Provincial and Territorial Update – October 6, 2023
An overview of the Provincial and Territories Legislative Updates for the week of September 29 - October 6, 2023.
A senior provincial cabinet minister who has remained loyal to Premier Blaine Higgs is saying there’s no need for the premier to call an early election this fall. Health Minister Bruce Fitch said he’d prefer to see Higgs work with his caucus, including six Progressive Conservative MLAs unhappy with his leadership, rather than going to the polls a year early.
A veteran educator who witnessed Premier Blaine Higgs’s decision-making style up close has decided to run for the Liberals in the next provincial election. George Daley, whom Higgs fired from his position as the deputy minister of education in the anglophone sector in October 2022, will seek the party’s nomination in Hautes-Terres-Nepisiguit, a riding near Bathurst.
A pair of investors from Coquitlam, B.C., who bought a Saint John apartment building in 2022 and financed the purchase with a large variable-rate mortgage, are having some success challenging a provincial government rent control policy that spared two of their tenants from rent increases above 20 percent earlier this year.
Liberal Leader Susan Holt and Green Leader David Coon are both highlighting access to health care as a top campaign issue on the eve of an expected early election call. Holt and Coon previewed their party platforms in interviews with CBC’s Information Morning Fredericton this week. PC Premier Blaine Higgs was also invited to be interviewed, but CBC received notice he would not take part.
A Nova Scotia provincial court judge is suing the province and another judge for $5 million in damages. The lawsuit launched by Judge Rickcola Brinton, 48, lays bare a long-simmering dispute over COVID-19 vaccinations. The suit was filed late last month in the Nova Scotia Supreme Court and first reported by allNovaScotia.
Nova Scotia is changing the rules for short-term rentals, including by hiking the tax applied when operators register. The tax will vary depending on location, ranging from $240 in rural areas up to $3,600 in the Halifax core. Homeowners renting space inside their primary residence will be charged $10. The government framed the announcement as a step toward relieving the housing crisis. But Housing Minister John Lohr conceded the number of units that will be converted from short-term rental to long-term housing is likely low.
The Nova Scotia government is considering how to close a funding shortfall in the teachers’ pension, but it will not reveal the options that are on the table. The Nova Scotia Teachers’ Pension Plan has faced challenges off and on for years. In August 2022, the government and the Nova Scotia Teachers Union received a report with non-binding recommendations for dealing with the pension shortfall. When the report came in, officials said they would make it public once they’d met with plan members to discuss it.
Nova Scotia pharmacists are limiting Ozempic refills. There’s a worldwide shortage of diabetes drugs. The diabetes medication has also become so popular for weight loss that the demand contributes to scarcity for weeks. But pharmacist Graham MacKenzie says there’s hope that supply should soon pick up.
Prince Edward Island
The P.E.I. government says it plans to make Georgetown the province’s first net-zero community. During a news conference Thursday, the province outlined the first steps it would take to make a non-emitter out of the eastern P.E.I. community, Premier Dennis King’s hometown and part of Environment Minister Steven Myers’ electoral district of Georgetown–Pownal.
Too many services aimed to help people who are unhoused or in precarious housing situations are in Charlottetown, advocates told government officials at a meeting in eastern P.E.I. Thursday. “People need to be housed and supported in their community and if we try to drive everybody to a centralized location it actually exacerbates an already existing problem,” said Mike Redmond, president of The Equality Project, a non-governmental organization which aims to offer outreach services across the province.
Calls to P.E.I.’s mobile mental health service have doubled over the past two years, and politicians and Island EMS officials alike say too many of those pleas for help are still going to the police rather than to people trained to respond to those in crisis. “I can think of two examples off the top of my head where a mobile mental health unit should have been dispatched and weren’t — and people died as a result,” Green Party Leader Karla Bernard said Wednesday at a meeting of the province’s standing committee on health and wellness.
P.E.I.’s Progressive Conservative premier has removed one of his MLAs from all legislative standing committees, a day after Tyler DesRoches came under fire for comments he made about female paramedics. Premier Dennis King said in a statement Thursday that the comments the MLA from Summerside-Wilmot made were “inappropriate, wrong and won’t be tolerated.”
Newfoundland and Labrador
A new report spells out the possible cost, size and location of a new diesel-fired power plant on the Avalon Peninsula — should Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro decide it’s the best way to meet a projected surge in electricity demand. At the request of the Crown corporation, independent consulting firm Hatch studied a number of scenarios and found that if a new combustion turbine is built, it should produce 150 megawatts of electricity, burn No. 2 diesel and be located in Holyrood.
A Liberal member of Parliament has broken ranks with the government on its carbon tax for the second time, saying federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault is the wrong person to sell the party’s environmental messaging in Atlantic Canada. Ken McDonald, MP for Newfoundland and Labrador’s Avalon riding voted with the federal Conservatives on Wednesday on a non-binding motion to repeal the carbon tax, the only member of the Liberal, NDP or Bloc Québécois caucuses to do so. Speaking with CBC News on Thursday, he said he believes the policy will cost the Liberals votes in the next election.
