Provincial Legislative Update – April 26, 2024

Provincial and Territorial Update: An overview of the Provincial Legislative and Territories Legislative Updates for the week of April 26, 2024.​ Written by Wes McLean.

New Brunswick

  • A dangerous animal tranquilizer is showing up in New Brunswick’s unregulated drug supply, according to those who work on the front line with drug users. Xylazine, a veterinary sedative with effects similar to the depressant benzodiazepine, was identified in a Health Canada report in 2022 as an emerging additive to illegally sold opioids.
  • New Brunswick’s minister of tourism faced a second day of questions Wednesday about her deputy minister’s expense claims, including more than $19,000 in moving costs. Premier Blaine Higgs hired Yennah Hurley, a former travel blogger and tourism business operator, first as an adviser to the Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture in 2019 and then as its deputy minister.
  • An Ontario-based construction firm is blaming the New Brunswick government for delays it has encountered in getting work done on projects, including the Marysville Bridge in Fredericton and the Centennial Bridge in Miramichi. Julmac Contracting Ltd. is suing the province, identified as GNB in the statement of claim, alleging delays on these and other projects are the result of overly onerous requirements for the work Julmac has been contracted to carry out, compared to what’s required of New Brunswick-based companies.
  • Vitalité Health Network says it’s nearly $98 million over budget for the first 11 months of the 2023–2024 fiscal year, mainly because of expenses related to travel nurses. Hiring the 190 full-time equivalent private agency staff accounted for $94.2 million of the cost overrun between April 1, 2023 and Feb. 29, 2024, according to vice-chair Réjean Després. That’s about 12 per cent of Vitalité’s budget.

Nova Scotia

  • Nova Scotia’s three main political parties have all announced who their candidates will be in next month’s Pictou West byelection. Premier Tim Houston called the byelection last weekend, about two weeks after former Pictou West MLA and Speaker of the House Karla MacFarlane’s surprise announcement that she was retiring from provincial politics. A few days before the byelection call, the Tories selected Marco MacLeod to represent them.
  • Nova Scotia’s new justice minister says there is work to do to rebuild trust with service organizations following controversial comments a former cabinet colleague made last week about domestic violence. Brad Johns resigned as justice minister a day after casting doubt on the pervasiveness of domestic violence and telling reporters he thought there were “bigger issues” in the province, including drugs and guns.
  • Nova Scotia’s opposition parties are dismissing a government survey they say fails to address the primary question of whether coastal property owners want a law protecting the province’s coastline. The survey by Group ATN Consulting was conducted between Sept. 29 and Nov. 8 of last year, but a summary of the results was only posted to the government’s website on Friday. In February, the Progressive Conservative government said it would shift responsibility for coastal protection to municipalities and property owners instead of proclaiming the Coastal Protection Act.
  • Federal fisheries officers patrolling for unauthorized elver fishing arrested five people from Maine last weekend in southwest Nova Scotia, adding to the evidence that groups from outside the province have flocked to local rivers to catch the lucrative juvenile eels. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans said in a news release Wednesday officers seized nearly 3½ kilograms of elvers during the arrests in the Meteghan area of Digby County, along with a vehicle and four nets. The department did not say if those arrested would be charged.

Prince Edward Island

  • The opening of the spring season in P.E.I.’s Lobster Fishing Area 26A has been delayed until Saturday because high waves are in the forecast for the northeastern Northumberland Strait. That means crews won’t haul their first traps until Monday, since the traps will be placed Saturday morning and P.E.I. lobster boats don’t go out on Sundays. Word of the delay comes after a conference call joined by Department of Fisheries and Oceans officials as well as representatives from each harbour participating in the fishery.
  • P.E.I. had its best first quarter ever for housing starts this year, and the province’s housing minister is wondering why opposition parties have had no questions for him about it. The 394 housing starts in the first three months of 2024 is more than twice as many than any first quarter has shown since 1979. The previous record was set in 1978, with 237. Statistics Canada released the numbers on April 16. In the legislature on Tuesday, Housing Minister Rob Lantz chastised opposition parties for not wanting to talk about it.
  • Irrigation is relatively uncommon on P.E.I. farms, but that may have to change if Island farmers want to continue to grow potatoes, says Xander Wang, director of the Climate Smart Lab at UPEI. P.E.I. gets a lot of precipitation compared to, for example, the prairie provinces, said Wang. But climate change is already having an impact on when that precipitation is falling, and that’s important. “The seasonality of the precipitation is changing, particularly in summer months,” said Wang.
  • Some P.E.I. residents who call 911 in an emergency are hearing a recorded message and being put on hold. While the province says it’s not able to track how often that’s happening, it’s also quick to downplay any potential concerns. “It’s not a frequent occurrence, but it does happen,” said Pat Kelly, provincial co-ordinator with P.E.I.’s Emergency Measures Organization.

