An overview of the Provincial and Territories Legislative Updates for the week of July 31 - August 4, 2023.
Blaine Higgs’ leadership review hit a setback on Monday, July 31 as the President of the province’s PC party Erika Hachey announced in an email that not enough valid requests were received to enact the first step of the review. At least 50 party members, including 26 riding presidents, must make a request for a review, however Higgs’ review only obtained 40 requests, with 15 coming from riding presidents. Hachey set a new deadline for August 19 for the refused letters to get another chance at a request, and the party’s provincial council will convene on September 9. Higgs’ leadership has come under criticism recently as party members disagree with the Premier’s top-down management style, his changes to sexual orientation and gender identity policies in schools, as well as his attempted cuts to French immersion education.
The following day on August 1, Higgs’ policies caught more heat, as a freedom of information request into complaints from parents became public, and revealed that no parents had complained about their children using different names or pronouns without their consent. This information runs contrary to the justification for the review of Policy 713, which now states that children under 16 who identify as transgender or non-binary will not be able to change their names or pronouns in school without parental consent.
New Brunswick will build a new $42 million correctional facility in Grand Lake, after pulling plans to build the site in Fredericton in May. The facility is owned by the province and it will be built on Industrial Park Road in Minto, an hour’s drive from Fredericton.
Last Friday, the province and the Teacher’s Federation reached a tentative collective agreement, after the most recent agreement expired in February of 2021. The agreement covers 7,800 employees in public schools and the ratification date is expected to be held mid-September.
On Monday, July 31, the Province established the new Progress Monitoring Committee that will monitor and publicly report on the implementation of the Mass Casualty recommendations. The committee will meet quarterly and report regularly to the provincial and federal governments and update the newly created website every 6 months. The first meeting is set for September of this year. The 12-person committee will be chaired by retired judge Linda Lee Oland and include at least two representatives from families of victims or survivors of the 2020 Nova Scotia attacks. Nova Scotia, Canada, and other partners will head the implementation.
Nova Scotia’s Liberal Party candidate Carlo Simmons, who is running in the Preston by-election, said he will not remove signs and flyers that have been called misleading by Elections Nova Scotia. The signs read “Dump the dump,” which Elections Nova Scotia claimed imply the Houston government’s support for construction and demolition of a disposal site in Preston. In a letter dated August 1, the PC Party wrote to Chief Electoral Officer Dorothy Rice complaining about the material, to which Rice replied that the Liberal Party will have until August 3 to remove all signs. In response, the Liberal party also wrote a letter to Rice stating that the watchdog “is not not in a position to label the Campaign Materials as false simply on the basis there is no active application for approval of a waste management facility or by opining that a particular letter constitutes an appropriate response.”
Transgender and gender-diverse Nova Scotians will have access to gender-affirming care and procedures as of July 28. The new policy ensures the removal of barriers to access gender-affirming healthcare, a range of treatments that align a person’s body with their gender identity, and to establish a fee code for physicians who deliver the service. Executive Director of Gender Affirming Care Nova Scotia, Riley Nielson-Baker, told the CBC, that the policy is still missing information on how practitioners will educate themselves on gender-affirming healthcare and certain crucial procedures that will not be covered under Nova Scotia’s Medical Services Insurance (MSI). Nova Scotia has the highest proportion of transgender and non-binary people and Halifax is the second-most gender-diverse city in Canada.
In light of the province’s population boom, which topped 1 million in December 2021, Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston had announced the goal of doubling the population by 2060. That said, the health-care system is over capacity and the province is facing a housing and affordability crisis, with almost 10% of houses listed in HRM being prices at over $1 million. When it comes to the environment, the annual accountability report was released and provides updates on the province’s 68 environmental goals and it positioned the expansion of electricity storage capacity as the province’s key pillar to a green transition.
