Provincial and Territorial Update – February 9, 2024

An overview of the Provincial Legislative and Territories Legislative Updates for the week of February 9, 2024.​ Written by Wes McLean.

New Brunswick

  • The New Brunswick Court of Appeal says it will rule Monday on whether it can fill a legal “gap” created by a legislative mistake that accidentally repealed child-protection sections of a provincial law. The panel of three justices suggested during arguments Friday morning that they accept the government’s argument that they can look at what the legislature’s intentions were when MLAs passed the flawed bill — and that those intentions were clear. 
  • New Brunswick’s ombud says she agrees with a national survey that ranks the province’s right-to-information act among the weakest in the country. Marie-France Pelletier told a committee of MLAs on Thursday that she plans to make recommendations to the government on how the act can be improved to ensure the public has more access to information.
  • New Brunswick’s Progressive Conservative Party is applauding the possibility N.B. Power may not be able to raise electricity rates as planned on April 1 even though that may cost the utility $32.6 million in revenue it needs to reach financial targets set for it by the Progressive Conservative government. “Who would you rather see get the $32.6M? N.B. Power? Or N.B. Families?” the PC party posted on its social media platforms Tuesday about the potential for a delayed rate increase.
  • The New Brunswick government is searching for a location for a new treatment facility as part of plans to double its capacity and address a growing drug addiction crisis. In his State of the Province address, Premier Blaine Higgs promised an additional 50 beds for treatment for adults, arguing addiction is one of the root causes of a growing homelessness crisis. Advocates for those struggling with addiction say those spots are desperately needed as New Brunswick cities see a rise in visible substance use, overdose calls and drug-related deaths.

Nova Scotia

  • The Nova Scotia government is taking another step to try to clear the backlog in the province’s court system by creating a new bail court. The court was announced Thursday by Justice Minister Brad Johns. Provincial court judges will preside over bail matters during regular business hours while justices of the peace, which are lawyers appointed to oversee certain criminal law matters, will preside after hours as needed.
  • Opponents of the Cooke Aquaculture salmon farm expansion in Liverpool Bay got a morale boost this week from Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston, who says he is opposed to the controversial project which would triple the number of salmon in the area and add two more fish farm sites. Houston added the final decision will come from an independent regulator hearing the merits next month.
  • Opposition leaders say the public deserves more information about delays related to several major healthcare construction projects in Nova Scotia. “If these projects are going to continue to be delayed, the government has a responsibility to tell people why and what the updated timelines are,” Liberal Leader Zach Churchill told reporters in Halifax on Thursday. “All of their efforts, all of their attention politically is on getting these announcements done and then there’s no follow-up after that.”
  • People living in five tent encampment sites in Halifax are being ordered to leave in the coming weeks, with the municipality warning they could be fined or even arrested if they don’t comply. The municipality is closing five of 11 designated sites, saying better options are now available for the people living in those tents. Residents must be out by Feb. 26. Notices were posted Wednesday morning at the Geary Street green space in Dartmouth, at Saunders Park, Victoria Park and Grand Parade in Halifax, and at the ballfield on Cobequid Road in Lower Sackville.

Prince Edward Island

  • P.E.I. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison is warning Islanders about street sales of fentanyl in Charlottetown. In a news release late Thursday afternoon, the provincial government noted an increase in overdoses being reported in Charlottetown in the previous 24 hours. The release said the street drug is being sold as fentanyl and is being sold in orange chunks. There have been no deaths reported.
  • The federal government will provide Charlottetown with $10 million through the Housing Accelerator Fund as part of an agreement they say will help spur the construction of more than 1,000 homes over the next decade. Charlottetown has agreed to make changes to its building permits and zoning as part of the agreement.
  • A day after the P.E.I. Green Party pulled out an upset win in the Borden-Kinkora byelection, it’s clear that health care will be the central focus in the provincial legislature for the district’s next MLA. Matt MacFarlane won the District 19 seat Wednesday night by a 262-vote margin over the governing Progressive Conservatives’ candidate Carmen Reeves. MacFarlane said the lack of access to primary health care was the most prevalent concern he heard from residents — much the same as it was when he campaigned and lost to former PC MLA Jamie Fox in the same district during the 2023 general election campaign. 
  • Prince Edward Island has not had a case of measles in more than a decade, but with an eruption of cases in Europe, health officials here are bracing for the possible return of the disease. There were more than 42,000 measles cases in Europe last year, the World Health Organization announced last week. That’s a 40-fold increase from 2022, when fewer than 1,000 cases were reported. P.E.I.’s chief public health officer, Dr. Heather Morrison, said it’s possible that Islanders who aren’t immune to the disease could bring cases back after travelling.

