Provincial and Territorial Update – May 10, 2024

The Provincial and Territorial Update: An overview of the Provincial Legislative and Territories Legislative Updates for the week of May 10, 2024.​ Written by Wes McLean.

New Brunswick

  • New Brunswick’s education minister is stepping back from the brink of a legal battle with three francophone district education councils over their gender identity policies. Bill Hogan claims he has anecdotal evidence that a majority of schools in the three districts are following the province’s Policy 713, despite what the councils are saying and have posted on their websites. 
  • The former head of Horizon Health Network, who was fired by the Progressive Conservative government, will represent the Liberals in the riding of Saint John Portland-Simonds in the upcoming provincial election. Dr. John Dornan was nominated as a candidate for the north-end riding Wednesday night in front of a crowd of more than 100 people. He said it’s “an opportunity to finish unfinished business.”
  • The Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture is being urged to rethink a reduction in workers’ hours in the tourism sector this coming season. CUPE Local 1190, which represents about 550 workers, spoke to reporters in Fredericton on Thursday to address the impact it says these cuts in hours and the length of the tourism season will have on its members. 
  • Teachers in New Brunswick will soon have more authority to limit the use of cell phones in schools — a change that some officials in the province have been calling for. The Department of Education’s technology policy, Policy 311, has been updated to add a new section that deals with cell phones. That section did not exist before and the change will take effect in September. 

Nova Scotia

  • There could be more three-wheel vehicles on Nova Scotia roads following the announcement of a pilot project to permit registration of federally approved models, but one owner says he has questions. On Wednesday, Nova Scotia Public Works announced vehicles with three wheels, automotive seats, foot pedals and steering wheels can be registered in the province starting May 15. 
  • Premier Tim Houston says he believes the Northern Pulp plant, shuttered by the company in January 2020, will never reopen. Houston made his comments while campaigning for the PCs in Pictou West in advance of the May 21 by-election. “I don’t even know how that mill could be reopened after just sitting there for that amount of time,” Houston said Tuesday. “It’s not on my radar, it’s not something that, as a province, we would be in favour of.”
  • The Nova Scotia government has failed to meet the first deadline in a landmark human rights agreement that is supposed to end the practice of housing people with disabilities in large institutions. In a release Wednesday, the province’s Disability Rights Coalition said it is “severely disappointed” by the missed deadline.
  • Nova Scotia’s health minister says more and better data about the system could help remove politics from what is traditionally one of the most political subjects in the province. “I believe that data will immunize health care from the political cycle,” Thompson told a lunch crowd at a Halifax Chamber of Commerce event on Wednesday. “And, as a health-care worker, I can’t tell you how important I believe that is.”

Prince Edward Island

  • A former P.E.I. cabinet minister and leader of the Island’s Official Opposition is setting his sights on Parliament Hill. James Aylward announced Thursday that he’s seeking the federal Conservative nomination in the Cardigan riding, which has been held by Liberal MP Lawrence MacAulay since 1988. “Recognizing the need for change to address the key concerns of Cardigan residents, it is also important to ensure we have a direct voice in a new government,” Aylward was quoted as saying in a news release. 
  • Prince Edward Island will have 27 new fast-charging stations for electric and hybrid vehicles by the fall of next year, with Ottawa’s help. The federal government is handing over $1.4 million to install 13 of the chargers at locations across the Island, with the goal of having them in place by September 2025. The province is matching that money for 14 more, to allow a total of 27 Level 3 chargers to be installed.
  • Some foreign workers on P.E.I. say they’re frustrated and worried as recent changes to the province’s immigration strategy put their chance to get permanent residency at risk. Monika Dablehar and Hardeep Singh, two friends from India, say they’re among many workers in P.E.I. who are now in that position. Their concerns come after the P.E.I. government announced in February that it’s cutting the number of people it nominates for permanent residency by 25 percent in 2024.
  • P.E.I.’s four Liberal members of Parliament have made a counter-proposal to Premier Dennis King’s request that Ottawa reduce its carbon tax: They’ve told the premier to lower his own gas tax. “If your preoccupation is with affordability, then we respectfully suggest that you are targeting the wrong tax,” the MPs wrote in a letter to the premier dated April 15, and recently shared on social media. In March, King wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seeking a pause in the latest step-up of the carbon tax, which kicked in April 1.

