Provincial Legislative Update – April 14, 2023
An overview of the Provincial and Territories Legislative Updates for April 14, 2023.
- The provincial government has given the ombud copies of records detailing the business case for spending more than $40 million to build a jail in Fredericton. That comes after the department initially refused to provide the ombud’s office with the records, claiming they’re confidential cabinet documents.
- A growing backlog of cases at New Brunswick’s Residential Tenancies Tribunal has left people who are challenging their 2023 rent increases mired in lengthy waits for decisions on what they will have to pay for housing this year. That is despite pledges by government as recently as this month that reviews and judgments on rent increases will come quickly.
- The Higgs government has ruled out creating a provincial police force to replace the RCMP. Public Safety Minister Kris Austin told a committee of the legislature Thursday morning that there’s no money in his budget this year to set up such a force because the province has opted against it.
- Thirty of 37 New Brunswick schools that had peak carbon dioxide readings above the “desirable” level during air quality testing more than a year ago still lack proper ventilation systems, data quietly released by the Department of Education reveals. Among them is a school that had a peak more than double the targeted maximum of 1,500 parts per million, and another that also had an overall average above that peak limit.
- Premier Tim Houston’s Tory government wrapped a lightning-fast spring sitting at the Nova Scotia legislature on Wednesday by passing a budget that includes billions of dollars for health care, but no increase to income assistance rates. MLAs sat for a total of 14 days and the government passed six pieces of legislation, along with the bills required to put the provincial budget into action.
- The provincial government has fined Nova Scotia Power $10 million for missing renewable-electricity targets, a decision the company says it intends to appeal. Natural Resources and Renewables Minister Tory Rushton confirmed the fine during an interview on Thursday, saying he did not think the company had done enough to try to mitigate the shortfall in renewable energy.
- A union representing thousands of Nova Scotian school support workers says they could be going on strike next week after wage negotiations reached an impasse. CUPE’s Nova Scotia School Board Council of Unions represents approximately 5,400 workers throughout the province including bus drivers, cleaners, maintenance staff, educational program assistants and early childhood educators, along with other roles.
- The Port of Halifax has been hit with a “denial of service” cyberattack that has shut down its public website but did not compromise internal data or interrupt operations. Port authorities in Montreal and Quebec are investigating similar issues with their websites. Halifax Port Authority spokesperson Lane Farguson says problems with the website were noticed Wednesday morning.
Prince Edward Island
- Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King unveiled his new cabinet Friday, keeping his promise to include a record number of women and saying goodbye to some ministers to make way for new blood after his Progressive Conservatives racked up a commanding victory in the April 3 election. The cabinet members were sworn in by Lt.-Gov. Antoinette Perry at the Confederation Centre in Charlottetown. Below are the five new additions:
- Gilles Arsenault is minister of economic development, innovation and trade and minister responsible for Acadian and Francophone Affairs.
- Jill Burridge becomes minister of finance.
- Rob Lantz is minister of housing, land and communities.
- Barb Ramsay is minister of social development and seniors.
- Jenn Redmond is minister of workforce, advanced learning and population
- Darlene Compton, Jamie Fox and Matthew MacKay were not returned to the cabinet.
- A tentative agreement has been reached in the strike at the University of Prince Edward Island, the union representing faculty members said Friday. The UPEI Faculty Association is “still working it through” checking the language of the agreement, said vice-president Margot Rejskind. UPEI’s administration typically does not comment until the tentative agreement is signed, said Nicole Phillips, the university’s director of communications and university relations.
- Some Island tenants who received notice of rent increases before the province’s new Residential Tenancy Act took effect say they’ll take their fight to the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission (IRAC). The new legislation allows the Island Regulatory and Appeals Board to set an annual rent increase of no more than three per cent, with landlords having the right to apply for an extra three per cent a year on top of that. That’s a maximum annual rent increase of six per cent.
