Lorraine Michael Question Period (03.012.2013)

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

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

In his report on offshore helicopter safety in response to the loss of seventeen people on the Cougar helicopter 491, Judge Wells recommended the creation of an independent offshore safety authority. The Premier has on more than one occasion, and she did it again today, told us that she and her government are absolutely committed to it and that there is an impasse between the provincial government and the federal government.

If she is so committed to it, Mr. Speaker, I would like the Premier to tell us: What is her strategy and plan for breaking that impasse?

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 am not interested in playing political games around offshore safety, particularly in the face of this anniversary. We fully support the recommendations of Justice Wells and the Wells inquiry. We have stood by that report from the day that it has been released. We continue to advocate on behalf of the establishment of an independent operator, I suspect in the same way members of your party do in the federal Parliament. We will continue to do that until such an entity is established.

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.

I think it is fitting on the anniversary of the tragedy, by the way, to show that we are trying to get actions in place to bring hope to people who work on these rigs.

Mr. Speaker, despite hundreds of offshore workers signing petitions stating they do not want night flying and Judge Robert Wells also saying no to night flights, it is astonishing that the C-NLOPB is still considering allowing them to resume.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: On the anniversary of the Cougar helicopter tragedy, will she and her government take a strong stand in favour of the workers and recommend to the C-NLOPB that there be no return to night flights?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to remind the Leader of the Third Party that the C-NLOPB is an independent body that operates arm's length from this government. I also want to say that while we support the establishment of an independent safety regulator, we have confidence in the C-NLOPB.

All of us are affected by danger at sea. We have been profoundly affected in this Province by the loss of the Ocean Ranger and Cougar 491, Mr. Speaker – plus hundreds of lives that have been lost, particularly through the fishing industry.

This is not an issue that we take lightly, and it is not an issue that we are going to play politics with, particularly on this day, Mr. Speaker. We have confidence in the C-NLOPB and we will continue to press the federal government.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!
MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Third Party.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, Judge Wells recommended that no worker be forced to take a night flight as a term of his or her employment.

So, Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: Will she and her government make it known to the industry, speak to them and to the C-NLOPB, and make their thoughts known that government considers night flights to be hazardous and employees have every right to refuse them without fearing for their jobs.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!
MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, let me state again for the record, there is no higher priority for this government or for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador than personal health and safety, especially in the workplace.

We have confidence in the C-NLOPB that they will make recommendations that are in the best interests of the people who work in the offshore, Mr. Speaker, because what is in the best interests of the people in the offshore is in the best interests of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and of the businesses that operate here.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!
MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Third Party.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Yesterday, the Premier once again said it is her intention to develop a ten-year plan to reduce the Province's per capita debt to the national average. Yet, researchers at the federal office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer tell us that a national average cannot be accurately calculated, as debt is calculated differently in different provinces.

So, Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: Why is her government developing a ten-year strategy based on a target number that experts say does not exist? What really is she aiming at?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!
MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, our Province has made significant progress in reducing debt and we have reduced the net debt from a high of $11.9 billion to a projected $8.9 billion in 2012-2013.

Net debt per capita is something that is used; we look at it across the country, and in 2004-2005 it was $22,976 per capita. In 2012-2013 it is down to $17,328. The Premier, last year in the Budget, announced a plan to get closer to the Canadian average, so I really do not know what the member opposite is talking about. It is a standard that we use, it is one that is acceptable, and it allows us to set a goal that brings us on track with the rest of the country.

Associated Caucus Members: 

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