Provincial and Territorial Update – June 21, 2024

The Provincial and Territorial Updates: An overview of the Provincial Legislative and Territories Legislative Updates for the week of June 21, 2024.​ Written by Wes McLean.

New Brunswick

  • A New Brunswick cabinet minister who already announced he wouldn’t be running again in this fall’s provincial election is resigning from his role as an MLA as of Thursday. Natural Resources and Energy Development Minister Mike Holland, MLA for the riding of Albert, announced he was quitting his post effective immediately to pursue a job in the private sector. “I put everything I have into the work I’ve done for the last six years. It’s been very fulfilling.”
  • The CEO of the Vitalité health authority says costly travel nurse contracts were the result of pressure from the Higgs government to fix the healthcare system quickly — and a refusal by that same government to approve other, less expensive options. Dr. France Desrosiers told a committee of MLAs Thursday morning the health network was given a “mandate” in the summer of July 2022 to rapidly improve health care following the death of a patient in a Fredericton hospital emergency department.
  • The New Brunswick government contends a Saint John jail guard used “appropriate force” when he was seen on video punching an inmate who was being held to the ground by several other guards. In a statement of defence filed in court, the province and Saint John Regional Correctional Centre admit that one corrections officer struck Scott Morrison three to four times while he was being restrained following an incident at the jail in September 2022. The incident was recorded on video.
  • New Brunswick’s anglophone school system will be more than 500 teachers short when students return to class this fall, according to the New Brunswick Teachers’ Association. Although the school will soon be winding down for the summer, teachers’ association president Peter Legacy said members are already worried about what will happen when class is back in session. That’s because the association is projecting a teacher shortfall of 524, with hundreds set to retire and the province continuing to see population growth. 

Nova Scotia

  • The Supreme Court of Canada will not delve into a dispute between Nova Scotia and its teacher’s union that stretches back several years. The province’s Supreme Court ruled two years ago that a four-year contract imposed in a 2017 law, known as Bill 75, was significantly worse than a tentative agreement Nova Scotia Teachers Union members had earlier rejected.
  • Litigation scheduled for next year that could have helped settle outstanding questions about treaty fishing rights related to the Marshall decisions will no longer happen after a Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge granted a joint request from Sipekne’katik First Nation and the Attorney General of Canada to instead focus on mediation. The decision stems from a lawsuit Sipekne’katik filed in 2021 that wanted a declaration from the court that the federal Fisheries Act and regulations infringe on the treaty right to fish lobster for a moderate livelihood.
  • Nova Scotia is changing the rules for those who pay a fixed amount of rent for public housing, a move the government says is aimed at achieving fairness and consistency. Housing Minister John Lohr made the announcement Thursday, saying that over the next four years, 1,445 public housing tenants — about 13 percent of the total — will start paying rent based on their household income, which means they could be paying more or less than they are now.
  • The Nova Scotia government says it’s still working on new guidance for public educators about gender diversity in schools. But after more than a year, that work has yet to yield any changes. Large numbers of 2SLGBTQ+ students at Nova Scotia public schools report being the targets of hate, feeling unsafe or threatened and struggling with mental health problems. NDP MLA Lisa Lachance said the prolonged process of updating the guidelines is concerning.

Prince Edward Island

  • About 75 foreign workers and their supporters marched through the streets of downtown Charlottetown Wednesday, continuing their protest against the P.E.I. government’s recent immigration policy changes. Some in the group have been protesting off and on since May 9, in hopes of extending their work permits and eventually becoming permanent residents. “It’s not leading us anywhere solid,” protest organizer Rupinder Pal Singh said Wednesday. “We haven’t heard something solid back from the government except excuses and nos.”
  • P.E.I.’s deputy finance minister and other senior staffers answered MLAs’ questions Tuesday about an auditor general’s report that was critical of their department. Auditor General Darren Noonan’s report, released in February, cited the government’s lack of an internal auditing function and high costs related to spending through so-called special warrants, among other issues.
  • Staff from the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans are now leading the investigation into why more than 300 fish have turned up dead in the Cardigan River this month. The dead fish began showing up in the eastern Prince Edward Island river on June 7 near the 48 Road in Cardigan. In a statement, a spokesperson for DFO said its staff were on site in Cardigan on that date and again on June 10. 
  • Dr. Tyler McDonell, medical director at Prince County Hospital, says he’s cautiously optimistic about the future of critical care services at the Summerside hospital following a series of new hires. However, the hospitalist said a lot of work needs to happen before the facility can restore some of the services it lost. Health P.E.I. downgraded the hospital’s intensive-care unit (ICU) in spring 2023 because of a shortage of internal medicine specialists and nurses. 

