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Green Party leader ‘gobsmacked’ by Ambulance NB language changes

Click to play video 'N.B. Green Party leader ‘gobsmacked’ by Ambulance NB language changes' N.B. Green Party leader ‘gobsmacked’ by Ambulance NB language changes
WATCH: The Higgs government is being accused of putting language rights aside after an announcement that would see fewer bilingual paramedics hired in the province. Morganne Campbell reports – Dec 19, 2018

The provincial government says it’s putting “lives before language” by eliminating bilingual hiring requirements in some unilingual parts of New Brunswick, but opposition leaders feel the move could breach people’s rights.

“I was gobsmacked, really,” said Green Party Leader David Coon a day after the Department of Health’s announcement.

“Our language rights are not dependent on where we live or where we’re travelling in the province.”

On Tuesday, New Brunswick Health Minister Ted Flemming said the decision will “pave a path forward” that he believes is in the best interest of New Brunswick.

Last year, a court ruling found that bilingual paramedic services must be provided in the province while a labour adjudicator found that there may be ways to lessen language requirements. The file was a wedge issue during the election.

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READ MORE: Government orders Ambulance NB to scrap bilingual hiring condition

Coon is concerned the changes violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and says the premier’s move to extend the break at the legislature until March is questionable, adding that it’s hard to try and intervene when the house isn’t sitting.

“If he sticks by this he should call back the legislature and enable all MLAs to hear this plan and make a decision on it,” Coon said.

WATCH: The province promising life over language — ordering Ambulance NB to ditch the requirement for bilingual paramedics. Megan Yamoah reports.

Click to play video 'Government orders Ambulance NB to scrap bilingual hiring condition' Government orders Ambulance NB to scrap bilingual hiring condition
Government orders Ambulance NB to scrap bilingual hiring condition – Dec 18, 2018

That was a thought echoed by the province’s official opposition party, who at the time applied for a judicial review of language requirements for ambulances and has since introduced some solutions of their own.

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“We believe that there were other ways of solving the paramedic shortage, you know we put a motion in the legislature for increased salaries immediately and that got voted down,” said Robert McKee, the MLA for Moncton Centre.

READ MORE: A look back at New Brunswick politics in 2018 — fracking, WorkSafeNB and paramedics

The Liberals and Greens are questioning why the move to implement some of the McEvoy directives wasn’t put on hold until next year.

Premier Blaine Higgs made it clear when he took office that the paramedic shortage would be dealt with quickly.

The provincial government says it welcomes the judicial review that will examine language requirements for paramedics. That process is slated to unfold next month and is expected to shed some light on some contradictions between two separate rulings.