Coon calls latest provincial government restructuring a ‘gutting’ – Telegraph Journal – 1 September 2017
Article by : Robert Williams
Photo by : Mathieu Roy-Comeau
This is a good example of why we can’t afford to have another majority government in this province. We need, after the next election, a minority government so that a caucus of Greens, for example, could ensure this kind of bad behaviour doesn’t happen anymore. – David Coon
Green Party leader David Coon said Friday the provincial government is “gutting” the office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health.
This comes after the province announced a restructuring of the office on Thursday, outsourcing some of the day-to-day operations to different departments within government.
“I was shocked at the announcement,” Coon said while speaking to the media Friday. “The staff must have been devastated. This tears apart the team that’s in place for the medical officer of health to do her job of protecting and promoting the public health of New Brunswickers by removing huge chunks of her experts and her resources and diverting them to other departments.”
The press release for the restructure said no layoffs will come as a result of the restructuring.
“Well first of all I think it’s important to point out that there are no reductions in staff. This is just reassigning people to different departments,” said Health Minister Victor Boudreau at the Medavie Health Services New Brunswick announcement in Moncton Friday.
“There were some employees that were within that branch of the department of health that it was felt were maybe best positioned in other departments working alongside other inspectors at Justice and Public Safety, for example.”
As part of the change, public health inspectors and agri-food inspectors will be transferred to the Department of Justice and Public Safety, the public health practice and population health branch will become part of the Department of Social Development and the healthy environments branch will become part of the Department of Environment and Local Government.
“Environment has no mandate for public health, public health has mandate for public health,” Coon said. “This amounts to gutting the office of the medical office of health and undermining the capacity to safeguard public health.”
The press release said the restructuring is coming to match structures in other Atlantic provinces such as Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.
“This will allow for greater collaboration among Atlantic partners,” the release said.
But Coon said the province is just copycatting a system that doesn’t work.
“With respect to the health inspectors, they’ve tried this in Nova Scotia and it’s not working. Why would we make the same bad decision they made in Nova Scotia when it’s working perfectly well here. The public health inspectors need to be operating under the authority of the chief doctor for New Brunswickers.”
The Gallant government has long been calling to make the position more independent, and Boudreau confirmed there would be more measures coming into place before the legislature reconvenes in October.
“The next step now will be dealing with our platform commitment for the independence of the office. That’s going to be done between now and the next session which comes up on October 24.”
But Coon questions what type of work the office could possibly get done with this new restructuring.
“Maybe they’re going to make good on their promise to create the position for the medical officer of health as independent from the minister without any resources to do their job effectively.”
He said a more appropriate change would have been making the chief medical officer an officer of the legislative assembly.
“That would be the logical thing to have the chief medical officer an officer of the legislative assembly so that they report to a standing committee on health. We don’t have one, we should have one. That would be the logical thing from my perspective.
“This is a good example of why we can’t afford to have another majority government in this province. We need, after the next election, a minority government so that a caucus of Greens, for example, could ensure this kind of bad behaviour doesn’t happen anymore.”
Boudreau said the final step in the process will be hiring a full-time replacement of Dr. Eilish Cleary, the former chief medical officer who was fired from her position in late 2015.
Dr. Jennifer Russell has been serving as the acting chief medical officer in the interim.
Boudreau said that once the new structure of the position is completed, the government will fill the position permanently.