Provincial and Territorial Update – June 28, 2024

The Provincial and Territorial Updates: An overview of the Provincial Legislative and Territories Legislative Updates for the week of June 28, 2024.​ Written by Wes McLean.

New Brunswick

  • Premier Blaine Higgs has clarified recent comments he made about how he’d be hesitant to send his children to New Brunswick public schools if they were pre-teens today. In a statement, Higgs said his comments were not aimed at teachers and that he wanted to work with educators to improve the system. “The vast majority of teachers across the province work hard, and go above and beyond to help give students the best possible experience in school,” he said.
  • A former CEO of Arc Clean Energy Canada says it’s time N.B. Power looks at other options for small modular nuclear reactors beyond two companies looking to build them in New Brunswick. Norm Sawyer says indications of trouble at ARC, including the departure of its most recent CEO, are “a bit confusing. It doesn’t seem to match up with what they’re doing.” But it indicates that N.B. Power should consider shopping around to get more nuclear generation on the provincial grid by 2030 or 2035, he told CBC News.
  • N.B. Power’s application for a pair of steep rate hikes is forcing it to pay higher subsidies to pulp and paper mills this year and next year to help the plants cope with the increases. But the utility says it is not allowed to provide similar relief to any other customers who might be in need, including low-income households. “Rightly or wrongly, that’s my understanding of the Electricity Act,” said Brad Coady, N.B. Power’s vice president of strategic partnerships and business development, at the utility’s ongoing rate hearing.
  • Vitalité Health Network is expanding its use of private health care to tackle long waits for cataract surgery in the public system in northwestern New Brunswick. It has a new partnership with an ophthalmology clinic in Edmundston that’s expected to triple the number of surgeries performed each week, said Dr. Natalie Banville, senior vice-president of client programs, intrahospital services and medical affairs.

Nova Scotia

  • Nova Scotia’s opposition leaders say a radio ad featuring Environment Minister Tim Halman promoting his government’s approach to coastal protection amounts to a waste of money and old-style campaigning. The ad has been running periodically on commercial stations around the province since March, with a cost to date of more than $76,000 for five weeks in total.
  • The most expensive storm recovery in Nova Scotia Power’s history will be paid for by its customers. That plan was approved by the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (UARB) in a pair of decisions released Thursday. Post-tropical storm Fiona was one of the most powerful and destructive storms to ever hit Atlantic Canada, and it knocked out power to about 415,000 customers of Nova Scotia Power (NSP).
  • Opposition leaders say that if Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston wants to call an early election, he first owes it to the public to await the results of outstanding reports and take a position on how his government will respond to the findings. Houston told reporters earlier this month that he’s no longer ruling out the potential of an election ahead of the date fixed in legislation his government passed — July 15, 2025. However, with several reports underway that are due before that date, opposition leaders say that information should be made available before a call to the polls.
  • A group of eight migrant workers from Mexico has been awarded a total of more than $23,000 in lost compensation from a seafood company based in southwest Nova Scotia. In a decision from the Nova Scotia Labour Board released on June 14, chair Jasmine Walsh ordered Lower Wedgeport-based Ocean Pride Fisheries Ltd. to compensate the workers for deductions from their wages, missing hours, and pay that should have been provided in lieu of notice of termination.

