An overview of the Provincial and Territories Legislative Updates for the week of October 29 - November 3, 2023.
After six weeks of hints and preparations, Premier Blaine Higgs now says he will not call an early provincial election this fall. The premier first stoked speculation of a snap campaign on Sept. 15, when he announced he would stay on as Progressive Conservative leader to seek a new mandate. He left the door open to going to the polls this year to put an end to what he called instability in his PC caucus.
“Political preferences” played a role in New Brunswick’s COVID-19 pandemic response, the outgoing chief medical officer of health revealed Thursday to a legislative committee. In a slide show presentation, Dr. Jennifer Russell included a graphic titled “Public Health Evidence-Informed Decision Making.” It has five overlapping circles, with one labelled Public Health expertise. The others are: community health issues, local context; research; Public Health resources; and community and political preferences and actions.
New Brunswick teachers are learning about air quality and want more transparency about how it’s monitored in school. The issue came into focus during the COVID-19 pandemic and was the subject of a recent virtual NetworkEd session put on by the New Brunswick Teachers’ Association.
The Higgs government will force N.B. Power to buy electricity from the first pair of small modular nuclear reactors even if that costs the utility more than other sources of electricity. Legislation introduced this week would not only exempt the first two SMRs from an existing law that forces the corporation to buy the cheapest source possible. It goes further, requiring the utility to choose nuclear-generated electricity once the reactors are up and running.
Post-tropical storm Fiona may be in the rear-view mirror but it’s still on the front burner for Nova Scotia Power. The company is stuck with a $24.6-million bill that it says is threatening its profits. This week Nova Scotia Power asked regulators for permission to collect $24.6 million in Fiona-related operating costs — like meals, travel and overtime — from ratepayers over an unspecified period of time.
The Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway has a new investor and the deal is raising doubts about the future of a subsidy for the tracks that extend from Point Tupper to Sydney. CN and Genesee & Wyoming, which owns the Cape Breton railway, announced Wednesday a partnership aimed at “long-term growth opportunities.” Neither company would comment, but in a news release, CN said the partnership would further reinforce its presence in eastern Canada, “where we believe there will be a growing role to play in the competitiveness of North American trade.”
The day of Halifax’s first snowfall of the season, the province confirmed they have a location for a new shelter — but would not say where it is or when it will open. The provincial government announced three weeks ago it would be funding a new overnight homeless shelter in Halifax Regional Municipality, but it was not ready before Wednesday’s snow. Community Services Minister Trevor Boudreau said they have secured a location for the 50-bed shelter, but a few things have to be done before an official announcement in the coming “days and weeks.”
Prince Edward Island
The provincially funded Community Outreach Centre, which started drawing complaints soon after moving into the former Charlottetown Curling Club building on Euston Street, is on the move again. P.E.I. government officials say its new home, at least on a temporary basis, will be next to the province’s overnight emergency shelter near the Hillsborough Bridge. That plan depends on the City of Charlottetown granting approval for a zoning variance to allow the move, however.
Senator Percy Downe, who was chief of staff to Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, says it is time for the Liberal Party of Canada to have a discussion about who will lead them into the next election. In an opinion piece published in National Newswatch, the senator from Prince Edward Island said Liberals owed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a debt of gratitude for leading the party from third party status to government, but given declining support in each successive election and poor polling numbers, it may be time for someone else to lead.
Pressure on Island hospitals eased a little Wednesday after Health P.E.I. warned Tuesday evening that every hospital in the province was over capacity. Health P.E.I. didn’t provide hard numbers on how often all hospitals have been over capacity. But CEO Michael Gardam said, “It certainly does happen, and it’s happening more often now than it would’ve happened five years ago.”
Some Prince Edward Island farmers say the unpredictable weather this fall is making for a frustrating harvest season. While some crops are already out of the ground, many fields remain to be harvested. David Mol of Meadowbrook Farms in Winsloe said about 40 per cent of his soybean crop still needs to come off the field, amounting to 200 acres. “It’s not time to panic but it’s time to be concerned,” Mol told CBC News on Thursday, which was yet another wet day because of an early-morning snowfall.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Musgrave Harbour is hoping to straighten out its finances following irregularities found in the books over the past few years. The small Bonavista Bay community has been struggling to keep its finances in order, which culminated in the province ordering a financial inspection this past summer. According to a document obtained by CBC through access-to-information requests, that inspection in mid-August identified “financial irregularities.”
