will come through from all four corners of the world but, also, just keeping up with today's technology has put that extra pressure on a lot of us to make sure we have those gadgets.


That's something also that we really need to take by the horns. We need to bring people back to the basics of why we, as a human race, are here. It's not to keep up with the latest technology. It's about living life to the fullest and, of course, we can only do that if we're healthy. So that's something we really need to challenge, and again, re-educate, especially our young people, of all ages, that there's more to life than sitting behind a screen or sitting at home watching your favourite TV. There's a real world out there, and that will also be part of this legislation.


With that, I thank you for the opportunity. I will take my seat.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


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


MR. A. PARSONS: Yes, thank you, Mr. Speaker.


At this time we will adjourn debate on Bill 37, and what I would suggest at this juncture is that we would take a recess until 6 p.m.




This House stands in recess until 6 p.m.



November 20, 2018           HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS        Vol. XLVIII No. 44A


The House resumed at 6 p.m.


MR. SPEAKER (Trimper): Order, please!


The hon. the Government House Leader.


MR. A. PARSONS: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I call from the Order Paper, Motion 1.


BE IT RESOLVED that the House of Assembly urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to establish and an all-party Select Committee on Democratic Reform.


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.


MR. PETTEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


It's a pleasure to get up and speak on this motion. I spoke on an amendment, actually, to the motion that was presented by our side of the House. It was basically calling on – the existing motion is urging the House of Assembly to urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to establish an all-party Select Committee on Democratic Reform. We respectfully submitted an amendment, basically, calling for the House of Assembly to establish an all-party Select Committee on Democratic Reform.


In doing that, I think it's in keeping with the intent of what we're – when we say democratic reform, it should be decided by the House, which is 40 representatives from throughout the province; parties aside. We have independents here now, we have the Third Party, NDP. We have the current Opposition, Progressive Conservatives, and the Liberal governing party. I think everyone, we could all – you can make this true democratic reform, 40 Members, parties aside, bring in democratic reform. Bring the issues from the people's concerns.


Ironically, when you go out in your district you think sometimes people are not watching, and they are. How many watch? We don't know, but there are people watching us, and I hear it lots of times. This past weekend I was at a couple of events and, ironically, I ran into several actually, and I found some humour in it when they discussed some of the stuff they're actually picking up on and watching. It was a good reminder, and I appreciate it when they told me. There were certain things they like and certain things they don't like.


It was interesting to hear, because sometimes we take it for granted. We say there's not a lot of people who actually pay attention, but a lot do, a lot don't. There's a segment out there that don't know what we do in the run of the day. The House is in session, we think everybody knows what we're doing. Our phone is ringing 2:30 or 2 o'clock in the middle of Question Period and we're almost thinking, sure, they should know we're in here. But, realistically, they're in their own world. It comes in their mind to contact you, they don't realize the House is in session.


There are a lot of people who do watch and a lot of people expect us, I guess, to be leaders. You know, we are the lawmakers in the province. They expect a level of professionalism from us. They expect results. They expect sincerity. There are a lot of expectations of every Member in this House.


Each person has their own distinct style, and I think that's evident every day when you sit in this House. Mr. Speaker, I'm sure from your perspective you see it all the time. We all have a very unique way of delivering our message. But that unique way was what got us in the House in the beginning. That was what the person at the doorstep voted for. That's who they picked. Each district picked that person, that characteristic or that – there's something about each one of us they liked, because other than that you wouldn't be here. You wouldn't be in representing your districts.


I say this, and I think about it often, a piece of advice given to me was: don't change who you are. If people vote for you, that's who they're voting for. If they like what they see on the other side of the door, stay true to that person because that's the person they expect to see the next time around and thereafter. That's who they voted for, that's the person they like to see and that's the personality they like representing them. That's the style they like. So why would you change it? That's what gets us all here.


Once we're here in this Chamber, government controls, government got the majority. They're the governing party. In most things they got the numbers to pass most legislation, most bills. We'll argue as an Opposition to make change. Even sometimes that one sentence, just to change it, turn it a little bit towards where we feel it's more suiting to what our beliefs are, because we all got our own unique beliefs as parties. Individuals, too, for that matter.


We're respectful of each other's place, but to bring a committee, a true democratic reform committee, we felt strongly – like I say, our motion was defeated, but it was very important to bring it to the floor of the House. It bears reminding and repeating, that was what I feel, and I think most of us feel, and I think most of the general public if they were following this would agree, that's true democratic reform.


These all-party select committees, in a lot of cases they're not always successful, but in a lot of cases they work. I happen to be part of the Towards Recovery. I was late joining it because it was started prior to when I was elected in 2015, but I sat on it with my colleague. He's the former Member for Mount Pearl North, and Members opposite, and it was interesting.


We sat in a room and there were all parties represented. The governing party controlled the numbers in the room. In the meetings, in the consultation, and when we visited around the province, we still operated kind of as a group. Sure, you have respect of interest. There were certain things that was probably not going to happen. Government controlled the numbers in the committee, but, in fairness, there were a lot of decisions made there that was for the good of the people of this province. It's truly what a democratic committee, a select committee should be doing. That's what it was put there for.


There are a lot of great strides being made in mental health, and Towards Recovery. In my opinion, we're heading in the right direction. Is there more to do? Absolutely. We're far from finished, but at least it gives a blueprint for that period of time, that given time, how we think we need to deal with it.


Do I think that's the be-all and end-all? No, but it's a great starting point. It has made great strides. We're still nowhere where we need to be, but we're heading in the right direction. There was a committee formed, it was a select committee, but it was all parties involved. All parties worked together as one group, and there was success to that, Mr. Speaker. I had the fortune of being personally part of that committee, and I'm proud of a lot of the accomplishments.


Mr. Speaker, our new Leader of our Party is (inaudible) honesty in government. He's spoken about democratic reform. These are some initiatives that I know even when he was running for Leader of the Party, these are things that are very near and dear to him, but they also, I think, should be to each and every one of us.


In maybe 2015, 2016, our party – again, the former Member for Mount Pearl North I think introduced a motion, it was for recall legislation. To some people that can be seen as a bit drastic, a bit over the top or what have you, but it's truly a strong statement, too. Because I believe if you go in and you're looking for support to come in and represent – no matter what it is. It doesn't have to be the House of Assembly. It can be council. It can be any level, but if you make promises and you don't keep your promises, or if you go in there and you're not conducting yourselves in an honourable way and you bring disrespect to your position, in turn you're bringing it to your district. I think the people that put you there should have the ability to remove you.


If you went to work in a place and you were not pulling your weight, you were not doing your work and your employer was not pleased with you. Well, at the end of the day, Mr. Speaker, you'd be asked to leave. You'd be given your walking papers.


We come in here in the Legislature, you get a four-year term. Now, it can't be just someone that this one person has a bone to pick with you, because we have those people coming in our office every second day. There have to be clear guidelines. But why not have something like that? Why not have this?


We have a Code of Conduct. This is a real Code of Conduct. This is with the voters of your district. That's an agreement you make with the people who elect you. I know some people will feel uncomfortable. It may not go over right with some people. It's an interesting concept. It shouldn't be used as a weapon. It should be used as an incentive to make you a better politician to represent your district in the best way possible. Everybody wins, but there has to be clear guidelines.


We come in the House here; we come in and we're sitting. We're doing our fall sittings and we sit around and we debate legislation. As I said, a lot of people out on the street don't know we're in here. It's unfortunate, but that's the reality. There's a lot of pessimism. There's a lot of disinterest. Cynicism surrounds what we do. That's been brought on, to some degree, by Members of this House, Members of previous Houses. The picture that's tainted by the media, the general public's stigma that comes with this profession. I guess if you go talk to a lawyer you'll hear the same story. That's unfortunate, but that's the reality we live in. We're going to have our moments, we're going to have our times. We know we're going to have debates. We're going to get heated conversations, and I think that's all part of a healthy democracy.


This session, I know, in particular, it's been very challenging at times. I said to a good friend of mine, a former colleague – a former member of this House of Assembly, actually, a former member for Conception Bay South – what I've experienced in my three years, some people in politics don't experience in their full career. What I've seen happen and transpire in this House of Assembly in three years is incredible. To say that, and certain things were interesting to say you were around, you seen and you experienced. There were some things that was not so fun, that was not so pleasant.


We went through a period a few weeks back, it was pretty hard on I think every Member in this House. The problem with it was – one of the bigger problems was it was hard for everyone in the House. It was hard for the people involved, obviously; but, all that aside, and respectfully to everyone's position, and I respect all sides and every – because that was difficult.


The biggest losers were in this House of Assembly, the Members of this House of Assembly. There are wins and losses in different issues; I'm not saying that. Collectively, the House of Assembly lost because I believe the public checked out on us. It's a sad statement, but I think if everyone were being honest with themselves, it's a true statement.


We get 50, 52 per cent of the people. I was looking at numbers this past week. I know in CBS I had 55 per cent of the people voted. My colleague for Cape St. Francis, his numbers were fairly high in voter turnout, which is still low in where we should be. As people say, should you have mandatory voting? That's fine to a degree, because I believe in voting. You're always telling everyone you should vote, but how can you force people to vote for something they don't believe in? Because in a way, we've kind of set that bench to collectively – and not this Legislature. The Legislature previous to this.


