Provincial and Territorial Update – June 7, 2024

The Provincial and Territorial Updates: An overview of the Provincial Legislative and Territories Legislative Updates for the week of June 7, 2024.​ Written by Wes McLean.

New Brunswick

  • Nicolle Carlin, who has worked as spokesperson for Premier Blaine Higgs since 2018, has announced she is seeking the Progressive Conservative nomination in Fredericton South-Silverwood. It’s the same riding where Liberal Leader Susan Holt plans to run in the next election, which is scheduled for October.
  • Premier Blaine Higgs is suggesting that a controversial European trip by his tourism minister last fall helped convince the president of France to visit New Brunswick. Higgs appeared to confirm in the legislature Thursday that Emmanuel Macron will visit the province — a trip that has been the subject of speculation for three years, but that had not been officially announced.
  • New Brunswick’s health minister has refused to give the Vitalité health authority’s CEO a vote of confidence over the travel-nurse issue. Bruce Fitch refused to tell reporters Thursday whether he thinks Dr. France Desrosiers should remain in the position following this week’s scathing audit of the health authority’s contracts with Canadian Health Labs. “That’s a good question. We changed the governance,” Fitch said, referring to the re-establishment of health authority boards last year.
  • The New Brunswick government is declining to release any information about a review it says it has been conducting into whether to lift ceilings placed weekly on petroleum prices in the province by the Energy and Utilities Board. Last month Premier Blaine Higgs casually mentioned to reporters a review was underway of New Brunswick’s 18-year-old practice of setting upper limits on what can be charged to consumers for a variety of petroleum products. 

Nova Scotia

  • The Nova Scotia government has unveiled a new cellphone policy to take effect in schools across the province starting this fall. Students in elementary schools will be required to turn their phones off and keep them out of sight throughout the school day. Junior and senior high students will be required to have their devices off and out of sight during class time, unless their teacher is incorporating their use as part of classroom instruction.
  • A Nova Scotia judge has thrown out charges against two people accused of harassing the province’s chief medical officer of health during a protest against COVID restrictions outside his home, ruling their rights were violated because it’s taken too long to bring them to trial. Jeremy MacKenzie, a 38-year-old podcaster and founder of the controversial group Diagolon, and his partner, Morgan Guptill, 34, were charged in 2022 with criminal harassment, mischief, making harassing phone calls and intimidation of a health professional.
  • A small First Nations community in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley has signed an agreement in principle to assume majority ownership of two shipyards on the province’s south shore. Michael Peters, CEO of Glooscap Ventures, the investment firm that handles economic development for the Glooscap First Nation, said the deal to purchase the East River Shipyard in Mahone Bay and the Lunenburg Shipyard, is an opportunity for further growth.
  • Three of Nova Scotia’s biggest industrial manufacturers are looking into using green hydrogen to power parts of their operations as an alternative to fossil fuels. The Shaw Group, Michelin and Port Hawkesbury Paper are pursuing a feasibility study on using hydrogen energy in industrial heating applications. There is no green hydrogen being produced commercially in Nova Scotia yet. But two projects — one by EverWind Fuels and the other by Bear Head Energy — have received approval from the province’s environment minister.

Prince Edward Island

  • About 100 protesters gathered in Charlottetown on Thursday asking for changes to P.E.I.’s immigration policy to be rolled back, while business representatives told MLAs that the new rules are hurting employers in the sales and service sector. An immigration consultant and representatives from both the Charlottetown and Eastern P.E.I. chambers of commerce told the standing committee on education and economic growth that business owners are already seeing negative effects from the province’s policy change.
  • The percentage of Prince Edward Islanders who said they were mostly or completely satisfied with the Progressive Conservative government of Premier Dennis King fell below 50 percent last month, according to the latest poll from Narrative Research. The polling firm reached 300 Islanders by telephone from May 8 to 29. In 2021, the percentage of those polled by Narrative who said they were mostly or completely satisfied with the PCs reached as high as 80 percent.
  • Lack of digital forensic services on P.E.I. is leading to some court delays. Digital forensic services on P.E.I. is leading to some court delays. Faced with crimes where crucial clues might be contained in the phone or computer of a victim or suspect, RCMP on P.E.I. must send those devices to Halifax for forensic analysis. A lack of staff on the Island is to blame.
  • Charlottetown’s city council has voted to accept an investigator’s conclusion that Ward 8 Coun. Trevor MacKinnon breached the city’s code of conduct. At a special meeting on June 3, councillors voted 6-0 to accept the findings of an independent investigator. MacKinnon himself and Coun. Bob Doiron both abstained from the vote due to a conflict of interest, and Coun. Mitch Tweel and John McAleer were not present. It’s not clear exactly what part of the code of conduct MacKinnon breached, but the investigation was triggered in response to comments he made to a member of the public in the spring of 2023, which led to a formal complaint.

