Provincial Legislative Update – June 23, 2023

An overview of the Provincial and Territories Legislative Updates for the week of June 18 - 23, 2023.

New Brunswick

  • Another New Brunswick cabinet minister has resigned amid calls for a leadership review of Premier Blaine Higgs. Trevor Holder, who represents the district of Portland-Simonds and was the minister of Post-Secondary Education, Training, and Labour, said in a letter Friday that he needs to “do some significant soul searching after a 24-year legislative career.”
  • A movement to push Premier Blaine Higgs out as leader of the New Brunswick Progressive Conservative party is gathering momentum. A member of the party’s provincial council says 25 presidents of PC riding associations have signed letters calling for a leadership review vote. That’s a majority out of the 49 ridings. It also surpasses a key threshold in the party’s constitution to trigger the process.
  • Premier Blaine Higgs is getting vocal support from some members of his cabinet and caucus as he faces a growing push to remove him as leader of New Brunswick’s Progressive Conservative party. Moncton Southwest PC MLA Sherry Wilson says Higgs’s record on fiscal management and improving health care is a strong one, and members of the PC caucus who don’t like his leadership should quit.
  • Assets managed by the Fredericton firm that looks after New Brunswick government employee pension funds lost $1.1 billion in value in 2022’s turbulent economy, according to the firm’s annual report released this week. It’s the first decline posted by Vestcor in 13 years, but the losses were well below Canadian industry averages — and that helped boost controversial bonuses earned by Vestcor staff for the second year in a row.

Nova Scotia

  • On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with the Premier of Nova Scotia, Tim Houston, to discuss wildfires, clean power, and infrastructure investments. Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Houston discussed recovery and rebuilding from the recent wildfires, following the Prime Minister’s visit with first responders and residents in the Tantallon area. They recognized the need for rapid reconstruction and agreed to further discuss this issue.
  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday he remains confident his government will eventually support a connected loop of Atlantic and Quebec electricity, allowing the Maritimes to end its reliance on coal. But the promise was quickly criticized by Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston, who said Ottawa hasn’t put enough money into the idea to make it work.
  • Housing is increasingly unaffordable for people across the province, said the N.S. NDP. The housing sector in our province must be stabilized, and immediate and sustained action must be taken to address the housing crisis. The NSNDP is calling on the Houston government to release the housing strategy that has been promised and to take immediate action to ensure that everyone has a home they can afford.
  • The Nova Scotia government is offering short-term relief grants for residents who lost income due to the recent wildfires in Shelburne County and Halifax Regional Municipality. The Emergency Relief Grant for Individuals will provide either $275 or $550 per week, depending on the extent of the impact, the provincial government announced on Thursday.

Prince Edward Island

  • About 70 provincial civil servants have signed up to become wildfire fighters as part of the provincial government’s plan to better prepare Prince Edward Island for future fire seasons. If all of them complete the training, the Island’s contingent of provincial wildfire fighters will more than quadruple.
  • The spring sitting of the P.E.I. legislature came to a close Wednesday evening with both opposition parties voting against the $3-billion-plus operating budget of Dennis King’s Progressive Conservative government. But even though six PC MLAs were away, including the premier, the governing party still had more than enough votes in the chamber to carry the day, thanks to a beefed-up majority won in the province’s April 3 general election.
  • The chair of the University of Prince Edward Island Board of Governors has resigned — one week after an independent report outlined major problems at the campus over the past decade.  “I care deeply about the University of Prince Edward Island, the students, the faculty, and the staff,” Pat Sinnott said in a letter distributed to the campus community Wednesday. “That said, it is clear to me that, at this time, new leadership is needed to address challenging issues.” The letter, dated June 21, said Sinnott was “stepping aside, effective today.”
  • The P.E.I. government is creating a new anti-racism office to help achieve the province’s goal of eliminating systemic racism and promoting diversity. That’s part of a five-year anti-racism action plan, unveiled Wednesday during the last day of the P.E.I. Legislative Assembly’s spring sitting, and based on three pillars:
    • Inclusive culture and community cohesion.
    • BIPOC representation and advancement.
    • Legislation, leadership, and program and policy review.