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • The CEO of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro says the wildfires near Churchill Falls haven’t grown on Friday, but firefighting efforts have expanded to keep them at bay. The company town was evacuated on Wednesday night, as a pair of fires made large gains nearby.  As of Friday, the fire had not jumped the Churchill River, which stands between the town and the danger zone.
  • Despite rising concerns of violence aimed at the 2SLGBTQ+ community, Newfoundland and Labrador activists are hopeful about the future. Helen Kennedy, executive director of advocacy organization Egale Canada, says they’ve known for years that the threat of violence is increasing. “The rhetoric has increased. People seem to be emboldened more, I think, because of the political climate here in Canada but also in the U.S.,” Kennedy told CBC News in a recent interview.
  • The Progressive Conservatives say the Liberal government has failed Newfoundland and Labrador’s most vulnerable children through its handling of the system to house and care for young people with complex needs. “It was disturbing to see those increasing costs at a time when we ought to be focused on, how do we reduce those costs,” Opposition Leader Tony Wakeham said in an interview with CBC News.
  • Sheldon Hibbs was back in a St. John’s courtroom Tuesday morning as lawyers debated how long he should spend in jail for manslaughter — with defence counsel focusing on the conditions at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary. Legal Aid lawyer Jason Edwards, representing Hibbs, said a four- to six-year prison sentence would be appropriate, given the time his client has already spent in the deteriorating prison. “HMP is, by all accounts, a hellhole,” he told the court. “We should be ashamed of how HMP treats people and how we’ve allowed it.

Quebec

  • Quebec Premier François Legault says he isn’t ruling out ​​holding a referendum on a new constitution for Quebec. But he said he is convinced that most Quebecers aren’t in support of sovereignty. For him, “the worst thing that could happen is losing a third referendum on sovereignty.” “The national emergency is to halve the number of temporary immigrants,” he told Radio-Canada’s Patrice Roy in an interview Monday. He said holding another referendum on sovereignty would be “irresponsible.”
  • Denis Coderre believes he and the Quebec Liberals can both rise from the ashes. After a decades-long career in federal and municipal politics, the former Montreal mayor has set his sights on the third level of government, becoming the first candidate to officially seek the leadership of the Quebec Liberal party. “We need experienced men and women. We need to find ourselves,” Coderre said during an hour-long news conference Friday morning in front of Quebec’s legislature, during which he spoke at length and frequently interrupted himself to call out to passersby. “I invite all those who feel pushed aside, all the disappointed Liberals, all the Liberals who stayed home to come back.”
  • Premier François Legault needs to stop contaminating the political climate with his pessimism about the chance of winning another independence referendum, the leader of the Parti Québécois said Tuesday. One day after Legault said holding another sovereignty referendum would be irresponsible because Quebec would be weakened if it was lost, Paul St-Pierre Plamondon said Legault is more interested in his own re-election than the future of the nation.
  • Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault is recommending the adoption of an emergency decree to protect the boreal caribou in Quebec as some herds cross the “threshold of near-disappearance.” The Pipmuacan, Val-d’Or and Charlevoix woodland herds could soon be subject to federally imposed protection measures. In a letter addressed to Quebec Environment Minister Benoit Charette, Guilbeault writes that he intends to recommend federal intervention to the cabinet this week.

Ontario

  • Premier Doug Ford is calling on the federal government to slap high tariffs on Chinese-made electric vehicle imports amid rising concerns that cheap cars could saturate the Canadian market and undercut Ontario’s EV manufacturing sector, along with the billions in taxpayer-funded subsidies to support it. On Thursday, Ford released a statement warning that China was “flooding” the country with “artificially cheap electric vehicles” that could put auto jobs at risk in Ontario.
  • The Ontario government has signed an agreement with four northwestern Ontario First Nations for money toward roads and training in anticipation of increased mining activity in the region. Ontario Premier Doug Ford met with local chiefs in Greenstone, Ont., on Tuesday. The provincial government said it had renewed its partnerships with Animbiigoo Zaagi’igan Anishinaabek, Aroland First Nation, Ginoogaming First Nation and Long Lake #58 First Nation. Ford signed confirmation letters with two development corporations owned by the First Nations.
  • With Premier Doug Ford gearing up for an early election, Liberal Leader Bonnie Crombie is urging her party to get ready. “As we move into a campaign phase, I want you to know that we have a strong new team in place to help us prepare for that fight,” Crombie wrote in an email to party members Wednesday. She announced Chad Walsh and Genevieve Tomney, key players on her successful leadership bid, will be the Liberals’ campaign directors.
  • The Ford government says it will be permanently closing the Ontario Science Centre to the public “effective immediately” due to “serious structural issues” that were identified with the building in a recent engineering report. The abrupt closure of the North York tourist attraction means that Torontonians will no longer be able to visit the museum after today, although private events scheduled to occur over the weekend will be permitted to proceed. “The actions taken today will protect the health and safety of visitors and staff at the Ontario Science Centre while supporting its eventual reopening in a new, state-of-the-art facility,” Kinga Surma, the province’s minister of infrastructure, said in a news release.