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear an appeal related to Newfoundland and Labrador’s decision to close its borders early in the COVID-19 pandemic. The case, which was launched by Kim Taylor of Nova Scotia and backed by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, claimed the province’s travel ban was unconstitutional. Taylor was barred from travelling home to Newfoundland and Labrador on May 5, 2020, to attend her mother’s funeral.
  • During a stop in Mount Pearl on Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland attempted to smooth over questions of her working relationship with Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey following his repeated criticism of the federal carbon tax. Freeland was in Mount Pearl to tout housing investments in the federal budget. Furey — Canada’s only remaining Liberal premier — did not attend.
  • Justice Minister John Hogan said he will introduce a bill in the House of Assembly to amend the province’s Limitations Act — a law that has prevented some people from suing the government for abuse they suffered as children. The move comes amid mounting pressure from across the floor. A group of MHAs have spent weeks reading in the same petition more than 30 times, calling on Hogan to update the legislation and bring it in line with the majority of other provinces in Canada.
  • The Newfoundland and Labrador government plans to hire someone who will be responsible for getting cases to court, so that potential fines can be imposed against rule-breaking landlords or tenants. That move could help close a loophole that has resulted in zero known penalties being imposed since legislation was changed six years ago, to bolster provisions aimed at deterring bad behaviour.

Quebec

  • “We’re not here to judge governments,” Quebec Premier François Legault said Thursday when asked about the opening of a Quebec office in Tel Aviv, Israel, as conflict rages in the Gaza Strip. “We’re here for the people and we’re here to do business. Now, I think there’s a bit of responsibility on both sides, the way it started, yes, yes,” Legault replied in the Quebec legislature about the origins of the ongoing conflict. The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government announced on Wednesday that the head of Quebec’s diplomatic representation will move to Tel Aviv this summer.
  • Premier François Legault is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to make good on a commitment to turn over more powers over immigration to Quebec. And Legault said he does not share Parti Québécois leader Paul St-Pierre’s Plamondon’s gloomy forecast of Quebec’s future in the Canadian federation. He questioned the PQ’s leader’s credentials noting “not so long ago Mr. St-Pierre Plamondon was not even a nationalist.”
  • The Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ) continues to lose ground to the Parti québécois (PQ) in voter intentions, according to Pallas Data latest’s poll. Premier François Legault’s party is now in third place, behind the PQ and the provincial Liberals (PLQ). According to Pallas Data, based in Toronto, the PQ once again leads among decided voters, at 33 per cent, 10 points ahead of the PLQ, at 23 per cent. The CAQ comes in third with 20 per cent, while Québec solidaire (QS) has 13 per cent support.
  • It’s “always easier for mayors to beg” the government “than to clean up their own spending,” said Premier François Legault on Thursday, under pressure from cities to pay off municipal transit company deficits. He was defending Transport Minister Geneviève Guilbault, who is under attack from all sides for her controversial statements. In the Montreal metropolitan region, the transit shortfall is estimated at $561 million, but the minister had suggested on Wednesday that it wasn’t her job to manage public transit in Quebec.

Ontario

  • Keffiyehs remain banned in the Ontario Legislature after a unanimous consent motion that would have allowed the scarf to be worn failed to pass at Queen’s Park Thursday. That vote, brought forth by NDP Leader Marit Stiles, failed despite Premier Doug Ford and the leaders of the province’s opposition parties all stating they want to see the ban overturned. Complete agreement from all MPPs is required for a motion like this to pass, and there were a smattering of “nos” after it was read into the record.
  • Ontario Premier Doug Ford is facing calls to personally apologize to Umar Zameer for a social media post that criticized his release on bail in 2021 after being charged with first-degree murder in the death of a Toronto police officer. Zameer was acquitted on Sunday in the death of Det. Const. Jeffrey Northrup, who died on July 2, 2021, after he was hit by a vehicle in an underground parking garage at Toronto City Hall.
  • This Honda accord is worth a cool $15 billion. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Doug Ford announced Thursday that Honda will build four new factories in Ontario, producing 240,000 electric vehicles annually as the Japanese auto giant expands its footprint. Fuelled by $5 billion in public money, the expansion will create 1,000 new jobs at Honda, which already employs 4,200 people in Alliston, plus thousands of spinoff positions in parts production and construction of the new facilities.
  • Text messages from multiple Ford government insiders contradict the testimony of a developer central to the Greenbelt scandal about his relationship with one of the premier’s longest-serving and closest aides. Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake wrote in his Aug. 30 Greenbelt report that Shakir Rehmatullah, founder and president of Flato Developments, testified that he and Amin Massoudi “do not socialize and have never been to each other’s homes.” Massoudi, meanwhile, told Wake he didn’t recall whether he’d ever been to Rehmatullah’s home, the commissioner’s report said.

