Provincial & Territorial Update – April 20, 2024

Provincial and Territorial Update: An overview of the Provincial Legislative and Territories Legislative Updates for the week of April 20, 2024.​ Written by Wes McLean.

New Brunswick

  • Housing and immigration advocates are angry New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs is blaming the housing crisis on immigrants and say his comments are dangerous. “OK, what is the root cause of our housing crisis? You know, record — record immigration,” Higgs said to reporters Tuesday evening while commenting on the federal budget. “So what is this sustainable immigration level? How do we get to the point where we say, OK, this is what we can manage in our province because everyone is feeling it,” he went on to say.
  • Environment Minister Gary Crossman is resigning as a Progressive Conservative cabinet minister and will quit as an MLA within days, citing his differences with Premier Blaine Higgs. Crossman, who had already announced he would not run in this year’s election, made the announcement in a Facebook post.  The three-term MLA for Hampton said he wanted to make his health a priority but also made it clear he’s not happy with Higgs’s leadership.
  • Seven months after the Canadian Civil Liberties Association sued New Brunswick over its gender identity policy, the province finally handed over the documents required to start the court process in earnest. That delay, chronic scheduling concerns in the province’s courts and an unusual number of organizations asking to intervene in the case, mean the outcome of the lawsuit is likely far in the future.
  • Travel nurses brought in to work in long-term care in 2022 earned two-to-three times more than their New Brunswick-based colleagues, the province says. Minister of Social Development Jill Green told a legislative committee Thursday that long-term care homes were in an emergency situation at the time the department signed contracts totalling just over $2.5 million with two private companies. 

Nova Scotia

  • Ottawa says the historic armoury in Amherst, N.S., should be turned into housing, and it is taking steps to offload the property, which was declared surplus nearly a decade ago. The Amherst Armoury, built in 1915, is one of five surplus buildings named in this week’s federal budget that have “potential for housing, and are not needed for National Defence operations.” The budget says the Department of National Defence is working with Canada Lands Company to divest the properties.
  • Georgia Saleski wants to get a master’s degree and take the next step in their post-secondary education. But two years after graduating with a kinesiology degree from Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S., it’s not a lack of ambition standing in the way. A mountain of debt will follow the 23-year-old and many other Nova Scotia graduates well into their adulthood. New Statistics Canada data shows that post-secondary graduates in the province have among the highest levels of student debt, and are less likely to have paid it off years later. 
  • Premier Tim Houston said he wanted to “set the record straight” about his and his government’s position on domestic violence, hours after Nova Scotia Justice Minister Brad Johns apologized for saying he doesn’t think domestic violence is an epidemic. “The minister has apologized for his comments and we’ll chat with him, but I want Nova Scotians to know that we understand how serious the issue is and it’s a priority of ours to address it,” Houston told CBC News at an event in New Glasgow on Thursday night. 
  • The Nova Scotia government and the union that represents 10,000 teachers in the province have reached an “agreement in principle” on a new collective agreement. The deal, announced Thursday by Premier Tim Houston, comes a week after teachers voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike mandate. Houston said there is still some “final drafting to be done” on a tentative agreement, but he expected the Nova Scotia Teachers Union would share details with its members in the coming days.

Prince Edward Island

  • The Dental Association of P.E.I. is sounding considerably more upbeat about a federal dental program for seniors than it did at the end of March. In an interview with Island Morning host Laura Chapin last month, association president Dr. Brian Barrett expressed concern about the administrative burden of the program and the fees it was offering to dentists. Following a Wednesday evening meeting with federal Health Minister Mark Holland, Barrett expressed some satisfaction with the changes that have been made.
  • Island developer Tim Banks says if Parks Canada or the Environmental Coalition of P.E.I. don’t want him to build on a plot of land he’s owned for 19 years near Prince Edward Island National Park at Greenwich, they’re welcome to buy it from him. All he wants is the price it’s worth. He said the land is appraised at $528,000, and he would take payment in the form of cash and tax credits. “It’s unfortunate, I feel that I’ve been painted as some sort of person that’s an environmental terrorist,” he said.
  • An early start to the season is paying off for many P.E.I. snow crab fishers, with good catches and better prices than last year. An added bonus: for the second straight year, most will have caught their quota before endangered North Atlantic right whales move into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, prompting protective measures to prevent entanglement in fishing gear.
  • A recent review by OmbudsPEI is sparking changes in how legal aid goes about denying someone representation. The provincial program helps low-income Islanders with serious legal needs get a lawyer if they can’t afford one. “It’s a really important program and it really improves access to justice for those people,” said P.E.I.’s ombudsperson, Sandy Hermiston. “We just want to make sure that the program is being administered fairly.”