Newfoundland and Labrador
- The FFAW is seeking meetings with Premier Andrew Furey and Labour Minister Bernard Davis following an urgent call last night with provincial fisheries minister Derrick Bragg on ways to resolve the low price set for snow crab this season. The fish price setting panel set the price at $2.20 per pound, a price point that FFAW President Greg Pretty says is unsustainable. He says harvesters won’t fish for that price. He’s not calling it a strike, but a decision based on economic position.
- Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro says work and testing to commission the Labrador-Island Link, which will carry electricity from Muskrat Falls in Labrador to Newfoundland and beyond, has now been completed. The second and final 700-megawatt test of the Labrador-Island Link (LIL) finished successfully earlier this month. N.L. Hydro CEO Jennifer Williams said the system performed as expected.
- First responders in Newfoundland and Labrador will have greater access to their colleagues beginning this year with the implementation of a new emergency radio system. The network is a partnership between the provincial government, provincial first responders including police, Bell Canada and Motorola, which will allow first responders to communicate with each other across the province.
- Memorial University’s governing body is not answering questions about its decision to remove Vianne Timmons as president of the university, as the faculty association calls for an independent investigation. In an email Thursday, MUN’s governing body declined an interview and instead asked for questions by email. CBC News posed a list of questions, including why the board is not conducting interviews in the wake of removing the university’s president.
- Quebec Premier François Legault is being accused of hypocrisy for an Easter Monday tweet in which he credits Catholicism for “engender[ing] in us a culture of solidarity that distinguishes us on a continental scale.” Legault was quoting from a column in the Journal de Montréal by columnist Mathieu Bock-Côté titled “Praise of our old Catholic background.”
- Muslim groups are speaking out against the Quebec government’s intention to ban prayer spaces in public schools, saying they will monitor how the Education Department enforces its new rules. In response to reports that at least two Montreal-area schools had reserved spaces for Muslim students to pray, Education Minister Bernard Drainville promised last week to prohibit schools from doing so. The minister, however, said he wouldn’t ban prayer altogether; students who wanted to pray should do so “discreetly” and “silently,” he told reporters.
- The Supreme Court of Canada is set to rule today on whether Quebec’s ban on growing cannabis plants at home is constitutional. The ruling is in a case first brought before the courts in 2019 by Janick Murray-Hall. Murray-Hall’s lawyer argued that Quebec’s ban on owning and cultivating plants for personal use is unconstitutional and contradicts the federal cannabis law enacted in 2018.
- A pro-Russian hacking group has claimed responsibility for a cyber-attack against Quebec’s state-owned electricity provider. Hydro-Québec said on Thursday it was working to try to get its website up and running again following the cyberattack. The province’s power utility says it was hit with a denial-of-service attack at approximately 3 a.m. ET.
- Premier Doug Ford appeared to tease an announcement on the future of Ontario Place that could see a merger of two popular city attractions. Ford expressed support for the idea of moving the Ontario Science Centre to the waterfront space and all but confirmed an announcement would be coming soon. He made the comment while making a jobs announcement in Kitchener on Thursday morning.
- Questions continue to swirl about why Premier Doug Ford removed long-time Conservative loyalist Ron Chatha from Peel Region’s police services board. “Well, we’re going to move forward with a new chair and, unfortunately, I can’t disclose that right now,” Ford told reporters Thursday after the Star revealed Chatha’s appointment had been abruptly revoked this week.
- The 40 new adjudicators being added to Ontario’s Landlord Tenant Board (LTB) as part of a new provincial act will preside over virtual-only hearings, and not be designated to serve any particular part of the province, Tribunals Ontario says. Housing Minister Steve Clark announced the additional staff as part of the Helping Homebuyers, Protecting Tenants Act introduced Wednesday—beefing up the quasi-judicial system that resolves disputes between residential landlords and tenants, including evictions.
- Ontario Long-Term Care Minister Paul Calandra acknowledged Tuesday that the government has been aware, for some time, that a number of for-profit nursing homes plan to vacate the sector, and that he is turning to hospitals to fill the void.