Prince Edward Island

  • Maritime Electric, P.E.I.’s main utility, has re-submitted an application to the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission to convert its customers over to smart meters, explaining why the estimated cost of the program has risen by almost $20 million. Implementing the program would increase rates by about three percent by 2027, Maritime Electric’s submission to the Island’s utility regulator says.
  • Prince Edward Island’s specialized court to deal with some domestic violence cases is now six months old, and more than a dozen offenders are taking part in the new system. The new court started operating in January. It’s for people accused of domestic violence who enter a guilty plea and are willing to take responsibility for their actions, as well as open to taking part in programs recommended to help them change their behaviour. “This is the first specialized court or therapeutic court in the province,” said Bobbi Jo Flynn, the director of policy and planning with P.E.I.’s Department of Justice and Public Safety.
  • The fall sitting of the P.E.I. Legislature is still months away but the Green Party is eager to get back in the house and build on the momentum from recent polls and its victory in the Borden-Kinkora byelection in February. “It’s really exciting to see the momentum that the party has right now,” said Matt MacFarlane, whose District 19 byelection win news gave the Greens three seats in the legislature. The Greens held their annual general meeting Saturday in New London. They voted for the party’s council and treasurer but also vowed to keep the heat on the governing PCs when MLAs return to the legislature on Nov. 5.
  • The growth rate of Prince Edward Island’s population appears to be moderating despite still-increasing immigration. Statistics Canada released the latest quarterly population figures on Wednesday. They show that on April 1, the province’s population estimate was 177,081, up about 5,300 people from April 1 of the previous year. That’s a growth rate of 3.1 percent. P.E.I. had for several years been leading Canada in terms of how fast its population is growing, but the rate for this most recent 12 months is actually just below the national growth rate of 3.2 percent. The annual rate of growth on Prince Edward Island had been going up in every quarter, starting in the third quarter of 2022 at 3.1 percent and peaking at 4.0 percent in the fourth quarter of 2023.

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • Dozens of people lined up outside the Confederation Building on Friday afternoon, to pay their respects to Newfoundland’s Unknown Soldier, marking the beginning of three days of remembrance before the soldier’s remains will be entombed at the National War Memorial in St. John’s. Under heavy rainfall and the eye of solemn onlookers, the Unknown Soldier arrived at the Confederation Building Friday morning to lie in state. The soldier was repatriated in a moving ceremony at Beaumont-Hamel on May 25 and had been lying in an undisclosed location since.
  • As rainy and humid weather takes a favourable turn in fighting raging forest fires threatening Churchill Falls, a Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro crew has been able to return to the plant. “We are turning our attention to planning and preparing for residents to return to the community,” Hydro said in a statement posted on its website early Thursday evening. About 750 people were ordered on June 19 to flee Churchill Falls, a company town that exists to keep Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro’s generating station running.
  • The leader of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Official Opposition says the provincial government’s decision to partner with a fourth-tier English soccer team is a complete waste of money. PC Leader Tony Wakeham slammed the provincial government’s decision to partner with Barrow AFC — announced last week by Immigration Minister Gerry Byrne — saying the province has a homelessness problem and seniors who can’t afford their medications. “And then we find out that this government turned around and gave $171,000 to sponsor a Tier 4 English soccer team, whom nobody had ever heard of,” he said Tuesday. “It’s ridiculous, outlandish and it shows a total disrespect for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador who are struggling to make ends meet.”
  • An error within the Newfoundland and Labrador finance department led to the province’s teachers waking up to a missing paycheque on Thursday — the latest in a series of payroll-related mishaps, according to the president of the teachers’ union. Trent Langdon, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Association, said he was alerted to the problem early Thursday morning after a flood of messages and phone calls from teachers. They told him payment stubs had gone out the night before, but the money had not actually been deposited into their accounts.

