Provincial Legislative Update – September 1, 2023

An overview of the Provincial and Territories Legislative Updates for the week of August 28 - September 1, 2023.

New Brunswick

  • After dissident members of New Brunswick’s Progressive Conservative party failed to trigger a leadership review for Blaine Higgs, the premier is calling for unity. On Tuesday, the premier released a statement following the latest attempt to get him to back down, saying “It is now time for our party to work together and continue our record of success.”
  • AMi’kmaw legal scholar says New Brunswick’s attempt to get a court to throw out sections of an Aboriginal title claim is just another example of Premier Blaine Higgs’s fearmongering and “deeply racist attitude towards First Nations.”
  • New Brunswick is taking steps to protect more Crown forest, consult First Nations on forestry management, and allow for uses other than timber harvesting, Natural Resources Minister Mike Holland said Wednesday. Holland announced a long-term strategy for Crown forests that he said will see the percentage of protected Crown forests increase to 30 percent from 23 percent.
  • The New Brunswick government has once again vastly underestimated its budget surplus. In March, Finance and Treasury Board Minister Ernie Steeves estimated the budget surplus at about $40 million. On Monday, he said projections for the 2023-24 fiscal year show a surplus of $199.6 million. But Steeves said Monday that he’s treating the surplus cautiously. He said he’s not seeing the same early signs of windfalls that were seen in the last few years.

Nova Scotia

  • Commercial licence holders in the lucrative Maritime baby eel or elver fishery have lost their legal bid to overturn a federal government decision that reduced their quota and gave it to First Nations. The Federal Court of Canada ruled the process used by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans in 2022 was fair, reasonable and within ministerial discretion to manage the fishery.
  • The Progressive Conservative government is taking another step to extend operating room hours in Nova Scotia, but it’s not clear if it will cut into a stubborn backlog of surgical cases. A contract the government recently signed with doctors extends a premium already paid for emergency surgeries to scheduled surgeries outside normal hours and on weekends and holidays. The premium would be available for surgeons, anesthesiologists and surgical assistants.
  • Earlier this month, Nova Scotia became the first province to stop locking up migrants in its provincial jails who were being detained for administrative reasons by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). The Nova Scotia Department of Justice confirmed to Radio-Canada/CBC that it ended this practice on Aug. 8, 2023.
  • Nova Scotia has increased its annual grant for low-income seniors to $750 to help them stay in their own homes longer in the face of lengthy waits to get into nursing homes. The grant is available to people aged 65 and older, who still live in their own home or rent a home and have an annual household income of $37,500 or less.

Prince Edward Island

  • Health P.E.I.’s board says it’s moving quickly in the search for a new CEO, but that it still may take a while before someone takes over the role. Chair Diane Griffin said Thursday the board is currently deciding between two different head-hunting firms that will help find a replacement for Dr. Michael Gardam, who is set to leave his role effective March 29. Griffin said the best-case scenario would be to have the new CEO by then, but she warned things could extend until the summer.
  • P.E.I. pledges 4 times as many EV fast chargers by the end of 2024, as tourists run out of juice. Visitors should plan ahead, says a Nova Scotia man who struggled to charge up. There are six fast chargers distributed across the province at the moment, and the government plans to twin the current chargers so that each has two ports for cars to use. It’s also accepting proposals from companies to add another dozen or so stations next year, bumping up the number of charging ports owned by the province to 24 or 25.
  • Minister promises new shelter for Summerside as residents call for more housing. The goal is to have a shelter open before winter, Rob Lantz says at an open house. Dozens attended the meeting set up by Mayor Dan Kutcher’s task force on attainable housing, which was created earlier this year to find solutions to Summerside’s housing woes.
  • A battle that went on for decades, pitting ecological interests against economic development along the shoreline that now makes up Prince Edward Island National Park’s Greenwich site, is heating up again. Last month, developer Tim Banks received a development permit from the provincial government for a lot he owns roughly 250 metres from the fabled Greenwich sand dunes, 70 kilometres northeast of Charlottetown. The lot is surrounded by land which now belongs to Parks Canada. 