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey says he spent 15 days in 2022 and early 2023 working as a surgeon. The latest numbers, released by the premier’s office to CBC News, show that he worked for five different periods of between two and five days, with each period including at least one weekend day. Last year, Furey promised to release the amount of time he spends working as a surgeon.
PC MHA Helen Conway Ottenheimer says people being sent to Her Majesty’s Penitentiary should be re-considered in some cases because the conditions are so egregious. They include black mould that has shut the visitor’s centre and rodents that have bit staff and inmates.
With a pumped opposition accusing him of playing political yo-yo with voters, Premier François Legault defended his surprise decision to revive the controversial tunnel project between Quebec City and Lévis in the wake of the Coalition Avenir Québec’s byelection defeat this week.
Quebec Premier François Legault wants Ottawa to reach an agreement with his government by Friday of next week on funding for the acceleration of housing construction. Quebec is negotiating with the federal government to receive its share of the $4 billion Housing Accelerator Fund, which aims to create 100,000 housing units across Canada. It’s estimated that Quebec municipalities will benefit from $900 million.
More than 10 years after the Lac-Mégantic train derailment, Federal Transport Minister Pablo Rodriguez has announced the start of preliminary work on the rail bypass. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau first promised in 2018 to move the railway away from the city’s core. But for years, trains have continued to pass through what used to be downtown, much of it incinerated on July 6, 2013, when a train carrying crude oil crashed and killed 47 people. The bypass will take the railway out of town and Rodriguez announced that while Ottawa will pay for the work, the municipality of Lac-Mégantic will carry it out.
Quebec is proposing new legal changes to allow it to more easily hold opioid manufacturers and distributors accountable for healthcare costs tied to the opioid crisis. A bill introduced at the National Assembly on Thursday would allow the province to participate in a British-Columbia-led class action against those manufacturers and distributors. Social Services Minister Lionel Carmant, who introduced the bill, called it “a significant statement against the imputability of all those who have taken part in the opioid crisis.”
Amid sluggish housing construction starting in Ontario, the Progressive Conservative government is working on a use-it-or-lose-it policy that would force developers in the province to act on building permits that have been green-lit by municipalities. The policy was first proposed by Premier Doug Ford in late August as a counter-offensive strategy during the government’s Greenbelt scandal response but is now being formalized by his new Housing Minister Paul Calandra.
The $8.28-billion Greenbelt land swap scandal is putting Premier Doug Ford on the defensive over forcing municipalities to change their boundaries, taking over farms and “green space” for homebuilding. Smelling blood after Ford reversed course on more Greenbelt development, opposition parties are shining a spotlight on the boundary changes announced last November at the same time as swaps that “favoured certain developers,” according to a scathing auditor general’s report.
Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative party has an uncomfortable lead in the polls. A new Pallas Data poll conducted for The Trillium last week found support for the PCs has hit its lowest point since the 2022 election at 33 percent, with the NDP and the Ontario Liberal Party close behind, neck-and-neck at 27 percent each.
Ontario government officials are now acknowledging that Premier Doug Ford uses his personal cell phone for government business, but are refusing to divulge his phone logs, citing the need to maintain privacy of callers and the government’s inability to assess the nature of the phone calls. Global News has been engaged in a months-long transparency battle with the Ontario government over the premier’s use of his personal cell phone for taxpayer-related business and the public’s right to access those records.
After a bruising election campaign, Manitoba’s premier-designate, Wab Kinew, and current Premier Heather Stefanson shook hands before a civil conversation about the transition of power. On Thursday morning, Stefanson, the outgoing leader of the Progressive Conservatives, welcomed NDP Leader Wab Kinew into the office he’ll soon occupy for a meeting that’s customary when a new political party is elected to form the government.
The outgoing mayor of Morden, the CEO of the Southern Chiefs’ Organization, a prominent Winnipeg doctor and the head of the Islamic Social Services Association are on the 11-person team that will advise Manitoba premier-designate Wab Kinew in his transition to government. The members span the province geographically and also come from various backgrounds, a provincial news release says.
Heather Stefanson plans to serve as interim leader of the Manitoba Progressive Conservatives until her party holds a leadership race, which several senior Tories expect to happen sometime in 2024. The outgoing Manitoba premier announced on election night that she intends to resign her position as PC leader and help the party choose a successor. “I look forward to working with the party to ensure a smooth process is in place to replace me as your leader,” Stefanson said on Tuesday, after conceding to premier-designate Wab Kinew and the New Democratic Party.
Overdose awareness advocates say they’re not surprised to learn Manitoba recorded 44 drug-related deaths in May — but hope more support to help prevent those deaths will soon be available under the province’s new government. “This is sort of in a way what I’ve been advocating for. This is where my advocacy has led me,” advocate Arlene Last-Kolb said Wednesday, a day after an election that brought the NDP to power in Manitoba.