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • The Newfoundland and Labrador government has announced it has reached a collective agreement with the Association of Allied Health Professionals. In a press release late Friday morning announcing the agreement, the association’s president said members were pleased to have reached a deal. “This is a positive first step towards creating a system where allied health professionals feel respected, valued, and heard,” Gordon Piercey said in the press release.
  • Three town councillors have resigned in Stephenville since the beginning of the year – and one of them now accuses the mayor of bullying and says the town council’s “toxic culture” played a major part in his decision to step down. Lenny Tiller resigned from council on Jan. 11, citing the need to care for his aging grandparents. However, he told Radio-Canada that while the need to care for his family remains the primary reason for his departure, the decision was also spurred by the “ridicule” he endured at the hands of Mayor Tom Rose.
  • Marine Atlantic has a new ferry in the water, and it will soon begin its journey from a shipyard in China and sail into Atlantic Canada in April. The Ala’suinu, which means “traveller” in Mi’kmaw, is expected to begin taking passengers between Cape Breton and eastern Newfoundland on the Argentia route beginning in June. It will operate on the Port aux Basques and North Sydney route during the fall, winter and spring. At 203 metres long, the new ferry has 146 passenger cabins, more than any other Marine Atlantic vessel.
  • Outside the Department of Fisheries and Oceans office in Corner Brook, a crowd of about 50 people gathered to express their frustration with a recent federal decision to allot a 19 percent share of the redfish quota to Newfoundland and Labrador. In late January, federal Fisheries Minister Diane Lebouthillier announced the redfish allocation for the Atlantic provinces in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. That announcement left harvesters worried about what this could mean for their livelihoods and has drawn criticism from provincial politicians.

Quebec

  • Quebec Premier François Legault was met with laughter in the National Assembly on Thursday when he complained about young Quebecers using English words … using an English word. Specifically, Legault lamented that young people find it “cool” to use English words or speak to each other in English. He then stood in silence for a few seconds as MNAs erupted in laughter, eventually joining in. To use another English word: Ironic. Legault had been defending his government’s 2023 ad campaign aimed at reducing the use of anglicisms by young Quebecers.
  • The Quebec government’s tuition hikes for out-of-province students at English universities continue to stir up controversy. “We don’t attack Montreal. We protect the French. French will always be vulnerable in North America,” said Premier François Legault at a press conference Thursday, while responding to Mayor Valérie Plante’s comments from the day before – where she said that the increases for Concordia and McGill directly attack Montreal.
  • Describing the law on state secularism as one of the pillars of Quebec society and a bulwark preserving social peace, the Legault government said Thursday it has no plans to re-open Bill 21 to either reduce or expand its scope. “I think we have managed, via Bill 21, to establish a certain social peace in Quebec,” Premier François Legault told reporters after the question period. “So we don’t want to modify it, we just want to protect it.”
  • The Quebec Court of Appeal has ruled that asylum seekers are allowed to use subsidized daycare in the province. In a unanimous decision on Wednesday, the court reinforced a lower-court ruling — albeit for different reasons — and found that the Quebec government policy barring asylum seekers from subsidized daycare was discriminatory because it unfairly prevented women from participating in the job market. 

Ontario

  • Ontario Premier Doug Ford has signed a $3.1-billion health-care deal with the federal government to increase access to primary care and reduce wait times. The agreement was announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau late Friday morning, making Ontario the fifth province to come to an agreement with Ottawa for its share of a $200-billion health accord.
  • Ontario Premier Doug Ford met with his Alberta counterpart for a “working breakfast” at his home in Etobicoke on Wednesday morning, though his office has been clear the government has no plans on replicating the province’s new transgender policies. Alberta Premier Danielle Smith is facing criticism after introducing provincial legislation that prohibits anyone under 18 from undergoing gender-affirming surgeries.
  • The late-stage expansion of the Hurontario LRT could add a “couple of billion” dollars to the project’s final price tag, according to Ontario Premier Doug Ford who spilled the financial details to a business and political crowd in Mississauga. In late January, Queen’s Park directed provincial transit agency Metrolinx to urgently prepare a business case that would lay out how to add two extensions to the Hazel McCallion LRT, already under construction in Mississauga.
  • The provincial government just issued an order that could throw a wrench into several plans for high-rise developments in Toronto — and it all has to do with airspace for helicopters. Ontario’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Paul Calandra, issued a Ministerial Zoning Order (MZO) in late January that lowers the heights of protected flight paths for air ambulances serving St. Michael’s Hospital and the Hospital for Sick Children.