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • Newfoundland and Labrador’s auditor general is raising questions about how COVID assistance programs for businesses were run, while the minister in charge is defending the work of staff to get money out the door to people who needed it. The programs in question provided grants to support the tourism and hospitality sector and assist small businesses trying to weather the pandemic storm in 2020 and 2021.
  • The CEO of St. John’s International Airport says government funding may be the key to bringing transatlantic flights back to Newfoundland and Labrador — and the province’s tourism minister says the idea isn’t out of the question. During a St. John’s Board of Trade event focused on air access, airport CEO Dennis Hogan said he wants the provincial government to consider offering a revenue guarantee.
  • More than 100 people gathered for the annual sunrise ceremony in St. John’s to mark the beginning of National Indigenous Peoples Day on Wednesday — despite the cold, foggy weather. The ceremony began with smudging, drumming and prayers from Indigenous elders. Marjorie Muise, a Mi’kmaw elder from Bay St. George, said she was proud to be there. “It’s so important,” she said during the ceremony. “Everybody here came out to support and to celebrate with us, and that in itself is honourable.”
  • A legal challenge to appeal the federal government’s approval of the Bay du Nord offshore oil project has been dismissed in Federal Court. The challenge is led by environmental group Ecojustice, Quebec environmental non-profit Équiterre and the Sierra Club Canada Foundation, which have all called for the project to be shelved in the name of the climate crisis. Norwegian oil giant Equinor and its partners plan to develop the oilfield at the Flemish Pass, about 500 kilometres east of St. John’s, with drilling to go more than a kilometre underwater.

Quebec

  • François Legault intends to ensure that no one will find themselves on the street on July 1. Asked Monday about the government’s assessment of its needs during a news conference in the Laurentians, the premier refused to put a figure on the number of housing units required in Quebec to relieve the pressure in the rental market.
  • Quebec Premier François Legault defended the integrity of his government Wednesday after his Minster of Housing, France-Élaine Duranceau, is under investigation by the Ethics Commissioner. “I don’t think our ministers put themselves in situations where someone could embezzle, take advantage, or whatever. I think everyone in my cabinet is there for the right reasons,” he told a morning press scrum.
  • The government of Quebec is backing a forklift battery vendor with $3.2 million, and UgoWork says it will use the new funding to create more than 60 jobs in the province over the next 36 months in the field of providing lithium-ion batteries for material handling applications. More specifically, the financing will enable the eight-year-old company to accelerate its research and development efforts, further optimize software systems, and expand its operations to meet the growing demand for clean, efficient, and cost-effective energy solutions, UgoWork said.
  • The Legault government is enacting a new employment equality policy designed to boost diversity on the boards of directors of its 47 corporations. Within two years of the June 1 policy start date, each board of directors must include at least one person from one of four groups targeted by the Loi sur la gouvernance des sociétés d’État.
  • The family of Koray Kevin Celik, who died following an altercation with police in 2017, is demanding the Quebec government step in and reconsider the evidence in their son’s death. On Monday morning, the Celiks called for the Justice Ministry to order an independent review of the facts of the case, following the decision by Quebec’s Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DPCP) to not charge the officers involved in the 28-year-old’s death.

Ontario

  • Ontario Premier Doug Ford has said that if frontrunner Olivia Chow is elected Toronto’s new mayor, it will be an “unmitigated disaster” for the city. The premier made the comments fairly unprompted while at an unrelated announcement in Burlington Wednesday afternoon. At the time, he was asked by a reporter about former Toronto Mayor John Tory endorsing candidate Ana Bailao. After talking about how much he admired Tory, the premier moved on to talk about other mayoral candidates.
  • The looming cabinet shuffle at Queen’s Park was all the talk Monday as seemingly every minister in Doug Ford’s cabinet gathered to hear their boss give a speech. The topic of a shuffle, where they might be headed and when it might happen were definitely points of conversation at the tables and in the hallways.
  • The Ontario government’s appeal of a court ruling that struck down Bill 124—a controversial piece of legislation that capped public sector wages for a period of three years—began on Tuesday.  The court case is the accumulation of years of legal back and forth beginning in 2019 when the Doug Ford government first proposed the bill.
  • Premier Doug Ford’s government is slapping restrictions on floating homes, a new style of on-the-lake accommodation that has triggered controversy in Ontario’s cottage country, CBC News has learned. The vessels — built using converted shipping containers — have provoked outrage among cottage owners and have been slammed as “ugly” by at least two local mayors. The province’s ban will prohibit the floating homes from staying overnight on public waterways. The restrictions will take effect on July 1, according to a regulation posted by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. 
  • The government of Ontario says it is spending $2.7 million to upgrade the skills of 65 electrical workers in eastern Ontario. Premier Doug Ford made the announcement at KE Electrical in Kanata Tuesday morning. “This project, led by KE Electrical, will provide participants with the skills they need to progress from apprentices to labourers, labourers to journeymen,” Ford said. ” Programs like these are helping to ensure we have the skilled workforce to build the homes, schools, hospitals and infrastructure projects our growing province needs.”

