Provincial Legislative Update – January 12-21, 2024

An overview of the Provincial Legislative and Territories Legislative Updates for the week of January 12-21, 2024.​ Written by Wes McLean and Sonya Moore.

New Brunswick

  • Premier Blaine Higgs’s flirtation with an early election call last fall cost taxpayers more than $1.7 million in expenses that turned out to be unnecessary, according to New Brunswick’s chief electoral officer. Kim Poffenroth identified the costs in a letter explaining to the legislature’s committee on procedures, privileges and legislative officers why her office is over-budget this year.
  • The Province of New Brunswick is appealing a Court of King’s Bench decision to uphold a $2-million payout to the fired head of Horizon Health Network, Dr. John Dornan. It contends Justice Kathryn Gregory “erred in fact and law” on four grounds last month when she dismissed the province’s application to quash a labour adjudicator’s decision in Dornan’s case.
  • The leaders of the Liberal and Green parties are both promising to ban out-of-province donations to New Brunswick political parties. Susan Holt and David Coon made the commitment in response to a Progressive Conservative Party fundraising trip this week by Premier Blaine Higgs to British Columbia and Alberta. Most provinces don’t allow political parties to raise money from non-residents.
  • Two days after the province announced that a location for a homeless shelter in St. Stephen was “finalized,” the plan has been put on hold, residents say. “Just to put it bluntly, we won,” Andrea McCaffrey said after a meeting Thursday night to discuss the site at 24 Happy Valley Rd. that she, other neighbours and nearby business owners had opposed. “It has been put on pause for now until we can help them find a suitable location.”  

Nova Scotia

  • The Nova Scotia government is once again renting operating room space at a private clinic, in an effort to try to lower waiting times for cataract surgeries. The three-year deal between the province and Vision Group Canada allows surgeons to use the corporation’s Lasik MD location in Halifax for up to 7,200 surgeries a year. The province is paying $790 per case, which means the corporation stands to make as much as $5.7 million a year from the agreement.
  • Nova Scotia has launched a screening program for people at very high risk of developing lung cancer. For Dr. Daria Manos, it was an announcement years in the making. “What a momentous day,” she said during a news conference in Halifax on Friday. “We need this program. Lung cancer kills more Nova Scotians than colon, prostate and breast cancers combined.” Manos, a radiologist and medical director of the lung screening program, said the news follows years of research, consultation, planning and advocacy.
  • Changes made to the credentialing process for foreign healthcare workers in Nova Scotia last year led to an influx of nurses and an exodus of continuing care assistants from long-term care facilities. The province is looking to the Philippines for help. Starting in May, the Nova Scotia College of Nursing allowed people qualified as nurses in seven countries to be licensed immediately once they passed an entrance exam. Prior to the change, all newcomer nurses had to undergo a lengthy, often costly, qualification process in order to be licensed in the province.
  • An unexpected decision to increase the minimum legal size of lobster in the United States has appeared like a rogue wave on the Canadian industry, threatening to curtail live exports south of the border. With total Canadian live shipments worth $545 million in 2022, the potential trade implications were the first item on the agenda in the annual U.S.-Canada lobster town meeting being held in Moncton, N.B., this week.

Prince Edward Island

  • How preventing farmers from repairing equipment threatens the environment. Proposed P.E.I. law would require dealers to supply repair manuals, parts and tools. To address that issue, P.E.I. Liberal MLA Rob Henderson introduced an amendment to the Farm Machinery Dealers and Vendors Act during the fall session of the provincial legislature.
  • As the waters around Prince Edward Island warm and experts warn of more severe weather events in the future, some Island oyster harvesters are balancing the pros and cons of the changing climate. “You give with one hand, you take with the other,” said James Power, the general manager with Raspberry Point Oysters in Cavendish. “Having a warmer winter in P.E.I. or a longer growing season for the oysters — part of that’s helpful. But on the negative side, if you have more hurricanes and more extreme weather, then that causes problems.”
  • It’s statistically official: Access to health care worse in P.E.I. than in any other province. Number of Islanders without a health-care provider increased by 76% over 3 years. Dr. Krista Cassell, president of the Medical Society of P.E.I., said the province needs to focus on recruiting and retaining primary health providers.
  • Critical and acute care services at Summerside’s Prince County Hospital are facing an emergency that requires swift and drastic action, according to a letter signed by a group of doctors who work in and with P.E.I.’s second largest hospital. The East Prince Medical Staff Association declared the emergency in an open letter released on Thursday and signed by 42 doctors. The declaration was unanimously endorsed by the association on Jan. 11, according to the letter.

