Provincial and Territorial Updates – May 17, 2024

The Provincial and Territorial Updates: An overview of the Provincial Legislative and Territories Legislative Updates for the week of May 17, 2024.​ Written by Wes McLean.

New Brunswick

  • The Higgs government is being criticized for producing a taxpayer-funded government video with similar messaging to a new Progressive Conservative pre-election advertisement. The video, nearly six minutes long, is a detailed explanation of the government’s approach to health care reform and lists several initiatives it has taken to reduce surgery wait-times and improve access to primary care.
  • A hearing next week may determine whether a school district’s case against the New Brunswick government over a gender identity policy can proceed. The Anglophone East district education council is suing Education Minister Bill Hogan, alleging changes to Policy 713 last year violated the rights of students. The province is expected to argue during a court hearing Tuesday that the school district lacks standing, a legal term for the ability to bring the case to court. 
  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took aim at New Brunswick’s controversial gender identity policy on Thursday, accusing Premier Blame Higgs of putting politics before the interests of vulnerable schoolchildren. During a visit to Caraquet, Trudeau was asked about a provincial policy that now requires parental consent before school staff can use certain students’ chosen names and pronouns.
  • The leader of New Brunswick’s Liberal Party says she’s seen no evidence to support a claim that residents of two nursing homes were signed up to vote in the 2022 party leadership race without their knowledge or against their will. That’s the allegation made by Green MLA Kevin Arseneau, who says he has evidence that he filed last week as part of a complaint with the province’s seniors’ advocate.

Nova Scotia

  • Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston took aim at the province’s eight Liberal members of Parliament on Thursday, admonishing them for not convincing their own government to fund the work necessary to protect the Chignecto Isthmus. The dike system that protects the stretch of land connecting Nova Scotia to New Brunswick and the rest of the country is in need of upgrades to protect against climate change, sea level rise, and storms that blow through the Maritimes — but there’s no agreement on who should pay the massive bill.
  • A tidal energy company awarded the right to harness electricity from the Bay of Fundy has changed its name, its CEO and its business model, but it is not clear when it will start generating power. It needs to raise more money first. “The capital will be coming from existing relationships and new investors that we hope to bring into the business too,” said Jay McKenna, new CEO of Occurrent Power, formerly Big Moon Power. The name change was announced this week along with a new U.S. lead partner, Orion Infrastructure Capital.
  • A year after wildfires swept through parts of Nova Scotia, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake, the province is increasing the fine for violating daily burn restrictions for the duration of the season. In a news release Thursday, the province said those found to be breaching the law will be fined $25,000, which will come to $28,872.50 after a victim surcharge fee and HST.
  • The Nova Scotia government is in negotiations with an organization that would provide community-led, non-police crisis response services for mental health and addiction calls. Mental Health and Addictions Minister Brian Comer told reporters in Halifax on Thursday that the negotiations follow a tender that was issued earlier this year. The goal is to have the service in place in a pilot community by Sept. 1.

Prince Edward Island

  • Prince Edward Island will have no seats for Island medical students at Memorial University, and possibly Dalhousie too, after UPEI creates its own medical school. But dean Dr. Preston Smith doesn’t see it as the province ‘losing’ medical seats. P.E.I. has four seats at MUN and six at Dalhousie; UPEI’s medical school is expected to create 20 seats. ‘From my perspective, we’re gaining 10 seats,’ Smith says.
  • Health P.E.I. is looking for a security provider to address “gaps” at key health-care buildings in the province, including Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Prince County Hospital. The move comes hard on the heels of a number of high-profile incidents that have led to expressions of concern from staff, unions and opposition MLAs. But staff have been raising concerns about violence and abuse in the workplace for years. On Friday, Health Minister Mark McLane described plans for an expansion and renewal of security for all health-care facilities in the province.
  • The Prince Edward Island government is hoping a ban on tobacco sales to anyone born after a certain date will help create a new generation of smoke-free Islanders. The idea is part of the province’s new Live Well Action Plan released Tuesday. If the idea turns into action, the government would select a watershed year — 2009, for example — and anyone born after it would be prohibited from ever legally buying tobacco products on P.E.I.  
  • The P.E.I. government says it won’t make any immediate changes to controversial new immigration rules, although foreign workers are continuing their daily demonstrations on the streets of Charlottetown. Jenn Redmond, the province’s minister of workforce, advanced learning and population, met with one of the protest organizers on Tuesday to hear his concerns. “We haven’t made any commitment to changes,” she told CBC News after the meeting. “We’ve committed to taking a very close look at the policy and continue to watch and monitor it.”

