Liberal, Green leaders withdraw from COVID commitee as striking health-care workers forced back –

Posted: November 5, 2021 at 9:43 pm

Half of New Brunswicks all-party COVID-19 cabinet committee have announced theyre pulling out after the province issued an emergency order to force striking health-care workers back on the job.

New Brunswick Green Leader David Coon made the announcement hed be stepping away over Twitter shortly after Premier Blaine Higgs made his move official.

Twenty minutes later, Interim Liberal Leader Roger Melanson followed suit.

Im out, Melanson told reporters over Zoom.

As the leader of the opposition, I need to be able freely to be able to keep this government accountable and explain to New Brunswickers what this government is doing and how theyre doing it and so Im out of this committee for sure.

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While Melansons motivation seems to lay directly at the feet of Higgs, Coon says his sole reasoning is a perception that the method used is unfit for the circumstances.

Using an emergency order, circumventing our democratic processes in this province, is unacceptable, he tells Global News.

The Premier had plenty of other choices leading up to this point in time that he chose not to use, says Coon.

If he was determined to order health workers back to work, he shouldve brought back-to-work legislation to the Legislative Assembly. Thats the democratic venue for debating such proposals.

Remaining at the table, Peoples Alliance Leader Kris Austin says his counterparts are counteracting the foundation of the committee itself which Premier Higgs has touted as a way to ensure pandemic response was prioritized over political divides.

What theyre doing is not symbolic, its political. Period, Austin says in an interview with Global News Friday.

I know that my voice at the table is more important than my voice on the sidewalk.

So Mr. Melanson and Mr. Coon, if they want to play politics the public will judge that, but Im staying put.

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Austin previously said he would support a form of back-to-work legislation if health care in the province needed it.

He says Fridays move fit the bill.

Anybody with any rational objective viewpoint would understand the position, he says.

Its just irresponsible not to do that at this point.

Austin says hes heard from CUPE members who say theyre unaware what offer the government has put forward, as well as CUPE members who dont want to be striking at all.

As long as this emergency order is in place, Coon says he wont return to the committee.

Melanson says hes out for good.

With only Higgs and Austin left, its unclear in what capacity the committee will continue if at all.

Coon says he has confidence in Public Health leadership in the meantime, but wants to see a committee within the legislature looking at response.

Weve got a good Public Health team in New Brunswick, he says, and ultimately well hold the Premier accountable in the legislature.

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2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Liberal, Green leaders withdraw from COVID commitee as striking health-care workers forced back -

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