Premier's speech caps spring session
June 26, 2012
Premier Kathy Dunderdale reflected on the spring sitting of the House of Assembly in the final moments before the House adjourned. Her speech is recorded in Hansard here.
View the video online here. Her remarks begin at about 01:53:20.
PREMIER KATHY DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, I have said many, many times in the past and I will say again here today, it is a rare privilege for each and every one of us to serve the people of Newfoundland and Labrador as a member of this House of Assembly. I remind myself of that every day. Some days, like any other job that you do, some days are rough and some days are good. I often say some days are diamond and some days are stone, but there are more days that are diamond than anything else, Mr. Speaker.
To serve the people of the Province in this way, as I said, is a rare opportunity. It is very unique in that you are given the opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to influence the direction of the people of this Province, influence the way that our economy is driven, enhance living conditions for the people of your Province, help build with others a bright and wonderful future for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!
PREMIER DUNDERDALE: I am grateful every day for the confidence that has been shown to me by the people of Virginia Waters and by the people of the Province to the Progressive Conservative Party and their support for my colleagues in allowing us to form the government and to play a major role at this time in our history. To move us forward into what really will be some of the brightest, best times that we have ever known, Mr. Speaker.
I often say that we finally have the tools and the resources as a people in Newfoundland and Labrador to become all that we can be. It is only what the first people who landed here in the roughest conditions and circumstances could have dreamed about in their wildest dreams. They worked hard to carve out a place for themselves in what could have only been a hostile environment because they saw a future here for themselves and their families. They dreamed dreams. We are at a point in our history built on the solid foundation they left for us to finally actualize the best of Newfoundland and Labrador. I am so grateful and so thankful to the people of the Province to allow us to be part of that great adventure we find ourselves on today.
Mr. Speaker, beginning October 12 there was a great hue and cry about the House of Assembly and the fact there was going to be a delayed opening. There was a very good reason for a delayed opening, Mr. Speaker, because if anybody has paid attention to what has gone on in this House of Assembly over the last four months, it is important to be well prepared. When you come in with legislation that affects the lives of the people who you have pledged to serve, it is extremely important to know what you are about and to understand clearly what it is you are doing. Mr. Speaker, when we came to this House in early March, we were prepared.
The spring session by its very nature, Mr. Speaker, is a very busy time in the legislative calendar because we have the Speech from the Throne, we have the Budget, and we have two long debates associated with both of those activities. It provides a rare opportunity in the House of Assembly that you do not get in the fall session to talk about things that are important to the people of the Province and that do not necessarily come up in the legislative agenda, Mr. Speaker. The reason for that is when you are talking about the Speech from the Throne, you can talk about everything because the Speech from the Throne is so broad that there is hardly an issue in the Province you would not be able to address in that debate.
Mr. Speaker, the Budget is a money bill. When there is a money bill on the floor of the House of Assembly, you are not constricted in your comments to that bill. You can talk about anything. That is why I was so sad when the PUB failed to give a report and recommendations with regard to Muskrat Falls. We lost that great opportunity we had to have the kind of debate that, regardless of dedicated sessions, Mr. Speaker, we will not now have. That opportunity is lost to us. We will do our best to make sure we have a full and informed debate in the fall, Mr. Speaker, but this spring we saw an opportunity lost, and that is too bad.
Mr. Speaker, we came, not only did we have a number of hours that we had to engage in debate on the Speech from the Throne, over seventy-five hours had to be dedicated to the Budget debate. We said we needed time to be prepared and prepared we were, Mr. Speaker, with over thirty pieces of legislation brought before the House in this session. Robust debate, Mr. Speaker, on all sides, and that is a good thing to have that kind of debate. The onus is on all of us though, Mr. Speaker, to make sure that debate is responsible and informed.
We have opportunities to educate ourselves around the issues that are before us. It is extremely important that we take advantage of the resources available to us so that we can explain clearly to the people of the Province our position and our perspective on a particular piece of legislation. There is nothing wrong with putting a different lens on legislation that is on the House of Assembly. There is something wrong, Mr. Speaker, when you put spin on it. If your feedback to legislation here in the House of Assembly is going to be relevant, Mr. Speaker, then it needs to be informed. That is a responsibility that we all share in this House on both sides.
Mr. Speaker, it was my pleasure to bring down my first Budget as the first elected woman Premier of this Province.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!
PREMIER DUNDERDALE: I just want to say to the Leader of the Opposition who finds himself in a bit of a lone position as a male here in the House, I point out, Mr. Speaker, that he has you as a colleague. So if it is getting a bit oppressive, just look to your left.