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • The Newfoundland and Labrador government is finalizing a plan to subsidize power rates until 2030 — which will cost Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro $2 billion. The proposed plan is to cap the residential domestic rate increases on the island of Newfoundland at 2.25 per cent annually — called rate mitigation — until 2030. It will cover Muskrat Falls and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro costs.
  • While a recommendation to lower the age for breast cancer screening in Newfoundland and Labrador to 40 hasn’t been implemented just yet, a cancer researcher says it will allow more women to be screened and likely improve treatment outcomes. The Canadian Cancer Society recommended the age to begin breast screening to decrease from 50 to 40. The provincial government followed suit this week, saying lowering the age to 40 will make an estimated 34,000 additional women eligible for screening.
  • An oceans advocacy group is reissuing a call to pause Newfoundland and Labrador’s capelin fishery, as one scientist says the stock needs time to replenish and help the growth of other stocks. Oceana Canada has released a series of videos interviewing residents of the province, while capelin was rolling last summer, about the importance of the fish to the environment.
  • As the forest fire season formally begins, western Labrador’s MHA is calling on the Newfoundland and Labrador government to put back in place a local resource that had been in place for more than three decades. “I would like to have my water bomber back,” Labrador West MHA Jordan Brown said Thursday. “That would be a great step forward to give us back our water bomber that was in Labrador West since the ’80s.”

Quebec

  • The Quebec government’s framing of a new museum to be dedicated to the history of the Québécois nation is raising questions about how history is told and who it includes, two historians and the leader of a prominent First Nations group say. Premier François Legault was forced last week to defend comments he made in April about the opening of a new history museum, in which he suggested the province’s history began with the arrival of French explorers Jacques Cartier and Samuel de Champlain in the 16th and 17th centuries.
  • In late September, Quebec Premier François Legault announced his government had attracted the largest private manufacturing investment in the province’s history, which he said would transform Quebec into a global player in the electric vehicle supply chain. He lauded it as the “greenest electric battery factory in the world,” but since then, the $7-billion project has managed to anger many across the province — particularly environmentalists.
  • Quebec newsroom leaders are calling out a new bill to protect politicians from abuse, saying the legislation is excessive and potentially stifling to democratic debate. Media companies — including The Canadian Press, La Presse, Quebecor, and CBC — said Thursday in an open letter to the government that the bill contains measures that “compromise the freedom of expression of citizens and the media.”
  • The Quebec government says it will end the floor price on fuel in order to reduce the cost at the pump. Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon says that’s one of two recommendations the province is examining from a recent study on Quebec’s gas and diesel fuel market. The study by Robert Clark, a professor of economics at Queen’s University and HEC Montréal, found that prices in certain areas – such as the Capitale-Nationale and Chaudière-Appalaches – were not consistent with the competitive gasoline market prices.

Ontario

  • The federal government should put a pin in approving new sites that supply safe opioids, Ontario Premier Doug Ford wrote in a letter to the prime minister, while also calling for a review of the Health Canada-approved sites across the country. The requests come after the provincial health minister and solicitor general wrote to Toronto Public Health’s top doctor, telling her to drop the city’s application to decriminalize illegal drug possession for personal use.
  • The family of a mentally ill man who died in an Ontario jail after he was beaten by guards is calling for a public apology from the Ford government. Relatives of Soleiman Faqiri held a news conference at Queen’s Park Thursday morning to draw attention to systemic issues in the correctional system. “My family deserves a public apology from Premier Doug Ford and the government for the beating death of Soleiman Faqiri,” said Yusuf Faqiri, Soleiman’s brother.
  • Premier Doug Ford’s government will try to combat record rates of auto theft in Ontario by slapping lengthy driver’s licence suspensions on people convicted of the crime. The government will introduce legislation to suspend the driving licences of convicted auto thieves when “aggravating factors” such as violence, threats or the use of a weapon are involved, or when vehicles are stolen for the financial gain of organized crime.
  • The Ontario NDP is calling for Ontario Premier Doug Ford to sack his health minister over the suggestion that the province is not struggling to recruit or retrain family doctors. Speaking to reporters at Queen’s Park on Monday, NDP Leader Marit Stiles accused the government of “trying to pretend” there weren’t issues with the province’s healthcare system. “When a government says to you it’s not a major concern, the state of our health-care system, they’re trying to pretend that nothing is going on here,” she said.

