An overview of the Provincial and Territories Legislative Updates for the week of June 12, 2023.
Progressive Conservative minister Dorothy Shephard resigned from New Brunswick’s cabinet Thursday, moments after the legislature voted in favour of an opposition Liberal motion on LGBTQ students in provincial schools. Shephard, the MLA for Saint John-Lancaster, handed a letter to Premier Blaine Higgs just moments after the extraordinary vote. “I can no longer remain in cabinet,” said the handwritten letter. “I resign from cabinet effective immediately.”
Premier Blaine Higgs now says the current turmoil in his Progressive Conservative government caucus has him leaning toward sticking around and running in the New Brunswick election scheduled for next year. Far from pushing him out the door, the premier said, the mini-rebellion over two education initiatives makes him more likely to stay on as leader.
There is no constitutional requirement that New Brunswick’s lieutenant-governor must be bilingual, the federal government argued Thursday in an appeal of a court ruling last year. The New Brunswick Court of Appeal heard arguments from Ottawa on Thursday, asking the court to overrule an April 2022 decision that said a unilingual appointment violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
A national poll suggests that 57 per cent agree that schools should have to tell parents about their child’s desire to change their gender or pronouns. Meanwhile, less than a fifth — 18 per cent — feel schools shouldn’t tell parents. The numbers from a SecondStreet.org poll collected by market research firm Leger in May show that Premier Blaine Higgs appears to be on the right side of public opinion, despite public backlash and criticism from the prime minister and members of his own caucus.
Nova Scotia’s premier pulled no punches Thursday, saying Ottawa should pay the entire cost of protecting the important land corridor linking his province and New Brunswick from climate change-related flooding. Tim Houston made the comment after being asked whether his government would apply to the federal disaster mitigation fund by the July 19 deadline.
Fifteen percent of Nova Scotians are officially waiting for a family doctor or nurse practitioner—the highest tally the province has seen since Nova Scotia Health launched its Need a Family Practice Registry in 2018. As of June 1, 2023, there are 148,431 people on the province’s primary care waitlist. That’s an uptick of more than 3,400 since last month, and a jump of 53,500 from this time a year ago. Read more at:Nova Scotia Primary Care Waitlist News
Nick Horne looks across the river at the old bridge foundations on a trail in Westwood Hills, where he’s hoped for years to see an emergency exit for his Upper Tantallon neighbourhood. But the bridge has yet to be built — and it’s on Nova Scotia Power land. “I think it’s a bit of a political football with regards to funding and political will,” Horne said Thursday. The province and Halifax Regional Municipality have known for years the area was an extreme fire risk, thanks in part to earlier reports that offered recommendations no one has enacted.
Nova Scotia has issued a two-week extension to the emergency order in place to keep the Windsor causeway aboiteau gates closed, filling Lake Pisiquid with water. The extension was posted to a provincial website late Thursday afternoon. Hours earlier, John Lohr, the minister responsible for the Office of Emergency Management, declined to say whether the order would be extended when asked by reporters. “The order will be renewed as long as it’s needed for public safety,” he said following a morning cabinet meeting.
Prince Edward Island
The University of Prince Edward Island says one of its highest-ranking managers has been placed on administrative leave, as the fallout continues from a scathing report into the institution’s workplace culture and failure to prevent and punish harassment against employees and students over the past decade. Jackie Podger has been the university’s vice-president, finance and administration since June 2012, according to her LinkedIn profile.
About a dozen health support workers showed up at the legislature Thursday to push for a meeting with Premier Dennis King, and ended up with a date for Monday. They were members of CUPE P.E.I., who work in health facilities doing things like maintenance and housekeeping. The workers told reporters they were frustrated at being excluded from the government’s plan to offer retention bonuses to many healthcare workers, announced back in the fall.
The P.E.I. Legislature is extending its sittings this week to run as late as midnight, and Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker is expressing concern about what that means for government accountability. A government motion led to the late sittings starting Wednesday evening, and the house remained in session past midnight for a total of 10 sitting hours. Thursday’s session could be just as long, and with an earlier start on Friday, proceedings could stretch as long as 14 hours.
Newfoundland and Labrador
On Wednesday, The Honourable Dr. Andrew Furey, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, announced changes to his Cabinet.
