ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Mr. Gary Doer (Leader of the Opposition): Madam Speaker, on August 29, 1994, the Premier announced in a press release the arrangements for Faneuil and the contributions from the provincial government to the Faneuil deal. This was a deal, of course, negotiated by one of his principal staff, Mr. Mike Bessey, and it failed to disclose that $3 million in public subsidies would be made to this agreement with the Faneuil corporation.
In light of the recent announcements by the provincial government on disclosure, why did this Premier fail to disclose a $3-million public subsidy to the Faneuil corporation, and will this government in the future be required to disclose all financial information and all subsidies for private companies pursuant to their so-called commitment to disclosure?
Hon. Gary Filmon (Premier): Madam Speaker, I am not aware of any subsidies to which the member is referring. I am not sure that he is presenting the situation as it exists.
Mr. Doer: Madam Speaker, it begs the question again whether Mr. Bessey, the $400,000 Harvard person, informed the Premier of this subsidy or not, because I will quote from May 10, Public Accounts, where the Provincial Auditor says--and I am sure the Minister of Finance is now alerting the Premier (Mr. Filmon) to this fact--where the Provincial Auditor states that, yes, there is a $3-million subsidy, a subsidy that was arranged through the Manitoba Trading Corporation, through a licence that they signed for $10. In fact, the Auditor has confirmed what we alleged last December, that there was a $3-million subsidy.
How can we believe the Premier in terms of his new-found commitment to disclosure when we have deals like the Faneuil deal where the government launders money through the Trading Corporation and fails to inform the public as the Auditor has identified in his statement?
Hon. Eric Stefanson (Minister of Finance): Madam Speaker, all aspects of the Faneuil arrangement were made public at the time of the announcement. This is not a new issue; this has been discussed before. It reflects the net present value of the debt that has been converted from Manitoba Telephone System to Faneuil, and that debt I believe is generating a return effective immediately as a result of the conversion to Faneuil servicing that debt as opposed to Manitoba Telephone System.
Operating Loss Agreement
Mr. Gary Doer (Leader of the Opposition): I defy the Premier to identify the $3-million subsidy statement in his press release of August 29, 1994. I defy him to identify where he disclosed that to the public.
I would like to ask a further question to the Premier. The Premier signed an operating loss agreement with the Winnipeg Jets back in 1991, where he informed all Manitobans that this would cost us about $5 million over the life of the agreement. In that operating loss agreement, under Section 12.12, the Premier signed a gag order dealing with the salaries of the CEO of the hockey club, one Mr. Barry Shenkarow.
How can the public again trust this Premier on full disclosure of salaries when he signed a gag order under the operating loss agreement and prohibited the public from knowing how much we the public are paying Mr. Shenkarow under his agreement signed in 1991?
Hon. Gary Filmon (Premier): Madam Speaker, the public knows exactly how much money is being paid to the Winnipeg Jets Hockey Club, exactly how much money is being paid to that hockey club. The fact of the matter is it is no different than in the legislation in which we disclose the payments that are made to doctors and to lawyers for legal aid, and that does not say what their salaries are because everybody knows that out of that they have to pay their office expenses, they have to pay for nurses, for support staff, they have to pay for receptionists and for everything else. It is the total dollars that are paid to them that is disclosed. It is the total dollars that are paid to the Winnipeg Hockey Club that are disclosed as well, and it is all public information.
Manitoba Telephone System
Mr. Steve Ashton (Thompson): It is becoming increasingly clear that this Conservative government cannot be trusted with the public assets of the province, whether it be MTS or Manitoba Public Insurance or Manitoba Hydro. I would particularly like to ask some questions to the government, which in the case of MTS, as was indicated yesterday, where we now have a massive advertising campaign being conducted by government that never once held any public meetings or any public consultation with Manitobans over the future of MTS.
I would like to ask, now that the Minister responsible for MTS is here, exactly how much money is being spent on advertising, and who was involved in putting that advertising together?