- Ontario’s new “ultra-low” overnight electricity price plan is advertised as a good option for those who use power overnight, such as electric vehicle (EV) owners and shift workers. But experts say that, depending on the length of the daily commute, this new price package may not be the best deal. Customers can opt-in to the new ultra-low overnight rate which will be 67 percent lower than the current off-peak rate, in exchange for a higher on-peak rate during the day.
- Manitoba cabinet minister Obby Khan accused Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew of swearing at him and shoving him at a public event inside the legislature Thursday, saying it left him shaken. Kinew denied the accusation, saying there was only a “tense verbal exchange.” Kinew and Khan agreed that words were exchanged at a ceremony marking Turban Day, a commemoration of Sikh and Punjabi cultures.
- Manitoba’s Official Opposition is demanding transparency about Premier Heather Stefanson’s participation in a fund for affluent investors, despite the fact there are no laws requiring provincial politicians to disclose which companies they invest in. The NDP noted that Stefanson is a client of the capital management company Manitou Investment Management Ltd., which she disclosed in her conflict of interest declaration. The firm said in a conference call it boosted client portfolios by a quarter billion dollars in 2021.
- The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs is reimagining what a justice system could look like for First Nations people in the province, with plans to try out courts in two communities with processes based on First Nations’ legal traditions. As Indigenous people continue to make up a disproportionate number of people in custody, get jailed younger, be denied bail more frequently and receive parole less often, the need for such a system in Manitoba is urgent, Grand Chief Cathy Merrick said.
- An overland flood watch has been issued for Winnipeg and eastern Manitoba on Friday as the spring thaw has begun and 20 millimetres of precipitation is expected. The watch will be in effect for areas east of Manitoba Highway 75 from 12:01 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Friday, the Manitoba Transportation and Infrastructure’s Hydrologic Forecast Centre said in a news release. Overland flooding threatens the areas because the ground is partly frozen and full of moisture, according to the release.
- Onion Lake Cree Nation (OLCN) is spearheading legal action against the provincial government, arguing the Saskatchewan First Act, which was passed in March, violates treaty rights and derogates the treaty relationship. Saskatchewan has stated that the act defends the province’s economic autonomy and jurisdiction over its natural resources from “federal overreach.” However, Indigenous leaders have opposed the act’s intention and say it was formed without meaningful consultation.
- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday his government will not change the agreements which give Prairie provinces control over natural resources after remarks from the minister of justice prompted criticism from the premiers of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. “As prime minister, I’m happy to stand here right now and say we will not be touching the [Natural Resources Transfer Agreements],” Trudeau told a news conference.
- A group of Saskatchewan medical students wants the provincial government to make prescription birth control available free of charge. “Our call to the government is to implement prescription coverage of contraception in order to reduce barriers of access,” said Natisha Thakkar, a University of Saskatchewan medical student and one of the co-founders of Universal Access to Contraception Saskatchewan (UACSask).
- Swift Current will remain in a local state of emergency for the next 10 to 14 days. According to the latest statement released by the city, water levels in Swift Current Creek are expected to fluctuate during that time, as the Water Security Agency manages water levels in the nearby Duncairn Dam. Fire chief Ryan Hunter said there’s still a way to go before the city is in the clear.
- Alberta Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley says Premier Danielle Smith must explain whether she shares the “extremist views” of Calgary street preacher Artur Pawlowski and those of “her key support group” Take Back Alberta.
- No premier has ever gone into an election campaign under investigation for a possible ethics violation. This will likely stick with Danielle Smith to voting day, May 29, unless Commissioner Marguerite Trussler breaks her long record of taking months to produce a report. The subject is far more serious than the usual look into whether some MLA voted for a personal benefit. The probe is about “whether or not the premier has interfered with the administration of justice in relation to a COVID prosecution,” according to Smith’s office.