Quebec

  • Quebec Premier François Legault says there’s a risk of overreaction against newcomers if current immigration levels continue. The premier made the comments today to reporters on the Gaspé Peninsula, in response to a question about whether he feared a rise of the “right” in Quebec and Canada. He says he doesn’t want to see the province end up like the United States or France, where immigration has become a toxic political debate. Legault says there has been an increase of 300,000 temporary immigrants in the province over the last two years and that while Quebecers are welcoming, they cannot accommodate so many newcomers.
  • The Quebec government will go ahead with its rules requiring all signs on commercial businesses, aside from the company name, to be predominately in French by June 2025. But the rules requiring appliance manufacturers to add French to their engraved markings, such as those on ovens, coffee makers and washing machines, will be postponed to maintain the supply chain. Aside from some minor changes, the regulations published in the province’s Official Gazette Wednesday are essentially the same as those published in draft form in January.
  • First Nations have welcomed a court decision ordering the Quebec government to put in place by Sept. 30 a separate consultation process with them to protect forest and mountain caribou. The Quebec government has “failed in the honour of the Crown,” there is “an urgency to act” and it “should have launched a consultation process a long time ago,” the Quebec Superior Court decision reads. The decision rendered on June 21 by Judge Marie Cossette constitutes the court’s response to an appeal initiated in February 2022 by the Councils of Essipit and Mashteuiatsh, who argued Quebec had failed in its constitutional obligation to consult them in the development of a caribou protection strategy.
  • Several Quebec advocacy groups working in mental health, housing, and homelessness are sounding the alarm – saying the housing crisis is deteriorating even more. With July 1 approaching, they’re asking the Quebec government to set up a transpartisan and interministerial committee, focused on community perspectives to better address the crisis, along with a structural action plan. According to a press release, living in expensive and inadequate housing can have lasting impacts on one’s physical and mental health including the ability to find a job, buy food and feel safe at the same time.

Ontario

  • Premier Doug Ford has removed a member of his caucus due to what he’s describing as “serious lapses in judgment.” In a statement released Friday morning, the premier’s office said MPP Goldie Ghamari had been removed from the Progressive Conservative caucus “effective immediately.” “This decision follows repeated instances of serious lapses in judgment and a failure to collaborate constructively with caucus leadership and as a team member,” Ford wrote in a statement.  “While this decision did not come easily, it has become clear that MPP Ghamari can no longer continue in her role within our caucus.” Earlier this week, the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) called on Ford to remove Ghamari after she posted an image of a meeting with British far-right activist Tommy Robinson.
  • In a news conference held Thursday outside of the now-shuttered Ontario Science Centre, Crombie announced her intention. She said within the first 30 days in office as an elected provincial leader, she will appoint a special investigator to probe into the current premier’s numerous controversial decisions. Some of those dealings that the investigator would be tasked with reviewing included the sudden closure of the Ontario Science Centre, the 95-year lease given to a foreign spa company at Ontario Place, moving ServiceOntario locations into retail stores for convenience, the Greenbelt land swap controversy, and taxpayer money going towards the Beer Store to speed up alcohol sales in corner stores.
  • Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives are taking the public’s temperature on a possible early election call, Global News has learned, offering yet another sign that Premier Doug Ford is preparing to trigger an election ahead of schedule. Despite the four-year mandate Ford won during the 2022 provincial election, sources said the PC Party has been weighing the risks and benefits of heading to the polls in 2025. While Ford has yet to reveal whether he would call an early election, the premier also refused to commit to the current fixed election date scheduled for June 2026.
  • Ontario Premier Doug Ford and his government say they are “the first jurisdiction” in North America to introduce automatic licence plate renewals. The change takes effect on July 1 and will save vehicle owners time, amounting to more than 900,000 hours every year, the government said. “First, we eliminated licence plate sticker fees for passenger vehicles, saving drivers $120 a year for every car they own,” said Transportation Minister Prabmeet Sarkaria. “Now, we’re saving drivers valuable time and making their lives easier by automatically renewing licence plates.” Licence plates for passenger vehicles, light-duty trucks, motorcycles and mopeds will renew automatically 90 days before expiry if the vehicle owner has valid insurance and no outstanding fines or tolls, the government said in a news release.