Manitoba

  • Inside Klinic Community Health’s Sherbrook Street location in Winnipeg, counsellors answer calls from people in crisis and lend an ear to those experiencing suicidal thoughts. Post-secondary students and youth call Klinic’s suicide prevention and support line about cost of living and housing concerns, or feelings of despair and isolation, said Richelle Ready, Klinic’s crisis support services manager. “It doesn’t surprise me that folks such as post-secondary students are struggling right now. The human experience is really challenging,” she told CBC in a Wednesday interview.
  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is scheduled to visit a school in Winnipeg today to promote his government’s school nutrition program. The government’s spring budget included a promise to develop a national plan to provide meals to 400,000 more kids across the country. The cost is estimated at $1 billion over five years. Manitoba’s NDP government has promised $30 million for school meal programs this year.
  • Critics of Manitoba’s decision to cut funding to a grant program that created jobs for young people got a meeting with government officials Thursday. Two dozen organizations were in the gallery of the Manitoba Legislature and were later invited to speak with government officials after the Progressive Conservatives spent much of the question period criticizing the NDP government’s decision to reduce Green Team funding. Green Team grants are given to non-profit organizations and municipal governments to hire youth and young adults to work on community projects over the summer months. 
  • The Manitoba government wants to have more oversight over private nursing agencies in the province and is taking steps toward that, Premier Wab Kinew says. The province is issuing a request for proposals for private nursing agencies to become validated by the province, allowing them to work with service providers in Manitoba, Kinew said during his inaugural State of the Province address with the Brandon Chamber of Commerce on Thursday.

Saskatchewan

  • The Speaker of the Saskatchewan Legislature has cut up his party membership card and accused some members in Premier Scott Moe’s caucus of intimidating him to the point that he fears the government house leader is packing a handgun. Randy Weekes told the chamber Thursday that when Government House Leader Jeremy Harrison disagreed with his rules, Harrison would yell, text Weekes, make threatening gestures and occasionally flash the inside of his suit jacket as if to reveal a concealed weapon.
  • Rents in Saskatchewan are going up twice as fast as the national average, and the Opposition NDP wants the government to provide some type of relief, specifically cutting the provincial fuel tax. NDP Leader Carla Beck raised the topic during the last day of the spring session. “Rents are rising faster here in Saskatchewan than in any other province,” Beck told the legislature on Thursday. “Families need a break now, Mr. Speaker, not after the election. How can the premier defend the Sask. Party’s choice to vote against fuel tax relief?”
  • Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe is standing by Government House leader Jeremy Harrison amid a storm of allegations made by the Speaker of the Saskatchewan Legislature. Speaker Randy Weekes told the chamber on Thursday that Jeremy Harrison (Meadow Lake) had yelled, texted and made threatening gestures toward him. Moe announced that Colleen Young (Lloydminster) will now serve as the minister of advanced education after Gord Wyant (Saskatoon-Northwest) stepped down from the role. 
  • The Saskatchewan Union of Nurses is raising the alarm about overcrowding at Saskatoon’s Royal University Hospital emergency room. SUN posted an anonymous email from a nurse at Royal University Hospital on their Facebook page, detailing the impacts of the overcrowding. They said in that email that their shift started with around 40 people in emergency waiting for a bed elsewhere in the hospital and there were about 20 patients in the hallway.