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • The former Progressive Conservative district association president for Conception Bay East-Bell Island says a blistering resignation letter he sent to the party has nothing to do with his decision to run as an Independent in the district’s upcoming byelection. Almost two months ago, Darryl Harding sent a letter to the PC party accusing Leader Tony Wakeham of cherry-picking the party’s candidate, Tina Neary, whom he currently works with as a town councillor for Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s.
  • Health Minister Tom Osborne says Newfoundland and Labrador is seeing positive results in its work to recruit nurses, but the provincial nurses’ union says the latest vacancy numbers show the province still has a retention problem. According to Osborne, about 400 nurses have been recruited over the past fiscal year. In October 2022, he said, there were about 760 vacancies, and that number is now closer to 700. Yvette Coffey, president of the Registered Nurses’ Union Newfoundland and Labrador, says that’s not good enough. 
  • Newfoundland and Labrador is launching a new online service to improve access to the province’s healthcare system, with residents able to find out details of their care without having to call a doctor’s office. Starting in February, about 5,000 patients over 16 will be able to access their own personal health records through MyGovNL — the same service where people can access motor registration to renew their licence, for example.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador’s Association of Allied Health Professionals says it’s moving away from conciliation efforts with the provincial government and focusing efforts on mobilizing for potential job action. The union, which represents more than 800 health professionals — including physiotherapists, pharmacists and psychologists — walked away from collective bargaining talks in October. On Wednesday, AAHP president Gordon Piercey said the union has decided it’s time to focus its energy on mobilizing members.

Quebec

  • Quebec Premier Francois Legault is asking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to slow the influx of asylum seekers entering his province, which he said is nearing a “breaking point.” Legault made his request in an official letter to Trudeau sent Wednesday afternoon, a copy of which was obtained by The Canadian Press. “We are very close to the breaking point due to the excessive number of asylum seekers arriving in Quebec month after month. The situation has become unsustainable,” Legault wrote.
  • Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre did not mince words when talking about the mayors of Quebec’s two largest cities, describing Valérie Plante and Bruno Marchand as “incompetent” in a social media post-Thursday. Poilievre was reacting to a recent report from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. That report showed a significant dip in the number of homes being built in Quebec in 2023 compared to the previous year. Poilievre took to X, formerly known as Twitter, to criticize the way Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is handling the housing crisis.
  • A voice for anglos: School boards prepare for more battles with Legault. “Boards are the last instance of government that belongs to the English-speaking community,” yet the CAQ government has “demonstrated a complete disregard for our rights,” Joe Ortona says.
  • Work on the construction of Northvolt’s massive, multibillion-dollar plant east of Montreal is on hold until next Tuesday, pending a court ruling on an injunction request filed by an environmental group. That group, which is called the Centre québécois du droit de l’environnement (CQDE), filed the injunction request in Superior Court on Thursday, calling for the work to stop. Three citizens are also part of the court challenge.

