Provincial and Territorial Update – June 14, 2024

The Provincial and Territorial Updates: An overview of the Provincial Legislative and Territories Legislative Updates for the week of June 14, 2024.​ Written by Wes McLean.

New Brunswick

  • Premier Blaine Higgs is renewing his push to make electoral gains for his party in northern francophone ridings this fall — the third straight campaign in which he’s claimed to be upbeat about his prospects there. Higgs says he’s hopeful that some quality candidates, including a well-known northern mayor, will finally give him a long-awaited breakthrough in the region in the Oct. 21 provincial election.
  • The union representing New Brunswick school bus drivers is speaking out about safety concerns Auditor General Paul Martin raised in a report last week. Martin’s office audited the files of 65 drivers and found 46 percent of the files did not demonstrate compliance with licensing requirements, 37 percent did not have proof of bus training from when they were hired, and one in five did not have a criminal record check on file.
  • New Brunswick has applied to make arguments in a case legal experts say will determine whether courts can voice concerns about human rights consequences of using the notwithstanding clause. Constitutional lawyers Kerri Froc and Lyle Skinner agree that provinces are increasingly turning to Section 33 in the Constitution — also known as the notwithstanding clause — as a way to lawfully override some Charter rights in legislation. 
  • A provincial watchdog says there’s no evidence voter fraud occurred when a majority of residents at two Bathurst-area seniors’ homes registered with the provincial Liberals in 2022. Seniors’ advocate Kelly Lamrock reported his finding in a written response to allegations made by Green Party MLA Kevin Arseneau in the legislature last month. Arseneau raised the issue, and filed a complaint with Lamrock’s office after he said his grandmother, who has dementia, was registered by the Liberal Party at Foyer Chez Annie. 

Nova Scotia

  • A Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge has ruled that Nova Scotia’s chief electoral officer had no authority to order the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia to take down signs and stop distributing campaign material she deemed misleading to voters in the riding of Preston. In a ruling released Friday, Justice Josh Arnold criticized Dorothy Rice’s actions during last August’s Preston byelection.
  • Nova Scotia’s plea to speed up passage of federal legislation impacting offshore wind projects suffered a blow Thursday when a Senate committee said it had received a letter from Mi’kmaw chiefs raising concerns about how quickly the bill is moving toward becoming law. Tory Rushton, Nova Scotia’s minister of natural resources and renewables, told the Senate’s standing committee on energy, the environment and natural resources that Mi’kmaq are “partners” and “supporters” of the province’s “transition to clean energy.”
  • A top federal fisheries enforcement official says it’s likely many of those arrested this spring for illegally fishing for baby eels along Nova Scotia and New Brunswick rivers will be charged as part of enforcement efforts to try to rein in an out-of-control fishery. Tim Kerr, the Maritime director of conservation and protection for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, said he believes deterrence is working, and the department intends to bring in new measures in an attempt to make sure next year’s season runs more smoothly.
  • Tim Houston is no longer committed to the fixed election date he championed and his party passed as its first law in government. On Wednesday, asked by a reporter when the next provincial election would be, the premier responded, “The election will be when the election is.” “At some point in time, it’ll be time to go to the people and ask them how they want to move the province forward,” said Houston. “When that time is here, there’ll be an election.”

Prince Edward Island

  • The P.E.I. Green Party is asking provincial Housing Minister Rob Lantz to place a moratorium on the conversion of rental units to condominiums. Last month, residents of Belvedere Terrace, a block of 16 townhouses in Charlottetown, were told their rental units were being sold and converted to condos. Their current landlord, Norray Properties, left them with three options: buy their units for $329,000 each, apply for the province’s rent-to-own program, or leave.
  • Health P.E.I. is offering some healthcare workers more money to take on additional shifts this summer, especially during evenings, weekends and holidays. It’s hoped the move will make it easier for other health workers to take vacation this summer. But union leaders are concerned it may create even more problems. Barbara Brookins, president of the P.E.I. Nurses’ Union, is hopeful the new incentives will help. Her union was first to strike a deal with Health P.E.I. on Friday. 
  • Decades of research show a slow decline in herring stocks in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and scientists are linking that decline to waters that are warming with climate change. Recent research from NASA found that about 90 percent of global warming is occurring in the ocean. In the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Joël Chassé, an oceanographer with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, said 11 of 12 months last year had warmer than normal surface temperatures — and he expects a similar pattern this year.
  • Environment Canada has expanded its ability to predict coastal flooding, and the new system now covers all of the country’s coastlines. It also allows the agency to predict coastal flooding five days in advance, up from two days under its previous system, said Carmen Hartt, a senior meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC).  

