An overview of the Provincial and Territories Legislative Updates for the week of July 17 - 21, 2023.
With a day to spare, the premiers of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have decided to apply for national funding to help protect the Chignecto Isthmus, a crucial piece of land that connects the two provinces. The news came following a leadership committee meeting on the Atlantic Growth Strategy at a downtown Moncton hotel.
Premier Blaine Higgs says he has no plans to let New Brunswick parents divert their tax dollars away from the public school system if they opt for private schools or home schooling for their children. That’s a proposal from the group 4 My Canada, one of the organizations defending Higgs from criticism over his stance on Policy 713 and protections for LGBTQ students.
An investigator has ruled a Saint John jail guard abused his authority when he repeatedly punched an inmate who was already face down on the ground being restrained by four other officers. The ruling was made by Sue Evans, an investigator with the Department of Justice and Public Safety’s professional standards unit, who was tasked with reviewing the actions of two guards involved in an altercation with Scott Morrison while he was on remand at the Saint John Corrections Centre last September.
Six weeks before the start of the school year, the New Brunswick government and the union representing public school teachers still haven’t reached a contract agreement. But Treasury Board Minister Ernie Steeves, whose department handles all contract negotiations, is “hopeful” one will be in place before classes resume in September, which would avert a possible strike. The province has accepted a conciliation board’s recommendations for a collective agreement with the New Brunswick Teachers’ Federation, Steeves announced Tuesday.
Ten thousand nurses in Nova Scotia can expect substantial salary increases if they vote to accept a five-year contract offer negotiated with the Houston government. The tentative agreement, announced Friday by the unions that represent nurses in Nova Scotia, is retroactive to 2020 and expires in 2025. It applies to nurses represented by the Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union, CUPE, Unifor and the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union.
The province and the association representing Nova Scotia’s doctors have agreed to two new contracts for physician and clinical academic funding. The four-year agreements will add about $177 million to the provincial budget by the fourth year. The physician contract includes changes aimed at attracting and retaining family doctors.
The Houston government has asked the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal to rule on whether Ottawa has the “exclusive” responsibility to maintain the dikes and other structures in place to protect the land connection between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. In court documents filed Wednesday, the Department of Justice is asking the court to answer a simple question: “Is the infrastructure which protects the interprovincial transportation, trade and communication links across the Chignecto Isthmus within the exclusive Legislative Authority of the Parliament of Canada?”
Prince Edward Island
P.E.I.’s Green Party has appointed Karla Bernard as its new interim leader. The MLA for District 12: Charlottetown-Victoria Park will be taking over for Peter Bevan-Baker, who announced he was stepping down at the party’s annual general meeting last month. The decision was made by the party’s provincial council, the Greens said in news release Thursday. It said the interim leader will mark a “new chapter” for the party. “Bernard brings a wealth of experience and a strong track record of leadership to her new position,” it said.
Prince Edward Island’s independent financial watchdog has taken a look at more COVID-19 aid programs delivered by the Dennis King government and noticed a few problems. Auditor General Darren Noonan’s office was asked to make sure the government complied with its own financial safeguards as it started to offer citizens and businesses financial aid as the pandemic was still in its first weeks, back in April of 2020. In all, the province spent $67 million from its $88.6-million contingency fund between April 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021, Noonan’s report noted.
Another mechanical issue with MV Confederation led Northumberland Ferries to cancel six of the vessel’s scheduled crossings between P.E.I. and Nova Scotia on Friday. “The issue is a control system issue with one of the main engines,” company senior vice-president Mark Wilson said in an email. “It is not at all related in any way to the coupling issues we have had earlier this month. “We are diligently working to correct the issue with the main engine and hope to have it corrected shortly today.”
Newfoundland and Labrador
Housing advocates are calling for government action in the wake of a Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report on housing and minimum wage. The report, released Tuesday, found that full-time minimum wage workers in every province had to allocate more than 30 percent of their income to housing. In Newfoundland and Labrador, where the minimum wage was $13.70 in October, workers needed to make over $2 more per hour to spend less than a third of their income on the rent of a one-bedroom unit.
Homelessness rates in Newfoundland and Labrador aren’t accurately tracked, according to several experts, who say current levels are far higher than what the numbers reveal on paper. Brenna Jarrar, the Nunatsiavut Housing Commission’s director of housing, says one in six homes in Nunatsiavut are severely overcrowded — a rate that’s five to six times the national average. While the official figure is alarming, she says, it actually only scratches the surface — a concern echoed by housing advocacy workers. “I think generally homelessness across the country, and especially in rural areas nationally, is dramatically underreported,” Jarrar told CBC News.
