Provincial and Territorial Update – March 8, 2024

Provincial and Territorial Update – March 8, 2024: An overview of the Provincial Legislative and Territories Legislative Updates for the week of March 1-8, 2024.​ Written by Wes McLean.

New Brunswick

  • It appears some small New Brunswick communities and their bottle depots may take a hit in the switch to producer responsibility for beverage container waste. About six small redemption centres are on the brink of closure, estimated David McCarthy, secretary of the Eastern Recyclers Association, which represents 50 of the 69 bottle depots in the province.
  • Provincial ‘cost of assessment’ fee adding millions to N.B. property tax bills. Province has allowed fee to double for some homeowners over three years. New Brunswick property tax bills continue to arrive in the mail across the province this week and increasingly questions are being asked about a growing charge that the province adds near the bottom of the invoice.
  • The Higgs government is reacting coolly to Ottawa’s invitation to join a national pharmacare program. The federal government said last week it hoped to have some provinces sign on to the plan, which will initially cover diabetes medication and devices as well as contraceptives, by the end of the year. But a spokesperson for the New Brunswick Health Department says many of the details haven’t been shared yet and there have only been “preliminary discussions” so far.
  • The New Brunswick Medical Society has not seen the province’s primary healthcare transformation strategy or the 18-month action plan, quietly launched about six months ago, according to the president. “The NBMS is not aware of any comprehensive provincial strategy related to primary health care,” said Dr. Paula Keating.

Nova Scotia

  • Nova Scotia’s education minister still will not say where four new schools she announced last year for Halifax Regional Municipality will be located, or when construction on those projects could begin. Even when construction does start, however, it’s not clear if the new schools will be enough to accommodate the capital region’s growing population.
  • A Canadian market research company has filed a defamation lawsuit against the mayor and Town of Antigonish, over what it says are defamatory comments made in Province House in Halifax this week. Mainstreet Research conducted two polls about the proposed consolidation of Antigonish town and county, showing most respondents wanted a public vote on the issue. In March 2023, 70 per cent of the respondents called for the vote. That number rose to 75.8 per cent in a February 2024 poll.
  • Premier Tim Houston will miss a week of the spring session of the legislature that will include the second half of debate on his government’s budget. Houston told reporters on Friday that when MLAs return to Province House after March break, he’ll be attending a hydrogen conference in Hamburg, Germany, at the invitation of federal Energy Minister Jonathan Wilkinson.
  • The group that represents Nova Scotia’s midwives say demand for their services has been on the rise for years, but that hasn’t been reflected in provincial funding. The province currently funds 16 midwife positions at three sites in Nova Scotia — in Halifax, Lunenburg and Antigonish. But Jessica Thorpe, president of the Association of Nova Scotia Midwives, says it’s not enough to handle the number of expecting parents looking for support. Thorpe said her association was hopeful there would be an increase in midwifery funding in the latest budget — given the $7.3 billion allocated to health care — but that was not the case.

Prince Edward Island

  • Prince Edward Island’s premier has asked the prime minister to call off a planned increase to the carbon tax next month. In a letter to Justin Trudeau, Premier Dennis King wrote that the hike will hurt Islanders by further driving up their already high cost of living. The carbon tax hike, set to take effect on April 1, would add 3.5 cents per litre to the cost regular gasoline, and four cents a litre to the cost of diesel.
  • P.E.I.’s economic development minister says the fate of the former Confederation Bridge fabrication yard will be determined through a transparent process. But in question period Friday, Gilles Arsenault declined to share details from a consultant’s report about possible uses for the site. The minister faced questions in the provincial legislature on Friday about the potential development of the vacant site, which has sat dormant since the bridge connecting the Island to New Brunswick opened in 1997. The property is owned by Innovation P.E.I., a government agency.
  • The group representing about 400 physicians and medical learners on P.E.I. is recommending a pause on the medical school at the University of Prince Edward Island until specific impacts on the health-care system can be addressed. Dr. Krista Cassell said it’s not that the Medical Society of P.E.I. (MSPEI) is against the school,but it has ongoing concerns about the timeline.
  • The P.E.I. government is refusing to disclose basic information about some contracts the province awarded without going to tender, including what companies the province signed the contracts with. This, as the province’s auditor general and others call for increased transparency in how the P.E.I. government handles procurement — that is, the process of spending taxpayer dollars on goods and services.

