Provincial Legislative Update – April 12, 2024

Provincial and Territorial Update: An overview of the Provincial Legislative and Territories Legislative Updates for the week of April 12, 2024.​ Written by Wes McLean.

New Brunswick

  • The campaign consultant hired by the Progressive Conservative Party of New Brunswick for this year’s election has landed a second position — a taxpayer-funded job in the office of Premier Blaine Higgs. Steve Outhouse, whose company Just Campaigns is billing the PC Party for election-related services, is now Higgs’s principal secretary.
  • On May 3, General Education Development testing, more commonly known as the GED, will end in New Brunswick. The GED is an equivalency test for adults who did not complete high school. It will be replaced with a new Canadian-based test developed in Alberta, the Canadian Adult Education Credential. But with less than a month until the end of the GED, Laura Burris of the Central Valley Adult Learning Association in Oromocto said she still has unanswered questions, including when the replacement will be available.
  • Most people the New Brunswick government targeted to receive a new $300 workers’ benefit have not applied for the money, and $44 million the province set aside in last year’s budget to finance payments to the end of March went unclaimed, new figures show. That will add $44 million to last year’s budget surplus, an issue New Brunswick Opposition Leader Susan Holt says the province needs to address quickly.   
  • Dr. John Dornan, the former head of Horizon Health Network, will seek the Liberal nomination for the riding of Portland-Simonds, in Saint John’s north end. Dornan was publicly fired as president and CEO of Horizon by Progressive Conservative Premier Blaine Higgs in 2022 following the death of a patient in the waiting room of Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital’s emergency department in Fredericton. He won a record-breaking $2-million arbitration award over his dismissal, a decision upheld by a Court of King’s Bench judge and now being appealed by the province.

Nova Scotia

  • A second investigation has determined no charges should be laid against two RCMP officers who shot at a fire hall in Nova Scotia on the morning of April 19, 2020. No one was struck in the incident but it left people badly shaken and distrustful of the RCMP. The two officers were pursuing a man who was in the midst of a murderous rampage across central Nova Scotia. By the time he was done, 22 people had been killed.
  • Unionized public school teachers in Nova Scotia have voted resoundingly in favour of a strike mandate ahead of talks with the provincial government and a conciliator next week. In a vote held Thursday, the Nova Scotia Teachers Union said 98 percent of members, including substitute teachers eligible to vote, voted in favour of the strike action. NSTU president Ryan Lutes said the mandate from union members sends a strong message to the provincial government ahead of the talks set for Monday and Tuesday of next week.
  • Cape Breton Regional Municipality is taking steps to begin licensing and regulating rooming houses after one of eight tenants died in a house fire in Sydney, N.S., in 2022. Some in the property business in CBRM say a proposed bylaw that passed the first reading this week is a good start, but they say more work needs to be done to protect landlords, tenants and neighbours.
  • An Annapolis Valley fisherman says he will proceed with his quest for a judicial review of the provincial government’s emergency order to keep the gates closed at the aboiteau near Windsor after a ruling by the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal determined the policy decision by Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister John Lohr can be reviewed. The ruling also said that Darren Porter’s decision to pause his commercial fishing venture on the Avon River does not automatically mean he has no standing in the matter.

Prince Edward Island

  • P.E.I.’s health minister quietly did away with the province’s system of regional doctor limits, known as complements, last fall — opening up less restrictive avenues for the province to recruit new physicians to practice here. The complements policy essentially capped how many family doctor and specialist positions there could be in each region of the Island.
  • One of the unions that represents healthcare workers on the Island said it has broken off its contract negotiations with Health P.E.I. The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) held a news conference Thursday outside the provincial legislature and met with Premier Dennis King and Health Minister Mark McLane before Question Period. The union said it ended its bargaining with the province and said it wants to move to conciliation in its contract talks.  
  • A demand Green MLA Peter Bevan-Baker made in the legislature Thursday for accountability from private long-term care home operators led Premier Dennis King to accuse him of smearing the names of “good people across Prince Edward Island.”  On Wednesday, the province said it would provide long-term care (LTC) operators with $25 million to open dozens of new long-term care beds. Health Minister Mark McLane said 65 percent of that money would go toward raising wages for workers in private long-term care homes, to bring them closer to what workers in the public sector make.

