Provincial Legislative Update – March 3, 2023
An overview of the Provincial and Territories Legislative Updates for March 3, 2023.
- The New Brunswick government’s focus on reducing its debt has been so successful, it’s on track to set a national fiscal record later this month. But the achievement is not without critics who contend too much money is being banked when it could be used to fund struggling public services, such as housing and health care.
- The licensed practical nurses who were assigned to check on patients in the Fredericton ER waiting room on the night a patient died last summer were also assigned to other tasks that night and “could not commit to regular checks,” internal Horizon Health Network documents reveal. Staffing levels at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital emergency department were low, according to the documents obtained by CBC News.
- An ambulance crew responding to a call in the Miramichi area was given faulty information by its digital mapping service and had to reroute around a closed bridge, according to a local MLA. Mike Dawson said at a legislative committee meeting Thursday that the GPS map showed the Pineville Bridge was open, so the paramedics took the route recommended by the system.
- Changes are coming to the New Brunswick Housing Corporation as it becomes a Crown corporation and operates as a separate entity under Jill Green, the minister responsible for housing. Speaking at a news conference Thursday, Green said amendments will be brought forward during the spring legislative session to bring oversight of the corporation under her portfolio, along with a board of directors, senior leaders and a support team.
- Thousands of Nova Scotians may be waiting longer than expected for the Greener Homes rebate they applied for from the Nova Scotia and federal governments because of a large backlog in files. As of March 1, at least 2,700 files are in the queue to be processed in Ottawa and by Efficiency Nova Scotia in Dartmouth.
- A Nova Scotia construction company is joining an official delegation to the Middle East as the province steps up its recruitment of skilled refugees to help fill some key jobs. It’s one of the strategies being used to address a labour shortage that has been affecting some essential services. The latest recruitment trip follows a visit to Kenya last fall, after which the government announced conditional job offers to 65 health-care workers.
- The Atlantic mackerel population is continuing to decline after a decade of falling numbers, according to a federal assessment presented to industry and environmental groups in Halifax this week. According to the 2022 assessment, mackerel stock remains in the “critical zone” — where serious harm is occurring — and the average number of fish reaching spawning age is only 27 per cent of what it was between 1969 and 2011.
Prince Edward Island
- Colin LaVie, who has served Souris-Elmira as a PC MLA since 2011, has decided not to re-offer in the 2023 election. The news comes less than two weeks after he announced he would seek a fourth term. CBC reached out to LaVie on Sunday, but he was unavailable for further comment. LaVie also serves as the Speaker in the P.E.I. Legislature.
- Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland was in Charlottetown Thursday, with an announcement of federal funding for UPEI’s medical school. Ottawa will contribute $19.5 million from its infrastructure budget for the school. The most recent estimated infrastructure cost for the school, including building and equipment, is $122.7 million.
- The government of P.E.I. says it’s taking important steps to prevent and respond to sexual violence, with the launch of a “first of its kind” strategy. The five-year strategy focuses on three priority areas, according to the province: preventing sexual violence, responding to sexual violence, and co-ordinating responses.
Newfoundland and Labrador
- Some of Andrew Furey’s political opponents are wondering how the government will keep some of its healthcare promises while it’s having trouble keeping hospitals and clinics staffed. The first announcement came Wednesday afternoon when Health Minister Tom Osborne said the government had decided to keep obstetrical units operating in both Gander and Grand Falls-Windsor.
- Bonavista MHA Craig Pardy says he was disturbed to hear about a man who died in an ambulance on the way to Clarenville while the Bonavista emergency room was closed. According to his daughter, Shelley Gosselin, 78-year-old Charles Marsh went to the Bonavista emergency room on Feb. 19 because he was having an asthma attack. The hospital was closed, meaning anyone having a medical emergency had to travel to Clarenville — more than 100 kilometres away.
- Newfoundland and Labrador’s long-suffering Muskrat Falls hydroelectricity project has encountered new problems ahead of a final round of testing that must take place during the colder months. Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro says the issues have pushed a round of high-power testing to late March or early April.
- Parents fighting for the education of their deaf son have won a human rights case against the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District. The commission ruled that the district failed to provide reasonable accommodation for Carter Churchill and discriminated against him during the 2016 to 2020 school years, from kindergarten to Grade 3. It has ordered the board to support Carter with education in American Sign Language and evaluate him in that language.
