Provincial and Territorial Update – May 31, 2024

The Provincial and Territorial Updates: An overview of the Provincial Legislative and Territories Legislative Updates for the week of May 31, 2024.​ Written by Wes McLean.

New Brunswick

  • New Brunswick’s minister of finance says he’s confident that thousands of applications for the $300 workers’ affordability benefit have not gone astray. Ernie Steeves was responding to the Liberal opposition who revealed in question period that the French-language government website for mailing hard-copy application forms for the money featured the wrong postal address for three months.
  • The legal battle between the Anglophone East district education council and the Higgs government on Policy 713 could continue into the next school year, just days before the start of a provincial election campaign. Chief Justice Tracey DeWare of the Court of King’s Bench had said earlier this spring that she wanted the case resolved before students return to classes in the fall.
  • Hundreds of students in the New Brunswick school system are being denied their right to an education, according to a provincial watchdog. In a report issued Thursday, child and youth advocate Kelly Lamrock said school districts are increasingly putting students with disabilities or behavioural challenges on a partial-day plan. That practice involves removing students from classrooms and providing instruction in an alternative setting. 
  • Minister of Education Bill Hogan says he’s made good on the premier’s promise to ban a Quebec-based sex education group from New Brunswick. On Friday Blaine Higgs posted a screenshot to X, formerly Twitter, of a sex education presentation that showed several questions about masturbation, pornography and anal sex. Higgs said the material was “clearly inappropriate” and, “effective immediately,” the group wouldn’t be allowed back in New Brunswick schools. 

Nova Scotia

  • A request for regulatory concessions may be at the heart of a lengthy shutdown at the underground coal mine in Donkin, N.S. Last July, Nova Scotia’s Labour Department issued a stop-work order after the access tunnel roof collapsed twice in one week. Mine owner Kameron Coal got the OK to begin digging coal again 2½ months ago, but no one from the company is saying publicly why the mine remains idled.
  • Nearly two years after post-tropical storm Fiona ravaged the shoreline community of Merigomish, N.S., and left homes in the dark for more than a week, residents are still demanding answers from Nova Scotia Power. Resident Mary Gorman said Fiona is an example of more powerful and frequent storms brought on by climate change. She wants the utility to wake up before the next major storm hits.
  • Nova Scotia’s school lunch program will roll out in elementary schools in October using a pay-what-you-can model. The province announced the long-anticipated universal lunch program earlier this year. Becky Druhan, minister of education and early childhood development, shared more details with reporters Thursday. Druhan said 256 elementary schools will be part of the first phase. Those schools have already notified students and their families.
  • Groups representing both the farm and commercial wine sectors in Nova Scotia have been working to find ways the province can fairly support their whole industry, said Premier Tim Houston on Thursday as he looked to move on from a contentious — and now paused — subsidy benefiting big-label bottlers. The two working groups were set up in April, a month after word of a subsidy for commercial wine bottlers led to a firestorm of controversy for the Tories. Houston said the new groups have each met four times to gather input for a path forward.

Prince Edward Island

  • A Summerside city councillor charged with taking money from a veterans’ organization made her first appearance in court Wednesday. Coun. Barb Gallant faces one count of theft over $5,000 after being charged by Summerside Police Services in April. Gallant appeared in Summerside provincial court without a lawyer, asking the judge to adjourn her case for six weeks to give her time to find one.
  • People who need psychiatric services in Prince Edward Island are waiting months because of a shortage of doctors with that specialization. Dr. Javier Salabarria, the provincial medical director for mental health and addictions with Health P.E.I., says the province has more psychiatrists now than it did when he started more than six years ago. But with a growing population, and plans for a new medical school based at UPEI, he acknowledges the need is only going to grow. 
  • Foreign workers protesting the P.E.I. government’s recent immigration policy changes say they’ve agreed to ‘pause’ their no-liquid hunger strike after meeting with the province’s top immigration official. CBC News has reached out to the provincial government for comment on the development. The group has been protesting in Charlottetown since May 9, and many of them began a hunger strike just over one week ago on the lawn in front of the George Coles Building, where the P.E.I. Legislature sits. 
  • Darryl Berger, a property management professional who worked on Pierre Poilievre’s successful 2022 leadership campaign, has announced he will seek the nomination for the Conservative Party in the eastern P.E.I. riding of Cardigan. “P.E.I. is at a critical juncture, requiring strategic planning to address today’s challenges and secure a prosperous future,” Berger is quoted as saying in a news release. “I can no longer watch as our country suffers from the federal Liberal Party’s disastrous policies.”