I've watched the happenings in this House of Assembly for the last 20 years, long before I was ever elected. Back in the day when the previous Liberal administration were in government, I sat in that Chamber and I watched debates in this House. Everyone is to blame. It has just become less tolerant over the years. In todays world it has become less tolerant. In the last number of years, it has become – the social media world, it has become almost zero tolerance – to the public, I mean.


There was a time when television cameras were not in this Chamber. There were no television cameras. You based it on the media; the local media would come in and do a story. The House sat until 1 o'clock this morning and passed this legislation. You read it in the media. I read it; we all did. Anyone who paid attention, you read that in the media. That's all you knew.


You did not know what was going on in this Chamber other than what you read in the media. Now we're televised. Social media is alive and well. You're in the House of Assembly during Question Period, you have the media who are tweeting out everything you do; you have local people at home.


We hear it, we all see it, everyone here. You get criticized, you get complimented. A lot of criticism, of course, but whatever side you fall on in an argument, they're tweeting or they're messaging you in the middle of Question Period. It is constant saturation, but you have to rise above a lot of the stuff. You have to rise above all of that stuff.


We're not perfect. I trust you, Mr. Speaker, I'm the furthest thing from perfect. I'm very flawed, but I think everyone in this Chamber are. Being honest with yourself and being honest with the people you represent, that's the best thing you could tell them.


I ran into this lady this past weekend, she's 97. A wonderful lady, and she watches the House every day. She pointed out several days she liked what I done, several days she didn't like what I done. When she said it – I'm still smiling now – I was so appreciative of the honesty. She was serious when she told me. I told her, well, I won't disappoint you. I'll do my best. I'll keep that in mind. From now I won't do this or I won't do that.


That's refreshing to a degree, that she can reach out to a local politician and tell him what she likes and don't like, but it's also a good educational for me as the representative to say, you know what, these people expect more of us. That lady, at 97 years old, God love her, to be watching this House, and she's probably watching right now. If she's watching, I got your message loud and clear. Because what she said, there's a lot to be said for that.


There's a lot to be said, because she apparently marked an X for me and she expects me to come in and not conduct myself in a certain manner, and I'm going to take her advice. I'm going to try. I told her that I can't promise for certain all the time. It depends on the mood, but for the most part I am going to take her advice and do my best to pay attention to what she told me.


I think every Member in this House got constituents that can tell them the same thing, to point out their good and their bad. What we need to do is make it consistently day in and day out, or at least make that effort. Because, again, we're not perfect. We're all flawed, but make the effort to do it on a day-to-day basis. I think we'll all rise to an acceptable level and maybe – it won't happen overnight, it's little by little – maybe the public, maybe the media, maybe the naysayers will start to look and say, you know, they're conducting themselves in a better manner. This is probably more of what we expect.


On that note, ironically, the media were always so critical of the chatter and the heckling that goes on during Question Period. I sit in this House and again I've watched the Question Periods in this House for the last 20 years. These are some of the quietest Question Periods I ever remember having.


Now, Mr. Speaker, I know you want to take credit for that and you probably deserve it, but the media – or no one gives you credit where credit is due sometimes because – Question Periods are civil. There was a time in this House when Question Periods were like, you couldn't hear yourself think up in the seats. And if you listened to Open Line, they were bashing the House of Assembly, the way you're getting on. But on the flipside – and fair game, maybe I'll call out them for that, too. There's no credit given when you're changing – there are good changes happening.


So there is an effort, obviously, it's an effort from all Members in this House to try to rise above that and to come across – be more genuine, be more respectful of the people that are watching. Seriously, when you sit back sometimes – a couple of times I've gone in our caucus room and I sat back and I watched on television some debate and you hear some of the back and forth. We all do it, but it's probably not something we should be doing on a regular basis, especially during a serious debate, Question Period, when the public want to hear. They want to hear what we have to ask the government. There are a lot of important issues of the day.


The last couple of days we've spent a lot of time talking about the oil spill. That's pertinent news of the day. I left here yesterday and I stopped at Tim Hortons across the street. The first person I ran into, I vaguely knew him. I knew him a bit. He used to work with government, actually. The first comment out of him was about the oil spill.


As I went home, I had to stop and get gas. I went in and I ran into another person and that was their question. I'm like, wow. Again, I knew it was important, but that's just a couple – the two people I ran into yesterday, that's their issue. If I would have ran into more that becomes the issue. That's what we're asking questions about here. Those are the questions of the day for the last two days.


On other days on another issue. We've had Canopy Growth – whatever issues. Those issues are issues that people want answers to. Whether they get the answers or not, we don't know. Some days they don't, but we're still asking the questions. As an Opposition, that's our duty. That's our duty to this House. As parliamentarians that's our duty, but it's a duty to the people we represent. It's a duty to the people of this province.


There are only seven of us here on this side in the Official Opposition, but we have to ask the questions for all people in this Province of Newfoundland and Labrador on issues that are important to the province. And we try our best. We succeed some days, we may not succeed others, but collectively we do. It's a lot of work. We take a lot of pride in what we do. We may not always get the results we want, but at least we can be on record. We're here, we're stood in the House, we stand in our place and we ask the questions that are important to the people of the province.


Sometimes it could be about our district, but most times it has to do with our critic roles. We're asking questions that are very important, and answers – again, it's a funny thing about it. When you're on government side, and I understand sometimes as ministers – I worked with former ministers, and it's not easy sometimes. You're rolling with what the question is going to be. You're trying to prep yourself, and sometimes you may not have the answer and you've got to get up and be creative in your response. I get that.


It's fine to keep answers from Opposition for various reasons, but sometimes the public – again, when I say expectations, the public does expect a bit more. There are times that I hear frustration in the public, and not only – and it happens when all governments are there, and governing parties: Why don't they answer the question? They've been asked a question, why aren't they answering the question?


Isn't that not something – I know there was a former minister of Environment, who's no longer there, he's sitting in the Speaker's Chair now. I thought it was the most refreshing thing ever, as critic in Environment, every time I asked him a question he answered me. It became a point that you could not even get angry, you had a real appreciation. Every time I asked a question I got an answer, and I know that's not common in this House,


I'll say it while I'm on record in my last few seconds, I thought it was fitting for me in the democratic reform debate to point that out because I think it's a very rare occasion that happens in this House. For that, Mr. Speaker, I commend you, and I thank you for the time. I'll take my seat.


Thank you.


MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. George's - Humber.


MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


It's great to get up and have an opportunity to speak in this very important debate that we're having here today. This debate is a little bit different than we usually have in the House. Usually, when we have a debate in the House, it's about something that has gone wrong, or the questions are about something that are immediate.


For example, on the Order Paper today we were looking at the management of the greenhouse gases; we were looking at workplace health and safety legislation. We were looking at protection and promotion of public health and we were looking at the Highway Traffic Act. So we were looking at things that have a real physical impact on the lives of people and are more immediate, but it's important to have a discussion about democracy.


Democracy is something that is maybe more immediate in our lives than we sometimes realize. It's a known fact that people who have studied governments around the world, that places that have strong democratic institutions are places that have more robust economies and are wealthier.


So that's one of the things we know about – democracy and wealth usually goes side by side, and how democratic you are usually leads to better administration of public funds, more prosperity, money being spent where it should be spent. Those are issues that are important to us all as well.


This debate today is: “BE IT RESOLVED that the House of Assembly urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to establish an all-party Select Committee on Democratic Reform.” So this motion if it's passed, and I hope it will be, will set in motion a process that will result in us having a select committee on democratic reform. It's always good, I think, to have a discussion, a public discussion about democracy and how it works, and how it can be improved and what we're doing. So I certainly support the principle of how we're doing this here.


Now, some people – and the Member for Conception Bay South mentioned it in his comments. Some people may think, well, people aren't interested in democracy. People don't care what we do here. They're not watching, but I sort of had that view and somewhat skeptical about how closely people were watching us and how interested people were about democracy.


I went to Flat Bay a few weeks ago and they were having their annual general meeting there of their band council, and there were about 30 or 40 people there at that public meeting. They were talking about the by-laws and how their community was going to be ran. They were having a good discussion about who should be able to vote in the band council process: Did you have to be from the community? Did you have to live in the community? How long did you have to live in the community before you were allowed to vote, and those sorts of things? So that was the type of debate about how democracy would work in their community.


I've seen this similar type of discussion at town councils in Pasadena, in Steady Brook and local service districts, as well in the Bay St. George south area. So I've seen this same sort of interest in democracy in these debates on important issues that impact on – so I think people are interested. If we give them an opportunity to have some input, they will take that opportunity and they will have input. They will have a say, and I think the possibility is there that we will have a better system, a better democracy because we've done this, Mr. Speaker.


I'm not going to use all my time. I just wanted to talk about some possible items that might be dealt with here. One of the ones that comes up often is fundraising. I've looked at fundraising, political fundraising all across Canada and in other jurisdictions as well. In terms of regulating who can give and how much money they can give, Newfoundland has one of the weakest pieces of legislation in terms of there are no caps on how much a person can give, there are no restrictions on how much people can give and there are less restrictions on who can give money to political parties than in any other province across Canada.