Ontario

  • Steep property tax increases being proposed across the province are partly the result of Ontario offloading various costs to local governments in the 1990s, municipalities say, and it’s time for a frank talk about who pays for what. The province announced a “new deal” for Toronto late last year, in which it agreed to take over the cost of two Toronto highways to help ease the city’s financial pressures, and now other communities want similar support. The Association of Municipalities of Ontario will be pushing this week at the Rural Ontario Municipal Association conference for a broader rethink of the provincial-municipal relationship.
  • The not-yet-finished Hazel McCallion LRT in Mississauga is set to receive a double boost from the Ford government, with plans to add to the route in both Mississauga and Brampton. Ontario Minister of Transportation Prabmeet Sarkaria has requested provincial transit agency Metrolinx urgently prepare a business case for the move. The instruction signals the start of two major infrastructure commitments from the province to extend the light rail route set to run from Port Credit along Hurontario Street.
  • Two London employers – an international pasta maker and a silicone parts plant – have landed nearly $3 million in Ontario government support to help bankroll expansions in the city. Premier Doug Ford was in London to announce a $1.5-million investment in Italian pasta maker Andriani Ltd., which plans to build a $33.6-million plant this year. Ford was later in the day joined by Vic Fedeli, Ontario’s economic development minister, in announcing $1.3 million in support of a $10.4-million investment by Starlim North America in its liquid silicone injection moulding plant in London.
  • The Ontario government will be allowing even more private clinics to perform surgical and diagnostic procedures in an effort to reduce wait times. The announcement, made Wednesday by Health Minister Sylvia Jones, expands on legislation passed in May that allows private for-profit and not–for–profit clinics to conduct surgeries covered under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). The procedures covered include cataract surgeries, MRI and CT scans, minimally invasive gynecological surgeries, and knee and hip replacements.

Manitoba

  • The University of Regina is investigating approximately 50 alleged cases of academic misconduct involving nursing students. A spokesperson for the university confirmed the investigations are all tied to final exams taken in December 2023 by students in the Saskatchewan Collaborative Bachelor of Science Nursing program, which is jointly delivered by the University of Regina (U of R) and Saskatchewan Polytechnic.
  • It took a Saskatoon jury less than two hours to reject Travis Patron’s claim that he followed an off-duty RCMP officer around a downtown mall, yelling racial insults, as a matter of national security. “Having a jury of his peers, of Canadians, saying no, this wasn’t right and what you did was wrong, is exactly what our society stands for and that upheld the administration of justice,” prosecutor Lana Morelli said in an interview. Travis Patron founded the now-defunct Canadian Nationalist Party, which promoted anti-immigrant and anti-LGBTQ views.
  • A front-line worker and a professor of public health are condemning a policy change on illicit drug use that Saskatchewan announced Thursday, saying it shows a disregard for human life, sets back efforts to stop the transmission of HIV/AIDs and flies in the face of decades of science. On Thursday, the province’s Ministry of Health said it will no longer provide clean pipes for drug use and instructions on how to use them. Third-party organizations will also not be able to use provincial funds to do so.
  • Justice experts are questioning how effective a new bail reform law will be at preventing violent reoffending in Saskatchewan, saying there needs to be more focus on the root causes of crime. Bill C-48 came into effect on Jan. 4. The federal bill aims to make it harder for people accused of violent crimes to be released if they already have a history of serious and violent offences involving a weapon, and also in cases involving intimate partner violence. The new law dictates that courts must consider an accused person’s history of violent convictions when deciding on a release order.

Saskatchewan

  • More medical professionals are on track to join Saskatchewan’s healthcare system, as the province’s action plan progresses. The Health Human Resources (HHR) action plan, which was announced in September, prioritizes four points: recruit, train, incentivize, and retain. Registered nurses (RNs) from the Philippines with conditional offers have started working through the RN Pathway, which includes language, bridging education, and licensing, according to a release from the provincial government.
  • Ochapowace Nation Chief Okimaw Iskwew Margaret Bear has issued another call to the Saskatchewan government to reconsider recent action to assert control over natural resources in the province. Bear spoke, as an invited guest, at a recent news conference with the Sask. NDP opposing the continued sale and lease of Crown land without due consultation with First Nations.
  • The First Nations University of Canada (FNUniv) is receiving more than $2 million for new outdoor education centre that it is calling its fourth campus. The funding is being provided by both the provincial and federal governments. It is part of more than $19.7 million in joint funding for 25 infrastructure projects across the province.