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • Two Newfoundland and Labrador cabinet ministers said Thursday the province will take the federal government to court to try to push a change in the equalization formula, arguing the province is being cut out of potentially billions of dollars in the long term. Finance Minister Siobhan Coady and Justice Minister John Hogan said the province decided to head to the courts when the federal Liberal government extended the current formula to 2029, effectively rejecting a series of pleas for change. 
  • Newfoundland and Labrador’s auditor general on Thursday released a new report card that depicts a worsening trend within departments and government agencies for failing to act on faults and calls for improvement. The greatest worry, Denise Hanrahan said, is in the healthcare system, which also happens to dominate public spending. 
  • Food security advocacy group Food First N.L. says it’s clear school food programs in Newfoundland and Labrador need to be improved — but just how to do that isn’t as straightforward. The organization hosted a summit Thursday to come up with ways to use new government funding for school food programs. “It’s a huge, heavy lift to get meals into almost every school in the province but it’s also a huge opportunity to do things right from the get-go,” said Josh Smee, CEO of Food First N.L. 
  • Jack Whalen, the man who challenged the Newfoundland and Labrador government to change its statute of limitations on child abuse lawsuits, is relieved to be one step closer to the closure he seeks. The provincial government passed a bill Tuesday that removes time limits for victims of childhood abuse, including assault, battery and unlawful confinement. That law was holding up Whalen’s efforts to sue the province over his treatment at the Whitbourne Boys’ Home, a youth detention centre, in the 1970s.

Quebec

  • Social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat are nothing less than “virtual pushers,” according to Premier François Legault. “The way social media works is to make readers dependent,” Legault said Saturday at the opening of the Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ) general convention in Saint-Hyacinthe. “It’s a bit like they’re virtual pushers, like drugs, like other substances.” “It’s worrying,” he added. “It scares me. It’s creating major mental health problems for young people … I’m open to taking major steps.”
  • Quebec’s visual effects and animation industry is far behind internationally – and industry members are voicing their concerns. The industry is facing major revenue loss and reduced competitiveness they explain, after the government of Quebec’s last budget. As of May 31, there will be a 65 percent cap on eligible expenses, which represents a 28 percent cut in tax credits for the province’s international clients. Quebec’s visual effects and animation industry has over 8,000 employees, with an average salary of $82,000.
  • An agreement in principle has been reached to renew the collective agreement of 26,000 professionals employed by the Quebec government. The Syndicat des professionnels du gouvernement du Québec (SPGQ) was one of the rare unions to still have not managed to reach an agreement with the province. Collective agreements in the public and parapublic sectors expired on March 31, 2023.
  • The federal government has announced funding of $42 million to support Quebec apprentices through the Canadian Apprenticeship Strategy. The government is providing $39.4 million over five years, beginning in 2023-24, to the Government of Quebec through the Canadian Apprenticeship Strategy’s Union Training and Innovation Program. The funds will be allocated to organizations including professional and technical training institutions, Indigenous and not-for-profit organizations and private-sector employer groups to modernize training equipment and materials, stated a release.

Ontario

  • Ontario Premier Doug Ford suggested immigrants are to blame for the shooting of an empty Jewish school in Toronto over the weekend, despite police saying they have little information on the suspects. Opposition parties quickly denounced Ford’s comments and demanded an apology. Toronto police have said two suspects fired shots shortly before 5 a.m. last Saturday at Bais Chaya Mushka Elementary School and that no one was injured, though there was damage to the building. Ford said the perpetrators must be caught and thrown in jail.
  • If Premier Doug Ford decides to call an early election, political strategists say he’ll need to give Ontario voters a compelling reason for why he’s sending them to the polls ahead of schedule. Over the past week, Ford has repeatedly declined to rule out calling an election before his government’s four-year mandate expires in June 2026. Multiple sources close to the Progressive Conservatives say no decision has been made to proceed with a snap vote, but say late next spring is the most likely date. Ford told Ottawa radio station 580 CFRA on Wednesday that there will not be an election this summer or fall, but left open the possibility of a vote next year.
  • Premier Doug Ford’s push to get beer and wine into convenience stores ahead of schedule will cost Ontario taxpayers at least $225 million, but there’s evidence the full price tag actually adds up to hundreds of millions more. When the Ford government announced that it would pay the multinational owners of The Beer Store to allow what it calls “early implementation” of the expanded alcohol sales, it did not disclose the cost of other key components of its plan. 
  • The Progressive Conservative Party racked up a massive legal bill last year thanks to hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of payments to law firms that represented many of the Greenbelt scandal’s key figures. According to the PC Party’s 2023 annual financial statement, it paid more than $600,000 to firms whose lawyers served as counsel to Premier Doug Ford, his chief of staff and his former housing policy director, former cabinet ministers Steve Clark and Kaleed Rasheed, and the previous housing minister’s former top two staffers.

