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Green Party Leader David Coon (left) and Liberal Leader Susan (centre) take part in a leaders' debate on health care on May 28, 2024. Premier Blaine Higgs declined to participate. Image: Rogers TV

Liberals, Greens talk health care in televised debate

By Brad Perry May 29, 2024 | 1:33 PM

New Brunswick’s premier was absent from a Tuesday evening leaders’ debate on health care.

Leaders from the three parties with seats in the provincial legislature were invited to take part.

Liberal Leader Susan Holt and Green Party Leader David Coon were in attendance for the debate, streamed on Rogers TV.

However, Premier Blaine Higgs declined an invitation to participate, according to host Terry Seguin.

Both leaders who were in attendance said they were disappointed that the premier decided not to attend.

“The system is failing us and for the person who is currently responsible for the government and wants to continue to be not to participate in sharing their ideas, talking about their record, I don’t think it shows a lot of respect for the people of New Brunswick,” said Holt.

“It does reveal a lack of respect for voters and for people working in the health-care system,” Coon added.

The debate was presented by CUPE Local 1252, which represents more than 9,000 health-care workers in the province.

Holt said she believes New Brunswick’s health-care system is on life support, adding she thinks the current state is “uniquely bad.”

“Everyone is feeling burnt out, feel like no one is listening to them as they voice concerns, as they voice solutions. They’re not at the table when plans are being made,” she said during the hour-long debate.

The Liberal leader said she has seen other provinces try to tackle similar issues, but that New Brunswick is “at best taking half measures.”

Coon, meanwhile, said New Brunswick is in need of a “generational investment” — something he claims the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives have been unwilling to do.

“People have to be compensated, they have to have good working conditions, and what we have seen in the past number of years is people bleeding out to Nova Scotia and P.E.I. from the health-care system because they couldn’t get a permanent position,” he said.

Holt said while recruitment is important for the province’s health-care system, we need to start with retention.

“There’s no point in recruiting in if you’re just going to keep losing them. In order for us to increase the number of people we have working in the system, we have to keep the people that we have today,” she said.

You can watch the full debate below.