Residents and staff at Regina Lutheran Home face an uncertain future after its operator announced it would be closing the long-term care facility by April 2024. Eden Care Communities informed residents last month that it won’t continue to operate the home and will be transitioning the responsibility for the residents to the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA). The SHA has said it will not take over the facility but will relocate the residents. SHA said in a statement that it has decided not to purchase the Lutheran Home property because the building is at the end of its lifespan.
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) has selected a health ombudsperson to work against racism and discrimination against Indigenous people in the healthcare system. Dianne Lafond, who was born and raised in Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, has been selected for the job. In an announcement Tuesday, she said she is humbled and honoured to hold the position. “As First Nations Indigenous people, we’re human beings put here by the creator to be treated equally. It breaks my heart that our people continue to suffer,” Lafond said as she made her speech.
Premier Scott Moe told reporters on Wednesday that he and other MLAs have been approached by people in their riding, supporting the province’s pronoun policy, despite Moe admitting there was no such call in his riding prior to the policy coming forward. “It is a discussion very much that’s happening in my community,” Moe said to media at the Imperial Community School in north Regina.
It’s possible the final wording on a deal for a new $800 million downtown arena will be made public today. An agreement in principle between the City of Calgary, the government of Alberta and the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC) was first announced in April. It would see the city pay most of the upfront costs for the new arena in east Victoria Park and recover those costs through CSEC making annual lease payments to the city over 35 years.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the future health of Canada’s economy hinges largely on how well Alberta adapts to changes in the energy landscape. “Our government recognizes that for Canada to succeed, we need every region to succeed. And that in particular means Alberta,” he told a delegation of representatives from about 50 companies, business groups and First Nations from the province.
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith says reducing red tape is an essential element in addressing the province’s housing crisis. Smith addressed Alberta’s growing population and its impact on housing affordability while speaking to mayors and reeves at the Alberta Municipalities convention and trade show in Edmonton Friday. Smith praised cities like Leduc and St. Albert for their speed in approving new builds while calling out those who are falling behind.
The Alberta government’s $8-million campaign to “educate Canadians and Albertans” on the impacts of new emissions regulations proposed by the federal government has begun rolling out across the country. The campaign, involving a wide range of television, web, social, billboard and other forms of advertising, will run just a little more than a month, until Nov. 2, when the federal government’s public input period on net-zero rules is set to conclude.
A “report card” has been published taking a look at the recent landscape of B.C. provincial leadership and voters’ intentions. Named C. Government Report Card: October 2023,1,001 adult British Columbians were surveyed by Leger about their thoughts on the B.C. government, including opinions of party leaders, voting intentions and the most important issues facing the province. Premier David Eby received the highest approval rating of all the leaders at 47 percent, followed by Green Party Leader Sonia Fustenau at 27 percent, BC United Kevin Falcon’s 26 percent and Conservative Party leader John Rustad at 23 percent.
COVID-19 cases are on the rise in British Columbia, with the B.C. Centre for Disease Control reports that hospitalizations have increased by 58 percent in the past two weeks. The centre says in its latest update that deaths due to COVID-19 are also trending upwards, with 24 fatalities in the last week of September, compared to nine in the second week of August. It says new infections rose from 133 cases to 877 cases in the same period, having “increased notably” among people 60 and older.
Officials in Ottawa and British Columbia have welcomed a ruling under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), saying it found elements of the United States’ calculation of softwood lumber duties are inconsistent with that country’s own law. A statement from Mary Ng, Canada’s minister of international trade, says the government is pleased that a dispute panel agreed with its challenge of America’s so-called “dumping determination.” Under the U.S. Tariff Act, the Department of Commerce determines whether goods are being sold at less than fair value or if they’re benefiting from subsidies provided by foreign governments.
The B.C. government has tabled new legislation that would ban illegal drug use in many public places, less than a year into a decriminalization pilot project meant to de-stigmatize drug users. If passed, the bill would ban the use of illicit drugs within six metres of all building entrances and bus stops; within 15 metres of playgrounds, spray and wading pools, and skate parks; and in parks, beaches and sports fields.
A woman in Aklavik, N.W.T., whose Inupiaq husband has been threatened with deportation says she’s very happy that the federal immigration minister has said he wants to make it easier for Indigenous people to cross international borders. “When I heard that announcement the other day me and my husband watched it and we smiled, and I was saying: ‘Yes, yes, yes. Finally, somebody’s listened to us,'” Carol Oyagak told CBC Radio’s The Trailbreaker.
A bypass system that allowed people in Iqaluit to drink the city’s tap water again after it was contaminated with fuel could have come online earlier, according to a report from a third-party review of the 2021 water crisis. The report prepared by Toronto-based consulting firm DPRA for Nunavut’s Department of Community and Government Services (CGS) details how disagreements between the city and territorial government affected the response to the crisis. The report was issued in May and recently provided to CBC News by CGS.