Provincial Legislative Update – January 27, 2023
An overview of the Provincial and Territories Legislative Updates for January 27, 2023.
Newfoundland and Labrador
- At the edges of Newfoundland and Labrador’s health-care crisis, some nursing students at Memorial University are wondering what they’re about to get into — and whether they want to at all. Brooke Simms, the nursing representative on MUN’s students’ union, says she’s heard from nursing students who look at the state of the province’s health-care system and wonder whether they want to work in an environment that’s driving other nurses away.
- Health Minister Tom Osborne says the Newfoundland and Labrador government has managed to lure more than 30 health-care professionals back to the province through its “Come Home” incentive program. The program is aimed at recruiting and retaining health-care workers who were born and raised in Newfoundland and Labrador but left the province, along with those who were trained, performed their residency, were educated or practised for longer than a year in N.L. or have other ties.
- As a potential strike looms, the president of the Memorial Universityof Newfoundland Faculty Association is condemning a document sent to students with tips for crossing a picket line. On Thursday, in an email update on its labour dispute with the faculty association, the university directed students to continue attending classes and labs, and continue handing in assignments. Some classes taught by per-course instructors, who are not members of the faculty association, will go ahead.
- Crown attorneys across Newfoundland and Labrador are increasingly being handed files dealing with gun crime, violent offences and homicides, according to the association that represents them. An apparent uptick in violent crime over the last several years, paired with an under-resourced prosecution office, is troubling, said Shawn Patten, a prosecutor and president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Crown Attorneys Association.
- Education Minister Bill Hogan heard yet more Wednesday night from teachers and parents who are critical of a plan he’s spearheading to drastically revamp French language education for anglophone students in New Brunswick. The fourth and final in-person public consultation session on the province’s proposed “innovative immersion program” drew a crowd of more than 300 people in Fredericton.
- The New Brunswick government has assumed responsibility for the Caribou zinc mine and two other associated mines near Bathurst after the financial collapse of Trevali Mining Corp. Trevali filed for creditor protection in August. Its New Brunswick division, which owns the Caribou, Restigouche and Halfmile mine sites, went into receivership Wednesday morning.
- Years of inadequate rate increases at N.B. Power, many imposed on the utility by interfering provincial governments, has been a key contributor to its current financial problems. two senior executives told a committee of MLAs on Thursday. “Rates have been lower in hindsight than they otherwise should have been for the past 12 years,” said acting N.B. Power president Lori Clark. “Had we put in higher rate increases our debt would be lower.”
- The Quebec government says it is worried about the future of the French language in New Brunswick and is looking at what actions it can take. Quebec’s minister responsible for the Canadian Francophonie today called the New Brunswick government’s plan to reform French immersion in schools a very troubling sign. Jean-François Roberge says he is following the situation in New Brunswick closely.
- Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston made this year’s state of province address in Sydney this afternoon. He spoke to a crowd of around 550 and announced that a new medical school would be coming to Cape Breton University, in partnership with Dalhousie University. During the address, the Premier also announced his intention to work towards improving healthcare in Nova Scotia and he sees the establishment of this new medical school as a good first step.
- Nova Scotia Liberal MLA Angela Simmonds has announced she will be stepping down from her roles, both as a member of the legislative assembly and as deputy speaker. A joint news release from Simmonds and Liberal leader Zach Churchill said her resignation is effective April 1.
- Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston has confirmed the province will be getting its second medical school. Houston made the announcement in his State of the Province Address in Sydney, N.S., on Friday. “The rumours are true,” Houston said. “By no later than Fall 2025, there will be a medical school in Cape Breton.” This came just months after Cape Breton University began campaigning for support to open a medical school on the island.
- To encourage more Nova Scotians to buy local, Premier Tim Houston campaigned on a promised to create a provincial loyalty program. The province invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into the program but so far, it has yet to launch. And details around the program remain scarce.
- A shortage of child welfare staff is keeping some parents who’ve lost custody of their children from seeing them during supervised visits, says the executive director of the Nova Scotia College of Social Workers. Alec Stratford said the college has received reports that some visits haven’t taken place since before Christmas. These visits typically happen twice a week, although it can vary depending on the family’s situation, he said.
Prince Edward Island
- Four months after post-tropical storm Fiona ravaged P.E.I. and left more than 80,000 homes and businesses without power, Opposition leader Peter Bevan-Baker is raising concerns about why the P.E.I. government still hasn’t announced its plan to review the provincial response. In the fall sitting of the legislature, the Green caucus tried — and failed — to compel government to call a public inquiry. At the time, Premier Dennis King said the province was still in cleanup mode, but he did commit to a review.
- Progressive Conservative MLA James Aylward has announced he will not be seeking re-election. The former cabinet minister said in a statement Friday he won’t run again, saying he’s had a “challenging” few months following the death of his wife in the fall. “In the recent days, I have come to the conclusion that what is best for my family and I at this time is to not seek re-election in the 2023 provincial election,” he said.
- A ministerial order to limit development within buffer zones on P.E.I. has been written up and signed by Environment Minister Steven Myers, according to a spokesperson for his department. But the province has provided no details on what restrictions the order would put in place, saying that it’s still working on an implementation plan, and that the order will eventually be made public.
- Premier François Legault does not intend to celebrate his 25-year political career this year. He became Minister of Industry in Lucien Bouchard’s PQ government on Sept. 23, 1998, but was elected on Nov. 30 of the same year as the representative for L’Assomption, the riding in which he is still a member.
- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says provinces should not be pre-emptively using the notwithstanding clause, because it means “suspending fundamental rights and freedoms.” Quebec Premier François Legault accused Trudeau over the weekend of attacking the province’s “democracy and people” by suggesting he would limit the use of the notwithstanding clause.