- The tax cut promised in the last election will be included in the spring budget because it remains an excellent way to stimulate the economy, Premier François Legault said Thursday. And while saying there is no reason to believe there was any foreign meddling in the Oct. 3, 2022, provincial election, Legault confirmed he too has dropped the TikTok application from his smartphone. His cabinet ministers have also removed it, and Quebec has banned the installation and use of the application on government cellphones.
- The leader of a Canadian province that has seen thousands of asylum seekers crossing from the US is calling on the Biden administration to rewrite a pact between the nations to curb the flow, saying good relations hinge on solving the problem.
- Quebec’s public sector unions must be more “flexible” in their approach to collective bargaining talks with the province, Premier François Legault said Saturday, weeks before current contracts were set to expire. Legault issued a Facebook post on Saturday saying union leaders are operating with a “closed mindset” and are refusing to sit down with the government to find a solution before their contracts end on March 31.
- Conservative leader Eric Duhaime is calling on Quebec’s main political parties to form a common front against Ottawa on the Roxham Road file. In a press conference in Quebec City on Thursday, Duhaime said he wants to send a delegation to Ottawa to demand the permanent closure of Roxham Road. “The climate is more favourable than ever for … a Quebec delegation of five leaders to go to Ottawa. Quebecers like it when we work together,” he said.
- Health Minister Christian Dubé announced Monday evening that he’s launching an independent investigation into the troubled emergency room at Lakeshore General Hospital following revelations by the Montreal Gazette that its ER has struggled with an increasing number of patient deaths in the past four years that sources say could have been prevented.
- Premier Doug Ford’s government will propose on Thursday changes to the laws governing the approval of mining projects to boost Ontario’s production of minerals essential to electric vehicle batteries and other technologies, CBC News has learned. The changes would speed up permits for new mines to begin operations and make it easier for companies to get a permit to recover minerals from mine tailings and waste, according to background documents that government officials provided to CBC News.
- Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives have used their majority to defeat a Liberal MPP’s bill that would have encouraged publicly traded companies to have more diverse boards of directors. The Tories insisted the Ontario Securities Commission could better make changes through regulation rather than having provincial legislation dictate increased representation in boardrooms.
- Ontario Provincial Police have privately admitted that they have yet to find direct evidence that Premier Doug Ford or members of his government have violated provincial ethics laws, as the anti-rackets branch decides whether or not to launch an official investigation. The admission came in an email to Patrick Macklem, a constitutional lawyer and University of Toronto professor who filed a complaint with the OPP over the Greenbelt land swap.
- A Mississauga-based company has pledged to donate tens of millions of dollars in an effort to build the biggest healthcare facility in the country. Trillium Health Partners (THP), which operates two hospitals in Mississauga and one hospital in Toronto’s west end, revealed at the Wednesday announcement attended by Ontario Premier Doug Ford that industrial real estate developer Orlando Corporation would match each donation made up to $75 million in the fundraising effort.
- The Doug Ford government continues to underspend on major programs like public health, Ontario’s number-crunching watchdog says. The Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO) released its third-quarter expenditure report Wednesday that found the provincial government had spent less than expected on Metrolinx and municipal infrastructure, the electricity subsidy program, public health, social assistance, child care programs and transit operating funding.
- Starting April 2, Manitoba families will pay a maximum of $10 a day in fees at regulated non-profit child-care centres, Premier Heather Stefanson announced on Friday. That’s three years ahead of the 2026 target and applies to all children age 12 and under. “Access to affordable and high-quality child care is essential for Manitobans to be able to participate in the workforce, support their family and play an active role in the growth of our communities and our economy,” Stefanson said.
- The Manitoba legislature adjourned in December, but was back in session Wednesday afternoon, and provincial leaders say they’re ready for an important few months leading up to October’s election. “It’s game back on,” Premier Heather Stefanson told Global News. Stefanson said she and the Progressive Conservative party are gearing up for next Tuesday’s budget announcement — something she says isn’t going to include many surprises for constituents.
- The emergency department at Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre was dealing with twice its usual number of critically ill or injured patients when a patient died while waiting for care there earlier this week, the head of the hospital says. Dr. Shawn Young, the chief operating officer of Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre, said staffing levels in the emergency department were nearly at 100 per cent on Monday at about 11:30 p.m., when the patient arrived by ambulance and was triaged.
- Nearly 350 already trained health-care workers from the Philippines have been offered letters of intent after a recruitment mission to the country last month, the Manitoba health minister says. Audrey Gordon said the letters were given to nearly 190 registered nurses, 50 people who are the equivalent of licensed practical nurses and 110 health-care aides during the province’s five-day trip to Manila, Cebu City and Iloilo from Feb. 21 to 25.