Not all residential school survivors in Nain were willing to accept Premier Andrew Furey’s apology on Friday, but for those who were, they hope it brings them closer to healing from the pain and suffering of childhoods spent in residential schools. Nain — the largest Nunatsiavut community on Labrador’s north coast — was the site of the fifth of Furey’s six apologies scheduled this week. He wore an orange ribbon on his lapel as he said sorry on behalf of the provincial government for its role in housing Inuit children in residential schools.
Premier Andrew Furey brought apologies to residential school survivors Thursday in the Inuit coastal communities of Makkovik and Hopedale — although at least one young resident says the gesture has limited value for the next generation without commitments on top of words. Aaju Lightfoot, 11, chose not to attend the apology in Makkovik. She stayed home with her mother, Janine, who had concerns with the rollout of the apologies — a tight six stops scheduled in just three days.
Newfoundland and Labrador has become the third province to enact a version of Clare’s Law, a piece of legislation that helps people find out if they’re at risk of domestic violence from a current or former partner. It has been four years since the province passed the legislation that would allow Clare’s Law, but it sat stagnant until the province officially proclaimed the Interpersonal Violence Disclosure Protocol Act at an announcement in St. John’s Thursday morning.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault says he takes full responsibility for his party’s sagging poll numbers. He told reporters that a new Leger poll published today, conducted for the Journal de Montreal and Journal de Quebec, makes him “sad.” His Coalition Avenir Quebec party collected 30 per cent support, down four percentage points from September — and way off the highs of more than 40 per cent it consistently received before the 2022 election.
Quebec wants some temporary foreign workers to pass a French test to renew their work permits. Premier François Legault, flanked by Immigration Minister Christine Fréchette and French Language Minister Jean-François Roberge, announced the measure at a Quebec City news conference on Wednesday as he presented the government’s updated immigration plan.
Quebec premier François Legault will not attend the COP28 United Nations Climate Change Conference scheduled to take place in Dubai at the end of November, although two provincial cabinet ministers will participate. Ewan Sauves, a spokesperson for the premier, cited the “uncertainty” that currently reigns over the Middle East as the reason. In an email Sauves said that “such a trip would be too risky at this stage.” Legault’s participation earlier this year at a session of the United Nations in New York City was considered at the time a first step toward attending the COP28 conference.
Newly released government documents are raising fresh questions about Premier Doug Ford’s involvement in the Greenbelt land removals and whether he gave the province’s integrity commissioner inconsistent information about meetings with a land owner. The land owner in question, Sergio Manchia, was engaged in a years-long effort to have his lands removed from the Greenbelt and hosted fundraisers for the Progressive Conservative Party at which he made his case.
The province’s auditor general is moving ahead with a value-for-money audit of the Ford government’s controversial Ontario Place redevelopment. A spokesperson for the auditor general confirmed the investigation to CBC Toronto on Friday and also said the office would be auditing the Ontario Science Centre, which is set to be moved to the Ontario Place grounds in 2025. The news of both probes was first reported by Global.
Premier Doug Ford says his government will be proposing legislation to extend the Ontario’s gas and fuel tax cuts until well into next year. If it passes the extension will lower the gasoline tax by 5.7 cents per litre and the fuel tax by 5.3 cents per litre until June 2024. The temporary tax cut of 5.7 cents per litre first went into effect on July 1, 2022, and was originally due to expire on Dec. 31. Ford announced an extension until the end of 2023 last fall.
Ontario faces a longer path to fiscal balance than projected in last spring’s budget, the Ministry of Finance says, as elevated interest rates and stubborn inflation put pressure on the province’s economy. The projected deficit for this year has more than quadrupled to $5.6 billion, up from $1.3 billion in March, the ministry revealed in its latest fall economic statement on Thursday. A moderate $200-million surplus that had been expected for next year will instead likely be a $5.3 billion deficit, the document says.
As the 10-week Manitoba Public Insurance strike ends, drivers in the province can expect lengthy delays as workers try to catch up and clear backlogs. Roughly 1,700 workers will go back to work Friday morning, with services set to resume that afternoon at 1 p.m., following the end of a strike that began on Aug. 28. While the Crown corporation’s board expects operations to be up and running quickly, it is asking people to be patient.