So I think that's something that we have to look at: How elections are financed in this province and the limits that we have on donations. For example, the federal rules limit it to personal donations. They limit it at, I think, a little over a thousand dollars now that individuals can contribute to political campaigns. So that's something that's interesting as well.


Something else this committee might look at would be the operations of this House; how the House is operated. I know we had a Select Committee on Standing Orders which has been doing some good work in terms of changing some of the rules of the House, the constituency week that we have, so that Members can go home every third week to attend to meetings that they have with their constituents and things like that. I think those are positive changes.


Other things that we can do, I think, are we need to look at our committee structure. Most other provinces in Canada have a way more robust committee structure. In terms of the way we review legislation, I think there are possibilities of improvement there. We should look at the possibilities of doing those things.


We used to have legislative review committees in the early '90s. I think they were quite effective in terms of that people, parties and Members of the House had an opportunity to look at the legislation before it came to this House. Sometimes that led to more public input before it got to the House and better debate in the House, I think. That's something, I think, that's worth looking at as well.


In other jurisdictions, another thing that comes up when people talk about democratic reform is the voting system; how do we elect people for this House? As the Member for Burin - Grand Bank said, when she spoke a few days ago on this motion, we have a system which is first past the post. You don't need to get a majority of voters; you just need to get more than anyone else, basically. That's it.


Some other systems have a ranking system where your second choice is also registered. Other places have proportional representation and that brings into different dynamics as well. But it's worthwhile having a discussion about these things and how they would impact our democracy. Would it make it stronger? Would it make it weaker? What are the possibilities of things that could be done in terms of our voting system?


The other thing that has come up is voting age. For example, the chief electoral officer of Canada has said that we should look at the possibility – and he was talking about the federal system – of reducing the age of voters down to 16. What impact would that have on the system? Some people say people aren't mature enough at that age to make a decision about voting, but there are other things that may happen. Other people say it helps people get better accustomed to the voting system and get people considering how they're going to vote early, Mr. Speaker. Those are some possibilities there as well.


Other sort of things that often come up when you talk about democratic reform is the possibility of referendums or recall, things like that. Those might be things that would be worth having a discussion about. In some cases these are presented as solutions to problems that we have, but I think it is worthwhile having a full and open public debate about where we want to go with issues like that; what would be the benefits, what would be the drawbacks, how it would impact on our system here, how it's impacted on other jurisdictions where it has been brought in, Mr. Speaker. If we have that debate, maybe it's something we wouldn't want to consider.


I think in terms of democratic reform, it's always beneficial to have this type of debate about how our system works, how we can make it work better. Those are things that we should do. I think it's very positive and I think this whole idea of looking at how our government system works, how strong our democracy is, is also beneficial in terms of how our economy works. And I think, as I said earlier, there's definitely a connection between strong democracies and wealthy jurisdictions.


I just wanted to make those points in the debate and I'll be supporting the motion.


Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.


The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.


MR. K. PARSONS: Thank you.


The beautiful District of Cape St. Francis, Mr. Speaker.


It's indeed a privilege to get up here again tonight to speak in the House of Assembly, as I always do say, to represent the District of Cape St. Francis, the beautiful district that it is and the beautiful people that live in it. It's an absolute pleasure to be able to have the opportunity to do so. That's what democracy is all about, when you look around and you see what opportunity we have here today as politicians to be able to do so.


I always go back to the first time I was elected as a mayor. I remember my mother and father coming the night that I got elected. My father said to me what an honour it was to be able to be the mayor of the Town of Flatrock when I was. It was such an honour.


The people in that small community voted. There were a lot of people that got out and voted and they selected me to be the mayor of their town. That was a great honour because I was representing the town. The same thing when we come here to the House of Assembly. It's an absolute honour to represent the people that elected you. It's always important to remember that. It's so important that we always remember the people that elected us.


I know that most people in the House of Assembly – and most politicians in general – do know who elected them and they respect the people that did elect them. I know there are a lot of times you'll get phone calls from people and you'll say: Oh my God, I have to hear that again. But you do have to hear it again because that's your constituent. They have a right and they have an opinion that you should listen to because they're the people that put us where we are.


I always say that the people in Cape St. Francis – they'll say, b'y, thanks for this. I'll say, b'y, you're my boss. And they are because without our constituents we would never be here. We should always listen to our constituents. The 40 of us in here, we have vast opinions.


I listened to the Member for Conception Bay East - Bell Island today for an hour and I have to say he did a fantastic job on a bill this afternoon. I learned a lot from him. Then, my colleague for Mount Pearl North got up and I learned a lot about cows and how they don't get chicken pox and stuff like that. We can all learn.


AN HON. MEMBER: You can get cowpox.


MR. K. PARSONS: You can get cowpox but you couldn't get chicken pox, I think it was.




MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!


MR. PETTEN: That's right, yes.


MR. K. PARSONS: But we all can learn from each other; we all can learn from each other. It's so important.


We just went through it for a couple of weeks in this House where my colleague from CBS said it was a down time, because we have to respect each other. We have to respect each other's opinion. We have to be able to work together. I don't care if I'm a Liberal a PC or an NDP, I'm here to represent the District of Cape St. Francis, and I have to do my best. If I have to go over and speak to the Minister of Justice or the Minister of Finance or the minister of any of them – Municipal Affairs or anybody. I could go speak to the minister for women, right.


AN HON. MEMBER: Status of Women.


MR. K. PARSONS: Status of Women. I can go – if I have an issue, I should be able to go speak to her. And so we should. I should be able to speak to the Minister of Education. We all have to be able to do that. But if we work in this House where we don't have the opportunity, if Members of this House don't have the opportunity to go across and talk to a Member or talk to a minister about an issue they have in their district, there's something wrong with it. So we have to do that, we have to be able to do it.


I don't care if you have a large portfolio, or you have a small portfolio, we should have the opportunity to speak to the Premier of the province. If we have an issue with the Premier's Office we should be able – and I've done that. I spoke to the Premier on issues, but I should feel that it's a part of being an elected representative to represent the district that I represent and my constituents that I have the opportunity to be their advocate, to be their voice, to be able to talk for them when it comes to important issues.


Whether that's an education issue like we do talk about on a regular basis, like the 1.6 busing and the distance for children to have to walk to school. I'm after going to the minister and after brining petitions before the House of Assembly. But I'm not doing that for me, I'm doing that for the people that elected me. It's important that we do that and it's important that we always remember it.


I always think that we should engage people more when we come to political – and, I guess, that's a part of democratic reform also, how do we get more people involved in politics? The last election, I believe, I'm almost sure, that my district had the largest turnout in the province when it came to 72 per cent of the people in my district voted.


AN HON. MEMBER: Awesome.


MR. K. PARSONS: It is awesome, it really is awesome, because we need to find a way to make it 92 per cent or a 100 per cent in all our districts. We need to know a way that we can engage people. And maybe some form of reform to elections, to how people vote; whether it is online voting, whether it's – maybe it's a two-day vote, maybe it's a vote that we can go to different areas and make sure that people do get out and vote, advertise more on when people can vote; any way that we can get people out.


Now some people are just not going to vote and there's nothing you can do about that. Some people are not going to vote, but I can assure you that the majority of people will get out and vote if they feel, listen here, my voice is going to be heard, and that's why democratic reform is important because people want to have their voice heard.


I looked at my district the last time and I know that there was a large, say, 18 to 25 vote that got out in my district, and I attribute it all to my two children who have a form of social media way better than what I do. They understand it a whole lot. They know how to engage. They know how to start a group.


I was called one day and someone asked me, they said, you got a Vote Kevin Parsons web page or Facebook page set up and there are 2,400 people on it, and they asked me, how did you do it? And I had to say I don't know, because I didn't know because it was a couple of young people that set it up, and they invited people, and that person invited another person, and it grew.


We engaged 2,400 young people, and most of them in my district, even to be talking about politics, to get into politics and say, well, listen, I'm going to vote for – I know his son, I know his daughter, he lives in Flatrock, I'm going to vote for him because I'm from Flatrock. Any way we can engage.


I know we've spoke about this before, and maybe it's a way that we should be in our schools, talking to young people in schools, and make it a point that we all do a certain amount of speeches in schools. I know there are opportunities in my area, and I'm fortunate, because I live next to the House of Assembly and I got a very small district, it's only 25 kilometres long and I can get to the schools in my district. I know there are people like – I know Members from Labrador that have a hard time even getting back to their district when the House is open.


But there has to be ways that we can get into our schools and talk to our young people. Maybe that will engage them; maybe that will give them some interest in coming to the House of Assembly. Maybe the voting age, if it was 16, that may get more people interested at an early age and they may stay engaged in democracy and stay engaged in what we do here in the House of Assembly.


I always remember first – I haven't seen it lately now, especially in this session I haven't seen it, but we always used to have classes come here to the House of Assembly. I know when I was on the government side, I always wanted to make a point that, listen, there are kids up there watching. There are children in the House of Assembly and they're watching, so behaviour is so important because they see us down and heckling and not being attentive to the person that is speaking, and they look at it.