The Port of Argentina is getting a major injection of federal dollars, money which the CEO hopes will turn it into a powerhouse for hydrogen and wind energy projects. Federal Transportation Minister Omar Alghabra announced $38 million for the port Wednesday, which will be used as part of a planned $100 million expansion. The expansion would increase dockside space by about 100,000 square metres and bring an additional 460 metres of berthing space to the port in Cooper Cove.
A record-breaking 46.4 per cent of politicians elected in Quebec’s 2022 election were women, according to the provincial government’s statistics institute, an increase of 16 per cent since 2005. “Since the last election, we have the highest proportion of women elected to the national assembly,” said Marie-Andrée Gravel, expert consultant and coordinator of the Institut de la statistique du Québec’s social indicators program. Fifty-eight women held seats in the Quebec legislature after October’s election.
New data obtained by Radio-Canada shows that the opioid crisis is reaching unprecedented levels in Montreal and Laval with paramedics responding to more overdoses. In 2022, Urgences-Santé paramedics administered Naloxone a record 291 times, compared to 194 in 2020 and 136 in 2018. This year looks set to be worse, with 163 interventions recorded between January and June. “It’s worrying,” says Urgences-Santé spokesperson Stéphane Smith. “On the other hand, giving Naloxone saves lives.”
Coalition Avenir Québec MNA Joëlle Boutin is stepping down, leaving the Quebec City riding of Jean-Talon up for grabs. Boutin made the announcement Wednesday afternoon, saying she made the difficult decision to leave because she found being a politician requires too many sacrifices for her family. “In recent years, I have chosen to spend too little time with my children in order to serve my fellow citizens,” she said, adding, however, that she had no regrets about running for office.
The majority of police forces across Quebec are refusing to answer questions from investigators with the province’s independent police watchdog after a court affirmed the right of officers not to incriminate themselves. The situation, first reported by The Globe and Mail, reflects an increasingly tense relationship between Quebec’s police forces and the body mandated to hold them accountable — and to help maintain the public’s trust in the institution of law enforcement.
Even as OC Transpo boosted the number of R1 buses serving frustrated commuters Thursday, Premier Doug Ford has called Ottawa’s shuttered LRT system “a real disaster” and has taken a swipe at former mayor Jim Watson. “We put a tremendous amount of money into the LRT. We handed it over to the City of Ottawa and, I don’t know, it was a mess, is all I can say. The inquiry said everything,” the premier told reporters Wednesday while in Ottawa for an unrelated announcement.
A group of five Ontario First Nations staged a rally in Toronto on Thursday, protesting Premier Doug Ford’s mining policies as detrimental to the land they depend upon for sustenance, and accusing him of failing to adequately consult with them on development.
Ontario is investing an additional $330 million a year into pediatric health services to connect children and youth to convenient and high-quality care closer to home at hospitals, clinics and community-based healthcare facilities across the province. Premier Doug Ford made the announcement at CHEO in Ottawa. “It’s not one-time funding, it’s ongoing funding,” Ford said Thursday morning.
Toronto is opening up hotel rooms for 150 asylum seekers after the city received a pledge for $97-million from the federal government toward shelter spaces, but Mayor Olivia Chow said a long-term solution is needed to respond to the “crisis.” City council unanimously approved a plan Wednesday, brought forward by Ms. Chow, to address the growing need for shelter from refugee claimants arriving in Toronto
Ontario Premier Doug Ford is facing calls to rescind the King’s Counsel appointments given to lawyers within the Progressive Conservative caucus, as the government faces backlash over a growing patronage scandal. The government unveiled a list of 91 lawyers on June 30 who would receive the long-abandoned designation, allowing them to add the initials K.C. to their names denoting their “commitment to the pursuit of legal excellence in service to the Crown, the public and their communities.”
Rural Manitoba families will have better access to child care with the opening of the first of eight ready-to-move centres, the provincial and federal governments announced Friday. Manitoba premier Heather Stefanson said the opening of the Bright Beginnings Educare facility in Headingley — which will provide with 20 infant and 54 preschool spaces — is a “game-changer” when it comes to meeting child-care needs.
A Winnipeg MP is asking the United Nations (UN) for help in the fight to have a Manitoba landfill searched for the remains of two Indigenous women. Winnipeg Centre Member of Parliament Leah Gazan has filed a submission with the UN’s special rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples over what she calls a failure by both the provincial and federal governments.
Indigenous leaders say a search of a Winnipeg-area landfill for the remains of two First Nations women can be done safely and must go ahead. Long Plain First Nation Chief Kyra Wilson said she does not accept the Manitoba government’s refusal to fund a search due to the health and safety risks to searchers. “To say this can’t be done safely is not accurate. It can be done with the necessary precautions and necessary training of those who would be involved,” she told a press conference on Monday.
