Provincial Legislative Update – April 28, 2023
An overview of the Provincial and Territories Legislative Updates for April 28, 2023.
- Public Service Alliance of Canada members took the picket line to the New Brunswick legislature on Thursday after Premier Blaine Higgs made statements telling the federal government not to give in to the union’s demands. Higgs told the Telegraph-Journal earlier this week that the federal government “should hold the line,” speaking about its offer to the union.
- New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs says his party’s poor performance in Monday’s three byelections is a sign of a deepening political divide along linguistic lines in the province. The premier told a news conference Tuesday he had not expected his Progressive Conservatives to win any of the ridings, which have traditionally formed a solid part of the Liberals’ francophone base.
- New Brunswick Liberal Leader Susan Holt has been elected to the legislature for the first time, winning a riding in the province’s northeast considered safe for her party. The leader of the province’s official Opposition won one of three byelections held Monday to fill vacancies in the 49-seat legislature.
- New Brunswick’s minister of Aboriginal affairs says the province won’t change the name of the St. John River to the Wolastoq, saying it’s not a priority. First Nations chiefs have been calling for the name change for years. Last year, New Brunswick’s systemic racism commissioner recommended including Wolastoq in a new name for the river. On Wednesday, Green Party Leader David Coon asked Arlene Dunn, the Aboriginal affairs minister, about the idea during a committee meeting at the legislature.
- As Nova Scotia and Canada struggle with a nursing shortage, Nova Scotia’s premier and health minister joined nurses at their union’s annual general meeting. Far from their patients or an emergency room, nurses highlighted what’s in need of urgent care. “Respect for nurses,” said registered nurse Susan Dobbin. “Nurses often aren’t respected in the workplace.”
- One of the companies trying to harness the power of the Bay of Fundy’s record-setting tides says it’s pulling its floating turbine platform out of the waters off the coast of Nova Scotia. Sustainable Marine Energy Canada says the bureaucratic barriers put up by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans have essentially forced the company to pull the plug.
- Cape Breton Regional Municipality will not be getting any more money — for now — from the provincial government. Facing a multi-million-dollar draft budget shortfall, CBRM officials met with the minister of municipal affairs and his deputy last week to see if the province would increase the municipality’s operating grant to run its services.
Prince Edward Island
- Nurses on P.E.I. are bracing for another challenging summer, knowing there are still 300 staff vacancies in the system as peak vacation season approaches. As it has in the past, the province has confirmed that it plans to bring in travel nurses — freelance registered nurses who work for independent staffing agencies — to help ease the load temporarily. Barbara Brookins, president of the P.E.I. Nurses’ Union, acknowledges travel nurses are necessary, but she said they should be used only after exploring all other resources.
- The government of Prince Edward Island shared insights Monday into its recruitment and hiring process for health-care workers. The province’s overall health-care job vacancy rate is around 20 percent, and even higher for some positions. Officials say they are working to get that down to seven per cent, close to the overall workforce unemployment rate. In 2022, 13 doctors on P.E.I. retired and 17 resigned, though seven of those moved to other positions within the health authority.
- The mayor of Summerside hosted a town hall on Wednesday night, giving residents a chance to speak with some of P.E.I.’s top health officials. “The conversation so often is driven by responses to crises,” said Mayor Dan Kutcher. “I wanted to make sure that we are optimistic and hopeful and see a path forward … and understand the vision for the future of health-care services in our community.” There is a shortage of medical professionals all across P.E.I.. In Summerside, concerns have been raised recently following news that two internal medicine physicians would be leaving the Prince County Hospital (PCH).
Newfoundland and Labrador
- Premier Andrew Furey said he is committed to re-evaluating funding for Memorial University’s tuition freeze during a closed-door meeting with students, faculty and administration. The university has seen multiple crises in recent months, beginning with a nearly two-week-long faculty strike during the winter semester, which ignited animosity between administration, faculty, staff and students.
- Tourism Minister Steve Crocker says Newfoundland and Labrador is considering legal action as Marine Atlantic announced it will increase its fuel surcharge — reflected in the price of a ticket — to combat the rising cost of fuel. The company announced Thursday the surcharge will rise from 13 per cent to 17 per cent beginning June 1.