Mr. Glen Findlay (Minister responsible for the administration of The Manitoba Telephone Act): Madam Speaker, the member, I am sure, is fully aware that the public is very much in favour of what is being proposed by the government to deal with the circumstances that telecommunications face, not only in Manitoba, right across the country.
Manitoba Telephone System consistently does advertising to promote itself. It is in competition to over 70 percent of its revenue base. It is important that they inform Manitobans about their industry and the positive opportunities that exist for its industry, and part of the recapitalization is part of that process.
Mr. Ashton: Perhaps the minister would like to attend some of the public meetings we are arranging throughout the province and see what Manitobans really have to say about their plans to sell off MTS.
Madam Speaker, for the minister--and this is in regard to advertising that specifically uses the same wording that this government used when it announced the privatization of MTS. I want to ask how much money is being spent, where is it coming from and who is putting these ads together which are nothing more than propaganda pieces for the privatization agenda of this government?
Mr. Findlay: Madam Speaker, in the process of trying to determine how MTS will be recapitalized, eight firms were asked for proposal calls. Three firms were determined to be the people who should do the analysis. They have been engaged to do the analysis and in turn hired people to do the media work.
Mr. Ashton: I will try again, Madam Speaker. How much money, which I assume is coming from the ratepayers of Manitoba, is being spent on this propaganda-style advertising campaign that is nothing more than an attempt by this government that has no mandate to sell off MTS, to try and push its own agenda with the public of Manitoba at the expense of the ratepayers of MTS? How much are they spending on that advertising campaign?
Mr. Findlay: Madam Speaker, part of the advertising initiative of MTS, this program is part of it, and the investment advisers that were employed and are being paid to do their work in turn contracted with media people to do the media component of it.
An Honourable Member: Who?
An Honourable Member: How much?
Mr. Findlay: You will have to ask them. I am not aware of that information. It is part of the initial contract which they did on a subcontract basis.
Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation
Mr. Jim Maloway (Elmwood): Madam Speaker, my question is to the minister in charge of the Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation.
Yesterday it was revealed that in 1992 and '93, well before the election, the MPIC had failed six of eight crucial solvency tests, and yet the minister still went ahead with the rate reductions for election purposes. Can the minister confirm that the board of directors would receive copies of the actuarial reports?
Hon. Glen Cummings (Minister charged with the administration of the Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation Act): Madam Speaker, the member neatly ignores the fact that the TRAC organization, in the report that he is so anxious to quote, includes a disclaimer in its references to publicly owned Crown corporation insurance companies because they run at cost for the service of the public and they do not need to set aside the same number of reserves for the profit of the shareholders. I cannot understand why it is that he believes he wants a 30 percent increase in the rates so he can have the reserves he is worried about.
Mr. Maloway: The minister did not listen to the question. The question was, can the minister confirm that the board of directors would get the copies of the reports from the actuary? We want to know who gets the actuarial reports.
Mr. Cummings: Madam Speaker, they work their way up through the organization, and if the member wants a chronology on how they would flow through the organization, I will be more than pleased to provide that.
He continues to ignore the fact that private insurance companies return about 76 percent of their premiums back to their customers in terms of claims monies paid out. In this case, a publicly owned firm does not need to build up the reserves which are taken out of that next 25 percent. Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation is able to return at least 90 percent, and with the earnings from the interest on their reserves are even able to exceed that. It is just ridiculous that he believes differently.
Mr. Maloway: Madam Speaker, the minister has been the minister for eight years and he expects the public to believe that no one gets these actuarial reports. Nobody wants to admit that they get them.
I would like to ask the minister, can the minister confirm that Mr. Peter Wintemute, who sits on the audit committee plus the executive committee of the board and has been a long-time business partner of the Premier (Mr. Filmon), has he received copies of the actuarial reports, and if he does not get them, who does?
Mr. Cummings: Madam Speaker, the list of directors is a public list. I mean, let us begin with that premise. Secondly, the member should not imply that no one is reviewing the actuarial reports. They are an important aspect of the operation of the corporation. That is exactly the information that is placed in front of the Public Utilities Board. I mean, how much more public can it get?