Fourplexes and mid-rise apartments could become more common across Winnipeg if the city adopts zoning changes Mayor Scott Gillingham says it needs to make in order to qualify for millions in federal housing dollars. The new rules would allow “as-of-right” construction of up to four units per lot in all residential areas, and up to four storeys anywhere within 800 metres of frequent transit routes. “There’s a very good likelihood that the City of Winnipeg would receive significant funding if we agree to these conditions,” Gillingham told reporters Thursday.
The Manitoba Nurses Union says something has to be done about violent attacks on staff at Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre. The union has filed a grievance against Shared Health, the organization that oversees health-care delivery in the province, citing safety concerns for its members. MNU president Darlene Jackson says the union has “bringing this issue to the employer’s attention for a very long time.” Nurses regularly have their vehicles broken into in the staff parkade, and in the past week there have been two violent attacks against staff inside Health Sciences, she said.
Five shelters for Manitobans in need of support will get provincial money to operate during the day. The recently elected NDP government held a news conference Thursday to tout the new funding, which was announced in July by the previous Progressive Conservative government. The $2.6 million in funding is being split between the five shelters, including Siloam Mission and Main Street Project in Winnipeg. “Before this funding, many shelters in our province have only been able to offer space at night for folks most in need,” said Bernadette Smith, the new minister for housing, addictions and homelessness.
Premier Scott Moe said Thursday the Saskatchewan government is not considering pulling out of the Canada Pension Plan, as Alberta has threatened to do. “From Saskatchewan’s perspective, we’ve been happy and I think the CPP has provided a great value not only to all Canadians but to Saskatchewan residents. We have had no discussions nor are we planning to have any discussions on pulling out.” The Alberta government has launched an advertising campaign discussing the possibility of leaving the pension plan.
Saskatchewan needs to train or recruit thousands of new skilled workers in the mining industry if it wants to realize its economic potential, according to a new report from consulting firm Deloitte. “Saskatchewan is one of the most significant mining jurisdictions in the world,” said Deloitte’s managing energy partner Andrew Swart. “Solving this [shortage] is multifaceted. We need to take a new look at how we look at skills development.” Swart and others discussed the shortage at a conference in Saskatoon this week. He said job vacancies for skilled mining positions have grown by more than 130 percent in the past four years.
The Saskatchewan government has passed its bill to prevent employers from implementing a poppy ban in the workplace. Bill 139 The Saskatchewan Remembrance Observance Act was introduced on Wednesday afternoon and received unanimous support, leading to it being passed immediately. “Our veterans, current and past, have fought for our freedom and peace in Canada,” Labour Relations and Workplace Safety Minister Don McMorris said in a news release. “Providing the right for workers to wear a poppy while in the workplace is a way to honour the sacrifice veterans and their families have made.”
The Canadian flag has seemingly not been on the display in the radio room at the Legislative Building, where the Saskatchewan government hosts announcements and news conferences, for almost a year now. The move has many questioning its intent. CBC has been unable to find the Canadian flag on display in any footage from the radio room in 2023. The last time it was seen was in November 2022. The province would not confirm when exactly it removed the Canadian flag from the radio room, but said in an email statement attributed to the executive council that the flags are adjusted in accordance with protocol that outlines the order of precedence for when the provincial flag is displayed among other flags.
Alberta’s justice minister has published guidelines on how government ministers, including the premier, are permitted to seek legal advice from the attorney general. The rules come at the request of Premier Danielle Smith after she was found to have violated conflict of interest rules by Alberta ethics commissioner Marguerite Trussler as outlined in a report released last May.
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says Alberta’s proposed plan to withdraw from the Canada Pension Plan would put the retirement of millions at risk. In an open letter to Alberta Premier Danielle Smith Wednesday, Freeland said that while the province has the right to withdraw from the plan, Albertans “deserve to know that doing so would be a historic, costly, and irreversible mistake.” Freeland announced Tuesday that she will be meeting virtually with her provincial and territorial counterparts on Nov. 3 to discuss Alberta’s plan, saying she had heard concerns from “many Canadians” over the potential move.
Alberta’s United Conservatives will hold their second annual general meeting under Premier Danielle Smith on Friday and Saturday in an event that has seen registrations surge with seats on the party’s board up for grabs. It’s expected the number of delegates will far surpass previous AGMs, including the UCP’s founding convention in 2018, which drew around 2,500 members. This weekend, more than 3,500 members are anticipated to file into Calgary’s BMO Centre, which was chosen as the venue after the number of attendees outgrew the previous site of the Grey Eagle Resort & Casino.
