The leaders of the provincial Green and Liberal parties visited Sackville today to defend the local hospital, but David Coon and Kevin Vickers had very different political messages.
Both made it clear they would not cut overnight emergency room services, close acute-care beds or cancel day surgeries as Premier Blaine Higgs proposed before changing his mind in February.
But, while Coon outlined the details of a Green plan to decentralize health care, giving local hospital managers and staff more power, Vickers used his visit to warn that a vote for local Green candidate Megan Mitton would threaten Sackville’s hospital.
“Megan is an extraordinary person (and) she’s wonderful,” Vickers told a small crowd of supporters standing on a lawn near the hospital, “but I’m telling you, if you vote Green, you are indirectly voting for the Conservative government and you’re voting to lose your hospital.”
Coon, who had addressed a small group of his supporters near the hospital a few hours earlier, seemed to have anticipated Vickers’s remarks.
“Using health-care reform as a political football has got to stop and we’ve already, once again, seen this happen in this election campaign,” Coon said.
“Using health-care reform as a political football and instilling fear in people as a result, is no way to solve the very real challenges faced by our health-care system.”
Coon gave details of the Green plan to fix problems that he said are at the root of many problems in the system.
“The management of our health-care system has become so over-centralized,” Coon said, “it has lost touch with the needs and expectations of local communities and local people.”
The Green leader argued that’s how what he called “the appalling plan” to cut services at six rural hospitals came to pass.
“It didn’t make sense locally, which is why, understandably, there was overwhelming opposition to that plan which I joined as did my colleagues,” Coon said.
He added that a Green government would restore local autonomy to hospital administrators and their staff.
“There’ll be no more decisions handed down from on high in Fredericton by managers who have no direct connection to the hospital or the community health centre,” Coon added.
“We will also establish community health boards to ensure local health-care services reflect the needs and expectations of the community.”
Coon’s words were echoed by Megan Mitton who is running for re-election in Memramcook-Tantramar.
“Successive governments, both Liberals and Conservatives, have failed to listen to what people in rural areas need,” she said, “and failed to recognize that these ill-conceived plans would add strain to the already overburdened urban hospitals.”
Mitton said she is listening to local concerns.
“I am listening to the patient who has been admitted by their family doctor and been able to receive care here in Sackville close to home and not had to worry about transportation,” she said.
She added she has also been listening to patients left in hallways at the Moncton hospital as well as to local people who have worked hard to raise money for Sackville Memorial.
“I will continue to stand with you and fight for you and to ensure that we have the health-care services we need and deserve in our riding,” she concluded.
Vickers’ 30-day pledge
For his part, Liberal leader Kevin Vickers repeated the pledge he made earlier this week in Sussex to maintain services at rural hospitals.
“I tell you that in the first 30 days of my taking the office of the premiership, I will direct both health authorities, in your case Horizon, that your hospital and the hospitals that were identified in the other communities will not be touched,” Vickers said.
He added that in the last four to five years, more than 30 people’s lives were saved at the Sackville hospital.
Vickers also argued that the hospital is not only important to the local economy, it’s instrumental in attracting new residents and businesses.
Later, the Liberal leader introduced Robert Gauvin, the former Conservative cabinet minister, now running for the Liberals in the riding of Shediac Bay-Dieppe.
“I remember when I ran in 2018 in Northern New Brunswick, Premier Higgs came there and said we are not going to touch your hospitals,” Gauvin said.
“Well, you know what happened,” he added, referring to Higgs’s initial decision to back the hospital cuts.
“Do you think all [Conservative] MLAs and ministers wanted this?” Gauvin asked. “He (Higgs) wanted this. He said, ‘We’re doing this, it’s good for the province, we’re doing this.'”
Gauvin said he told Higgs on a Friday that the Conservatives would be lying to the people if they went ahead with the hospital cuts, but the premier was adamant.
“On Sunday, he changed his mind,” Gauvin said. “What did he find out Saturday that he didn’t know before? So, it was just political, but you can’t play politics with people’s lives.”
Gauvin ended by urging people to support Memramcook-Tantramar Liberal candidate Maxime Bourgeois.
“So, right here, you have someone that will work for you,” he said, adding Bourgeois would join northerners, southerners, Francophones, Anglophones and First Nations people in the Liberal caucus and party.
“He’ll be a great addition to the team,” Gauvin said.
I don’t know about others, but I do not appreciate this “if you vote Green you are voting for the Cons/you don’t have a seat at the table” attitude.
Sounds an awful lot like blackmail and one way for you NOT to get my vote.
I agree with Elaine MacDonald’s post here .
I am 65 & have been hearing the same old lines from both the Conservatives & Liberals since I was a boy. I don’t see any difference between Liberals or Conservatives when either are in power. Both old line parties seem to only look out for big industry interests & helping their pals & cronies. Each one , Liberal & Conservative, use the same old lines time & again always blaming the other party for mistakes & misuse of power in the past . They still think we believe the tales they keep telling us time after time.
