Provincial Legislative Update – September 18-22, 2023
An overview of the Provincial and Territories Legislative Updates for the week of September 18 - 22, 2023.
On September 20, Dominic Cardy, former New Brunswick PC provincial cabinet minister, announced that he will temporarily be leading the new Canadian Future Party for voters unhappy with the federal Liberals and Conservatives. Rooted in the Centre Ice Canadians (CIC), the new party was announced after months of consultation with Canadians who, according to CBC’s Power and Politics, “are fed up with the status quo.” According to Cardy, the new party is a confident centrist alternative to parties that voters feel are becoming more extreme.
In the aftermath of tropical storm Lee, thousands of N.B. residents remained without power, the majority of them residing in the Fredericton and southwestern N.B. In total, 8,000 customers of N.B. Power were affected by the storm. N.B. Power worked tirelessly to restore power from Sunday through Monday, and clean up from flood damage continued well into the week.
On Monday, Sept. 18, nominations opened in 12 communities to fill 19 local vacancies. If there is more than one nomination, a by-election will be held on Oct. 23. The communities with vacant positions include Beaurivage, Campobello Island, Fredericton Junction, Grand Lake, Grand Manan, Hanwell, Neguac, Riverview, Southern Victoria, Sunbury-York South, Tracy, and Upper Miramichi.
Perennia Food and Agriculture Corporation, the Christmas Tree Council of Nova Scotia, the Agri-Commodity Management Association, and Horticulture Nova Scotia have been allocated a combined sum of $2.4 million. This funding will enable them to employ climate adaptation coordinators who will be responsible for formulating and executing climate change adaptation strategies specific to their respective sectors. This financial support is part of “Our Climate, Our Future: Nova Scotia’s Climate Change Plan for Clean Growth” and aligns with Action 8 of the plan, which is to bolster the capacity of communities and business sectors to adapt to climate change by assisting them in recruiting dedicated climate change coordinators who will aid in the development and execution of climate change adaptation strategies
Thousands of Nova Scotians also remained without power following tropical storm Lee. In this Atlantic province, 277,000 Nova Scotia Power customers were impacted by the storm. Halifax, Truro, New Glasgow and the western part of the province, which includes the South Shore, the Annapolis Valley, Digby, Yarmouth and Shelburne County, were hardest hit by the storm, the utility company said in a release.
One of the hallmarks of Nova Scotia’s government is that they seek to double the population by 2060 to two million. There has been much speculation about this projection, especially in terms of housing availability and costs. This week, developers in the province said they cannot keep up with these demands if other changes are not committed. To fix the housing affordability gap, 70,000 new units must be built by 2030, but this cannot be achieved if the largest issues to housing – labour shortages, high-interest rates, and rising cost of construction – are not resolved.
Prince Edward Island
From Sept. 18, Islanders can apply for healthcare related services at Access PEI locations. These services include applying for a health card, registering for the patient registry and for access to virtual care.
PEI’s government has updated its responsible gambling strategy for the first time since its introduction in 2008. The strategy calls for the government to develop a plan to prevent Islanders from accessing “illicit offshore [gambling] sites,” as online gambling becomes a larger concern.
Maximum rent increases have been capped at 3% in 2024. Landlords can apply to the Island Regulatory and Appeals Board to increase rent by an additional 3%.
In a close election, former town councillor Biran Poirier is the new mayor of Alberton in wester PEI. Poirier won by only 19 votes, followed by candidates Rosetta Tremblay and Chester Adams.
With the potato harvest kicking off on the Island, many farmers are left wondering how the summer’s rainfall will affect their crops. Greg Donald, general manager of the PEI Potato Board, warned that the crop is looking less ideal than last year’s, and that harvest will likely be more difficult due to excessive moisture.
Newfoundland and Labrador
The information and privacy commissioner of Newfoundland and Labrador is urging the provincial government to restore the authority that was recently revoked by the courts. Earlier in September, the Court of Appeal upheld a lower-court decision ruling that the commissioner cannot compel the government to provide documents that fall under solicitor-client privilege. Now, the only recourse to request information is to go through the Supreme Court.