Manitoba

  • Former Manitoba premier Heather Stefanson is resigning as the MLA for Tuxedo. Stefanson told the legislature Thursday she was addressing the chamber for the last time before her resignation, which takes effect May 6. “Thank you Manitoba for the opportunity, the responsibility and the honour,” Stefanson said, reading a speech before question period. “I want to thank the constituents of Tuxedo,” she said. “Tuxedo is where my grandparents raised my father and where [my husband] Jason and I have raised our children. For us, it’s home.” Speaking with reporters, Stefanson said announcing her resignation after more than 23 years was tough. 
  • A school trustee in western Manitoba is facing calls to resign, and the province says it’s launching a review, after a presentation in which he made comments decried as hateful, including questioning the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on residential schools. Paul Coffey, a trustee with the Dauphin-based Mountain View School Division, gave a roughly half-hour-long presentation during a board meeting on Monday, ahead of an anti-racism training session Wednesday.
  • Manitoba Public Insurance says it has removed about one-fifth of its management team, following the recommendations of an external report that found too many managerial layers led to confusion and instability at the Crown-owned auto insurer. MPI confirmed to CBC News on Tuesday it has eliminated 32 out of 174 budgeted management positions — an 18 per cent reduction — leaving 142 such positions.
  • Manitoba’s NDP government took more heat Thursday over its handling of the provincial nominee program, after a recent draw for applicants excluded some recently graduated international students. The province periodically selects people from expressions of interest who are invited to apply to the provincial nominee program — which matches foreign workers with Manitoba’s labour needs. A certain number of applicants from those draws are then approved to come to the province.

Saskatchewan

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe’s decision to stop collecting and remitting carbon taxes on natural gas has put him in direct conflict with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). “I don’t know about you, but having an argument with CRA about not wanting to pay your taxes is not a position I want anyone to be in. Good luck with that, Premier Moe,” Trudeau said in Oakville, Ont. on Wednesday. 
  • Premier Scott Moe said his government had little forewarning Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would be visiting Saskatchewan on Tuesday. “We were notified yesterday,” said Moe from an event in Regina at the same time Trudeau was in Saskatoon, adding there was no chance for a meeting or to participate in the announcement. “It’s somewhat disappointing,” the premier said. “That we had our schedules booked as well.” Moe said he does appreciate and welcome the prime minister to Saskatchewan, and he appreciates the funding in the federal budget for Indigenous communities highlighted by Trudeau in Wanuskewin on Tuesday.
  • Newly obtained internal data shows the Saskatchewan government knew COVID-19 was spreading at an “exponential” rate in the fall of 2021, providing new insight into what officials knew before a devastating COVID-19 wave hit the province. The Investigative Journalism Foundation (IJF) and the CBC have obtained a six-page briefing presented to top officials at Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Health in September 2021, days before the provincial government publicly declined to reintroduce measures doctors said were urgently needed to stop the spread of the virus. 
  • The provincial government has passed a Private Member’s Motion by Carrot River Valley MLA Fred Bradshaw. The motion calls on the Federal Government to allow the Government of Saskatchewan to administer and regulate legal firearms possession. The move comes after the federal Liberals passed Bill C-21, which saw the codifying of the national handgun freeze, meaning handguns cannot be imported, purchased, or transferred. The provincial government maintains the bill does not enhance public safety and takes rights away from law-abiding firearms owners.