– ‘ Don’t vote for any other Party but us or you’ll never get anything , you’re just wasting your vote ‘
– ‘a vote for Party ‘A’ is really a vote for Party ‘B’
– and best of all: the Liberals & the Conservatives are very different & each one , depending who is speaking at the time, always claim to be supporting & looking after the interests of the common person… decades of Conservative and Liberal governments have shown that is a ‘line’ we are suppose to swallow so they can keep in power & help ‘their chums.’
Hate to say it, but the Green Party will not beat the Conservatives, and will split the non Conservative vote. If the Liberals say they will not close our hospital I will vote for them. I voted green last time, a great candidate, but the truth was evident …if you are not a member of the winning party …well…all you can do is talk.
By your logic we should have a one party system where everybody votes for the winner, just like they do in China or North Korea.
This is why, in both federal and provincial elections where there are more than two parties running, that we need proportional representation, which more accurately reflects the voting of the citizens. Otherwise, the same old same old that David was speaking to will just go on and on with rotations between the Conservatives and Liberals, which are both beholding to their corporate donors, and the average citizen will keep getting the short end of the stick. I’ve said it before, but please people, check out Fair Vote Canada’s website for concise information on both the pros and cons of proportional representation. You will see that the first past the post electoral system only works correctly in a strictly two party environment.
Well said Leslie. I will check out the ‘Fair Vote Canada ‘website & hope others do as well.
Voting for the person who has worked hard to defend the rights of ALL is a principled position. Voting for someone who MIGHT be part of another Liberal or Conservative government who have always done the same thing in our province’s history is a decision made out of hopelessness. I am hopeful for the CHANGES we need to see happen in New Brunswick.
Protecting the status quo by voting for either the Liberals or Conservatives will continue the destruction of New Brunswick by corporate interests. The CHANGES required for New Brunswick will only come about with new strong voices like Megan Mitton. Women voices in the legislature are a needed part of the CHANGE required. Vickers sexism shows with his comments about Megan. Fear-mongering is the typical strategy used by Liberals and Conservatives to protect their hold on power and control of New Brunswick. TIME FOR CHANGE!
This ‘strategy’ is exactly why the eternal see-saw between Cons and Libs will continue ad nauseam.
The Greens have the people’s agenda and the others have the corporate agenda. Liberals started the cuts many years ago to education and health care…..look where we are and where we are headed.
Megan and David have our agenda in mind. Green policy all the way.
Saw the following Facebook post about this story that pretty much describes what I read as well. We do need more strong women in our legislature. Megan Mitton was such a strong advocate for the entire Memramcook-Tantramar riding .. Do we really need more white men being whipped and told what to say and do?
“Watch out for the condescending remarks about women running in this election. For example:
Vickers said: “Megan is an extraordinary person (and) she’s wonderful, but I’m telling you, if you vote Green, you are indirectly voting for the Conservative government and you’re voting to lose your hospital.”
Let us compare Megan Mitton’s strong record of advocacy – fighting for hospitals and health care – to Vickers’ mere boast that he is better than this “nice, sweet” woman.
Vickers is so very condescending – which points to his poor taste, his lack of self-awareness, and, perhaps most importantly, his tendency to let his opinions trump facts.”
In the minority government it was Megan and the Green caucus who convinced Higgs to publicly state he would not close rural emergency rooms. She has accomplished more for her constituents and New Brunswick in 2 years than any previous MLA. Nothing beats intelligent, principled, empathetic hard work. Vickers is way off base.
Yes as mentioned your view may be a bit more biased than a voter who actually lives in the riding. And as a former business owner of 2 local small businesses and currently owner of one now, I can say that Megan did nothing to help our business when we needed her support. I’m sure she will fill you in on her turning her back on the business in question that we have since sold. It was while she was a part time town councillor, a position she abandoned to seek a more lucrative provincial one. She didn’t once reach out to either myself or my wife after voting against our needed change to a unfair bylaw to make our business at the time more viable. All I can hope is the future council will help the new owners as most of the current ones have the same views as Megan did during her year or two. If she was for small business I’m sure jobs would have been important at that time instead of just when campaigning for votes.
Janice Harvey – you’re clearly supporting the local incumbent/candidate as is your right. But to assert that she has done more in two years for NB and the local riding, is very insulting to all previous MLAs we’ve had here, one of whom has served as our Lt Governor. I do agree however, that we need legislators who are intelligent, principled, empathetic and hardworking. I believe those people exist across the political spectrum.
Janice Harvey …
You are so right about Mr Vickers being ‘way off base’ !!
I can certainly understand your defense of Megan and the Green party in general, with your position of being one of the founders of the Green party and the wife of the current leader Mr Coon.
You stated “She has accomplished more for her constituents and New Brunswick in 2 years than any previous MLA.”
I live in Sackville, which is in Megan’s riding, and even though I follow local politics fairly closely, I’m afraid I must have missed all of these accomplishments which you mentioned. Can you provide examples?
Our whole family here in Sackville supported Megan in the last election, as did many of our friends and acquaintances. It’s true that she has worked very diligently, and has spoken up for her constituents on several different fronts, but from what we have observed from here over the past two years, she unfortunately did not seem to have any influence with Mr Higgs’ government.