I spoke to a teacher here one day, and I was almost embarrassed because of the behaviour of House of Assembly. People look at us as leaders, they look at us as people in society, I think they do, to look up to, and we have a standard that we have to stay here. I believe that's – when we're in the company of, for example, children in the House of Assembly or whatever, we have – Mr. Speaker, I give you credit. You're doing a fantastic job, like the Member for CBS, and I'm a hard case, I like to heckle, but a minor – just a one-liner type thing, and I do it, but I'm doing my best, and you're after giving me good credit saying: You're becoming a lot better at what you do.


But there are ways that we have to be able to make sure that people give us the respect that this position, not that I deserve, but this position that I have been given the honour to serve, do it, so that people can say: Well, that's an honourable position. And it is, it's a very honourable position.


So, democratic reform, when we talk about changing how democracy – we've all heard the saying: What does democracy look like? It's what way we want democracy to look like. I want democracy to look like people have respect for this position.


I can remember coming to the House of Assembly when my father was in the House of Assembly, and just looking down and being so proud of him, just knowing that was an elected representative for the area – it was called St. John's East Extern at the time. It carried that weight that, b'y, you're up there, you're a representative of the people and you're the fella that's making the laws of the land. That's what we, as politicians, and as people of this House of Assembly, we have to get back to, because I think if this position becomes the honourable position that it is, we will attract more people to get involved in politics.


Politicians today, I don't know if we have the same respect that they did years ago, and I believe that's all about democratic reform; it's about making sure that we have respect. But in order for us to get respect from our constituents and the people of this province, we have to show respect to each other and we have to show how we carry ourselves in the House of Assembly; it's important.


Democratic reform: I just wrote down a few notes. One part of democratic reform people always talk about is money, and the amount of money it costs to run a campaign, to make yourself visible to the electorate to make sure that they know who you are.


Today, social media plays a huge role; we can do a lot with social media. Today, we have email and you can do a lot through email and email accounts, but still, at the end of the day, it all costs money. Now, where's that money going to come from? That's the question that everybody talks about.


When we talk about electoral reform, do we talk about corporate donations? Do we talk about where the money is going to come from to pay for your signs? Where is the money going to come from to pay for your brochures to go out? Where is the money going to come from to pay for your campaign?


Well, if we cut all that out, Mr. Speaker, there's not going to be a lot of people interested in politics, because for one thing, it's going to cost them too much to get in it. When we do democratic reform and we talk about the cost of elections, there has to be an even way that we look at it to make sure that it's equal and everybody gets the opportunity to be able to show the people that elected them what I have to offer. That's very important.


I mean we'll set up committees and, again, I was hoping to see an all-party committee, which was what we proposed and to be able to be part of that committee. Now, I don't understand why the government side didn't vote for it, because on any committee, no matter if it's – we worked together on a fisheries committee when it came to shrimp quotas and stuff like that, and there was also the health committee. Government usually always has the majority on the committees anyway, so I really don't understand why the committee phase never showed up and didn't vote for it. It really surprised me.


We're after making some big changes here in the House of Assembly and some good changes – there have been some good changes. Some of those changes are there; government said there are changes to be able to attract people. We definitely need more women in the House of Assembly. I'd like to see 50-50 right across the board, because everybody's voice is heard and it's equal right across the board.


I went down the other night to the Lions Club, down in Pouch Cove when they had their charter night. A guy got up and the one thing, when he read out all the members, he said: You know what the nice thing about all of this is? He said: It's 50 per cent women and 50 per cent men. What he said then was that we have a great perspective and everybody has great ideas that come in because it's equal. That's what we do need in the House of Assembly. We definitely need it in the House of Assembly. I mean the opinions of everybody need to be heard and that's what's important.


Some of the changes that were made: The constituency week. I really like that because I know when you're in here – now, I can only imagine what it's like for Members outside to get back to your district and be able to do the groundwork that you have to do. I do it; I got an opportunity to do it in the nighttime because I can go home. Last night I had a lot of calls to my house, and I answered them all and got to do work. But I can only understand what people outside in Grand Bank and the Burin Peninsula or the Northern Peninsula, wherever you come from, they have a hard time being able to do it.


There's one thing I thought about there a little while ago. For this session I'd like to see the constituency week change. I don't think it should be the third week, I think it should be somewhere around November 11 so people get back to their district.


Listen, I know how important it is. This year, the House was open and I got to one school in my district because it was a morning thing, and knowing the children and the kids, who were in that school – and the parents – appreciated me being there. And I think as elected officials, that is the week we should have our constituency week, during Remembrance week, November 11, because it gives us all the opportunity to go back and make sure that we attend the functions that are important, and show the respect to the people that served and gave up their lives for us.


I know my colleague for Conception Bay East - Bell Island had the opportunity to go to one of the schools. We talked about it and it was great a thing. I think, for the people outside, it would be a great idea that we do change that week. We're only here for five or six weeks as it is, so make sure that that week is the week that we take our break and we can go back into our communities and be able to be seen and show the respect that is deserved for people that gave the ultimate price for us. I think that's just one of the changes I'd have in this session of the House because, like I said, we're only here five or six weeks.


One of the things that they took away – I loved the filibusters, I really did. I thought filibusters were great but they're gone now. I did – I really did. It was different. I really believed that filibusters were like a team-forming thing, you worked as a team. It was a real building – it really was, the teams just came together.


Do you know what? It was difficult, it was hard. It's hard when you only have Members of the NDP with a couple of Members. It's very, very difficult and I understand that, but that's only my opinion. I have to say, the Table Officers and the staff, I understand how hard filibusters are, but that's just something that I liked.


If the vote came 39-1 to get rid of it and I voted for it, well, I'd accept what you all say, but I did like that part of politics. I know with the 2016 budget when we had so many different issues and we had the opportunity to get up here, I know we were here in the nighttime, 3 o'clock in the morning and there were people sending us emails: Ask him this, get up and talk about this. It was getting a lot of people going.


Democratic reform is a part that we'll all have a different opinion on. We'll all have a different opinion on how we see democratic reform, but at the end of the day, I hope everybody gets the right to give their opinions and tell what they like. We all need to ensure that at the end of the day we get a way that people will come out and vote, no matter how old they are or whatever and, also, that people want to be in the seats that we're so fortunate to be in today. That's important.


I'm not going to be here forever. I have 11 years in now and who knows when I'm going to be out of this seat and there will be somebody else. In my District of Cape St. Francis, I'd like to see everyone want to come here and be a part of what I had the opportunity to do for the last 11 years, and that's to make the laws of this land.


Now, not everybody is going to agree with what we do. Nobody is going to agree with what we do, but as long as we're here for the right reasons, to represent the people in our district, to represent Newfoundland and Labrador and do what we believe is best for everybody here, we'll be okay. But it all comes back to making sure that people have respect for each other and that people that elected us look at us and say, listen, they're doing a good job. They're not all going to say you're doing a good job, if not nobody would be in this place. We will have people that will be against us and won't be voting for us. But you know what, at the end of the day, when everyone is finished here, we just hope that they respect us for what we did.


If we do the proper democratic reform and make sure that people are engaged, and we get our young people in and we do the right things here in the House of Assembly, it will be an absolute privilege. Like, I always do say when I get up, it is a privilege to stand here in the House of Assembly for the people of Cape St. Francis and it always will be a privilege.


Thank you very much.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.


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


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


I'm very happy to stand and speak to this motion for democratic reform. It's been a while now. This was first introduced – we first started debate on this issue May 12, I believe it was, or was it June 12? No, it wasn't June 12. Anyway, it was May, it was sometime in May and here we are again still dealing with this issue.


It was very interesting because the Official Opposition introduced an amendment to this asking for this committee, because the motion is calling for an all-party select committee to deal with the issue of democratic reform. Then the Official Opposition introduced an amendment to the House during the debate asking for the committee to be struck by the House of Assembly and to be answerable to and report to the House of Assembly. Now government has decided that they want this committee to be struck –




MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!


MS. ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


They want this committee to be struck by government, and what they did – again, we are looking at the issue of democratic reform, reforming the way that we do democracy inside our House and outside the House. A complete reformation of our democracy, which is what we sorely need. Mr. Speaker, I believe the irony – the irony – is lost on government, that they voted against an amendment that in fact would actually make the select committee on democratic reform more democratic. I believe that that irony is lost on them. It's amazing. Because in fact, real democracy – when we look at select committees in other jurisdictions – many jurisdictions – they are appointed by the House, not appointed and controlled by government.


In fact, Mr. Speaker, what we have is government talking about democratic reform and saying that they want to be able to control that conversation, they want to be able to control how that work is done, which is probably the most undemocratic way of actually going forward and doing this work. I found it incredibly ironic, but again, because a government is majority here, they can defeat or pass any bill that they want.


I'd also like to bring to the attention – I believe if we looked at the true nature of real democratic reform as it relates to select committees – let's look at what happened with Bill 29. Bill 29, which was introduced to the House June 12, 2012, it was an Act to Amend the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.




MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!


MS. ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


I'm sure that government Members are really going to want to hear what I have to say about this. I'm sure that they do.


It was the Act to Amend the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. It was about openness and transparency. And the current Official Opposition was the government in power at the time – they also were a majority government – and they introduced that, again, June 12, 2012, and, Mr. Speaker, I believe it was one of the issues that brought that government down.




MS. ROGERS: It did. Mr. Speaker, how might that have worked differently?




MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!


MS. ROGERS: I believe, Mr. Speaker, that there's lots of time for other people to be able to get up and speak in this debate. I have the floor, and I appreciate that.


Let's talk about what happened there. If we had actually had true democratic reform in this House – Mr. Speaker, I'm having a hard time hearing myself here. If we had actual true democracy in our House of Assembly, that bill would have been sent to an all-party select committee, and that all-party select committee would have looked – it's a significant bill. We ended up filibustering on that. I can't remember for how many nights or how many hours, Mr. Speaker, but I do remember I was here for quite a while and spoke quite often to it.


We had a filibuster on that. If we had a valid, fully democratic process in this House where we had an all-party select committee, that bill would have come to the all-party select committee. We would have examined it. We would have brought in experts. We would have heard from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. We would have heard from political scientists. We would have heard from average citizens who are concerned. I think that the government thought the people of the province aren't so much interested in this particular bill, they're going to kind of ignore what's going on with this.


Well, the government sure had a few surprises. The people of the province were very, very interested in how this was being handled. What we would have had, Mr. Speaker, is an all-party select committee who would have examined the bill, who would have strengthened the bill, and once the bill came to the House, it wouldn't have been as contentious because it would have been a process that all three parties had agreed on. Delivering the bill, there may still have been some objections to some of the bill, but there would have been a greater understanding. The legislation would have been stronger. We wouldn't have needed a filibuster, and we would have been able to move on.


Mr. Speaker, it probably wouldn't have brought that government down, but because of hubris, because of pride, because of a false sense – a misunderstanding about what democratic power is, I believe it was one of the issues that brought down the government, and they're now sitting over here in Opposition.


Let's also look at Bill 60 and 61, Mr. Speaker. Now, Bills 60 and 61 were legislation that was enabling Muskrat Falls. What would have happened in that situation, Mr. Speaker, if in fact we had an all-party select committee in a true democratic form that was appointed by this House –




MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!


MS. ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


Let me get back to Bills 60 and 61, legislation that enabled Muskrat Falls. What would have happened, Mr. Speaker, if those bills were brought to an all-party select committee that was appointed by the House and that was answerable to the House? Would Muskrat Falls have gone ahead?




MS. ROGERS: No. Government is even saying that, Mr. Speaker. Listen to government Members across the way saying, no way, Muskrat Falls wouldn't have gone ahead as it had. That's why true democratic reform, real select committees that are appointed by the House, that are answerable to the House, are so important.


I believe that Muskrat Falls may not have gone ahead in the way that it had. I also believe that it would have affected government a little bit differently. Not only that, it would have saved the people of Newfoundland and Labrador billions of dollars, billions of hard-earned money by the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. That's also one of the reasons why this is so important. Not only do we get better legislation, we get more careful legislation. We get legislation that we can all work on.


Every single person in this House has been elected by the constituents in their district. Why is it that government refuses to acknowledge that? Is it hubris? Is it a misunderstanding about what democratic power is? Is it a misunderstanding about what control is? Is it about hyper-partisanship?


Mr. Speaker, we are 40 – well, 39 right now, but waiting to be 40. 40 Members in this House who are working on behalf of the people of the province – 520,000 people scattered throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. We need to work together. The people of Newfoundland and Labrador want us to work together, and they know that we do get better results when we do work together.


Let's look at the All-Party Committee on the fishery and the incredible work that they did. Let's look at the All-Party Committee on Mental Health and Addictions and the incredible work that was done by that Committee, and the incredible work that we continue to see being done; however, there were some drawbacks. That was a Committee that was appointed by government and controlled by government. That's not the best way to do it. We know there is a much better way of doing it.


Friday evening, at 5:35, we received a copy of Bill 37, which is a significant bill. It's a huge bill. There were over 50 pages to Bill 37. So we received that on Friday evening at 5:35. Then on Monday morning, mid Monday morning, we received a briefing by the department. And now the debate started Tuesday afternoon and it will continue tomorrow.


Again, if we had all all-party select committees, that bill would've gone to an all-party select committee before it was finished, because it is significant. It's a really important piece of legislation. Really, what should've happened, Mr. Speaker, is that should've gone to an all-party select committee because of the significant issues that it covers.


It would've been made better, probably. We would've all been on side, probably, and it would've been delivered to the House in a respectful way. Because one of the things that an all-party select committee can do is call witnesses, call in experts, have research done. Again, it's about doing our work in the best possible way we can for the best interest of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.


So, Mr. Speaker, I believe, when we look at the previous government, they lost power because they did not use select committees. And I believe this government is doing the same thing.


Let's look at the issue of jobs in sustainable economic development in the province. Some very difficult decisions have to be made. Let's look also at the issue when this government took power. They should've struck an all-party committee on Muskrat Falls going forward, because some difficult decisions would have to be made. They could've shared that burden of the difficult decision making and we all could've worked together. It would've worked in their interest. I don't know why they don't do it. I really don't know why they don't do it.


So that's some of the work that needs to change inside the House. But democratic reform is not only about that, and we all know that. We look around at our province and we see some people are talking about, do we lower –




MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!


MS. ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


Do we lower the voting age? Well, already we see a significant proportion of young people are not voting. Why is that? So simply lowering the voting age, I doubt that more young people would vote because already young people have said they don't like the way our democracy is happening, that there is a better way to do it.


There's a better way of modernizing our democracy. There's a whole open government movement, and we can't talk about democratic reform, Mr. Speaker, unless we also talk about the open government movement that we see happening all over the world, and it's exciting. It includes things like citizens' assemblies, it includes things like all-party select committees where people get to come and speak to a committee, offer their advice, offer their expertise, so that any legislation we do is the best that it can be, is the most modern that it can be and is the most effective that it can be. So that, again, it's all about us working together.


Why would we not, in this present circumstance that we find our province, why would we not use every available brain cell in this House of Assembly, every available brain cell and expertise in our province to make the best decisions as we go forward? Again, because we're only 520,000 people, we can afford to be daring. We can afford to take bold steps. We can afford to be the most modern democracy in the world. We can afford to do that. We can take those risks. We can experiment, and there's no reason not to.


Mr. Speaker, when we see some of the things that you have done, and your previous colleague in the House, making some changes in the House, how great is that? And what a difference it makes in our House.


So let's look again a little about why are people opting out of political life, and what can we do about it? Those are some of the issues we need to look at through this all-party committee. We also have to look at, what is our democratic deficit and how do we improve that? And electoral reform, we have to look at that. The current system that we use, it would be so easy for us, Mr. Speaker – again, because we're such a small population. It would be so easy for us to develop a made-in Newfoundland plan for electoral reform.


I'd like to do a call out to CASE, where a group of really concerned citizens, a lot of younger people, who did a whole program, a whole project on presenting democratic reform for the City of St. John's, and they've done exceptional work. I can't wait, Mr. Speaker, until they sink their teeth into looking at what we can do on a provincial level.


Again, because we are a small population, because it's easy for us to communicate with each other, we can develop the most modern, the most progressive, the most democratically sound form of electoral reform in the world right here in Newfoundland and Labrador. We can do that.


We also have to look at, how can we ensure greater diversity in our political system? If you're hearing impaired, I don't know how you have access to what's happening here in our House of Assembly. Also, even the very issue of physical accessibility to the House is problematic.




MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!


It's difficult to hear the speaker.


Thank you.


MS. ROGERS: Also, Mr. Speaker, when we look at some of the major debates we have in our general elections, they're not interpreted for the hearing impaired. So people who are hearing impaired cannot fully participate in our democratic process. It's 2018, it's not acceptable. It simply is not acceptable, and if government – and if all of us are talking about an open democratic process, we have to make sure that we look at who's not at the table, who has been shut out. Because people have been shut out, maybe not intentionally but shut out by neglect, shut out by our refusal to really look at what we can do to make our democracy more inclusive. So we have these major debates with no interpretation for the hearing impaired. It's not okay, not okay at all.


What else can we do about diversity? Again, we are less than 25 per cent of women here elected in our House of Assembly. Up until a former member left in Windsor Lake, we were 25 per cent. Now we are 20 – we are less than that, we are nine women with 31 seats, or 30 right now.


We have a by-election coming up again. What can we do? What is keeping women from running? What is keeping women from winning seats? Also, the political science – particularly, Professor Amanda Bittner at the political science department says that when women run they win, but why do more women not run? How do we reduce financial barriers to include the possibility of more women running? How do we build a habitat – this is interesting, Mr. Speaker – and a habit of civil participation? How do we ensure that our people feel that they have a way in to our democratic process, beyond just voting once every four years which is the average of what we do? How do we build a civic society that has the power, the mechanism and the tools to have input? How do we create open governance and an open government here in our province? How do we ensure that our school does a better job preparing our youth for civic engagement?


Civic engagement is not only just about voting, it's about being fully engaged in our democratic process. I believe we can do this. I believe that we must do that. I'm concerned that here we are, only one year until the next full general election. Will we have the opportunity to make significant changes before that? I'm not so sure.