Alberta

  • Alberta Premier Danielle Smith pressured the attorney general and his office to intervene in COVID-related court cases, according to multiple sources familiar with the interactions.  Exchanges between the premier’s office and Justice Minister Tyler Shandro’s office over several months included what sources characterized as attempts to influence cases. 
  • Alberta Premier Danielle Smith’s promise to assemble a panel of medical experts to deliver ongoing advice on public health and COVID-19 will be covered off by former Reform Party Leader Preston Manning’s pandemic review, her office said Wednesday.
  • Alberta Opposition Leader Rachel Notley says if her NDP was to win the spring election, it would scrap a COVID-19 review panel led by former Reform Party leader Preston Manning. Notley says Premier Danielle Smith should be focused on helping Alberta families struggling with inflation rather than paying Manning $253,000.
  • Alberta Health says it will contract out thousands of orthopedic surgeries to chartered surgical facilities in Calgary. Health Minister Jason Copping says more than 3,000 publicly funded hip and knee surgeries will be done at Canadian Surgery Solutions, an independent health-care facility. He says that’s in addition to the surgeries already being done in Calgary hospitals — and will increase the number by 21 per cent. The Opposition NDP says the United Conservative government’s plan expands surgical privatization.

British Columbia

  • At the B.C. Natural Resources Forum in Prince George, Premier Eby announced a $36-billion investment for community and regional infrastructure projects that will deliver clean, affordable electricity to people and businesses in the future. 
  • The Honourable Arif Virani, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada; the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Public Safety Canada, Democratic Institutions and Intergovernmental Affairs; the Honourable Niki Sharma, Attorney General of British Columbia; and the Honourable Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General of British Columbia, met with Kory Wilson, Chair of the British Columbia First Nations Justice Council (BCFNJC), and its directors, for the second annual tripartite meeting. As per the Tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the BCFNJC, Canada, and British Columbia, the purpose of the Annual Tripartite Ministers’ Meeting is to discuss how to advance justice issues as outlined in the BC First Nations Justice Strategy (the BC Strategy).
  • According to TD Bank Group, 39 percent of British Columbians report feeling less positive about their finances, and more than half point to the cost of living as the biggest challenge they’ll face this year. The bank is sharing these findings as part of its 2024 Financial Outlook Report.
  • The union representing around 180 transit supervisors in the Lower Mainland warned it would suspend all bus service unless it reaches an agreement with its employer in the coming days.

Northwest Territories

  • The Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) is seeking input on the extension of the Apprenticeship, Trades and Occupation Certification Strategy.
  • The Government of the Northwest Territories will be extending the Northwest Territories Immigration Strategy to 2025 and is seeking feedback on identifying new priorities and actions.
  • The federal government is investing nearly $19 million through the third phase of the Rapid Housing Initiative’s (RHI) Project Stream to help build more than 50 new homes for Indigenous Peoples across the Northwest Territories.
  • The first public draft of Yellowknife’s 2024 budget outlines a proposed property tax increase of 7.22 percent.
  • Some Yellowknife small business owners say they need more time to pay back Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) loans after a difficult couple of years.

Yukon

  • Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, the Minister of Northern Affairs, Dan Vandal, the Premier of Nunavut, P.J. Akeeagok, and the President of Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, Aluki Kotierk, signed the Nunavut Lands and Resources Devolution Agreement – a significant milestone in the history of the territory that was witnessed by Inuit leaders, dignitaries, and local citizens. This landmark agreement is the largest land transfer in Canada’s history. With the agreement, Nunavut and its residents will now be able to make decisions about how public lands, freshwater, and non-renewable resources are used in the territory, and reap the benefits of responsible and sustainable resource development. Devolution will create Northern-led jobs, opportunities, investments, and more prosperity for Nunavut and its people, for generations to come. The agreement reflects and supports the priorities of Nunavut. With a shared commitment to the vision of self-determination, we will continue working in close partnership over the next three years to implement the transfer of responsibilities, which will be completed by April 1, 2027.
  • Amittuq MLA Joelie Kaernerk has resigned from cabinet after Premier P.J. Akeeagok took away his ministerial duties on Tuesday. No details of Kaernerk’s violation of the code of conduct were specified. Pamela Hakongak Gross will be acting minister of Culture and Heritage and Languages. John Main will act as the minister responsible for Qulliq Energy Corporation.

Nunavut

  • Nunavut’s NDP MP Lori Idlout says her visits this week to three communities in the territory showed one issue was top of mind for many of her constituents — the new federal gun bill, C-21. “We didn’t go into the communities with any specific topic item,” Idlout said. “We left that up to each community… though in every community the first question has been about Bill C-21, and what the potential impacts are of Bill C-21.”

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