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • The Newfoundland and Labrador government is offering cash to employers in a new program aimed at supporting small- and medium-sized businesses through rising costs and the latest minimum wage increase. The program, announced Friday, will be available to businesses with fewer than 100 employees, with at least one person making minimum wage between April 2023 and last month. Applications will open in May.
  • Memorial University faculty are questioning the university’s choice to hire a private headhunting firm to acquire the school’s next president, saying the choice to outsource the hiring process offers little value to the institution. The presidential hiring committee’s decision to issue tenders for a private recruitment agency comes a year after CBC News reported former president Vianne Timmons had been removed from her role in the wake of questions about her claims to Indigenous ancestry.
  • Photos tabled in the House of Assembly show troubling conditions inside Newfoundland and Labrador’s largest hospital, including what appears to be rodent feces on hospital floors. The photos were tabled by PC health critic Barry Petten, who told the House they were taken by a man who stayed in the hospital for surgery in February. The photos, shared with CBC News, show dirty sinks, holes in the walls covered by tape, garbage on the floors and what appears to be feces.
  • The Newfoundland and Labrador government has announced more funding for child-care providers offering spaces for infants, as well as other short-term implementations to support the sector. Education Minister Krista Lynn Howell said Wednesday the province will fund an additional $30 a day per space for infant care spaces offered by providers participating in the province’s operating grant program, which funds regulated child-care centres and someday homes in Newfoundland and Labrador.


  • François Legault still doesn’t know the price of a 4 1/2 apartment in Montreal, three years after getting bogged down on the issue. The premier was responding on Wednesday to Official Opposition Leader Marc Tanguay, as part of the Executive Council’s study of the department’s budget appropriations. In the midst of the housing crisis, Tanguay asked him if he knew the price of a 4 1/2 apartment in the metropolis. Legault then turned to the senior civil servants accompanying him.
  • Premier François Legault has confirmed in a debate that he intends to seek a third term in office in the 2026 general election despite his government’s sagging fortunes in public opinion. And he dodged two traps put before him on Wednesday — one by Parti Québécois Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, who badgered him to say what he would do if his political option is a dead end, and a second by interim Liberal leader Marc Tanguay, who tried to get him to trip up on the price of an apartment in Montreal.
  • The latest spat between Quebec and Ottawa over immigration is based on politics and not the reality of the labour market, says the head of a major employers group. “In some ways, it’s deplorable,” said Karl Blackburn, president and CEO of the Conseil du patronat du Québec. His comments come as Quebec Premier François Legault is threatening to hold a “referendum” on immigration if the federal government doesn’t take rapid action to stem the rising number of temporary immigrants, which include foreign workers, international students and refugee claimants.
  • The Quebec government whip has quit the Coalition Avenir Quebec and will join the federal Conservatives, leaving the province’s ruling party wondering whether its current slump in the polls will lead to more departures. Eric Lefebvre announced on Tuesday he would sit as an Independent in the Quebec legislature before he runs with the Conservatives under leader Pierre Poilievre in the next federal election, which has to be held by October 2025.