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • The author of a report that recommends a pay increase for Newfoundland and Labrador’s elected officials briefed MHAs on her findings Thursday. In a report released just before the Easter long weekend, Heather Jacobs, who was appointed by the House of Assembly in November to conduct a review of MHA compensation, recommended that they receive a base salary of $120,000. 
  • When Uber begins operations in St. John’s later this month, there will be no legal obligation for its drivers to be paid a minimum wage and no guarantees that they’ll get benefits such as workers’ compensation or employment insurance. That’s because the global ride-hailing company considers its workers to be contractors, not employees. The Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour is renewing its call for the province to capture these workers in its labour standards legislation, to ensure they don’t end up falling through the cracks.
  • The Newfoundland and Labrador government has selected a private company to help build a replacement for Her Majesty’s Penitentiary, a notoriously old jail that dates back to the Victorian era. New Avalon Corrections Partners — a corporate entity led by Plenary Americas and PCL Investments — was the sole bidder in the province’s request for proposals. The provincial infrastructure department announced Thursday that it has deemed the group sufficiently qualified and will be moving forward.
  • Association of Seafood Producers executive director Jeff Loder says the current crab tie-up is getting to a point where it is going to negatively affect the market for the rest of the season — and other fisheries after that. It’s been nearly a week since the snow crab season was scheduled to begin. Fish harvesters have tied up their boats, however, refusing to fish under the pricing formula that an independent panel set just before the start of the season. Loder said it’s lining up to be a repeat of last season, in which harvesters tied up their boats for six weeks.

Quebec

  • Quebec Premier François Legault on Tuesday ratcheted up pressure on the federal government to reduce the number of temporary immigrants in the province, threatening to hold a “referendum” on the issue. Legault told reporters that launching a plebiscite isn’t in his government’s short-term plans, but he suggested that could change if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau doesn’t deliver on Quebec’s immigration demands.
  • French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal expressed strong support today for Quebec’s model of state secularism, a policy that has been criticized by the Canadian government. Attal told a news conference with Quebec Premier Francois Legault in Quebec City that France shares the province’s commitment to religious non-affiliation. The 35-year-old prime minister says secularism is a way for governments to guarantee equal treatment of citizens regardless of personal beliefs.
  • Premier François Legault says Quebec parents need to do more to limit their child’s screen time. Speaking at the National Assembly Tuesday, Legault said prolonged screen time use is a problem for children around the world, including Quebec, but he says there’s only so much his government can do to solve it. “The real challenge is what happens at home,” he said. “We also need the co-operation of parents to ensure that screen time is limited.” 
  • Quebec Housing Minister France-Élaine Duranceau — like the vast majority of her CAQ colleagues — has voted in favour of a motion by Quebec solidaire (QS) calling on the four political parties represented in the national assembly to work together to better protect vulnerable senior tenants from eviction. Quebec solidaire MNA Christine Labrie’s initiative follows her bill to extend the Françoise David Act to limit evictions of seniors from their homes.