Prince Edward Island
Health PEI’s CEO Michael Gardam submitted his resignation on Monday, July 31, citing personal reasons. After three years in the role, Gardam’s resignation is effective on March 29. Opposition parties and unions were quick to comment on the news, saying that the resignation is symptomatic of a “crumbling” healthcare system. There are over 700 vacancies in PEI’s healthcare system and over 30,000 residents don’t have a family doctor. Doctors cite unreasonable workloads and too much bureaucracy as reasons for leaving, compelling the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants to call on the province to hire more PAs.
The federal and provincial governments announced a $22.7 million investment into the expansion and electrification of public transit in Charlottetown on Wednesday, August 2. The investment will go towards the installation of a 400kWh Solar Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) and a new maintenance facility, which will have the capacity to accommodate 19 electric buses, three maintenance bays, seven new battery electric buses, and three new diesel buses to maintain adequate service coverage during the electrification process.
Also on August 2, both governments signed a bilateral agreement to end gender-based violence with an investment of $9.6 million over four years to implement the National Action Plan to End Gender-based Violence in Prince Edward Island (PEI). The agreement will also support the government of PEI’s work with local organizations that provide services to victims and survivors of gender-based violence. The agreement is the first step of a 10-year plan in which all provinces will enact their own plan to end gender-based violence.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Premier Andrew Furey’s luxury fishing trip did not enter into a conflict of interest nor violate the House Assembly code of conduct, concluded legislative standards commissioner Ann Chafe. Furey and his father, then-senator George Furey, visited World Energy GH2 chairman John Risley’s fishing lodge in July 2021. In April of 2022, the province lifted its moratorium of wind energy and World Energy GH2 began planning to build a wind-powered hydrogen-ammonia plant in the Port au Port Peninsula. The publicity of the trip made its way into the House of Assembly and opposition members raised concerns over ethics and optics. Chafe wrote in her report that Furey showed the receipts for the trip, which was paid for as a gift from his wife.
The Newfoundland and Labrador Health Services eastern zone is now equipped with a new electronic Patient Care Record (ePCR) system. This system features immediate creation of clinical reports and facilitates the sharing of information during emergencies between paramedics and healthcare facilities. The province-wide implementation of this system is expected to take place throughout 2023 and 2024 as part of the transition to integrated ambulance systems.
The federal government announced $700,000 in funding for Newfoundland and Labrador’s crisis hotlines. As part of the 10-year plan to end gender-based violence among provinces with federal oversight, as well as the $30 million 5-year funding from the federal government from Budget 2021, this latest tranche will support Newfoundland and Labrador in offering more robust services.
As a result of the Act to Amend the Urban and Rural Planning Act, 2000, Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs Honourable John Haggie announced on August 1 the new roster of adjudicators who will hear land use planning appeals. The new roster will replace the Regional Appeal Board and the following appointments will serve a three-year term effective June 1, 2023:
Mary Darlene Bishop
Paul Douglas Boundridge
Clifford Allan Johnston
Garreth Michael McGrath
John Vincent O’Dea
John Raymond Whelan
A Superior Court judge has ruled that certain sections of the Legault government’s Bill 40, which reformed school governance, contravene the rights and freedoms of anglophones. Passed in 2020, Bill 40 led to the transformation of French-language school boards into school service centers, abolishing the elections used to elect their members. Several sections of Bill 40 will not apply to English-language school boards, including those that set criteria for who can run for election and sit on boards.
Minister of International Relations and Francophonie Martine Biron has announced that the Quebec government will open an office in Tel Aviv, to increase economic exchanges with the region. Trade with Israel amounts to $525 million annually and has been growing for the past four years. Israel has positioned itself as a major pole of technological innovation on the world stage, particularly in artificial intelligence and cybersecurity, which is of particular interest to the Quebec government.
The Journal de Montréal has reported that the Quebec government has “diverted” $940 million in federal aid as a federal contribution to Quebec students’ post-secondary financial aid expenses. The government received this sum under the exceptional budgetary measures put in place by the Trudeau government during the two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike other Canadian provinces, the Quebec government has its own post-secondary education assistance program and receives a share of the federal program, rather than benefiting directly.
The government has announced that the sale of vaping products with a flavor or aroma other than tobacco will be banned in Quebec as of October 31, 2023. The maximum nicotine concentration of products will also be limited to 20mg/ml. Stakeholders fear a resurgence of the black market, while others welcome the measure as a way of limiting consumption among youth.
The leader of the Climat Québec party and former Parti Québécois MNA, Martine Ouellet, has announced that she will be a candidate in the Jean-Talon by-election. The former leader of the Bloc Québécois wants to make the tramway project her battle horse. She has made several public appearances against this Quebec City project. Environmental issues will also be central to her campaign. Two Québec Solidaire candidates are vying for the party nomination, and the other parties have not announced their candidates.
After the Liberals won both by-elections in Ontario, one in Scarborough-Guildwood and the other in Kanata-Carleton, the Ford government is reassessing its strategy before calling another by-election in Kitchener Centre. Sources say that the premier convened with senior aides on Friday, July 28 after the Ottawa by-election was called. According to insiders, Ford was unhappy that the PC candidate did not follow his advice on airing radio ads in Ottawa that focussed on the government’s healthcare spending, rather than Ontario’s growing economy. The PC candidate also skipped both all-candidates’ debates in Ottawa, and others point to a by-election that was called too late after cabinet minister Merrily Fullerton resigned as reason for the PC loss in Ottawa.
Sources say the auditor general’s draft report into opening the Greenbelt for housing development has been shared with the Premier. The official findings from Bonnie Lysyk are expected to be released next Wednesday, August 9. Considering that a parallel examination into Greenbelt deals is being conducted by the Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake, it’s not surprising that NDP Leader Marit Stiles says that “the walls are closing in” on the PC government. Also this week, Luca Bucci, former PC official and CEO of a leading lobby group for property developers Ontario Home Builders’ Association, stepped down on Tuesday, August 1. Not to mention, two developers have also filed court applications to block or delay Lysyk’s order. Ford maintains that he does not “interfere in the private sector.”
Agri-food businesses and contributors saw substantial support this week from both the provincial and federal governments as they invested up to $7.5 million to the new Biosecurity Enhancement Initiative (BEI) through the Sustainable Canadian Agriculture Partnership (Sustainable CAP). BEI is a cost-share offering that will support farmers, food processors, and agri-food businesses that support farms to enhance operational resilience and public trust in the food supply system. Part of the Grow Ontario Strategy, agri-food businesses and contributors can apply to a maximum amount of funding that’s dependent on their activity.
In the lead up to Manitoba’s general election on October 3, the ruling PC government has been airing advertisements on their programs, such as rebate cheques for property taxes and carbon prices. The NDP criticized the government for unfairly using public dollars to promote itself and in response, Premier Heather Stefanson said some advertisements will continue because they inform people who, for example, might not have received their cheques. A provincial law forbids any government advertising in the two months before the elections, however the PC government amended the law in 2021 to allow for existing ad campaigns to continue into the blackout period.
The province has made the largest capital investment into healthcare in its history with a six-year $1.5 billion investment to rebuild Health Sciences Centre (HSC) Winnipeg’s adult bed towers and to upgrade the Bannatyne campus. Also included in the investment plan is to expand and modernize inpatient areas and a concentrated University of Manitoba health faculty program. This promise is one of many made by the Tory government in the lead-up to the provincial general election. On Tuesday, August 1, the province made another record investment in healthcare, investing over $1.8 billion in compensation increases for healthcare workers. The NDP has criticized Stefanson’s government for exacerbating hospital wait times, considering that her government has downgraded three emergency departments since taking office in 2016.
Manitoba’s Court of Appeal is upholding a ruling saying that the province must pay $19 million to the University of Manitoba Faculty Association for interfering in the 2016 collective bargaining process. Justice Joan McKelvey had found that the province violated the faculty association’s Charter right to meaningful collective bargaining by imposing a one-year wage-freeze mandate, which had ultimately led to the 21-day strike. In May 2022, the province had appealed McKelvey’s decision, citing legal error in awarding damages.
As the Liquor and Lotteries strike continues, the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries (MBLL) has closed six liquor stores until further notice. All Liquor Mart Express Outlets are also shuttered, distribution and head office members continue striking, and others stopped receiving inventory and refused overtime. The closures follow a protest at the Manitoba Legislature Thursday, August 3, where Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union demanded wage increases amid inflation and the rising cost of living.
New Provincial Court Judge appointments have been announced. Kim Armstrong, K.C., has been designated to the Provincial Court in Meadow Lake, taking the place of Judge Michael Tomka, who will be relocating to Swift Current. David Chow, K.C., is assigned to the Provincial Court in Moose Jaw, filling the position left by Judge Daryl Rayner, who will be transferring to Regina. Jennifer Claxton-Viczko’s appointment is to the Provincial Court in Melfort, filling the vacancy left by Judge Inez J. Cardinal, who will be moving to Saskatoon. Furthermore, Darren Howarth is appointed to the Provincial Court in Saskatoon.
Saskatchewan Crowns reported a decrease in profit of $353 million between 2021-22 and 2022-23. Last Friday, the report was released and Provincial NDP leader Carla Beck criticized the lack of attention the government paid, claiming they attempted to “slip these financial reports by the public with no scrutiny.” Consolidated net earnings dropped from $361 million to $7.4 million. The report identified the main reason for the decrease as SaskPower’s $172.1 million loss due to increased fuel costs.
Saskatchewan farmers are struggling through this summer’s drought, leaving only 5% of pastures in good condition, 28% in fair, 42% in poor, and 25% in very poor conditions. Ecosystems suffer as well, as the lack of rain has left rivers and wetlands dry. The drought has less of an impact on grasslands than on the croplands because they don’t have to be seeded annually and are consequently more resilient.
Giving direction on her government’s priorities, Premier Danielle Smith has continued to release her Mandate Letters to Ministers this week. Most recent Mandate Letter publications include to the Minister of Children and Family Services, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Services, the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Indigenous Relations, the Minister of Mental Health and Addiction, and the Minister of Seniors, Community and Social Services. Please see a summary of the Indigenous Relations Mandate Letter below.
Rick Wilson, Minister of Indigenous Relations
“Forming lasting and meaningful economic and social partnerships with Indigenous communities will be integral to any success our province will achieve over the coming decades and beyond.”
The Minister of Indigenous Relations is expected to:
Double the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation loan capacity to at least $2 billion and providing recommendations related to the potential expansion of eligible projects, including health care, manufacturing, forestry, tourism, and technology.
Work with the Minister of Mental Health and Addiction to support Indigenous Peoples in Alberta and ensure the service provision is not disrupted by jurisdictional disputes.
Work with the President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance to ensure First Nations and Metis Settlements have access to insurance to rebuild homes and structures in the case of fire and other insurable losses.
Take the lead on Indigenous reconciliation by using Jordan’s principle as a guide to ensure every Indigenous person has the same access to core services as any other Albertan.
Respect the traditional territories and treaties of our First Nations and Métis partners and, in coordination with the Minister of Transportation and Economic Corridors, who is lead, proactively partner with communities on planning economic corridors and other major development projects for the mutual economic benefit of all.
Work with cross-ministry partners to continue addressing violence and increase safety and economic security of Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people.
Continue to build and strengthen relationships between the provincial government and First Nations and Métis communities in Alberta.
Continue to work with the Minister of Children and Family Services on engagement with the Government of Canada and with Alberta communities on the implementation of An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families (Bill C-92) to ensure the interests of Indigenous children in Alberta are protected.
Work with the Minister of Affordability and Utilities to review and make recommendations to accelerate the connection of First Nations and Metis Settlement communities to electricity, natural gas, and internet services.
Work with cross-ministry partners to ensure Indigenous businesses and communities play an integral role in our provincial energy strategy and economic partnerships.
In cooperation with the Minister of Transportation and Economic Corridors, implement the First Nations Regional Drinking Water Tie-In Program
Dan Williams, Minister of Mental Health and Addiction is expected to:
Provide an annual investment of at least $5 million with First Nations and Métis school communities across Alberta to amplify the voice of youth and create opportunities for educators, Elders, parents, coaches, and community members to develop their own strategies to enhance student wellness.
Build and operationalize at least 11 new recovery communities in key locations throughout the province, working collaboratively with the Ministries of Infrastructure, First Nations, and Metis communities.
Work in partnership with the Minister of Indigenous Relations, support indigenous peoples in Alberta by strengthening a comprehensive continuum of mental health and addiction services, ensuring service provision is not disrupted by jurisdictional disputes.
Dale Nally, Minister of Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction is expected to:
Work with Indigenous partners, finish developing and implementing Alberta’s online gaming strategy with a focus on responsible gaming and provincial and Indigenous revenue generation.
Diagnose slow turnaround times in Land Titles and implement both short-term and long-term solutions that will bring efficiency and faster approvals that allow government to work through and eliminate the backlog.
Devin Dreeshen, Minister of Transportation and Economic Corridors is expected to:
Focus on expanding economic corridors across the province and country to increase employment, economic growth, and non-renewable resource revenue for Albertans.
This should include working to secure corridor agreements with provincial, territorial, and Indigenous partners to Hudson Bay, the Pacific, and the Arctic. Also, to improve Highway 686 to better connect Alberta’s northwestern and northeastern economic regions.
Work through the Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), to prioritize interprovincial infrastructure projects and to align regulation with a view towards a more prosperous transportation and logistics industry.
Work should include expanding economic corridor MOUs to include British Columbia and territorial partners.
Collaborate with the Minister of Indigenous Relations to explore ways to work with Indigenous and Métis people for transportation-related prosperity-sharing, water management, emergency mitigation and recovery.
Work with the Minister of Indigenous Relations to implement the First Nations Regional Drinking Water Tie-In Program.
Tanya Fir, Minister of Arts, Culture, and Status of Women is expected to:
Work with First Nations throughout the province that may wish to repatriate items identified as belonging to them, directing them to museums to accommodate organized visits from First Nations Elders for the purpose of identifying artifacts that belong to them through a collaborative process.
Enable First Nations to exercise more autonomy over the care, display, possession, and cherishing of their sacred artifacts.
Searle Turton, Minister of Children and Family Services is expected to:
Continue to work with the Minister of Indigenous Relations on engagement with the Government of Canada and with Alberta communities on the implementation of An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families (Bill C-92) to ensure the interests of Indigenous children in Alberta are protected.
Brian Jean, Minister of Energy and Minerals is expected to:
Continue to facilitate and promote industry and provincial partnerships with Indigenous communities in the development and transport of Alberta’s energy resources.
Nathan Neudorf, Minister of Affordability and Utilities is expected to:
Working with the Minister of Indigenous Relations, who is the lead, to review and make recommendations to accelerate the connection of First Nations and Metis Settlement communities to electricity, natural gas, and internet services.
Rebecca Schulz, Minister of Environment and Protected Areas is expected to:
Work collaboratively with the federal government, First Nations, and industry to develop and implement an accelerated strategy for oil sands mine water management and tailings pond reclamation.
The Minister of Mental Health and Addiction has issued a directive to the Alberta Health Services (AHS) to consolidate its mental health and addiction programs, services and operations under the existing AHS Provincial Addiction and Mental Health program. AHS will also align these services with the government’s recovery-oriented approach to ensure high-quality services remain available to Albertans across the province. This directive will not impact funding for programs or service delivery.
Due to costing considerations, the Government of Alberta has made the decision not to continue pursuing the bid for the 2030 Commonwealth Games.