It’s been a month since the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) slapped the Northern Lights School Division with “in dispute” status after accusing its director of education of “attempting to undermine the bargaining process” with teachers. There’s still no resolution. On June 19, the STF said in a news release that Jason Young sidestepped the division’s local bargaining committee — which it’s been in negotiations with since 2021 — by forwarding staff terms of a potential deal that weren’t yet discussed at the bargaining table.
Producers in some parts of southern Saskatchewan are already struggling with drought this summer. Now grasshoppers can once again be added to the list of woes. The situation is so severe south of Saskatoon that the RM of Dundurn has declared an agricultural disaster. “On the livestock side, we’ve had to go through our pasture a lot faster than we normally would. And some stuff that we were trying to save, the grasshoppers moved in and cleaned it off before I could get any cattle onto it,” area rancher and deputy reeve Ben Wilson told CBC Radio’s The Afternoon Edition last week.
Indigenous leaders are calling for the Prince Albert Police Service and its governing bodies to swiftly implement dozens of recommendations stemming from an independent review of policing in the northern Saskatchewan city. The Saskatchewan government released the list of 45 recommendations stemming from that report Tuesday. But the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN), which represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan, is calling on the government to release the full report.
Alberta’s premier says anyone who can ditch the regulated rate option (RRO) for electricity should do so, while her government works on ways to help people struggling with high utility bills. Danielle Smith told reporters in Edmonton Thursday that while she loves the province’s free market in generation and retail of power, “regulated” distribution and transmission is “not working very well.”
Alberta’s new health minister has a new mandate courtesy Premier Danielle Smith. In a letter to Adriana LaGrange released Tuesday, Smith wants to see “creativity, responsiveness” and “a willingness to reform the management and structure of Alberta Health Services to better decentralize decision-making and resources.”
When Nathan Neudorf was sworn in as Alberta’s minister of affordability and utilities last month, he took on a portfolio dealing with a central plank of his United Conservative Party’s election campaign pledge: reducing the cost of living. On Wednesday, the provincial government released details of the mandate letter Neudorf has been issued by Premier Danielle Smith, highlighting issues he is being asked to address to accomplish the government’s goals
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said she is “disappointed” in the federal government’s proposals for net-zero mandates and oil and gas production cuts. In a statement on Saturday, Smith called the proposed mandates “unconstitutional” and “extremely harmful” to Alberta’s and Canada’s economies.
Premier David Eby called once more on the federal government to clarify the future role of the RCMP amidst reports the Mounties could turn into a federal police agency like the G-Men of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “We need clarity from the federal government on this, because if they are not continuing the contract, we need to start planning now,” he said Thursday (July 20) at an unrelated event.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Canada says it has reached a tentative deal with the B.C. Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) for the second time in a week. The local union’s caucus announced Thursday evening a tentative agreement had been reached on Wednesday, and the contract caucus will vote in an emergency meeting Friday on whether the agreement should be sent to its membership for ratification.
Premier David Eby said he is looking for a “rapid solution” to the resumed labour dispute at ports in British Columbia but signalled his opposition to federal legislation. Eby said during an unrelated announcement Wednesday (July 19) in Campbell River that both the BC Maritime Employers Association and International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada will have to show good faith to resolve the dispute, which seemed resolved after a strike of nearly two weeks, only to flare up again.
British Columbia is expecting the arrival of 100 firefighters from Brazil on Friday, adding to the province’s growing international wildfire force. B.C. Wildfire Service spokesperson Cliff Chapman says about 500 international firefighters are already in the province, boosting the ranks of the more than 2,000 provincial personnel on the front lines battling hundreds of blazes. He says the arrivals from Brazil will join firefighters from Mexico, the United States and Australia currently in B.C.
The N.W.T. government took the extraordinary step Thursday of issuing a fire ban for almost the entire South Slave region, a measure the territory has never before used. The ban is needed to protect against “continued extreme fire danger and extraordinary weather conditions to protect communities and protect wildfire fighting resources by limiting avoidable person-caused fires,” a news release reads.
Healthcare workers were pushed to the brink during the pandemic, exacerbating existing problems that still persist, according to a new Yukon University study. The paper, published this week, looks at the impacts the COVID-19 pandemic had on Yukon’s healthcare workers. “The challenges of providing care in the north are compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, contributing to increased stress,” the authors concluded. Those challenges include recruitment and retention of health care professionals, limited resources and serving rural, isolated communities.
Nunavut’s unemployment rate stood at 12.9 percent as of April 2023, up from 11.7 percent in April 2022. The employment rate in April was 54.8 percent and the participation rate in the workforce was 62.9 percent. The unemployment rate was 10.6 percent among women and 15 percent among men. The Nunavut Bureau of Statistics determined that Inuit employment rose by 10.7 percent in 2022 compared to 2021, as the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic took hold.