Manitoba

  • People in Dauphin, Man., came together on Thursday night to mourn the victims of last week’s fatal bus crash in southwestern Manitoba. Hundreds of people filled the Ukrainian Orthodox Auditorium for a multi-faith vigil that gave community members an opportunity to grieve together. Officials from the city’s churches met earlier this week to plan the event.
  • The Manitoba government is spending $2.9 million more to support an additional 513 addictions treatment spaces in Winnipeg, deputy premier Cliff Cullen announced at a news conference Thursday. “The funding will help provide hope to loved ones and individuals struggling with addiction that recovery is possible,” Shane Sturby-Highfield, a person in recovery, said at the conference held at River Point Centre on Magnus Avenue.
  • A new Probe Research poll suggests the governing Progressive Conservatives are tied in popularity with the opposition NDP less than four months ahead of the next provincial election. The Winnipeg Free Press-commissioned poll of 1,000 Manitoba adults, done from May 31 to June 13, suggests Heather Stefanson’s Progressive Conservatives and Wab Kinew’s NDP each enjoy the support of 41 percent of decided voters across Manitoba. That suggests support for the NDP has dropped three percentage points since March and five points since December. 

Saskatchewan

  • Speaking at Canada’s Farm Show in Regina on Tuesday morning Premier Scott Moe spoke to the gathered crowd about advances in agriculture. About how, thanks to those steps forward, the diet of a monarch is less impressive than the daily offerings at any given Co-op Grocery Store or Costco. “We’re very fortunate in most nations around the world simply because we have enough to eat,” said Moe. Using King Louis XIV as an example, Moe said “he lacked many things we take for granted that we’re accustomed to.” Moe said the French Monarch would be “quite shocked” at the abundance.
  • Education Minister Dustin Duncan has ordered his ministry to review explicit documents pertaining to the adolescence curriculum, and plans to direct school boards to suspend any upcoming presentations with Planned Parenthood Regina. He announced the directives Thursday afternoon after being made aware that a Grade 9 student picked up graphic sex ed material left behind by Planned Parenthood after members of the organization presented to their health class.
  • Use of full-body restraint while in youth detention ‘left me broken,’ Sask. man says. Known as the Wrap, experts and those who’ve endured the device say it can cause lasting trauma. Video obtained exclusively by CBC News shows teens in a Saskatchewan youth detention facility being forced into a full-body restraint.
  • A contentious council meeting that saw the public barred from Regina city hall ended with two members of the city government facing criticism, but no penalties, for their lawsuit attempting to end homelessness in the city. Protestors were escorted out of the building by Regina police after some of them repeatedly interrupted the council during a debate over the fates of Ward 6 Coun. Dan LeBlanc and Ward 3 Coun. Andrew Stevens.