Manitoba

  • The search of a Winnipeg-area landfill for the remains of two victims of an admitted serial killer is expected to start late this fall, when technicians will sift through garbage removed from an area the size of four football fields, the engineer who designed the search plan says. Those were among details revealed at a Thursday briefing by Amna Mackin, the provincial assistant deputy minister leading the operation to find the remains of Morgan Harris, 39, and Marcedes Myran, 26.
  • Manitoba’s largest First Nation is concerned a housing development planned for The Forks might compromise archaeological evidence and belongings of cultural and spiritual significance at the national historic site and says it hasn’t been adequately consulted in the lead-up to the project. Peguis First Nation met with The Forks in May about its concerns, but the First Nation says it’s unclear how or whether it will be accommodated and consulted in a formal process, said Mike Sutherland, Peguis’s director of consultation and special projects.
  • The Manitoba NDP’s Carla Compton has been elected in a Winnipeg riding that has previously only voted Progressive Conservative in its entire four-decade history. The New Democrats won Tuxedo, long regarded as a Tory stronghold, by a margin of just over 600 votes. “Tonight, we have proven there is no such thing as a safe PC seat in Manitoba,” Compton said to rousing applause, at a victory party at the Original Joe’s restaurant on Kenaston Boulevard. With all polling stations reporting, Compton garnered 3,777 votes, ahead of Progressive Conservative candidate Lawrence Pinsky, who had 3,175, according to Elections Manitoba’s unofficial results.
  • One of Manitoba’s largest universities is projecting a nearly half-million dollar loss in tuition from falling enrolment numbers for the upcoming year. In spite of the projected enrolment drop, Brandon University was able to balance its 2024-25 budget thanks to an 11th-hour injection of more than $7 million in provincial funding in May, said Scott Lamont, the university’s vice president of administration and finance. “We had real concerns that we were going to be able to balance the budget without additional support,” Lamont said.

Saskatchewan

  • Saskatchewan’s privacy commissioner says provincial ministries and agencies ignored dozens of his requests over the last year to release public information. A report from Ron Kruzeniski, released Thursday, said there were 84 times from April 2023 to March 2024 when those bodies partially or fully brushed off his recommendations to have documents made public. The report says the information was fully yielded in 45 percent of cases when requested by the commissioner.
  • The number of complaints to Saskatoon police about intimate partner violence increased by 14 percent last year. That’s one reason police are creating a dedicated team to respond to these calls. Under the new plan, family service workers and other trained experts would accompany police on calls, as well as assist with victim support and offender management. More details are expected to be discussed at a police commission meeting Thursday.
  • After speaking to a large room during the first day of Canada’s Farm Show (CFS) in Regina, Premier Scott Moe answered questions about what happened in a small room in Speers, Sask. Moe brought up similar themes during a late-April town hall in Speers, which saw many attendees ask questions ladened with conspiracy theories, and prompted criticism from the NDP for how little the premier did to refute some of the claims made that day. “I actually don’t believe in chemtrails,” clarified the premier on Tuesday.
  • To every question asked on the possibility of an investigation into the allegations made last month by Speaker Randy Weekes, Premier Scott Moe pointed on Tuesday to the legislature’s anti-harassment policy. “The process is in place to protect members. That’s why it’s there, that’s why we voted on it. If there is a feeling that it should be initiated by the individual involved, it should be initiated,” said Moe. That anti-harassment policy has some requirements like confidentiality and the reporting of an incident to be done within 90 days except for extenuating circumstances. Once Weekes is no longer an MLA after the expected fall election the policy will no longer be applicable and any investigation in progress would be put aside.

