Question Period: March 29, 2012

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

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

Mr. Speaker, we have learned that there is a systemic problem with the cardiac monitor systems today in the Health Sciences and St. Clare’s. Mr. Speaker, the problem with these cardiac monitors is not just confined to Health Sciences and it is not the nurses’ fault, but the minister keeps insisting there is no problem.

So, Mr. Speaker, I ask: When is the minister going to acknowledge that there is a systemic problem and get to the bottom of it?

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 do not remember the minister or anyone referring to the fact that it was the nurses’ fault. In fact, what I remember the minister saying the other day is how highly we value our nurses and the crucial role they play in our health care system.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Also, Mr. Speaker, a systemic problem would indicate that there is a pervasive problem that exists throughout not only this jurisdiction but other jurisdictions. The minister referred to the fact, and I cannot remember exactly, but that 2,500 or 2,600 of these monitors are used throughout Canada, Mr. Speaker, that they are used throughout this Province, and that are there are issues here that the CEO of Eastern Health and the Department of Health are trying to work their way through with the nurses. The fact is, Mr. Speaker, cardiologists support these monitors.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I point out to the minister, Mr. Speaker, that first of all the system has to do with the Health Sciences and St. Clare’s, not anywhere else. It is a systemic problem there. Secondly, the person who, Mr. Speaker, named the nurses was the CEO of Eastern Health.

So I am asking the minister: will she demand an apology from the CEO of Eastern Health for denigrating the professional concerns of nurses?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Speaker, I had the pleasure of dealing with Ms Kaminski, the CEO and President of Eastern Health, for two years when I was Minister of Health. She is totally professional, Mr. Speaker, she tackles issues, she deals with issues, and she will deal with this issue here. So, again, I think that the comments made by the member opposite are a reflection of simply trying to cause problems, as opposed to dealing with an issue.

What we try to do as a government, Mr. Speaker, is identify issues when they are brought to our attention, and solve them. What the member opposite appears to want to do is simply to call people names and try to cause problems.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the nurses’ association said that standards for nursing practice require nurses to question conditions that interfere with their ability to provide safe, competent nursing care. Mr. Speaker, nurses filed hundreds of occurrence reports on the new cardiac monitors over the past year, but they were dismissed by the CEO of Eastern Health as being resistant to change.

So, Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister again: How can he be sure that nurses are meeting standards of practice, when their objections are not being taken seriously?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Again, Mr. Speaker, I have to the member opposite, the Leader of the Third Party, I am not aware of saying that nurses concerns are not being taken seriously. The CEO has indicated that there are issues that are being explored. The minister has indicated, Mr. Speaker, that she takes this matter very seriously, that we as a government appreciate the role that our nurses play – but like anything else, Mr. Speaker, when you are running a $1.8 billion system, when you have a massive infrastructure to manage, and 13,000 employees, it takes time to work it all through, Mr. Speaker. The minister and CEO have all indicated that they are working their way through solving this, but most importantly, Mr. Speaker, the cardiologists have indicated that in their opinion, the equipment is safe. That is the key, the patients.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the Harris Centre is a respected non-partisan university policy center. Dr. Stephen Bruneau is a widely respected authority on the issue of natural gas. Mr. Speaker, last night there was a very well-attended public forum hosted by the centre and given by Dr. Bruneau on the option for natural gas as an alternative power source for the island.

So, Mr. Speaker: I ask the Premier, why would not one of her elected members bother to turn out to be in attendance last night for this important non-partisan and informative presentation?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, when we undertake to do work on behalf of the people of the Province, we make sure that our work is well-informed. We use the resources within government, within our Crown corporations if it is appropriate. Mr. Speaker, if we need to go beyond that we seek out expertise here at home, in the country and abroad.

