Question Period: March 26, 2012

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, today we have heard the Opposition House Leader propose that all three political parties in Newfoundland and Labrador join together to ask Ottawa to fix the Search and Rescue problems in this Province. I believe and my caucus believes that the state of Search and Rescue in this Province transcends political boundaries.

So, Mr. Speaker, I now ask the Premier if she would please agree to be part of a united front in Ottawa, not screaming and yelling as she suggested was meant, but sitting together with federal ministers to discuss this serious issue.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I encourage my colleagues across the floor to make whatever representations they can make in Ottawa that they consider might be effective. That is what we have done since day one. Mr. Speaker, I encourage them to encourage the MPs who are part of their political alliance to do their jobs in Ottawa and to make this case as forcefully as they can.

Mr. Speaker, we were disturbed by what we heard on The Fifth Estate program. As I said earlier in Question Period, we are writing to the Minister of National Defence demanding explanations, Mr. Speaker. We will make that information public when it arrives and it will dictate next steps.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I say to the Premier, and she knows as well, that the two NDP MPs from Newfoundland and Labrador have been speaking out on this issue and will continue to do so.

I would like a better explanation from the Premier, Mr. Speaker, as to why she is refusing to visibly show us united together by physically going to Ottawa together. Could we have explanation for that?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I stand here in this House day after day and am told, especially by the Opposition party, that we are week, that we are ineffective, that we are directionless, that we do not know what we are doing, and that we are not taking a positive stand on behalf of the people of the Province. Therefore, I have to tell you, Mr. Speaker, while I disagree with everything they say, why they are so insistent on joining with us – if you are that strong, if you are that effective, if you have all the answers –

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: - then you should be making those arguments in Ottawa. Why would you want to hook yourself to a sinking ship, Mr. Speaker? So I am not interested in playing those kinds of politics, Mr. Speaker, that is the bottom line, because that request is nothing only pure politics. I work on behalf of the people of the Province and I will continue to do so.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

It is really too bad, Mr. Speaker, that we cannot show that we are united on this front.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: It is very, very sad that we cannot show that. Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Natural –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair has acknowledged the Leader of Third Party.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Natural Resources has publicly dismissed the expertise of the people who sat on the only truly independent study of Muskrat Falls, the Joint Review Panel. Mr. Speaker, the provincial government agreed when this panel was formed that these people were qualified to do the work.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: Why is she now dismissing the expertise of the people her government approved to conduct the independent study?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Yes, Mr. Speaker, the only group I have heard refer to this environmental assessment panel as truly independent is the Leader of the NDP. Manitoba Hydro International is an international consulting company that was hired by the PUB independent of government, Mr. Speaker, and independent of Nalcor. They looked at all of the issues that have been put forward in terms of determining the least-cost option. They determined, Mr. Speaker, that wind is not an option to replace Holyrood. They looked, Mr. Speaker, at Muskrat Falls versus Holyrood and concluded that Muskrat Falls is the lowest-cost option.

Mr. Speaker, the PUB will speak later this week and we will then take into account what they have to say. The environmental assessment panel looked at the environment, Mr. Speaker, they made certain comments which we have made clear we do not agree with.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

The minister knows as well as I do that the groups that he has referred to had restrictions put on their research, because all they could do was look at what was being proposed by Nalcor. He knows and I know that an environmental assessment panel has broad powers. They look at everything that is socioeconomic related to - what the project that is being proposed. He is totally dismissing their research having spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on this panel.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: Why is she allowing her Minister of Natural Resources to dismiss the qualifications and expertise of the very people they appointed to the panel without any restrictions?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

What I find interesting here is that the groups with whom the NDP are so closely aligned, these environmental groups are the very ones who are questioning the panel’s expertise. They filed a lawsuit, Mr. Speaker, in federal court indicating that the Environmental Assessment Panel did not do their job, they did not look at other alternatives, so which way is it? Are the independent? Are they competent, or does the NDP agree with these environmental groups that they did not do their job properly?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. KIRBY: Mr. Speaker, the Government of Ontario recently announced that it would continue its all-day Kindergarten programming despite its multi-billion dollar budget deficit.

I ask the Minister of Education: Why does his government not have a similarly high value for all-day Kindergarten?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Education.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We investigate and explore all options to ensure that the students of our Province get the best quality education that they can. One of the areas, Mr. Speaker, that I mentioned the other day, was $4.8 million over three years to invest in that zero to six years. We have, based on research, Memorial being a part of it, the academic community all a part of it, Mr. Speaker. Anyone who follows education knows that the zero to three years where we invested first is critical, Mr. Speaker. We will continue to explore options, and, Mr. Speaker, I will keep the member informed.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KIRBY: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Education keeps repeating himself over and over again on this issue. I do not know who he is trying to convince, himself or me.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. KIRBY: Mr. Speaker, the research clearly shows that investments in all-day Kindergarten over the long term result in higher productivity and higher tax revenues.

I ask the minister: Are you unaware of this research or are you simply just ignoring it? Which is it?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Education.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, I am starting to wonder if he was not smitten by the leadership bug in Toronto. I am wondering.

Mr. Speaker, he keeps asking the question. Unfortunately, he seems not to like the answer that I give him. I cannot help it if it is not sinking in. Mr. Speaker, research from Memorial, academics, people who have been in education for years, are talking about where you make the investment. We have invested in the zero to three years of age. We are laying out a framework up to from four to six, Mr. Speaker. Our work is ongoing and, as I said, Mr. Speaker, I can keep the member informed.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I guess if we are talking about leaders listening, we have a new leader now; and, believe you me, he is listening, so stay tuned.

Mr. Speaker, my questions are for the Minister of Environment and Conservation who recently announced a frightening decline in the moose population on the Island. On the Great Northern Peninsula, outfitters and residents have been saying publicly for some time that there are very few moose to be found in the area. Mr. Speaker, many people in the area depend on the outfitter and tourism industry for their work in this regard; the moose population decline could lead to their jobs being in jeopardy.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister: What is he doing to get a handle on this resource which he is charged with managing?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Environment and Conservation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

To analyze the moose population, it is certainly a significant one; you have the social carrying capacity, Mr. Speaker, which is certainly not lost on this government, and you also have the people like the outfitters who contribute $40 million to the economy of this Province. So, obviously it is very, very important that we come up with a plan, and we have said that we were. If you reference our Blue Book, a five-year moose management strategy, Mr. Speaker, it is in the works. It is important I think that we consult and have a look at other countries throughout the world, including Scandinavian countries that deal with significant moose populations and deal with the socio issues and well as the economic issues.

Mr. Speaker, we are working through that; we will have a plan in place hopefully for the next hunting season.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

For some time we have heard from groups deploring the fact that there were too many moose causing too many accidents on our highways. Mr. Speaker, recently the minister made the startling comment that there are too few moose on the Island. He called the population frighteningly low.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister: Can he explain the apparent anomaly between the fact that there are too many moose on one hand and I guess in this regard not enough moose in other industries?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Environment and Conservation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FRENCH: Mr. Speaker, you cannot have it both ways. You cannot be against the moose population and then in favour of it at the same time. I do not mind a fellow speaking out of both sides of his mouth a scattered time, but this time is actually changing his clothes on this one, Mr. Speaker.

I say to the member opposite, this is a very serious issue. It is a unique balancing act we have to take into consideration. That is why we are having a five-year moose management plan. In the late 1990s, Mr. Speaker, there were 147,000 moose estimated here on the Province. Right now we are down to 110,000 and another few thousand in our national parks.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Unfortunately the time for Question Period has expired.

Associated Caucus Members: 

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