Mr. Maloway: I have a new question to the same minister. Yesterday this minister confirmed that David J. Oakden with Tillinghast in Toronto is the actuary who worked on the $49-million provision for the tort losses. What I would like to know is where do the reports go from this man? We cannot pin this government down. This government has been sitting on these reports, sitting on the financial statements and refuses to tell us who gets these reports. If the board does not get them, who does?
Mr. Cummings: Madam Speaker, the internal actuaries work with the outside contracted experts to develop the forecasts for the required funding of the exposure that the corporation has, and of course the information flows up through the corporation. I do not understand why he thinks it would not. Of course it flows up through the corporation, and it is put in front of the Public Utilities Board. I mean that is--
An Honourable Member: Every year.
Mr. Cummings: --every year, the opportunity for the public and anyone else including the members of the opposition, but they do not normally attend the Public Utilities Board hearing.
Reductions--Impact on Diabetics
Mr. Dave Chomiak (Kildonan): Madam Speaker, the Canadian Diabetes Association has launched a campaign, a letter-writing campaign as well as a card campaign, asking the government to stop its Pharmacare changes. In fact, they say, and I quote: The recently announced changes to Pharmacare will put many Manitobans with diabetes in a very difficult and dangerous position, and this program of cutting Pharmacare will raise the risk of life-threatening complications and will be devastating on the people who have diabetes.
Madam Speaker, since people with diabetes have a two to five times percent higher rate of medical costs than other Manitobans and since the rate of diabetes in Manitobans is up by 16,000 since 1986, can the minister show us any reports or studies that justify your cuts to Pharmacare and the dangerous impact it is going to have on diabetes, anything that you did before you made this massive cut to Pharmacare?
Hon. James McCrae (Minister of Health): Madam Speaker, I do not need any report to tell me that it is the right thing to do to protect people who need protection most and to provide them with the highest level of protection. Does the honourable member suggest that we pay millions of dollars to their friends over there at Price Waterhouse, or something like that, to tell us we should or should not protect people who need protection the most? Those who have highest drug usage and those who have the lowest incomes are the ones who get the most protection under the new Pharmacare system.
Mr. Chomiak: Madam Speaker, perhaps the minister can tell me where he is coming from on this when in fact the Diabetes Association says this could cost potentially $5.5 billion, to people with diabetes, in health care costs as a result of the government reducing the lower cost pharmaceutical care as opposed to putting people in hospital who are getting more complicated treatment. Does the minister realize that Pharmacare and these drug costs and these other things decrease the cost and improve the value of life, not increase costs?
Mr. McCrae: Madam Speaker, yes, we realize that the appropriate use of prescription drugs can have all kinds of positive implications for patients and people with diabetes, people with other conditions that require prescription drugs. Again, I say to the honourable member, the program takes greatest account of those who need large amounts of prescription drugs and also those who are at the lower end of the income spectrum are the ones who get the greatest benefit. What is the honourable member's problem?
Mr. Chomiak: Madam Speaker, my problem is the same as other Manitobans and the Canadian Diabetes Association: To get the minister to explain why--
Madam Speaker: Order, please.
Mr. Chomiak: Thank you. My question for the minister is, why did the minister not talk with the diabetic association or other Manitobans with chronic illnesses before he put in place this dangerous and devastating--to quote the Diabetes Association--policy of cutting these therapeutic drugs that help prevent illness?
Mr. McCrae: No one is cutting anybody's opportunity to access required prescription drugs, Madam Speaker. In fact, those who need greater amounts of prescription drugs get more protection; those who have lower incomes get more protection under the new program. It fits very nicely into the concepts that the honourable member for Radisson (Ms. Cerilli) and I discussed a week and a half ago.
Mr. Gary Kowalski (The Maples): Madam Speaker, the members of the Liberal Party believe that the vast majority of kids in Manitoba are good. Today, 200 students from Maples Collegiate marched to the Legislature to raise awareness about the problems of racism. This is not an untypical type of action by the youth of Manitoba, yet this government wants to feed the misconception that the kids of today are out of control and running wild and it is the parents fault.