Insurance companies did not compensate victims of Hurricane Fiona in the province, and this is prompting a possible federal insurance program for people living in high-risk areas. Roughly 1.5 million Canadians reside in regions prone to flooding. In response to the growing threat posed by climate change, a consortium of insurance companies and the national government are working together to finalize an agreement aimed at providing flood insurance to homeowners residing in these vulnerable areas. The federal government will back this insurance initiative, offering capped premium rates for individuals residing in high-risk zones.
On Sept. 20, Newfoundland and Labrador launched its first of five virtual immigration and job fairs for foreign nationals from East and Southeast Asia and Oceania. These job fairs will continue until March 2024.
A Superior Court judge has ruled that certain sections of the Legault government’s Bill 40, which reformed school governance, contravene the rights and freedoms of anglophones. Passed in 2020, Bill 40 led to the transformation of French-language school boards into school service centers, abolishing the elections used to elect their members. Several sections of Bill 40 will not apply to English-language school boards, including those that set criteria for who can run for election and sit on boards.
Minister of International Relations and Francophonie Martine Biron has announced that the Quebec government will open an office in Tel Aviv, to increase economic exchanges with the region. Trade with Israel amounts to $525 million annually and has been growing for the past four years. Israel has positioned itself as a major pole of technological innovation on the world stage, particularly in artificial intelligence and cybersecurity, which is of particular interest to the Quebec government.
The Journal de Montréal has reported that the Quebec government has “diverted” $940 million in federal aid as a federal contribution to Quebec students’ post-secondary financial aid expenses. The government received this sum under the exceptional budgetary measures put in place by the Trudeau government during the two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike other Canadian provinces, the Quebec government has its own post-secondary education assistance program and receives a share of the federal program, rather than benefiting directly.
The government has announced that the sale of vaping products with a flavour or aroma other than tobacco will be banned in Quebec as of October 31, 2023. The maximum nicotine concentration of products will also be limited to 20mg/ml. Stakeholders fear a resurgence of the black market, while others welcome the measure as a way of limiting consumption among youth.
The leader of the Climat Québec party and former Parti Québécois MNA, Martine Ouellet, has announced that she will be a candidate in the Jean-Talon by-election. The former leader of the Bloc Québécois wants to make the tramway project her battle horse. She has made several public appearances against this Quebec City project. Environmental issues will also be central to her campaign. Two Québec Solidaire candidates are vying for the party nomination, and the other parties have not announced their candidates.
This week, the Electoral Boundaries Commission of Québec presented a draft proposal to revise Québec’s electoral map, as required by law, for the 2026 election. It proposes to remove one electoral division from Montreal and Gaspésie and add one in the Lower Laurentians and another in the Eastern Townships, based on demographic weight. This has triggered a wave of discontent among elected representatives and the general public alike.
During the parliamentary committee study of Bill 31, which aims to reform the housing sector, France-Élaine Duranceau, Minister of Housing, declared that lease assignment was tantamount to “giving someone else’s property back to the next person”. Housing organizations and opposition parties decried her remarks. Meanwhile, municipalities are clamoring for funds to build social housing, amid the province’s housing crisis. They claim to be caught between Quebec City and Ottawa in order to receive their funding.
Quebec’s Bar Association president, Catherine Claveau, has come out publicly to denounce the serious crisis affecting judicial youth protection services. The number of cases has exploded to the point where legal deadlines are no longer being met in court. The Parti Québécois has jumped on the bandwagon, denouncing the government’s inaction on this issue. The Minister responsible for Social Services, Lionel Carmant, who met with Ms. Claveau last February, said there was no issue, but that he was aware of the problems.
Quebec City’s tramway project is causing headaches for its mayor, Bruno Marchand. Quebec Transportation Minister Geneviève Guilbault agreed that taxpayers are entitled to an update on the cost of the tramway project. She declined to comment on a price that would be acceptable to the Quebec government, one of the financial contributors. The mayor of Quebec City maintained that he would communicate the price in due course. The current cost estimate is still $3.9 billion, but rumours are circulating that the price may have climbed to around $8 billion.
The Quebec government and the central labour unions of public-sector employees have begun to intensify their negotiations. The union front is calling for the equivalent of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) plus 2% for 2023 (or $100 per week, whichever formula is most advantageous to workers), then CPI plus 3% for the second year and CPI plus 4% for 2025, i.e. a three-year work contract. The Quebec government, on the other hand, is offering a 9% increase over five years to government employees, i.e. 3% for the first year, then 1.5% for the following four years. However, it adds a lump sum of $1,000 in the first year, then a sum equivalent to 2.5% earmarked for “government priorities”, making its offer equivalent to 13% over five years.