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • It will be late summer before any decisions are made on the future of Newfoundland and Labrador’s air ambulance system, which some central Newfoundland leaders fear could mean job losses. Two unnamed companies are bidding on the service. The bids are currently “under evaluation,” according to N.L. Health Services, which will oversee the contract. The province issued a request for proposals, or RFP, in early December for a proponent to design, manage and operate a single, integrated road and air ambulance service. 
  • Lela Evans, who represents the northern district of Torngat Mountains in the House of Assembly, is calling for action because a ferry that ought to be serving remote coastal communities in Labrador is still in St. John’s. The Kamutik W, which provides an essential ferry service connecting Labrador’s north coast with the rest of the province, has not started running for the season.
  • With seven wildfires burning in Labrador, six of them out of control, a provincial official says they’re keeping an eye on the situation, both on the ground and from the air. The provincial fire hazard risk advisory lists the areas around Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Northwest River and up to Rigolet as under extreme fire warnings. Churchill Falls is under a very high warning.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro’s plan to invest more than $1 billion in expanding its Bay d’Espoir hydroelectric project poses a risk to the province’s debt load, according to a political commentator. Des Sullivan, a former civil servant, blogger and long-time critic of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project, is skeptical about Hydro’s recent announcement to expand the project. “Hydro is not known for good estimates, are they? So this billion is more likely, over the next few years, another two billion,” Sullivan told CBC Radio’s St. John’s Morning Show

Quebec

  • The Quebec government is moving ahead with a controversial transportation project in the provincial capital that has for years been a political lightning rod. Premier François Legault announced Thursday his government is planning to build a third bridge connecting Quebec City with suburbs across the St. Lawrence River. The decision comes after Legault abandoned the project last year, infuriating some voters and members of his own caucus, and then promised to revive it last fall — one day after his Coalition Avenir Québec candidate lost a Quebec City byelection.
  • Quebec’s premier says he wants to find new powers to boost his province’s autonomy within Canada, but experts are keeping their expectations in check. Facing disappointing polls and a simmering conflict with the federal government over immigration, Quebec Premier Francois Legault last week announced the creation of a new committee to study the province’s rights and enhance its powers within the federation.
  • Federal Immigration Minister Marc Miller said Tuesday he was “quite tired of the fact that people are always blaming immigrants for absolutely everything,” after Quebec Premier François Legault attributed “100 per cent of the housing problem” to the increase in the number of people arriving on a temporary basis. Questioned upon leaving a meeting of the federal cabinet about Legault’s remarks, Miller took care to direct his apparent exasperation toward “the people.”
  • U.S. government officials have discussed behind closed doors the possibility of imposing trade sanctions on Canada over Quebec’s controversial Bill 96 language law, CBC News has learned. Documents obtained by CBC News under the U.S. Freedom of Information law also reveal that American government officials are being told that the implementation of Bill 96 could result in fewer American products being shipped to Canada — not just to Quebec.

Ontario

  • Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s order to the LCBO to bring back paper bags caught the provincial liquor store’s senior executives off guard and sent its management scrambling to procure new supplies, documents obtained by Radio-Canada reveal. Ford’s move came on a Sunday night in April, some seven months after the LCBO had stopped offering paper bags at its 660 retail stores across the province.
  • Ontario’s deal to allow beer, wine, cider and premixed drinks to be sold in convenience stores, big-box outlets and additional supermarkets has thrown a wrench into contract talks with workers at the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, raising the prospect of a strike at the provincially owned booze retailer. Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced a deal last month to hand the Beer Store, which is controlled by multinational brewers, more than $ 225 million in order to liberalize alcohol sales this year. The changes could see 8,500 new places to buy booze pop up across the province.
  • The cost of Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s inner circle has shot up dramatically after the latest reshuffle, as the number of cabinet ministers — and their cost to the taxpayer — grows compared to when the Progressive Conservatives first took office in 2018. Overall, Ford’s most recent cabinet has increased by 72 percent compared to his first.
  • Premier Doug Ford has quietly disbanded the ministry overseeing the $1-billion renovation of the Legislative Assembly building at Queen’s Park. Lost amid Thursday’s major cabinet shuffle was the dissolution of the ministry of legislative affairs that had been run by Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Paul Calandra. As first disclosed by the Star, Ford also stripped Calandra of his duties as government house leader after the premier was blindsided by Speaker Ted Arnott’s April ban on the Palestinian kaffiyeh in the legislature.