My question is for the Premier. Does he believe that the youth crime is caused by the acts or omissions of parents? Is he saying that whenever a kid commits a crime it is because of bad parenting?
Hon. Gary Filmon (Premier): No, Madam Speaker.
Minister of Justice Responsibility
Mr. Gary Kowalski (The Maples): Will he use the same criteria of making parents responsible to make his Justice minister responsible for the damage done by her charges in the recent Headingley riot?
Hon. Gary Filmon (Premier): Madam Speaker, I think that is a facetious question and I do not think it ought to be answered.
Mr. Gary Kowalski (The Maples): Is his government willing to put as much effort into helping families prevent crimes rather than trying to help victims after crimes have been committed?
Hon. Gary Filmon (Premier): Madam Speaker, the answer, of course, is yes, but is he suggesting that it is wrong for us to do things to help the victims of crime?
Children and Youth Secretariat
Ms. Marianne Cerilli (Radisson): Madam Speaker, during the election, the Plan Manitoba--the Filmon election promises--identified the Child and Youth Secretariat as one positive step toward improving the quality and accountability of Child and Family Services. We know that $144,000 has been budgeted for the operating of the secretariat and we also know that additional monies are going to be redirected from at least five other departments.
I want to ask the Minister of Family Services, since the Minister of Health (Mr. McCrae), during Estimates, acknowledged that money has been identified from the Department of Health for the Youth Secretariat, will she tell us where this money is coming from and how much money will be reallocated from the Department of Health?
Hon. Bonnie Mitchelson (Minister of Family Services): Madam Speaker, I thank my honourable friend for that question, because it was under this government's initiative that we looked at co-ordination of services among departments so we were not working in isolation of each other and that different departments and different programs were not dealing with different pieces of children and families. As a result of the Children and Youth Secretariat being put in place, we now have co-operation, we now have information on the kinds of dollars that are being spent in different areas providing services to families and children.
We will, as we continue to identify where the overlap and duplication is, look at streamlining the service and ensuring that the dollars are going in the best manner possible to meet the needs of those families and those children who need our support.
Ms. Cerilli: Madam Speaker, the minister did not answer the question for the Department of Health. Perhaps she will answer the question for the Department of Education since, during the Estimates, the Minister of Education (Mrs. McIntosh) directed me to ask this question of the Minister of Family Services.
Will she tell the House how much money will be redirected from the Department of Education for the Youth Secretariat in this province?
Mrs. Mitchelson: Again, I thank my honourable friend for that question because, as we develop new ways of delivering service in a more co-ordinated approach, the dollars will move between departments. A prime example was the initiative that was undertaken for those who have medical problems in our school system and there was money taken from the Department of Health. It was $650,000. Madam Speaker, $200,000 came to the Department of Family Services to Children's Special Services to train paraprofessionals in providing support to students who did not need medical procedures performed and another $400,000 was redirected from the Department of Health to the Department of Education so that those with expertise in delivering medical services to children in need in the school system would be delivered by those professionals.
So, Madam Speaker, as we identify those issues, money will be redirected interdepartmentally to deal with the issues.
Ms. Cerilli: Madam Speaker, can the minister tell the House if the time line for the Youth Secretariat plans is on schedule when it says that 2 percent of existing approved resources from five departments should be identified by January 1996? Is that on target, and how much money has been identified from each of those departments?
Mrs. Mitchelson: Again, I thank my honourable friend for that question, because it does provide me with the opportunity to say that the Children and Youth Secretariat has been doing very valuable work, and there are five different steering committees--[interjection] Madam Speaker--
Madam Speaker: Order, please.
Mrs. Mitchelson: Thank you, Madam Speaker, because I did listen very carefully to the question and I would appreciate the same kind of consideration from the opposition when I am trying to respond to the question.