Effective immediately, the changes are:
The Honourable Krista Lynn Howell, Minister of Education
The Honourable Elvis Loveless, Minister of Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture
The Honourable Paul Pike, Minister of Children, Seniors and Social Development; Minister Responsible for the Status of Persons with Disabilities; Minister Responsible for the Community Sector; and Minister Responsible for the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation
The Honourable John Haggie, Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs and Registrar General
The Honourable John G. Abbott, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure and Minister Responsible for the Public Procurement Agency
The Honourable Derrick Bragg, Minister without portfolio.
Biographies of the ministers are included in the backgrounder below.
Premier Andrew Furey says he takes exception to suggestions from the federal minister that it’s all or nothing when it comes to the Carbon Tax, set to start being charged on fuel products July 1. Furey and his Atlantic Canadian counterparts have long called for Ottawa to re-examine federal policies that they say could result in a heavier cost burden for people in the region. The Atlantic premiers met in PEI yesterday and the Carbon Tax was high among the topics discussed
The provincial New Democrats say millions spent on travel nurses in Newfoundland and Labrador’s health-care system should be used to keep nurses already in the system in the province — but Health Minister Tom Osborne says the money spent is a “necessary evil.” In a news release issued by the party on Thursday, Health Department documents acquired through an access-to-information request estimates using travel nurses to cover gaps in the health-care system would cost $18.4 million over 12 months, compared with $4.1 million employing nurses already in the system.
According to a new study by the Angus Reid Institute, the approval rating of Quebec Premier François Legault has decreased to 48%, 7 points lower than in March when it was last measured. Legault currently sits in third place, behind Scott Moe of Saskatchewan (57%) and Tim Houston of Nova Scotia (55%). The approval rating of François Legault hit an all-time high of 77% in June 2020; his lowest approval rating was 43%, in September 2022.
The Quebec parliamentary session that ended was particularly trying for Premier François Legault, and ministers Geneviève Guilbault and Simon Jolin-Barrette. The two ministers have been embroiled in several controversies over the past few months, and the premier was keen to defend them at a press conference to take stock of the parliamentary session on Friday. Guilbault found herself at the heart of her government’s failures – fiasco at the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ) and abandonment of the third link flagship project for Québec-Lévis.
Thousands of Quebecers who were forced from their towns by out-of-control wildfires started to return home on Monday, as the province’s public security minister praised the work of firefighters in saving lives and property. François Bonnardel told reporters that while the fight to contain wildfires across the province was far from over, the government had been able to meet its primary objective of safeguarding lives, residences and critical infrastructure.
Housing advocates, mayors from across Quebec, and various other groups have jointly signed an open letter to the premier, calling on the Legault government to address the province’s housing crisis. The letter, which was presented during a press conference Wednesday, is asking the CAQ government to create a provincial approach to overcome the crisis.
The bodies of two Innu infants who died of whooping cough in a hospital in Baie-Comeau in 1970 are going to be exhumed, a first for Quebec’s new law designed to help Indigenous families get answers about children who died alone in clinics or hospitals. “It’s quite incredible to believe that some families have been looking for answers for more than 40 years,” Ian Lafrenière, the CAQ minister responsible for relations with First Nations and Inuit, told CBC in an interview Thursday.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he is “not in favour” of consolidating York Region into one big city. “It’s not up to the one mayor to go up there and say you want to build your empire. This is about all the seven different cities,” Ford said at an unrelated news conference in Whitby, Ont. on Thursday morning. Ford’s remarks come after Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti issued a statement on Wednesday pushing for the amalgamation.
Brampton and Mississauga are among 26 cities that the Ford government has granted strong mayor powers. In an announcement made Friday morning at Queen’s Park, Steve Clark, Ontario’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, confirmed the expanded powers will take effect in large and fast-growing municipalities on July 1, 2023.
Bonnie Crombie has launched her Liberal leadership campaign with a salvo at Premier Doug Ford. Speaking to about 500 supporters at Mississauga’s Metalworks Institute on Wednesday, Crombie looked past her Liberal rivals and took aim at the Progressive Conservative premier. “Our health care is in crisis, our education system is being shortchanged, our environment is fragile and life in Ontario is becoming more unaffordable,” the Mississauga mayor said.