Manitoba

  • Some Winnipeg drivers whose vehicles have been stolen say they hope the federal government imposes tougher penalties for auto theft — an idea discussed this week at a national summit in Ottawa on the issue. Morgan Lepak said she discovered her 2006 Chevrolet Trailblazer had been stolen from her workplace, in a Linden Woods strip mall, on the morning of Feb. 1, after a co-worker noticed her vehicle wasn’t in her spot.
  • The Manitoba government is developing a new path to accreditation that it says will help all internationally educated healthcare professionals to work in their field, including the nurses dealing with what one NDP cabinet minister calls the worst accreditation process in the country. Labour and Immigration Minister Malaya Marcelino said the province will develop an accreditation stream exclusively for foreign-trained healthcare workers living in the province.
  • Manitoba’s public insurer is suing the City of Winnipeg and a snow-clearing contractor after a dislodged manhole cover allegedly caused a collision two years ago. Manitoba Public Insurance claims the blade or bucket of a snowplow owned by S M Ventures Inc. caused a manhole cover to be dislodged while the plow was operating in a residential area in northern Winnipeg on Feb. 10, 2022. The lawsuit says the operator of the snowplow — an unnamed man who’s also a defendant in the lawsuit — then called the city and either he or the city employee who came to inspect the situation reinserted it in a way “which allowed the cover to become easily dislodged from the manhole by passing vehicles.”
  • Upgrades to Winnipeg’s 911 service could make it easier for first responders to locate callers and eventually enable residents to send texts and photos during emergencies, city staff say. Right now, 911 operators can only get a caller’s precise location if they call from a landline, while cellphones can only be tracked to an approximate location, said Stacey Cann, director of communications for the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service. Once the city moves over to what’s being referred to as “next-generation 911,” they’ll be able to pinpoint where calls are coming from more accurately, she said. 

Saskatchewan

  • The City of Regina has overhauled its regulations around density and development, and will now have federal money to show for it. On Friday, Federal Housing Minister Sean Fraser and Mayor Sandra Masters quietly announced that the city will receive $35 million from Ottawa’s housing accelerator fund (HAF). The money is meant to fast-track more than 1,000 housing units over the next three years, according to a news release. The homes will be on top of what is normally built in the city.
  • Teachers and the Saskatchewan government are scheduled to head back to the bargaining table next week, but they still appear to be a long way from agreeing to a new contract. Teachers in the province have been without a contract since August and a series of escalating job actions by teachers only came to a stop Wednesday evening after the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) was invited back to the bargaining table by the Ministry of Education, who says the provincial negotiators had a new mandate.
  • Four high-profile Saskatchewan cabinet members will not seek re-election during this year’s provincial election. On Tuesday, the Saskatchewan Party announced that Dustin Duncan, Don McMorris, Gordon Wyant and Donna Harpauer will not run again. In a statement, Premier Scott Moe thanked all four of the MLAs for their dedication. “That’s over 80 years of combined political experience and service to the people of Saskatchewan, and that’s not easy to replace,” Moe said.
  • After drawing criticism earlier this week for saying that some First Nations are burning down water treatment plants because of the federal Liberal government, a Conservative MP is now walking back his comments. Saskatchewan MP Kevin Waugh made the claim in the House of Commons on Monday during a debate on the government’s First Nations water bill. “In my home province of Saskatchewan, I have seen reserves burn down water treatment plants because the Liberal government has done little or nothing,” Waugh said, directing his comments toward Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu.

