Provincial Legislative Update – February 24, 2023
An overview of the Provincial and Territories Legislative Updates for February 24, 2023.
- New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said January’s public meetings on changes to French education in English schools were “a shouting session.” Higgs also insisted he would continue to keep the topic of French second-language education front-and-centre, days after the proposed plan to end Grade 1 French immersion was abandoned.
- The president of the New Brunswick Medical Society is challenging a suggestion by the premier earlier this week that everyone could have access to a family doctor if doctors would take on more patients, and says his comments could hurt recruitment and retention. Dr. Michèle Michaud contends family doctors are already working beyond maximum capacity.
- The federal and provincial governments have reached an agreement-in-principle for a shared health plan. This includes $3.64 billion in federal funding over 10 years in New Brunswick, including $900 million for a new bilateral agreement focusing on the shared health care priorities and $42 million through the immediate, one-time CHT top-up to address urgent needs, especially in pediatric hospitals and emergency rooms, and long wait times for surgeries.
- N.B. caps disaster relief, expands buyout eligibility for flood-damaged homes as toll of extreme weather rises. Maximum disaster relief per property for the same type of disaster is now capped at $200,000.
- Nova Scotia will use new funding from the federal government to keep building a healthcare system that will support patients and their families to get the care they need, faster. The $1-billion, 10-year funding agreement will help the Province continue to increase Nova Scotians’ access to primary and mental health care, support healthcare workers and adopt cutting-edge technology to offer better, faster care.
- The Nova Scotia government has given the proponents of a container terminal in the Strait of Canso another two years to get their project off the ground. According to the most recent deadline extension, the province is giving Melford International Terminal Inc. until October 2024 to start construction on the $350-million project that has been under consideration for 15 years along the coast in Guysborough County.
- The Nova Scotia government will spend $50.7 million upgrading public-housing stock, but how, where and when the work will take place remains to be seen. Cabinet signed an order in council on Tuesday approving the spending for Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister John Lohr’s department.
- The public inquiry that investigated the 2020 mass shooting in Nova Scotia announced Wednesday it will release its final report on March 30. The Mass Casualty Commission issued a statement saying the report will provide a detailed account of what happened as well as recommendations to improve community safety across Canada. Among other things, the report will examine the police response, access to firearms, gender-based violence, the killer’s prior interactions with police and the steps taken to inform and support those affected by the murders.
Prince Edward Island
- The federal government and the province of Prince Edward Island have signed a bi-lateral agreement on health-care funding. Some details of the “agreement in principle” announced Thursday were discussed at a Wednesday evening news conference that included representatives from both levels of government. It boils down to $966 million over the next decade, $288 million of which is new funding, and $9 million through an immediate, one-time Canada Health Transfer top-up to address urgent needs.
- The emergency department at the Kings County Memorial Hospital in Montague will close early on Friday afternoon, Health P.E.I. says. The ER usually operates from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., but will close on Feb. 24 at 1 p.m. Health P.E.I. said in a written release the closure is “due to a temporary lack of staffing.” The emergency department will have its usual 8 a.m. opening on Saturday morning, the news release said.
- A P.E.I. Crown attorney has stayed charges against the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) after the public broadcaster had been accused of breaching a publication ban. In a court document dated Feb. 21, Senior Crown Attorney Lisa Goulden directed the provincial court that proceedings be stayed against the CBC, which had been charged with disobeying a court order. Last December, the RCMP in P.E.I released a statement that it had laid the charge against CBC P.E.I. news journalist Jesara Sinclair following an investigation related to the publication of a news article.
Newfoundland and Labrador
- The meeting lasted less than two hours, but Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey and Quebec Premier Francois Legault emerged from their sit-down about Churchill Falls agreeing on a few things. One is that the deal between Newfoundland and Quebec is a bad one. Another is that Churchill Falls is worth a lot of money these days — last year, Hydro-Québec raked in a record $4.6 billion in profit, one-third of which comes from selling the cheap power guaranteed by the Churchill Falls contract.
- Premier Andrew Furey announced that plans are underway for the construction of a new Cardiovascular and Stroke Institute that will be located at the Health Sciences Centre site in St. John’s. The new facility, aimed at the prevention and management of cardiac and cerebrovascular disease, which includes what we commonly understand as strokes, will allow for enhanced cardiac, vascular, and stroke services and other clinical services. It will create a modern working environment, and will increase the number of operating rooms and inpatient beds at the Health Sciences Centre.
- The Newfoundland and Labrador government released its wind-hydrogen fiscal framework Thursday, the latest stage in the government plans to build a provincial wind energy industry. Energy and Technology Minister Andrew Parsons said Thursday afternoon the goal is to ensure the province gets fair value for the resource. The government announced in December that companies looking to build wind energy projects in the province could bid on government-owned land.
- Federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre was in Newfoundland and Labrador on Thursday to drum up support for his push to become the next prime minister of Canada. Poilievre started the day on Newfoundland’s west coast, in Corner Brook, to meet with residents before making his way to the Royal Canadian Legion in Clarenville, about 500 kilometres east.
- Premier François Legault said Quebec can provide “all kinds of help” to Ukrainians on Thursday on the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of that country. A year ago, Vladimir Putin’s troops embarked on what was supposed to be a blitzkrieg to topple the Ukrainian government of Volodymyr Zelenskyy, but what has become a war of attrition. On Thursday morning, Legault met with Ukrainians whom Quebec has taken in as refugees, including the family of the girl who was struck and killed by a car in Montreal last December.
- Quebec Premier François Legault is defending his government’s failure to meet a key campaign promise to offer kindergarten classes beginning at four years old to all the province’s children. Legault said today it was impossible to reach his government’s target within the stated time frame due to a shortage of teachers. Legault campaigned heavily on the issue during the 2018 election, going so far as to say his seat would be on the line if he failed to meet his promise.
- Premier François Legault is urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to redirect all asylum seekers entering Quebec to other provinces “as soon as they arrive at the border.” Legault issued this request to Trudeau in a letter obtained by Radio-Canada. That letter is the latest attempt by the Quebec government to put pressure on Ottawa to reduce the flow of asylum seekers entering the province, especially through the irregular border crossing at Roxham Road.
- Quebec Premier Francois Legault says he is ready to make “adjustments” to the Churchill Falls energy agreement between his province and Newfoundland and Labrador. The contract’s official end comes in 2041, but the provinces are starting to talk about future arrangements. The Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador says he will not make a bad deal with Quebec on the Upper Churchill. The existing contract gives Hydro Quebec about 15 times the profits which NL receives.
- Ontario opposition leader Marit Stiles is asking the province’s integrity commissioner to review whether or not Premier Doug Ford acted improperly with respect to two recent family events that some developers and lobbyists were invited to take part in. In a letter sent to integrity commissioner David Wake Thursday, Stiles said “concerning details have come to light about developers and lobbyists with donor and political ties to premier Doug Ford and the Ontario PC Party being invited to participate in two Ford family events.”
- Ontario Premier Doug Ford is defending his new bill to expand the role of private health clinics, while the federal government says it is reviewing the draft legislation to ensure it complies with the Canada Health Act – the law meant to guarantee access to health care regardless of ability to pay.
- Premier Doug Ford refused to answer questions in the legislature about a damning report outlining “Ontario’s absence” during the Freedom Convoy as the NDP accused him of “ghosting” the people of Ottawa. Last Friday, the Public Order Emergency Commission released its final report following a public inquiry into the federal government’s use of the Emergencies Act. In it, Commissioner Paul Rouleau wrote he found the Ontario government’s lack of collaboration early on during the occupation in Ottawa “troubling.”
- The Ontario government says it has doubled the number of its long-term care inspectors. The province says the hiring of 193 new long-term care inspection staff, including 156 inspectors, is part of a three-year $72.3 million investment. Long-term Care Minister Paul Calandra says the new hires strengthen the province’s inspection regime as part of changes the government brought in late in 2021 to bolster enforcement.
- Manitoba and the federal government have struck an agreement in principle on a deal that will see more than $6 billion in health-care funding flow into the province. The money will improve access to family health services and mental health services, reduce surgical backlogs and support health-care workers in the province, a news release from Health Canada with federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said Friday morning. Manitoba is now the sixth province to sign an agreement in principle for the new health-care funding, following Ontario and the four Atlantic provinces.
- The Manitoba government is ending a seven-year freeze on its unconditional grants to municipalities. Premier Heather Stefanson says the annual operating grant to Winnipeg will increase by 14 per cent and Brandon’s funding will grow by 39 per cent. Smaller and northern municipalities will see larger increases. Jeff Browaty, a Winnipeg city councillor, says the extra money is welcome as costs have risen since 2016.
- Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative Party has to replace $300,000 worth of political donations after using money it already raised to ease a lingering financial headache from its fractious 2021 leadership race. The governing PCs face an additional election year fundraising burden after the central party used donations to pay for legal and audit costs following Heather Stefanson’s narrow victory over Shelly Glover, party spokesperson Michele Halverson confirmed.