Manitoba

  • An NDP MP who frequently joins parliamentary proceedings remotely from her riding billed the House of Commons for a trip she took to reportedly meet with “stakeholders” over the Christmas holidays in Quebec — travel that included bringing her husband and kids along at taxpayers’ expense. Parliamentary travel records indicate NDP MP Niki Ashton was only in Ottawa on one occasion for four days during the fall 2022 sitting. But on Dec. 21 of that year, Ashton flew from Thompson, Man. to Ottawa — five days after the House of Commons had already risen for its Christmas break.
  • When Donna Bartlett returned this week to the landfill where her granddaughter’s remains are believed to be buried, she was again overcome with emotion. But this time, she said, it was different — because she knew a search to find those remains would soon begin. “I was just thinking, ‘OK, we’re going to get you home, my girl,'” Bartlett said. “We’re going to get you home,” Bartlett spoke at a news conference outside the Canadian Museum for Human Rights on Thursday, two days after Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew said the province had approved an environmental licence change needed to move forward with the landfill search.
  • First Nations leaders in Manitoba’s Interlake region say they hope a new federal report represents a step in the right direction toward a review of a huge flood mitigation project, which the report found would likely harm their communities’ way of life. “This finding aligns with what our communities have been saying about this project since 2017,” Karl Zadnik, chief executive officer of the Interlake Reserves Tribal Council, said at a news conference alongside several other First Nations leaders on Thursday.
  • The Manitoba government has appointed a panel to oversee a school board that has been shaken by controversy and seen board trustees quit. The three-member oversight panel is to ensure that the Mountain View School Division in western Manitoba concentrates its efforts on student learning, with an eye on diversity, inclusion and reconciliation, Education Minister Nello Altomare said Wednesday.

Saskatchewan

  • Sask. NDP. Premier Scott Moe was asked about chemtrails, COVID-19 conspiracies during meeting in his riding. The leader of Saskatchewan’s Official Opposition says Premier Scott Moe should be shutting down conspiracy theories, not entertaining them, after a video of a recent meeting in Moe’s home constituency surfaced online.
  • The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) says it is consulting its members about whether it should enter into binding arbitration with the provincial government. “The consultation with teachers focuses on two possible paths forward, one of which involves the use of binding arbitration to resolve two outstanding issues: class complexity-accountability framework and teachers’ wages,” the STF said in a news release. The STF said additional information would not be available while the member consultation was taking place, but that it would share more information on the future of the collective bargaining process on Friday.
  • The Saskatchewan Party government has turned down the NDP’s pitch to have a committee review allegations made by  Speaker Randy Weekes. The opposition recently sent a letter to Weekes, chair of the House services committee, asking him to contact members and inform them of the meeting request. Weekes asked the committee members how they wanted to proceed, and on Monday the government’s House leadership said it would not accept the NDP’s invitation.
  • Two high-profile candidates have announced they will join the mayoral race in Saskatoon. Ward 6 Coun. Cynthia Block made the announcement at an event this morning, the first in a pair of “special announcements” that were teased last week. Gordon Wyant, who was serving as MLA for Saskatoon Northwest, announced his mayoral campaign at an event on Monday afternoon. Block has served as a councillor since first being elected in 2016 and, according to a profile on the City of Saskatoon’s website, has been a resident of Ward 6 for more than 25 years.