We have the Leader of the Third Party as a woman, I am a woman, and now our incoming Clerk is a woman. It will be good for you. There is much to be learned, and you will be a better man as a result of it. Fear not, I promise it will be a good education for you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, despite the fact there are some pressures we are feeling now in terms of the revenues that are coming into the Province because we are so reliant on oil revenue – and why it is so important we invest some of the revenue we got from oil into things like non-renewables so that we lessen our reliance. We are thinking about the future and we are thinking about 2041 and when oil – our reserves are starting to deplete, we need to think about the future. It is fine for politicians to think I am going to be here for a few years and then I am done and somebody else can go in and worry about these kinds of things. That is not the way the world works, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, when there are things looming you need sometimes to be able to look forward fifteen, twenty years and see what they are, because critical steps have to be taken now if we are going to weather that in a way that works for the people of the Province. That is what we are doing in terms of when we talk about the development of Muskrat Falls and other clean energy resources that we have in such abundance in this Province. One of those parts of that, Mr. Speaker, is coming away from being an isolated system where we only sell energy to one another. We have to be able to move that out of the Province into other markets, and that is some of the great challenges that lie before us.
Because of the revenue we have from oil, primarily, as well as other commodities, Mr. Speaker, such as minerals and the fishery, we have over a $7.5 billion Budget, a tremendous investment in Newfoundland and Labrador. It is hard to tell sometimes from the debate in this House of Assembly, Mr. Speaker, but this Province is the envy of the country. I have my colleagues, when I go to the Council of the Federation, who say to me: What I wouldn’t do to have your challenges.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!
PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Newfoundland and Labrador is booming, Mr. Speaker, absolutely booming. Opportunity like we have never seen before, 70,000 new jobs becoming available over the next ten years, jobs for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, Mr. Speaker. It is absolutely wonderful, and our Budget speaks to it, because we need to do things in education, we need to do things in health care, we need to do things in infrastructure, Mr. Speaker, and we are doing that; over $1 billion this year again in infrastructure throughout the Province. That facilitates the economy and the investments that are required to drive it, Mr. Speaker. All of these things play a critical role, not only in the daily lives of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians but in attracting investment into this Province.
So, Mr. Speaker, no trouble to have Tories in the House of Assembly when there is work to be done, and we have shown it. It is the longest session in the House of Assembly in nearly twenty years, Mr. Speaker, one of the longest sessions. We have spent more time in the House of Assembly in this one session than most governments have spent in two, in one year, Mr. Speaker, and I am delighted. It is never tough to have people ask you questions, Mr. Speaker. In fact, it makes you a better government. The stronger your Opposition is, the better your work is.
I encourage them to come hard, Mr. Speaker, and there are lots of hard issues for us to discuss. We discussed one today: Corner Brook Pulp and Paper. I made a Ministerial Statement, as you know, earlier today on it. Mr. Speaker, that area of the Province is undergoing a tough time at the moment where they try to sort out their future. They are in a tough industry, an industry that is in trouble all over the world. Plants are closing down in Canada and elsewhere, Mr. Speaker. They are trying to keep their head above water in order to survive until they can get to a place where we can all see light at the end of the tunnel. We are all partners in that, Mr. Speaker.
Again, I want to congratulate the Leader of the Opposition and the Member for Bay of Islands. Easy to spin this one, Mr. Speaker, easy to play political games with this one, but we have only seen support and co-operation from the Official Opposition on this matter.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!
PREMIER DUNDERDALE: They understand how critical, how important, and how sensitive this matter is, not only to the people in the Western Region but to all of the people here in the Province.
Mr. Speaker, it has been an interesting session. I thank you, Mr. Speaker, and congratulate you on the exercising of your duties as your first session in the Chair. It has been a pleasure to work with you. Our Clerk and Table Officers have done an outstanding job. We wish the Clerk well as he takes on new responsibilities. The Sergeant-at-Arms, it is nice to have you with us and wish you well. We are glad you did not have to turf any of us out by the back of the neck.
Our Pages, Mr. Speaker, are critical to the functioning of this House of Assembly, the Commissionaires, our staff at Hansard, and our staff the House of Assembly Broadcasting Centre. Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the Third Party, and their colleagues, I thank them for their commitment to the people of the Province and their participation in the functions of this House.
To my own staff in the Premier’s office who work very hard to keep me well prepared in my duties, Mr. Speaker, and to my colleagues in my caucus, I have the utmost respect for all of them. I congratulate you all on a job well done. You make me proud to be Leader of this Party and as Premier of the Progressive Conservative government in this House.
Home we go to our various districts to speak to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, Mr. Speaker, because that is what we will spend the next couple of months – being with people in their own communities. Mr. Speaker, they want to show you the pothole in the road. They want to talk to you about why they need water and sewer and why they need their roads refinished and so on. They expect you to come and to engage in dialogue with them, a respectful dialogue. It is always a great reminder to remember who you work for, who hired you and why, Mr. Speaker. I am looking forward to, with great delight, spending as much time as I can out and about in the towns and harbours and coves of Newfoundland and Labrador over the next couple of months.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!