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • These unclaimed dead bodies are stuck in limbo in freezers outside the Health Sciences Centre. Cadavers accumulating in storage units as cost of living — and dying — rises. Sources say the situation is growing worse. The morgue has had bodies piled up two per stretcher and in the hallways. The cold storage units have never been this full. And as prices rise across the board, Newfoundland and Labrador’s population grows older. About 5,500 people die here every year. As more people can’t afford to claim the remains, the province’s solution is the freezer units.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador’s health minister says contracts employing agency nurses are approved and handled by the province’s health authority, but the Official Opposition says documents obtained by the party say otherwise. Speaking in the House of Assembly on Tuesday, Opposition Leader Tony Wakeham questioned Health Minister Tom Osborne on several occasions about a contract given to Canadian Health Labs to employ agency nurses in western Newfoundland, and the government’s spending of tens of millions of dollars on agency nurses as reported in the Globe and Mail.
  • Health Minister Tom Osborne says it was “unacceptable” that nurses were mandated to work overtime to fill the gap left when the travel nurse contract in the western health zone came to an end in February. Osborne told VOCM Open Line with Paddy Daly the health authority has already admitted that the situation was an oversight, and scheduling wasn’t properly handled.
  • Nominations open today for the NDP in the district of Fogo Island-Cape Freels. A byelection has yet to be called to fill the seat left vacant after the passing of Derrick Bragg in January. Nominations for the New Democrats will close at 5 p.m. a week from today on Friday, March 15. Three people are in the running for the Liberal Party: New-Wes-Valley Mayor Mike Tiller, Dover Mayor Tony Keats, and Bragg’s former executive assistant Dana Blackmore.


  • After several months of asking the Quebec government in vain to increase its family reunification capacity, Federal Immigration Minister Marc Miller says it’s time for his government to pull rank. Miller says his ministry will begin issuing permanent residence permits to those looking to unite with their loved ones in Quebec, regardless of the province’s self-imposed cap on applicants, which he describes as “artificially low.” 
  • The Quebec government has pulled a 180 on its policy for X gender markers. In a surprise decision, the province has approved the use of gender markers that reflect the identity of trans and non-binary people on provincial driver’s licences and health insurance cards. The François Legault government had vowed not to make any decisions regarding the X marker until its new gender identity committee submitted its final report in winter 2025.
  • Between a drop in Hydro-Québec’s dividend, an economic slowdown, and recent negotiations with public sector unions, Finance Minister Eric Girard says the province is left with little wiggle room in its upcoming budget. However, the provincial government says there will be no austerity measures or cuts to public services, with health care and education said to be its top two priorities. This means there is a possibility Girard will delay the province’s return to a balanced budget beyond 2028 when he tables the province’s budget in Quebec City on March 12.
  • Concordia University and McGill University students are once again planning to strike against the CAQ government’s plan to increase tuition for out-of-province students attending English universities. Faculty associations have voted for a strike to take place next week, representing over 21,000 students. Tuition is set to rise to roughly $12,000 from about $9,000 for out-of-province students next fall, except for Quebec’s only other English university — Bishop’s — which was exempted because it is outside Montreal.


  • Ontario Premier Doug Ford urged the federal government to cancel or put a hold on the carbon tax ahead of a planned increase, warning that if they don’t, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau could get annihilated in the next election. The comments were made at an unrelated news conference in Milton, Ont. “The carbon tax is the worst tax ever put on a bunch of people,” Ford told reporters Friday. “I can’t believe the federal government is actually going to hike the gas tax.” As of April 1, the price on carbon pollution will increase by $15 per tonne.
  • Ontario Premier Doug Ford says his government will build as many jails as needed to keep criminals behind bars “for a long time.” Ford was asked about overcrowding in Ontario jails during a news conference on an unrelated announcement in Milton, Ont., Friday morning. Data obtained by The Canadian Press through freedom-of-information laws shows the majority of Ontario jails are over capacity.
  • Ontario Premier Doug Ford says the people “need a break” from high interest rates, a day before the Bank of Canada announcement. “People are hurting. They need a break,” the premier said in a post shared on X, formerly Twitter. “It’s time for the Bank of Canada to start lowering interest rates tomorrow.” On Wednesday morning, the Bank of Canada is slated to make an interest rate announcement and it is anticipated to maintain its key interest rate at five per cent, with most forecasting the first rate cut to come around June.
  • Premier Doug Ford is “quintupling down” on his pledge to hire “like-minded” judges to provincial courtrooms, amid growing concern in the legal community about the independence of Ontario’s judicial system. The Ford government has faced weeks of questions and criticism after the attorney general added two former employees of the Premier’s Office – both of whom are currently registered lobbyists — to the Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee.