- One of the largest unions in Manitoba is raising the prospect of rotating and targeted strikes as a means of leveraging more lucrative labour deals from the province and its Crown corporations. By the end of March, more than 17,000 members of the 30,000-worker Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union will see their collective bargaining agreements expire. In a letter to its members, the union is asking them to support “strong strike mandates” this spring to help convince its employers to approve wage increases that keep pace with inflation.
- Last week, the Saskatchewan government announced it would be subsidizing a direct WestJet flight between Saskatoon and Minneapolis, but critics say taxpayer dollars should not be used in this manner. Minister of Trade and Export Jeremy Harrison made the announcement at the Saskatoon Airport on Friday. He said the province would provide a minimum revenue guarantee of up to $2.2
- Three Métis groups signed a deal Friday with the federal government that recognizes them as Indigenous governments, putting them on equal constitutional standing with First Nations and opening the door to further negotiations such as compensation for land lost. Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller also signed the deal with the Métis Nation of Saskatchewan and Métis Nation of Ontario.
- Outgoing Cowessess First Nation Chief Cadmus Delorme says he can see himself running in federal or provincial politics one day, but not yet. Delorme, who announced earlier this month that he wouldn’t be seeking a third term as chief, said in an interview with CBC News Thursday that he has “gotten calls” from the federal Liberals and Conservatives. “I let each and every one know I am so humbled to be suggested at this time,” he said. “[But] I just want to be a dad, I want to be a husband, and I want to play more of a strategic, non-political role for a couple years.”
- The Alberta government last November awarded a sole-source, a three-month contract worth $72,500 to a marketing agency where Premier Danielle Smith’s former leadership campaign manager is part-owner and executive producer, government records show. The contract, which ran from Nov. 1, 2022 to Jan. 31, was awarded to Edmonton-based Nordic Media to provide digital media strategic planning and asset development.
- A $275-million investment in addiction and mental health care was previewed by the premier Tuesday ahead of the tabling of Alberta’s budget next week, with community advocates at a pair of rallies pushing for evidence from the province on how that funding will save lives. Premier Danielle Smith shared the news in Calgary while addressing the sixth annual Alberta Recovery Conference, a government-funded two-day summit exploring the province’s recovery-oriented care model for addictions.
- One hundred days away from a provincial election, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith worries some professional regulatory organizations may be overreaching when they deal with complaints. During an appearance on a 630 CHED Saturday radio show, one caller, identified as Dave from Calgary, asked Smith if she thinks the Law Society of Alberta’s mandate includes “social and political re-education,” or if it should be limited to core issues such as ethics and competence.
- B.C. has announced $180 million in new funds to help communities and First Nations prepare for natural disasters and emergencies related to climate change. Premier David Eby said the government is injecting an additional $180 million to the community emergency preparedness fund, created in 2017 to help municipalities and First Nations mitigate the effects of natural disasters, such as drought, destructive wildfires and 2021’s powerful storm that triggered mudslides and flooding across the province.
- The B.C. government has announced it will spend an initial $440 million on a 10-year-plan to expand cancer care to address the needs of a growing and aging population. Over the next 36 months, the government pledges to expand cervical, lung and hereditary cancer screening, improve vaccination initiatives to eradicate cancers caused by HPV, and expand cervical cancer screening to include more at home tests.
- A day after announcing her resignation, Melanie Mark, the first First Nations woman to serve in the British Columbia Legislature and as a cabinet minister, said she feels “at peace” with her decision. Speaking on CBC’s The Early Edition, the NDP MLA for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant also said she feels “a sense of freedom.” And, after referring to the legislature as a “torture chamber” during her Wednesday announcement, she called out the Opposition Liberals for going too far in their criticisms of her during her tenure.
- The municipal strike that began Feb. 8 in Yellowknife will not be ending soon. The unions representing city workers declined the city’s offer, made late Thursday, to enter into binding arbitration. Binding arbitration means both parties present their case, and are bound by whatever decision the arbitrator makes. The city said Thursday that if the union agreed to binding arbitration, staff would go back to work and city programs would start up again.
- Multiple players behind the Atlin Hydro Expansion Project are looking to the federal government’s spring budget to close a growing funding gap that Yukon’s energy minister says endangers the entire plan. The project’s proponent is Tlingit Homeland Energy Limited Partnership. The project would increase the generation capacity of existing infrastructure and include transmission lines upgrades.
- Nunavut’s finance minister tabled the territory’s budget for the 2023-2024 fiscal year on Thursday, pledging it will ensure a bright future for Nunavummiut despite a projected operating deficit and challenges posed by carbon pricing changes. The latest budget proposes nearly $2.8 billion in operations spending, down more than five percent compared to last year, which the territorial government says is primarily due to lower COVID-19-related spending. The territory has budgeted an additional $50 million to cover any unanticipated costs and manage increasing construction costs.