- Premier Danielle Smith, in an election-style event, says her United Conservative Party will not make Albertans pay out of pocket to see their family doctor or get medical treatment. Smith says her party, should it win next month’s general election, would also not delist from public funding any future medical procedures or prescriptions. Smith announced Tuesday in a party-sponsored event in front of a medical clinic in Sherwood Park, just east of Edmonton.
- Alberta NDP could make huge gains in Calgary and win the popular vote, a new poll suggests — but still lose the election. The opposition could win the popular vote and most Calgary seats, but still lose the election. A new poll commissioned by CBC News suggests Calgary remains hotly contested and will have significant implications on final seat counts in the upcoming election.
- The province has announced the locations of 12 community hubs that are intended to curb repeat violent offending in regions across the province. The hubs are part of the “Repeat Violent Offending Intervention Initiative,” which aims to increase targeted enforcement of repeat offenders, as well as improve investigating and monitoring these types of crimes. The new facilities will bring together police, prosecutors, and corrections officials who are all focused on targeting specific prolific offenders.
- Violence on public transit and in city spaces across Canada has increased since the COVID-19 pandemic, Calgary police Chief Mark Neufeld said in relation to a spate of assaults in his city as well as Edmonton, Metro Vancouver and Toronto. Neufeld said he’s talked to his counterparts in other cities and it’s hard to know what’s driving the violence, but calls related to mental health have been on the rise.
- Two competing ideas can be true at the same time in politics and one need look no further than British Columbia for evidence of this. A new study from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute finds that on one hand, B.C. residents voice widespread dissatisfaction with their government on the most important issues facing the province. In fact, at least two-thirds say the B.C. NDP are doing a poor job of handling the cost-of-living crisis, health care and housing affordability. On the other, Premier David Eby remains popular, and his party holds a comfortable and continuing lead in vote intention. Eby entered his post at an opportune time, taking over a $5.7-billion surplus, which has allowed the government to announce a plethora of spending priorities.
- Mark Kenney, president and CEO of Canadian Apartment Properties Real Estate Investment Trust (CAPREIT), Canada’s largest landlord, has endorsed B.C. Premier David Eby’s controversial $500 million fund to buy older apartment buildings and retain them as non-profit assets. In announcing the Rental Protection Fund this February, the premier said it is meant to “protect vulnerable renters from speculators who can drive up rents and evict tenants who have lived there for years.” Eby specifically named large corporations” such as real-estate investment trusts” as the potential villains.
- The time for a basic income program in the N.W.T. is now, advocates say. Alternatives North, a social justice coalition, released a report Wednesday with six recommendations for a basic income guarantee program in the territory. The 87-page report calls for, among other things, increased public awareness, investment from the federal government, and concrete steps from the territorial government to implement or pilot a program.
- Whitehorse council supports municipal voting rights for permanent residents. Non-citizen permanent residents living in the Yukon deserve to have a say when it comes to how their community is running, says Whitehorse city councillor Jocelyn Curteanu. “We have a lot of people coming to the territory from other countries,” she said.”They’re contributing. They’ve decided to live here permanently. They’re investing into our community. They’re putting their money into homes. They’re paying taxes. They should have a say in their governance.”
- Canada and the Yukon viewed consulting with Kaska on a mining project in the territory’s southeast as a “box to be checked” instead of meaningful dialogue, lawyers argued this week in Yukon Supreme Court. Lawyers for Kaska Nation presented their arguments on Tuesday and Wednesday at the start of a six-day hearing on the approval of the Kudz Ze Kayah mine. They told court the mining project was approved without adequately addressing the concerns of local First Nations.
- The Iqaluit District Education Authority says Nunavut’s Department of Education is barring some support workers from helping students in need. The education authority says it identified 28 students who need extra help for emotional and behavioural challenges. A news release Wednesday from administrator Lynda Gunn said the authority secured federal funding to contract people to help support those students, but the Department of Education is now barring those people from entering schools.