As I indicated earlier and as I will say again today, the secretariat has developed five priority areas. They have five steering committees that are doing their work presently. We are anticipating or expecting that the work of those steering committees, which are comprised of members of the community plus employees of government, are trying to deal with the issues of high priority that we have identified.
Madam Speaker, as that work is completed and as those committees report, we will then be able to determine how the monies can be allocated.
Red River Community College
Youth Care Worker Program
Madam Speaker: The honourable member for Burrows.
Mr. Doug Martindale (Burrows): Thank you, Madam Speaker, for recognizing me for a question because it gives me the opportunity to remind the Minister of Family Services that on at least five separate occasions since June 1, 1992, her government has promised a full-time youth care worker training program at Red River College and as recently as June 26, 1995, she indicated the program could be up and running by January '96.
Given that the Youth Secretariat, the Children's Advocate, the government's own Suche report, the Child and Youth Care Workers Association of Manitoba, both associations of the operators of residential settings and Red River Community College support the two-year program, is there a reason why this government does not want people working with high risk children to have basic pre-service training?
Hon. Bonnie Mitchelson (Minister of Family Services): Madam Speaker, in the spirit of co-operation I do thank my honourable friend for that question, but I do want to indicate to him that I believe I probably thanked him through the Estimates process when he asked that same question. I think, if I remember correctly--
Some Honourable Members: Oh, oh.
Madam Speaker: Order, please. The honourable Minister of Family Services, to complete her response.
Mrs. Mitchelson: Very briefly, I think I committed to my honourable friend that we are anticipating a start-up date of September of this year.
Mr. Martindale: Can the minister provide some assurance that it is actually going to happen in September since we have had repeated promises by this government to start in September? What is different about the Estimates process this year from last year, and when is she going to come through and deliver this program?
Mrs. Mitchelson: Soon.
Mr. Martindale: Does this minister expect us and the youth care workers to believe this government when they have repeatedly promised this program or does she want people to get certification with no pre-employment training? What assurances can she give that there actually will be a program in September?
Mrs. Mitchelson: Madam Speaker, all I can say to my honourable friend is, trust me.
Ms. Diane McGifford (Osborne): Madam Speaker, today approximately 500 women who are marching to Ottawa to protest the poverty of Canadian women will arrive in Winnipeg. These women, I understand, have been denied permission to set up their tents on the west side of the Legislature grounds, although let it be granted, they, believing that the grounds are public property, did not formally request permission, or so I understand.
I want to ask the Minister of Government Services if it is necessary to obtain official permission to tent on the Legislature grounds and if all past tenting groups have obtained this permission.
Hon. Brian Pallister (Minister of Government Services): Madam Speaker, this may come as news to members opposite, but the Legislative grounds function in a wide variety of ways to serve the people of this province, and I think it would be inappropriate of me to not welcome the wagon train to our province and say hello to the tourists who have come here and thank them for coming here on their way to Ottawa. But I do want to point out to members opposite that though it is many things to Manitobans, it is not a campground.
Ms. McGifford: Given that past groups have indeed camped on the grounds of the Legislature, will the minister now take the high road, honour the spirit rather than the letter of the law and allow these women, who are working to overcome poverty and promote economic justice, to set up their tents, just as the federal government has promised to do in Ottawa?
Mr. Pallister: This particular question, I believe, sets a new low in revealing the feeble-minded attempt of members opposite to garner attention for themselves at the expense of others.
Point of Order
Mr. Steve Ashton (Opposition House Leader): On a point of order, Madam Speaker, the question that was asked was very straightforward. On Parliament Hill the women who were protesting against poverty had been given permission to camp and the question was why this minister, who in his arrogance obviously shows no concern for this issue, will not give the same opportunity to those women to camp on the Legislative grounds that has been given to many other people in the past. Why is this minister not listening?
Some Honourable Members: Oh, oh.
Madam Speaker: Order, please. I would remind all honourable members that this House now is degenerating to the same extent it degenerated most recently which was most appalling and disgusting to the public at large. I would suggest that all members pick and choose their words most carefully.