Ontario

  • Premier Doug Ford says he supports the Region of Waterloo’s plan to purchase lands in Wilmot Township for an undisclosed industrial project. “A lot of smaller towns like, for instance, Wilmot, they need money. So what better way than clear some land and create some development,” Ford said. “I’m all for it.” The premier made the comments about the region’s plan for Wilmot Township lands while he was in Kitchener on Thursday for a separate provincial funding announcement.
  • The Ford government has unveiled a new omnibus bill focused on streamlining home building and approvals in the province. The new Cutting Red Tape to Build More Housing Act includes a reduction in the amount of parking developers need to build, special rules to fast-track the construction of student accommodation and a long-awaited use-it-or-lose-it policy.
  • Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government has agreed to support a bill from the opposition New Democrats that declares intimate partner violence an epidemic in the province, almost a year after Premier Doug Ford rejected such a move. The support means the bill is set to head to a legislative committee for study, but advocates and opposition members say the government should pass it into law immediately.
  • The Ontario government is investing $5 million to build a new highway interchange on Highway 416 in Barrhaven. Transportation Minister Prabmeet Sarkaria is in Ottawa on Friday to announce the new interchange at Highway 416 and Barnsdale Road. “The new interchange at Highway 416 and Barnsdale Road will help local residents and other drivers get where they need to go faster and more conveniently,” Sarkaria said.

Manitoba

  • Manitoba says institutional safety officers at the province’s largest hospital will have access to the right tools — including pepper gel— as the program meant to make the Health Science Centre safer gets set to launch years after the law establishing it came into effect. Health Minister Uzoma Asagwara said Wednesday the first class of security guards designated as institutional safety officers will begin patrolling HSC on Monday. The officers are trained in de-escalation techniques, law enforcement, arrests, searches and seizures, and the use of force, among other things.
  • Manitoba’s premier wants to change the prayer that’s recited in the legislature to make it more inclusive of people who practise faiths other than Christianity, and those who hold no faith at all. Wab Kinew told a breakfast gathering of religious leaders that while the prayer has no overtly Christian references, it still feels like a Christian prayer. It has references to God, uses archaic English, and ends with “amen.”
  • Winnipeg Jets owners Mark Chipman and David Thomson are considering creating transitional housing in Winnipeg to reduce the number of homeless people in Manitoba’s capital. Chipman, the executive chair of True North Sports and Entertainment, says he and majority team owner Thomson, one of the wealthiest people in Canada, have been talking about ways they could provide more housing for people who’ve been living in shelters and need assistance finding and keeping a permanent home. 
  • Lawyers for the developer behind the long-delayed Parker lands development told an appeal court Thursday it should uphold a decision awarding their client $5 million in a lawsuit against the City of Winnipeg. Lawyer Kevin Toyne, representing developer Andrew Marquess, told the Manitoba Court of Appeal that the actions of city planners prevented the development on land in the city’s Fort Garry area from proceeding, leading to significant losses for his client.

Saskatchewan

  • The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) says teachers across the province will suspend all job action, with plans now in place to head back to the bargaining table with the provincial government. Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill confirmed at a news conference in Saskatoon Friday morning that negotiations will resume next week. “We’ll see them at the bargaining table,” Cockrill said. “Everybody in this province wants to come to an agreement.”
  • Saskatchewan’s provincial government has greenlit expanding a key water deal to include cross-border groundwater reserves, aiming to ensure they are managed and shared sustainably amid growing threats posed by drought, pollution and climate change. The proposed changes to the Master Agreement on Apportionment between Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba and the federal government would empower the Prairie Provinces Water Board to assess, monitor and — if needed — take action to manage transboundary aquifers.
  • Regina city council has passed the second stage of a series of development bylaw changes — moving one step closer to $35 million in funding from the federal government’s housing accelerator fund. The fund was created to facilitate the construction of new residential buildings and the addition of more units to existing neighbourhoods, amid a Canada-wide housing crisis. 
  • The Saskatchewan legislature is back for the final six weeks of its current term, and Speaker Randy Weekes is having to crack the whip on the MLAs. Accusations of lying, and other insults from MLAs have already started during the first days back from the week-long Easter break, with Speaker Weekes ending up coming down particularly hard on Minister of Trade and Export Development Jeremy Harrison.