  • A northern Manitoba First Nation declared a state of emergency Friday afternoon, owing to a nursing shortage officials in the community described as a crisis. Pimicikamak Cree Nation — also known as Cross Lake — is supposed to have at least 13 nurses working in its nursing station, but as of Friday, there were only four. That means the staff who are available are experiencing burnout and a lack of sleep, while some patients are being turned away as the facility operates on an emergencies-only basis, a health official said.
  • A former Manitoba Progressive Conservative cabinet minister said on International Women’s Day that she was sexually assaulted by a former MLA seven years ago, and that she faced consequences after coming forward. In posts made Friday to the social media networks Facebook and X (formerly known as Twitter), Sarah Guillemard posted a photo of her and some colleagues, stating, “This photo was taken on the evening I was groped by an older & former MLA.”
  • Protesters demanding a search of a Winnipeg-area landfill for the remains of three First Nations women directed their anger at a new target Friday — Premier Wab Kinew, who has yet to deliver on his campaign promise. Chants of “Bring out, Wab” rang across Manitoba’s legislative grounds on International Women’s Day, as around 300 people gathered to hear speeches after a round dance and march through downtown Winnipeg. “I’m sick of words with no action,” said Cambria Harris. It’s believed the remains of her mother, Morgan Harris, are in the landfill. 
  • The Manitoba government plans to restrict protests near clinics and hospitals where abortions are performed, as well as at the homes of abortion providers. The NDP government introduced a bill Thursday that, if passed, would create “buffer zones” of 50 metres to 150 metres around related health facilities and staff homes. Several provinces, including Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec, already have similar laws in place. “I think it’s important to recognize that governments have a responsibility to protect Manitobans that are seeking to access health care,” Families Minister Nahanni Fontaine said.


  • Teachers are open to returning to negotiations if the provincial government brings the funding deal it announced on Friday to the bargaining table, under certain conditions, says the head of the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF). On Friday, the Saskatchewan government announced a deal with the province’s school boards that it said would address class complexity with $356.6 million in funding per year for four years.
  • Regina announced Thursday that federal funding has come through for a new aquatic facility. In March 2023, the Regina city council voted to go ahead with the construction of a new geothermal-heated indoor aquatic centre to replace the aging Lawson facility, which was built in 1975. In a news release on Thursday morning, Regina Mayor Sandra Masters made the funding announcement along with provincial Minister of Government Relations Don McMorris and Sean Fraser, the federal minister for housing, infrastructure and communities.
  • After facing criticism from federal ministers earlier this week over his commitment to not remit the carbon tax on home heating using natural gas – Premier Moe doubled down on the province’s controversial move. On Monday, Federal Energy Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said Moe used “appallingly bad judgment” in his decision – while Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault called Moe’s decision “immoral” in comments to The Canadian Press.
  • Court documents filed by the Saskatchewan government allege a judge made mistakes in his decision to allow an amended court action aimed at the province’s pronoun consent law to proceed. The province is seeking to appeal the Feb. 16 decision of Court of King’s Bench Justice Michael Megaw and has filed an application with the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal for permission to do so. It is also applying for Megaw’s decision (and ensuing proceedings) to be stayed until an appeal is concluded, if granted.


