Provincial Legislative Update – March 31, 2023
An overview of the Provincial and Territories Legislative Updates for March 31, 2023.
- Premier Blaine Higgs is refusing to shed any light on the details of a possible sale of N.B. Power’s Point Lepreau nuclear generating station to an Ontario Crown corporation. Opposition parties demanded Thursday that Higgs give New Brunswickers a better idea of where a sale of Lepreau would fit in the province’s long-term energy strategy and what the benefits and costs of a deal might be.
- Premier Blaine Higgs is pitching First Nations on hefty revenue potential if they agree to allow new shale gas development in New Brunswick. But at least one Mi’kmaw chief is already standing in opposition to any new potential fracking because of environmental concerns and worries that it’s being used as a political bargaining chip.
- The Higgs government has introduced amendments to the Official Languages Act that would eliminate the legal requirement for a review of the legislation every decade. It’s the only major change to the law, which has been a source of controversy for Premier Blaine Higgs since a mandatory review began in 2021. The bill, introduced by Higgs in the legislature Wednesday, also authorizes the creation of an official languages secretariat within the executive branch of government to co-ordinate compliance with the law in the civil service.
- The Nurses Association of New Brunswick is following Nova Scotia’s lead to make it easier for nurses from other parts of Canada to work in the province, in hopes of addressing the nursing shortage. It’s also working on a plan to fast-track applications from nurses from around the world. The regulatory body’s board of directors has approved rule changes to expedite getting the credentials of registered nurses from other provinces and territories recognized in New Brunswick, effective Wednesday.
- Premier Tim Houston says he has no intention of compromising public safety with new legislation to improve patient access to health-care providers, but he bristled at questions about whether the bill would be amended to address concerns raised by regulators. “For anyone to imply a sitting government would do anything to jeopardize the safety of their citizens is a pretty remarkable insinuation,” he told reporters at Province House on Tuesday.
- Amid the growing health crisis in our province, the NDP are calling on the Houston government to create Family Health Teams. Collaborative care clinics staffed by a team of health professionals including nurse practitioners, pharmacists, physiotherapists and others. Patients would receive care from the whoever best suits their needs.
- Premier Tim Houston joined Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the families of victims, survivors, and community members in Truro Thursday afternoon for the presentation of the Mass Casualty Commission’s final 3,000-page report and 130 recommendations. In a statement, the Premier noted: “All Nova Scotians expect the provincial and federal governments and relevant agencies to learn from these devastating events and make changes so we can prevent something like this from happening again. We must continue to do what we can to help build safer communities.”
- Nova Scotia’s Opposition and a major labour group in the province are calling for tax reform so that workers can keep more money in their pockets as they struggle with the rising cost of living. The Nova Scotia Liberals and an Independent member of the legislature have each introduced bills to automatically adjust provincial income tax brackets to annual inflation. Tax-bracket indexing ensures that pay raises equal to the annual rise in the cost of living don’t bump taxpayers into higher income tax brackets.
Prince Edward Island - Election Day: Monday, April 3
- Prince Edward Island’s labour shortage, which is affecting every sector from health care to agriculture and small business, has emerged as a major issue ahead of the April 3 provincial election. The province’s unemployment rate has historically been one of the highest in the country, but Statistics Canada data has been showing that growth in the Island’s workforce hasn’t kept up with the growth rate in the number of jobs in recent years.
- Prince Edward Island’s Progressive Conservative leader was put on the defensive on issues such as health care and climate change but didn’t take the bait in the only televised leaders debate ahead of the April 3 provincial election. Instead, incumbent Premier Dennis King responded to his opponents’ attacks Monday night by reminding them of his collaborative spirit, and at times, even complimenting them.
- Prince Edward Island’s election agency is describing turnout for the first advance poll as “busy,” after over 13,000 people cast ballots on Saturday. Elections P.E.I. says that’s about 13 per cent of the electorate of 105,000 people eligible to vote in the provincial election on April 3. The polls were open for about 10 hours on Saturday, and turnouts varied widely by district.
- An organization that co-hosted a forum for P.E.I. political leaders to talk about race and immigration issues on Wednesday night says it’s disappointed the leader of the Progressive Conservatives didn’t show up. Dennis King was the only leader among the Island’s four major parties who missed the event. The Progressive Conservatives said in a statement the party offered Tim Keizer, their nominee in District 12, to represent them in the forum instead of King, something other parties have done for similar events during the 2023 campaign.