Alberta

  • Alberta Premier Danielle Smith says the decision to shuffle the Canadian Energy Centre (CEC) – commonly known as the province’s energy war room – into the department of Intergovernmental Relations(opens in a new tab) will help tighten its focus and help its goals. As part of the move, the centre’s mandate, money and three of its staff members are being moved closer to the premier. “When we have those big initiatives we have to do, it should be led out of the premier’s office. So that was the thinking behind it,” Smith said.
  • Alberta Premier Danielle Smith says she would prefer that Edmonton-based Canadian Western Bank remains headquartered in Alberta rather than have its corporate tax base shift to Quebec with a purchase by the National Bank of Canada. Ms. Smith told reporters Thursday that National Bank’s $5-billion deal for CWB is a vote of confidence in the bank and in Western Canada, and she is counting on the bank to continue its strong support for Alberta energy projects.
  • The Alberta government pointed Tuesday to a new report from a federal advisory committee, calling it proof that Ottawa should abandon its “reckless” 2035 clean electricity targets. But the chair of the committee behind the report said its recommendations are aimed at toning down the political rhetoric around clean power and helping Ottawa and the provinces find common ground. The federally appointed Canada Electricity Advisory Council — a group made up of industry leaders, Indigenous leaders and executives — released a report Monday with suggestions on how Ottawa can accomplish its goal of decarbonizing the country’s electricity grid.
  • While the Alberta government likely won’t commit public money to support much-needed hotels in downtown Calgary near the BMO Centre, Premier Danielle Smith isn’t opposed to providing broad support to help get projects off the ground, she said Thursday. The province is also close to unveiling a strategy around building out Alberta’s ski resorts, Smith said Thursday. The premier’s comments come as major conventions have started descending on Calgary’s massive new convention centre, where the area east of downtown needs anywhere from 2,500 to 5,000 hotel rooms.

British Columbia

  • Premier David Eby is expanding his criticism of what he says is an unfair share of federal funding being given to Western Canada. Eby says Ottawa’s “special treatment for Quebec and Ontario” eventually gets “to be too much” and it’s “disingenuous” for federal Immigration Minister Marc Miller to suggest that B.C.’s concerns are simply about asylum seekers.
  • Uber says regulation changes for ride-share and delivery workers in British Columbia will drive up costs and reduce demands for local restaurants, but Premier David Eby says complaining companies can “suck it up.” Uber issued a statement Thursday saying it supports some of the new rules coming in September, such as an increased minimum wage and health and safety coverage, but the amount it is being forced to pay workers for using a personal vehicle is “unreasonable.”
  • B.C. considers legal action against Ottawa over equalization. David Eby has doubled down on his criticism of Ottawa over lack of federal support and B.C. may join legal action against the Liberal government over equalization payments. “We don’t ask for special treatment, we don’t ask for anything other than (what) any other province is getting,” the B.C. premier said Thursday, June 13. “All we want is fair treatment between us and Ottawa and all the other provinces.”
  • British Columbia’s newly resurgent Conservative party envisions sweeping changes to schools, housing, climate and reconciliation with First Nations if it’s elected to form government this fall for the first time in nearly a century. The party, which has been climbing steadily in the polls and is now well ahead of the BC United, the current Opposition, would repeal the provincial Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act in favour of pivoting to an approach of “economic reconciliation” by signing business deals with individual First Nations.

Northwest Territories

  • People in Fort Smith, N.W.T., say they’re feeling a mix of relief and worry after the territory’s finance minister reversed her decision to close the men’s unit at the community’s correctional facility. Minister Caroline Wawzonek made the announcement at the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday, saying funding for the jail — and $331,000 for two midwifery positions in Yellowknife — would be reinstated in the territory’s proposed budget.

Yukon

  • Yukon Premier Ranj Pillai is calling on the federal government to offer up $60 million to help connect the territory to the continental energy grid. “It’s a generational investment,” Pillai said on Monday in Whitehorse, at the close of the annual meeting of western premiers. “We need to have a long-term source of energy. And I think as there’s growth in population, as we see defence spending get very significant, we’re going to need connection to the North American grid.”

Nunavut

  • Nunavut’s teacher’s union says 90 percent of its members witnessed some form of violence in the territory’s schools this year, while more than 83 percent experienced it firsthand. The figures come from a survey conducted by the Nunavut Teachers’ Association (NTA) during a two-week span in May. The union had 218 of its members respond to it — about a 30 percent response rate — which the union says translates to a five percent margin for error.

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