Alberta

  • Premier Danielle Smith apologized in the legislative assembly Tuesday for contacting former Justice Minister Tyler Shandro in January about the criminal charges faced by Calgary street preacher Artur Pawlowski. “Although I had no ill intent, the ethics commissioner found it was improper for me to contact the minister of justice in the way I did, and I apologize to all members of the assembly and to all Albertans for the error,” Smith said. 
  • There is no line in the sand between his government and Alberta over energy and climate policies but there is also still a lot of daylight in their respective visions, Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said June 19. Wilkinson was in Calgary with Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc for a face-to-face meeting with Alberta Premier Danielle Smith. It was the first Alberta-Ottawa sit down since Smith’s United Conservative Party was re-elected last month.
  • Calling it “a happy day for democracy,” Alberta Premier Danielle Smith and elected members of her United Conservative Party caucus were formally sworn into their roles as MLAs on Tuesday morning. Lt.-Gov. Salma Lakhani presided over the hour-long ceremony on the floor of the legislative assembly chamber that saw 48 UCP members, including 11 newcomers, either swear the oath of office or make a solemn declaration or affirmation. Three-time MLA Nathan Cooper was voted in by fellow members as Speaker for a second straight term.

British Columbia

  • British Columbia Premier David Eby says “hateful” banners aimed at transgender people that have hung for months over one of the province’s highways are “reprehensible” and he wishes the protesters involved would “go home.” The premier’s comments come more than a month after a B.C. Supreme Court judge granted the government an injunction banning signs or gatherings in the area around the Mountain Highway Overpass over Highway 1 in North Vancouver.
  • The New Democrats took a victory lap last month when the federal government introduced legislation to reform the country’s troubled bail system. Having endorsed the contents, the attorney-general called on “the federal parliament to pass these amendments quickly — communities can’t wait.” Echoing her sense of urgency was Premier David Eby. “This can’t be a bill that is partisan in nature,” he told reporters following the attorney general’s news release. “It needs to be all hands on deck to ensure it is responsive that we’re seeing across the country.”
  • Premier David Eby says B.C. remains in the clutches of the public health crisis caused by unregulated drugs. He made this comment Monday (June 19) after the BC Coroners Service released the May 2023 figures of suspected deaths caused by unregulated drugs. They show 176 people lost their lives, a decrease of 19 percent compared to April 2023 and a decrease of 16 percent compared to May 2022.
  • B.C.’s provincial museum could be back to a kind of functional normal by the end of this year, as the New Democrat government carefully sweeps up the mess it left from a bungled three-year overhaul. Tourism Minister Lana Popham said she not only expects the popular Old Town exhibit to reopen in late July, but the replica of Captain George Vancouver’s ship should be back for the public to tour by Christmas.

Northwest Territories

  • The federal government and Yellowknives Dene First Nation have signed a procurement framework agreement for the cleanup of Giant Mine, one of Canada’s most contaminated sites. Ottawa says the agreement confirms its commitment to increase procurement opportunities for Indigenous people through the more than $4-billion Giant Mine Remediation Project, including prioritizing contracts with Indigenous-owned businesses.
  • Charles Davison, a defence lawyer in Yellowknife, imagines taking out an ad in local media on behalf of himself and his colleagues saying, “we don’t want your business.” It would be aimed squarely at a specific group: impaired drivers. “Impaired driving is something that catches a lot of people who aren’t otherwise people that would think of themselves as criminals,” Davison said. “We’re seeing more and more of it, it seems.”

Yukon

  • It’s been a topic of conversation among many residents in Dawson City, Yukon, for decades. Should a bridge be built over the Yukon River connecting the historic town site to West Dawson, Sunnydale, and the Top of the World Highway? “Nothing is not on the table to discuss,” said Jim Regimbal, northern area superintendent for the territory’s department of Highways and Public Works. “We’re open to the best solution for everyone.”
  • Overall, the Yukon government did a good job getting COVID-19 vaccines in arms during the pandemic, a new report from the office of the auditor general finds. But, the report says, the government tripped up on some of the details, including communication. The report found that the territorial government was quick to set up a vaccination program — aided in part by the federal government’s decision to give the territories priority access to vaccines.

Nunavut

  • Nearly two in five jobs are going unfilled in Nunavut’s public service, thanks to a government-wide vacancy rate of 38 percent, according to a report dated to December 2022. That report said only 49 percent of the positions with the health department are filled, while several others list capacity in the 50 percent range. The 38 percent vacancy rate leads to employees doing more than one person’s job, affecting well-being and work-life balance, said Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Arreak Lightstone, who was the territory’s human resources minister until March 2022.

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