A new bill tabled in the Alberta legislature on Thursday would place authority for decision-making during states of public health emergencies in the hands of the cabinet, rather than the chief medical officer of health. This legislation is the provincial government’s response to the Ingram decision, in which Court of King’s Bench Justice Barbara Romaine ruled that Alberta’s top elected officials made decisions about pandemic-related health measures, while the law required those decisions be made by the province’s then-chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw.
The British Columbia government must do more to open the doors of power to Indigenous people and initiatives in the province, Premier David Eby was told Thursday. B.C. First Nations hear “good messages” from the New Democrat government, but still face bureaucratic holdups at crucial stages of negotiation, said Robert Phillips, a First Nations Summit political executive.
B.C. has signed a $1 billion agreement with the federal government and Indigenous leaders that aims to protect biodiversity in the fight against climate change and protect species at risk, including the endangered spotted owl. The deal includes up to $500 million each from the federal and B.C. governments over eight years. Of that, $50 million will be set aside to protect up to 13,000 square kilometres of old-growth forest across B.C.
British Columbia Premier David Eby says it’s unfair that Atlantic Canada is being targeted for federal relief on heating bills that won’t apply to B.C., after Ottawa announced a three-year pause on carbon pricing for home fuel oil. The pause announced last week applies to the 10 provinces and territories where the federal fuel charge applies, although home fuel oil usage is more prevalent in Atlantic Canada. British Columbia, Quebec and the Northwest Territories are excluded because they collect their own fuel tax. Eby, who is facing calls from Opposition politicians to cut the province’s carbon taxes, said while people in Atlantic Canada are struggling to make ends meet, so are residents of B.C.
Former British Columbia premier John Horgan will be Canada’s next ambassador to Germany, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Wednesday. Horgan was leader of the B.C. NDP from 2014 to 2022 and premier from 2017 to 2022. He sat as the member of the B.C. Legislative Assembly for Langford-Juan de Fuca from 2005 to 2023, before stepping down earlier this year. In announcing his retirement from provincial politics in March, Horgan said he had no concrete plans for what would come next but that he would be open to opportunities as they arose.
An election candidate in Fort Smith, N.W.T., says he’s disturbed and disappointed by racist graffiti found on two of his campaign signs in the community. “I want to think it wasn’t malicious or, you know, tied to any campaign-related stuff, and it was just, you know, kids making poor decisions,” said Thebacha candidate Jay Macdonald, about his damaged signs.
Incumbent Dehcho MLA candidate Ron Bonnetrouge says if he is re-elected to the N.W.T. Legislative Assembly, he will put his name forward to be premier. “I realized in my time as an MLA, regular MLA, if one wishes to effect change in government decisions in relation to small community issues, one would need to be in a position of power,” he said at a candidates forum in Fort Providence Wednesday. “Therefore I’d like to put my name forward to run for premier,” he said. “Of course, I’d need your support to continue in my political journey.”
The Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board (YESAB) could soon be without enough members to function — and the premier is putting the blame on Ottawa. “What we know for next week is that we would be in a holding pattern, because they [YESAB] would not have quorum,” said Premier Ranj Pillai in the legislative assembly on Wednesday. “That has been voiced to the federal minister [Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal], and our displeasure that we could be put in that position.”
The Yukon Human Rights Commission says its caseload has ballooned this year, and it’s struggling to keep up. With more than 100 active complaints now before the commission, some people are waiting between 18 months and two years for an investigator to be assigned to their case. “We’ve hired more staff but, you know, we just can’t keep up,” said Vida Nelson, general counsel for the commission.
The Trudeau government’s summer cabinet shakeup has created challenges when trying to advance Inuit political priorities in Ottawa, says Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) President Natan Obed. It’s a concern made more pressing as the Liberals approach their ninth year in power, he said. “The completion of work takes a hit when you have such massive shuffles,” said Obed, head of the national representative organization for Inuit in Canada. Obed spoke with CBC Indigenous at the ITK office in Ottawa following a Monday meeting of the Inuit-Crown Partnership Committee, a forum established in 2017 for Inuit and federal leaders to discuss topics of mutual concern.