Manitoba

  • Three Manitoba First Nations and the province of Manitoba have struck a deal to create a long-term forestry plan in the Swan Valley region, an agreement being called an act of economic reconciliation. The memorandum of understanding, announced Friday, calls for the provincial government, local First Nations and Louisiana-Pacific Canada to work together to create a 20-year forest management plan to protect treaty rights and jobs.
  • Healing the doctor shortage in Manitoba will be all the more difficult should nearly 700 physicians head elsewhere to practise, reduce their hours or hang up the stethoscope for retirement in the next three years as they’ve suggested they will, according to a new report from Doctors Manitoba. The report from the physician advocacy group, released Thursday, echoes concerns raised before about the need to prioritize retaining doctors by addressing issues like widespread burnout rates, administrative burdens and workplace culture.
  • Manitoba’s Progressive Conservatives say they will know who their next party leader will be by the end of next April. The Opposition party officially kicked off its leadership race and laid out its timeline at a news conference outside the party’s Kennedy Street headquarters in Winnipeg on Thursday. Nomination forms will be available for potential candidates as of Friday, and the PCs will begin accepting them starting next Tuesday. Potential candidates have until Oct. 15 to register and submit their paperwork, said Brad Zander, chair of the party’s leadership election committee, at the press conference. The application packages will then be reviewed by the seven-person committee.
  • Mayor Scott Gillingham and his inner circle agreed to give the real estate arm of the organization that owns the Winnipeg Jets more time to decide whether to buy Portage Place. The executive policy committee held a special meeting to vote on the extension Wednesday morning. True North Real Estate Development will have three more months to exercise its option to buy the downtown shopping mall, but it asked for an extension before embarking on a multi-year redevelopment that includes a medical tower and apartments.

Saskatchewan

  • Premier Scott Moe’s approval rating has dropped slightly since the last quarter, according to a new Angus Reid poll. The poll, released on June 26, shows the premier’s approval at 49 percent, with 17 percent strongly approving and 32 percent moderately approving the premier. While his rating is only down four percentage points from last quarter, it is farther removed from some highs seen earlier in the term, according to the Angus Reid Institute. Moe recently received criticism after not denouncing conspiracy theories, such as chemtrails, at a town hall in Speers, Sask. He later cleared the air to say he doesn’t believe in chemtrails.
  • The Alberta government recently said it would opt out of the federal dental plan by 2026 and ban cell phones in K-12 schools starting this fall. The Government of Saskatchewan hasn’t made any moves to follow Alberta’s lead yet but is taking a close look at both options. Premier Scott Moe said he thinks the cellphone ban isn’t a bad idea. “That’s something that I think is fair to say that not only us but other provinces are having a look at as well,” Moe said.
  • An urgent care centre, the first of its kind in Saskatchewan, will be opening its doors on July 2. Premier Scott Moe and Health Minister Everett Hindley, along with representatives from the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA), Hospitals of Regina Foundation and other partners, announced the grand opening of the new Regina Urgent Care Centre (UCC) on Thursday. “We are very proud to see all the work that has gone into the Regina urgent care project,” Moe said. “In 2020, we began discussions with healthcare officials about strengthening the health system by addressing a gap identified between emergency departments and primary care.
  • The Saskatchewan government says it won’t comply with federal clean electricity regulations when they come into effect. The statement, posted in a news release Tuesday, is in response to the Saskatchewan Economic Impact Assessment Tribunal’s conclusion that if the draft clean electricity regulations are implemented, it would stunt job growth and cost billions of dollars. The regulations are meant to help the shift toward a net-zero electricity grid, help provinces and territories maintain electricity affordability for Canadians and businesses and maintain grid reliability, according to a federal website.

Alberta

  • Alberta intends to withdraw from the federal government’s dental care plan by 2026, Premier Danielle Smith wrote in a Tuesday letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, saying the national plan duplicates coverage already provided to most Albertans. Instead, Smith said the province will negotiate an unconditional agreement for Alberta’s share of federal dental funding and use it to expand coverage to a greater number of low-income Albertans.
  • The provincial government is introducing new measures to ensure post-secondary education remains accessible and affordable for Alberta students. Officials say supporting opportunities for students and ensuring post-secondary education remains affordable is a top priority for Alberta’s government. With student aid applications opening on June 27, Alberta’s government says it is taking action to stabilize the increasing costs of student aid for Alberta students attending private career colleges, while also strengthening protections for them.
  • The Alberta government ended its fiscal year on March 31 with a $4.3 billion surplus despite having to pay $3 billion in contingency costs due to the province’s worst fire season on record. The province released its final 2023-24 financial year-end report on Thursday. Finance Minister Nate Horner defended the government’s current plan to use surplus cash to pay off debt while saving some of it into the Heritage Fund, while Albertans continue to grapple with affordability issues. He noted that Albertans don’t pay provincial sales tax. 
  • The regulator responsible for overseeing Alberta’s oil and gas sector has released a new report projecting the province’s oilsands production will grow by more than 17 percent by 2033. In the latest version of its annual forecast, released Monday, the Alberta Energy Regulator predicts production of raw bitumen — the thick, sticky oil found in Alberta’s oilsands region — will grow to four million barrels per day in 2033, up from the 3.4 million barrels per day that was produced last year.