Alberta

  • Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek has promised a wide-ranging examination of the city’s underground infrastructure as the city enters its third week of water use restrictions after a catastrophic pipeline break. The mayor says she’s going to ask city council next week to ensure there’s enough of a budget to run a thorough inspection of the state of all underground water pipes. “I’m going to be asking important questions to find out what we need in the budget, so we have the technology and inspection methods that are needed to understand the type of state our water infrastructure is in.”
  • Alberta’s government says it is “actively exploring” the use of every legal option, including a constitutional challenge or the use of the Alberta Sovereignty Act, to push back against federal legislation that will soon become law. That legislation is Bill C-59, which would require companies to provide evidence to back up their environmental claims. It is currently awaiting royal assent.
  • Phones have come a long way from the bulky Nokias of the 90s, and navigating usage for today’s youth is no easy task. On June 17, 2024, the Minister of Education, Demetrios Nicolaides, gave an update on the province’s plan to limit cell phone usage in Alberta schools. Starting in Fall 2024, students will not be permitted to use personal mobile devices during class time and social media sites will be restricted on school networks. “The risks to students’ mental well-being and academic success are real, and we must take steps now to combat these effects,” said Nicolaides.
  • Canadian oil and gas companies facing a federally imposed emissions cap will decide to cut their production rather than invest in too-expensive carbon capture and storage technology, a new report by Deloitte says. The Alberta government-commissioned report — a copy of which was obtained by The Canadian Press — aims to assess the economic impact of the proposed cap. Its findings contradict the federal government’s stance that its proposed cap on greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas sector would be a cap on pollution, not a cap on production. And it supports Alberta’s position that a mandated cap would lead to production curtailments and severe economic consequences.

British Columbia

  • British Columbia Premier David Eby is pressing for urgent access to information from Canada’s spy agency to help combat foreign interference at the provincial level, citing allegations involving transnational organized crime, cybersecurity and murder. Eby said Monday he sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, saying B.C. does not have the information it needs to intercept and address foreign interference that may be occurring in the province. “How are we supposed to take action to address these issues?” he said at a housing-related news conference in North Vancouver on Monday.
  • Podiums and the B.C. premier are popping up on a near daily basis – with the government holding a flurry of spending announcements, like Tuesday’s regarding a new kidney care unit in Surrey. “The government has a much bigger incumbency advantage, in that they can make big, splashy announcements with government money,” noted political scientist Hamish Telford on Tuesday. David Eby bristled at the suggestion that Monday’s announcement about the purchase of ICBC land for housing or Tuesday’s news conference were essentially campaign events sponsored by taxpayers.
  • British Columbia’s election is still four months away, but Premier David Eby has held a campaign event in Vancouver ahead of what he says is a personal countdown — next week’s expected birth of his third child. Eby says he and his wife, Cailey, are expecting a daughter on June 27, so he wanted to make an early start to campaigning for the Oct. 19 election before taking a break to spend some time with his family. He introduced four New Democrat candidates, including former broadcaster Randene Neill and Baltej Dillon, the first RCMP officer to wear a turban on duty.
  • International trips, high salaries, and questions over sufficient oversight — the Metro Vancouver Regional District’s (MVRD) spending has caught the eye of B.C.’s premier. After weeks of controversy, the latest talking point surrounding the regional district is focused on how much money the head bureaucrat makes. Documents from the MVRD show Chief Administrative Officer Jerry Dobrovolny makes more than Premier David Eby and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, combined. Dobrovolny’s annual remuneration plus benefits topped out at more than $700,000 in 2023. That eye-catching number has Eby’s attention.

Northwest Territories

  • Vital Metals announced Monday that it’s selling its stockpiled rare earth material to the Saskatchewan Research Council for $3.3 million. This material comes from the North T deposit at the Nechalacho mine, 110 kilometres from Yellowknife. Natural Resources Canada, along with Energy and Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, directly facilitated this transaction, which has the effect of keeping rare earth materials out of Chinese hands.

Yukon

  • The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is slamming the federal and Yukon governments over their management of Yukon River salmon, which the national advocacy organization says are hurtling toward extinction. “The Government of Yukon is one of the principal actors in the authorization of habitat destruction or modification,” states a recent missive from AFN to a federal committee, about salmon in the watershed. “The AFN recommends seeking to better understand key threats to freshwater habitat, such as habitat destruction associated with placer mining and other development projects, and linking those threats to the regulations and policies that permit threats to continue.

Nunavut

  • Iqaluit’s mayor said he’s pleased to hear more police officers will be on the lookout for public intoxication this summer. But Mayor Solomon Awa also said he’s not ruling out further action by the city — such as a temporary alcohol ban across the city — if increased RCMP patrols don’t yield results. City councillors unanimously passed a motion at their May 28 meeting, calling on the RCMP and the Government of Nunavut to do more about public drinking. “We need some help from [the RCMP] on public intoxication to make sure the laws are abided by,” Awa said in an interview with CBC.

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