Alberta

  • Alberta Premier Danielle Smith says she won’t intervene with the controversial rezoning bylaw passed by Calgary city council earlier this week, even in light of a new bill that would give the provincial government more power over municipalities. In an interview with the Calgary Eyeopener on Thursday, when asked whether her government plans to step in, Smith said the province won’t be repealing Calgary’s blanket rezoning. “I won’t. That is up to Calgarians to decide if they’re upset,” she said.
  • Alberta Premier Danielle Smith says her government will ask the province’s police watchdog to investigate how officers forcibly cleared out two pro-Palestinian protests on university campuses. Smith said reports of potential injuries prompted the move to ask the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team to make sure there was no unreasonable use of force.
  • The Alberta government is introducing legislation to begin bringing a completely restructured healthcare system to life. A bill proposed Tuesday outlines how the many arms of Alberta Health Services will be dismantled and how four new provincial health agencies will fit together under Health Minister Adriana LaGrange. Alberta Health Services, the current provincial health authority that oversees the delivery of everything from community care to acute care, will be relegated to strictly hospital care later this year. It’s part of a multi-year transition estimated to cost $85 million. If passed, the bill will take effect in June.
  • The Alberta government is spending $50.5 million over five years to cover up to 30 percent of construction and associated infrastructure costs for three new water intake facilities. The facilities will serve projects operating in Alberta’s Industrial Heartland (AIH), which is the province’s first and currently only Designated Industrial Zone (DIZ). The province’s website defines DIZs as areas “targeted for strategic investment and development of clustered industrial development and economic diversification.”

British Columbia

  • British Columbia’s election campaign was unofficially launched on Thursday, five months ahead of the Oct. 19 vote, with Premier David Eby depicting it as “the starkest choice of a generation,” between the NDP and two opposition parties flirting with a merger. The final day of the spring legislative session saw Eby summon his New Democrat MLAs and party staff members to the caucus meeting room at the legislature where he delivered an election-style speech focused on the months ahead.
  • The British Columbia government and social media giants have made what they call a “historic collaboration” for youth safety online. A joint statement from Premier David Eby and representatives of Meta, Google, TikTok, X and Snap Inc., the parent of Snapchat, says they met to help young people stay safe online, one of the most important challenges facing families, government and companies. The group says, that at its first meeting earlier this month, they discussed broad-scale cooperation because online predators like those who have targeted children in B.C. don’t limit themselves to just one platform. 
  • Kamloops council will be sending a letter to the province, requesting legislation to provide municipalities with new ways of addressing governance issues. The decision was made one week after Henry Braun, the municipal advisor assigned to give governance recommendations to Kamloops’ embattled mayor and council, provided his final report. Coun. Dale Bass put forward the motion during Tuesday’s council meeting, asking for the letter to be sent to the B.C. government.
  • As B.C.’s legislature Thursday (May 16) rose for the last time before this fall’s provincial election, a UBC political scientist says Premier David Eby’s team will head into that campaign on the defensive. “The B.C. NDP has spent much of the spring playing defence, at a time when they would have much rather be going on the attack and really making more assertive statements to British Columbians about what they will do in the future,” Stewart Prest said.

Northwest Territories

  • The Canadian and U.S. governments say they’re co-investing in critical mineral producers for the first time as they work to boost regional supplies. Natural Resources Canada and the U.S. Department of Defense are together putting a total of about $32.5 million into Fortune Minerals Ltd., working on a project with bismuth and cobalt in the Northwest Territories, and Lomiko Metals Inc. focused on a graphite project in Quebec.

Yukon

  • The Yukon Electoral District Boundaries Commission is proposing the territory increase the number of ridings in Whitehorse due to a growing population. The Yukon territory currently has 19 electoral districts. Eleven of them are in the city of Whitehorse, and eight are in rural communities. The Yukon Electoral District Boundaries Commission’s 2024 Interim Report released earlier this month, it proposes that the territory increase the ridings in Whitehorse to 13 while merging rural ridings down to six.

Nunavut

  • The team behind Nunavut Quest 2024 has another cause to celebrate, this time at Fulbright Canada’s first National Indigenous Good Governance Awards. Last week’s event in Ottawa celebrated stories of Indigenous achievements, which saw the Nunavut Quest dog team committee take home the Northern Nation Building award. It was the first time Igloolik volunteer Silas Attagutsiak attended an awards ceremony. So it was particularly special to receive his first award, on behalf of the committee, for something so close to heart, he said. 

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