Question Period: March 21, 2012

MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Third Party.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, this morning we became aware of an incident regarding a Cougar 292 helicopter as being grounded on the Terra Nova FPSO due to a malfunction. The C-NLOPB also reported that an engineer was being sent to the vessel to investigate. Mr. Speaker, I ask the Minister of Natural Resources if he can give this House a more detailed update on what is happening.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I can inform the Leader of the Third Party that as these incidents occur, notification comes to my BlackBerry. It comes to the department where we become aware of the situation and the seriousness. What I am told about this situation is that it is not unusual that a light comes on. It is being checked right now.

Mr. Speaker, in terms of reiterating the Premier’s comments on safety, I met with one of the operators of Terra Nova today and they went through their safety record out there on the rig, Mr. Speaker. The offshore industry takes great pride in its emphasis upon safety, Mr. Speaker, and I can assure the Leader of the Third Party that so does the C-NLOPB and the government of this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Third Party.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I thank the minister for his update.

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health and Community Services. We have heard in the news that parents of a thirteen-year-old boy cannot get enough funding from the Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Program to help them pay for their son’s diabetes test strips and medications which cost $2,900 a year. Diabetes is a heavy financial burden on families who do not qualify for aid because their incomes are just above the eligibility cut off.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Minister of Health and Community Services: Will her government expand the insulin pump program to cover universally the cost of test strips that must be used with insulin pumps?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to chronic diseases - and there are a number of chronic diseases that we face in Newfoundland and Labrador and perhaps more so than any other jurisdiction - this government has been very committed. Through our recent release of the chronic disease strategy, we have highlighted some areas where we want to continue to pay attention; diabetes is one of those areas.

In the question that you asked yesterday I responded by saying that we currently are, through the NLPDP, spending about $5.7 million annually to provide test strips for about 16,000 beneficiaries in Newfoundland and Labrador. For others who need special authorization, then there is a process that can be followed. There is also a threshold and, Mr. Speaker, I will speak to that in the next question.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It seems it is not going to matter what my question is, she is going to continue with what she was just saying. My question is dealing with the fact that last year the former Minister of Health and Community Services said government would consider complete coverage of glucose test strips in the 2012 Budget.

I ask the minister, without any flowery language: Will she tell us whether or not this government is going to completely cover glucose test strips and insulin for diabetics who have no private insurance?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will try to keep down the flowery language but I do not find this at all flowery. It is a very disconcerting concern or very disconcerting issue when we are talking about the health and the safety of people in Newfoundland and Labrador. I do not try to dress that up in any way. I am telling what the facts are, Mr. Speaker, of this particular issue.

The facts are that we are at this point in time, doing what we can within the purview of the sustainability of our own budget. To do what the hon. member opposite wants, Mr. Speaker, would cost an additional $11 million - $11 million when at the same time they are talking to us about always being sustainable, about looking to budgets, about making sure that we have budgets within which we can work. This is something we take very, very seriously. There is a special authorization process in place, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will get at some of those points another time, but I want to go back to something else the minister mentioned a few minutes ago. The long-awaited chronic disease strategy is only a policy framework for chronic disease prevention and management. There are no actual commitments by government to do anything to improve services so that we can do better in treating, managing and preventing diabetes across the Province.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister: Where is the real plan and how is government actually really going to help people with diabetes?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

If I could take a line from across the room today, what a difference a day or a year makes. I do recall last year when we were told they did not want any more strategies from us. They did not want any more plans from us. Now we are asked: What is the plan? Where is the strategy?

There is a strategy in place. There is a framework document in place and it is dealing with eight of our most serious chronic diseases. We have just invested $500,000 in the first phase of that, Mr. Speaker. Now, if we are going to do it, we are going to do it right, so we are going to work through it step-by-step, ensuring that we can meet the needs of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

Step one of that has to do with prevention and management, Mr. Speaker. When we are talking about these chronic diseases, that has to be the first step. That is where we have spent our first bit of money.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MS ROGERS: Mr. Speaker, the Newfoundland and Labrador tourism campaign highlights not only our geographical splendour but our tangible culture and invites tourists and our own people to see and experience our cultural events. Many of these events are produced by under-funded volunteer organizations who financially are just hanging on by a thread.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation: Because of the delay of the Budget, when will these arts and culture organizations receive notification of their funding?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DALLEY: Mr. Speaker, our government has a great appreciation for the groups and organizations that contribute greatly to our tourism industry, particularly in the area of recognition, promotion, and protection of our most treasured heritage in this Province, both the tangible and intangible. We work with these groups. We provide funding. They know we are going through a Budget process. As soon as we are through that exercise, they will be notified of how much we are able to support them this year.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS ROGERS: Mr. Speaker, it is imperative that they know how much funding they will receive so they can plan, publicize, and staff their events.

Mr. Speaker, will this government guarantee that there will be no cuts to any arts and culture funding in this upcoming Budget?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DALLEY: Mr. Speaker, we have a great working relationship with the many, many volunteers in this Province who are dedicated to the protection and preservation of our heritage.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DALLEY: Mr. Speaker, since 2006 and the development of our cultural plan, we have invested $56 million into culture and heritage in this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DALLEY: We will continue to do so, Mr. Speaker, working with our groups and continuing to ensure that they are able to achieve the objectives in partnership with us in the future.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS ROGERS: Mr. Speaker, we are all proud of our artists and our cultural organizations and industries. At $400 million annually, they play a significant role in the economy, particularly in rural areas.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS ROGERS: Present arts and culture funding programs cannot meet the demand. The Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council has among the lowest per capita funding in the country.

Mr. Speaker, I ask: When will there be a new cultural strategy released with regular, predictable increases to meet the needs in this expanding sector in our economy?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DALLEY: Mr. Speaker, the comments are quite interesting because they are asking us to spend more and more when everybody in the Province expects us to be fiscally responsible. Within that framework, Mr. Speaker, and within our budget exercise, we will continue to respect and show our appreciation for the heritage sectors in this Province, and we will continue to ensure that they are viable and sustainable into the future.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question is for the Minister of Transportation and Works.

Mr. Speaker, yesterday in the House it was stated that no bridges were left uninspected for more than a year, while in the Auditor General’s annual report for this year there are some-twenty-eight bridges in Labrador that have not had inspections in more than two years, and one bridge with no inspections for more than four years.

Can the minister please explain the discrepancy between what was said yesterday in the House and what is being done to correct the problem of a lack of bridge inspections in Labrador?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: Mr. Speaker, when we took over government in 2003 there was a terrible infrastructure deficit, including bridges and roads. Since that time we have put in place a regiment of inspections to ensure that our bridges are inspected over a two-year period. Sometimes we do find, especially in Labrador where the season is so short, that we do have to extend into the next spring. Again, Mr. Speaker, we do due diligence to make sure that the safety of these bridges is looked at, and that we are looking after the safety of people throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This next question is also for the minister. Mr. Speaker, in Budget 2010 the government announced a fleet replacement strategy for the replacement of the Province’s fleet of ferries.

Can the minister please give us an update as regards to how that strategy is going to be affected with regard to talking about the government’s next round of cutbacks and the restraints in the next two years that we are going to face.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: There is time for a very quick answer, Minister.

The hon. the Minister of Transportation and Works.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: Mr. Speaker, we are continuing with our ferry replacement strategy – a key strategy. We have two in the water, one in the works in Marystown, we have the Winsor replacement under design, and we have the six ferries for the South Coast, one of which is for Labrador. They are in design. We are moving along as expected and, Mr. Speaker, that is as short as I can make it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Associated Caucus Members: 

Share this page: