Provincial Legislative Update – December 15, 2023

An overview of the Provincial Legislative and Territories Legislative Updates for the week of December 8 - 15, 2023.​ Written by Wes McLean.

New Brunswick

  • A decision by the New Brunswick government to exclude a financially troubled pension plan for provincial court judges from changes being forced on five other government pension plans is testing arguments that fiscal responsibility and fairness are solely behind the controversial initiative. Last week, Finance Minister Ernie Steeves introduced the Pension Plan Sustainability and Transfer Act to force five government “defined-benefit” pension plans serving school board and nursing home employees to switch to a “shared-risk” model.
  • Less than 48 hours after it was declared, Minister of Public Safety Kris Austin terminated St. Stephen’s state of emergency over its homelessness crisis. In a written statement, and a letter to Mayor Allan MacEachern, Austin said he found “no state of local emergency exists in St. Stephen, and none existed on December 4th when your council declared one to exist.” The municipality made the declaration following the death of a man in the community on the weekend, who was found in a park.
  • The Progressive Conservative MLA for Hampton says he doesn’t think he can vote for the Christian conservative activist who is set to replace him as the party candidate in the next election. Gary Crossman says he has heard concern in his riding about how Faytene Grasseschi has campaigned for the nomination and he isn’t sure he can support her.
  • Public Safety Minister Kris Austin is considering revoking American Iron & Metal’s salvage dealers’ licence following a scathing report into the massive Sept. 14 fire at the Saint John scrapyard and has given the company until Dec. 22 to respond. “I know the residents of Saint John and New Brunswick want us to ensure another fire of this magnitude does not occur,” Austin said in a statement Friday.

Nova Scotia

  • MPs in Ottawa heard “alarming” accounts Thursday of failed Canadian government efforts to thwart the illegal fishery for baby eels, or elvers, earlier this year. It included a claim that 25 tonnes of the tiny eels were flown out of Canada in illicit shipments, part of an organized crime to meet an “insatiable appetite” in China where they are grown for food. The lawlessness even touched a Nova Scotia member of Parliament who witnessed and spoke out against widespread poaching in his riding during the springtime ever run.
  • Health Minister Michelle Thompson is not ruling out the expanded use of family practice anesthetists in Nova Scotia, but she cannot say when it might happen. A family practice anesthesiologist, or FPA, is a family doctor with additional training and certification in anesthesia. They provide general and local anesthesia for non-complex cases that don’t require a subspecialist.
  • There’s still no indication when the underground coal mine in Donkin, N.S., could reopen. Critics have said government delays are keeping about 130 workers off the job more than four months after the province issued a stop-work order on the mine following two roof falls in July. But Premier Tim Houston met with mine operator Kameron Coal on Thursday and afterwards said safety is the government’s priority and the decision on whether — or when — to reopen is up to the company.
  • The Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union says it’s taking too long for hundreds of school support workers it represents to receive back pay they are owed. In November 2022, school support workers in the Annapolis Valley, South Shore, Annapolis Valley and Tri-County regional centres for education successfully negotiated new contracts with their employers. Those in the Annapolis Valley and the South Shore said they were striking to seek higher wages in line with other regions.

Prince Edward Island

  • A woman whose home was swept away from a peninsula on P.E.I’s north shore during post-tropical storm Fiona says governments need to do more to help people whose shoreline properties are now threatened by climate change. Now more than a year after the storm, she’s filing an appeal after the Red Cross rejected her compensation claim and insurance didn’t cover the loss of her home. 
  • The province is now predicting a $98.6 million deficit, one million dollars more than anticipated in this year’s original operating budget. That number comes from a fiscal and economic update, outlining the financial state of the province and looking ahead to spending and revenue in 2024. Revenues have grown by $25.7 million since the last statement. That comes from more money collected from taxes and an increase in federal transfers shown in the updated statement. Tax revenues increased $7.5 million and transfers went up $12.7 million. 
  • Developer Tim Banks is suing the Environmental Coalition of P.E.I. and three other defendants over what his court filings describe as a conspiracy to “impede and confound” his efforts to develop or sell land he owns in the middle of a P.E.I. National Park site at Greenwich. The action has led to a call from ECOPEI for Prince Edward Island to enact legislation to protect the right of individuals and organizations to participate in public discourse without facing what the group has characterized as a “frivolous” lawsuit.
  • An official with the rural municipality of Murray Harbour says a councillor who posted a controversial message on a signboard on his property has missed the deadline to apologize and pay a fine over the matter. In November, his fellow councillors ordered John Robertson to pay a $500 fine and write a letter of apology following a third-party investigation done by a retired RCMP officer. The message — posted on the weekend of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation — called the discovery of gravesites at residential schools a “hoax” and implied John A. Macdonald’s reputation had been sullied.

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • A provincial task force to address homelessness met with supporters of residents of a St. John’s tent encampment Thursday, with the goal of ending the encampment and providing them a place to live by Christmas. Transportation and Infrastructure Minister John Abbott, who is also the MHA for St. John’s East-Quidi Vidi, said members of the task force have visited the encampment in Bannerman Park in previous weeks but wanted to meet with a group providing support to the residents Thursday to see how the task force should operate and what the best steps to take would be.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador Health Minister Tom Osborne says the province will move toward a common ambulance service. Speaking with reporters Thursday, Osborne said a request for proposals is being issued for a proponent that will design, manage and operate a single, integrated road and air ambulance service for the province. 
  • Newfoundland and Labrador is positioning itself as the primary benefactor and regulator when it comes to offshore wind developments in the province — but the deal hinges on federal legislation passing in Ottawa. The memorandum of understanding with the federal government identifies 16 bays as exclusive provincial jurisdiction, allowing the province to develop wind farms as though they were on land.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador Health Services is moving ahead with a plan to build two urgent-care clinics on the province’s northeast Avalon Peninsula. A request for proposals posted Nov. 24 on Merx, the website the provincial government uses to issue calls for bids and tenders, calls for bids to build a clinic in the west end of St. John’s and a clinic in the east end. The deadline for proposals is Jan. 19.

Quebec

  • The day after the appointment of the first Indigenous person to occupy the position of lieutenant governor in Quebec, the national assembly voted unanimously for the abolition of this office. Mi’kmaq administrator and former leader Manon Jeannotte, therefore, received a clear message upon her arrival in office, barely 24 hours after being appointed by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, to replace J. Michel Doyon.
  • More than 420,000 public sector workers began a seven-day strike on Friday, the latest push to get the Quebec government to pay them more and improve their working conditions. Unless there is a deal by later this month, union leaders said Friday they may resort to a general unlimited strike, which would keep public sector workers off the job indefinitely. The workers are members of unions affiliated with the Common Front, or Front commun in French, a coalition of unions angling for a new collective agreement with the government. 
  • With only two days to go before politicians at the National Assembly wrap up for the holidays, the Quebec government says it’s willing to extend work on its major healthcare reform bill — but only by three days. The government is proposing extending the legislative committee’s work for three days and reconvening the National Assembly to vote on the bill on Dec. 14.
  • Quebec teachers’ union the Fédération Autonome de l’Enseignement (FAE) will soon be tabling a counter-offer to the government in a bid to break the deadlock in negotiations over the next round of collective agreements. Delegates from the nine unions affiliated to the FAE met for most of the day Wednesday to analyze the government’s verbal offer made on Monday evening. In a press release issued Wednesday evening, the FAE stated that it had finally decided to table a counter-offer “as soon as possible” to the government, still with the aim of “reaching a satisfactory agreement before the holiday season.”

Ontario

  • The mayor of Mississauga has stressed that dissolving Peel Region is the right thing to do and urged the Doug Ford government to provide clarity as soon as possible amid multiple media reports that the province is reconsidering its decision. “It goes without saying if this is truly the direction the province is headed in, I’m deeply disappointed and frankly angry for the waste of time and resources,” Mayor Bonnie Crombie said at a news conference on Wednesday afternoon.
  • Newly minted Ontario Liberal Leader Bonnie Crombie has already started trading blows in the thick of Queen’s Park politics as she takes on her new role. The new Liberal leader, and sitting Mississauga mayor, appeared at the Ontario legislature Tuesday to oversee a meeting of her new Liberal caucus before speaking to reporters. Surrounded by her new colleagues, Crombie threw a series of barbs at Premier Doug Ford, who levelled accusations of his own.
  • The Ford government made its decision to move the Ontario Science Centre to Toronto’s waterfront with “preliminary and incomplete cost information” and failed to consult key stakeholders, the province’s acting auditor general said Wednesday. In his office’s annual report that includes 12 value-for-money audits on a wide range of topics, Nick Stavropoulos found that a proposal earlier this year to government decision-makers about relocating the centre to the grounds of a redeveloped Ontario Place also cited parking needs for a privately owned water park and spa planned for the site.
  • The Ontario government isn’t adequately tracking what hospitals and long-term care homes spend on private, for-profit staffing agencies, according to a trio of reports from the auditor-general that reveal the use of temporary nurses has skyrocketed since the pandemic began. The increase has been particularly steep in northern Ontario, where hospitals went from buying just over 15,000 hours of temporary nursing in 2018-19 to about 391,000 hours in 2022-23 at a cost that is double or triple the hourly wages paid to staff nurses.

Manitoba

  • A bill to make Orange Shirt day a statutory holiday in Manitoba has passed its final vote in the legislature. The bill will ensure that workers under provincial jurisdiction get a day off, or holiday pay if they work, every Sept. 30. The day, also known as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, commemorates Indigenous children who attended residential schools.
  • Manitoba’s NDP government plans to review some of the commitments made by the former Progressive Conservative government in order to address a larger-than-expected deficit, Premier Wab Kinew said Thursday. “We are going to be … pulling back on certain areas where we need to tighten our belt as government,” Kinew told reporters after delivering his annual State of the Province speech to the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce.
  • Every membership in the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba is set to expire at the end of December, prompting concerns from a former PC cabinet minister about the validity of a January party vote about new leadership rules. The Manitoba PCs have approximately 29,000 members, all of whom will see their memberships expire on Dec. 31, party spokesperson Michele Halverson said.
  • Winnipeg’s mayor is warning the city’s next budget won’t include much in the way of new spending on services or major construction projects. High inflation and rising labour costs are challenging the city’s ability to maintain existing services, Scott Gillingham said in an announcement he described as an attempt to manage public expectations ahead of the 2024 Winnipeg budget. “It’s not a tactic as much as just trying to be honest with the people of Winnipeg about where we’re at financially as a city,” Gillingham said outside his office on Wednesday.

Saskatchewan

  • Premier Scott Moe says the first few days at the COP28 conference in Dubai have gone well. He and other business delegates have been at the Sask. pavilion since it opened. Speaking to the media virtually from Dubai, Moe explained the pavilion offers the chance for various companies and industries to have open dialogue and it’s been encouraging so far. The premier said he was pleased to see 24 countries agree to increase the nuclear power footprint across the globe, which ultimately, benefits uranium mining in Northern Sask.
  • Mere moments after details surrounding Ottawa’s planned cap on oil and gas emissions were revealed, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said Thursday’s announcement by the federal government is another burden on the province’s economy. On Thursday federal Finance Minister Steven Guilbeault said Canada’s oil and gas industry will be required to cut more than one-third of its emissions by 2030. The new framework says emissions will need to be reduced 35 to 38 percent below 2019 levels.
  • Saskatchewan’s Premier Scott Moe says he has no buyer’s remorse about a pavilion space the province purchased at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, commonly called COP28, in Dubai, U.A.E. Saskatchewan spent $765,000 on the pavilion space at COP28, which began last Thursday and runs until next Tuesday. The province also spent $238,000 on an advertising campaign that will run until Dec. 31 and appear at the Dubai Airport and Expo City Metro.
  • The Saskatchewan government says proposed federal methane emissions regulations amount to a “production cap” on the oil and gas sector and are an overreach by Ottawa. Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault made the announcement at COP28 in Dubai on Monday. “Lowering methane emissions from our oil and gas sector is one of the fastest and most cost-effective ways we can cut the pollution that is fuelling climate change,” Guilbeault said from the United Nations annual climate change conference in the United Arab Emirates.

Alberta

  • Alberta’s Opposition NDP is accusing the United Conservative government of deliberately stifling debate on bills during the fall legislature sitting that wrapped up Thursday morning. The government introduced and passed nine bills during the five-week sitting period, the first since Premier Danielle Smith and the UCP won a majority government in the May 29th provincial election. Government House Leader Joseph Schow tabled motions in the legislature Wednesday night to limit debate on three bills.
  • Environmental activists put a spotlight on Alberta’s climate record on Wednesday at the COP28 climate summit by giving the province the so-called “Fossil of the Day” award. The Climate Action Network hands out the award daily at UN climate summits, but it’s usually given to national governments, not a province or state. At previous summits, Canada was given the award on multiple occasions under both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
  • Islamic and Jewish faith-based schools in Alberta could receive thousands of provincial dollars to beef up security measures at their institutions, following calls from families for protection against hate-motivated crimes. The calls for extra security come as tensions rise over the conflict between Israel and Hamas — the Islamic militant group that controls the Gaza Strip — that started Oct. 7. “Motivated acts of harassment and vandalism have no place on our streets, schools, or places of worship,” Alberta Public Safety Minister Mike Ellis said during a news conference Thursday.
  • The Alberta government is making $68 million available for people in Edson, Whitecourt, Yellowhead and Woodlands Counties who suffered losses in the floods caused by heavy rain and spring runoff last June. Homeowners, businesses, non-profits and farms affected by spring flooding in the affected areas can apply to the provincial government for disaster recovery assistance. Mike Ellis, Alberta’s minister of public safety and emergency services, said the funding will help cover losses not covered by insurance like damage to homes, businesses, and municipal infrastructure, emergency operations and cleanup. 

British Columbia

  • B.C. Premier David Eby has announced a road map for how the province can deliver 250,000 more homes in the next decade, including through sweeping changes in zoning bylaws that municipalities must pass in the new year. Eby — talking to a group of business and government leaders at a B.C. Chamber of Commerce event Thursday — said the Housing Ministry convened a panel of economists to do modelling on the initiatives introduced in the legislature this year, showing how a quarter million new homes can be built across B.C. in the next 10 years.
  • B.C. Premier David Eby said Thursday that retiring chief coroner Lisa Lapointe provided “remarkable” service to the province; however, he remains steadfast that his government does not support her core recommendation of a regulated drug supply to mitigate the ongoing overdose public emergency.
  • B.C. Conservative Leader John Rustad says Premier David Eby and Opposition BC United Leader Kevin Falcon are both looking over their shoulders at the political gains being made by the new kid on the block. Rustad says the presence of his two-member Conservative caucus has stirred debate and changed dialogue at the legislature and the party appears to be gaining momentum with voters as British Columbia’s scheduled fall election approaches.
  • British Columbia Premier David Eby says a new model of streamlining access to detox and addiction treatment aims to address the needs of people who repeatedly overdose while avoiding the possibility of involuntary treatment. St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver launched its Road to Recovery initiative this fall, offering immediate assessments and a team to plan treatment and follow-up care, with the aim of a seamless transition into treatment and other services.

Northwest Territories

  • Hay River North MLA R.J. Simpson is the new premier of the N.W.T. MLAs gathered in the Legislative Assembly in Yellowknife Thursday to select the territory’s next premier, Speaker and cabinet. The meeting follows the territory’s general election on Nov. 14. The morning started off with a surprise: in an emotional speech, Nahendeh MLA Shane Thompson — who had earlier said he wanted to be premier — instead put his name forward for Speaker and removed himself as one of the four candidates for premier.

Yukon

  • A new Indigenous-led detox and healing centre is being planned for the Whitehorse area, and the Council of Yukon First Nations (CYFN) hopes to see it built within a few years. This week in Ottawa, CYFN, along with the federal and territorial governments, signed a letter of intent “to confirm their commitment to collectively work toward the construction and operation of a Yukon First Nations-led Healing Centre,” according to a news release. Shadelle Chambers, executive director of CYFN, said the letter is significant as it helps get the project off the ground.

Nunavut

  • The death of a worker who went overboard on a fishing vessel in Nunavut in 2021 highlights gaps in safety management on that boat and similar vessels in the territories, according to an investigation report released Thursday. The report was done by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB), which looks into marine, rail and air incidents but does not assign fault or determine criminal liability.

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