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro is planning to invest more than $1 billion to add an eighth unit at the Bay d’Espoir hydroelectric dam on Newfoundland’s south coast and a new 150-megawatt combustion turbine — with the aim of boosting the energy grid. CEO Jennifer Williams, who made the announcement Thursday at Energy N.L.’s annual conference in St. John’s, said an increase in power demand is expected in the next decade, driven partly by population growth and electrification.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador’s shift to renewable energy is going to require a carbon-emitting backup source for years to come, Newfoundland Power president Gary Murray argued Wednesday, and it’s not going to be the Holyrood generating station forever. Murray said the province needs a thermal energy plant that can start in a hurry and chip in during times of peak demand or system failures.
  • Industry experts say Newfoundland and Labrador is leading the way in the fight against smoking and could create a smoke-free generation if a new policy comes to fruition. The province will soon ask for input from residents on topics like increasing the legal purchase age from 19 to 21 and outright prohibiting the sale of tobacco to anyone born after a certain date. That will be part of an EngageNL survey later this month.
  • Marine Atlantic says a problem with its new ferry has pushed back the date of its first voyage nearly two weeks. Last week, Marine Atlantic announced a mechanical error with the lubrication system had been found during a review of the vessel. Captain Anderson Noel, Marine Atlantic’s director of fleet operations, said Thursday that the Ala’suinu — which had been scheduled to begin its Argentia-North Sydney run on June 14 — will have its inaugural voyage on June 26.

Quebec

  • Accusing Ottawa of meddling and treating Quebec like it can’t manage its own affairs, Premier François Legault has upped the pressure for the federal government to surrender more powers by announcing the creation a committee to explore how Quebec can acquire more autonomy in the federation. And he has drawn from the well of history to add to the drama of the moment to say Quebec is not going to be pushed around in the federation, by quoting former Liberal Premier Robert Bourassa’s famous June 1990 post-Meech Lake Accord speech to make his point.
  • Quebec’s social safety net will collapse if hyper-immigration levels aren’t restrained, Premier Francois Legault warns. Legault said his province can no longer keep up with its social services as a result of the “explosion” of immigration it’s been faced with over the past several years. While being interviewed on a 98.5 FM radio show, Legault said that Quebec had become strained by the number of migrants it has had to take in and that Montrealers were beginning to feel less safe as a rippling effect of the province’s mass influx of people. 
  • The Legault government has no plans to offer Indigenous students more breaks to meet the requirements of the new Charter of the French Language. In a letter addressed to Premier François Legault, a copy of which was obtained by The Canadian Press on Wednesday, five English-language CEGEPs cite the “urgent need to act.” They ask the government to find a solution to better support Indigenous students, otherwise, they say, many of them will go to Ontario institutions or abandon their studies altogether.
  • Quebec’s legislature has adopted a law that includes fines of up to $1,500 for anyone who intimidates or harasses a politician. The Coalition Avenir Québec government has said the law is necessary to stem the rise in resignations of elected officials, particularly at the municipal level, but critics have said it threatens free speech rights. The government introduced the legislation shortly after an organization representing Quebec municipalities released a survey indicating 74 percent of elected municipal leaders reported having experienced harassment and intimidation, and that 741 out of 8,000 had quit since elections were held across the province in 2021.

Ontario

  • Ontario Premier Doug Ford has unveiled a shakeup to his cabinet on the same day the legislature rose to take an extended break into October, with the education and energy ministers switching portfolios in a shuffle that follows speculation about an early election. Thursday’s reset – dubbed a “renewed cabinet” by the government – expands Mr. Ford’s front bench to 36 people and affects 15 different portfolios. The shuffle is the first for Mr. Ford in almost a year after the fallout from the Greenbelt saga led to a series of resignations and an RCMP investigation.
  • Stephen Lecce, who has served as education minister for five years, is becoming Minister of Energy and Electrification. Todd Smith, who was the energy minister, is taking over Education. Many other key posts, including Finance, Treasury Board, Health, Infrastructure, Transportation and Economic Development, remain unchanged. Steve Clark becomes Government House Leader.
  • Ontario’s major teachers’ unions are welcoming a change in education ministers in a cabinet shuffle, saying they hope it signals a new path forward with Premier Doug Ford’s government. Stephen Lecce served as education minister since 2019, through two rounds of collective bargaining with teachers and education workers, and now becomes minister of energy and electrification, as part of a cabinet shuffle Ford announced Thursday.
  • The Ontario government has allocated $3.7 billion less than what’s needed to fund existing programs and its announced commitments to children, community and social services, the province’s financial watchdog said in a report released Wednesday. Based on current spending plans outlined in the 2024 budget, the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO) projects the province is short $0.7 billion in its budget for Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services (MCCSS) spending for 2024-25, which will grow to $1.2 billion by 2025-26 and $1.8 billion in 2026-27. 