  • Ontario Premier Doug Ford and the province’s medical association are criticizing the federal government’s new capital-gains tax increase, saying it will negatively affect doctors and could force them out of practice. Mr. Ford said tax changes contained in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s federal budget, released earlier this week, would hurt investors and doctors. He also warned that the federal Liberals will face electoral consequences for raising taxes.
  • Ontario Premier Doug Ford is facing caucus dissent after a member of his own party shot down an attempt to reverse a ban on keffiyehs at Queen’s Park, despite Ford’s view that the ban “needlessly divides” people in the province. Legislative Assembly Speaker Ted Arnott recently banned the Arab headdress inside Queen’s Park and said people wearing it were making a political statement. The ban came as tensions in the Middle East continue, with the conflict between Israel and Hamas running for more than six months.
  • Some Ontario academics are waging a campaign against new legislation from Premier Doug Ford’s government they say would pave the way for political interference on campus. Bill 166, called the Strengthening Accountability and Student Supports Act, would give the minister of colleges and universities sweeping powers over campus anti-racism and mental health policies. While the government says the intent of the legislation is to ensure safety and support for post-secondary students, a growing group of professors says the bill undermines the independence of Ontario’s universities. 
  • Ontario drivers woke up to an average fuel price of 170.2 cents per litre on Thursday and Premier Doug Ford was among those frustrated by the gas price increase. During a question and answer period at a stop in Oakville, Ont., Ford went off on gas prices, mentioning concerns about price gouging and comparisons to gas prices south of the border.


  • Federal officials in charge of the National Microbiology Lab are defending security protocols at the Winnipeg institution against accusations of incompetence from opposition MPs. The head of the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) appeared Friday before a parliamentary committee on relations between Canada and China, where she was peppered with questions about the firing of two researchers in 2021. The agency fired two researchers who left Canada after their security clearances were revoked over questions about their loyalty and potential coercion by Beijing.
  • The death of a Winnipeg firefighter, whose funeral will be held Friday, has sparked calls for more mental health support for first responders. Help is available but accessing it can be difficult, according to former firefighter Josh Klassen. “There is hope, but the pathway to find it isn’t always as clear as I would like it to be,” said Klassen, who was a peer support co-ordinator for the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service before he left to become an arborist. He still teaches a mental health readiness program with the fire-paramedic service.
  • The Opposition Progressive Conservatives say people protesting immigration delays have been threatened by Manitoba’s labour and immigration minister, in an attempt to keep them silent. The Tories presented a heavily redacted letter during the question period at the legislature Thursday that contained the allegation. It claimed Immigration Minister Malaya Marcelino threatened to intentionally delay specific draws through the provincial nominee program draws if individuals continued to hold protests.
  • Manitoba’s Opposition Progressive Conservatives are delaying passage of four bills at the legislature, prompting an angry response from a labour leader. The legislature rules allow the Opposition each year to pick as many as five bills each spring and push back voting until the fall. This year, the Tories have chosen four, including a bill that would extend the leave for seriously injured or ill workers to 27 weeks from 17 weeks. Tory labour critic Jodie Byram says the change would put Manitoba out of line with other provinces, and more consultation with employers is needed.


  • Sask. Teachers’ Federation, education minister remain at odds ahead of vote on contract proposal. Months of exchanging jabs, shifting blame and failed negotiations have led to the first vote on a proposed contract offer for Saskatchewan teachers since job action began.
  • Saskatchewan’s education minister apologized in the legislature Thursday after rhetorically asking if the province’s teachers expected him to “give up his first-born child” in an earlier meeting with a woman whose first-born daughter had died. Jeremy Cockrill said he used a poor choice of words in the private meeting with Taya Thomas. They were discussing negotiations with the teachers’ union and how teachers want more supports for students with extra needs. The woman’s daughter, 13-year-old Mayelle, died last year after dealing with multiple medical conditions.
  • Dozens of healthcare workers picketed outside of Regina’s Pasqua Hospital on Friday to ask the province to address conditions in Saskatchewan’s healthcare system. The rally, organized by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), was the fourth in a series across Saskatchewan, with the other three held in Weyburn, North Battleford and Prince Albert this month. CUPE 5430 president Bashir Jalloh said the union has been at the bargaining table since September 2023 and is frustrated with the province’s pace.
  • Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says he has cautioned his caucus about texting the Speaker after his finance minister landed in hot water for doing so. Moe said Tuesday he told Saskatchewan Party members that messages to Speaker Randy Weekes can have consequences and instructed them to govern their actions accordingly. “Use at your own peril,” he said of his conversations with the caucus. “If you send a text that is going to be read into the record, you should be fully aware of that.