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • With a national housing crisis also being felt in Newfoundland and Labrador, governments are looking to the residential construction industry for help tackling it. But industry players say the problems they face need to be fixed promptly to enable them to do that. According to Alexis Foster of the provincial chapter of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association, a major obstacle contractors and trades have been facing is a lack of skilled workers.
  • The CEO of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro says a new diesel-powered combustion turbine on the Avalon Peninsula is only a consideration at this point in time, as the Crown corporation seeks to meet an expected surge in electricity demand. She also says the new power plant being studied, while powered by diesel in the short term, would likely transition to renewable fuels in the future.
  • Four companies are one step closer to developing and exporting hydrogen and ammonia to the world market after getting their bids for wind hydrogen projects across Newfoundland approved. The companies are EverWind Fuels, the Exploits Valley Renewable Energy Corporation, Toqlukuti’k Wind and Hydrogen (ABO Wind) and World Energy GH2.
  • Inmates inside Newfoundland’s notorious, Victorian-era jail say their mental health is deteriorating as they are allegedly locked in their cellblocks for days and denied visits with their families. Jonathan Payne was distraught as he described feeling rodents crawl over his body while he tried to seek relief from the sweltering heat inside Her Majesty’s Penitentiary by sleeping on the concrete floor.

Quebec

  • At a time when Quebecers are tightening their belts in the face of inflation, Quebec solidaire (QS) intends to press the Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) on the subject by posing a ‘portfolio question’ per day to the government. “Life has never been so expensive in Quebec, and where is the CAQ?” said QS co-leader Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois at a press briefing Thursday morning on the sidelines of his party’s pre-sessional caucus at the National Assembly.
  • Marie-Anik Shoiry will be the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) candidate in the upcoming Jean-Talon byelection. Premier François Legault made the announcement Tuesday after spending the day in the Quebec City area riding. Shoiry is the CEO and founder of Vide ta Sacoche, a charity that collects and distributes hygiene and cosmetic products for vulnerable people.
  • Quebec Premier François Legault and French Language Minister Jean-François Roberge have announced that the Quebec government will soon “be tabling an ambitious government action plan” in order to reverse the decline of the French language. In a statement earlier this week, Roberge said that the Legault government has the “firm intention of being the government that will slow down, stop and reverse the decline of French in Quebec.”
  • Is French really in decline in Quebec? That question will be central to a crowd-funded lawsuit against Bill 96 that had its first hearing at Quebec Superior Court on Tuesday. The defendants in the case — the Quebec and federal attorneys general — agreed that the plaintiffs could submit statistical, demographic and historical evidence about Quebec’s English- and French-speaking communities.

Ontario

  • Ontario Premier Doug Ford doubled down on his Greenbelt plan and stood by his housing minister on Thursday after a report from the integrity commissioner found the government’s process of removing land from the protected area for development was hasty and deceptive. Ford said Housing Minister Steve Clark will remain part of the team as the government tries to fulfil its promise to build 1.5 million homes over 10 years.
  • Two independent, legislative watchdogs — in successive reports released just weeks apart from each other — found major flaws with the province’s decision to remove land from the Greenbelt last December to build housing. On Wednesday, Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake found that Housing Minister Steve Clark chose to “stick his head in the sand” rather than oversee the process of selecting which sites would be removed from the Greenbelt — a vast 810,000-hectare area of protected farmland, forest and wetland stretching from Niagara Falls to Peterborough meant to be permanently off-limits to development. 
  • Federal Housing Minister Sean Fraser said the Greenbelt was not “specifically addressed” at his meeting with the premier and his provincial counterpart on Thursday, but that his focus on tackling the housing crisis would be on density – not sprawl.
  • An Ontario court ruled against psychologist and media personality Jordan Peterson Wednesday and upheld a regulatory body’s order that he take social media training in the wake of complaints about his controversial online posts and statements. Last November, Peterson, a professor emeritus with the University of Toronto psychology department who is also an author and media commentator, was ordered by the College of Psychologists of Ontario to undergo a coaching program on professionalism in public statements.

