Highlights from Crestview Strategy’s weekly Canada-wide newsletter:
Former Alberta premier Rachel Notley stepping down as NDP leader
Last week, Rachel Notley, the former Premier of Alberta and leader of the provincial New Democratic Party (NDP), announced her resignation. In her announcement, she shared that she intends to remain leader throughout the leadership race and will not resign as an MLA at this time – and that she has no intentions to run federally. This development has sparked speculation and discussions around potential candidates running to replace Notley. Some of the current names rumoured to be considering a run for leader include current MLAs Rakhi Pancholi, Sarah Hoffman, Kathleen Ganley, David Shepherd, and former Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi. The leadership race within the Alberta NDP is expected to be dynamic and competitive, with no clear frontrunner currently identified.
Housing ministers meet in Halifax, agree to create template for modular homes
Federal Housing Minister Sean Fraser, met with his provincial counterparts to discuss strategies to address Atlantic Canada’s housing challenges. Key topics of discussion included incentivizing factory built construction and establishing an Atlantic Canada chapter in the housing catalogue. The ministers have agreed to create a template for modular homes that meets the unique needs of the region. The focus is on developing cost-effective designs that use labor-efficient processes to address the construction sector’s labor shortage and provide quality housing solutions for those affected by homelessness. So far, efforts to address housing shortages in the Maritime provinces have shown varying degrees of success, with New Brunswick lagging behind P.E.I. and Nova Scotia. Despite loosening rent protections, New Brunswick finished last in 2023 housing starts, where the removal of rent caps has not translated into increased construction, while concerns arise over rising property assessments and taxes. Still, the province makes efforts to address housing shortfalls – Saint John received $9.2 million for 285 new units, and Moncton experienced its second-best construction year, anticipating a seller’s market in 2024.
Premier Eby announces $36-billion plan to expand B.C.’s electricity system
Announced at the BC Natural Resources Forum in Prince George, B.C., Premier David Eby has advocated for the planned 10-year, $36-billion expansion of British Columbia’s electrical system by Crown-owned BC Hydro.The 50% increase in capital project investments aims to boost electrification and reduce emissions across the province, presenting economic opportunities with affordable, clean electricity. The expansion aligns with global interest, especially in clean hydrogen production, and supports the transition of industries, such as mines and pulp mills, from non-renewable fuels to electricity. The investment may include high-voltage transmission lines, substation expansion, and upgrades to dams, potentially creating up to 12,500 construction jobs and allowing power exports to neighbouring regions.
Ontario Expands Private Clinics to Tackle Surgical Backlogs Amid ER Crisis
Ontario’s Health Minister, Sylvia Jones, announced plans to license new private clinics this spring, aiming to address surgical wait lists and emergency room crises. Ontario is proposing regulatory changes to appoint Accreditation Canada as the inspection body for oversight and quality assurance of community surgical and diagnostic centres, effective April 1, 2024, as part of the “Your Health” plan.
Ottawa planning to reduce volume of international students in certain provinces
The federal government is reportedly considering a plan to reduce the influx of international students in certain provinces due to concerns about housing shortages. A senior government source, speaking anonymously, mentioned that provinces like Ontario, British Columbia, and Nova Scotia, which may be accepting more international students than their housing capacity allows. The source stated that discussions with provinces about limiting student numbers in densely populated areas and tightening regulations on accepting international students have not yielded results. Immigration Minister Marc Miller has also suggested the idea of capping temporary resident numbers to address housing affordability. The discussions come amid warnings from senior civil servants about the impacts of increased immigration on housing affordability, healthcare, and other services.
‘Outrageous’: Privately, Justin Trudeau’s Toronto MPs are furious at Olivia Chow over her property tax gambit
Toronto Mayor Chow is at odds with local Liberal MPsover a proposed property tax increase tied to federal funding for the city’s $250 million cost to house asylum-seekers in 2024. The mayor accuses Ottawa of delays in fund disbursement and urges MPs to advocate more for the city. Liberal MPs argue that Chow’s move is politically motivated, risking the party’s standing in Toronto amid polls showing vulnerability. The dispute highlights tensions over asylum-seeker costs and raises questions about federal responsibility, with Toronto considering a “federal impacts levy” if funding isn’t secured.