Question Period: Hospitals – April 24, 2015

Mr. Coon: The Minister of Health intends to privatize the food and cleaning services in our hospitals. When his department looked at this two years ago, it concluded that having a multinational corporation provide those services would be more expensive than providing them through hospital staff. Yet, according to the Telegraph-Journal, the department has given 30 days’ notice of the intent to lay off cleaners and cafeteria staff. Can the minister tell us exactly how Sodexo proposes to provide these services for millions of dollars less while extracting a handsome profit from this deal?

Hon. Mr. Boudreau: What was mentioned yesterday is a project called a joint services RFP. It is an initiative that was started under the former government, whereby FacilicorpNB, in partnership with Horizon Health Network and Vitalité Health Network, looked at the possibility of using a private sector management system that looks at ratios, best practices, and efficiencies.

There were four steps to the process, three of which had been completed under the former government. The fourth step was to move forward with the successful proponent and to see whether a deal could be negotiated. That is what we are looking to do.

Yesterday’s meeting with CUPE was per the collective agreements to simply give notice. There are certainly no decisions as yet with regard to this project.

Mr. Coon: A paper examining a proposal by the city of Toronto to privatize its cleaning services found that it would likely result in a cut of about half in wage rates paid, down close to minimum wage. This would deprive the hospital cleaning and food services staff here and their families of a living wage and, as the minister has publicly stated, eliminate jobs altogether. What  possible rationale can the minister possibly give for bringing hardship to hundreds of men and women who work in our hospitals by eliminating their jobs?

L’hon. M. Boudreau : J’aimerais rappeler au député de l’opposition que la province est présentement aux prises avec des difficultés financières et qu’il y a un déficit à combler. Étant donné que le budget du ministère de la Santé est de 2,6 milliards de dollars, il faut faire tout ce qui est possible pour essayer de trouver des gains d’efficience et de meilleures façons de gérer les fonds que nous avons. Il est aussi nécessaire de trouver les meilleures façons possible d’utiliser les ressources que nous avons.

Alors, il s’agit tout simplement de la continuation d’un processus qui a été déclenché par le gouvernement précédent. Nous sommes rendus à un point du processus où l’on s’assoit avec la compagnie gagnante, mais il faudra négocier afin de savoir si nous pouvons arriver à un contrat final. Il n’y a pas encore eu de confirmation à savoir combien d’emplois seront touchés par cette mesure ; alors, le reste…

Mr. Speaker: Time, minister.

Mr. Coon: Throwing hundreds of families out of a decent standard of living into insecure, unstable, poverty-level jobs is wrong, plain wrong. Wages that they once earned and taxes that they paid on those wages will now be extracted from New Brunswick’s public purse for private profit. Public money will be leaving the province rather than remaining here to employ New Brunswickers in jobs that pay a decent wage, forcing those New Brunswickers to leave New

Brunswick in search of decent work. How does the minister expect to create jobs, grow the economy, and make life better for New Brunswick families by sending public money out of the province and forcing public employees into the unemployment lines?

Hon. Mr. Boudreau: Again, I want to remind the member opposite that we are in a deficit situation. If we do balance the books and if we do find those efficiencies, we will be able to reinvest that money. We will be able to reinvest it in priorities such as education, health care, and social services. To do that, we first have to balance the books. That is something that the member opposite may not quite understand, but it is a priority of this government. We are going to make sure that we balance the books.

This is but one initiative among many. It falls under a review that has been ongoing within the Department of Health. Both regional health authorities are partners in this, as is FacilicorpNB. It is all in an effort to find efficiencies, to manage smarter with the money we have, and to make full use of the people we have in the system so that we are able to balance the books, first of all.

Then, as I have said, moving forward, whatever surpluses we may have as a government, we will certainly look at reinvesting in the people.


April 24, 2015 Not finalized / Non finalisé le 24 avril 2015