Gallant government hangs by a thread while paramedics issue demands attention
While New Brunswick's government hangs on a thread, the politicians have been trying to carry on with business as usual in the legislature, debating issues like paramedics and carbon prices -- but looks can be deceiving.
A week ago, 20 liberal MLAs signed this declaration, unanimously agreeing "that, regardless of the outcome of the vote on the speech from the throne, our leader Brian Gallant will continue to have our confidence to lead our party into the next provincial election campaign.”
That vote will likely take place this Friday and two of the so-called kingmakers -- the Greens and the People's Alliance -- won't say where their vote lies.
“We are leaning one way of course, but we'll see on Nov. 2,” said Kris Austin, the leader of the Peoples Alliance of New Brunswick.
When Green Party leader David Coon was asked whether he’ll support the throne speech, he was non-committal.
“You'll have to wait and see,” Coon said.
Regardless of who's at the helm, everyone wants action on the paramedics issue.
“The system is vulnerable to collapse,” said Chris Hood of the Paramedics Association of New Brunswick.
Over the course of the election campaign-
Paramedics have been front and centre. Some, like Gregory McConaghy of Nackawic, followed the Liberal campaign bus for several days.
“We just want whoever's running this province to abide by the law and do us right by the people of the province,” said McConaghy.“Because, right now, the ambulance system is in dire needs or we wouldn't be out here doing this.”
They've been concerned about staffing and retention
According to a report by the Department of Health, there are about 980 paramedics employed by ambulance NB, but there are more than 100 vacancies.
Of those vacancies, 82 have a bilingual requirement.
The required urban response time in the province is nine minutes. It’s 22 minutes in rural areas and Ambulance NB says they handle about 110,000 calls for service a year.
“From our perspective, we don't think there's a shortage,” said Hood, who is also a representative with the Paramedics Association of Canada. “We’re pretty sure that it’s an artificially induced shortage based on the language profile.”
The paramedics association says it 100 per cent agrees with people being served in the language of their choice.
They don't agree with the way in which a paramedic's ability to speak in another language is assessed.
“That people be able to pontificate about Shakespeare as an example,” Hood says. “Well, our argument is that that's not really job related, why do we care of their ability to converse on issues or topics that have little or nothing to do with the actual care they're providing.”
They want to see the assessment changed.
The association believes about 70 per cent of paramedics waiting in the wings for a job could meet some level of bilingual requirements.
It's not the only issue facing paramedics, but one that's made its way onto political platforms and debate.
And every party leader has promised to address it -- no matter who's premier.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Laura Brown.