"We can't allow things that are inaccurate to stand." — The Word of Our Dan, February 19, 2008.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Parting words

On June 24th, the House of Assembly, after sitting for a gruelling 43 days, rose for the summer.

There are a whole host of rituals associated with the pre-rising sitting, not least of which, the platitudinous speeches from the party leaders on what was accomplished during the long session to date.

One of the leaders' June 24th speeches was a bit longer, a bit mushier, and a bit more retrospective than usual.

This corner could issue a longer epitaph for the Williams era, and probably will, but for today, let's leave Danny Williams in his own words. With his impending resignation as Premier, leader, and presumably MHA for Humber West, and the extension of the "summer" recess until December 6th, to give the rest of the PC caucus a chance to scrape its collective jaw off the floor, these words will stand as his swansong as an elected politician.

See you at the Blueberry Festival, and take care:
PREMIER WILLIAMS: I just want to express a few words of thanks to the members of the House, but before I do so I just want to build on the comments of the Lieutenant-Governor.

Yesterday, as evidenced by the red face, I had the wonderful experience of having the opportunity to go in and observe the caribou experiments and research that we have been doing and went into Bay du Nord wilderness area in order to see it. I went in yesterday because it was the only opportunity before the actual end of the calving season, when the calves are on their own, to see first-hand exactly what is going on with regard to predation and the reduction of our caribou herds. I am very proud to report that the money that we have allocated to look at this has been internationally appreciated.

Shane Mahoney, of course, was heading it up and I was with Shane yesterday. He has attended worldwide conferences at the highest levels. What the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is doing in order to protect its herds and to do sophisticated research, applied research in this particular area is world-class.

The reason I mention it though is to build on what the Lieutenant-Governor has said with regard to the Province as we travel around the Province – and it is not fair to say that Cabinet ministers are the only ones who are going to be working this summer. As we all know, MHAs, your work really begins as soon as you leave here because it is a summer of festivals, of being in your districts and being in your constituencies and having a chance to meet the people and answer to the people who you represent, good and bad, if they have any complaints, if they have any compliments, you have an opportunity to listen to it.

As he made the comment, as you travel around the Province do not complain about the weather, but as I, yesterday, had the opportunity to be out in the Bay du Nord wilderness area, it just confirmed for me the magnificent Province that we have, extraordinary, special place in the entire world. When you are there and you have the opportunity to come down in the middle of a caribou herd that is a protected area, to observe bears in their natural habitat, to observe the coyotes in their natural habitat, but to see the pristine wilderness that we have and the protected areas that we have, and to know that we as a people are protecting that culture. Yes, sure, we are developing oil and gas, we are doing all the modern things that have to be done in a modern society, and the things that of course are necessary in order for us to provide the social benefits and the things that have to be done in our Province from an infrastructure perspective.

We do have this magnificent land; this place that has been described as a marvellous, terrible place, I think by one poet. I cannot think of the author who did it. It is truly an extraordinary place, and we are all very, very privileged – I consider myself very privileged to be Premier of this great Province, but we are all very privileged to represent all of these districts and the people of this Province. I know that certainly the Member for Labrador – that is a whole other experience. The Big Land is just a tremendous experience. I am hoping to get up in a couple of weeks and do some salmon fishing up in your district, so I am sure I will be well received there, as I always have. We do - and I do not want to belabour it, but I do want to build on what the Lieutenant-Governor said.

The other thing is an event occurred here last week in my absence - and actually, before I even deal with this particular comment, while I was in Russia at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum representing the Province, we had an opportunity to see and hear from the best in the world on the whole global economic situation. What is really interesting is that the rest of the world is troubled. The rest of the world is actually concerned about where they are. When I am talking about the rest of the world, I am talking about major countries, like the U.K., France, Germany, the EU generally, and of course, we were in Russia. One of the comments that was made is probably the second country that is probably in the biggest trouble in the entire world is Britain. Now, it just came as a complete shock to me when I heard it, because we know the trouble that Greece is having, Ireland and Spain and Portugal, but Britain is going through a very, very difficult.