I am disappointed that government has dragged its heels on this; this was one of the promises they made. They've been in power for three years and here we are three years later and still only debating it.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!


MS. ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.


The hon. the Member for Bonavista.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


It's an honour to stand here at 7:13 on a Tuesday evening. I'm sure we have a lot of people watching at home. Someone asked – text your mom, tell her you're on. She's probably on her way to bingo; more interested in that than listening to me.


I want to get up today and say my few words and say that I support this all-party Committee on Democratic Reform. I think it's a long time coming. It's certainly a good thing, how we can get more engagement with the public.


I almost agreed with the NDP for once in my life. The first half of the Leader's speech was quite good, quite passionate and, then, kind of digressed and got into the weeds and talked about all-party committees and how it would be more effective – I think if you have an all-party committee come in here on every bill you'd be bogged down, you wouldn't get anything done.


We've got staff that does great briefs, Mr. Speaker, on all sides of government. The NDP received their bill on Friday, got a brief yesterday, and we're still going to debate it tomorrow. From my understanding, with the previous government you'd get the bill the day before and be lucky to get a brief at all. That's what I've heard in certain cases. Now, I stand to be corrected.




MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!




MR. KING: So we have the NDP heckling again. That's shocking.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. KING: Speaking of democratic reform now, I'm no angel myself, Mr. Speaker, but I'm trying to make a point about the all-party committees and the briefs that we're getting for bills. In most cases, we're getting them days in advance. I know some time frames are tight but I respect the good work the departments do, the people they have working for them. I don't think anyone can come in this House and say they haven't got a good brief from department officials. To say that things are thrown at you last minute – I mean these people have come up with good briefs, there's lots of opportunity to ask questions there – I think that's a bit off.


Getting back to democratic reforms, I left the navy in October of 2014. I came home and I started my nomination campaign. At the time, there were five people seeking the Liberal nomination at the old Bonavista South district.


MR. BROWNE: More musical chairs.


MR. KING: Well, I'm getting to that, my friend for Placentia West - Bellevue.


I was out knocking on doors. I declared in the summer of 2014, started signing people up, knocking on doors, going to all public events so I could meet as many people as possible. I think I knocked on every door in the district twice; once during the nomination and once afterwards. I got to meet quite a few people.


That's one of the things I really enjoy about politics is getting out and meeting the people, the knocking on doors, but the public events as well. Certainly, to go to a festival now, it takes about a half an hour to get across a ball field from one side to the other because people are coming up and talking to you about the issues, which I think is really important and they feel comfortable. The same thing if you go to Foodland or Swyers or an Independent store anywhere around the District of Bonavista, you have to take a little extra time. If you have to get somewhere you have to make sure you have that little extra time to spend there.


Like my friend for Cape St. Francis said: The good people in his district. Certainly, I enjoy the good people in my district a whole lot. It's funny when you're going around the doors, I don't think there's any sociology course you can take at MUN to prepare you for what's going to be behind the door. You could have a good laugh or you could have a cry.


That's what I love about Newfoundland and Labrador. The constituents are very genuine, humble people. Some things you prepare yourself for at the door and the people just tell it like it is. That's voter engagement and I'm looking forward to next year and getting back at those doors. I've done a few so far but I look at getting back and get that engagement at the door level.


I want to talk a little bit about the Tory gerrymandering that they did in 2015. I don't know, it was one day in January the former premier, Davis, decided: Oh, we're going to take 10 seats out of the House of Assembly of 48 people. Mr. Speaker, I would contest that hurt rural Newfoundland more so than it did here on the Northeast Avalon.


I don't want to get into the weeds now about how many calls you get a day and all that; you've got a lot of different issues than you would here in the city, but having less representation, I certainly don't think was a good thing. They wanted to reduce the number of seats in the House down to 38. The only reason I could possibly think of that they wanted to do that was because they knew most of those seats would come from rural Newfoundland and our party was always a little bit stronger in rural Newfoundland as opposed to the Northeast Avalon.


You look at the folks on the opposite side there, our friends in Opposition. Most of them from here are from the Northeast Avalon, except for the Member for Cape St. Francis and metro. By proposing to take away those eight seats – or excuse me, 10 seats, and then they were going to take away some from Labrador as well – it kind of backed the Opposition into a corner where you had to come up with a deal to try to save a few seats so that people get the proper representation.


I think it was Labrador kept all their seats; the smaller districts, isolated districts, kept the size of their own. But rural Newfoundland lost nine seats, Mr. Speaker, and I think that the representation was hurt. There was less voice for the people of rural Newfoundland. It's all right for them to go over and laugh at it now because most of them were there when it happened; they were the leaders behind it. But when you take away nine seats from rural issues – I get about 10 phone calls in my office in Bonavista before 9 o'clock, and I'm sure another 30 or 40 throughout the day. You have anecdotal, people talking about four or five phone calls a week here in the city. That's not right.


Rural Newfoundland took a hit because the PCs want to gerrymander the seats to keep most of them on the Northeast Avalon to save their skin. They didn't save their skin but they were pretty smart about it – but they still did it anyway – where they try to form government a little bit quicker than they normally would. They looked at the trends.


When we get to the all-party committee, I hope this is something we revisit. I hope we get out to many communities in rural Newfoundland so we can actually get the voice of the people that they took away. You have some districts – my own district, Mr. Speaker, to get one end to the other it takes an hour and 45 minutes. You have some districts where it takes three hours to get from one end of the district to the other. The Premier's district, I think, is four hours.


To do justice for the people in your district having less seats, it's not possible. You're representing more people in a larger area and it's not often possible to get out and see people in a timely manner. This is what they did. People are used to having a small, compressed district where they get appropriate representation. In the old Bonavista South district it took 45 minutes to drive from one end of the district to the other. Imagine the work you could get done representing those people.


I love my district as it is, the District of Bonavista, and its great people. But if you had more representation, Mr. Speaker, how much better served would the people be? And this is what they did, tried to save their skin, tried to take representation away from rural Newfoundland. Seven seats, that's what they took away from rural Newfoundland – seven seats. It's disgraceful.


But I've talked enough about that, I've got half my time left. What I'd like to see come out of this Committee as well, is get out to those rural communities, get off the TCH. Oftentimes, you'll see a lot of government stops: Clarenville, Gander, Grand Falls and the TCH. We want to see you go up to places like Twillingate and Bonavista, Botwood, places like that, places where they never see public engagement. I think we'd be just –


MS. P. PARSONS: Harbour Grace - Port de Grave. Coley's Point.


MR. KING: We have a lot of suggestions here. People here are excited about getting off the TCH, Mr. Speaker, and this is where we want to get public feedback from. We want to get people engaged in politics. People are very cynical right now about politics. Let's get out there and have people come out to a public meeting; tell us what they want to see in our government. Don't let the PC Party tell you that we're taking away 10 seats.


Luckily it turned out – well, fortunately, we kept two of those 10. But the PC Party shouldn't be telling the people of rural Newfoundland we're taking seats away from you, we're taking representation from you. Let the public tell you. You didn't do any consultation on that. I think they went so far as Clarenville, maybe Gander, Corner Brook, St. John's. Maybe Goose Bay, Lab City – I don't know even if they've went there on that. It's shameful.


Bring this Committee to the public; get the voter interest up. I think the voting participation rate now is a little better than 50 per cent. Just think of that. One out of every two people does not vote, and there's a reason why they don't vote, Mr. Speaker. They're disengaged from it. They say: Why should I get involved? Why should I go vote? It's wasting my time. Am I getting good representation? They just took seven seats away from rural Newfoundland. They don't care about us. It's shameful. Let's get that voter engagement back; let's get out to the rural areas; let's bring curriculum – let's bring civics back to the classrooms. This is what I would like to see.


I remember in school very briefly touching on it, and I think it was in grade 10, 1996. I was excited because I had law and democracy, and I was big-time into politics; I love politics. It's the nerd in me, I guess, but I love politics. I was so excited to do that course, because we haven't done it before, and they got into the political discussion on the structure of government. Most people don't understand the structure of government.


A lot of people have a difficult understanding of what's municipal, what's provincial and what's federal. Let's teach that at an early age. We heard from my friend from Placentia West - Bellevue, and he's our youngest Member ever elected in the House of Assembly. He talked about getting the voter age down to the age of 16, and I don't see anything wrong with that. If you can drive a car at age 16, you can get informed – get out and vote.


I enjoy watching some of the US elections. They got the attack ads and all of that; that's not very good. But you see, watching it, families out to vote, where they take their small kids with them and they make a day of it. But it' is instilling a democratic duty to our young people. So I look forward to that, and I encouraged people at the doors last time to bring your family. No one is going to turn kids away at the polling station. If you instill it in someone at an early age, Mr. Speaker, they're likely to do it for life. And, right now, we have a lot of younger voter apathy, and that's probably part of the reason you see the low voter turnout as well.


We need more women and minorities involved in government. It gives you a different perspective. It's all right to have a young, bald-headed fellow like myself here, and I think you might know a thing or two about that yourself, but it's nice to have a different perspective of women and minorities, the issues that are important to them. You're able to get a broader scope of issues that are important to all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, new Canadians as well.