- The provincial government will not be implementing formal regionalization in Newfoundland and Labrador, rejecting recommendations made in a 2022 report. That report, crafted by Municipalities N.L., Professional Municipal Administrators N.L. and government representatives, recommended the creation of approximately 25 regions to administer municipal services. While speaking with reporters on Wednesday, Municipal and Provincial Affairs Minister Krista Lynn Howell said a large geographic area and low population density means that approach doesn’t make sense in this province.
- In the first sitting of Newfoundland and Labrador’s legislature after its Easter break, the Official Opposition hammered the government over reports of children with autism being dropped from daycares due to a lack of staff. During question period Tuesday afternoon, children and youth services critic Barry Petten noted that the provincial autism society says dozens of children have had to leave daycares that don’t have the required inclusion staff, and asked Education Minister John Haggie what the government plans to do about it.
- Premier François Legault questioned the election of Parti Québécois (PQ) leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon in the middle of question period in the Blue Room Tuesday. “If tomorrow morning there was an election in Camille-Laurin without a flyer stolen from the Parti Québécois, would the MNA for Camille-Laurin be the MNA who is here before us today?” Legault said. The Québec Solidaire (QS) candidate, Marie-Eve Rancourt, was eliminated from the race in the riding after being filmed stealing a PQ flyer. St-Pierre Plamondon won the seat with a 2,800-vote lead over the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) candidate Richard Campeau.
- Quebec Premier Francois Legault heard recently from caucus members expressing the fury of their constituents over the government’s decision to break a major election promise. The Legault government’s decision last week to backtrack on a pledge to build a multi-purpose vehicle tunnel linking Quebec City with its south shore has dominated Quebec politics. Backbencher Jean-Francois Simard says constituents in his Quebec City-area riding are outraged by the announcement that the tunnel will be reserved for public transit.
- English private schools in Quebec skirt language laws and shun government funding to boost enrolment. A growing number of English private schools have used a loophole in the province’s language laws. They’re quietly forgoing their state subsidies to place themselves beyond the reach of Quebec’s French-language Charter, thereby allowing anyone to attend – anyone with the money, that is.
- The Quebec government has paid significantly more for certain procedures completed in private clinics compared to those done through the public system, data released this week suggests. The figures, made public through an Access to Information request by the independent Institut de recherche et d’informations socioéconomiques (IRIS), looked at the cost differences for five procedures in public and private settings as part of a provincial pilot project. The data “couldn’t be clearer,” according to IRIS researcher Guillaume Hébert.
- Lawyers are talking about suing the Quebec government if it does not set up the public registry of environmental information required by law. The Quebec Environmental Law Centre (CQDE) warns that it will use all legal means to ensure that the public registry of environmental information is implemented. “If we have to go to court, that’s what we’ll do. The stakes are too high for this registry to remain a dead letter,” said CQDE lawyer Marc Bishai.
- Ontario is investing millions to crack down on the province’s bail system and make sure high-risk and repeat violent offenders adhere to their bail conditions. Premier Doug Ford announced Thursday $112 million will be used towards setting up violent crime bail teams, new technology, providing prosecutors with resources for complex bail hearings and boosting Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Repeat Offender Parole Enforcement (ROPE) Squad.
- The delays behind a light rail transit line in midtown Toronto that’s years behind schedule are frustrating, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Thursday, but he doesn’t want it rushed lest it becomes another Ottawa LRT. The Eglinton Crosstown LRT was originally supposed to open in 2020, but there is no current projected opening date despite it having been under construction for a decade.
- Arbitrators have awarded Ontario hospital nurses additional salary increases for the three years that were subject to a wage restraint law after it was struck down as unconstitutional. The 2019 law, known as Bill 124, capped wage increases for nurses and other public sector workers at one percent a year for three years.
- Ontario will eliminate the post-secondary education requirement to become a police officer, expand enrolment for its basic training program and axe tuition fees at the Ontario Police College, the premier said Tuesday. The moves are designed to get more police officers into communities, Doug Ford said. “We need reinforcements, we need more police officers on our streets,” Ford said at the Toronto Police College. There’s been a rise in auto thefts, assaults, break-and-enters and random acts of violence in Ontario over the past year, Ford said.
- A train derailment closed a stretch of a busy Winnipeg thoroughfare last Friday and prompted Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative government to refloat the billion-dollar idea of relocating rail lines outside the city. Several rail cars carrying bitumen left the track near a rail overpass that runs over McPhillips Street — a major route for commuters in the city’s northwest.