Manitoba

  • A former chief of the most populous First Nation in Manitoba has asked the Federal Court of Canada to set aside the results of a 2023 band election over the cancellation of advance polls and alleged issues with mail-in ballots. On July 11, the Federal Court will hold a special sitting in Winnipeg to hear arguments in a judicial review of an election held by Peguis First Nation on April 6, 2023, when incumbent Glenn Hudson was defeated by Stan Bird in the race for chief.
  • The number of publicly funded physiotherapy assessments in Winnipeg has plummeted in the years since all outpatient services were consolidated into a single facility, a new study says. Researchers at the University of Manitoba say in the 23 months before the consolidation in late 2017, there were a total of 18,261 initial outpatient assessments, compared to 6,715 assessments over the 61 months following. That means the average number of assessments each month went from 794 in the two years before consolidation, to an average of 110 monthly in the five years following, according to results from the study released this week — a drop of more than 85 percent.
  • Construction of a new school in Sage Creek is in limbo because of the delay in its funding from the provincial government, the division says. The school on Des Hivernants Boulevard in southeast Winnipeg was originally supposed to open in September 2025, but recently the school division was told there were not enough provincial funds to complete the construction.
  • Shared Health has ended dozens of contracts with external vendors in another bid to slash costs. The Manitoba healthcare entity has closed more than 50 contracts that provided project and administrative support in areas such as document management, software implementation and project management, Shared Health CEO Lanette Siragusa said in an email. These projects and initiatives, some of which were signed with out-of-province vendors, have either concluded or will now be assumed by Shared Health itself. The organization expects to save $7.5 million annually from these changes.

Saskatchewan

  • Saskatchewan’s provincial auditor’s latest report includes a look at how one school division is trying to deal with an apparent rise in student anxiety and depression. Saskatchewan’s provincial auditor Tara Clemett released Volume 1 of her annual report on Wednesday. One section focuses on the Living Sky School Division, which administrates 28 schools in 15 communities, including North Battleford, Unity and Pelican Lake First Nation. The auditor’s report references a recent survey done in the division in which 32 percent of students from grades 7 to 12 who responded reported moderate to high levels of anxiety and depression in 2022-23, up from 21 percent in 2015-16. The Canadian average is 26 percent, the report says.
  • The government of Saskatchewan is continuing its call for binding arbitration with teachers, but the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) says that route would take too long and they want to get back to the bargaining table. Teachers announced Wednesday night they are implementing sanctions again, after declaring an impasse in bargaining. Indefinite work-to-rule begins Monday. The sanctions mean there will be no voluntary services provided by teachers, no lunch supervision and teachers will begin their shift 15 minutes before the bell rings and end 15 minutes after.
  • Saskatchewan’s Opposition NDP is calling for a government committee to meet, appoint an investigator and call Premier Scott Moe and Jeremy Harrison to answer questions about allegations the Speaker made last month. Last week, NDP MLA Meara Conway sent a letter to Speaker Randy Weekes asking him to summon members of the all-party House Services Committee. Weekes is chair of the committee. Conway said the committee should appoint an independent investigator to look into allegations Weekes made in the assembly on May 16. Weekes said he was bullied, harassed and intimidated by government members and staff.
  • Saskatchewan high school students interested in a career in the oil and gas industry will soon be able to get a leg up. On Wednesday, the province announced that a class called Oil and Gas 20 will be offered in the second semester of the 2024-25 school year. A course called Oil and Gas 30 will follow in the 2025-26 school year. The courses will include 50 hours of online theory and 50 hours of work placement. Premier Scott Moe said the courses are a good opportunity for children in the province. 