Many, many times I have heard the Minister of Natural Resources talk about our consultations with our energy advisors Wood MacKenzie, international acclaimed as experts in this field. We went to New York, we met with PIRA, the minister met with Ziff Energy. Mr. Speaker, we do not wait for public presentations at the university to inform us about work we are planning on behalf of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

If the Premier and her associates met with all these groups, perhaps she can table all these reports? Obviously there has to be something on paper. Mr. Speaker, last night Dr. Bruneau made a well-researched and compelling case for the viability of the natural gas option for electrical generation as an alternative to Muskrat Falls that could have saved consumers and taxpayers in this Province big dollars in the long-run. Mr. Speaker, the natural gas option has been continuously ignored and dismissed by this government.

Mr. Speaker, why didn’t government allow Nalcor to do a thorough review of the potential for offshore natural gas as a source of electrical generation?

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.

As I have indicated, we do not disagree with Dr. Bruneau’s assessment of the amount of natural gas, the availability, or the quality. We recognize we have natural gas, our energy recognizes the importance of natural gas. What this comes down to, Mr. Speaker; one, as a government, how do we order the oil companies to whom we have given licences to use natural gas? The second question, Mr. Speaker, it is not economically feasible.

We have a very small market here and the oil companies are telling us that we are not going to build an infrastructure to bring a very small amount of natural gas to power Holyrood when, Mr. Speaker, there is no market. I say to the member for - the Opposition House Leader, even if we refurbished Holyrood, what does that do for Labrador mining projects?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. MURPHY: Mr. Speaker –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Minister of Natural Resources says that it is just not viable for the oil companies to do it. Some people would argue that Muskrat Falls is not viable, considering we are talking about spending $7.1 billion –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. MURPHY: – of the taxpayers’ money in this Province. Mr. Speaker, government is relying on out of date information from Navigant’s use of a 2001 government study that predicted oil prices at $18 US a barrel out to the year 2025.

Excuse me, Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: Why won’t government at least examine new evidence on an option that has the potential – a very big potential – to save Newfoundland and Labrador consumers and taxpayers billions of dollars?

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 come back to two basic questions: Do we need the power? I did not hear Dr. Bruneau say we do not need the power. Is the member opposite saying we do not need the power?

Mr. Speaker, the second question is: What do we do? How do we get the power? We have looked at natural gas, Mr. Speaker, but not everything requires extensive reports.

This is not, Mr. Speaker, the question of: Is it technically feasible? The question of a 350 kilometre versus a 650 kilometre is technical. This is economics, Mr. Speaker. You look at the numbers and you make a determination.

Dr. Bruneau apparently quite interestingly said we should develop Muskrat Falls and go out and export it to Ontario. So, Mr. Speaker, what we are hearing is simply another theory, Mr. Speaker. We welcome these opinions, but it is like the full-page ad in The Telegram yesterday, Mr. Speaker: We will consult our own experts, not the experts who profess to be so.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS ROGERS: Mr. Speaker, there is a housing crisis in Happy Valley-Goose Bay and with large resource development it is getting worse. There are vacant housing units on the military base.

Since we do not have a minister dedicated to the overall needs of the housing situation in the Province, Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: Will the government take leadership and ask the federal government to make these housing units available to help alleviate the housing crisis in Happy Valley-Goose Bay?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Affairs.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. McGRATH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We are very aware of the housing shortage in Happy Valley-Goose Bay –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. McGRATH: – and we have looked at what is happening there. We have consulted with the DND and we have let them know if there is housing available we are interested in talking to them about that.

We have also made an investment recently. It was just announced, might I add: $1.8 million for housing in Happy Valley-Goose Bay –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. McGRATH: – and also $770,000 for fourteen units of affordable housing Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. KIRBY: Mr. Speaker, this government has said it will phase out the student loan program and replace it with a needs based grant. The government needs to start this soon, Mr. Speaker, because if the transition does not happen soon the great the burden will be to the public Treasury down the road.

Can the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills assure us today, Mr. Speaker, that government will not stall on this commitment and will begin to phase in the new grant program for the upcoming academic year?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Associated Caucus Members: 

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