  • Alberta plans to rename the province’s default electricity rate and set new requirements for utility providers to inform customers about the option to switch to a competitive contract. In Alberta’s deregulated electricity market, there are dozens of companies that provide electricity to homes and businesses. But if consumers don’t set up a contract, they’re placed on the regulated rate option, or RRO — a variable rate that changes each month, based on the price of electricity.
  • A private member’s bill that grants the Alberta government more power over decisions around national urban parks passed in the legislature on Monday. Bill 204 is an amendment to the Municipal Government’s Act. It was first introduced last November. The bill states that the province can prescribe conditions under which a municipal council may negotiate a proposed national urban park plan and councils would be required to follow those conditions. Leduc-Beaumont MLA Brandon Lunty introduced the bill after learning of the City of Edmonton’s decision to look into creating a national urban park in the river valley. 
  • Front-line staff are pushing back against the provincial government’s response to what they call a “crisis” in Alberta’s neonatal intensive care units, calling it “short-sighted” and “frustrating.” A group of Edmonton doctors sent an open letter to the health minister this week, outlining concerns about a shortage of staff and beds in the province’s NICUs. But it wasn’t the first time they’d raised the alarm.
  • The Alberta government says it won’t revamp its court system to get federal funding for 17 judges dedicated to hearing family court cases. Ottawa now says that $10.9 million a year set aside for those Alberta family court judges is off the table and will be spent on superior court appointments across the country. “It’s profoundly disappointing that they offered those with a number of conditions attached to them,” Alberta Justice Minister Mickey Amery said in an interview Wednesday. “Those conditions simply do not work here in Alberta.”

British Columbia

  • Scrutiny of B.C.’s drug decriminalization pilot is growing, with public safety concerns that have put the spotlight squarely on the governing NDP as the province moves toward a fall election. Earlier this week, Vancouver Police Deputy Chief Fiona Wilson testified at a House of Commons health committee hearing about how the pilot is limiting police response to problematic public drug use, including inside hospitals and at bus stops.
  • British Columbia Premier David Eby is warning real estate investors and speculators that his government is tilting the rules towards families seeking homes as it tightens the rules on short-term rentals. Eby said Thursday that the rule changes on May 1 will limit short-term rental units to within the principal home of a host, but the move isn’t a ban on platforms such as Airbnb if they aren’t used to create de facto hotels from B.C.’s housing stock.
  • There is yet another development in the ongoing fight surrounding the transition to a municipal police service in Surrey. In a scathing letter addressed to Solicitor General Mike Farnworth, the commissioner of the RCMP says he was surprised to hear last week that the province had an agreement in principle that the RCMP would support the Surrey Police Service (SPS) as the police of jurisdiction. Commissioner Mike Duheme says that’s not true and there is no agreement.
  • The Government of British Columbia has announced up to $300 million in additional TransLink funding to go towards covering the future acquisition of additional buses. This will help support the public transit authority’s bus service expansion plans over the coming years, including the rollout of the first Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) routes and general service expansion and improvements.

Northwest Territories

  • The Northwest Territories’ film industry is looking for a bigger buy-in from the territorial government. Members of the industry presented to the standing committee for economic development and environment on Wednesday during a public ministerial briefing on the territory’s film strategy. Camilla MacEachern, the N.W.T.’s film commissioner, told the committee that filmmaking could help boost the territory’s economy. She said the more money the government puts into the film industry, the more comes out of it.
  • Gerry Kisoun will be the next commissioner of the Northwest Territories, according to an announcement from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office on Friday afternoon. The Inuvialuit-Gwich’in elder worked for the RCMP for 25 years, serving in Tuktoyaktuk and Inuvik, as well as in Alberta and the Yukon according to his biography. After retiring from the RCMP, Kisoun worked for Parks Canada for 17 years in its Western Arctic Field Unit. 


  • The Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board (YESAB) is warning about delays in service. The board is responsible for doing environmental assessments of development projects in the Yukon and recommending to the territorial government whether projects should proceed, and under what conditions. In a notice published to its website late last week, it said it’s experiencing “organizational challenges” because of a record number of active assessments, many of which are extremely complex.


  • The Nunavut government needs to be more proactive in updating its own employees ‘addresses to prevent mail from falling into the wrong hands in Iqaluit, according to a report from the territory’s information and privacy commissioner. Graham Steele’s report, released Tuesday, looked at whether the territorial government was prepared for changes made to the city’s postal services and what measures they put in place to make sure the situation went smoothly. 

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