Manitoba

  • If elected next month, the Manitoba New Democrats say they’ll hire 200 paramedics — a pledge that’s receiving support from a group that represents first responders in the province. That plan and a recently announced promise by the NDP to reopen three Winnipeg emergency rooms shuttered by the Progressive Conservative government earned a nod from the advocacy group Paramedic Association of Manitoba. 
  • Manitoba Public Insurance is reversing course on a plan to waive the road test for some new drivers amid strike-related disruptions and criticism over the plan from some driving instructors. The Crown corporation had repeated on Thursday afternoon that due to backlogs from cancellations, some who have completed the MPI driver’s-ed program, called Driver Z, would be allowed to get their licence without a road test. Hours later, MPI hit the brakes on that plan.
  • Manitoba’s Liberal Party says it will change the voting system in provincial elections, introducing ranked balloting, if it forms the next government. The party would replace the current system of first-past-the-post voting — in which people cast a vote for a single candidate, and the candidate with the most votes wins — and introduce one that enables voters to rank candidates first, second, third and so on, leader Dougald Lamont said at a news conference on Friday.
  • Manitoba’s environment and climate minister came under fire on Tuesday evening for the way the Progressive Conservative government has shepherded a proposal to drill thousands of wells for ultra-pure silica sand. A 95-minute provincial election forum about climate and the environment placed rookie cabinet minister Kevin Klein on the hot seat over a pending decision about Calgary miner Sio Silica’s plan to extract up to 33 million tonnes of sand from a vast aquifer that sits about 50 metres below the surface of southeastern Manitoba.

Saskatchewan

  • A community organization representing LGBTQ people in Regina has filed legal action against the Saskatchewan government over a pronoun policy affecting children at school. The UR Pride Centre for Sexuality and Gender Diversity filed an originating application Thursday in the Saskatchewan Court of King’s Bench requesting a judge strike down the changes. “This policy is, on its face, unconstitutional,” said Bennett Jensen, the director of legal for Egale Canada, a national LGBTQ advocacy organization. Egale is co-legal counsel in the application.
  • Saskatchewan’s Minister of Finance Donna Harpauer says the province has cut its projection for a $1-billion surplus in half due to a more-than-$500-million drop in non-renewable resource revenues. Harpauer provided a first-quarter update in Saskatoon on Tuesday. “The forecast clearly demonstrates the need to be prudent and manage spending carefully, as resource revenue is volatile and forecasts can change quickly due to global impacts on prices and production.”
  • The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) is launching a new advertising campaign criticizing the provincial government. The teachers’ contract expired Thursday and the two sides are negotiating a new one. STF president Samantha Becotte said the union wants to draw attention to crowded classrooms, lack of professional resources and budget cuts. 
  • The RCMP is on the cusp of a major shift in how it recruits officers into federal policing — a move that would allow some Mounties to skip the training depot in Regina and the usual tour of duty in frontline policing. “We’re really modernizing our approach to say we’re not doing one-size-fits-all,” Deputy Commissioner Mark Flynn, the head of federal policing, told CBC News. “It’s a recognition that not everybody wants to do frontline policing prior to coming into this very challenging and rewarding work that we have in the federal policing program.”