The first official meeting between Premier Doug Ford and Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow took place on Sept. 18. In a friendly meeting, both leaders presented a “united front” by announcing a working group to address Toronto’s financial situation, as well as funding for housing for asylum seekers. Moreover, the feds are expected to join this new working group, adding weight to a long-awaited change in Toronto. Chow also stated that she expects the province to follow the city’s planning process with Ontario Place. To signal their now-amicable relationship, Ford gifted Chow a framed photo of her late husband and former NDP Leader Jack Layton standing alongside Ford’s late brother and former mayor of Toronto Rob Ford. Many say that this meeting signals the first positive step towards cooperation, despite both leaders’ adversarial relationship during Chow’s campaign.
The province announced another $42 million in investment through the Canada Ontario Housing Benefit (COHB) to find long-term housing for asylum claimants and other at-risk populations. This announcement follows numerous protests that took place over the summer when asylum seekers in Toronto were turned away from the at-capacity shelter system, and they could not apply for federal help as their asylum claims were not fully granted.
On Sept. 18, Ontario’s Superior Court ruled that Canada’s criminal laws on sex work are constitutional, dismissing a Charter challenge brought forth by groups advocating for sex workers’ rights. The Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform (CASWLR) argued that the law fosters stigma, invites targeted violence and inhibits sex workers from obtaining meaningful consent. Additionally, CASWLR purported that sex workers were being arrested under third-party laws. Meanwhile, Parents Against Child Trafficking called the ruling “fantastic” as it provided testimonials and affidavits at the court hearing to demonstrate that sex work is a “violent industry” that is “extremely exploitative.” Justice Robert Goldstein found the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act balanced prohibiting the most exploitative aspects of sex work with legal protection for sex workers.
To read our recap of the first half of Manitoba’s general election, click here. As of Sept. 22, polls show a surge in support for the NDP, which was ahead of the PCs by 6 points.
Manitoba’s chief medical officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, states that the province is holding off on making a decision about covering the expense of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccines until anticipated federal guidance arrives in 2024. However, a resident of Winnipeg points out that the cost of the vaccine is a significant obstacle for many seniors like herself. Last week, Ontario unveiled its intentions to authorize pharmacists to administer the initial adult RSV vaccine, which received approval from Health Canada in August. On Wednesday, Roussin confirmed that there are currently no such initiatives in place within the province.
Wednesday, Saskatchewan Polytechnic announced it plans to build a new Saskatoon campus at Innovation Place on the University of Saskatchewan campus to consolidate its operations in the city. The institution’s president and CEO estimates the entire cost of building the new centralized campus will be around $500 million. The province has committed to providing up to $200 million to help with construction efforts.
The Government of Saskatchewan says that it has not been contacted by Ottawa about the security concerns since Prime Minister Trudeau made allegations that India’s government played a role in the killing of a Canadian citizen, Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar. Saskatchewan Trade Minister Jeremy Harrison said that Saskatchewan deserves regular updates on the situation, especially as the province makes up roughly a third of Canada’s exports to India, which are worth over $1 billion to the provincial economy, and has a trade and investment office in New Delhi.
On Tuesday, a Regina court heard an injunction application filed against the Government of Saskatchewan’s pronoun policy. An injunction would suspend the policy while its constitutionality is debated. A decision on the injunction application will come at a later date. Lawyers will be back in the Court of King’s Bench in November to argue the constitutionality of the government’s pronoun policy.
Just outside the Swift Current city limits sits a large piece of grassland that is now officially protected by the Nature Conservancy of Canada, which was announced Monday morning. The Cave Pasture conservation project features 286 hectares of grasslands, wetlands and shoreline habitat, and is a refuge for numerous species, including the iconic sharp-tailed grouse, the provincial bird.
Home Builders’ Associations and others are beseeching the Saskatchewan government to follow suit with the federal government’s recent decision to remove taxes on new builds for rental buildings to address housing affordability and availability issues. However, the Saskatchewan government said it is not considering a similar tax cut with its PST.