Starting August 3rd, the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) will pause approvals of new renewable electricity generation projects over one megawatt until Feb. 29, 2024, and review policies and procedures for the development of renewable electricity generation.
Through the Alberta Innovates’ Hydrogen Centre of Excellence and Emissions Reduction Alberta, Alberta’s government will launch two hydrogen funding competitions using the Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction (TIER) fund.
This year’s wildfire season has been deemed the most destructive on record, with more than 15,000 square kilometres of the province burned. This has surpassed the previous high of 13,543 square kilometres set in 2018. According to a professor at the University of British Columbia, this is going to leave behind lingering effects for years to come – mainly in terms of floods.
A union vote among British Columbia port workers is underway to determine the fate of a deal with employers, which could bring their long-running industrial dispute to an end.
Métis Nation British Columbia is exploring a new Métis post-secondary institution model and strengthening the Michif language to meet the needs of Métis learners. This will be supported through a new $1.65-million investment over the next three years from the Government of British Columbia’s StrongerBC: Future Ready Action Plan.
Brenda Bailey, Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation, has introduced the StrongerBC Economic Plan Progress Update. This report outlines the steps the Government of British Columbia has taken to tackle economic headwinds by boosting clean and inclusive growth, and building an economy that works for everyone.
The Vancouver-based telecommunications company Telus announced job cuts, which will include 4,000 workers at its main Telus business and another 2,000 at Telus International.
Michael McLeod, Member of Parliament for Northwest Territories, announced federal funding to NWT organizations to support the prevention of homelessness in Indigenous communities.
R.J. Simpson, Minister of Education, Culture and Employment, has approved a request by Aurora College to begin the process to become a polytechnic university. He has also directed his department to initiate the quality assurance process with Campus Alberta Quality Council.
The access to skilled trades training and certification has improved in the NWT, according to the final report on the Apprenticeship, Trade and Occupational Certification Strategy 2017-2022 (Strategy).
According to a recent release by Opportunities North, building permits fell 18.6 per cent in value in the Northwest Territories in 2022.
The Inuvialuit Regional Corporation has begun a letter writing campaign calling on the Northwest Territories government to drop out of a court challenge of a federal law on Indigenous-led child and family services.
The Association of Yukon Communities has shared three letters to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board, clarifying that it was not involved in consultations regarding the future of solid waste management facilities in unincorporated Yukon communities.
The Yukon Water Board has been ordered to reconsider its decisions that denied licensing to a placer mine near Dawson. Yukon Supreme Court Justice Adele Kent found that the board engaged in speculation when denying the water and land use licenses for the operation.
To ensure the highest quality of care is available to Yukoners, the Government of Yukon has initiated work to regulate the psychologist profession in the territory. The regulation will align psychologists with other Yukon-regulated health professions, national standards, and practices under the Health Professions Act.
The Government of Yukon and the Yukon Employment Standards Office have shared wage recovery information for former employees of Minto Metals Corporation.
The Government of Yukon has introduced a new online student financial assistance application portal. This means that post-secondary students from the Yukon can conveniently apply for grants and loans online, check the status of their applications, and view funding decision letters, all on one connected and convenient platform.
Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok and Ontario Premier Doug Ford signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on August 3rd to deepen cooperation on a wide range of joint priorities, including health care, transportation, infrastructure, and Indigenous relations.
A recent release from Opportunities North has calculated that the value of building permits in Nunavut tallied up to $92.9 million in 2022, a 12 per cent reduction from $105.6 million in 2021.
Leigh Chapman, Canada’s Chief Nursing Officer, concluded her trip to Nunavut this week to visit nurses, healthcare facilities, and community members. Chapman said she wants to work with representatives from all of the territory’s regions to improve health care Nunavut-wide.
The Iqaluit Housing Authority and its 12 unionized workers have reached a collective agreement after a strike that lasted more than 130 days. The Nunavut Employees Union, which represents the workers, sent out a media release late Monday confirming that a deal has been reached.