British Columbia

  • British Columbia Premier David Eby announces his government is planning to expand the BC Family Benefit, a monthly payment distributed to families with children under the age of 18. The province says families will receive an average of $445 more than last year as a one-year bonus, and about 340,000 families – 66,000 more than last year – are expected to receive the benefit.
  • Premier David Eby was in a congratulatory mood this week in greeting news of a go-ahead decision on a $3.4 billion LNG terminal for a site near Kitimat.  “It shows the confidence of investors in the economy of B.C. and how the future for the natural resources sector is bright,” declared Eby, referring to the final investment decision by partners in the Cedar floating LNG terminal. He further touted the project as the first in the world to be “majority-owned” by an Indigenous nation. The Kitimat-based Haisla First Nation owns 50.1 per cent while the balance is held by Calgary’s Pembina Pipeline Corp.
  • B.C. Premier David Eby’s approval rating has slipped before the fall election, suggests a new poll Wednesday. The Angus Reid Institute survey, which rates the approval of Canadian premiers, says Eby’s approval has declined by five points since the last such poll to 43 percent, making him Canada’s sixth most popular premier. Near-equal numbers say they approve (43 percent) of the B.C. premier as disapprove (45 percent), according to the survey. The pollsters say Eby’s highest approval rating was 48 percent, which he held in March and September of last year.
  • The premier of B.C., David Eby, has penned a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calling on the Liberal government to begin ‘immediate engagement’ regarding the recent denial of Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Funding (DMAF) for the communities of Merritt, Princeton and Abbotsford. “Canada has a history of funding essential large-scale disaster risk reduction projects directly with communities through the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund (DMAF),” reads the letter from Eby. “Many small communities do not otherwise have the resources to complete these large-scale projects on their own.”

Northwest Territories

  • On Aug. 16, 2023, about 40 minutes before the N.W.T. government issued an evacuation order for Yellowknife due to threatening wildfires, a director with the city emailed the territorial government asking for basic details on where evacuees should go and who they could contact for assistance. Those questions, which weren’t immediately answered at the time, reveal some of the confusion and rushed decision-making that marked the mass evacuation of the majority of the territory last summer.  The coordination between the N.W.T. government, City of Yellowknife, federal government and Canadian Armed Forces is captured in emails and briefing notes CBC News obtained through an Access to Information and Protection of Privacy request. 

Yukon

  • Some Yukon First Nations are blasting the territorial government and the mining industry, in the wake of this week’s major ore slide at the Eagle gold mine near Mayo, Yukon. Chief Dawna Hope of the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun (NND) said the “disaster” at the mine site threatens her community and others downstream from the mine. The Eagle mine, owned by Toronto-based Victoria Gold Inc., sits on NND’s traditional territory. “We’re concerned of the health of the land, the water, the fish and the animals, not only for the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun, but also for our relations downstream, and their environment,” she said.

Nunavut

  • A long-awaited project that would see an Arctic deepwater port and road connecting rich mineral resources to international shipping routes as well as offering the Navy another northern beachhead has been revived. The proposed Grays Bay Port and Road, which has been a northern dream for more than a decade, has refiled an environmental assessment with regulatory authorities in Nunavut, restarting a process that has been stalled for years. 

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