- Parti Québécois Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon recently met one-on-one with Premier François Legault. St-Pierre Plamondon said he focused the conversation on eight specific items the PQ would like to see addressed. Language was at the top of his shopping list, with St-Pierre Plamondon calling on the government to do more to protect and promote French.
- The Francois Legault government announced it is forming an interdepartmental “action group” on the French language to find ways to halt the “decline” of the language in Quebec. French Language Minister Jean-François Roberge made the announcement Friday morning on the sidelines of the pre-sessional caucus of the Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) in Laval.
- Quebec Education Minister Bernard Drainville unveiled a list of priorities Thursday to get more teachers in classrooms, renovate schools and improve French-language instruction. Faced with a major shortage of teaching personnel, the Coalition Avenir Québec government announced it wants to revive a fast track to teacher certification that would allow university graduates to qualify as teachers by earning 30 credits instead of the current 60.
- Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he is “very confident” that provinces and territories will reach a new health-care deal with Ottawa, even as he remains mum on the Premiers’ key demand for a significant federal funding increase to 35 per cent of costs.
- Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he’s disappointed the federal environment minister indicated he’d consider intervening in the province’s Greenbelt development plans. The province announced in November that it is removing about 7,400 acres from 15 different areas in the protected Greenbelt lands, while adding more parcels elsewhere, in order to build 50,000 homes.
- As of Friday, there are 80 Toronto police officers scattered across TTC property after a week filled with violence across the network, which Ontario Premier Doug Ford said “is great,” but not enough of a solution to resolve the issue that has left some customers anxious to ride the transit.
- Companies that want to extract Ontario’s critical minerals to make EV batteries will also need to open factories in the province, Premier Doug Ford said Monday. Speaking at the Rural Ontario Municipal Association’s (ROMA) annual general meeting, Ford said northern Ontario boasts deposits of 34 of the “most critical minerals the whole world wants.”
- Toronto Metropolitan University has selected Brampton’s Bramalea Civic Centre as the location of the first new medical school in the GTA in more than 100 years. Premier Doug Ford was in Brampton on Friday to make the announcement alongside Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, local politicians, and representatives from TMU.
- Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson announced the province’s latest efforts to combat inflation Thursday morning. Stefanson unveiled a $200-million carbon tax relief fund, which the province says is aimed at helping 700,000 Manitobans with rising costs this winter. The fund will impact Manitoba singles and couples — with or without children — with a family net income last year below $175,000.
- Manitoba’s finance minister is stepping down to run for a seat in the House of Commons. Cameron Friesen said he informed Premier Heather Stefanson on Friday morning of his plan to leave cabinet. He said he will resign his legislature seat in the near future and seek the federal Conservative nomination in the riding of Portage-Lisgar. Member of Parliament Candice Bergen, who currently holds the seat, announced in the fall she would not seek re-election.
- The Manitoba government says it’s spending $150 million more than it forecasted in the previous budget to ease costs in the health-care system, for municipal projects and to offset inflation. The money is part of an $850-million funding package approved by the Progressive Conservative government through a special warrant.
- Manitoba’s premier continues to shuffle her staff with a new set of executive council changes announced in a news release Wednesday. Heather Stefanson introduced a new chief of staff earlier this month, as well as other executive council changes. Former CBC reporter Sean Kavanagh will assume the role of director of special projects for the government’s policy and planning division, the release said. He was previously the director of communications for the executive council. Braeden Jones will take over Kavanagh’s old role.
- 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 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.
- Premier David Eby’s recent appointment of special advisers on housing, health and Indigenous reconciliation is fuelling speculation he is building a parallel cabinet in his office. Critics say it’s a sign the premier won’t relinquish control on major files, while one political scientist says it’s part of a larger trend of prime ministers and premiers centralizing control in their offices.
- British Columbia Premier David Eby hinted he could be open to a bilateral health funding deal with the federal government, provided Ottawa is first willing to sign on to a “base” funding deal with the provinces. Eby made the comments Wednesday, after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he’d invited premiers to a Feb. 7 “working meeting” in Ottawa to hammer out a health-care deal.
- A political scientist gives the government of B.C. Premier David Eby a mixed grade some 50-plus days into his various pledges, while praising specific aspects and the personal style of the province’s leader. When asked about the B.C. NDP government’s touted 100-day action plan, Stewart Prest of Quest University Canada and formerly of Simon Fraser University said the government has correctly identified the challenges facing British Columbians, namely housing, health care and public safety.
- The B.C. government, along with its partners, announced Wednesday afternoon that rare ecosystems in the Interior will be protected. The conservation of 185,329 acres or 75,000 hectares, which is roughly the size of 150 Stanley Parks, in the Incomappleux Valley, located in the Selkirk Mountains roughly 29 kilometres west of Revelstoke, was announced Wednesday afternoon in a press conference.
- A bill that would expand the N.W.T. ombud’s investigative reach is on its way to a final debate after receiving support — and a change — at the committee level this week. The office of the ombud is an independent body that’s meant to hear and investigate complaints from people who feel they’ve been treated unfairly by territorial departments and agencies. It also helps find solutions.
- The Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board (YESAB) has recommended against a mining project in the Peel watershed. This is the first proposal that’s come in since governments approved the land use plan for the Peel watershed in 2019.
- Whitehorse city council is considering a $15-million plan to add more office space to its operations building, after an earlier, more costly plan to reconstruct city hall was scrapped. City staff presented the plan to council on Monday. The proposal would see the new operations building, which opened on Range Road in 2020, expanded to include offices for the city’s administrative staff.
- 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.”