- Four federal parties have candidates in place to run in an upcoming byelection in Winnipeg South Centre, a riding that’s sat vacant since the death of Liberal MP Jim Carr in December. The Liberal Party has nominated educator Ben Carr to follow in his late father’s footsteps, the candidate said on Friday. No one ran against Carr after municipal politician Sherri Rollins bowed out of a potential nomination contest.
- The province’s chief medical examiner says it’s “undeniable” that Manitoba is experiencing a drug-related crisis, as the number of deaths from drugs in the province continues to rise. Dr. John Younes made the comment in an email to the CBC just days before the latest data on drug-related deaths was made available in Manitoba. While the official number of overdose deaths for 2022 won’t be known until all toxicology reports are finalized, preliminary data from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner says at least 418 people died a drug related-death in Manitoba last year.
- Recent comments made by Manitoba’s education minister comparing the leader of the Official Opposition to a First Nations actor were rooted in racism and the latest in a series of personal attacks, say diversity and inclusion experts. Wayne Ewasko compared NDP Leader Wab Kinew to Manitoba-born actor Adam Beach during Tuesday’s question period in the legislature — something meant to remind some Progressive Conservative voters that Kinew, like Beach, is First Nations, says a University of Manitoba Native studies associate professor.
- Premier Scott Moe has announced plans to once again run for the province’s top job in the 2024 provincial election. In a news release posted to Twitter by the Saskatchewan Party, Moe said he also plans to seek a fourth term as MLA for Rosthern-Shellbrook as well as premier. “Saskatchewan’s economy is strong, there are thousands of new jobs being created in every sector and our population is growing at its fastest pace in more than a century,” Moe said in the release. Moe also said it’s an honour to serve the people of Rosthern-Shellbrook as their MLA and that he is looking forward to running for re-election.
- Canadian farmers are expecting to plant the largest wheat crop in more than two decades this year amid strong demand for wheat. Statistics Canada said Wednesday that farmers anticipate planting 23 million acres of wheat, up 6.2 per cent from the previous year. According to the federal agency’s report on principal field crop areas, the anticipated growth is possibly due to favourable prices and strong demand for wheat. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine more than a year ago drove up global wheat prices, as Ukraine has been one of the world’s largest wheat exporters.
- Dene High School in La Loche, Sask., is set to reopen on Monday with some new safety measures after a stabbing incident last Thursday left a student and a teaching assistant injured. The school will have metal detectors and two additional security guards — bringing the total to four — when students return. Classes at the school have been cancelled this week while the Northern Lights School Division No. 113 developed a new school safety plan, but the building remains open for counselling services. La Loche is about 600 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon.
- The Saskatchewan government demanded that a man remove a tweet he had posted that used a government logo, saying it was in violation of copyright, but a copyright and trademark lawyer says the tweet was legal. The Saskatchewan government’s newest slogan is “growth that works for everyone.” It is featured on ads, billboards and on government and MLA social media channels. Iain MacDonald posted an image of the government’s slogan and logo, but with the line “who donates to the Sask. Party” added at the bottom.
- As the Alberta provincial election is right around the corner and campaigns are set to begin Monday, Albertans are on the fence about who they want to be the next leader of the province. According to Abacus Data, when it comes to the UCP and NDP, Albertans remain split. Of those surveyed, 36 percent said they were going to vote for the UCP and another 36 percent said they were going to vote for the NDP.
- United Conservative Party leader Danielle Smith posed for photos with campaign supporters Wednesday night, including three people who were either fined or charged for their role in the so-called Freedom Convoy to Ottawa. Political events attract people from all walks of life and politicians are not known to waste opportunities to try and secure votes, but an Alberta analyst said this is not the first time Smith has met with supporters who hold extreme views.
- Alberta Premier Danielle Smith says her pre-election cash pledge for a Calgary event centre doesn’t contradict her previous stance against corporate welfare. Smith announced Tuesday, if elected, a UCP government will put $330 million into surrounding infrastructure as part of an agreement in principle with the city and Calgary Flames ownership to build a new $1.2-billion arena.