I know one of the biggest challenges that we're faced with federally is their attempt at democratic reform. They went through the processes and didn't get anywhere. I like the fact that we're giving it a chance. I think a smaller Legislature like we have here, you get up, you got your representatives from all parties, and we've seen how well – and that's one of the things I do agree with the Leader of the Opposition; it did work very well on the Northern shrimp fishery and the All-Party Committee on Mental Health.


Right now, you can see the Waterford replacement just go out for RFQ or RFP. I'm not sure what it was but –




MR. KING: RFQ. That came from the All-Party Committee on Mental Health. That's what you can do if you can work together. So, I'm looking forward, very much, to this Committee.


I think, coming from Green report, we need to take a look at the MCRC and look at the composition of that group. Right now we have a couple of lawyers, business people, but put in a former politician to give the political lens on it. It's something that's important because there are a lot of things right now that we could have in place to do our job that kind of get overlooked from the people who are not necessarily experienced in the world of politics.


That's not saying that we go out and have all these incentives back; it could be something as simple as an opportunity to have a satellite office somewhere. The rural Newfoundlanders, who were robbed of seven seats, get an opportunity to have a couple of offices in your district to give better representation, instead of going from one end of the district to another to go to an office and get some paperwork filled out.


I try to split up my district as much as I can, rent out office space, but if you had something permanently set up there where you could have people at the other end of the district go in and get the same service as you do at one end of your district. That's true for larger districts, Mr. Speaker.


So, Mr. Speaker, what we have to do with this All-Party Committee – and I look forward to seeing it come to fruition. We got to get that voter interest up. We got to get more women and minorities involved in politics. We got to make this House a better place where people want to come to work, where people respect the work that goes on here, how they're not cynical of what we do.


It's on us to make those changes that improve the Legislature. Like the Member for Cape St. Francis said – he's a bit of a heckler, and I'm no angel myself – that's part of the parliamentary system, ebb and flow. I think you and the former Speaker have done a good job with toning that down.


I had a conversation with someone – the Member for CBS said you couldn't hear yourself in previous sessions where people would be heckling, yelling other people down. They're listening very intently here tonight, Mr. Speaker. They're riveted by what I have to say. I think they're having second thoughts about getting rid of those seven rural seats. You know, I'd be ashamed of that, too.


Decorum here in the House of Assembly I think is something we need to strive to improve. I need to do that as well, but make it a place that people want to come to. When they go up in the gallery they say, well, this a place where there's work getting done. And the people tuning in at home saying, wow, let's watch the House of Assembly channel to see what's being debated.


There is a lot of good legislation going through here today. I think the first session we put through 70-odd pieces of legislation. The last session was 60 or 50. Right now, we're up to Bill 38 or 39. So that's a lot of work that a lot of people are doing, and we're taking the time to research, to debate, to speak to.


Mr. Speaker, with that said, again, I will support this motion.


AN HON. MEMBER: Thank God.


MR. KING: The boys said thank God. I don't know if they think they were –


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. KING: They weren't sure if I was going to support it, but I certainly support it.


One of the things I'll be bringing forward to this Committee is let's take a look at the electoral boundaries again. Let's get that rural representation back. Let's take that long drive away from an MHA to go from one end of a district to another to help someone with some sort of issue, a bit of paperwork; reduce the number of calls coming into a constituency office, maybe have a second office; get the extra rural Members back.


Mr. Speaker, I know my friend, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Environment is calling for leave, but we're getting pretty late this evening. So I just want to thank you for the opportunity to speak. I'm sure everyone in this hon. House will be voting for this very important All-Party Committee on Democratic Reform, and thank you for listening to me for 20 minutes.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


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


MR. LESTER: Well, Mr. Speaker, I think I'd be remiss not to get up and speak on democratic reform on the eve of my one-year anniversary being elected to the House of Assembly.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. LESTER: Now, while I realize I have a tough act to follow, I learned a lot about ABCs and 123s listening to the previous speaker, but the reality is democracy, to my best of knowledge, is government for the people, of the people, by the people of equal representation. Demographics shift, and so do boundaries, as our population changes. So I can't say I agree with his analogy of giving one particular portion of the Island, or demographic area more clout than another.


Thinking back to a year ago when I was knocking on doors, there were a couple of things that really stick out in my mind that people said to me. Well, I expected to hear a lot about the Muskrat Falls issue, but I actually heard more about the conduct of Members in the House of Assembly. Also, I heard, what are you getting involved in politics for? You're too good of a fella.


Well, anyway, I, like almost everybody else – I would hope in this Chamber – got involved in politics because you wanted to make a difference, you wanted to make things better for the people and for future generations down the road. We need more people that stay true to that vision.


My focus of getting up to speak was, I kind of took exception to a comment made by my colleague from Mount Pearl – Southlands when he referred to business people getting involved in politics; talking about Chinese walls and blind trust. If we are truly to have a representation of all parts of society, we have to –




MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!


MR. LESTER: – make it easier for people in business to get involved in politics.


Now, after being in politics for a year, I realize that I would probably have to get a salary of about $3 million a year to compensate for what my business and my family has lost by being involved in politics. I quickly found that I'm no longer eligible for a lot of the support programs and funding programs that as a farm we relied on, and as – the agricultural industry, all farmers rely on. Of course, I've seen certain – now that I'm a certain political flavour, well, that also carries weight. That will make business people think twice about getting involved in politics.


So I think that business people are needed in politics. We, as business people, know how to run businesses. The province is basically a business and it needs to be run efficiently and properly, and also manage our resources just like I do on my farm and just like other business people would manage their assets. We really have to make it easier for a wider diversity of, I guess career backgrounds to get involved.


All of us, I'm sure, can say – and I've said from time to time that, gosh, it's not for the pay. And you're damn right it's not – excuse my language, I apologize.


Why we get involved in politics and why I'm involved in politics is, again, back to that fundamental desire to make things better, to see a generation ahead of us that will have an easier life, a less stressful life living in this province. That's something that needs to originate from democratic reform. We need to take the partisanship out of, I guess, decisions when it comes to allocating money for business or extending monies through government programs. We really need to restore faith in the public.


Do you know what? While it's not the ideal first step that I'd like to see happen, because I believe our motion would have really firmed up the foundation for it, I do believe that democratic reform and the proposals we have going forward are definitely a step in the right direction.


With that, I'll take my seat.


Thank you.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


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


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


I'll stand up and speak to this resolution. It's my presumption that when I take my seat, that'll be the conclusion of speeches to this.


I want to thank all my colleagues on both sides for their commentary on this. I'm presuming I will have unanimous support to this motion. I appreciate the fact that there were thoughts along the way. There was differences of opinion, there were amendments, but, overall, I think there's no disagreement amongst Members that there is a need for an all-party committee to look at democratic reform.


Again, I'm not going to get into too much of the suggestions and the back and forth, but I feel it's necessary – we brought this to the floor in May and everybody has had their say since then. I've sat back and listened very patiently. I've let everybody – anybody – that wanted to have their say speak to it.


So I do want to address a few things that I think are interesting, or at least get a chance to speak to those.


It's interesting that the Member for Mount Pearl - Southlands stands up. He, perhaps, of everybody, had the most to say about things that are not being done and should be done and not done right. I will say I never heard those points at any point during my time as his colleague on either side of the House.


It's funny, there are a number of comments that he made: We need to do this, we need to do that. One thing I never heard him say was that maybe there should be a look at floor crossing. You talk about recall legislation. Maybe we should look at the ability to cross, cross, cross, cross. At some point that's a worthy discussion that needs to happen and I would point out the Member discussed everything but that.


The other thing he talked about was all-party committees on legislation. What I will say is this: I'd love to have those meetings, but the Member needs to show up – the Member needs to show up. I scheduled a meeting last week – and this really irritates me. The reason it irritates me is we had a debate. We talk about everything that goes wrong, everything that's not done right. I've taken great pains in three years to work with my colleagues on all sides of this House to try to make things a little bit better.


There are things I saw when I was in the Opposition that I didn't like and we've tried to make changes. Now, you know what, can there be more change? Of course. Of course we can make things better. That's what we all want. I've worked with my colleagues on all sides of this House in the last three years to make Standing Orders changes.


The Member talks about how bad everything is. He stood up in the House during the debate on the Assessment Act and said: I'm not comfortable voting on this. I would love to have a meeting with the Municipal Assessment Agency to ask them questions. I'm not sure if I fully understand or fully agree with them, I'd like to have that. I said: You know what? We will refrain from a vote on third reading of that bill until the meeting is arranged, until everybody has a chance to ask questions and then we'll come back.


I will say this: I don't believe I would have been given that opportunity by the House Leaders of the previous administration at that time. I don't think I would have been given that opportunity but we afforded that. The Municipal Assessment Agency came here, they showed up and they had a meeting. The Members from the Official Opposition went; Members from the NDP did not ask for the meeting, I'm not faulting them one way, shape or form. But the Member for Mount Pearl - Southlands, who asked for the meeting and said he should have the meeting, didn't show up.




MR. A. PARSONS: Didn't show up.


So if you're going to ask for something, don't just stand up and ask for it. There are people that went out of their way to have this meeting and he shows up and says: You don't do this and you don't do that, and when we give it to him doesn't even show up and take advantage of it. I say it must be hard to speak out of both sides of your mouth – it must be hard.