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • Newfoundland Power is being told to launch a faster transition to smart meters, which advocates say will give customers more and better information on how they use power — and can save money. Doug Bowman, an American energy industry consultant who is scheduled to appear at a Public Utilities Board hearing in June, says electrical customers are better served by the meters. 
  • The Newfoundland and Labrador government and the airport authority in St. John’s have been trying to attract new airlines and new routes, but an aviation industry analyst says higher airport fees might be holding some carriers back from entering the local market. Compared with airports across Atlantic Canada, St. John’s International Airport has the highest airport improvement fees — known in the industry as AIF — with a charge of $42. By contrast, Charlottetown charges $20 and Halifax charges $35.
  • Hundreds of families in need of child care in Newfoundland and Labrador are on at least one waitlist, according to a Department of Education survey that’s been running since October. Data obtained through an access-to-information request shows at least 1,783 out of 2,621 respondents — or 68 percent — to the Child Care Demand Portal survey have attempted to find child care and, at the time of answering the survey, had not secured a spot.
  • A former travel nurse says Newfoundland and Labrador’s move away from nursing agencies won’t be possible unless the province commits to fixing all the problems that led to the issue in the first place. Mark Hernandez, who spent time working in the province during his career as a travel nurse, says the heavy reliance on agencies is not going to be an easy problem to resolve. The provincial government says it plans to reduce its number of travel nurses from 340 to 60 by April 2026.

Quebec

  • Quebec Premier François Legault is defending his comments about a new history museum after he was accused by a group representing First Nations of trying to erase their history. The Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador criticized Legault’s April 25 comments that suggested the province’s history began with the arrival of French explorers Jacques Cartier and Samuel de Champlain in the 16th and 17th centuries.
  • Quebec Premier François Legault is facing criticism from opposition parties for asking police to dismantle the pro-Palestinian encampment on the McGill University campus. Despite the premier’s remarks and a recent closed-door meeting between the protesters and the school’s administration, the group says it has no plans to leave their encampment. Protesters are starting to call it a “tiny city.” Tents are still pitched, and there’s a library and wooden sidewalks. Going into its second week, it seems Premier François Legault’s calls have been ignored.
  • Premier François Legault on Wednesday condemned remarks made by Franco-Ontarian Liberal MP Francis Drouin to two witnesses campaigning in Ottawa for the protection of the French language in Quebec, calling them “extremist” and “full of s—.” “It’s a total lack of judgment,” said Legault at a press scrum at the Quebec legislature on Wednesday. A few minutes earlier, Minister for the French Language Jean-François Roberge called the remarks “absolutely unworthy” and said that by refusing to “condemn” them, Justin Trudeau’s entire Liberal government had “an examination of conscience” to make.
  • The federal government has reached an agreement to buy back the Pont de Québec from the Canadian National Railway (CN). Transport Minister Pablo Rodriguez confirmed the agreement Thursday morning, saying an official announcement is coming. “I want to thank everyone for their work,” said Rodriguez. “We have good news for Quebec City very soon.” In December, Jean-Yves Duclos, the minister of public services and procurement, told Radio-Canada that the federal government had sent an offer to CN to buy the bridge. 

Ontario

  • Ontario’s post-secondary education minister is concerned about encampments at universities and doesn’t want upcoming graduations to be hindered by the ongoing protests. “I want to ensure that all students and faculty are safe,” Colleges and Universities Minister Jill Dunlop said at Queen’s Park on Thursday. “We’re approaching graduation season, and I don’t want to see families intimidated and not attending graduation because this situation is happening,” she told reporters.
  • A member of Premier Doug Ford’s office attended a private meeting with a developer regarding his land that was later removed from the Greenbelt, reigniting questions about how directly involved the premier’s staff were in the ill-fated housing development plan. Newly released records show that Carlo Oliviero, who was at the time the executive director of stakeholder relations for Ford, was invited to the meeting about Greenbelt lands in Hamilton. The invitation was forwarded by a well-known lobbyist and former executive assistant of the premier’s.
  • The federal government is going over Premier Doug Ford’s head and promising to send $357 million in affordable housing funding directly to regions and municipalities, arguing Ontario has failed to show how it plans to meet the targets set out by the federal government. It means Ottawa will now decide how that money is dished out, and the Ontario government won’t get expected reimbursements from the federal government for money already sent to municipalities for affordable housing. 
  • A small town in eastern Ontario has seen its plans to hire a well-connected lobbying firm to help it net infrastructure funding fall apart after comments from councillors about “backroom” conversations with an administration that “talks to their friends” were used to “embarrass” the Ford government. The town of Brighton, Ont., between Cobourg and Belleville, had planned to hire Atlas Strategic Advisors to help it lobby for help with upgrades to its water treatment facility worth tens of millions of dollars.