  • As Calgary immigration agencies report long wait lists for trades training programs, Premier Danielle Smith says her government is taking a “full-court press” approach to addressing the Alberta labour shortage. Despite posting record population growth over the past two years, Alberta is still facing significant labour shortages in the trades as baby boomers leave the industry and it regains popularity after the COVID-19 pandemic wrought job instability for workers.
  • No charges will be laid following a long and complex Alberta RCMP investigation into allegations of voter fraud and identity theft in the 2017 United Conservative Party leadership race won by Jason Kenney. RCMP announced the conclusion of their investigation at a news conference in Edmonton Friday following a closed-door technical briefing with reporters. Since 2019, RCMP had been investigating allegations of fraud and identity theft in the contest that Kenney won in October 2017 before he became Alberta’s premier.
  • Alberta RCMP say the actions of a man accused of firing shots and throwing Molotov cocktails inside Edmonton city hall earlier this year are believed to be “politically motivated.” RCMP announced its Integrated National Security Enforcement Team has charged Bezhani Sarvar, 28, with counselling commission of a terrorism offence and possession of property for terrorist purposes. In a news conference Tuesday, RCMP Supt. Glenn Sells said Sarvar’s actions reached the legal threshold required to support terrorism charges.
  • Suncor Energy Inc. has signed an agreement with the Fort McKay First Nation that the oilsands giant says could lead to its first-ever bitumen extraction project on reserve lands. The Calgary-based energy company, together with the Fort McKay First Nation, announced Thursday that they have struck a memorandum of understanding on an oilsands lease development opportunity. Suncor said it is in the process of conducting early-stage technical and commercial feasibility assessments to determine the quality and quantity of mineable bitumen ore in the area, which is located within the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo in northern Alberta and on the Fort McKay First Nation’s traditional territory. Bitumen is a variant of oil common in the oilsands.

British Columbia

  • Former B.C. minister of post-secondary education Selina Robinson has resigned from the NDP caucus. The MLA, who is Jewish, will sit as an independent representing the riding of Coquitlam-Maillardville. Robinson confirmed her resignation while speaking to reporters at the B.C. Legislature Wednesday afternoon. In her remarks, Robinson said she felt unsupported as a Jewish woman in her party, and that there were antisemitic voices in the NDP caucus.
  • Premier David Eby acknowledged Friday that B.C. has a “serious problem with rising antisemitism” and that government employees have had antisemitic experiences within the public service. “This issue exists in schools, in civil society, within private employers, and I believe that people have had antisemitic experiences within the government B.C. public service,” Eby told reporters during an unrelated press conference in Vancouver.
  • British Columbia Premier David Eby is downplaying concerns raised by his Alberta counterpart Danielle Smith about the diversion of safe supply opioids from B.C. Diversion from the system of prescribed safe supply to prevent overdoses is a “serious issue,” Eby said, but the vast majority of drugs in a B.C. police seizure cited by Smith were not from that program. Prince George’s RCMP issued a news release Thursday saying thousands of prescription pills and other drugs have been seized in the past three months.
  • B.C. Premier David Eby says his government is “committed” to dissolving the Vancouver Park Board, but not until after the fall election. Eliminating the elected body has become a key priority for Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim, but doing so requires the provincial government to amend the Vancouver Charter. On Friday, Eby said the province had been working closely with the city on technical aspects of the proposal, but wasn’t able to make the changes this spring.

Northwest Territories

  • The chief public health officer for the Northwest Territories is warning about the presence of measles in Canada and the possibility that the disease could spread to the territory as a result of spring break travel. British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec all have confirmed measles cases, according to a public health advisory issued Thursday by Dr. Kami Kandola’s office.


  • Representatives of the Yukon opposition parties, labour unions and municipalities are speaking out about the new territorial budget, saying the government needs to do more to improve healthcare and housing access. Yukon Federation of Labour president Teresa Acheson and Yukon NDP leader Kate White both questioned whether increases in health spending were enough to meet the needs in the territory. Acheson, Yukon Party leader Currie Dixon, and Association of Yukon Communities president Ted Laking, meanwhile, all criticized the government for not doing more on land development.


  • Nunavut MLAs are urging the territorial government to release the findings of an internal investigation that looked into the placement of Nunavut youth in unlicensed group homes in Alberta. Premier P.J. Akeeagok ordered the internal investigation last May after reporting from Radio-Canada revealed that eight young Nunavummiut had been placed in these group homes. The children were placed with a company called Ever Bright, which said its licences were valid until January 2023. Alberta Children’s Services told Radio-Canada that the licences were cancelled in April 2022 — a few months before the youth were placed in the facilities.

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