I'll put that out there because we're talking about change. The Member talks about change but when it's time – and I look forward to seeing how he's going to vote on this resolution tonight. I look forward to seeing how he's going to vote on the resolution tonight because I can guarantee you we're calling Division on this – we're calling Division on this.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. A. PARSONS: Going to stand up and see how he votes then. That really irritates me. Can things be better? Yeah, you know what, they can. But if you're going to say it, stand up for it, too.


What I will say to the Members for the NDP, and in some ways to the Official Opposition, we talked about the amendment to make this a House of Assembly all-party committee, rather than what we said, a Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.


The Leader of the NDP said there was fine work done by the all-party committee on – I think it was Fishing that went to Ottawa, that was in the last session, it was struck by the previous administration; the All-Party Committee on Mental Health, struck by the previous administration, all-party committee representation. In fact, it went over to this administration, continued through.


This, what we're proposing, is the exact same model. It was a government-led committee. To suggest that it's not going to work because it's not House of Assembly is contradictory by the fact that it's been done. Members participated, we've all participated and they work. I think the All-Party Committee on Mental Health worked pretty good. The fact is it spanned administrations, went from one political stripe to the other.


What I say is I get that. One of the big things I've said about democratic reform is that sometimes this debate proved exactly what I was saying; sometimes it's political by nature. No matter what you do, there will be opposition to it just by the very nature of it. Certainly, I saw that coming from the NDP tonight, talking about the government dragging its heels.


When I got my mandate latter – usually mandates are four years. We're in the third year of that mandate and we're about to strike the resolution. I know it's not quick enough, but you know what – and they talked about standing committees. I'm actually working with the former leader of the NDP on Standing Orders to put in legislative committees. That's something I'd like to see but these things take time.


I've had three years' worth of meetings with the former leader of the NDP, Members of the other side and Members of this side. We're getting there. It's amazing. It really irritates me when the Member talks about democracy; we're not a true democracy. How do you say that? And reference something; I want people to get the full story because it's not the same as it was.


There were times with previous House Leaders and previous administration where, depending on whether they were frustrated with us or not, an Opposition might say: You're not getting a briefing – you're not getting it. That wasn't the practice but it happened sometimes; the previous House leaders would get mad.


The same thing with petitions, actually. There were some days where if Question Period was rowdy enough – and I agree completely with the Member for CBS. Question Periods now are nothing like they were in the previous four years – nothing like it. There's not a lot of institutional knowledge that's left, over talking. Yeah, it still gets heated here. That's the very nature of what we do, we're talking about ideas and contrasts, but I tell you it's not close to what it was.


Depending on how heated it would get, we didn't get petitions. That's the Government House Leader's choice. The government would say: We're calling Order of the Day. I don't blame that on my colleagues across the way because none of them were the House Leader. But that House Leader said: Nope, not going to happen.


That doesn't happen anymore – it does not happen. In fact, we've changed it so that we have petitions now and we have responses to a petition. We're actually increasing the amount of debate when it comes to these important issues.


Sometimes they don't always see it. The Member for Mount Pearl North brought forward a petition yesterday on the Petty Trespass Act. Now, you wouldn't realize that – because it's not something I deal with all the time – I'm actually looking at it within my department because I said: That's interesting. I don't know if I can do something about it. I don't know if we can or can't but I'm looking at it. That's the nature of it. That's why petitions are so important. I loved them when I was over there and they are a necessary part.


Again, coming back to the comment about the Public Health Act, I want to provide some context to what the Leader of the NDP said because I've been dealing with the former Leader of the NDP. We put forward that bill to the Opposition late on Friday. Then, what happened was usually we always allow for a briefing and then debate will happen the next day. That's usually what happens. In this case the legislation was there Friday evening, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.


Going by what we usually do, that would be –


MS. ROGERS: (Inaudible.)


MR. A. PARSONS: I say to the Leader of the NDP: I didn't heckle you, let me talk.


You know what? It is funny how we talk about hyper-partisanship and sometimes democracy is only if you get your way. When we heckle over here it's terrible, but when the Member heckles me I didn't say a word when she spoke – didn't say a word, and now I'm getting heckled because I'm saying something she doesn't agree with. We want to talk about making things better? You know what? We all have to be a part of this.


What I'm going to say is normally in that course of business – and going by what the previous administration practiced – if you got the briefing on Monday, you debated the bill Tuesday. That has never, not been the case in this administration – never.


The former leader of the NDP mentioned to me yesterday and said it's a substantial bill. I don't know what your plans are, but I don't think we've had enough time to debate it or to examine it and we're not prepared to move forward. I said, you know what, fair ball. How about we're going to do our part on Tuesday, we're going to do our second reading, which is not affected, but we're not going to move forward into Committee stage until you've had further opportunity to study it.


The NDP didn't speak to the bill today because that's exactly what we agreed upon. The NDP will speak to the bill Wednesday. We'll see if we get into the Committee stage on Wednesday or Thursday.


But for the Member to stand up and reference that piece of legislation, as if we'd done something wrong, that's exactly an example of something that we're doing right. We're working together. I don't want to force debate in this House. I haven't forced; I've been part of forced debates before in the past.


Again, the Members over here hear it all the time, ad nauseam, ad nauseam, and Bill 29 and Muskrat Falls. We've talked about the no notice; we've changed that. We've talked about the filibusters. We've worked together to change filibusters; we've done that. The NDP were apart of that and supported that.


So things are not the same; things are changing, and I'd like to think that as we move forward all parties will work together to make it better. Because what reflects good or bad on one of us, reflects good or bad on 40 of us. We all do the same job. We all like to argue, we like to debate, we like to have differing points of view, but anybody who has sat in this Chamber before knows that's the nature of it.


So, again, some of the points that have been put forward, I think I've laid out exactly the reason why I don't think that the amendment was necessary because this practice has worked in the past. In fact, the previous administration allowed for it. In one of those parties that the NDP called for, the All-Party Committee on Mental Health, they called for it. It got formed with the same structure as this; that worked fine. So to suggest that this is not going to work fine, I think is look at it with a very pessimistic, critical point of view that's not warranted, I think, in this particular occasion.


One of the other issues, the Member talked about some of the issues about democratic reform. I can remember when we first got elected in 2011, one of the things that came up – and we talked about how Bill 29 was the end of it. One of things, I think a nail was struck right off the top, not by any Member opposite, but by previous Members – and, again, we all have this – the former premier said: I don't think there's any need to go in the House. Do you remember after the election of 2011, the premier at the time said: I don't think there's any need to go in the House. We're not going to have a good enough debate.


Now, that is hubris that is. Do you know what? I don't think the Members over there would've had a say in that; they certainly wouldn't have said it, but they're a part of a group that the leader at the time said that. Do you know what? We're not going to call the House back into session. We're not going to debate Muskrat because I don't think the debate is going to be good enough. Well, look where that's got us.


I can tell you this, I can remember standing on that side during the last night of the Muskrat debate saying: I hope it works; I hope to God that it works because it's my kids and my grandkids that are going to deal with it. We are where we are. But what I'd like to think is that, while I'm here, I'm going to be apart of a process that will help all of us to hopefully avoid these situations. Sometimes they won't be.


We're all going to wake up – as we joked earlier about Hansard. Hansard records everything, Hansard is very unforgiving. I'm sure somebody in five years time is going to come back and look at something I'd say and say: Don't you sound foolish. Well, that's unavoidable. But the fact is I'd like to think we're taking steps to make it better because that's what helps me sleep, knowing that we're trying to make it better.


On that point I say, we're all on the same page there. We all want to make the decisions that help us sleep at night. On that note I look forward to the vote on this.


Thank you.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. SPEAKER: Is the House ready for the question?


Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion, Motion 1?


All those in favour, 'aye.'




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


The motion is carried.


AN HON. MEMBER: Division.


MR. SPEAKER: Division has been called.


I ask the Whips to call in your Members, please.




MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion, Motion 1?


All those in favour, please rise.


CLERK (Barnes): Mr. Ball, Mr. Andrew Parsons, Ms. Coady, Mr. Haggie, Ms. Dempster, Mr. Crocker, Mr. Osborne, Mr. Warr, Mr. Davis, Mr. Edmunds, Ms. Haley, Mr. Letto, Mr. Browne, Mr. Bennett, Mr. Bragg, Mr. Finn, Mr. Holloway, Mr. King, Ms. Pam Parsons, Mr. Dean, Mr. Reid, Mr. Hutchings, Mr. Brazil, Ms. Perry, Mr. Kevin Parsons, Mr. Petten, Mr. Lester, Ms. Rogers.


MR. SPEAKER: All those against the motion, please rise.


CLERK: Mr. Speaker, the ayes 28, the nays zero.


MR. SPEAKER: I declare the motion carried.


The hon. the Government House Leader.


MR. A. PARSONS: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I would move, seconded by the Minister of Natural Resources, that the House do now adjourn.


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


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


All those in favour, 'aye.'




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


This House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 o'clock.


On motion, the House at its rising adjourned until tomorrow, Wednesday, at 10 a.m.