Alberta

  • Premier Danielle Smith says government-run public auto insurance is off the table for Alberta, despite a recent report suggesting it would save drivers hundreds of dollars a year in premiums. The report, by Oliver Wyman and Nous Group, was commissioned by the Alberta Treasury and Finance Board. It suggests that Alberta could significantly reduce insurance costs by adopting a no-fault insurance system like Manitoba or Saskatchewan, which provides universal insurance with coverage for injury and vehicle damage. Unlike Alberta’s tort system, no-fault models don’t use litigation to recover costs. Instead, each person’s insurance is responsible for compensating them after an accident.
  • Alberta’s premier is defending her government’s involvement in a recent hearing approval for coal exploration in the Rocky Mountains. The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) has granted an Australian mining company a public hearing for its open-pit steelmaking plans in southwest Alberta. Northback Holdings wants permission to do exploratory drilling and water diversion near Crowsnest Pass. Despite already being turned down by both federal and provincial environmental reviews, Alberta Minister of Energy Brian Jean told the AER that Northback’s proposal is, by definition, “advanced.” That makes it eligible for review, according to a ministerial order passed in 2022, Jean wrote.
  • The spring sitting of the Alberta legislature wrapped up last week, bringing to an end a legislative period described by the government as productive but also characterized as anti-democratic by the Opposition New Democrats. MLAs rose just before 6 p.m. last Wednesday, May 29, bringing to an end a sitting that saw 13 new government bills, nine of which had received royal assent as of early Thursday, as well as a budget that delivered a narrow surplus back in February.
  • Canada’s Shock Trauma Air Rescue Services (STARS) renewed its public-private partnership with the Alberta government on Tuesday to provide Albertans, particularly those in rural and remote communities, with an EMS system that responds effectively to medical emergencies. Premier of the province Danielle Smith commented: “Through STARS, we are better able to connect Albertans in rural and remote communities to critical healthcare services, improving patient outcomes and providing assurance to families.

British Columbia

  • LGBTQ+ advocates in British Columbia say some in their communities are confused and disappointed by the political defection of legislator Elenore Sturko to the BC Conservatives, whose policies she once opposed. Charmaine de Silva, a former co-chair of Vancouver Pride, said she had heard from community members who couldn’t understand how Sturko’s values fit in with a party whose leader has called for the abolition of the sexual orientation and gender identity curriculum in B.C. schools.
  • Kevin Falcon presented himself and his party as B.C.’s middle-of-road-option during an appearance before business leaders in Greater Victoria this week. But the B.C. United leaders could not escape questions about cracks within the so-called free enterprise coalition. “British Columbians are mainstream and not extreme,” he said after a June 6 speech to the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce. He said voters are not going to go for the extreme left or extreme right. They will go for the mainstream.
  • As B.C. brings in a new scientific advisor to treat people with severe mental health and addiction challenges, Premier David Eby says Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s approach to safe supply is a “non-starter.” Eby’s comments came during a news conference announcing that Dr. Daniel Vigo would become the chief scientific advisor on psychiatry, toxic drugs, and mental disorders. The premier told reporters he fundamentally disagrees with Henry, after she told an all-party health committee in Ottawa that legalizing and regulating hard drugs would prevent toxic drug deaths.
  • A Vancouver Jewish mother says she has been told a disciplinary process has begun after a teacher “repeatedly” put up Palestinian flags and symbols in the classroom. Merav Nider told Global News that she complained after her son’s Grade 7 teacher hung up a Palestinian flag in her son’s classroom. It was taken down but later replaced with a flag showing the outline of the state of Israel in red, green and black. Nider says the image is widely seen as a call for the destruction of Israel. After talking to the principal, she said that the flag was also removed.

Northwest Territories

  • The N.W.T.’s health minister says she won’t pause the rollout of changes to the territory’s extended health benefits program, after a standing committee of MLAs urged her to do so. Lesa Semmler was not available for an interview and sent CBC a written statement. The program helps cover the cost of prescription drugs, medical supplies and equipment that aren’t eligible for coverage through third-party insurers. Two significant changes include an income assessment to determine eligibility for the program and doing away with the current specified disease conditions list. The list includes about 50 conditions that currently guarantee coverage under the program. 

Yukon

  • Yukon’s premier is defending his government’s decision to stop accepting any new applications to the territory’s nominee program this year, saying there’s been a lot of “misinformation” about that decision. Premier Ranj Pillai was responding to recent comments from a Whitehorse business owner, who called the pause to the Yukon Nominee Program short-sighted and heavy-handed. “Bluntly speaking, they’re incorrect,” Pillai said in an interview on Monday morning.

Nunavut

  • An $8 million class-action settlement agreement between the governments of Nunavut and Northwest Territories, the attorney general of Canada and three representative plaintiffs is now in the hands of the Nunavut Court of Justice. Acting Chief Justice Susan Cooper presided over Tuesday’s settlement hearing in Iqaluit, less than a month after lawyers representing the plaintiffs and defendants announced they had reached a settlement agreement. The lawsuit was brought forward by the representative plaintiffs on behalf of themselves and others who say they were sexually abused by Maurice Cloughley.

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