Manitoba

  • The Manitoba government has purchased two new drug testing machines in an effort to boost harm reduction resources amid a toxic drug crisis in the province. The machines, called Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectrometers, use lasers to determine the chemical composition of substances, to give help inform drug users about what they are consuming. “We know that there’s a toxic drug supply out there and we wanted to make sure that folks knew what they were using,” Bernadette Smith, minister of housing, addictions and homelessness, said in an interview.
  • Cynthia Callard was taken aback last weekend when she heard Manitoba’s premier say the province is expecting a settlement soon from lawsuits filed by Canadian provinces against big tobacco companies. A major part of her 30-year professional career as executive director of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada — a national health organization focused on reducing tobacco-caused illness — has been focused on tracking the lawsuits, but the process has been shrouded in secrecy, she said.
  • Manitoba’s education minister is asking trustees at a Steinbach-based school division to reverse their controversial decision to give themselves the final say in the hiring of gym and music teachers. Nello Altomare said trustees at the Hanover School Division, and elsewhere, have a responsibility to ensure schools are safe and inclusive spaces and must be leaders, rather than “doing the bare minimum.” “School divisions need to be exemplars. They need to be leading the community in this.… and I expect them to do that,” he said Wednesday.
  • A former inmate is seeking class-action certification for his lawsuit against the Manitoba government, which accuses it of negligent solitary confinement practices that have “traumatized” some inmates in correctional facilities across the province. James Darren Audy, a 36-year-old man, is suing the province for negligence for the solitary confinement practices used at its nine correctional facilities, according to a statement of claim filed at the Manitoba Court of King’s Bench on May 2.

Saskatchewan

  • The president of the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) says it is ready to get back to the bargaining table after its members rejected the provincial government’s latest contract offer. The STF said Thursday evening that 92.2 percent of its members voted over the previous two days, with 90 percent of them rejecting the province’s offer. The three-year collective agreement offer featured a three percent salary increase in the first and second years, with the first increase retroactive to September 2023, and then a two percent increase in the third year.
  • Improved mine automation helped fertilizer giant Nutrien Ltd. increase potash production in the first quarter amid strong demand for its products, the company’s chief executive said. “We’re encouraged by the strength of demand and continued market stabilization that we saw in the first quarter,” president and CEO Ken Seitz told analysts on an earnings call on Thursday. The Saskatoon-based company saw unprecedented volatility in fertilizer markets last year that led it to indefinitely pause a planned ramp-up of potash production, and to suspend work on its Geismar clean ammonia project.
  • Saskatchewan’s Opposition NDP handed out a trio of fictional “awards” at the legislature Thursday as a sarcastic jab at the provincial government for its travel spending over the past year. From April 2023 to April 2024, the Saskatchewan government spent about $423,400 on out-of-province travel, nearly $200,000 of it on international trips, according to publicly released travel expense documents for MLAs. Those totals include travel expenses — like plane tickets, ground travel, accommodation and meals — and expenses associated with hosting business events.
  • Sask. expands intensive court program that helps people address substance use. Province reports high numbers of deaths related to drug toxicity during 1st 4 months of 2024. Moe said his government is addressing this crisis by focusing on expanding access to addiction treatment beds as well as supporting police enforcement to try to limit the flow of drugs. Moe was speaking in North Battleford to announce that the government is expanding its Drug Treatment Court to the city. The therapeutic court model is offered as an option for some people who are charged with crimes related to their drug use or addictions. If they choose to partake, they can get a reduced sentence in exchange for their participation in intensive programming and guilty pleas. 