Newfoundland and Labrador
- Newfoundland and Labrador taxpayers have been hit with a nearly $200 million bill to cover the shortfall in paying for the Muskrat Falls generating station and keep electricity rates stable. The provincial government announced Friday that the “initial steps” to keep power rates affordable in the Muskrat Falls era — a strategy called rate mitigation — will require a payment of $190.4 million. The money is being used to limit future rates increases and reduce financing costs that are accumulating in what’s called the supply cost variance deferral account.
- Newfoundland and Labrador’s seniors’ advocate says a public engagement process involving seniors, family and caregivers identified an “alarming” gap in resources affecting vulnerable individuals age 65 and older. At a news conference Thursday, Susan Walsh said seniors and caregivers who participated in the public engagement sessions identified two systemic areas of concern. “Seniors in this province are struggling not just with accessing health care, but also financially,” she said.
- Newfoundland and Labrador’s independent privacy watchdog says past staff turnover in the office and the length of time it’s taking to get responses from provincial health officials have slowed its investigation of the 2021 cyberattack. But the office is stressing that a “robust” investigation is ongoing, with timelines that suggest a final report could be released this spring.
- Earlier this week, Premier Andrew Furey announced plans to issue a call for proposals in May that will support the construction of more than 850 new affordable homes in the province’s rental market. This announcement stems from a new, three-year, $70 million Affordable Housing Program that will include partnerships with private and non-profit sectors, municipalities and Indigenous organizations.
- A day after tabling its massive health care reform bill, Quebec’s Legault government is on the defensive. While the CAQ is saying their plan will make the system more efficient, the opposition is accusing them of adding bureaucracy and doing little to help patients.
- The Quebec government’s crackdown on Airbnb has upended Montreal’s short-term rental market, leading some to welcome the changes and others scurrying to evade the new rules. Last week, following a fire in Old Montreal that killed seven people — including six who were staying in unlicensed short-term rentals — Airbnb said it would remove illegal Quebec listings from its site. The Quebec government has said it would introduce a bill to force other platforms to do the same.
- The Trudeau government’s attempt to modernize the Official Languages Act has raised eyebrows in legal circles, sparked pushback from language rights activists, and prompted four Liberal MPs to take a stand against a bill that was tabled by their own party.
- The Quebec government wants out of the federal dental program and will ask for compensation. Finance Minister Eric Girard said Wednesday morning that Quebec already has its own dental program. Girard says negotiations will have to take place with the federal government, but estimates that Quebec could receive about $3 billion over five years. According to the minister, it would be preferable to adequately fund existing programs before creating new ones.
- Quebec is one of the few provinces that has no minimum working age and the government is looking to change that. Quebec’s labour minister introduced a bill this week, setting the minimum age to 14 years old. Saying they want to protect Quebec children from work injuries, as well as the risk of dropping out of school. They are also looking to limit working hours for those under 16 to 17 hours a week.
- The Ontario government is increasing the minimum wage to $16.55 an hour this fall. The increase will come into effect Oct. 1, according to a statement from the government Friday (March 31). The government says it’s a 6.8 per cent pay raise for low-income workers. A worker making the general minimum wage and working 40 hours per week will see an annual pay increase of nearly $2,200, the government said.
- Premier Doug Ford is slamming federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault as a “real piece of work” in the wake of public remarks he made suggesting that Ontario has “no plan to fight climate change.” Ford made the comment during a press conference in Hamilton on Thursday, during which he was asked about the environment minister’s latest criticism.
- Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Toronto can’t continue to go to other governments “hat in hand” asking for funding as the city grapples with a more than $900-million shortfall of cash due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The comments were made at an announcement in Hamilton, Ont., where the premier was re-announcing a 2023 budget commitment to hire more nurses. When asked about the shortfall, Ford said officials should be “driving efficiencies” and “focusing on lean practices.”
- Two First Nation leaders were asked to leave the gallery of the Ontario legislative assembly after they interrupted question period on March 29, a sign of strain between Doug Ford’s government and some Indigenous groups that could hamper efforts to boost the province’s critical minerals sector. “No Ring of Fire without consent,” chanted Neskantaga chief-elect Chris Moonias and current chief Wayne Moonias as they were escorted out of the gallery.
- Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Health Minister Sylvia Jones, and Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy were in Hamilton on Thursday highlighting a budget investment. Ford announced, “$33 million to add an additional 100 undergraduate medical school seats, and 154 post-graduate medical training seats.” Ontario residents will be prioritized so more can go to medical school here at home.
- No official date has been announced yet for the provincial election, but Manitobans will get their first chance to hear provincial party leaders go head-to-head in public. The Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM) confirmed to CTV News it plans to have a provincial leaders forum as part of its spring convention. The forum will feature the leaders of the parties that have seats in the Manitoba Legislature – Premier Heather Stefanson for the Progressive Conservatives, NDP Leader Wab Kinew and Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont.
- Candice Bergen has signed on to co-chair the Manitoba Progressive Conservative election campaign, weeks after resigning her seat in the House of Commons. Bergen, who was the member of Parliament for Portage-Lisgar for 15 years, says she aims to unite the provincial Tories in advance of the election scheduled for Oct. 3.
- The Vatican’s repudiation of what’s known as the Doctrine of Discovery is welcome, but there is still a long way to go toward reconciliation with Indigenous people, says a Manitoba residential school survivor. On Thursday, the Vatican formally repudiated the doctrine — a legal and religious concept that has been used for centuries to justify colonial conquests and form the basis of some property law today.
- Re-emerging levels of respiratory illness have caused increased patient numbers at the HSC Children’s pediatric intensive care unit over the last week, and some non-urgent procedures may be postponed, Shared Health says. On Thursday morning, there were 17 pediatric patients in the intensive care unit, and a considerable number of which were already experiencing health issues that were aggravated by respiratory illness. The unit’s normal baseline is nine, Shared Health said in a Thursday media release.
- Saskatchewan politicians are raising concerns after a report recommended RCMP’s Depot police training academy in Regina be phased out for a new degree-style system. A report released Thursday into the 2020 shooting rampage in Nova Scotia that left 22 people dead recommended the phaseout by 2032, and that provinces instead establish three-year policing degree programs. The RCMP has been training recruits at the Depot for the past 140 years. It has strong ties to Regina and has been a source of heritage, employment and tourism in the province.
- Derek Meyers, the MLA for Regina Walsh Acres, has died following a battle with cancer, according to the province. He was 45-years-old. Premier Scott Moe announced the news in a post to social media on Tuesday. “Today is a difficult day as we mourn the loss of our friend and colleague Derek Meyers, MLA for Regina Walsh Acres,” the tweet read. Moe referred to Meyers as a “strong voice for his constituency” and a “tireless advocate” for those facing mental health challenges.
- First Nations are laying claim to all critical minerals and rare earth elements in Saskatchewan in light of the province announcing its new critical mineral strategy on Monday. Saskatchewan has 23 of 31 critical minerals on the Canadian Critical Minerals List. The government’s strategy aims to increase Saskatchewan’s share of Canadian mineral exploration spending to 15 per cent and double critical minerals being produced by 2030. It also intends to grow Saskatchewan’s production of potash, uranium and helium in addition to establishing the province as a rare earth mineral hub.
- The Saskatchewan government has introduced legislation to license physician assistants (PAs) in the province. The initiative was announced in last week’s budget and will cost $1.3 million in 2023-24 for 12 new positions within the health system. Physician assistants work under the supervision of a licensed doctor to assist with health care delivery.
- The Alberta Opposition is once again calling for an independent investigation into allegations of interference in the justice system by the premier. At issue is whether Alberta Premier Danielle Smith was in contact with the Alberta Crown Prosecutor Service in relation to court cases of people who broke public health measures early in the COVID-19 pandemic and protests against the measures.
- Unless a lot of Albertans change their minds very soon, the province is heading for a squeaker election on May 29. “I think this is truly a dead heat,” says Ian Large, executive vice-president of Leger Research. Leger’s new poll for Postmedia shows the NDP with 47 per cent provincewide support. The UCP has 44 per cent. That’s within the margin of error, which is stated as 3.1 per cent 19 times out of 20.
- Last week, On Friday afternoon, both Finance Minister Travis Toews and Environment Minister Sonya Savage announced they were opting to spend more time with family instead of running again in the next provincial election. Premier Danielle Smith on her Saturday radio show on QR770 noted Toews’ ability to manage through the pandemic and deliver two consecutive balanced budgets. She called Savage her “point person in dealing with Ottawa.”