While Crombie has called the Greenbelt “sacred,” she did indicate that if the local community is in favour of using the land then she may be as well – a point that Ford was quick to pounce on. “Well there’s one thing I’ll agree with her, she endorsed our Greenbelt plan and about swapping property so that’s good,” Ford said during an unrelated announcement in Whitby on Thursday morning.
Hospital workers whose unions fought Premier Doug Ford’s Bill 124 wage restraint legislation — limiting them to raises of one percent annually — have won pay hikes of 3.75 percent for last year and 2.5 percent this year.
Pavement scored by tire marks, scorched grass and pieces of debris are the tangible evidence left at the scene of one of Manitoba’s deadliest crashes. But there is now a weight, a grief in a community struggling to comprehend the deaths of 15 people and injuries to 10 others. “Literally, everybody in town knows somebody that was on that bus,” said David Bosiak, mayor of Dauphin. “Right now it’s just dealing with the magnitude of this and how everybody is impacted.”
An out-of-province conservative group that has attacked the Manitoba NDP through billboards and mass text messages has registered with Elections Manitoba as a third party for the upcoming fall election. The elections agency defines a third party as “a person or group, other than a political party, candidate or constituency association, that promotes or opposes a registered party or a candidate” in a 90-day pre-election or election period.
On Thursday, the Manitoba government announced $2.4 million in annual funding to expand its virtual supports for people struggling with their mental health. The funding will expand two existing program that are delivered virtually: an initial assessment program and a crisis stabilization unit that provides followup care. Both initiatives, which are designed primarily for people living in rural and remote communities, launched in 2021.
The union that represents Manitoba government workers says its members are suffering due to low staffing levels, tight budgets and the privatization of some services. A report from the Manitoba Government and General Employees Union says the Progressive Conservative government’s drive to balance the budget has led to 2,300 fewer civil servants working today than in 2015. Wage freezes and high vacancy rates have led to low morale and challenges retaining workers, the union says.
Saskatchewan’s premier and cabinet are on pace to spend more on out-of-province travel than in years past. The government recently posted its travel expenses for MLAs for the period of Oct. 1, 2022, to March 31, 2023. In the first three months of 2023, the government spent more than $214,000 on out-of-province travel. Premier Scott Moe and cabinet ministers have taken 17 trips as of March 31 — 10 of which were in Canada and four to the U.S. The other three trips were overseas.
Manitoba RCMP are turning to their Saskatchewan counterparts for help in investigating a mass casualty crash in western Manitoba that’s drawing comparisons to the Humboldt Broncos tragedy in 2018. “This incident does have echoes of the tragic collision that happened in Humboldt, Sask. And we are very much aware of that,” said Manitoba RCMP Supt. Rob Lasson at a news conference Thursday.
The Saskatchewan government isn’t doing enough to combat the growing homelessness crisis, say city mayors in the province. In a video posted to social media, Lloydminster Mayor Gerald Aalbers spoke on behalf of the mayors of cities represented by the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA). He said social services payments are too low to help people escape poverty and enter the workforce. Farmers from across Western Canada are demanding senators pass Bill C-234 right away. That bill would give them an exemption from the carbon tax on the fuels they use to dry grain and heat their barns. But the problem is they need the bill to be passed by the end of the month. “On our farm we use propane to dry grain. Virtually every fall we have to dry some grain,” said Bill Prybylski with the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS).
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith says she’s free to post on Facebook again, a day after she publicly accused the social media giant of censoring her. However, Meta, which owns Facebook, says Smith was never blocked from posting and access to her site was temporarily limited for reasons of security, not censorship. “Happy to report, my page is able to post on Facebook again,” Smith told her Twitter followers on Thursday. “I hope this is the last time it happens.” A day earlier, Smith announced on Twitter that she had been blocked from posting and attributed it without evidence to censorship.
Alberta’s New Democratic Party is calling for a special prosecutor to investigate Premier Danielle Smith’s interference in the justice system, resurfacing a major controversy that dogged the United Conservative Party during last month’s election campaign and now follows the government into its second term. Justice Minister Mickey Amery, appointed to Ms. Smith’s cabinet last Friday, and acting deputy minister of justice Susanne Stushnoff received a letter from NDP MLA Irfan Sabir requesting a prosecutor from out of province be assigned to oversee an independent investigation into Ms. Smith. The request comes on the heels of a scathing report from Alberta’s Ethics Commissioner, Marguerite Trussler, who concluded the Premier violated ethics regulations.