Alberta

  • Just days after announcing controversial changes to Alberta’s transgender policies, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith admitted Monday that the proposed measures around gender-affirming surgeries are not based on current evidence of a problem, but rather a “concern of what will happen.” In an interview with CTV’s Power Play on Monday, host Vassy Kapelos asked Smith whether she was aware of anyone in Alberta under the age of 18 who has received gender-affirming surgery without parental consent, and Smith said “Not bottom surgery.”
  • If the premier of Alberta has a preference in the upcoming U.S. presidential election, she’s not sharing it publicly. At a news conference during a trip to Washington, D.C., Danielle Smith pointed to different difficulties in dealing with either a Democrat or a Republican. When asked whether Joe Biden or Donald Trump would be better for her province, she replied: “I think there are challenges with both.” Both candidates have protectionist policies, Smith said.
  • United States President Joe Biden’s decision to pause approval of new liquefied natural gas export licenses is an opportunity for Canada as the country prepares to start exporting the fuel, Alberta’s premier said. “I note, with interest, that the Americans may be pausing on their LNG export,” Danielle Smith, head of the country’s fossil fuel-producing heartland, said on Bloomberg TV. “I look at that as an opportunity for us. If we can be an additional supplier to the world of this vitally important energy source that’s also lower emissions, and lower polluting, I think we have a role to play.”
  • The Alberta government has formed a new committee to prepare for severe drought in some parts of the province this year. Due to well below-average winter snowpack and several dry years, many of Alberta’s rivers are at record low levels. Several of Alberta’s reservoirs are also well below capacity. As a way to help prepare for what the government says could be a year of severe drought, the province has formed a Water Advisory Committee.

British Columbia

  • The premier of British Columbia went on a 2½-minute tirade Thursday morning as he called out the parent company of Bell Media, which had earlier announced thousands of layoffs and the sale of dozens of local radio stations in communities across Canada. In its largest round of job cuts in nearly 30 years, BCE Inc. said it was cutting nine percent of its workforce, equating to 4,800 jobs, and selling 45 of its 103 regional radio stations, 21 of them in B.C. Bell Media said separately it would be ending multiple television newscasts and making other programming cuts.
  • British Columbia’s premier says Selina Robinson, who resigned as post-secondary education minister recently over Mideast comments, has received a death threat. David Eby called the action inexcusable in a statement posted on the social media platform X. He says police are investigating to find out who is responsible and that Robinson is safe. Robinson stepped down from the cabinet post on Monday after facing growing criticism over her comments during an online panel that modern Israel was founded on a “crappy piece of land,” which critics called racist and Islamophobic.
  • B.C. Premier David Eby had some choice words for two trucking firms — one in B.C. and one in Alberta. “British Columbians, especially in the Lower Mainland, have been astonished and frustrated by the number of overpass strikes,” Eby said at a press conference. “The astonishing part is that the company thinks that they should be still able to operate, and they’re going to court, to challenge our prohibition on their operating until they figure out how high bridges are and how high their trucks are. “My only hope is that on the way to court, they don’t run into a bridge. (I) encourage them to take the bus or some other form of public transit on the way to the courthouse.”
  • Premier David Eby says the first purchase using the government’s Rental Protection Fund will save 290 affordable rental units in two housing co-ops that have expired leases and were facing the prospect of being sold out from under the residents. Eby says the government’s fund will contribute $71 million towards the $125 million acquisition in the Metro Vancouver city of Coquitlam by the non-profit Community Land Trust of B.C.

Northwest Territories

  • N.W.T. Housing Minister Lucy Kuptana said 100 new public housing units have been built or are close to being built — the first time the territory’s public housing stock has been expanded in decades, she told the legislature Thursday. But one MLA said the new units barely make a dent in her region alone. “For Indigenous people living in the Tłı̨chǫ region, housing is a nightmare,” Jane Weyallon Armstrong, the MLA for Monfwi, said during Thursday’s sitting. “More than one out of every three units in the Tłı̨chǫ region are either not adequate, affordable or suitable for residents.” 
  • The N.W.T.’s integrity commissioner has dismissed two complaints, against former MLAs Katrina Nokleby and Paulie Chinna. In separate decisions on Tuesday, integrity commissioner David Phillip Jones wrote that, since neither Nokleby nor Chinna was re-elected to the Legislative Assembly last fall, there would be “no practical purpose” in pursuing the complaints. He also found one of the complaints to be “frivolous and vexatious.”

Yukon

  • The Yukon government is in the first phase of closing and remediating the abandoned Minto mine. Officials with the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources said during a technical briefing on Sept. 28 that contractors are removing equipment and other infrastructure from the underground portion of the mine, after which pumps will be removed and the space will be allowed to naturally flood. It’s a common closure and remediation practice, said Darren Stahl, director of assessment and abandoned mines.

Nunavut

  • The Nunatsiavut government has presented its inaugural Inuttitut and Cultural Preservation Recognition Awards, to highlight people preserving their traditional language and culture. Maria Merkuratsuk has won the Cultural Preservation Award, and Nicholas Flowers has won the Inuktitut Award. “I’m feeling really proud and really boosted up,” Merkuratsuk said. Merkuratsuk, who grew up on the land around her home in Nain, continues to take people to her cabin, sharing her culture and passing on traditional knowledge. 

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