Manitoba

  • There was acrimony in the Manitoba Legislature Thursday as politicians passed a bill to designate March 31 an annual day to recognize two-spirit and transgender persons. The bill to establish Two-Spirit and Transgender Day of Visibility passed a final vote with unanimous support of the governing New Democrats and most of the Opposition Progressive Conservatives in the chamber. But four Progressive Conservatives voted against the bill, prompting Premier Wab Kinew to accuse them of engaging in “an act of hate.”
  • Some Manitobans will save upwards of a few hundred dollars a month after the province announced it would fully cover the cost of a drug that significantly reduces the risk of contracting HIV. The province will offer pre-exposure prophylaxis, commonly known as PrEP, at no cost to any individuals who don’t already have full coverage through their insurance, Health Minister Uzoma Asagwara announced at the legislature Thursday as part of a ministerial statement on Pride Month.
  • A Winnipeg man has lost his bid to have a judge quash a $1,296 fine he received after attending a rally for People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier in Winnipeg three years ago in contravention of COVID-19 public health restrictions. Todd Dube, a Winnipeg business owner and a founding member of the PPC, has one year to pay the ticket he got for attending Bernier’s “Mad Max” rally in Winnipeg in 2021, judicial justice of the peace Weldon Klassen ruled during a hearing Wednesday.
  • Manitoba’s health minister is urging caution as the province mulls lowering the breast cancer screening age to 40. Uzoma Asagwara said Wednesday the province is looking into potentially making the change, but before anything is set in stone, it has to address capacity issues. “We need to make sure that we have the right number of technologists and people in our province who can provide this care,” Asagwara said Wednesday following the question period at the Manitoba Legislature. 

Saskatchewan

  • The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) says its members have voted to reject the latest collective agreement offer from the province. The STF confirmed the result Thursday evening, saying 88 percent of its member teachers voted, with 55 percent of those voters rejecting the contract. “We take our direction from the membership, and members have spoken,” STF president Samantha Becotte said in a news release Thursday evening.
  • Saskatchewan’s education minister is calling for binding arbitration with the province’s teachers after a slim majority rejected a proposed deal in a vote this week. Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill said it’s the necessary next step during a news conference on Friday morning. It is a reversal of his position in March when the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) called for binding arbitration and the province rejected it. In 2017, the government amended The Education Act to remove binding arbitration as an option if it’s requested by only one party. However, if both parties agree to it, it is available as an option.
  • An email obtained by Speaker Randy Weekes and sent to CBC is shedding more light on an incident involving cabinet minister Jeremy Harrison bringing a gun into the legislature eight years ago. Last week, Harrison resigned as government House leader for failing to tell Premier Scott Moe he brought a firearm into the legislature. Harrison told media he did not initially recall the incident when it was raised in the house by Weekes on May 16. He said after discussing it with family his memory was jogged but by that time he had already told Moe the allegations made by Weekes were “unequivocally false.”
  • After years of funding temporary solutions, the City of Regina is one step closer to having a permanent emergency shelter. On Wednesday, the city’s executive committee voted to fund a $7.5-million plan to create the shelter. Its location has yet to be revealed, beyond references to it being “an ideal location with easy access to community services, core city areas and public transit.” The city currently has an offer on the property and the city council must make a decision at its June 12 meeting if they want to fulfil the option, which expires on June 19. The committee has directed staff to release the potential shelter’s location at the June 12 meeting.  