Alberta

  • The Alberta government has signalled it plans to introduce legislation that would prevent municipalities from dealing directly with the federal government without provincial permission. Although details around the potential legislation are scarce, UCP government house leader Joseph Schow indicated the government plans to introduce a bill sponsored by Premier Danielle Smith called the Provincial Priorities Act.
  • The province is ramping up its efforts to get more young people interested in skilled trades. The Alberta government is investing more than $4.45 million into dual credit grants. The program lets high school students get credits that can count toward a post-secondary certificate, diploma, or degree. Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides made the announcement Tuesday at M.E. LaZerte High School in northeast Edmonton. 
  • Alberta’s government says it is bringing forward legislation to establish the Canadian Centre of Recovery Excellence (CoRE). If passed, the Canadian Centre of Recovery Excellence Act, 2024 will establish CoRE as a crown corporation to inform best practices in mental health and addiction, conduct research and program evaluation and support the development of evidence-based policies for mental health and addiction. The province says budget 2024 provides $5 million to support the establishment of CoRE.
  • Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said Friday she has no problem with Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre’s proposal to give municipalities a building bonus to incentivize housing construction — so long as he goes through her provincial government. Smith gave a speech to conservatives at an annual networking conference in Ottawa, days after tabling a bill that seeks to block Alberta cities from negotiating deals directly with the federal government.

British Columbia

  • Their job is to keep Surrey’s streets safe – but their future employment remains tangled up in politics. “It’s unfortunate that policing in the City of Surrey and the province of B.C. has become politicized,” said Brian Sauvé, president of the National Police Federation. The NPF, which is the largest police union in Canada, representing more than 20,000 RCMP officers, is slamming the provincial government. Sauve said, “This is just an example of how not to do a police transition.” The federation is accusing B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth of “misleading” statements, and demanding to know details of the transition plan that will see the Surrey Police Service replace the RCMP.
  • Dozens of climate-action groups are calling on the B.C. government to halt plans to expand liquefied natural gas production because of the climate crisis. In an open letter Wednesday to Premier David Eby and the energy and environment ministers, 88 groups argue that plans for five new LNG plants in B.C. do not align with global efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 C or to transition away from fossil fuels as agreed upon in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
  • British Columbia will create a provincial policy on illicit drug use in hospital settings in response to concerns from the union representing the province’s nurses that members are increasingly being exposed to drug-related hazards. Health Minister Adrian Dix said B.C. will convene a task force to standardize existing rules across health authorities “in the next short while.” The provincial policy will, for example, make explicit that patients are only permitted to use substances in designated spaces on or around hospital grounds and be consistent across all hospitals, he said.
  • The BC government says it’s taking new steps to try to speed up the process to get people connected with family doctors. Starting next week, the BC government will be adopting new digital tools to better link patients with family physicians and nurse practitioners. The government says the behind-the-scenes process is expected to speed up the matching and attachment of patients with available primary-care providers.

Northwest Territories

  • Homeless Indigenous women in the North do not feel well-protected by the RCMP and instead face violence and discrimination by police, a new report from the Yellowknife Women’s Society has found. The organization held two sessions with women last October, and every single participant said she either experienced abuse by an RCMP officer or knew an Indigenous person who had. “More than once, women in our circles shared stories of being roughed up by the police and being explicitly told some version of, ‘I can do what I want to you — no one will believe you,”‘ the report says.

Yukon

  • Yukon’s health minister says the idea of a long-term care facility in Watson Lake is “still being explored,” and that she’s also willing to consider options for spouses to stay with their loved ones in long-term care. The issue was raised in the legislature this week by the Yukon Party’s MLA for Watson Lake, Patti McLeod, who asked the minister what the government plans to do to improve care for those who require it, and also for their families.

Nunavut

  • With more homes expected to be built in Nunavut, a new program is ensuring it is Inuit who will build them. On Tuesday, Makigiaqta Inuit Training Corp. and NCC Development Ltd. announced a $4.9-million partnership to train Nunavut Inuit in the building construction trades. That money will be spent over six years. “We will see more Inuit standing tall because they will be able to contribute not only to their household but to their community,” said Aluki Kotierk, president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.

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