- The Saskatchewan government’s international footprint continues to grow as it plans to open a trade office in Berlin, Germany in the near future. The trade office, the ninth for the province worldwide, fulfils an item in the provincial government’s 2022 throne speech indicating the intention to establish an office in Germany. An order-in-council was signed last month that officially established the Berlin trade office.
- The Saskatchewan government has accepted an agreement in principle with Ottawa over more health-care money, the federal government announced Wednesday, a move that’s meant to help alleviate a struggling system — but one that union leaders say requires accountability.
- If you have been in an airport in Canada recently you might have noticed an advertising campaign promoting a “Sustainable Saskatchewan.” However, critics say the government’s campaign is disingenuous, focusing on emission reductions made in the agricultural sector, but failing to define what “sustainability” really means for the province in the long term.
- The Saskatchewan NDP has joined municipalities in asking the provincial government scrap the PST on construction projects, arguing it is stalling economic activity when the province should be booming.
- Alberta’s UCP government tabled what amounts to a pre-election budget Tuesday with spending hitting nearly $70 billion and a surplus of $2.4 billion. The fiscal plan comes 90 days ahead of a scheduled spring election and will see spending grow by nearly four percent, with a bottom line fuelled by high oil prices.
- With just three months until the expected provincial election, Alberta’s finance minister tabled a budget that has many calling the financial plan a bid to curry favour when voters go to the polls. Travis Toews didn’t deny it was an election budget when asked by reporters. “We have an election here in a few months and this is a budget just ahead of that election,” Toews said, adding this budget continues the direction set in 2019, when the United Conservative Party were voted into power.
- As part of its budget released Tuesday, the Alberta United Conservative government introduced a fiscal accountability plan that would legislate balanced budgets and control spending long-term. With a few exceptions, Alberta governments will be required to table balanced budgets and limit spending increases to population growth plus inflation.
- As the provincial government rolls out new details of its plans to expand mental-health and addiction services, it’s facing accusations of creating a “three-tier system.” Premier David Eby said at a news conference Thursday that the B.C. government will create four new community recovery sites with aftercare support, as part of the $1 billion set aside in Budget 2023 to expand mental-health and addiction services that have been plagued by long waiting lists.
- The British Columbia government has reached an agreement in principle on health-care funding with the federal government that will deliver $3.3 billion in new money over the next decade. The new money is included in an overall funding package of $27.47 billion in federal health transfers to the province.
- Health Canada is defending their decision to issue a licence to a Langley cannabis company to produce, sell and distribute cocaine which left Premier David Eby blindsided yesterday. Health Canada said Adastra Labs is licensed to use cocaine for “scientific and medical purposes only.” “They cannot sell products to the general public,” the agency said Friday through a spokesperson.
- The failure of a massive, multi-year money laundering investigation to yield charges is a “shocking” example of the shortfalls of federal financial crime law, British Columbia Premier David Eby said Thursday. Eby called for tougher laws a day after B.C.’s prosecution service announced no charges will be laid in the E-Nationalize investigation into millions of dollars that moved through B.C. casinos and Chinese bank accounts.
- N.W.T. MLAs said Wednesday they could not support the finance minister’s proposed changes to the territory’s carbon tax system as it’s currently written. Bill 60, which would change the territory’s Petroleum Products and Carbon Tax Act, is the N.W.T. government’s answer to incoming federal increases on carbon pollution. Finance Minister Caroline Wawzonek introduced it as a “made-in-the-North” approach that would allow the territory more freedom in designing the carbon tax rebate system and more flexibility to adjust how the carbon tax is applied. The alternative would be to scrap the N.W.T.’s legislation in favour of a federal version.
- The Yukon government has responded to a proposed class-action lawsuit over the alleged improper use of holds and seclusion on students at Jack Hulland Elementary School in Whitehorse over the span of 20 years. In a statement of defence filed to the Yukon Supreme Court on Monday, the government denies a number of allegations such as school staff being assigned to a team that could be called to place children in holds — where adults use their bodies to restrict a child’s movement — or to “drag” children to “isolation” spaces.
- A group of Inuit who are counter-suing Baffinland Iron Mines lost one part of their legal argument this week. They won’t be able to file a lis pendens — a formal notice of ongoing legal action — on lands leased to Baffinland. In 2021, Baffinland filed a lawsuit in the Nunavut Court of Justice against a group of protesters who had temporarily blockaded the mine’s airstrip.