- Alberta Premier Danielle Smith has demanded that CBC News retract an article and apologize after the media outlet published allegations that staff in her office had contacted Crown prosecutors. “Last week, the CBC published a defamatory article containing baseless allegations that premier’s office staff had sent a series of emails to Alberta Crown prosecutors concerning charges related to the Coutts protest and other pandemic related matters before the courts,” Smith said in a Wednesday statement.
- British Columbia’s NDP government – whose Premier David Eby has said the province will take over Vancouver’s troubled Downtown Eastside – has come up with a preliminary plan for tackling mounting problems with homelessness, poverty, mental health and addiction. It focuses on the dangers of camps of homeless people in Vancouver, saying they are “unsafe and untenable,” and says there will be a housing-first approach backed up by multidisciplinary teams providing health and social services to an increasingly beleaguered population on the street.
- Premier David Eby promised his government would release the findings of a potentially damaging forensic audit into BC Housing as soon as possible without giving a date. “My commitment to this House was that we would release as much of the report as the law allowed us to do,” Eby said during Question Period Monday (March 27). “We’re working on that, and we’ll do it as soon as possible. I’ll keep that commitment.”
- Canada’s Finance Minister is defending the 2023 federal budget’s lack of new funding for more affordable housing, saying policies announced in last year’s budget address the crisis of unaffordable real estate and rents hitting many communities across the country. Speaking alongside B.C. Premier David Eby at a clean-energy news conference in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, Chrystia Freeland touted the $1.9-billion over five years – growing to $4-billion over seven years – for an urban, rural and northern Indigenous housing strategy to address Canada’s “shameful gap” in addressing that need.
- British Columbia wants a federal government clamp down on prescription rules after thousands of doses of the hyped weight-loss drug Ozempic went to Americans, doled out by a single practitioner in Nova Scotia. Health Minister Adrian Dix said Tuesday that he’s asking provincial and federal regulators to look into two Metro Vancouver pharmacies and the Nova Scotia practitioner responsible for thousands of Ozempic prescriptions issued to Americans in the first two months of 2023.
- After months of debate, criticism and negotiation the Northwest Territories’ Act to Amend the Petroleum Products and Carbon Tax Act passed Wednesday night. Nine members voted in favour of the bill and eight opposed. MLAs have slammed the bill for punishing residents for their reliance on fossil fuels when energy alternatives are not a realistic option for northerners. “Our winter roads are becoming less reliable, our climate is changing, and we are being charged this tax as if it is our fault; the people who are causing these emissions. This is not fair,” Jane Weyallon Armstrong, MLA for Monfwi, said ahead of the vote Wednesday.
- N.W.T. Premier Caroline Cochrane says a new act about Indigenous rights “gives teeth” to laws requiring the territorial government to consult with Indigenous groups. On Wednesday, the N.W.T. government introduced an act that would implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). That declaration, which the United Nations passed in 2007, includes cultural, land and economic rights. Bringing an UNDRIP bill to the N.W.T. Legislative Assembly has been an effort three years in the making.
- A Yukon MLA made a historic announcement during a point of personal privilege in the territory’s legislature on Wednesday. The member for Whitehorse Centre informed the Legislative Assembly of their name change to Lane Tredger as well as their use of the pronouns they and them. In doing so, Tredger became the first open non-binary MLA in the Yukon’s history. For the foreseeable future, the Yukon NDP says Tredger will go by Lane (Emily) Tredger until people recognize the name.
- The first ground search for unmarked graves at a former Yukon residential school will start this summer in Carcross. At least 20 Indigenous children died at Chooutla Indian Residential School between 1911 and 1969, according to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. A working group that will lead the ground search there says that number could be as high as 42. Of those 42, preliminary research is unable to identify 13 of those children. The school was run by the Anglican Church and demolished in 1993.
- Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok says his government takes the safety and well-being of the territory’s most vulnerable very seriously. That’s why he says he’s launched an internal review, to start immediately, that will investigate how eight youth in the government’s care were sent to unlicensed group homes in Alberta. “When I first became aware of the issue late last night, I immediately worked with my officials to ensure that there’s measures in place to ensure [the] safety of the affected children,” he said Thursday on CBC Nunavut’s morning show, Qulliq.