The honourable Minister of Government Services--order, please. There is no room for name-calling in this Chamber.
An Honourable Member: Then look at the Minister . . . .
Madam Speaker: I am looking at both--order, please. On the point of order raised by the honourable member for Thompson, I would caution the honourable member for Thompson not to name call and call people arrogant and other such terms. I would also remind--order, please. I am not finished my ruling.
Order, please. I would remind the honourable Minister of Government Services to pick and choose his words carefully and to respond to the question asked.
* * *
Mr. Pallister: Thank you, Madam Speaker. I believe in terms of tolerance for others' views, this government and certainly my department and my staff have illustrated their tolerance repeatedly. For example, over the last month with regard to the home care strike, our staff worked in co-operation with those who were freely expressing their views. Though they were contrary to the views of many, they were their views and I respect that fact. Our department again is working--[interjection]
Madam Speaker: Order, please.
Mr. Pallister: We are away ahead of the members opposite on this. It appears that they are not aware that we have been working in co-operation with those people who have travelled to our province for their protest and that they are in fact going to be camping on Legislative grounds, and that they are presently set up and will be continuing to set up on Legislative property at Memorial Park. So we accommodate these people. We continue to accommodate them despite what members opposite may say. Their protests come out of ignorance yet again.
Point of Order
Mr. Steve Ashton (Opposition House Leader): On a point of order, Madam Speaker, I used the word arrogant in reference to the Minister of Government Services, and I would like to ask for your ruling whether Beauchesne's Citation 490, which indicates that arrogant has been ruled parliamentary, applies or indeed whether we are setting a new precedent in this province. I chose my words very carefully and the word arrogant is not unparliamentary, and I believe it does apply to the kind of approach taken by this minister in calling our member and members on this side feeble-minded and making other condescending comments. So I would like to ask for a ruling on whether arrogant is now being ruled as unparliamentary when indeed it has been parliamentary.
Madam Speaker: On the point of order, I will take the point of order under advisement to review exactly what was said and the context and tone with which it was said.
I believe, on the original point of order raised by the honourable member for Thompson, I indicated to him that he should pick and choose his words carefully. I also cautioned the honourable Minister of Government Services to pick and choose his words carefully and to respond to the question asked.
* * *
Ms. McGifford: Madam Speaker, I ask the Minister of Family Services (Mrs Mitchelson), who is responsible for social services and who is well acquainted with the economic struggles of Manitoba women, if she will advocate for these women and attempt to persuade the Minister of Government Services to give them their place on the Legislative grounds, the place where they wish to be.
Mr. Pallister: The member opposite may not be aware of some of the shortcomings that the Legislative grounds offer in terms of providing camping facilities for Manitobans or for tourists, but the Legislative grounds are not able to accommodate, with safety and with reasonable protection, the people who choose to camp here.
So in the best interests of those who would choose to try to seek media attention, which is a legitimate and honourable intention, I am sure, of the caravan that is travelling across our country, it would not be in their best interests, nor in the best interests of the children who are with them, to be exposed to the excessive amount of traffic that is in this facility, the inability to access washrooms on a 24-hour basis, and the lack of electrical hookups.
There are practical and good common-sense reasons why people do not choose to come here and camp out. This is not a campground. Neither is Memorial Park, for that matter, but it does have better services for those people and does give them the visibility they seek. I think it is a good solution for these people, but I would urge future people who wish to come to the Legislature to camp to choose one of our many qualified campgrounds in this province.
Manitoba Telephone System
Mr. Daryl Reid (Transcona): How a government treats its least fortunate citizens is an important message to all in our society. Mr. Roger Page, 49 years old, had worked for MTS for twenty-one and a half years until he was laid off last fall. Mr. Page is disabled with multiple sclerosis, since 1984, and has not taken a sick day in the last nine years.
I want to ask the Minister responsible for MTS to tell Manitobans what message he is sending to our communities and to people with disabilities when he laid off Mr. Page and then replaced him with an ISM contract employee.