Alberta

  • Alberta Premier Danielle Smith is blasting federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault over comments he made about capping emissions. Guilbeault had said because Alberta company Suncor wants to focus more on oil and gas production, it furthers the case for a federal emissions cap. Smith says Guilbeault’s comments provocatively attack Alberta’s energy sector, which she says is environmentally responsible and ethical.
  • The United Conservative government has approved the first slice of provincial funding it offered for the Calgary Flames’ arena project, as part of the deal announced with the City of Calgary and team owners before last spring’s election. When Premier Danielle Smith announced in April her government would contribute $ 330 million toward the $1.2-billion development, she noted the UCP MLAs who sit on the Treasury Board would have to scrutinize details this summer before anything was finalized.
  • Pandemic-era public health charges have been dropped against two Alberta pastors who were accused of holding religious services in violation of COVID-19 restrictions. GraceLife Church pastor James Coates, in Edmonton and Fairview Baptist Church pastor Tim Stephens, in Calgary, had been cited for violating public health orders by holding church services without following the gathering limits imposed by the provincial government.
  • Federal officials are investigating an Alberta logging company for building a bridge without a permit over a river considered a crucial habitat for threatened species. Spray Lake Sawmill is building the bridge in a popular recreation area called Kananaskis Country in order to reach a large swath of forest it has slated for clearcutting. Fisheries and Oceans has confirmed no authorizations for the bridge have been issued, although the Species at Risk Act requires permits for such activities in critical wildlife habitats.

British Columbia

  • British Columbia Premier David Eby is calling on the Bank of Canada to halt further interest rate hikes, saying people are already “hurting” and another increase might worsen inflation. In a letter Thursday, Eby urged Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem to consider the “human impact” of rate hikes, which the bank has employed as an anti-inflationary measure. The Bank of Canada, an independent body, is set to make its next interest-rate decision next Wednesday.
  • As temperatures drop and humidity rises, B.C. is slowly coming out of its worst fire season on record. During a press conference Thursday, Minister of Forests Bruce Ralston acknowledged the tragedy and destruction that’s occurred this spring and summer and noted the province will be reviewing the fire season over the next few months. “There will be that internal review given that this has been a very, very tough season, including two deaths of firefighters,” Ralston said. “It’s one that will be scrutinized and reflected upon in order to better plan for the following year.”
  • Opposition MLA pushes for wildfire policy reforms in B.C., such as following Australia’s ‘stay or go’ model. Model allows people to stay during evacuation orders but expert says there are pros and cons to the approach.
  • British Columbia’s housing minister admonished Prince George’s City Council’s decision to remove an encampment in the city’s downtown. In a written statement, Ravi Kahlon said he was disappointed to hear the city plans to decamp people sheltering at Millennium Park “without adequate indoor shelter options.” Calling homelessness in Prince George “a critical priority” for the province, Kahlon said his office offered the city resources such as dedicated encampment response staff and temporary housing units. 

Northwest Territories

  • Evacuees from the N.W.T. are expressing frustration with the way the territorial government and other organizations have handled financial aid options and accommodation support. As an example, N.W.T. officials said last week that there wouldn’t be any financial aid for people who left the territory on their own. Then, late last Friday, the government announced a funding program for people who drove out of the territory — but as Cabin Radio reported, that program has also caused confusion.
  • Although strong winds are complicating the return of essential workers to Yellowknife, officials said they’re still working ahead on the plan’s next steps. For example, residents can expect details in the coming days about registering for flights that will return them to the Northwest Territories capital said Jay Boast, an emergency management organization information officer with the territory’s Department of Municipal and Community Affairs. 

Yukon

  • Gladiator Metals Corp. has been fined $43,700 for mining infractions at an exploration site just outside Whitehorse city limits. The B.C.-based company has been drilling to measure copper levels near Cowley Creek, right against city limits south of Whitehorse, under a permit for early-stage exploration. In a decision from Yukon Territorial Court Wednesday, Gladiator was fined for exceeding the scope of its exploration permit. The company pleaded guilty earlier this month to six charges under the territory’s Quartz Mining Act.

Nunavut

  • Iqaluit will undergo a city-wide shutdown of water services between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Friday. The city is replacing a valve through which most of the city’s water flows, said city spokesperson Kent Driscoll on Thursday. “The valve is in a critical area,” said Driscoll, which is why Iqaluit is shutting down water for most of the city. “You can’t repair a valve when there’s water flowing through it.” The city said on Wednesday that water pressure will drop during the shutdown. When that happens, Nunavut’s chief public health officer automatically issues a precautionary boil-water advisory. 

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