May 30, 2023
Premier Higgs is undermining democracy in healthcare, education, and local governance
FREDERICTON – The NB Green MLAs say Premier Higgs is attacking democracy by ramming multiple bills through the Legislative Assembly that will severely curtail citizen’s rights to have a say in health care, education and local governance.
“By eliminating citizen involvement in healthcare and education, Premier Higgs is trying to run the province like it is a corporation, with him as its CEO,” said Green Party Leader David Coon. “This is a democracy, so if he wants to be a CEO he should return to the private sector.”
Bill 39, An Act Respecting the Regional Health Authorities, proposes to eliminate the democratically elected board members for Horizon and Vitalité, and create a new unelected Health System Collaboration Council.
“We need more local decision-making in our healthcare system, not less,” said MLA Megan Mitton, the Green Health Critic. “And now Minister Fitch is creating an unelected supreme council appointed by him to oversee the healthcare system, centralizing more power in his office and by default, the Premier’s office.”
Bill 45, the Local Governance Commission Act, includes a clause that would allow the Minister of Local Government to override bylaws passed by local governments in certain circumstances, including if a property owner complained that the bylaw would negatively impact the economy or if the Premier decided it was contrary to the public interest.
“Minister Allain’s proposal is very paternalistic, suggesting that he knows what’s better for our communities than locally elected officials,” said MLA Kevin Arseneau, the Green Critic for Local Government. “And when he talks about the public interest, what he really means is corporate interests.”
Bill 46, the new Education Act, re-writes the entire Education Act and reduces the power of elected District Education Councils in the English school system, turning them into advisory bodies and taking away their decision-making power.
Bill 39 and Bill 45 were debated at the committee stage last week, while Bill 46 is currently at second reading. The Green Caucus has proposed amendments to Bill 39 and will be proposing amendments to Bill 45 and Bill 46.