Hon. Glen Findlay (Minister responsible for the administration of The Manitoba Telephone Act): Madam Speaker, MTS handles its employee relations. It has agreements through union contracts and my understanding is they are following those agreements in the process of dealing with their employee circumstances.
Mr. Reid: On behalf of Mr. Page, I want to ask the Premier, did the Premier not say during the last provincial general election that cuts would not be made at the expense of the disabled, the sick and the elderly in our society? Did the Premier not say that last year in the provincial general election campaign?
Hon. Gary Filmon (Premier): Madam Speaker, I am not aware of the concerns and conditions that prevail at the Manitoba Telephone System in making this decision, and I certainly could not be in a position to respond to that specific question.
Mr. Reid: Well, then, I want to take my question back to the Minister responsible for the Manitoba Telephone System.
What can this minister offer to Mr. Page, who has lost his job, who has lost his long-term disability insurance, lost his life insurance, lost his dental plan, lost his accrual on his pension benefits, together with a very bleak employment prospect future? What can he offer to Mr. Page?
Mr. Findlay: Madam Speaker, on behalf of Mr. Page, I will review it with MTS to see what all the details are and see if there is any other process they could use.
Brandon General Hospital
Mr. Leonard Evans (Brandon East): Madam Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Health.
About a year ago, our Minister of Health publicly stated in Brandon, and it was reported in the Brandon Sun, that he would personally ensure that the Brandon General Hospital would be able to offer laparoscopy services. This has not yet occurred, and I now learn that the Department of Health has indicated to the hospital that funds would not be forthcoming for this purpose.
I want to ask the minister, can he tell us why he has reneged on a public promise to provide funds to the Brandon General Hospital for these services?
Hon. James McCrae (Minister of Health): Madam Speaker, Brandon General Hospital has a proud history of service to the people of western Manitoba and will have a proud history of service to the people of western Manitoba certainly for as long as the honourable member is going to be around and many other people as well, including future generations.
I will take the specifics of the laparoscopy question as notice for the honourable member and get back to him.
Speech Therapy Services
Mr. Leonard Evans (Brandon East): Madam Speaker, I wonder if the minister could indicate whether monies or funds will be forthcoming for speech therapy services at Brandon General Hospital so it can continue to offer this very important service, this very important program, that many people in Westman are concerned about.
Hon. James McCrae (Minister of Health): Madam Speaker, this question has been asked and answered. However, I will repeat that, should Brandon General Hospital wish to go ahead with a proposal to remove speech therapy services from its facility, those services have to be available somewhere else in the community before I would agree.
Mr. Leonard Evans: Madam Speaker, because of continued uncertainty around this question and because of the many organizations, including parents, teachers and many groups who are writing to me and I am sure the honourable minister, can he make a definitive statement and guarantee to the Westman community that indeed speech therapy services will be maintained in the Brandon community so that the parents, the children and everyone affected and adults affected will have the proper communication therapy services?
Mr. McCrae: I have done that many times over the past number of weeks and do so again today.
Mr. Tim Sale (Crescentwood): Madam Speaker, the Minister of Finance made commitments in the Public Accounts committee in an agreement reached in committee and a letter which I will table, the amended paragraph agreed to in the meeting of April 16. During the House the other day, the minister indicated that he was breaking that agreement.
I want to ask him why, after a very good discussion and a very frank discussion that was well thought of by all of those in attendance, he does not think it is important enough to honour his agreement to continue to meet with Public Accounts so that we can deal with 1994-95, get them passed and get current on this very important issue.
Hon. Eric Stefanson (Minister of Finance): Madam Speaker, the member for Crescentwood and I discussed this just the other day. I am not breaking any agreement. I hope he is tabling both the original letter he sent to me and then a revised paragraph that I provided to him that he agreed with that outlined very clearly how we would function. I do not believe that we functioned that way entirely. We have made some progress, I will acknowledge. We have had two reasonably constructive meetings, dealt with a series of issues, cleared some reports off the books, but we did not live up to the full and complete intent of our agreement.
Madam Speaker: Time for Oral Questions has expired.