Alberta

  • Alberta has no plans to cancel its carbon pricing on large emitters, which Premier Danielle Smith says is key to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions from its oil and gas sector. But the province also has no intention of setting interim targets any time soon to reduce pollution from any industrial sector as it pursues its goal of bringing emissions to net zero by 2050, Ms. Smith told a Globe and Mail editorial board on Thursday.
  • Alberta Premier Danielle Smith’s government capped off the spring legislature sitting Wednesday after passing bills slammed by critics as an undemocratic power grab. One proposed law, which would give the United Conservative Party government the ability to overturn municipal bylaws, passed debate in the house shortly before members adjourned for the summer. The backlash from municipalities about the bill going too far spurred the UCP to make amendments and claw back a plan for the cabinet to be able to quickly fire mayors and councillors. When the bill officially becomes law, the government would have to call for a local recall vote.
  • A legislative sitting that analysts say was defined by a provincial government set on expanding its powers ended Wednesday afternoon with limited debate times on some of the most controversial bills. Destined to become law is a bill that allows the United Conservative Party government to divvy Alberta Health Services into four organizations, and a bill to create a Crown corporation that will research the province’s approach to addictions and mental health.
  • Alberta New Democratic Party (NDP) Leader Rachel Notley expressed pride and appreciation on Wednesday in marking what she expects to be her last day at the legislature as the party’s leader. In January, Notley announced she would not be leading the party into the next election, sparking a leadership race that will conclude on June 22 and indicating the end of close to a decade as NDP leader.

British Columbia

  • Premier David Eby continues to downplay the plight of the victims of his no-fault auto insurance reform, suggesting their best hope for relief awaits a full-blown review of the system two years from now. Eby gave the brush off recently when a reporter brought up complaints from people who’ve sustained life-altering injuries in automobile accidents.
  • After protests and days of charged public hearings earlier this year, Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) explained it would not move forward with a possible supervised consumption site in Richmond, and a city councillor claims the proposal never really stood a chance. Former B.C. minister of public safety and now Richmond Coun. Kash Heed says Premier David Eby directed VCH to not move forward with the proposal before the council made its decision. Heed says he was shocked to learn that Eby’s office directed it the same day, Feb. 13, that the council voted in favour of continuing conversations around the potential site.
  • The B.C. NDP maintains a double-digit lead ahead of an expected election this fall, suggests a new poll. The Angus Reid Institute poll released Thursday found the NDP remains the top choice among 41 percent of decided and leaning voters followed by the Conservative Party of B.C. at 30 percent. B.C. United is in third place at 16 percent, followed by the Green party at 11 percent.
  • British Columbians are being asked to help make their province more accessible by talking about the barriers they face day to day, and how to remove those barriers. The B.C. government announced this week that it is seeking input on recommended accessibility standards pertaining to employment and service delivery. The province wants to put in place guidelines for creating inclusive work environments, and standards to try to ensure that people with disabilities have equitable access to goods and services.
  • NEW – BC United Caucus Chair and  Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Lorne Doerkson is set to announce he’s crossing the floor to the BC Conservatives. The first in what is expected to be a series of defections. 

Northwest Territories

  • The City of Yellowknife says it has selected a new city manager. Stephen Van Dine, a longtime northerner, will take on the role of top administrator as of Aug. 6. He replaces John Collin, who resigned unexpectedly weeks after starting. Former city manager Sheila Bassi-Kellett has been doing the job in the meantime and will continue doing so until Van Dine starts. In a news release Thursday, Mayor Rebecca Alty pointed to Van Dine’s decades of experience in the North and working in the public sector.

Yukon

  • Shortsighted, and without warning. That’s how business owner Doug Terry describes the Yukon government’s recent decision to temporarily halt Whitehorse-based applications for the Yukon Nominee Program. “Zero — there was no heads-up whatsoever,” said Terry. “People like me are just a deer in the headlights now, waiting for the dust to settle.” Terry owns both Tim Hortons franchises in Whitehorse. He says the nominee program is essential to meet his staffing needs. The nominee program is designed to help fill labour shortages by expediting the permanent residency process for foreign nationals. Earlier this month, the territorial government announced the program is already full for 2024 and that it was being paused, in Whitehorse, until 2025.

Nunavut

  • Nunavut MLAs from the territory’s Kivalliq region say they’re concerned about search and rescue efforts and called on the minister to do more to support searchers. Baker Lake MLA Craig Simailak said searchers from Whale Cove had to fund their search and rescue efforts themselves, unlike searchers from Baker Lake and Rankin Inlet, when they were all looking for a 21-year-old earlier this year. 

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