N.B. party leaders find common ground on paramedics
A shred of unity has been found among the ranks of New Brunswick's deeply divided legislature.
All parties agreed Thursday to address concerns about paramedic shortages and ambulance response times -- an issue that's been often wrapped around language rights.
“The leaders of the third parties have suggested that the strengthening of ambulance services and addressing the paramedic shortage here in New Brunswick should be part of the speech from the throne,” said Liberal leader Brian Gallant.“I couldn't agree more.”
The issue is top of mind in rural areas where there's real worry about how long it can take a paramedic to arrive following a 911 call.
“What we would like to see is the arbitrator’s ruling done a while back actually implemented,” said Kris Austin, leader of the Peoples’ Alliance of New Brunswick.
That ruling found that the requirement for a paramedic to bilingual should be diminished if they're working in an area where there is one predominant language.
“It would open the door for more part-time paramedics to get full-time employment, which I think we help with the retention of paramedics,” Austin said.
The Liberal government put that ruling under review.
Thursday, Gallant said he was open to making any change.
“Within the legal framework that we have as a province, there's no question about that, so we're open to listening to any suggestion,” he said.
Tory leader Blaine Higgs says he campaigned on paramedic reform.
“That's not a new item for us,” Higgs said. “It happens to be a common one, so yes, we'd be looking to have that part of our platform anyway and having it included that we want ambulances back on the road.”
New Brunswick Green Party leader David Coon thought the situation needed immediate attention.
“Clearly, what we've got is an urgent situation, with repeated incidents in Saint-Quentin of people not getting the emergency services they need,” he said.
It’s a bit of common ground being found for now, on what could grow to become an even more controversial topic.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Nick Moore.