While the federal liberals pass the first reading of the Canadian Sustainable Jobs Act, Alberta’s Premier Danielle Smith says it interferes with Alberta’s oil industry, and the province may not even recognize it. The federal Liberals’ Bill C-50 would mandate the federal government to create five-year plans to transition the country’s energy sector workers into green energy jobs while reducing emissions. Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said it is not about shutting down Canada’s oil and gas industry. “I can say that definitively,” Wilkinson said in an interview with The Canadian Press after introducing Bill C-50 in the House of Commons.
Long wait times for appointments to get tests and other complaints about Alberta’s laboratory services have reached the ears of the premier, who said another direction may be needed if DynaLIFE doesn’t meet the demand. In Calgary, appointments for bloodwork were booking into July when Global News checked on Monday. “I’m hearing that all over, that DynaLIFE has not met performance expectations,” Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said on her first radio call-in show since the UCP won a majority government on May 29.
The Crown utility in charge of generating and delivering electricity in British Columbia says the province is going to need enough new power to run 270,000 homes starting as early as 2028. The forecast from BC Hydro comes as the company plans its first call in 15 years to find new large sources of electricity. Premier David Eby told a news conference Thursday that the forecast that calls for the additional 3,000 gigawatt hours per year of renewable energy is three years earlier than previously estimated.
Premier David Eby boosted NDP candidate Ravi Parmar’s byelection campaign on Wednesday with a visit to Sooke. Eby spent about an hour in the downtown core mainstreeting with Parmar outside Village Food Markets, Serious Coffee and at a Sooke Road bus stop before meeting with the media. Sooke councillors Al Beddows and Dana Lajeunesse discussed housing with Eby.
The over-representation of Indigenous people in British Columbia’s jails is a destructive cycle that must be broken, said Premier David Eby as he officially opened a First Nations justice centre in the Fraser Valley. Indigenous people comprise about five per cent of B.C.’s population but account for about 30 per cent of people in provincial jails, Eby said Monday.
The provincial government today announced the launch of the BC Demographic Survey – aimed at helping identify and eliminate systemic racism in government programs. Richmond MLA Henry Yao, citizens’ services minister Lisa Beare, attorney general Niki Sharma and representatives from the Anti-Racism Data Committee made the announcement at Chinatown Storytelling Centre in Vancouver, where they encouraged every resident in the province to participate before the deadline on Sept. 29.
The hotels are full in Inuvik, N.W.T., and the streets are bustling with activity. Hundreds of people arrived in town on Monday to talk about energy and the environment, and also take in some of the local culture and community. It’s all part of this week’s 2023 Arctic Development Expo. The annual event is hosted by the Town of Inuvik and brings together government officials, resource development companies, researchers and others, from the N.W.T. and beyond.
Yukon River chinook and chum salmon in the Old Crow region of the territory are being hit with the perfect storm — not only are this year’s runs expected to be dismal, but the life cycle of the salmon is being broken. Over the last several years, lower numbers of chinook and chum salmon have made the long journey from the ocean to creeks and streams at the mouth of the Porcupine River, spawned, and then died. The small fry would then make their way back to the Bering Sea in spring.
The Yukon’s legislative assembly marked a special anniversary on Tuesday by holding a special sitting in the territory’s former capital, Dawson City. Yukon officially became a territory 125 years ago, when the Yukon Territory Act — “an Act to provide for the Government of the Yukon District” — became law on June 13, 1898. “This is an important milestone for our territory and for all Yukoners,” said Premier Ranj Pillai, at Tuesday’s special sitting, which was held in the original chamber of the Territorial Council in the old territorial administration building (now the Dawson City Museum).
It took nearly eight years, but Randy Qatalik can finally call himself a teacher. Last Thursday, about 50 people attended the graduation ceremony to celebrate Qatalik and a dozen other graduates from Nunavut Arctic College’s teacher education, pre-nursing, nursing and computer sciences programs. “I feel really proud of myself because it’s only a four-year program, but I’ve taken a long time to finish it and I’ve worked really hard for it, so it feels great,” said Qatalik. In the time it took him to finish the program, he dealt with the passing of his father — a teacher as well — and got married.