Alberta

  • On May 1, Ward 8 Coun. Courtney Walcott put forward a motion to ask Alberta Municipalities to explore allowing permanent residents to vote in civic elections. The motion passed 9-6. Walcott said he wanted permanent residents to be engaged in their communities. He said the motion doesn’t mean the council is allowing non-citizens to vote but rather opens up the debate at the provincial level. On Tuesday, Premier Danielle Smith said in a social media post that the province needs to take a “second look” at city decisions that are “unconstitutional or fall outside their responsibility” in rare circumstances.
  • Premier Danielle Smith says she’s pleased the University of Calgary moved to have police dismantle an on-campus pro-Palestinian protest and hopes the University of Alberta will take note. Smith’s comment comes as the head of the University of Calgary said the dismantling of the encampment Thursday night derailed into a clash with police because of counter-protesters.
  • The provincial government is introducing sweeping legislation that the UCP says will allow it to more quickly and effectively manage emergencies. The Emergency Statutes Amendment Act was to be introduced Thursday afternoon in the legislature. Among the proposed changes is to the Election Act which would move the set election date from May to October so it doesn’t conflict with the spring wildfire, drought and flood season. 
  • Dozens more schools across Alberta will have mental health support classrooms by the fall of 2026 to support students with complex mental health challenges. In a news conference Friday, the provincial government announced $148 million over two years to the non-profit organization CASA Mental Health — including $40 million for its mental health classrooms. Eight of those classrooms are currently operating in the province, with most of them in northern Alberta. Eight more are slated to open this fall, including two in Calgary.

British Columbia

  • B.C. Premier David Eby said late Wednesday that the province had identified “sophisticated cybersecurity incidents” involving government networks. A government source later said the incidents were related to a directive to all provincial employees early last week that they should immediately change their passwords. That directive had previously been described by B.C.’s Office of the Chief Information Officer as a precaution, in a statement suggesting the government was “routinely updating security measures.”
  • The ICBC basic rate will remain the same for a sixth year and rebates of $110 will be sent to all eligible customers starting later this month, Premier David Eby said Wednesday. The freeze on basic rates will be in place until March 31, 2026, although premiums are adjusted for at-fault crashes, number of claims, years of driving experience, geographic location and type of vehicle. The last increase to basic insurance, which is mandatory on every registered vehicle in B.C., was in 2019. 
  • The federal government is granting B.C.‘s request to once again ban the public use of illicit drugs, Mental Health and Addictions Minister Ya’ara Saks said on Parliament Hill on Tuesday. “This is a health crisis, not a criminal one. That being said, communities need to be safe,” Saks said. “People need to have confidence that in their own communities, they can move about freely and feel comfortable and engaged. But we also want to make sure that those who are using drugs also have safety and have health care services to support them so that we can save lives.”
  • Health Canada’s decision to allow British Columbia to again prohibit the use of illicit drugs in most public spaces will cause more deaths, the executive director of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users says. “This is a bad move for both the provincial government and the federal government,” Brittany Graham said in an interview Wednesday. “We are going to lose more people and there’s blood on their hands.” The initial decriminalization exemption in January 2023 had called for “meaningful and ongoing engagement with stakeholders,” but that did not happen before B.C. asked for the change, Graham said.

Northwest Territories

  • The Northwest Territories chief electoral officer wants to see 16- and 17-year-olds voting during the territory’s next election. It’s one of a few recommendations Stephen Dunbar makes to legislators in a recent report looking back at last year’s territorial election. He says lowering the voting age in the N.W.T. from 18 to 16 could be a good way to improve voter turnout among young people in the territory more generally — which he calls “stubbornly low,” in the report.

Yukon

  • It won’t be possible to offset the significant emissions caused by the Faro mine site clean-up in the Yukon, according to the federal government. In a document filed to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board (YESAB), the government calls the board’s recommendations for carbon offsetting at Faro “aspirational, but ultimately not feasible to execute” due to lack of technology and available offset protocols.

Nunavut

  • Both the plaintiffs and the government of Nunavut have agreed to an $8 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit involving Nunavut students who were sexually abused by a teacher between 1969 and 1981. Maurice Cloughley served a 10-year sentence after pleading guilty mid-trial in 1996. Cloughley pleaded guilty to nine charges of abusing school children in several Arctic communities between 1967 and 1981. He originally faced 22 charges. The class-action lawsuit alleges that the territorial government did not do enough to protect students from abuse and may have known about the abuse without doing anything about it. 

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