The Alberta government released a long-awaited report Thursday on the possibility of establishing an Alberta-only pension plan, claiming the province is entitled to a staggering $ 334 billion asset transfer from the Canada Pension Plan in 2027.
For the first time since the E. coli outbreak started in Calgary daycares more than two weeks ago, no new cases have been added to the tally. But parents hoping to get some relief to their pocketbooks are still waiting for the province to launch a web portal for applications to receive the promised “compassionate compensation”.
According to Alberta’s health minister, Alberta COVID hospitalizations are up 73% since July.
The Government of Alberta has approved $7 million in funding for a multi-year study to explore how small modular nuclear reactors could be safely, technically, and economically deployed for oil sand operations.
Several Alberta-based clean energy projects will be bolstered by millions in funding from the federal government (a total pledge of more than $175 million toward 12 new wind, solar and smart-grid projects), but the premier says the feds’ net-zero goals remain far-fetched.
New measures are coming to B.C. that will help create more housing as the Province speeds up permitting and helps build more secondary suites for rent. The first action focuses on expediting the permitting process through the launch of a one-stop shop that eliminates the need for multiple permitting applications across different ministries. The second initiative centres on secondary suites and comes ahead of planned legislation this fall to make secondary suites legal throughout the province, and a pilot incentive program to help homeowners build secondary suites.
At this year’s Union of B.C. Municipalities convention, it was projected that more than a thousand politicians from across the province met for their annual gathering, which included meetings and speeches, debates and consultations, presentations, and press conferences.
BC Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau has accused Health Minister Adrian Dix and the provincial government of quietly quitting. Speaking at the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities conference in Vancouver on Wednesday, Furstenau called Dix’s recent admission that high demand for emergency medical care might be the “new normal” unacceptable.
Parksville-Qualicum MLA Adam Walker says he is “open” to running for re-election in 2024 after being ousted from the BC New Democrat caucus on Sept. 17th after the conclusion of a misconduct investigation.
The Provincial Tuition Waiver Program for former youth in care has been expanded to include all former youth in care, regardless of age. Eligible former youth in care of any age can receive free tuition at all 25 public post-secondary institutions, the Native Education College and approved union-based trades training providers. This expansion also includes the introduction of a new $3,500 grant to support educational costs, such as books, computers, and supplies.
While the wildfire situation is improving for some Northwest Territories residents who were allowed to return home this week a month after they were evacuated, officials are warning that threats persist in areas of the territory where 121 fires are still actively burning.
On September 22nd, Premier Caroline Cochrane virtually met with Pierre Poilievre, the federal Leader of the Official Opposition.
The Government of the Northwest Territories announced that Renée Fougère will be appointed as the Public Trustee of the Northwest Territories. The Public Trustee serves a wide range of clients and protects and manages the legal and financial interests of vulnerable residents of the Northwest Territories.
Premier Ranj Pillai and a Yukon business delegation have completed their Asia mission in India and are on their way back to Canada. The Premier noted that although relations between Canada and India have shifted in the last 72 hours, the dialogue during the mission was productive and is confident that the discussions will lead to positive outcomes for Yukoners.
The RCMP is investigating the cyberattack that hit the Government of Yukon, which is considered unprecedented in terms of size and scope, according to an information security director with the territorial government.
The Tr’ondëk-Klondike has been inscribed on the UNESCO list of world heritage sites. The site is made up of eight heritage locations, and which tell the collective story of how the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation’s way of life was impacted by colonialism from 1874 to 1908. Taken together, the historical site traces a timeline of First Nation and settler activity and occupation in the region.
Premier Akeeagok is expecting major economic growth in Nunavut next year. In a speech at the Nunavut Trade Show Tuesday afternoon, Akeeagok told delegates the Nunavut economy is expected to grow by 13.6 percent in 2024, up from around seven percent in 2023.
Joanna Quassa, who was the Government of Nunavut’s Minister of Environment, Minister of Energy, and the Minister responsible for the Nunavut Arctic College, has announced her resignation from Cabinet. She will stay on as the MLA for the riding of Aggu.
The Government of Nunavut’s website is now back online for most users after it was the target of a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) cyberattack campaign. According to the Government, there is no risk to personal or public information.