From our perspective in Newfoundland and Labrador, I think for the first time, and I am not standing to take credit for this, I am standing to say on behalf of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, that I think we are in a really privileged position at this particular point in our development. We are in a bubble. I think we are in a protected bubble. The world situation is deteriorating. There is a lot of debt there, but one comment was made that the debt that is been incurred during the last twelve to eighteen months in order to get the world through the recession will not be corrected until 2030. A huge, staggering statement that it is going to take that long for the rest of the world to get up to speed. However, when I look at what is happening here in Newfoundland and Labrador, the fact that we do have our debt reduced, the fact that we have our pension funds under control, the fact that we have reduced taxes, the fact that we are doing things which countries that do not have the benefits that we have, that do not have the natural resources that we have – and that is in the area of research, development and innovation.

That is an area we are now moving in. It is a very, very important area that we have to address and this government is committed to putting that money into that research. That is why the experience that I had yesterday was an incredible experience, but it goes to show the importance of using those monies in the proper areas so that we can prepare for the future at a time when the oil and gas is gone. Hopefully by that time, we will have moved from a non-renewable energy Province to a renewable energy Province and we will have use the monies from one to move to another.

The other point which I wanted to make quite briefly is the news story that came in Reuters yesterday. It opened up by saying, "Newfoundland and Labrador has come a long way since staggering deficits only a few years ago..." The most important quote is one that was also reported in the VOCM News, was a quote by Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of Canada, who was in town last week for the NOIA conference. I was not here to hear him, but I heard of his comments in Reuters - actually, a worldwide, international news agency reported this. Mr. Carney said, "The economic forecast for this province is very promising… the rest of Canada would fare well using Newfoundland and Labrador as an economic example." That is a huge, huge statement.

Mr. Speaker, I am not here to take personal credit. What I do want to do is thank the members of my Cabinet, members of my caucus, and the members of the Opposition for their contribution in making us a better government through your questions, through your inquiries, through any attempts that you have made whatsoever to probe to get more information.

This statement, made by the Governor of the Bank of Canada, is a statement for which the people of Newfoundland and Labrador should be very, very proud. To say that our little Province, the tenth Province, one of thirteen jurisdictions, who was always considered the poor sister, the economically weak sister of Confederation, is now an example for the rest of the country is huge. So I think the people of Newfoundland and Labrador should be very, very proud of where we are at this particular point in our evolution. That does not mean, though, that we want to just try to stay the course and that we sit back and we rest on our laurels. I think we have to keep driving it and keep moving forward.

Having said all of that, Mr. Speaker, with regard to the last session, as I understand from the Government House Leader, it equals the record longest session of the House, so any criticism the hon. members opposite have about us not sitting around here long enough, we can stay for another couple of months, if you want to. I extend the invitation. I understand it is gruelling. I understand it is difficult, for all members of the House, quite frankly, but there were days when the Tories had three people in Opposition. I am sure Mr. Harris remembers those days. It is not easy, and they do understand that. At that particular point in time I was much younger, a political supporter, but I saw the hard work that the Opposition did. I want to give full credit to the Opposition, to the Liberal Leader, the Government House Leader as well, the Leader of the Party. I wish you well in the leadership, the upcoming leadership. You will probably be the only candidate. If they are smart, that is what the party will do, but having said that, I certainly wish you well.

From a perspective of the manner in which the House was conducted, there are going to be decorum issues, nerves are going to get frayed, but again, I refer to Mr. Harris, you watched a lot of sessions in this particular House, I was here as a clerk at that table a long, long time ago. It is part of the parliamentary process. People may say what they want and people may criticize, and people may say that young people who sit in the galleries are wondering what is going on, but that is the process. If you look at the British Parliament, if you look at the Canadian Parliament, you sit in the gallery in most of the provincial parliaments across this country, there is banter that goes on but it stays here, and when we leave here then that is where it stays.

I do want to thank the members of the Opposition. I do want to thank the Leader of the New Democratic Party for input. You are there all by yourself. I know that cannot be easy. There is not another shoulder to lean on at some point in time when you want to get a rest or you want to get a break. It is not an easy job, but I thank you for your questions. I thank you for the manner in which you conduct yourself in the House throughout, and it is appreciated. We realize the democratic process, we realize the adversarial process that happens here, but at the end of the day, it ends up with us getting the kind of endorsement that we got from the Governor of the Bank of Canada, which I feel is really, really significant.