- French company TotalEnergies says it has signed a deal to sell its Canadian operations to Suncor Energy Inc. in an agreement worth up to $6.1 billion. Under the deal, Suncor will pay $5.5 billion in cash, plus up to an additional $600 million that is conditional on Western Canadian Select benchmark oil pricing and certain production targets. TotalEnergies EP Canada Ltd. holds a 31.23 percent working interest in the Fort Hills oilsands project and a 50 percent working interest in the Surmont in situ asset. Suncor says the deal will add 135,000 barrels per day of net bitumen production capacity and 2.1 billion barrels of proven and probable reserves to Suncor’s oilsands portfolio.
- The Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) has released a list of recommendations following a surge in violent incidents on public transit systems across the country. The association shared 27 recommendations with the public this week, asking the different levels of government to work together and prioritize the safety of staff members and transit riders.
- Premier David Eby said his government stands behind individuals rallying for public safety across British Columbia today. Eby made these comments in Delta just hours before the start of rallies in Victoria (outside the provincial legislature), Surrey (Holland Park), Nanaimo (Diana Krall Plaza), Kamloops (City Hall), Prince George (Walkway Along Hwy 16 Between Treasure Cove Casino and SD 57), Dawson Creek (Northern Alberta Railway Park), and Penticton (Riverside Drive).
- The province is set to release its report on the future of policing in Surrey on Friday, but B.C.’s premier is hinting it may not be a final answer on the path forward. The assumption has been that the B.C. government would make a call on whether to stick with the RCMP as Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke has been pushing for — or follow through with transitioning to the Surrey Police Service (SPS).
- B.C. will be spending nearly $90 million to help companies and organizations get fuel-hungry trucks off the road and replace them with zero-emissions, heavy duty vehicles. Premier David Eby noted B.C. is leading all provinces in the switch to zero-emission passenger vehicles, which has increased from 5,000 in 2016 to more than 100,000 today, but the commercial vehicle sector faces a more difficult transition.
- Nurses in British Columbia have ratified a new three-year collective agreement covering about 51,000 registered, psychiatric and licensed practical nurses in the province. The new deal includes wage increases and comes alongside a government promise to make B.C. the first Canadian province to adopt a nurse-to-patient ratio to improve workload standards in public health.
- The Łutsel K’e Dene First Nation (LKDFN) and its chief are accusing the head of the community’s own economic development arm of funnelling millions of dollars away from the corporation into his own businesses. The claims aren’t proven in court, but in a memorandum filed to the N.W.T. Supreme Court and first reported by Cabin Radio, the First Nation and Chief James Marlowe say Ron Barlas’s conduct “falls at the most egregious end of the spectrum of corporate wrongdoing.”
- Germany’s president is visiting the Northwest Territories for the final leg of his four-day official visit to Canada. Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his wife, Elke Budenbender, were welcomed at the Yellowknife airport Wednesday morning by N.W.T. Commissioner Margaret Thom, Deputy Mayor Stacie Smith and Yellowknives Dene First Nation Chief of Ndilǫ Fred Sangris, among other dignitaries.
- Some Yellowknife, Ndilǫ and Dettah residents are skeptical about the Giant Mine site being successfully remediated. That’s according to a recent survey from the Giant Mine Oversight Board (GMOB). About one-third of respondents said they were either “not very confident” or “not at all confident” that the site would be successfully remediated. Another third said they were either “very confident” or “somewhat confident.”
- Yukon MLAs voted Tuesday in favour of forming a citizens’ assembly to study how the territory could change its voting system. The recommendation was one of several to come from a final report by the territory’s special committee on electoral reform, which was tabled in the legislature this week. The committee isn’t recommending an alternative to first-past-the-post, but it did suggest ways to find one.
- Wait times for joint replacement surgery in the Yukon have increased and, in some cases, doubled. According to a letter to patients from doctors at the Yukon Surgical Clinic, the wait time for joint replacement used to be about a year. The doctors say patients are now waiting between 18 and 24 months for their surgeries.
- There’s a new telecommunications company in Nunavut that has plans to offer commercial services to all 25 communities. Called InukNet, it’s owned by the Qikiqtaaluk Corporation and run through Galaxy Broadband and PanArctic Inuit Communications. The three companies announced the new service at the Nunavut Mining Symposium in Iqaluit on Thursday. Harry Flaherty, Qikiqtaaluk’s Corp.’s president and CEO, said the companies have been working on the new service for the last five years.