New Brunswick’s health minister became emotional after his drug plan bill was passed in the legislature Friday.

The first phase of the new plan will allow thousands of New Brunswick residents to pay for coverage on a wide range of prescriptions. The vote to pass the bill was unanimous.

“This was a wonderful opportunity to contribute to the people of New Brunswick, and I’ve been privileged to be able to do that today,” said an emotional Hugh Flemming.

“We know that the more people there are in any insurance plan, the more that drives the rates down.”

A number of advocacy groups witnessed Friday’s events. One representative called the day “historic.”

“There’s quite a number of people, we’ve estimated as many of 30 per cent of people in New Brunswick, that can’t afford their medication, that don’t have insurance,” said Jake Reid of the Canadian Diabetes Association.

“So, this is an important part of taking care of themselves and self-managing.”

But not everyone is happy about the plan; small businesses have expressed concerns about the potential cost.

The Saint John Board of Trade released the results of a survey of its members this week and 45 per cent of members supported the plan, but almost the same percentage was undecided and wanted to hear more about it.

One person who is happy about the plan is Fredericton resident Peter McDougall. He has a drug plan that covers his family through his employer, but the coverage is about to end for his son, who is set to graduate from university.

McDougall’s son has diabetes, which can be costly to manage. His son is someone who may benefit from the provincial government’s new drug plan.

“The amount of money that they have to spend to manage their disease is probably the equivalent of a mortgage payment every month,” said McDougall.

The New Brunswick government says as many as 70,000 families have no drug coverage and stand to benefit from the new plan.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Andy Campbell