I want to thank my government. I want to thank the Government House Leader particularly, for thirty or thirty-one pieces of legislation this time around. The longest session of the House. I think the session extended over twelve weeks. It does not add up to twelve weeks but it did extend over a period of twelve weeks, if we count the partial weeks. That is a long haul. That is not easy on anyone. Ministers are away from their departments. They have work to do in their departments and very, very important business. So if it does not get done here between 1:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. or in the evening sessions, some of which can go late, then it has to done on the weekends or in the nighttime. So I certainly appreciate that. I want to thank all my fellow ministers. I want to thank all my fellow members of the House who have made a contribution from time to time. It was probably conspicuous in my absence but I can tell you, I was working to the best of my ability and I must say I am very, very proud of what we have all achieved as a group.

I do want to thank the Speaker, a tough job. It is not an easy job at all but you are the referee, and that is exactly as I see it. You probably should wear a striped shirt, Mr. Speaker, but having said that, to try and control the banter that happens between us is not an easy job. You conduct yourself in an impartial way and I certainly appreciate that. You bring decorum to the House. We take it away and you bring it back. So at the end of the process, I think it serves the people of the Province very, very well.

I want to thank the Table Officials, the Clerk and the Law Clerks for your contribution. I realize to have to sit there day after day and listen to us sometimes cannot be very, very easy. Again, the House flows very well and we certainly thank you for your contribution.

To the Pages who are constantly on their feet and run back and forth and keep us full of water and keep us full of paper and everything else, I just want to thank you so much. Certainly, I want you to know that it is appreciated. I think in later life you will find that it will be a very good experience. You may sit back sometimes again and shake your head and wonder, but you do it with respect. I have not seen you do it openly or blatantly but you probably go in behind the Speaker there and just kind of shake your head back and forth.

To the members of the RNC and of course the Sergeant-at-Arms, again, thank you very much for your oversight and for taking care of us and also for the security personnel and commissioners here who take care of the galleries. Obviously, from time to time there are people who come into our galleries with very, very legitimate complaints and protests, people who are on strike, people who have been on strike or out of work for extended periods of time, but overall, we have to sit here, we have to answer, we have to face the people. I think that is why this is a good process that people are able to come to the galleries, and again, young people are able to come in and see exactly how a Legislature works. I think that is a good thing. Again, I want to thank everybody for making sure that it is a civil place; that it is a place where people can come.

As well, the media – again, the media have been very fair to us. I bite my tongue when I say that, but as a government, they have a job to do. I guess at times they have to be critical. I hope they are never critical for the sake of criticism. When, in fact, we disagree with some of the things that are said, of course we will take issue with it. We will do it either publicly or privately, but we will do it as we have a right to do so. Of course, there is the right - freedom of speech and freedom of the press, they also have a right of course to cast their opinions, and again, an attempt to make sure that government is inline, and we appreciate that. That is part of it. We do not necessarily always agree with what they have to say but we certainly agree with the process.

The staff at Hansard, the staff at the Broadcast Centre, the Library staff, I want to thank you all. Again, this has been a long session for everybody. It is like the last day of school, if we had caps on and we were graduating we would all throw them up in the air.

I want to thank our chief spectator and cheerleader there, he is non-partisan. He just sits there and he listens but you should write a book some time. I am sure it would be an interesting read and be certainly very much appreciated by anybody who has had the honour and the privilege to sit in this House.

So, having said all that, I went on a little longer but the Lieutenant-Governor sort of gave me a lead in with regard to the Province and how we feel about this great Province. I have to tell you, yesterday, for me, was a unique lifetime experience and I hope - I would encourage anybody, whoever gets an opportunity as members of this House, to do that and to get out and see and truly appreciate what a great land we live in and what a great land we represent.

Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


The Cupids celebrations, 400th Anniversary celebrations - I want to make sure everybody has a great summer and you spend time in your districts and get a chance to get around the Province, but this is a very special celebration. This is the oldest English colony in North America. It is equivalent, in my opinion, to the Quebec City celebrations that were held just two years ago or a year ago. Get out there, it is in the middle of August. Make sure you spend some time out there, but it is really worthwhile being there and being part of it. I know, Roland, I am going to see you out there. So we will see you there and at the Blueberry Festival.

Take care.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home