Alberta

  • Alberta Premier Danielle Smith defended on Tuesday a COVID-19 task force she created to look into deaths she said were unexplained and rumours on social media about vaccine harms, led by a physician she hand-picked because of his contrarian perspective on the pandemic. Earlier in the day, The Globe and Mail published details of the little-known task force that was given a sweeping mandate by the government to assess data used to inform pandemic decision-making. Ms. Smith, speaking publicly for the first time about the group, said she created it to ascertain a “full range” of scientific views to provide recommendations on how to better manage future pandemics.
  • A constituency association in southern Alberta is asking Premier Danielle Smith to allow a controversial woman who made transphobic comments during the 2023 provincial election into caucus, saying she has made right with her actions. In an April 24 letter posted to X, the Red Deer-South Constituency Board of Directors says it passed a unanimous resolution to request the “immediate welcoming” of Jennifer Johnson into the United Conservative Party caucus.
  • The Alberta government has introduced a bill that would grant it sweeping powers over municipalities, including the right to fire councillors, overturn bylaws and postpone elections. The proposed law would also allow political parties to run on municipal ballots in Edmonton and Calgary as soon as next year.
  • The Alberta government has announced an investment of $50 million over the next three years to the province’s Water Management Program. The move aims to enhance Alberta’s water management infrastructure, which is vital for irrigation, municipal, industrial, agricultural, and recreational use, as well as for fish and wildlife habitat, flood mitigation, and erosion protection. A significant portion of the funds will be directed towards the Dickson Dam Spillway Enhancements. The dam, constructed in 1983, plays a role in ensuring an adequate water supply for Red Deer and Drumheller, while also contributing to low winter flows along the Red Deer River.

British Columbia

  • The poll published Friday by Mainstreet Research is a unique one and tested two scenarios. A group of responders were queried using the BC United brand while another group were asked the ballot question using BC Liberal, the party’s former name. The results from both versions were combined together, putting the BC Conservatives on top with 38.9% of respondents, followed by the BC NDP at 36.2%, BC United at 15.3% and BC Greens at 6.7%. “The latest snapshot of the BC political landscape paints a grim scene for Kevin Falcon and the BC United Party” said Quito Maggi, president & CEO of Mainstreet Research.
  • The B.C. government is putting its proposed online harms legislation on hold after reaching an agreement with some of the largest social media platforms to make people safer online. Premier David Eby says in a joint statement with representatives of the firms Meta, TikTok, X and Snap that they will form an online safety action table, where they’ll discuss “tangible steps” towards protecting people from online harms.
  • The premier of B.C. stands firmly against calls by city councillors to end the province’s drug decriminalization pilot. In 2023, B.C. became the first jurisdiction in Canada to decriminalize the possession of up to 2.5 grams of hard drugs including cocaine, heroin, meth, and ecstasy. The move was part of a pilot project to reduce barriers preventing people from accessing life-saving services, including safer supply programs, and keeping people in possession of drugs out of the criminal justice system.
  • British Columbia’s government has set Nov. 29 as the date when the Surrey Police Service will take over from the RCMP as the city’s force of jurisdiction. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth says Surrey RCMP will continue to operate and provide support after the official transition, although the Mounties will determine what type of support will be offered. Farnworth says the transition is taking place under existing provincial and federal procedures and does not require any rule changes.

Northwest Territories

  • Some Northwest Territories MLAs grilled officials from the territory’s municipal and community affairs department Wednesday on updates to its emergency plan. MLAs discussed the updates at a public ministerial briefing at the standing committee on accountability and oversight. The territorial government released updates to its emergency plan on Monday. That plan is meant to be a living document that describes the emergency management framework in the N.W.T. and the roles and responsibilities of departments, governments and non-government agencies. 

Yukon

  • Students at Robert Service School in Dawson City, Yukon, are learning to design sustainable houses. They’re part of a group of students taking locally developed classes for high school credit, something the territory’s MLAs want to see more of after they voted unanimously to amend the Education Act’s cap on local courses last week. Shop teacher Peter Menzies said the students’ first design was outhouses. 

Nunavut

  • The Government of Nunavut is pushing the federal government to allow tourism, recreational and outfitting activities in the Tuvaijuittuq Marine Protected Area in the High Arctic. With certain exceptions, no human activity has been authorized there for the last five years. In a letter, Nunavut’s Department of Environment asked Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to adopt a ministerial order saying “certain activities can occur within a Marine Protected Area,” or that recognizes “specific tourism, recreation, and outfitting activities as ‘on-going’ under section 35.1 (1) (c) of the Oceans Act.”

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